There aren’t a lot of true trick plays in the world of sports — unless you count the Harlem Globetrotters.
Baseball has the “hidden ball trick” and to a lesser extent the “butcher boy play” in which a batter fakes a bunt before taking a short, hacking swing in hopes of bouncing a ball past a charging infield.
Football has the “fumblerooskie” in which the center “recovers” a “fumble” when he doesn’t make the snap to the quarterback. Then there are the more traditional trick plays like the “flea flicker,” “Statue of Liberty” and the “running-back pass.”
Soccer is one of those sports that has a low potential for trick plays — as long as you don’t count diving and flopping. About the biggest embarrassment a soccer play can endure is the “nutmeg,” when a ball is passed between a defenders legs.
Tuesday, however, Liverpool might have pulled off one of the biggest trick plays in sports history when The Reds caught Barcelona napping in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal match.
First a quick primer on the Champions League tournament: teams play a two-game, home-and-home series, with total number of goals added up between the two games to determine the winner. Barcelona had won the first leg 3-0 in Spain last week, meaning Liverpool needed to score three goals in the return match at Anfield Tuesday.
That was just to force a tie, while preventing Barcelona from scoring, which would have broken any ties with an away goal.
Liverpool had already done the impossible, scoring three times to lead the game 3-0 and tie the aggregate score at 3-all, when The Reds lined up to take a corner kick with about 10 minutes left in regulation.
One thing you should know about soccer is, unlike nearly every sport, the referee does not have to mark the spot of the ball on set plays or touch it before inbounding. So when Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, a 20-year old left fullback, went to the corner for the corner kick, he did not have to wait for the referee to blow his whistle to initiate the play.
That is a major reason why the play was successful. Alexander-Arnold initially lined up looking to take the kick, before he slowly started walking away as midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri came walking up, looking as if he would trigger the play.
But Alexander-Arnold quickly spun around, returned to the ball and sent a quick cross to the front of the goal. With both teams still milling about in anticipation of the kick, Liverpool’s Divok Origi, all alone in front of the goal, looked up just in time to see the ball coming directly to his foot, which he one-timed into the back of the net to put Liverpool up 4-0 in the game and 4-3 on the aggregate, which turned out to be the goal that sent The Reds into the Champions League finals.
Liverpool will be appearing for the second year in a row and for the ninth time overall. A five-time champion, The Reds fell 3-1 to Real Madrid in last year’s title game.
Alexander-Arnold said in an interview after the game that the play was “just instinctive.”
I don’t buy it. That’s one of those plays that you try in practice on a whim and convert. It may not be actually “practiced,” but I have to believe that it was a play in their back pocket and it took a kid who knows no better to actually try it in a game.
The way Liverpool played Tuesday, why not go for it? As they say, The Reds were “feeling themselves” by that point.
Hillsdale will be hosting its annual Hall of Fame ceremony beginning 5 p.m. Saturday, with six individuals and one team being inducted.
The most recognizable name to sports fans is Neal Dahlen, former physical education teacher and football coach for the Knights. In addition to winning Mid-Peninsula League titles in 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1981 — as well as the 1981 Central Coast Section title — Dahlen went on to win seven Super Bowl titles as an executive for both the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos.
Joining Dahlen is the 1981 football team, that went undefeated in winning the section championship. Brenda Brewer Pettigrue, a 1982 graduate, was a standout for the track team and still holds school records in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump. The late Irv Betrame, who coached track and football at Hillsdale in a teaching career that spanned 1959 to 1992. He passed away in 2015.
Other inductees are Susan Bedford, Dr. Susan Cashion and Dr. Jed Rose.
If you are interested in attending, go to the Hillsdale High School Alumni Association website at www.hillsdalehsalumni.org.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117.