Even though we cruelly lost on penalties to Liverpool, I was so proud of the team for how close they were to pulling off an upset. A few weeks before the final my dad was on the West Ham box office phone line at 8:50am. The remaining tickets went on sale at 9am. Our order was confirmed five minutes later
On the day of the final, we woke up bright and early. We got the train from London Paddington and all you could see was a sea of claret and blue. I sat next to this Dutch Liverpool fan who was watching ‘American Pie: The Wedding’. Even though he was a Kop fan, he went up a notch in my book for watching a top film. We eventually arrived in Cardiff two hours before kickoff. We visited a few pubs before we made our way to the Millennium Stadium. It is a fantastic arena and if anyone is offered the chance to go there, take it.
Our seats were behind the goal, in the upper tier of the West Ham end. We sat next to former Hammer John Moncur, he was a nice guy. The match started and West Ham couldn’t have got off to a better start. Jamie Carragher scored an own goal after 21 minutes, while Dean Ashton tapped in after a Pepe Reina mistake seven minutes later. As a Hammers fan I knew that a two-goal lead wouldn’t be enough. First Djibril Cissé volleyed in from the edge of the box before half-time. Then ten minutes into the second half, Reds captain Steven Gerrard smashed in a Peter Crouch knock-down.
After the equaliser, I feared West Ham would crumble and lose. But we kept going and took the lead again when Paul Konchesky’s cross ended up looping over Reina into the net. I felt for sure our name was on the cup after that lucky goal. I was already imagining Nigel Reo-Coker lifting the cup for the fourth time in the club’s history.
But in stoppage time, West Ham put the ball out of play for Cisse to get treatment for cramp. Then Lionel Scaloni stupidly pumped the ball high in the air straight down the middle of the pitch instead of aiming for the corner. The ball back into the penalty area was only half cleared and fell to Gerrard who smashed the ball into the bottom corner from 30 yards. It was an amazing goal but I wasn’t thinking about that.
I felt so empty. We were only two minutes away from lifting the cup. We could have won in extra time, but Marlon Harewood missed from five yards due to his injured leg. Down to penalties. Teddy Sheringham scored his penalty but Bobby Zamora, Paul Konchesky and finally Anton Ferdinand missed their spot kicks and it was all over.
Liverpool 3-3 West Ham United. Liverpool win 3-1 on penalties. It was a fantastic game of football, and I was immensely proud of being a West Ham fan that day, even though we lost. We were so near and yet, thanks to Steven Gerrard, so far.