Football: F A Cup Final: Gerrard Benefits from the Veteran's Touch ; Alex Hayes Assesses Personal Duel of Hardened Midfield Dynamos
Hayes, Alex, The Independent (London, England)
SOMEONE ALWAYS has to miss out. And on this occasion the unlucky man seemed to be Gary McAllister. The veteran midfielder has been one of Liverpool's most consistent performers during the past, gruelling four weeks, which have taken the Merseyside club to within touching distance of both the Uefa Cup and, most crucially, next season's Champions' League. But, yesterday, experience gave way to youth and raw energy, as the Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier, gave Steven Gerrard a starting berth alongside Dietmar Hamann.
While few professionals are more deserving of a second winner's medal of the season than McAllister, there were many who were secretly hoping Gerrard would get the nod. The 20-year-old has been a revelation this season, establishing himself not only as a vital cog in the rejuvenated Liverpool machine, but also an important member of Sven Goran Eriksson's new England revolution.
But perhaps the most pertinent reason for wanting to see Liverpool's No 17 in the starting line-up was because Gerrard's inclusion meant that he was pitted against another exciting, midfield dynamo. Patrick Vieira has the same talismanic qualities as his midfield counterpart and their personal duel offered one of the more intriguing sub-plots to yesterday's dramatic final at the Millennium Stadium.
Shirts hanging loosely out at the back of their shorts, theirs was the battle of the legs. Both central midfielders are tall, strong, clever and possess the sort of long limbs to make wannabe super models weep. And never are their stretchy - almost elastic - legs more useful than when trying to clean up the congested midfield areas. Vieira, in particular, has the wonderful ability to make almost any 50-50 ball his. The sliding tackle he executed on Vladimir Smicer after 60 minutes was just one of many examples of his inch-perfect technique.
The France international can mix the serious with the fun. Indeed, his nutmeg on Danny Murphy, after 11 minutes, when he somehow managed to drag the ball out from under his feet, before twisting, turning and then emerging in the clear, was vintage Vieira. Yes, the Frenchman does the simple things neatly, but he doesn't half do the tricky stuff well, too. Vieira, …
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Publication information: Article title: Football: F A Cup Final: Gerrard Benefits from the Veteran's Touch ; Alex Hayes Assesses Personal Duel of Hardened Midfield Dynamos. Contributors: Hayes, Alex - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: May 13, 2001. Page number: 3. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.