2006 FA Cup Final

Wow. After one of the greatest FA Cup finals of all time, perhaps all that talk about the competition being better off forgotten will be over. West Ham went in as decided underdogs against Liverpool. Admittedly, it looked like it might just be the usual ho hum affair.

Until it kicked-off.

Right from the start, West Ham aggressively took it to Liverpool. Forcing them into two mistakes at the back and improbably going up 2-0. Liverpool managed to claw one back before the half and the teams went into the locker rooms 2-1. It was a fabulous half, and the sense was there was plenty more to come.

There was.

Steven Gerrard came out and took charge, showing why he deserves to be England‘s next captain. He nailed a rocket shortly after the half started to tie the score 2-2. I thought that would do the Hammers in, but they were far from done yet. Paul Konchesky somehow chipped Reina only minutes later to put them back up 3-2. It might have been a cross. It might have been a shot. Doesn’t matter it went in, and the battle raged on.

The game was wide open, and being played at a blistering pace. Players were collapsing with cramps everywhere. But no change in the score.

Despite time quickly running out on them, Liverpool, though tired, seemed collected and certainly weren’t panicked. Just inside of stoppage time, Gerrard hit an incredible bomb from 35 yards to knot things up. Only minutes away from the final whistle.

Into extra time, the feeling was Liverpool had to be the team on the rise now. It was probably only a matter of time before West Ham would concede another, surely. Liverpool certainly had the better of it, but it was West Ham’s Harewood that nearly won the game in the dying seconds of extra time, rattling the woodwork with an off balance shot.

But, it was to penalty kicks for the second consecutive year. Liverpool had the decided advantage here, with Reina having a reputation for being uncannily proficient saving penalties. That’s exactly the way it played out. The efforts from both sides were understandably tired, but Reina had a couple of mistakes to make up for from earlier in the match, and he did. Liverpool finally walked off with the silverware in a match no one deserved to lose.

This is the kind of match that confirms the greatness of this game. Enough talk about eliminating the FA Cup. Just bring on the next one.