Musings on Cup Finals

With all the hype that goes into them, it's almost a given that the actual match is going to be a letdown. There are exceptions of course. In recent years, Liverpool-Milan I in 2005 was tremendous, as was Liverpool's FA Cup triumph last year. It's the sheer power and drama that occurs when a final plays out like those did that makes matches like this year's FA Cup such a downer.

Of course, the unrealistic hope that both teams might somehow conspire to lose prejudiced me just a bit from the start and the expectation was always there that Chelsea just wouldn't let ManU play. But when it actually happens, it just leaves you empty. Can you imagine if these two clubs had been playing each other in the FA Cup at the weekend and then midweek in the Champion's League Final? Zzzzzzzz.

As it stands, Liverpool-Milan II couldn't live up to the 2005 final, but at least Liverpool introduced a bit of drama late and there were a handful of chances either way. The first half was tepid and terrible, with Milan doing their Chelsea-esque best to destroy the game, but the second half was a bit better.

Within 15 minutes, I had the pattern of the game. Liverpool as the eager, but not too eager young bucks, trying to take the game to their older opponents, but being just experienced and savvy enough not to give too much away either. And then you have the old crone Milan, who played things cool and calculating - you could almost see them counting down in their heads to the last 10-15 minutes of the first half, weathering the storm and then starting to turn things on a bit.

The other big shame in both matches was the lack of wattage put out by the supposéd star-power. Ronaldo and Kaká, probably the two best players in the world game at the moment, were almost absent save for a few flashes of what could have been. Rooney and Gerrard fared a little better, as the hustle and bustle was certainly there, but in the end, neither probably had the influence he would have liked.

Ah well, at least we have these last few weeks to savor in the La Liga title race. It's all in Madrid's hands, but they seem to be dicing with death every time they take the field, only to pull it out of the fire late. Some might even call it "Team of Destiny" stuff, and, after so many years, you've got to feel a little bit of sympathy for Real. That said, I'd love for Sevilla to nip in and steal the title from the big boys. Not that I have anything against those clubs - I'm completely neutral when it comes to the Spanish league and actually am partial to the style that Barca play - I just like pulling for the underdog.

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