As an Irish Everton fan who lives in Seville, I was only delighted when Benfica came out of the draw giving the chance to take a trip to Lisbon and the Stadium of Light. During our last UEFA campaign I got to see the 2-0 win in Nuremburg (link - http://toffeeweb.com/season/07-08/comment/fan/article.asp?submissionID=4180), and despite this season's irregular results and injury pileup, I was hopeful of a similar game and positive experience this time around. I was, of course, wrong.
Besides spending €200 each way on direct flights, the handiest way to get to Lisbon from Seville is by overnight bus. Arriving at 6AM when it’s still dark did give me a good chance to have a look around the city before the game. Lonely Planet suggested a climb up the hills over the city, and the view is pretty spectacular with the dotted red roofs, craggy castle, sparkling river et cetera. Also, the streets around by the castle, with windy cobbled lanes, rickety rusty trams and colouredy clothes flapping from windows, were picturesque enough. Down in the stone cathedral someone's mobile went off with the Z-cars theme, presumably some fans in saying a prayer for the quick return of Mikel, Jags, Peanuts, Phil etc etc.
After lunch I got the metro out to the ground. I had booked my ticket from the Benfica website, and the collection all worked very easily. There was plenty of beer available from a bar built into the ground - right next to the electronics superstore, just down from the swimming pool and car dealership - so I got me plastic pint and soaked in some of the atmosphere, with some funny banter between locals and Blues outside.
I took my seat in among the Benfica support nice and early with no hassle getting in. From the local paper it seemed Aimar and Saviola were both set to start, and Osman and Yobo were not. Which was both exciting and worrying.
I thought we started pretty well considering the team we put out. Before and after their first goal we put some surprisingly decent moves together, with Bily at the heart of most. He was unlucky with a terrific volley from 25 yards that whistled just over and Jo managed a couple of weak shots down the keeper’s throat. At half time I thought we were still well in it, although Aimar was getting plenty of space, and they were also making plenty of chances.
Then came the disastrous five minutes. Dithering in midfield, ball robbed in dangerous area, winger played down the left, simple cross and simple tap in. And then the exact same thing again two minutes later. It was pretty nightmarish at the time, but thinking back the speed of thought and ball movement from Aimar, Saviola and De Maria was well above what you see in most Premiership games. Defending was shocking though, as proven by their fourth - just a free header from a corner.
From there on it was all up really. It looked like some fans in the Everton part of the ground had had enough and were leaving. The locals around me were really enjoying themselves, laughing openly at Hibbert's centre half play, and Jo and Yak's attempts to link up. Saha at least showed some urgency when he came on and Fellaini kept trying to play. Cahill looked lost and Rodwell seemed very tired. Their fifth goal kinda summed it all up, with Saha not bothering to close down the centre half, Hibbert misjudging the long ball, and Howard caught in no man's land. In general we were an awful rabble, unable to keep the ball at all, and lucky to keep it to five. I ended up just hoping nobody got sent off for doing something stupid.
After the game I was hungry and anti-social, so went for the first restaurant I saw from the Metro and had rubbery cod and soggy chips. There was one other table of fans there, and we just shook our heads and agreed that everything was shite. I couldn't raise the enthusiasm to head to the central square and look to chat with any other Blues, so went back to the hotel and read about the game on the internet. I only realised then that Coleman had played full back. Unfortunate debut for the lad.
The bus back to Seville wasn't until late on Friday afternoon, so I had a look at Saint Geronimo's Monastery, which seems to be a three storey galleried building with a cathedral attached that has been carved out of the one soft brown stone. Must have been nice being a monk back in the olden days. From reading another local paper it seemed Benfica were all, understandably, congratulating themselves on the previous night's work. I read Moyes and Rodwell explaining that we're ravaged by injuries and should still go through from the group. I agree with them but still, it was a very worrying game. I had fancied us for a long European run this year, especially as we’re nowhere near the top four spots in the league, but I'm definitely not so sure now.
Back in Seville at 5:30am on Saturday morning, after another long bus ride, it was time for plenty of sleep. I did wake up in time for the Bolton game and more shambolic defending and another defeat. Not a good few days.
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1 Posted 27/10/2009 at 16:20:46
The advantage of being 4-0 down with 40 minutes to go is that we had time to get over the defeat before the final whistle.
Second advantage, Lisbon is a city full of great bars, cheap beer, live music and friendly people (and they don’t close till about 3am!)
I found just such a bar, the band played a couple of Beatles tunes in sympathy for the ten or so Everton fans in there, one of them tried to do a cartwheel/backflip and landed on his head - no apparent damage and his mate got all philosophical, ’Well we’ve still got all our arms and legs haven’t we!’
And by 3am the legs were still working well enough to find there way back to the hotel, just.
2 Posted 27/10/2009 at 16:56:53
No matter where it is, the review is always given by the surliest most miserable looking one who (while sitting nursing a beer), stops biting his nails and furtively looking around and says "Sah’ fucckkgun ssshhit-ole, end of, knowarrameen lad - now back to Judyth in the fucking sshhtudio lad"
3 Posted 27/10/2009 at 17:47:08
Great holiday runined by a game of football. COYB
4 Posted 27/10/2009 at 21:49:23
I agree with Jim, you missed a great night/morning.
5 Posted 28/10/2009 at 12:42:06
I probably should have gone out alright, but the lack of sleep / depressing game caught up with me.
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