Live: 2028/29 Champions League Final

“Hello and welcome to the London Stadium, where Jorge Jesus’ Arsenal are set to take on the Greek Champions, Panathinaikos, as Nicolaj Bur and his men seek to erase the memories of last year’s disastrous final against Sevilla.”

“As always, I’m your host Jamie Carragher, here with Gary Neville who has promised to behave himself this year.  Naughty naughty!”

[Jamie laughs awkwardly.  Gary just stares blankly into the camera, unresponsive.]

“Uhh…ok, Gary, let’s have at it, then.  Also joining us tonight as our roving sideline reporter is Wolverhampton Wolves’ midfielder and American footballing legend, Christian Pulisic!  Say hello to Christian, Gar!”

[Gary glances towards the field and grunts, half-heartedly.]

“Ahh…there’s that Mancunian charm, eh Gar-bear?!”

[Gary looks at Jamie, as if only just now recognizing him.  A dopey grin splashes onto his face.]

“Jamie, lad!  Good to see you, old son.  What’s the streets, boss?  A little of the old footie, tonight, yeah?!”

[Jamie manages to look both alarmed and relieved at the same time.]

“Uhh…yeah, Gary.  Good to see you, too!  It’s a beautiful tonight here at the London Stadium.  Any thoughts on tonight’s match-up for all of the viewers at home?!”

[Gary turns to the camera, as if seeing it for the first time.]

“Oh well, of course.  Closest West Ham will ever get to a Champions League, this!  Hahahaha, right?!

[Jamie just looks embarrassed, as Gary laughs and holds his hand up for a high-five.  Reluctantly, Jamie gives him a high-five.]

“Yes, Jamie-lad!  That’s the sugar!  As you all know, Jamie, I’ve never once doubted this Panathinaikos squad.  NEVER!  Some say that Arsenal are the favorites tonight, and I say that’s total ****ing bull****.  Jorge Jesus?  Jorge Pilate, more like, if you know what I mean.”

[Gary looks very pleased with himself.  Jamie just looks confused.]

“Are you saying that…uhh…you think the Greek champions will win tonight, Gary?”

“Not a doubt in my mind, Gary.”

“No…I’m Jamie…  You’re…you’re Gary.”

“Exactly what Phil was telling me last night, my brother.”

“We’re…Gary…I have to…  We’re not brothers.”

[Gary just laughs and winks rogue-ishly at Jamie, who is looking increasing concerned and takes a half-step back, looking awkwardly into the camera.]

“Let’s go down to Christian, who is on the sidelines with Panathinaikos assistant manager, the one and only Zlatan Ibrahimovic!  Christian?!”

[The camera cuts to Pulisic, standing on the touchline looking dapper in a bespoke 5-piece suit, all the rage these days with footballers of a certain age.  Zlatan is looking around, in somewhat animated fashion.]

“Thank you, Jamie.  And, you, too, Gary!  Always a pleasure, especially when Gary has taken his meds, am I right or am I right?!”

[Christian laughs at his joke, as a grunt is heard off camera, presumably from Gary.  Zlatan just shakes his head, and resumes look around, highly distracted.]

“Any thoughts on the match, Zlatan?  What message have you given the lads, in these last minutes before tipoff?!”

[Zlatan all but ignores Christian, continuing to look around.  He is getting more and more agitated.]

“Tipping off?!  The Zlatan is not going to address your stupidity.  Have you seen the Alex anywhere?  Is the Alex with you?”

[Christian looks confused.]

“Alex…who? Rodriguez?!”

[Christian laughs awkwardly, thinking his baseball reference is quite witty.  Zlatan stops looking around, and is now laser focused on Christian.  He isn’t laughing.]

“There is only one Alex.  The Alex Morgan.  Is like the Highlander.  She destroyed Her enemy, ate her flesh like tomato.  Now She is the One.  She is the Zlatan’s Only One.  Where did you hide Her, you sniveling worm?  The Alex must be here to see the Zlatan and His triumph.”

[Christian is not sure what to say, so he just laughs awkwardly as Zlatan gets increasingly agitated.]

“Back to you, Jamie!”

[The camera cuts back to Jamie and Gary in the broadcast booth.  Jamie stammers, explaining the lineups, as the Champions League anthem begins to play.  Gary, hearing the anthem, perks up and begins to gyrate in what he perceives to be a seductive manner.  Jamie looks more uncomfortable with each passing moment.]

“Oh…yes, that’s the stuff, Jamie-lad.  This is my jam…  Get IN!”

[The camera cuts away to the players entering the pitch as Gary gyrates, moaning softly.]

[Note: If you are here during the live blog, you will need to hit refresh to see updates.]

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14th minute

“Free kick wide left for Panathinaikos…Mejri whips it in…Makrodimitris heads it over!  How did he miss that?!”

“This is all strategery, Jamie-lad.  Just lulling Arsenal into a false sense of security, they are.”

25th minute

“Arsenal…looking to build…that’s Guendouzi through…solid hands from Jonsson there!  The Panathinaikos keeper is a beast!”

29th minute

“Panathinaikos pressing, and here come the Arsenal on a counter…”

[Gary is screaming incoherently in the background.]

“Oh, my…Greenwood has got to do better than that, Gary.”

“Yes, Jamie-lad.  Not United quality, there.”

“Gary, that’s ridiculous.  He was a $103M striker, and he’s here tonight playing in a Champions League final.  United didn’t even get out of the Groups.  How could you even say that?!”

[Gary just shrugs and grunts, a menacing look in his eye.]

“Dunno, Jamie-lad.  I stand by my comments.  Tell me, does the **** who gave you such a ridiculous haircut stand by his work, yeah?!”

“Gary, that has nothing to do with—”

[Gary, getting angry, interrupts.]

“Jamie-lad, calm down, yeah?  Isn’t that what you Scousers say?  It has everything to do with it.  You know it.  I know.  Everyone watching at home knows it.”

“Can we…can we just watch the game, Gary?”

“I really don’t think so, Jamie-lad.  You’ve crossed a line, there.”

31st minute

“And again, that’s Arsenal looking to counter, using Greenwood’s speed to get behind the high Panathinaikos line!  But the young lad must do better!”

“He’s 27, Jamie.”

“Age is just a number, Gar-bear.  Age is just a number.”

45th minute

“Panathinaikos…Baran…probing…slides it through to Thanos…NO!!! HE’S TAKEN DOWN!!!  THAT’S A STONE-COLD PENALTY!!! THANOS, THROUGH ON GOAL, SALIBA RISKING IT ALL, TAKES HIM DOWN!!!”

“But…wait…VAR is being checked…”

45th minute (+1)

“VAR checking on this one…but that has to be a penalty.  Simple as.  Yes, and there it is…penalty to Panathinaikos!”

“Thanos to take it…HE BURIES IT!!! AND THERE IS THE TRADEMARK “SNAP” CELEBRATION, INJUNCTIONS BE DAMNED!”

[Gary screams incoherently, the sound of which can’t quite mask the unmistakable sound of a zipper.]

“Gary, put your…Gary, NO!  NO!  BAD, Gary!”

“PANTS OFF FOR PANATHINAIKOS, THOSE ARE THE RULES, JAMIE!”

“GARY, WE’RE ON TELEVISION!”

“PLATO DIDN’T WEAR PANTS, JAMIE!  HE DIDN’T WEAR PANTS, YOU UNEDUCATED HEATHEN!”

Halftime

[Gary sings a Greek song incoherently, pants still on his head.  Jamie tries to ignore him.]

“That’s the half, Gar-bear.  Let’s go down to Christian, for his thoughts on that first goal.  Tell us, Christian, what did you see from the sidelines?  What is working, tactically, for Panathinaikos that isn’t working for Arsenal so far?!”

“Thank you, Jamie.  What’s to say, really?  Bad goaltending in the endzone from Saliba to give away the free throw, a cheap home run.  Way too easy.  The Greeks need to get their act together, in the bottom of the 7th.  Back to you, Jamie and Gary.”

[The camera cuts to Jamie, who just sits speechless as Gary romps in the background.]

49th minute

“Panathinaikos pushing forward, probing…Arsenal recover, launching forward, looking for Greenwood…Panathinaikos intercept and now they’re launching forward…Mejri!!! Smashes it a mile wide!  He had Thanos at the back post!”

“If I’ve learned anything from the Marvel movies, Jamie-lad, it’s that you can trust Thanos!  Why doesn’t Mejri just play him in there?!  It’d be 2-nil, half the universe is gone…think about it, there’s a good chance Brendan Rodgers would be dust in the wind!”

“That might be…the most insightful analysis you’ve offered all night, Gary.  Keep it up, you’re on a roll.”

“Don’t patronize me, you fat ****.”

52nd minute

“Thanos is just toying with Arsenal here, Jamie.  Psychological warfare, that was.”

“Gary, he blew an easy chance.  Should be 2-nil.”

“Psychological warfare, Jamie.  This is why you never won the Premier League, son.  You’re soft.”

“There was a lot more to it than that, Gary.”

“Maybe, but it is certainly why you missed that peno against Portugal in ‘06, you ****ing soft ****.”

“Soft?!  You were the one who came off injured, Gary.  I took your place.”

“That’s not how I remember it, Jamie.”

60th minute

“Free kick to Arsenal in a dangerous position, Almada…ooh.  Not enough mustard on the hotdog, eh Gary?”

“Phil likes to put mustard on his hotdog before…you-know-what, Jamie.”

[Gary giggles.]

“It was a metaphor, Gary. I didn’t mean…”

“Only the second part of mine was, Jamie-lad.  Just don’t tell Phil I told you, ok?”

61st minute

“Panathinaikos break, Mejri…looking for his goal…well held by Brum, there.”

“Actually, Jamie, the ‘r’ is silent.  Get it?”

“Grow up, Gary.”

70th minute

“Chance for Arsenal here …and…oh, my, Gary…that’s Greenwood with the most inappropriately-timed bicycle kick I’ve seen since Steven Gerrard got drunk at my niece’s Christening.”

75th minute

“Panathinaikos, showing off some of their technical ability here, moving the ball at pace…tight confined spaces, almost tiki-taka-esque, there.  Mejri really needs to do better.”

“Tacos? Yeah, I could go for tacos, Jamie.

78th minute

“Almada through for Arsenal…BLASTED A MILE WIDE!!!  HOW MANY TIMES WILL ARSENAL FAIL TO TAKE THEIR CHANCES?! TIME IS RUNNING OUT!!!”

“Jamie.  It’s simple.  Hashtag Pants off for Panathinaikos.  It never fails.”

“Did you honestly just say the word ‘hashtag,’ Gary?”

“IT NEVER FAILS, JAMIE-LAD. NEVER.”

80th minute

“END TO END STUFF HERE, GARY!  PANATHINAIKOS LOOK GOOD VALUE FOR A SECOND GOAL, AND MOMENTS LATER IT IS NEARLY ARSENAL WITH THE EQUALIZER, BUT THEY ARE DENIED BY JONSSON!  WHAT A SAVE!  AT THIS RATE, HE IS MAN OF THE MATCH FOR ME!”

“HE’S THE ROCK OF THIS DEFENSE.  THE BEAST OF ATHENS.  THE ICELANDIC DAVID DE GEA.  THE NORDIC PETER SCHMEICHEL! THE…GUY…WHO…DOES THINGS FOR THE GREEN TEAM!”

84th minute

“AGAIN, IT’S JONSSON!!! THIS TIME, DENYING KOTASIS FROM CLOSE RANGE!!!  SURELY, ARSENAL’S CHANCES ARE UP?!  HOW MANY TIMES CAN THEY BE DENIED?!”

“Tick-tock, Jamie-lad.  Tick-tock…”

“Will you please put your pants back on, Gary?”

“That’s what she said.”

[Jamie just shakes his head.  Gary rolls around on the floor, laughing hysterically.]

88th minute

“ARSENAL FORWARD, LOOKING FOR THE EQUALIZER…JOHNSON…FINDS KOTASIS AT THE BACK POST!!! WE’RE LEVEL!!!  NO!!!  THE FLAG IS UP!!! JOHNSON WAS OFFSIDE!!!”

[Gary screams, his face turning purple, until he passes out.]

89th minute

“Panathinaikos look to break from the ensuing free kick…it’s Mejri…denied by Brum!”

[Gary wakes up, confused.  He immediately looks to the clock and starts moaning.]

“There will be three minutes of injury time, Gary…can they hold on?!”

90th minute (+3)

“Panathinaikos controlling possession, time running down…”

[Gary’s moans get louder.]

“Arsenal recover…looking for Ghendouzi…BUT JONSSON CLAIMS IT OFF OF HIS FOOT!  THE ICELANDIC ICE CREAM DREAM!!!  SURELY THAT HAS TO BE THE LAST CHANCE FOR ARSENAL!”

Full time

[As the final whistle blow, Gary’s moans become even louder as he begins leaping around the broadcast booth, pants still precariously worn atop his head.  Jamie shouts, in an attempt to be heard over the commotion.]

“IT’S ALL OVER!!!  PANATHINAIKOS HAVE DONE IT!!! CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE!!!  NICOLAJ BUR, CARRIED ONTO THE FIELD BY ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC AND SOME GUY WHO LOOKS LIKE DAVID DE GEA, BUT WITH BETTER HAIR!!!  THEY’VE DONE IT!!!  GRANDMA LOCK THE KITTENS IN THE CUPBOARD, ‘CAUSE IT’LL BE A HOT TIME IN THE BIG SMOKE TONIGHT!!!”

Brief recap

A massive night, as Panathinaikos complete the challenge! It wasn’t done with as much style as I would have liked, but I can’t complain.

It is getting late, so a full season review will follow tomorrow, but for now we can look forward to Bur finding a new home…hopefully sooner rather than later…as one chapter ends, another begins.

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 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?


2 thoughts on “Live: 2028/29 Champions League Final”

    1. Thanks, man! Gary is one of my favorite things in these saves, so when I get the chance to let him run amok for a bit, he tends to do just that…

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