Monday 14th December 2009

There are facts and figures galore when it comes to looking at clashes with Liverpool down the years and we discussed many of these as we made the long journey north-west for the first of two visits to this part of the country within a few days. For me past meetings are somewhat irrelevent when comes down to the latest affair but one thing for sure it's a fixture where I would take a point in any season.

When that point becomes three when for 45 minutes or so it had looked highly unlikely, we have reason to be totally ecstatic.

Last week's trip to Athens was arguably the most relaxing we have enjoyed in all our time of following our great club around Europe.

An easy and smooth journey, a fine hotel and pleasantly warm sunny weather couldn't have been a better start to proceedings and after some quite superb local tucker 'al fresco' we took in some of the city's Tuesday nightlife well into the early hours. I must admit I do like the lack of 'optics' in the bars and tavernas of European countries, it makes the whole prospect of moving away from the local beer and onto your chosen spirit so much more attractive!

Unless of course you struggle to come to terms with the fact they are at least three times the size of what we get served in the UK and have to rely on two of your fellow travellers to get you back to your hotel! If anybody requires any further info please do not hesitate to ask Maidstone's very own Treble Top!

Come matchday we took in some of the city's famous sights before making our way down to Piraeus for the game.

Frank Stubbs at Olympiacos v Arsenal

Visiting a sunny Olympic Stadium

Frank Stubbs at Olympiacos v Arsenal

Teams line up accompanied by considerable noise and colour

Obviously the match itself was far more important to our hosts but for us it was also interesting to see how much of our developing talent would get on in a white hot atmosphere of a Champions League fixture.

Considering the stadium's capacity is roughly half of ours the locals certainly made some considerable noise and the colour matched it too. The locals were as enthusiastic and passionate as expected. If you know anybody who went to the game, ask them about the blonde lady in red hanging on the fence segregating the home and away fans. I'm not sure exactly what she had been consuming but it was very very amusing!

On another day our young team would have won the game. They acquitted themselves extremely well, controlled the game for long periods and created some clear cut chances, especially in the second half after going 1-0 down. Overall it was a bit disappointing not to take at least a point from the game but being so relaxed it had been a good chance to take in the atmosphere without the usual accompanying stress.

Sunday however, was not so laid back! An early start, a comfortable journey, the traditional brekkie en route and few pre-match beers in our usual haunt helped of course but I have to admit to a considerable degree of PMT come kick-off time.

The fantastic results over the weekend had me trying to calm down safe in the knowledge that should we get beat we would lose very little ground on those around us. The fact a win would almost feel like double the points however, kept them butterflies swarming in that way only football seems to bring on!

The first half saw us second best, there is no doubt about it but if we were relatively mediocre I didn't feel our hosts were miles ahead. We have to remember we are away at Liverpool, often referred to as the type of place where you rarely come away with anything. The opening goal was fairly fortunate, a penalty decision went our way and one other chance was created, an opportunity that one of the world's current great strikers really should have buried.

Score wise then, come half time we were still in it. If our performance didn't considerably improve however, there was no way we would be heading back south with anything from the game.

Simply by recognising Liverpool did not create one single chance in the whole of the second half, attacking the Kop remember, anyone can see it was a very powerful display by our boys and a great response to all those who doubted we could overcome a side picked from a squad with no injuries or suspensions to hamper them.

Our equaliser was a fine move even if the ball entered the net with a degree of fortune, in exactly the same way in fact as Chelsea's second a couple of weeks back. A fine jostle ensued in the away section as we all sensed we were now very much on the front foot.

It was a mere whimper however, when compared with the carnage that followed Andrey's thunderbolt! Pick that out! Awesome.

I have seen us in winning positions so many times up at Anfield and have ultimately left feeling disappointed down the years so the nerves kicked in a soon as I had dusted myself down. On this occasion however, even though that dreaded red neon clock to the left of the Kop seemed to stop on a number of occasions, we saw the rest of the half out with considerable ease. A fine fine result to top a magnificent weekend.

As only football can however, we now need to do it all again on Wednesday night up at Burnley. Another hot bed in the north west, not many teams come away from Turf Moor with much these days so once again we will need to be totally up for it.

Just for a couple more days however, we can all enjoy Sunday's fantastic victory.


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15 Dec 2009