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It's a big BIG night for everyone involved with Liverpool. I hate the phrase 'must win', because those games rarely are, but this one really is. If Liverpool lose tonight then the game at Arsenal takes on all kinds of significance.

Rodgers is saying he has to deliver a trophy this season. I don't think that matters if you look at recent history. King Kenny did that - got to a 2nd final and steadied the ship. That's what was asked of him - but he was fired anyway! I believe the minimum Rodgers has to deliver this season is C Lge again. Minimum. Trophies are a bonus.

Having said all of that I do wish Bournemouth well. Theirs is a terrific modern day fairytale, all but out of business less than a decade ago, yet now on the brink of the P Lge and an historic night perhaps only hours away. Well done Eddie Howe. 

The other semi-final is anybody's. I can't call it  I'm just glad to see Alan Pardew taking Cup competitions seriously at last. For some reason he's always placed more emphasis on finishing as high as he can in the league. Perhaps he's on a bonus for a good league finish? All I know is that if he can win a trophy for those fantastic Geordie fans he'll have a place in their hearts forever.

Congrats to Sheff Utd on another memorable night - and it seems Chelsea have really have got the bit between their teeth.

I can't let Thierry Henry's retirement pass without a word. What a player. What a career. He's done - and won the lot. Time and again down the years he'd have me out of my seat marvelling at his ability. How about that wonderful volley at Highbury that beat Fabian Barthez? Or when he sat half the Liverpool defence on their backsides before scoring? Or when he danced round Tottenham's defence, while running full length of the field to score? Memories!

Sadly I also remember him v Barcelona in Paris to make it 2-0 with about 12 mins to go in the C Lge final. Sadly he fluffed his lines, which was most unlike him. Sadly in that moment went Arsenal's best chance to win that trophy. His post match tantrums postponed a move to the Camp Nou for 12 months.

And, I know! There was the handball incident v Ireland. But what was he supposed to do? Had Robbie Keane done it at the other end no one in Ireland would've been complaining. It's like Maradona's 'Hand of God'. I'm still sore about that, but I also appreciate that Maradona had to do it. The opportunity was just too inviting. Did England complain when Michael Owen fell over v Argentina in Japan? Of course not. In every case the real villains of the peace were the officials. They should've spotted them all.

Henry talks a lot about his love affair with Arsenal. I believe he has a deep affection for the club, but it didn't run deep enough to stop him leaving when Barcelona came calling with buckets of cash and lifestyle promises. And it obviously isn't deep enough for him to return now, or start out in management somewhere, with a view to returning to Arsenal to fulfil his 'dream' of managing them one day.

I'm sorry to see him chose television over that opportunity. Just as I am Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher. Our game is being over run by school teachers and manufactured coaches. 

At the end of their careers now the top players today have all earned enough to be comfortable for the rest of their lives. They're not hungry. They don't want hassle. The media is the soft option. It's such a pity.

I've worked with Andy for more than 20 years now. Although he's never actually said it, I know that he regrets not having tried his luck in management. It gnaws away at him and he can only ever wonder now. My belief is that he would've been terrific at it. I suspect he feels the same way!  But it's too late.

I think Gary Neville would make a go of it as well. And Carragher, who's a real student of the game. I'm not sure about Henry. I suspect we'll never know. What a pity.

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HACKETTS BLOG- SWANSEA CITY SUFFER AGAIN

I noted that The Football Association decided to reject the appeal by Swansea City following the dismissal of their goalkeeper Fabrianski by referee Chris Foy at the week-end.

Like many other referee experts around the world I was shocked and a little confused by this decision to support the referee.

The rejection of this appeal creates confusion for referees at all levels of the game, when clearly the criteria for the Denial of an OBVIOUS goal scoring opportunity was NOT fulfilled.

So lets examine the incident in more detail.

Did the attacking player deliberately use his arm to propel the ball forward to maintain possession of the ball. The answer is yes and at that point the game should have been stopped and the award of a free kick to Swansea City.

(The referee must have failed to see the deliberate handball)

Did the Swansea City goalkeeper who came out the penalty area commit a foul challenge. A collision did take place and it is evident that the referee decided that a foul had been committed. (To confirm this action he re-started the game with a direct free kick to West Ham United) It was a careless action by the goalkeeper so I support the award of a free kick.

Immediately the collision took place the referee stopped the game by blowing his whistle for the free kick.

In doing so he now has to consider the following criteria for Denial of an OBVIOUS goal scoring opportunity.

The distance between the offence and the goal

• The likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball

• The direction of the play

• The location and number of defenders

• The offence which denies an opponent an obvious goal scoring opportunity may be an offence that incurs a direct free kick or an indirect free kick

The offence was outside the penalty area and certainly in shooting distance – so point one is fulfilled

The likelihood of keeping or gaining possession of the ball was carried out illegally and not seen by the referee so at this point the review panel should have supported the appeal. Remember the panel look at the dvd evidence supplied by the club.

The direction of play really is quantified by the direction of the ball itself it was travelling not towards the goal but parallel to the penalty area line parallel to the touchline. The player managed a shot on goal because of his action of unsporting behavior by deliberately handling the ball to gain an unfair advantage over his opponents.

So  it is not DOGSO because the criteria has not been fulfilled Swansea City have cause to be disappointed

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'Liverfools' screamed the back page of The Mail this morning. Clever, but these headline writers are paid a fortune to come up with that kind of stuff!

'Hung out to Frei' was The Mirror's offering. Very good.

'Liverpool out despite Gerrard gem' was The Telegraph's take. There were many more. The bottom line is Liverpool are out of the C Lge 

Brendan Rodgers said this at his post match Press conference 'we had earned the right to be in it after a wonderful season'. Agreed.

'We can't make any excuses'. Agreed 

'The big game was away in Basel where we did not play well'. The latter part of that statement is true. But let's have a closer look at the first part - 'the big game was away in Basel'. Wrong. 100% wrong. 

The big game was NOT in Basel. The big game was in MADRID where Rodgers ran up the white flag before the game and played his reserves. We know they were his reserves because ALL the changes he made that night were reversed for the following league game. 

Rodgers claimed Liverpool were unlucky because Real only sneaked a 1-0 win. Let's take that statement at face value first of all. Let us suppose Real had an off night and genuinely were there for the taking, that Liverpool might have picked up a point, or better still won it. Either outcome would've meant last night's drama was irrelevant, but it would be needed his first team to do it. His best team. A team with Steven Gerrard in it from the start.

I suspect Real would've won anyway, but who knows? At least Liverpool could've left with their heads up and with some belief that they still might make it. Instead, they failed to win in their next seven games and are still scrambling to find some consistency.

Rodgers gambled everything in beating Ludogorets and Basel, two teams whose combined worth probably doesn't match the £16m he paid for Balotelli.  Perhaps Rodgers started to believe in his own publicity when he took the Italian, after sending Loic Remy packing remember.

Balotelli is a gamble that's backfired and so was that night in Madrid. He's paid a heavy price for his mis-placed belief that he could 'educate' Balotelli ('you train dogs, I educate players') and that he could take lightly the greatest Club competition in the world.  You can't.

Liverpool deserved their place in the C Lge after a wonderful season. But the history and tradition of this wonderful club, and their supporters, demanded better than to treat it as their Manager did. At the very least he owes Liverpool fans another crack at it. That's the minimum requirement this season.

I also still believe he makes too many changes too often. Mourinho's 'untouchables' (eight of his team have started every game this season) remain top of the league and have comfortably qualified for the last 16 of the C Lge. I suspect they'll all get a rest tonight.

I'm hoping City make it. We need them thro. That's something else Rodgers forgot about, that Liverpool were also representing English football. We need our teams, ALL of our C Lge teams to do well in the competition.

Nothing but sympathy for Swansea after a shocking decision at West Ham to send off their keeper Fabianski, compounded by a failed appeal. It's an issue I've addressed separately today.

As for Utd's current form, I'm delighted to see them back in the C Lge places. I refer you to my blog when Van Gaal took over. I said he'd make them competitive again and they are, but they're not 'back' as I keep hearing Utd fans say.  They'll never be 'back' to what they were. Their time has gone. There will never be another period of domination from any English team like they enjoyed. And remember my prediction that he'd be gone in 18 months? I hear more than one or two of his 'big' players are muttering about him. The next 12 months at Old Trafford are going to be interesting!