Onwards and upwards for Riise and The Reds?

Good grief if I had a tenner for every time someone came up and said “unlucky” or worse to me yesterday I might be able to afford a drink at Chelsea next week!

The head lines were predictable with poor old John Arne Riise getting the brunt of them. Ian Dury and the Blockheads fans will have appreciated “Riise to be tearful” and I wonder what dear old Craig Bellamy thinks about this? Metaphorically speaking John Arne certainly could have done with using a “driver” rather than a “putter” to clear the ball!

The incident was unfortunate and attracted more attention because it was at the end of the game. Some of you who are longer in the tooth will remember 1989 and how you felt when Michael Thomas skipped through the defence in the dying seconds to snatch the title for Arsenal with almost the last kick of the season. More recently there is the last minute penalty we conceded at West Ham to lose the game. The fact that this happens in the last minute is a physiological blow – so near but hopes cruelly dashed and all that. However, would it have been different if Riise’s gaff had occurred in say the 70th minute? It would still be 1-1 and the position, for going down to London next week, the same? It should not be the timing of the own goal but the goal itself that is significant?

When this sort thing happens I draw on some kind of emergency mindset. I try to be pragmatic, logical (it doesn’t matter if it’s the 94th minute or the 70th), try to be positive take it on the chin otherwise it’ll just do your head in. It’s not over and I really feel we can still do it next week. As for the own goal I felt more gutted after the Mancs games this season!

And what of poor old John Arne Riise? The incident basically sums up his season which hasn’t been the best. None of the swashbuckling runs down the left, no long range, net busting howitzers. I don’t know the off the field financial issues or transfer rumours (Villa and Newcastle have been mentioned) that sprung up this season have affected his form but one can only hope he turns a corner and soon. Thankfully the right noises are coming from Anfield. Riise himself has said

“Mentally, I am the best. I’ve got my head back in place after a heavy night. I’m going to learn from this. I decided to stoop and head the ball in the direction it came from. But it was a swerving cross, the ball was wet, and it slid right off my forehead. It was a shock to see it lying in the goal.”

Steven Gerrard has come out with the response one would expect from a captain.

“John has been here a long time and done great things for this club and as captain I cannot point any fingers. But we’ve got to get John’s head right, because he will have an important job to play next week.”

Too true, as the injury to Aurelio means that he will probably feature at some stage?

The amount of time it took to carry Aurelio off may have been forgotten by Rafa when he complained about the extra time the referee added.

“It was a difficult match and I was very disappointed with the referee. He gave just one minute of injury time in the first period and four in the second. It was hard to understand….But we cannot blame the referee for our missed chances. We had at least four clear opportunities and we must score those.”

Rather than dwell on this I do believe there are grounds for being positive. We created plenty of chances many of which were only thwarted by Peta Cech’s brilliance. Why shouldn’t we do the same in the second leg? Everyone is going on about Chelsea’s record at Stamford Bridge, they have not lost a Premier league match at their ground since February 2004 and, since Rafa joined us, we have failed to score there. However this is only a stat and it’s not as if it is set in stone for eternity.

Records and runs are there to be broken. We have the side, and the resolve, to do it.

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