Seun Aleshinloye – Never Give Up: The Black Shirt Message from Anfield to Johan Cruyff Arena
After the final whistle on May 1 in Camp Nou, bookmakers and football analysts were sure that this is the end of the road for English teams in this season’s UEFA Champions League. One of the greatest sports men had just waved his magic wand to take his team to the gates of Madrid for the final. The previous night, Erik ten Hag’s exciting young Ajax side had made Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs look like a meal. Outsiders called them the teams from the over-hyped league, indeed that was how it seemed.
It was a week to talk about the average English players, the egoistic and superlative English media and the gloating fans that have become common features of the most marketable league in the world- English Premier League.
It was a silent Tuesday at White Hart Lane especially after Tottenham Hotspur suffered their first loss at the new stadium to West Ham few days before. The first-half goal from Donny van de Beek defined the passing and speed of thought of Ajax, and after that they handled whatever Spurs could throw at them. It was so disheartening for a team that weathered the storm of a Pep Guardiola-led Manchester City, whose last minute goal was disallowed by VAR. No final for the Londoners just like for their brothers from Liverpool, it seemed.
Drama at La Masia’s workshop where Lionel Andre Messi inspired Barcelona to a three goals to nil victory over a Liverpool team that played one of the best football on a Champions League night in Nou Camp. Apart from Bayern Munich three-nil victory at the Nou Camp in 2013, the May 1 cracker was the only night Barcelona was outplayed at home. But the victory was resonating, Messi showed the world why he is merciless. The rest were stories social media spin for pleasure.
Alas! It all began. Mohammed Salah, who hit the bar back at Nou Camp, entered Anfield wearing a hood with a black shirt underneath with the inscription “Never Give Up”. It was just another average inspirational quote with less scrutiny until Divock Origi converted his chance seven minutes into the second leg. Half time came and no one saw what was coming, even Bran Stark could not predict. This is a game that many octopuses like Paul and other animals like Achilles the cat would lose their credibility on. A Gini Wijnaldum doubles and a second Origi goal for the night gave a man at the stand the opportunity to share in his team’s glory without kicking a ball, and having missed a sitter in the first leg.
This miracle of Anfield made it the third time a team had thrown away a three-goal or more first leg lead, with all involving Barcelona. They overturned a 4-0 deficit at the hands of Paris St. Germain two years ago, to win 6-1; then bottled a 4-1 victory to Roma by conceding three goals without reply in Rome; and recently did what Nigerians called Loom- “3k to chop 4k”. Twitter was agog with the Airtel strap-line: 3G is good; 4G is better.
Then on Wednesday in the beautiful city of Amsterdam, the Never Give Up movement happened in another 45 minutes of a 180 thrillers. The Davids of Johan Cruyff Arena who had seen the end of Real Madrid and Juventus were cruising to another usual victory as the Captain Matthijs de Ligt scored on a corner-kick header in the fifth minute and Hakim Ziyech scored a second in the 35th minute.
It was an end to end game that to all football supporters would never have the drama at Anfield. But the gospel got to Amsterdam. Lucas Moura scored two goals within the space of four minutes to restore hope for Spurs. Tottenham’s next attacks were even fiercer. What seemed like a last-gasp effort — a header from Jan Vertonghen — clanked off the post, but Spurs created one final try as stoppage time expired.
Alli flicked a ball to Moura, who barely got enough on his shot to beat the Ajax keeper to the right post. Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam fell silent. Tottenham bench players spilled on to the field.
Then the whole freaking world went into trance, to see an Egyptian with wearing a black shirt with a cliché: Never Give Up.
Jurgen Klopp celebrated Never Give Up spirit with a party while Mauricio Pochettino was standing beside someone cutting onions. What a Week!
This article is by Seun Aleshinloye