It was one of those matches people will remember where they watched it years from now. Somehow more than the 43,000 person Stamford Bridge capacity will say they were actually at the match. I won’t be one of those people even though I could and should have been there. The last time I missed games like this were Games 1 and 3 of the 2004 ALCS but we won’t discuss that now.
The second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal between Chelsea and Liverpool was a match for the ages. Chelsea came in with a comfortable 3-1 lead and a seemingly easy trip to the semifinals where they would face Barcelona after their first leg demolition of Bayern Munich. Liverpool came in needing to win 3-0 to advance. Anyone with a sense of history knows better than to count them out. Anyone who did was in for a series of mini-heart attacks. I’m pretty sure I lost years of my life watching this match and I’m a black man which means I’m done at 52 like an NFL lineman. Hypertension, high blood pressure, NYPD, crazy white boys. Something will get my ass. Rubbing Tussin on my chest will only help for so long.
The rundown: The worst of my fears were realized when Liverpool jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. The chicken bones, rum and kwanzaa candles came out. One more goal and Liverpool would be through. The half ended with the visitors up 2-0. On the outside, I was a bit stressed but maintaining my cool. Inside, I was yelling “Lawd jesus, not like this!” I was so much of a stereotype that I could have been an extra in The Color Purple.
Chelsea responded at the start of the second half. Actually Pepe Reina gave a helping hand and made the score 2-1. Six minutes later, Alex equalized. 2-2 became 3-2. All was well and Chelsea was through again. Not so fast, my friend. Out of nowhere, Liverpool came right back and scored two in three minutes to make the score 4-3 in the 83rd minute. One more goal and 5-3 would be enough to take them through on aggregate. At this point, the cool left me and I was visibly shaken. If it were possible for a black man to go pale, it would have happened. Shell-shocked doesn’t begin to describe my slack-jawed appearance. Super Frank to the rescue. 4-4 in the 89th and that would be enough to see Chelsea through.
Sweating as though I played 90+ minutes, I praised every deity out there including Jobu, Jebus and Superman before remembering that Barcelona awaits Chelsea in the semifinals. Barca are unquestionably the team to beat in Champions League this year. However Chelsea’s form of late under Guus Hiddink gives even the most skeptical of supporters hope of getting to Rome.