When viewing games through our exceptionally biased Liverpool worldview, it is easy to ascribe agency to our players. We played well. We played like headless chickens. Our press was suffocating. Our defenders made mistakes.
It is much harder, on the other hand, to ascribe agency to the other team. They exploited our weaknesses. They isolated our defenders. They were more motivated.
Logically we know that there are 11 players on both sides wanting to win the match, but emotionally we only think about our successes and our faults. Such was the case when immediately following the last-gasp equalizer by Sevilla, Liverpool fans and pundits started the finger pointing and scapegoating. At no point was Sevilla—a very good team, with an excellent home record—or their agency as professional footballers considered.
However, this morning we learned something very important about last night’s events, something that has nothing to do with Liverpool and everything to do with Sevilla. Their manager, Eduardo Berizzo, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, news that he reportedly shared with the team at halftime. The club confirmed his diagnosis this morning.
In a tie where Sevilla had already sliced apart Liverpool’s backline in several dangerous attacks in the first half, perhaps this bit of news was just enough motivation to turn things around in the second. Perhaps it was the exact sort of thing Sevilla needed to rally behind at home in a huge Champions League tie.
Losing a three-goal lead is something that can happen to great teams (and something we have been on both sides of on very memorable occasions). Usually it is more about the chasing team, and catching those important, lucky breaks at the right times, than it is about the capitulating team. This was likely the case last night.
It goes without saying, but there are more important things than football. We don’t know much about Berizzo’s diagnosis at this moment, but of course we wish him a speedy recovery. I hope he will use this match and its unlikely finish as a source of strength in the upcoming difficult months, just as his players used his illness as a source of strength last night.