The No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the world faced each other in the 41stinaugural Wes Cup final to determine the strongest team in the world.
Liverpool were coming off a fairly recent Wes Cup trophy in S39, and were looking to add a fifth Wes Cup trophy to their cabinet. Houston were aiming to add a fourth Wes Cup trophy. Only Pristina have more Wes Cup tins in the closet, so this match up was between arguably the two strongest clubs in the world right now.
Had full squads been available, Liverpool would probably have been favourites. However, manager Oz Spare was facing a nightmare with suspensions --- four players were going to miss the final. Two of them were big hitters from the first team, while another two were strong backups. In part, it’s an effect of having limited squad depth due to the high value contracts at Liverpool, but luck still played a part. All of this meant that Liverpool would have to field a few youngsters, while also having only one sub (a 1.75m gk) for the entire match.
Houston were missing one player, a backup defender, so the team was largely in full force.
Houston employed their traditional four-forward attack in a 2-4-4 shape. This was against Liverpool’s 4-5-1, partly forced onto them due to a lack of available midfields and strikers. Liverpool went central, attacking Houston’s weak two-man backline. Houston chose a strong left wing flow, targeting the opposition team’s backup defender Eddie Brothers. Both teams had two-zone advantages in attack --- it was a 50/50 game in terms of tactics. Whose team was going to perform on the day?
As it turned out, it was a nightmare start for Liverpool. Veteran defender Rantanen, the Finnish captain, fouled Houston striker Scully in the first attack. The referee pointed to the spot. It was only minute 1. Scully stepped up to coolly convert the penalty kick. Only 18 minutes later, legendary midfielder Docherty raced through on goal to put Houston up 2-0. Liverpool conceded two goals in their first two shots of the game. It would take a heroic effort to make a comeback.
However, Liverpool did get a lifeline. Houston young 7m midfielder Kobas had two rash challenges and received two yellows. He was off the pitch with a red card in minute 48. Houston were with 10 men, with an entire second half to go. And it seemed like the comeback was on when ex-Houston striker Dedu got a goal back in minute 75. It was 2-1 and 15 minutes to go.
But, the Liverpool team had a shocking shooting game. Aside from Dedu and his two shots on goal, every other team member missed the target --- a total of 15 missed shots. Remarkable profligacy in a Wes Cup final. It didn’t help matters that the team’s only sub --- the youth GK --- came on for injured left back Babenko in the 55th minute. Of course, he lost all of his five challenges.
Did the stronger team ultimately win? Hard to say. Both teams were incredibly inaccurate in their shooting overall and both goalkeepers were poor. The game was ultimately decided by a 1st minute penalty, a mistake the team’s Finnish captain will likely rue forever.