The last two days have seen both League Cup Semi-Finals (2nd Leg) being played, and as is so often the case, I experienced mixed fortunes across the two of them. I travelled down to Birmingham on Tuesday night to see Bradford (of League 2, the lowest tier of the Football League) take on Aston Villa, an established Premier League outfit. Arriving with the advantage of a 3-1 lead from the 1st leg, Bradford looked like genuine contenders to reach the final, despite the 90 minutes of away football they had in front of them. Nonetheless, despite Villa winning the match 2-1, it wasn’t enough for the Premier League team, and the visitors emerged victorious with an aggregate 4-3 victory, the decisive goal coming from James Hanson, who the tabloids were delighted to discover used to stack supermarket shelves for a living.
I chose to shoot Villa’s attack for the first half, and stay put for Bradford’s second half response. Fortunately, this approach paid off and I was rewarded with a goal in front of me in each half, the second of which being the goal that clinched the tie for the Yorkshiremen. The goal celebration came my way, and afterwards the team gathered together for a group picture that should prove to be an integral part of a footballing archive…
On Wednesday, I journeyed down to south-west Wales with a couple of colleagues where Swansea City were taking on Chelsea in the other semi-final. The weather on the 3+ hour drive down there got progressively worse the closer we got to Swansea, and by the time we arrived, we were engulfed by a full-blown snow blizzard that had enveloped the Liberty Stadium and the roads and walkways all around it. For a while there was genuine concern that the match was even going to go ahead, but the groundsmen had done a good job to keep the pitch in tip-top condition, and continued to clear the settling snow right up to kick-off.
The match was a dismal affair, with neither team looking particularly dynamic or, for that matter, interested; Swansea certainly seemed to want it more, but as far as chances go, it felt fairly even. The only story from the match came halfway through the second half, when Chelsea’s Belgian playmaker, Eden Hazard, appeared to kick a ball boy at the far end of the pitch from where I was sat. From my position, I didn’t even know anything had happened at first, and then when I realised something was going on, I was barely able to make out who or what…it was only when the referee called the player over and produced the red card to send him off that I immediately realised I was at the wrong end for what will, inveitably, be the only talking point of the otherwise-dour match.
Within reason, you can only shoot what’s in front of you, so I knew there was little I could do about the situation…it didn’t make things any easier at the time though, when I knew there would be little talk of anything else in the coming days, and that I would have this gaping whole in my set of pictures.