Neil Mellor relives Middlesbrough’s marathon penalty shoot-out
BUTWELL DONE TO LIVERPOOL AND BORO FOR MASTERCLASS
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.
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?
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!
IT’S OVER: Boro’s Albert Adomah misses his kick and Liverpool have won the penalty shoot-out 14-13