Brian Viner: Logan's run at Lynam take-off misses the mark

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The Independent Online

It was billed as a confrontation not between two teams, but between two great individual performers at the top of their respective games: between the relentless trickery of one, and the marvellous sure-footedness of the other.

But which of them would prevail, Clive Tyldesley for ITV or Martin Tyler for Sky Sports? For me, as football pundits like to say, Tyldesley shaded it.

"We said they might be nervous," he said, as Arsenal stormed forward and Thierry Henry twice came close to scoring in the opening few minutes.

Tyldesley's irony, like Jordan's breasts and John Motson's chuckle, never stays under wraps for long.

"English teams aren't supposed to take the lead in Champions' League finals, this is not good news," he mused, when Sol Campbell put the 10-man Gunners ahead. Over on Sky, meanwhile, Tyler got slightly carried away with his superlatives. "Life suddenly takes on the most happiest of moods for Sol Campbell," he cried.

It was Campbell, in fact, whom Tyldesley, in a rare misjudgement, had wrongly identified as the target of the referee's red card.

But his co-commentator David Pleat was a steadying influence at his shoulder. I used to like Tyldesley's double-act with Ron Atkinson, but they were beginning to think they were Morecambe and Wise, or at least Cannon and Ball, and it is never a good idea when comedy is given too much space in the commentary box. Pleat is a more sober operator, which is what Tyldesley needs. And he delivers instant and perceptive analysis. Not all analysts do.

If Tyldesley edged it in the commentary box, however, it was a slightly different story up in the studio. "I thought you might be joining us for this one," said Gabby Logan, with a slight arching of one eyebrow, as ITV's coverage began.

Someone should tell her that she needs an abundant grey moustache to deliver Lynamesque lines like that, and I'm pleased to say that she shows absolutely no signs of sprouting one. The same cannot be said of the Sky anchorman Richard Keys, a man so hirsute that even his six o'clock shadow has a six o'clock shadow. Moreover, Keys brings that reassuring presence to the big occasion that Logan, highly competent presenter though she unquestionably is, still lacks.

Nor was she helped last night by ITV's lip-sync problems; her voice was marginally ahead of her mouth, as Samuel Eto'o was marginally ahead of Kolo Touré in scoring Barcelona's equaliser. Keys pressed his advantage in the studio with the help of Jamie Redknapp, Ruud Gullit and Paul Merson, whereas Logan only had Terry Venables.

Merson it was who provided the neatest apercu of the entire evening, suggesting of Henry that he "is like an under-16s player playing in an under-12s league". That the Frenchman for once failed to convert any of his chances made no difference to Merson's assessment. As for Venables, the former England coach - and perhaps the future Middlesbrough coach - makes a perplexing pundit.

He is often described as one of the shrewdest men in football and I have no reason to doubt it, yet he seems unable to articulate his shrewdness for the camera. "That was a huge body blow," he said at half-time of the Lehmann sending-off. No disrespect, but my late auntie Bertha could have offered insight like that, and she would have been cheaper to hire. As for Tel's bizarre pre-match stab at a Sven Goran Eriksson impression, the less said the better. I could almost feel Rory Bremner watching and wincing.

Down at the side of the pitch, looking curiously like game-show hosts, ITV's Andy Townsend and Ally McCoist did a better job. I'm still not sure of the decision to relocate them to the touchline, and it sometimes seems like only a matter of time before they break into a spontaneous edition of Play Your Cards Right, but they are a charismatic and likeable pair, who looked suitably mournful at the end of what, both on the pitch and behind the microphone, was a truly breathless night.

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