A busy weekend of sport, kickstarted by the Sun on Sunday's humungous section, whetted the appetite for yesterday's football feast.
Liverpool won at Wembley for the first time since 1995, Arsenal curbed Tottenham Hotspur's north London enthusiasm, whilst Manchester United went and did it again with a last minute winner.
Already a watchable rugby match at Twickenham had dominated headlines ahead of football fare on Saturday, with video technology back in the limelight, curiously via a sport that has long championed its merits. And it was in southern Europe, Milan to be precise, where football smarted from the absent method.
Here's a brief round-up on another manic Monday...
Sweet and sour success
1984, 2001, 2005, 2006 and now 2012. Liverpool usually relish penalties, but on Sunday they had to rely on their opponents’ nerves to yield a first trophy since 2006.
Pepe Reina, a famed penalty stopper, didn’t thwart one of Cardiff City’s three failed efforts, which perhaps illustrated the feebleness of their cup win. Although superior to the Welsh Championship side, even the manner of this victory may nag despite the return of silverware to the Anfield trophy cabinet, although the season has much more to offer.
There can be no time for festivities with the FA Cup and fourth place feasible feats, as Kenny Dalglish continues to unconvincingly convince with an average side. John W Henry spoke of his relief that attention had reverted back ‘on field’ for the club, and that was arguably more pivotal than the adulation from the supporters. The club have sullied their reputation this season over the Luis Suarez race row, and success is welcome respite after an affair that was only recently closed.
Another last-minute winner in a title run-in, another demonstration of Manchester United’s endurance, but it didn’t have to be so difficult. Leading hosts Norwich City 1-0 for 76 minutes, the Canaries deservedly equalised in the 83rd minute having dominated proceedings only to be thwarted by the impressive David de Gea.
United had been careless and lethargic, displaying catenaccio unadventurousness right up until Grant Holt’s leveller. Thereafter, it was John Ruddy’s goalmouth that resembled the Alamo for a breathless ten minutes, as the visitors created several chances before Ryan Giggs’ calm finish to spark carnage in the away ranks.
By their hosts drawing level, United ironically played as they should aspire to having received a smarting adrenaline shot. This is a recurring theme in the Reds’ play, and perhaps the fear of falling further behind league leaders Manchester City will end such superfluous reticence in the future.
Charlie Adam bites at Piers Morgan's Twitter bait:
Greatness continues to elude Spurs
Tottenham’s capitulation at Arsenal saw the return of Old Spurs, those days when 3-0 and a man up in an FA Cup game, they would lose 4-3, or use a referee’s erroneous error to surrender a 2-0 lead and end up defeated 5-2.
There seemed a reverse inevitability that Arsenal would win, after their inauspicious form recently was matched by Spurs’ auspicious displays, and Harry Redknapp hype. Tottenham, one suspected before yesterday, lack the manpower, quality and temperament to be genuine title challengers, and they’ve lost to United, City and Arsenal now.
The (departing?) Redknapp stressed how third remained the priority for his team after the game, as City and United continue to pull further ahead. The dilemma for Spurs is that, while Redknapp may not be as good a manager as his media chums portray him as, his exit could not just derail title momentum, but rip out the gearbox.
Rightly, they have pretensions of challenging for the league next season, but they require extra craft to supplement a settled squad. And with Redknapp keen to take Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond with him when the FA belatedly make that call, disharmony may return and Luka Modric may not be willing to give it one more season.
Is it a bird?
Video technology is rightly championed, but rugby, doyens of the method, are still failing to cover all angles. An enviable task it may be, but the denial of David Strettle’s late effort in the England-Wales Six Nations game seemed a curious injustice when two slants appeared to suggest that the English winger had touched down. Football matches regularly have bird’s eye view cameras rigged to track the action with impressive focus via a long-lens zoom function, whereas rugby is yet to follow suit.
Hovering above the heads of 30 men at an unobtrusive height could clarify the most inconclusive decisions, alas Strettle was undone by the vagueness of the replays. Its importance was immeasurable, with Wales’ late try moments beforehand the difference in the 19-12 winning margin, securing the Triple Crown.
Football however continues to suffer without it. Saturday night saw Serie A witness its Roy Carroll moment when in the top-of-the-table clash between AC Milan and Juventus, linesman Roberto Romagnoli committed an astonishing error when he denied the Milanese side a 2-0 lead. Sulley Muntari prodded the ball a yard over the line from a corner, which was clawed out by Juve 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon, seemingly in vain.
However, Romagnoli, stood directly parallel with the goalline, inexplicably didn't give the goal. Just as the majority of Italy began to holler Calciopoli, Romagnoli then disallowed an Alessandro Matri goal when the substitute striker was shown to be onside. Matri later did equaliser for the bianconeri, prompting Milan to brand the occasion a "falsified match". Mamma mia, Roberto.
Cristiano Ronaldo scores an outrageously good winner for Real Madrid: