2 goals in 3 minutes to lose the title – this is just plain cruel.
There’s some ‘wisdom’ often communicated to newlyweds – ‘Never go to bed angry’.
It really is. Late at night, things often seem worse than they really are. You’re tired, you may have had a long day and being unable to locate the toothpaste your other half has misplaced seems a much bigger deal than it actually is.
Go to bed, sleep on it, chat about it the next morning if you need to. And often, you don’t. The ‘issue’ from the night before is often resolved with one or the other saying, ‘Hey, sorry about this or that,’ and the other replying, ‘Hey, don’t fret it’ and life moves on.
What about not blogging when you’re angry?
Because this is where I find myself right now.
An angry blog?!
I wish it were about something substantial – world peace, our consumer-driven society, people who just ‘haven’t got’ this journey a mere 9 days before it’s over.
Nope, it’s about the cruel blow that was dealt to Manchester United in the English Premier League early Monday morning, our time.
So what happened?!
To set the stage, two weeks ago, the top two teams in the league played against each other – Man United and their ugly, evil twin sister, Manchester City, owned by pathological mining and oil Saudi magnates who, I don’t know, hate kittens or something…
City took that game 1-0, and with both teams likely to win their next two games, it all looked sewn up.
The next week went as expected – United and City both won.
And then Sunday night, Man U took a 1-0 victory, as expected. City, in their match against relegation prospect Queens Park Rangers, scored in the first half to go up 1-0.
And then, all hell broke loose.
Moments into the second half, QPR did the unthinkable away from home. They scored. This took a previously tense crowd from delirium back to complete and utter fear. You see, City had to win to claim the title. Man U had scored 20 minutes into their game against middle of the road, nothing to play for, Sunderland. No way were they giving up that lead.
5 minutes later, however, QPR hothead Joey Barton got himself red-carded and sent off, giving City almost 40 minutes to score against a hopelessly outmatched and now outnumbered opponent.
And this is where the beauty of the EPL kicks in. Uncompetitive QPR, in fear of relegation, down a man against a mega-rich juggernaut, responded to this catastrophic setback by scoring a-gain! Up 2-1, with 25 minutes to play.
Time ticked on and Man City just couldn’t break through. Man United was going to do the unthinkable and somehow contrive a title victory if QPR could just hold out two more goals!
And then a new brand of an unnecessarily cruel fate stepped in.
All games in the EPL’s final round are played at the same time. It’s the best possible way to ensure that teams cannot leverage other results to manipulate their game.
Follow this for a moment – QPR needed Stoke to not lose to Bolton. If Stoke lost and, as expected, City beat QPR, it was all over and QPR was out of the Premier League. There is no other explanation for QPR’s 10 on 11 goal at the league leader’s home ground.
The problem is, some games go longer than others. With a number of goals scored + the red card, the QPR-City game went deep into injury time, and in those moments, QPR came to realise that Stoke-Bolton was over and that Bolton had held on for the draw.
QPR were safe.
And with 2 to 3 minutes remaining, their intensity completely dropped off.
And City pounced.
I wish I wish
I wish I knew none of this, that my phone wasn’t connected via text to people, that I hadn’t known that the title race came down to Sunday night, that I had the willpower to avoid specific, heart-breaking details, that I couldn’t read… I wish I were kidding.
And I wish I didn’t care!
There are two defining elements of my angst –
One is my genuine disappointment for a team I love. Man U cropped together a very average player list this year by their usual exalted standards. To do this well and literally be moments away from claiming the title before having it cruelly pulled out from underneath them is incredibly jarring. Especially for a team that played above themselves in so many ways.
There are other ways!
The other is a shot against those who think soccer is boring or point to the absence of a Finals Series as a reflection of the excitement that is lacking in the world game. There is no possible way you can fabricate what transpired early Monday morning in the EPL. Multiple games occurring simultaneously, teams fighting for a title, teams fighting to simply stay in the league, and in this case, an unforgettable match involving teams at both ends of the spectrum.
I love a good finals series, don’t get me wrong; the anticipation, the sheer intensity of the games, when great players and great teams stand up on the biggest stage. It’s phenomenal. But it’s not the only way.
You cannot beat the raw emotion of City supporters, with outward displays of emotion in the midst of certain defeat; grown men crying. To have this, followed by the sheer joy resulting from two goals in 100 seconds to win a title that has eluded them for 42 years is incomparable. Even if I wish it had never transpired!
The finale wasn’t boring and it didn’t need a Finals Series. It is a unique and wonderful way to end a season. The FA Cup provides all the hype and big game atmosphere that a knockout finals competition can bring, as does the Champions League.
But this … this was something else.