John Arne Riise can count himself lucky that he wasn’t born in South America. If he had yesterday’s Liverpool Echo headlines might well have read “Liverpool Left Back Found Dead. Lead Poisoning Suspected” after his calamitous own goal at Anfield against Chelsea.
Let’s look a the positives. His equalizer was like many of the goals the Norwegian has scored for Liverpool – an absolute corker. The quality should always be top notch – no matter which net you put it in.
His humanitarian efforts should also garner some attention. He recognized that a toothless Chelsea attack force weren’t capable of doing it on their own so he did the noble thing and helped them out to save them from total embarrasment.
The dramatic fashion should also receive the praise it is due. Putting a ball into your own net with the absolute last kick, or head, of the game is quite the emphatic flourish.
But this is not unusual. It seems that scoring a goal in time added on is fast becoming the rule and not the exception for big name teams. Ordinarily, though, you don’t rely on the opposition doing it for you.
Now as I sip from the unholy chalice of Haterade, I might ask why it is that the goal happened in the fifth minute of added time when the fourth official indicated there were only supposed to be four extra ticks on the clock.
I might also ask why the deliberate move by Michael Ballack to deflect a ball with his arm in the box wasn’t whistled or why every time Didier Drogba was felled by a passing zephyr the ref blew it up.
But as my Scouser mate Paul says, it’s irrelevant. All it does is set the stage for another dramatic Liverpool European encounter. What would the Champions’ League be without a disadvantaged LFC?
Boring and droll. Like the Man U/Barca game.
Drama. It’s what we do in Liverpool.
So as I watch my fingernails grow back from somewhere near my elbows, I can anxiously await what promises to be a night of fireworks from Stamford Bridge next Wednesday.
Tuesday night’s shocker won’t be the last kick Riise has in a Liverpool Football Club uniform. With the abductor tear to the paper Mache Brazilian, Fabio Aurelio, it looks like our favourite Norwegian ginger ninja might be back in the line up for the rest of the season.
As bad as we should feel for Aurelio, we should feel ecstatic for Riise. It would be a travesty if Tuesday’s clanger was the last action from a great and loyal servant to the club. And if there is any symmetry left in the universe, he will score the goal at The Bridge that proves the winner. He’s done it before. There is no more motivating force than redemption. Rafa will do well to recognize that.
So as the curtain falls, and it definitely is, on the oft out-of-favor Norwegian International’s six-year performance at Anfield, we can only hope that we get to remember him for what he does in the second leg of the 2007 UEFA Champions’ League semi-final and not the first.