Early Doors

It’s up for grabs now!

Early Doors

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Like Bonnie Tyler, Mariah Carey and (gulp) Nickelback, Early Doors has a thing for heroes.

So imagine its delight five minutes from time in last night's game at Anfield, when Arsenal's mandatory late goal came courtesy of a man who was so overhyped, so early in his career, that at the age of 19 and three weeks he is widely considered past it.

(Incidentally, Early Doors finds it curious that Arsenal are so good at the end of games and so rubbish at the end of seasons.)

Theo Walcott collected the ball from a Liverpool corner and slalomed the length of the pitch, beating four men before squaring perfectly for Emmanuel Adebayor to send the Gunners into the last four.

Two years after his comical World Cup appearance as the England team mascot (although he did get that nice girl of his a posh handbag in Baden Baden), Theo had arrived.

Such pace, such balance, such control! It was John Barnes! It was Ryan Giggs! It was Diego Maradona himself!

In fact, it was a footnote barely a minute later. Cruel fate snatched one of the great Champions League moments from Walcott's perpetually-teenage hands.

No sooner had Adebayor finished off the elaborate sequence of hand signals that passes for a modern goal celebration than Ryan Babel was charging into the Arsenal box.

With Mickey Thomas, scorer of Arsenal's title-winning goal in 1989, in attendance, it was remiss of Clive Tyldesley not to shout: "It's up for grabs now!"

The winger went down after a tangle of limbs with Kolo Toure and referee Peter Frojdfeldt pointed to the spot. Steven Gerrard duly put Liverpool through.

It was made all the harder for Arsenal to take in light of the first leg, when referee Pieter Vink saw nothing wrong when fellow Dutchman Dirk Kuyt pulled Alex Hleb over.

There is too much incompetence in the world for Early Doors to set much stall by conspiracy theories, but suffice it to say that Frojdfeldt and Toure do not come from the same small village in the Ivory Coast.

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Avram Grant might look like a cross between an undertaker and one of his customers, but he just might know a thing or two about this management lark.

Despite apparently being rubbish all season, Grant's men somehow have a realistic shot at a double of Premier and Champions Leagues.

Would a Jose Mourinho team have got to this stage without the whole world knowing about it? Of course not.

By now dear old Jose - and we all miss him, whether you care to admit it or not - would have described his players as champions, legends, cyborgs and compared them to various types of expensive continental sausage.

Chelsea's ambitions could once again be compromised by the frankly rubbish Hilario in goal, following injuries to Carlo Cudicini and Petr Cech.

Cech had 50 stitches after being bashed in the face by Tal Ben-Haim at the weekend, proving once and for all that his stupid scrum cap doesn't work.

When Cech finally takes to the field again, expect him to be completely mummified; his entire body wrapped in a bandage with small holes cut for seeing and breathing.

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Welcome to the UK, Luigi De Canio!

Early Doors has always found it hard to understand how many foreigners could be attracted to English football, given the frankly crap nature of their host country.

The deeply depressing arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport would be enough to put Early Doors on the first flight back to anywhere at all, and now with Terminal 5 there's the added bonus of having your luggage thrown down a rubbish chute and sent to Kabul.

De Canio was shown the error of his ways last Friday night when, fresh from a night out in West London (Nando's followed by Walkabout?) he was mugged.

The QPR manager's most recent Serie A job was in the alluring Tuscan town of Siena. What on earth possessed him to leave the culture, the cuisine and the countryside for Shepherd's Bush is anyone's guess.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Anyone who thinks we are just seeing out our season is wrong. Our bonus structure is geared to finishing in the top 10 - and that includes mine." Alan Curbishley. Take that, naysayers! We're not playing for pride - we're playing for money! 

QUOTE OF THE YESTERDAY: Tuesday's Early Doors proved as canny as ever when it comes to sniffing out a classic: "Call ED controversial, but it would rather watch the Chelsea game tonight. Yes, you heard right, Chelsea."

If you're looking for entertainment tonight, ED suggests you forget the football altogether and tune in to the new series of How To Look Good Naked. Ooh, that Gok Wan's a character...

FOREIGN VIEW: The European papers focus on boxing, Bernd Schuster, Juventus and some cycling race. Anything, in fact, except last night's Champions League. But you're meant to be marvelling at how wonderful the Premier League is! Bah.

TALKING POINT: Among the most outlandish transfer rumours ever: Gary Breen to Barcelona, Kaka to Al Ahly, Ato Boldon to Manchester City, pretty much anyone good to Spurs and, intriguingly, Early Doors to Sporting Life.

Today's question: As Theo Walcott's heroism is consigned to the dustbin of history, what other moments of ultimately futile magic can you dredge from the back of your mind? Early Doors likes Roque Santa Cruz scoring a hat-trick in a 5-3 defeat to Wigan.

Or, if you prefer, you can just argue amongst yourselves.

COMING UP: Manchester United will make it three English teams out of four in the Champions League semis unless they get thumped at home by Roma. Barcelona will play them unless they get thumped at home by Schalke. Follow both of those games from 7.45pm.

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