Oh, Those European Nights

Steven Gerrard’s heat-seeking missle against Olympiacos. Didi Hamann’s sweeping free-kick against Leverkusen. Sami Hyypia’s calm, cool finish against Juventus. Luis Garcia’s 25-yard swerving volley against the same. Garcia’s controversial just-over-the-line winner against Chelsea. And of course the three goals in the epic Instanbul comeback that was the 2005 Champions League final.

Playing in Europe is not merely Liverpool’s quest for the title. It’s all the moment of jaw-dropping magic along the way. Advancement is great. But the selfish supporter in me wants to see the sort of goals that are a mixture of artwork and circumstance. Things lining up just right so that a moment you can’t quite believe and can hardly digest unfolds before you. The things you love about football compressed into a perfect little package.

Against Barcelona in 2007, Steve Finnan floated a long ball into the box to find Craig Bellamy’s, whose header put it over the line. I lost myself. I screamed so loud the friend next to me almost went deaf in one ear in the quiet New Hampshire pub where we watched afternoon matches. I didn’t know if Bellamy had scored or if it had been Dirk Kuyt’s insurance tap-in that counted, all I knew is we had just equalized against one of the biggest clubs in Europe and secured an all important away goal. In the second half, Bellamy laid the ball off for John Arne Riise who put it home. We’d come back to Anfield with two away goals and a lead.

In the quarter-finals we faced PSV Eindhoven. In the away leg, Tommy Smyth announced that both sides were clearly playing for a draw. Liverpool would win 0-3. Gerrard had a low blast. Riise put away one of his long range specials. And Steve Finnan’s service to Peter Crouch for the third away goal may have been the most perfect cross I have ever seen. Good thing Liverpool didn’t come to attack, Tommy.

The semi-final second leg began with us down a goal to Chelsea. It seemed a bigger deficit somehow against the London giants who were eager to avenge Luis Garcia’s light goal from two years before. But when Gerrard’s free kick on 22 minutes found Daniel Agger just  inside the box and just beyond the traffic. Our Danish full-back placed it with his first touch and Liverpool went through to win it in penalty kicks.

So I know I’ve been spoiled. While 0-0 would be a great result for us today against Real Madrid, I want goals. I want two goals. I want two spectacular goals. At least.

I hope Torres starts and gets a chance to knock one back against his old hometown rivals. Maybe Stevie G will treat us to an old-school blast from 20+ yards out just like the good old days. Sami Hyypia could very well thank Rafa for finally including him in the current European squad with a viscious header off a corner kick. Something to make me go crazy and blow out the eardrums of those around me.

I’m not picky. As long as it defies the odds, the defense and maybe even the laws of physics. That’s all I ask for.