Okay. I’ll be honest. I didn’t know about the UEFA Championship game yesterday afternoon until my friend e-mailed me yesterday morning. He was rounding up a few soccer fans to watch the match between AC Milan and Liverpool at the Londoner in Addison. (Do not be confused: the match was not played at the Londoner. We only watched it there. It actually took place outside of Istanbul.) The game started at 1:45. I had work to do and an appointment to reschedule, but I made it out north for the second half (and then some). I’m so glad I did. Go here for the official stories. Read after the jump for my own version. (Note: my version has a picture.)
As I said, I arrived at the Londoner at halftime. I knew this because it was about 50 minutes after the game started and because there were a half dozen football fans on cell phones standing outside either a) doing business or b) pretending to do business. The bar was dark, and even before my eyes adjusted, I could tell the place was packed. There were two main rooms, and at length I found my friends right in front of the big-screen TV on the Liverpool side. I did not know it was this Liverpool side until my friends told me. That explained why no one was happy. See, at halftime, AC Milan was ahead 3-nil. Replays of the Italians goals, including the first goal which happened 52 seconds into the game, did not help matters. An ESPN poll asking viewers to vote if Liverpool could come back from a three goal deficit seemed condescending, and many Reds fans–dressed in Red–expressed their disgust. My friend Todd, who arrived shortly before I did, guessed that we wouldn’t see a goal in the entire second half.
Boy, was he wrong. Players took the pitch for the second half. Drinking ensued. Cursing was abundant and, being British, enjoyable. If the players were doing well, they were “lads.” If not, they were “t—s” (you can figure it out) or worse. In the 54th minute, Liverpool captain Steve Gerrard scored and the Liverpool side of the Londoner went crazy. Jumping. Hugging. I sat awkwardly watching it happen right in front of us.
That turned out to be just a warm-up. Two minutes later, Liverpool scored again. Cah-razy. I stood up this time so no one would fall on me. That’s when someone hit me on the elbow, causing a two-thirds-full Boddington’s to launch 10 feet in the direction of something, it was hard to see what.
I barely had enough time to get another beer before true bedlam hit the Londoner. In the 60th minute, the ref called a penalty kick for Liverpool. AC Milan Dida blocked Xabi Alonso’s shot, but Alonso scored on the rebound. Oh, the celebration. Had I known Liverpool backers rioted after their last title in 1985, killing 39 fans, I might have been scared. But I only learned that this morning, so I just went along with it, getting wrapped up in the excitement of the moment and the tension that followed.
It was tense through the rest of regulation, and then doubly tense in overtime. When Liverpool’s Carraghan went down with an apparent groin injury, the medical team was brought onto the field. Carraghan got up on his own, prompting one Londoner onlooker to suggest, “Eff off, you stretcher wankers.” All agreed the gentleman made an astute point.
Still tied after two hours of soccer, to a shoot out it went. Here’s how it went: Liverpool make; Milan miss; Liverpool make; Milan miss (saved); Liverpool missed (save); Milan make; Liverpool make; Milan miss (saved), and that was it. It was all over. I took this picture and then went back to work.