Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Xabi Alonso - Gone to Madrid but thanks for the memories.

Obviously I'm not gonna be overly happy about this. I loved Xabi. Quality, quality player. I'm very surprised that we've let him go. But it does give me a nice excuse to write about one night and his part in 'The Six Minute Miracle.'

25th May 2005

My life was a mess. I'd basically been dumped by the woman I thought was the love of my life for about the fourth time in as many months. She was utterly bonkers, looking back, and she turned me into a jabbering idiot. Some say I still am a jabbering idiot. They may be right. But remember, it was all her fault. We'd fallen out by text whilst I was in London visiting friends during the week of the Champions League Final. I'm pretty good at falling out with people by text, it's sort of my thing, just ask AT... we fall out by text roughly once a month.

However I was determined to enjoy watching the Final. Liverpool were there, after that pulsating first match up with Chelsea in the Champions League, thanks to the dodgiest goal ever and a miss by Gudjonsson in the last minute that I still think is going in every time I see it. Istanbul was the setting and we were playing against AC Milan. I watched Sky Sports build up all day long. By the time the game started I was at fever pitch. Angry, emotional and desperate to see Liverpool win. And I mean desperate. Sometimes your club can feel like it's right by your side, living and breathing with you. One day I'll write about why Liverpool mean so damn much to me and how, at thirteen, that link was forged so keenly despite the nonsense that is me supporting them. But that day in May 2005 I needed them to win to lift me from another relationship heading to the dogs.

At half time it looked impossible.

3-0 down to Milan. Outclassed, out played and beaten. The game was over. We were just out of our depth.

And then something happened. Whatever it was, the Liverpool fans singing louder than Milan's during the break, Benitez's half time speach, or simply bringing on Hamann to free up Gerrard, it worked.

We fought back, unbelievably, to 3-2. Gerrard and Smicer had scored two in two minutes. Out of nothing we were in the game. I was going mental. Bouncing on adrenaline. Nothing else mattered now. Even if we went on to lose, I'd still be proud.

But four minutes later Baros let the ball run onto Gerrard and he was clipped by Gattuso. PENALTY!!!!

Unbelievable. Even now just typing this the hairs on the back of my neck go up. We had a chance to get level and up stepped Xabi. He'd only joined the club at the start of the season and here he was taking the biggest penalty in the clubs history. He struck it low to Dida's right and the big keeper got down to block it but the ball popped back out to Xabi who buried it high into the roof of the net. I lost it at that point I think. 3-3. Three goals in six minutes in the Champions League Final.

Xabi, thanks for that goal. That goal that took me beyond being a miserable mess to a mad delirious fool jumping around a friends lounge. We went on to win it, of course, in a penalty shoot out. There were tears at the end, on the pitch and in that lounge. I stayed up for hours just watching the goals over and over again. That match is just embedded in my head and my heart. I have never seen anything quite like it, before or since.

Football isn't for everyone. I get that. But when it's at it's best, at it's most pure, as it was that night when Xabi scored that goal, it can lift you and put a bandage on some pretty gaping wounds. Metaphorical ones anyway...

I also pulled a GC classic the next day by getting so drunk that I missed most of the teams parade around Liverpool, but I'll blame The Giant for that, who I visited the following afternoon.

Cheers Xabi and good luck at Madrid.