Carroll cameo comes too late for lonesome Luis to use his craft

Dalglish's over-cautious approach to a Cup Final shrouded in negativity lets Chelsea off the hook

Wembley

Not since 1958, when Bolton Wanderers faced the remnants of the Busby Babes in the wake of the Munich Air Disaster has a team arrived at Wembley with so much of the country willing them to lose. The difference here yesterday was that large swathes of the football public wanted both teams to lose.

There is much to admire about the finalists, but in their ranks yesterday were the most unpopular players in the nation. Chelsea were led by John Terry, currently awaiting trial on charges – which he denies – of racially abusing a fellow professional, suspended from the forthcoming Champions' League final for kneeing an opponent off the ball, and twice sacked as England captain. Leading the line for Liverpool was Luis Suarez, found by an FA commission to have racially abused a fellow professional,whose handshake he then snubbed, and whose club then maintained he did nothing wrong.

Add the mutual loathing of the two sets of supporters, exacerbated by the jeering of the minutes' silence for Hillsborough victims by some Chelsea fans last month, and this was a long way from the happy, smiling end-of-season showpiece of memory.

The national anthem was booed, Abide With Me largely ignored, even the traditional sunshine was absent. Perhaps kick-off should have been put back not just to 5.15pm, but beyond the watershed.

As it was, Liverpool played as if it had been put back to 6.30pm, not rousing themselves until Chelsea were two goals up and Andy Carroll was on the pitch. In desperation and extremis Kenny Dalglish, after shuffling his starting XI umpteen times in the first half, had found a formation which worked.

Given Carroll's improved form, and the fact he had scored here in the semi-final, it was a surprise the £35m striker did not start. Perhaps Dalglish fancied the prospect of pitting Suarez, his latest successor in the Liverpool No 7 shirt, against Terry. As the Scot would recall from his own playing days big centre-halves do not enjoy marking quick-footed forwards with a low centre of gravity, good balance and a fast turn. Indeed, there are similarities between Suarez and Alexis Sanchez, the Chilean who so troubled Terry in the Nou Camp the Chelsea defender decided to try and slow him down with that sly knee-jab.

So much for the theory. In practice, Liverpool's overly cautious approach left Suarez isolated. It does not matter how good a player is, and Suarez is a very fine footballer indeed with game intelligence and matchcraft alongside his technical gifts, he is rendered irrelevant if his team-mates cannot bring him into play.

Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson played so deep it was as if they did not trust Jay Spearing to keep the back door locked which meant Suarez was not even close enough to call for a pass.

Liverpool's negative approach was summed up when a half-cleared corner came back to Craig Bellamy, the taker. When he crossed again there were two Liverpool players in the box, and eight Chelsea defenders.

What service Suarez did receive was often aerial and easily headed away by Terry and his partner, Branislav Ivanovic. Thus for Suarez there was a silver lining to Chelsea's second goal. It forced Dalglish to send on Carroll and his team-mates to adopt a more offensive attitude. He no longer needed either a stepladder or binoculars.

Within a couple of minutes Suarez got the ball in a position where he could run at Terry. He ghosted past the centre-half with embarrassing ease. Though his cross was cleared it showed the possibilities. It lifted Liverpool and put Terry on notice that his hitherto comfortable afternoon was about to get much harder.

So it proved, though few expected Carroll to be the player whose whirling footwork 10 minutes later would bewilder Terry before lashing the ball into the roof of the net. That re-ignitedthe game and Suarez, now able to drop into the same areas Juan Mata prowls, began to enjoy the afternoon. Having sent Petr Cech scrambling to save low to his right to save by the post he created, so he thought, the equaliser for Carroll.

One of the South American gifts is the ability to instantaneously size up a situation and as he darted into the box to take the ball from Glen Johnson, he saw Carroll in space. He chipped a delicate cross that Carroll, having lost his marker, should have headed well wide of Cech's reach. The keeper got enough of a hand on the ball to turn it on to the bar and induce sufficient doubt for the linesman to deny the goal. Then we saw the dark side of Suarez as he ranted at the official, incurring a booking for dissent before Dirk Kuyt could pull him away.

The siege resumed and the focus turned back to Terry whose trademark block, as Carroll shot for goal in injury-time, ensured he would, with Frank Lampard, be lifting the old pot as dusk fell. Banned from the Champions' League final Terry will now turn his attention to the Euros, though Roy Hodgson will have watched with unease the problems Terry had when squared up by Suarez and Carroll.

For Suarez the summer will test his loyalty to a Liverpool team which is out of the Champions' League and shows little sign of qualifying for it next season. The club have stood by him in a difficult year but Paris St-Germain and others will offer Champions' League football, and a more welcoming environment.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions