Live: 2024/25 Europa Conference League Final

“Hello and welcome to the Etihad in beautiful Manchester, England. I’m your host, Jamie Carragher, here with Gary Neville, as Nicolaj Bur’s Panathinaikos look to –“

“Manchester?! Stockport, more like, Jamie-lad, yeah?”

“Gary, we discussed this. You promised.”

“I make a lot of promises, Jamie-lad. Especially because Scholesy, sometimes, for a laugh, makes me say things with a bread knife… He’s obviously a crackhead, but... Yeah.”

“Gary, that’s…just… No. You promised to respect City–“

“Hitler promised not to invade Czechoslovakia, Jamie-lad. Welcome to the real world. And aren’t you supposed to be talking about the match?! Now who’s letting who down, yeah?”

“I was talking about… When you… Nevermind… Panathinaikos were recently crowned as Champions of Greece, knocking Olympiacos off of their perch behind the managerial trio of Nicolaj Bur, Jesse Sorenson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But Frank Lampard’s men have to be seen heavy favorites tonight, don’t they, Gary?”

“Fat Frank has been phoning it in all year. Sixth in the League, out of the real Cups before I’d even finished my tea. Probably getting sacked in the morning. It speaks volumes, doesn’t it Jamie-lad, that his only chance at silverware comes here tonight, at the Stockport Council House in a third-tier, Mickey Mouse Cup. Anything less than a double-digit win, and Frank should be sacked for being a proper eejit.”

[Jamie laughs awkwardly.]

“Surely, Gary, even you know how ridiculous that sounds. And I, for one, think that Lampard looks dashing in his sweater-vest. Southgate-esque, even. If you can’t be impartial, Gary, well… You know what it’s like. You’ve been in the hot seat, during that short period in Valenc–“

“Now who’s breaking promises, Jamie-lad? Eh?! I’ll [beep]-ing cut you.”

[Awkward silence fills the air as Gary stares Jamie down. Gary reaches suddenly forward, to grab what appears to be a bottle in a brown paper bag. Jamie flinches visibly. Gary chuckles darkly, taking a long pull from his bottle. In the background, the initial notes of the Europa Conference League anthem — Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ — begin to echo in the stadium. Jamie regains his composure]

“Well, Gar, it looks like…yes, here come the teams. Lock grandma in the cupboard, because we’re ready to kickoff here in Manchester. Live, it’s the Europa Conference League Final!”

[Note: if you are here during the live blog, you will need to hit refresh to see new updates as the match progresses.]
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6th Minute

“Its’ first blood to Chelski, Jamie-lad! That didn’t take Fat Frank’s men long! Look at Bur on the sidelines, like a puppet with his strings cut.”

8th Minute

“Just like your missus said to me last night, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, Gar-bear! Baran with a gilt-edged chance…he should have buried that. Bur is furious on the sideline. What a response from the Greeks!”

“Bang out of order, Jamie-lad. You’re on thin ice.”

13th Minute

“Brilliant save from Dioudis, off a Hudson-Odoi thunderbolt, to keep his side in it. Just like Andre 3000, that Callum Hudson don’t mess around!”

“Have you ever stopped to listen to yourself, Jamie?”

15th Minute

“ASDKFALDSKIJAUHGHHHSHHEEHHHHHH”

“Yes, Gary! That’s the stuff! Panathinaikos are level after a poor clearance from Kepa…but, no! Both Masek and Mota were miles offside!

30th Minute

“It’s time to tell it like it is, Gar-bear. Frank’s men are in complete control here. Panathinaikos are holding on, but it only feels like a matter of time until the dam breaks.”

[Gary takes a long pull from his bottle, grimacing down at the pitch.]

“The thing iz, Jamie-lad. This Frank fella…he really izn’t faht. It jus’ makes me feel better when I calls him fat.”

“Uhh…thank you, Gary. Well, it looks like Bur agrees with me, as he’s down on the touchline, shouting instructions to his players. Yes, it looks like…well, they’re pressing high now. Go down in a blaze of glory, I guess, yeah?”

[Jamie looks over to Gary, who is disinterested, staring into the middle distance mumbling about regrets.]

Halftime

“That’s the first 45 done and dusted, Gary. Bur’s men are fighting back, but if Chelsea can break the press, anything could happen. It’s like two prizefighters, slugging away…Gary?!”

[Gary has curled into the fetal position, sobbing uncontrollably, clutching his mystery bottle and mumbling about someone named ‘Sofie.’]

“Uhh…ok…we’ll be back with the 2nd half, after this message from our sponsor — Tecate, because the party doesn’t start until Tecate-O-Clock.”

52nd Minute

“Panathinaikos…living dangerously here in the second half, as Chelsea have missed a few half-chances. Throw in on the left…Gonzalez looks to Mota who flicks it on into space, but no one is… Look at Mejri fly… Kepa should… Oh my, what is Kepa… Mejri… YES!!!! PANATHINAIKOS ARE LEVEL!!! WHAT A BLUNDER BY KEPA!!!! SOMEWHERE, MAURIZIO SARRI IS SHAKING WITH LAUGHTER!!!!”

PANATHINAIKOS’ REFUSAL TO BACK DOWN HAS PAID OFF!!! ALL TO PLAY FOR!!!

[Gary snores quietly on the floor, oblivious to the scenes erupting around him.]

58th Minute

“End-to-end stuff now, counterattacks upon counterattacks… Never say die. This is what the Europa Conference League is all about, ladies and gentlemen!”

“Mejri, finds Baran… What a save from Kepa. Baran is kicking himself. It should be 2-1 to the Greeks. Just like that saucy flick with all those sweaty men in codpieces, anyone – and I do mean anyone – could win tonight.”

70th Minute

“A beautiful ball from Lucio Carlos sets Mejri free behind the Chelsea backline, but Kepa stays big to deny the Tunisian. Corner to Panathinaikos, and we’ll see the Greeks making their first changes of the match. It looks like…yes, young Drazen Kalicanin will come on for Alexand…Alex…Al…that Greek midfielder guy, who’s been solid if unspectacular. And it’s Kasper Schou on for Dickmann at right wingback. Yes, Bur has a lot of faith in his young compatriot. Let’s see if it will pay off.”

[Gary wakes with a start, drool puddled beneath his face. He sits up, clearly confused.]

77th Minute

“Chelsea, pushing forward, looking to exploit the tired, Greek legs… Rodrygo!!! Just wide!!! So close to breaking the deadlock!!!”

[Gary looks at the bottle in his hands. It is empty. He glances around the room sadly, as if looking for more. Suddenly, he grunts, seemingly having notice that the football match is still on. He stumbles over to re-take his seat, grabbing his microphone off the floor.]

79th Minute

“That right thur…that’s just poor from SoccerBall Jeebus. Theez ‘muricans shud stick to chasing that dead pig ’round the field, dresseded like robots playing grabby-asses. He hitt tha’ one fur a good feeld goal, there.”

“Thank you, Gary…yes, he hit that one about a mile high.”

[Jamie laughs nervously. Gary looks at him, confused.]

91st Minute

“Vagias, crosses from deep… Kalicanin heads it off the post! That was nearly the winner! If no one can break through, folks, we’re heading for extra time…free football!”

“Jamie-lad, you can tell your Gar-bear…have you ever bin in a knive fight?”

End of Regular Time

“Gary, please. Just put the butter knife down. I promise to… Yes, Gary, we all want the Greeks to win. I mean it this time.”

[Gary, screaming incoherently, drops the knife before drunkenly Sparta-kicking his chair out of the booth into the hallway, re-enacting his favorite scene from 300.]

103rd Minute

[Jamie looks nervously at Gary as Hirving Lozano wheels away, having just buried a rebound to put Chelsea in the lead. A vein on Gary’s face looks as if it is about to burst, as he turns purple with rage.]

105th Minute

[Incoherent, loud Gary noises.]

107th Minute

[Gary grabs the butter knife, puts it between his teeth and begins to climb out the window of the broadcast booth. It takes Jamie and 3 Production Assistants to restrain him.]

111th Minute

[Gary is now tied to Jamie’s chair with an extension cord, mouth covered in duct tape.]

“Chelsea were expected to waltz through this tournament, Gar. This is extraordinary. Can the Greeks hold on. They’ve stuck to their principles, and continue to press Chelsea high…truth be told, that has been a game-changing tactical decision from young Nico Bur, who stands in the technical area with his childhood friend…two men who have stood together their entire lives…boosted by the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is not bothering to watch the match, but is instead shouting at Frank Lampand…yes, Gary, sorry, Gary…Fat Frank Lampard, who stands alone in the Chelsea technical area, unable to believe his eyes, unwilling to meet Zlatan’s stare. The Greeks stand 10 minutes from history.”

120th Minute

“Masek, trying to find a way through…wins the corner. There will be one minute of added time, Gary.”

[No one notices, as their attention is on the pitch, but Gary has managed to free his hands and is working to loosen the electrical cords.]

121st Minute

“Lozano bursts free down the left…Chelsea are flying forward in numbers, trying to catch Panathinaikos on the break…he plays Pulisic, WHO FINDS OLMO…DENIED BY DIOUDIS!!! THAT IS ONE GREEK MAN WHO NEEDS NO CODPIECE, FOR HE HAS BALLS OF STEEL!!! WITH NO TIME ON THE CLOCK, HE STUFFS DANI OLMO LIKE A THANKSGIVING TURKEY!!!”

[Gary, free from his restraints, searches drunkenly for the butter knife. No one notices his efforts.]

122nd Minute

[The final whistle blows. Jamie shouts incoherently, trying to make sense of what he has just seen. Gary, butter knife once again clenched between his teeth, is seen by the Production Assistants but escapes their grasp, leaping out the window into the stands below, pushing his way towards the field to go have a word with Frank Lampard, who Zlatan has placed into a headlock. The traveling Greek support rush the field, overcome with the emotion in the moment. A night that will not be soon forgotten.]

Final Result / Recap

Well, as far as the first live-commentary final on the blog could have gone…I don’t think we could have asked for more. What a match. Like Gary, I’m emotionally exhausted and more fired up than I can begin to describe…and, yet…I can’t find the words.

We’ll be back tomorrow with the standard season review, and a look forward to 2025/26.

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused… Don’t worry.  The basic concept behind the Nearly Men save is explained here.  Just need to catch up? Each installment in Nicolaj Bur’s story can be accessed through the Nearly Men Archive.

And if you just can’t get enough…join us for The Ballad of Toothless Bob, a series conceived and co-authored by Seattle Red and Oriole that explores the world of Nicolaj Bur, away from the pitch. What is Project Arcturus? What lies beyond the twisted redstone door, deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu?


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