Liverpool won the FA Cup for the seventh time in their glorious history, defeating underdog West Ham United, 3-1 on penalty kicks, after a thrilling 3-3 draw through 120 minutes, before over 74,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
I witnessed the contest at a bar here in New York called The 11th Street Bar in the East Village. It is the headquarters for the Liverpool Supporters Club of New York. An enormous crowd turned out for the mid-morning (in the USA) kickoff. I got to the bar at about 9:15 AM and I was one of the last people let in, as the crowd turned out even earlier than I thought. There was a sea of fans wearing Liverpool red, and as soon as the coverage began, the singing started. The bar played a version of Elvis Presley singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," which is the Liverpool supporters official song. The whole bar was singing it in unison, while waving Liverpool scarves, and it really sent chills down my spine.
The crowd in the bar was really into every part of the game, and absolutely went into shock when Liverpool's Jamie Carragher accidently knocked the ball into his own net to give West Ham a 1-0 lead after 21 minutes. Six minutes later they were even more horrified when West Ham scored again to put Liverpool into an even bigger hole. The fans were of course not throwing in any towels, as the memories of last year's three-goal comeback in the Champions League final against AC Milan were still fresh. (And I thought of a certain baseball team that came all the way back to win the 2004 AL pennant as well.) Liverpool then had one goal called back because of offsides, but shortly after that got on the scoreboard in the 32nd minute through Djibril Cisse's goal.
It stayed 2-1 until halftime. Many of the bar folk went outside to take a break, and one guy tapped me on the shoulder as he was walking by and said, "That's a brilliant hat you've got on." I was wearing my Red Sox 2004 World Champions hat on and he was wearing a Red Sox hat as well. Funny hearing that coming from a guy with a Liverpudlian accent!
Just goes to prove that Red Sox Nation is truly everywhere.
Liverpool tied the match nine minutes into the second half through Steven Gerrard's goal, but West Ham got the lead back shortly thereafter. The Liverpool fans were singing and encouraging their team, and with two minutes to play it looked like West Ham would pull off the upset. But Gerrard struck a cracking shot that tied the game and set the bar into an absolute frenzy. It reminded me of Bill Mueller's single that tied Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, and put the Red Sox on their way. I just had the feeling Liverpool would once again find a way to win.
After a full thirty minutes of extra time, the game went to penalty kicks to decide the champion. Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina made three brilliant saves, and Liverpool took it after four rounds, 3-1, and the 125th FA Cup belonged to them. The bar went into an absolute frenzy, and it brought back wonderful memories of seeing the Red Sox pennant and World Series wins at the Riviera Cafe. I was shaking hands and congratulating the English expatriates who were there and enjoying Liverpool's thrilling win. Overall, it was one of the best soccer matches I have ever seen.
For more on the match: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/report?id=197065&cc=5901
Liverpool came from two down to win The Cup.
The 2004 Red Sox would be proud.