Scotland Wales Northern Ireland
BBC Homepage feedback | low graphics version
BBC Sport Online
You are in: Football: Uefa Cup  
Front Page 
FA Cup 
Scottish Cup 
World Cup 2002 
Eng Prem 
Eng Div 1 
Eng Div 2 
Eng Div 3 
Eng Conf 
Worthington Cup 
Scot Prem 
Scot Div 1 
Scot Div 2 
Scot Div 3 
CIS Ins Cup 
Champions League 
Uefa Cup 
Rugby Union 
Rugby League 
Other Sports 
Sports Talk 
In Depth 
Photo Galleries 
TV & Radio 
BBC Pundits 
Question of Sport 
Funny Old Game 

Around The Uk

BBC News

BBC Weather

banner Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 22:54 GMT 23:54 UK
So who's boring now?
Robbie Fowler and Sami Hyypia kiss the Uefa Cup
Robbie Fowler and Sami Hyypia kiss the Uefa Cup
BBC Sport Online's chief football writer Phil McNulty reflects on a night when Liverpool claimed a historic treble by winning a remarkable Uefa Cup final.

Gerard Houllier's build-up to the Uefa Cup final was overshadowed by the whispered suspicion that Liverpool were boring.

They had, so the critics said, recorded a hollow Worthington Cup final victory against First Division Birmingham City on penalties.

They had, so the critics said, stolen the FA Cup away from Arsenal as the engraver was putting the Gunners' name on the trophy.

Houllier was hurt - and it showed in an uncharacteristic verbal attack that took in Liverpool's critics as well as several unnamed managers whom he claimed wanted his side to lose.

Gerard Houllier with the Uefa Cup
Houllier has answered his critics - and how
It may or may not have been true - but it matters not one jot after a head-spinning ride on Liverpool's Uefa Cup roller-coaster in Dortmund.

Liverpool can now answer back emphatically after winning the most madcap major cup final of modern times - a game which followed the logic of the madhouse rather than football's rulebook.

Houllier's side won the Uefa Cup final against Alaves several times, appeared to have lost it on a couple of others - and eventually edged home via a golden own goal.

For BBC TV viewers, the National Lottery may have followed the final - but Liverpool had already stolen the show with their own version that preceded it.

'Next goal the winner'

Liverpool have been called lucky as well as boring - but the critics can look in the record books and they will tell their own tell.

Not a boring cup treble. Not a lucky cup treble.

Just a cup treble. And that is all that matters.

Their 5-4 win over the free-spirited Alaves, who flew by the seat of their pants and by a maxim that dared the opposition to score more than they did, was both thrilling and farcical in equal measure.

It was the cruellest of finishes for the Spaniards, who overcame arguably the most inept start of any European finalists to expose an understandable mental and physical lethargy in Liverpool's line-up.

But it was almost fitting that a game that was played in such a cavalier fashion should be decided by the old schoolyard rule of "next goal the winner."

McAllister magic

Liverpool won because they had the stronger will, a remarkable feat in itself, and an old head in the magnificent Gary McAllister who is rewriting fairy-tales by the week at Anfield.

Agony for Alaves fans
Agony for Alaves fans
McAllister, a free transfer gem among Houllier's 60m worth of transfer spending, made three goals and scored one in Liverpool's haul of five.

And it was his all-round contribution - along with the vigilance of the outstanding Markus Babbel - that made the crucial difference.

Their contributions, and the nonsensical second half substitution by Alaves coach Mane - who inexplicably substituted the dangerous Javi Moreno when he had Liverpool's defence at his mercy - smoothed a hazardous path to victory.

Houllier will also have breathed a sigh of relief at getting away with a hazardous substitution of his own, taking off Michael Owen to preserve a lead, only to find Liverpool seeking a golden goal without their golden goalscorer.

Liverpool deserved to win because there was at least a semblance of order in their play in extra time, when Alaves' indiscipline cost them two players and eventually the game.

Houllier now has one game left of an incredible season, when Liverpool can add a Champions League place to the treble.

Low quality, high drama

The game was, in truth, a low quality affair with the sort of defending usually associated with a second grade Sunday pub league.

It was littered with mistakes, a lack of organisation, and a lack of real quality.

But it lost nothing in excitement for all that, and will hardly have passed through the consciousness of Liverpool's fans as they celebrated in Dortmund and on Merseyside.

Houllier has performed a remarkable transformation in two full seasons at Liverpool - but even he could not have envisaged how overworked those who tend to the Anfield trophy room would be this season.

He may have railed at his critics who branded Liverpool with the double tag of boring and lucky.

But Houllier should know that the only tag Liverpool's fans will care about is the one attached to their historic treble.

And now, if there is any reason left in the selection, he should narrowly edge out Ipswich Town's George Burley for manager of the year.

Search BBC Sport Online
Advanced search options
Links to top Uefa Cup stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to other Uefa Cup stories

^^ Back to top