Neil Mel­lor re­lives Mid­dles­brough’s marathon penalty shoot-out

BUTWELL DONE TO LIVER­POOL AND BORO FOR MASTER­CLASS

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE -

WELL, I’ve never seen a penalty shoot-out quite like the one we were treated to at An­field on Tues­day night. I was there as Liver­pool squeezed past Mid­dles­brough 14-13 on penal­ties – fan­tas­tic en­ter­tain­ment. The game it­self wasn’t par­tic­u­larly great, cer­tainly from Liver­pool’s view­point, but the shoot-out was grip­ping. The qual­ity of penal­ties was top drawer.

As each player made that long, nerve-wrack­ing walk you’re think­ing: “He must miss ... he doesn’t miss!” It was in­cred­i­ble. You had no idea who was go­ing to win it. In the end it was re­lief for Liver­pool, but credit to Mid­dles­brough for push­ing them so close.

They have cer­tainly picked up since the in­ter­na­tional break. They were a tough side to score goals against last sea­son.You can see why. Ai­tor Karanka has got them well or­gan­ised, they make it dif­fi­cult for the op­po­si­tion to cre­ate chances and they all do their jobs ex­tremely well.

Ova­tion

While they may not score lots and lots of goals, that’s why they’re al­ways go­ing to re­main in games. They’ve got the base to have a re­ally strong sea­son.

It’s never nice but some­one has to lose on penal­ties. The fact Mid­dles­brough kept go­ing un­der that pres­sure means they can take huge con­fi­dence from the game. They got a big ova­tion from their away support, who helped make a great at­mos­phere along with the Liver­pool fans, at the end and de­servedly so.

It’s been a good week for league clubs in the League Cup – just look at Micky Mel­lon’s Shrews­bury beat­ing Nor­wich City with Chelsea their re­ward in the next round.

You al­ways see a Foot­ball League club do well and go far – of course Brad­ford City got to the fi­nal against Swansea a cou­ple of years ago. It’s also a com­pe­ti­tion no­to­ri­ous for giv­ing young lads their first op­por­tu­nity.

It’s a good test for them. The man­ager can see if he can han­dle it on the same pitch as se­nior play­ers: is he de­mand­ing the ball off them, get­ting in­volved and not let­ting the oc­ca­sion get to him?

Buzzing

When you’re a young player, you don’t get too many op­por­tu­ni­ties so you have to take them.

I made my Liver­pool de­but in the League Cup at An­field against Ipswich Town. I won a penalty in the sec­ond-half. Ger­ard Houl­lier had told me be­fore the game I was on penal­ties so I was buzzing. It’s what you want as a young striker break­ing into the first team.

I went to get the ball but El Hadji Diouf had al­ready grabbed the ball off me. I said to Dioufy, ‘I’m on pens, give me the ball’.

“No, no – I’m tak­ing the pen,” he said. He’d been signed for £10m and I sup­pose he had to jus­tify that price tag be­cause he wasn’t re­ally jus­ti­fy­ing it in the league. Goals cer­tainly help that.

I turned around to the cap­tain Ste­vie G. “Tell him I’m on pens.” We were one down at the time and he told me to let Diouf take it. I was young player at the time so I wasn’t go­ing to kick up a fuss about a se­nior player who cost a lot of money tak­ing it, but I was gut­ted. At least he scored!

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

IT’S OVER: Boro’s Al­bert Adomah misses his kick and Liver­pool have won the penalty shoot-out 14-13

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