For those of us who have grown up on the pitch, playing and witnessing football first-hand in run-down fields and often harrowing conditions, we know what makes our sport great.
We recognize the fire that burns in the heart of the one who is willing to sacrifice everything for the joy of victory, and we feel the pain of those whose hopes and dreams are shattered in the wake of defeat.
Our game is beautiful because of the aggressiveness, flavor, and desire to win we see in both the youngsters and old boys. In one word, passion.
Football is, if nothing else, most certainly a sport of intense passion.
Tonight, however, we saw little, if any, of this quality in Everton's embarrassing performance in Lisbon.
Many of us Everton supporters are already too well-accustomed to the sometimes dodgy tactics of David Moyes. And, those who are haunted by the defeats of their clubs in typically winnable circumstances will know exactly what was wrong with the Toffee's effort this evening: a lack of desire to win and a reliance on the security of a 0-0 draw.
This is a strategy that makes a team capable of back-to-back home wins against the two giants of English football look like an amateur side.
Today, arriving in Lisbon, and playing against a side whose form has been utterly dreadful in the past few months, Everton should have went for Sporting's throat. But, as typical of teams trying to conserve a narrow advantage on aggregate, Moyes sent out his boys with the sole mission of defending at all costs and coming away with an unentertaining draw.
Sporting, however, made little of Everton's defensive work and thoroughly spanked the Blues with outlandish pressure.
After a series of brilliant saves by Tim Howard in the first half, Miguel Veloso finally got the best of the American nineteen minutes after the break, culminating a brilliant offensive play that had the Everton backline appealing for offsides.
Only twelve minutes later, Pedro Mendes' thunderous shot deflected off Jack Rodwell and once again beat the unfortunate Howard to find the corner of the net.
To cap off the drubbing, Chilean superstar Matias Fernandez showed off some delightful footwork and put Sporting through for good in the final minute of extra-time, 3-0.
Surely, football does not deserve what coaches like David Moyes, who is still one of the best manager's in Britain, do when they go play away and put 11 men behind the ball looking for a draw or a lucky win. Neither do supporters like those of the Toffees that had so sit back and frustratingly watch there team put only one shot on goal.
There must be a return to the kind of potent attacking football that shone in the game's illustrious past. Teams cannot expect to come away with weak draws and meager aggregate victories when they know that a single goal will send them back home with nothing.
Because, we do not watch football, whether in the biggest stadiums in the world, or the crumby pitch in our local park, to see a team play for the points. We watch football because of the fire that burns in our hearts, and the emotional eruption that comes when our eyes see the ball hit the back of the net.
Final Match Stats:
|Shots (on Goal)||15(9)||2(1)|
|Time of Possession||50%||50%|
Sporting 3 -0 Everton