Thursday, September 28, 2006

Reds Hung On Despite Superb Comeback

Crouch Brace Ensures Victory

UEFA Champions League

LIVERPOOL 3 - 2 Galatasaray

LIV - Crouch (9min, 52min), Luis Garcia (14min)
GAL - Umit Karan (59min, 65min)

May 2005 in Istanbul. Liverpool were trailing AC Milan 3-0 at half time. Last night, Liverpool were nearly on the recieving on of a superb comeback from the club from none other than Istanbul. Oh, the romance of Liverpool and Istanbul continues as the Reds held on to the win despite some serious defensive errs, but the first win in 5 Champions League games is a welcoming one and Liverpool fans should be happy with the win.

As mentioned, Liverpool have failed to score and win in their last 5 Champions League. But the home record at Anfield has been superb this season and Rafa Benitez has already made Anfield a fortress. But last night, the Istanbul side came without much of a plan, but ended up on the upper hand due to their courage to let loose their attacking flairs despite playing at Anfield. They played without fear and tried their best, credits to them.

But they got tore apart early in the game and everyone thought the game was over when Luis Garcia headed Jermaine Pennant's cross into the top corner of the net after some shocking defending.

Crouch got the first when Aurelio placed a wonderful cross from the left and all Crouch needed to do was get a touch on it and it really didn't take the Reds long to get the goals. The cross was fantastic as it was put in that 'no mans land' and Crouch was on hand to side foot the ball in.

But after the second goal went in, Liverpool seemed to have took their foot off the pedal and were complacent. The problems came from the left flank as Aurelio looked a suspect when it comes to positioning and awareness. It doesn't help with Luis Garcia was in front of him and he failed to track back to cover on a couple of occasions, leaving Aurelio exposed. Due to that, Agger got dragged out wide to the left and that certainly leaves only Finnan and Carragher to do most of the job.

Alarm bells were ringing when Galatasaray found spaces on the left yet again and Sabri took a pot shot at goal but was well wide. He was the most impressive player on the field last night and his movement was a constant problem especially for Aurelio, who struggled to keep track of him.

Galatasaray came out for the second half with much intent and that is to exploit the fragility in the Liverpool defence with Hasan Sas and Umit Karan coming on. It was a positive move and they know they had nothing to lose from then on. But a moment of magic seemed to have broken their hearts and morale.

Steve Finnan got back possesion and put in a wonderful cross for Peter Crouch, who was unmarked. The 2 metre tall striker launched himself into mid air and executed an exquisite scissor kick that is beautifully struck and the technique needed to connect the foot with the ball is without a doubt, top draw.

But Galatasaray seemed to have drawn their determination and belief from Liverpool themselves as they managed a superb fightback and again it was called the '6 minutes of madness', where Liverpool conceded 2 goals.

I thought Liverpool should've changed Pennant for Sissoko at 3-0 when we still pretty much have the game at its neck. His physical presence was needed in the central midfield position, giving Liverpool more balance there. Gala exploited the spaces between the Liverpool defence and midfield. Gerrard and Alonso in midfield seemed to be match-made in heaven, but both of them are not out and out defensive midfielder, therefore they left the defence with plenty of pressure.

Gerrard was pushed forward too much and Alonso struggled to cope with the free running Sas and Karan. And Aurelio's inability to pressure Sabri costs Liverpool a goal. Sabri put in a wonderful cross for Umit Karan to head home and now, Galatasaray was boosted and morale was high.

Then Liverpool defence were broken down once again this time on the right. Ilic dummied Finnan before sending yet another cross and yet again, it was Umit Karan scoring from another wonderful header. The comfortable 3 goals cushion that was held by Liverpool is now down to a mere one goal and the Liverpool defence seemed to be unable to cope with the pace of those Galatasaray attackers.

Finally at this point of time, Pennant was withdrawn and Sissoko was on to cover that area where Liverpool left a huge gap. Mark Gonzalez was on as well, to protect the left flank with his explosive pace.

Time wore on and as Liverpool thought the game was in their bags, Galatasaray nearly broke the hearts of the Anfield faithful when he got on the end of a cross. But the evergreen Turkish striker failed to connect with the ball and the last kick of the game certainly made the Liverpool fans break cold sweat.

Liverpool held on somehow deservedly, but just barely. The win means that Liverpool has gone on a winning streak at home. The three points is a certainly good one, but Liverpool now needs to improve their defence, especially aerial threats were not properly dealt with and not being able to cut off their supply lines. A good win nevertheless.

Thanks to GettyImages for the pictures.


Drogballs' Post Match Comments:

We were marred with defensive frailties throughout the game especially on the left. Rafa seemed to have misculculated that Gala will have a go at us and didn't expect Gala to come at us. Because teams that comes to Anfield usually got pinned back and the pressure on defence are usually minimal. Therefore putting Aurelio there in my opinion, is actually to boost the attack rather than the defence, as he looked to put an extra option to the attack.

But somehow it backfired and Aurelio struggled throughout the game. Luis Garcia failed to track back and the backline looked disorganised.

Then the spaces between the defence and midfield was exploited. The central midfield pairing of Gerrard and Alonso didn't help. Gerrard was too gung-ho most of the time although he did track back and defend some times, but Alonso was clearly struggling to pick up the 2 free role players. That made the Liverpool defence a little hesitent on whether to push forward and challenge or back off.

In my opinion, Gerrard should only play with Sissoko in the middle. If there's Alonso, then Gerrard should now be on the right wing. Because of Gerrard's style of play, he constantly left gaps in the middle and to be honest, he's quite poor at dictating the game's tempo. Therefore Alonso and Sissoko in the middle would be more ideal with Gerrard providing ammunitions on the wing, cutting in to the middle.

Liverpool Player Ratings:

Reina 6 - Didn't inspire confidence with his indecisiveness.

Finnan 7 - Wonderful assist, defensively one of the better ones.
Carragher 7 - A little shaky.
Agger 7 - Seemed to have struggled to mark Hakan Suker, the hulking striker.
Aurelio 6 - Putting in a wonderful cross, but defensively naive and wasn't aware of what's going on around him. Poor.

Pennant 7 - A great assist and then fizzled out of the game.
Alonso 7 - Doesn't seemed to be himself last night, perhaps due to the lack of support from Gerrard.
Gerrard 7 - Drift forward too much. Tactically a little naive and trying to hard to score.
Luis Garcia 8 - He was great in the first half, but when Liverpool needed to slow the tempo down, he constantly gave the possesion away cheaply.

Crouch 9 - Man of the match. Scored a brace, some nice touches, good team work and works very hard.
Kuyt 7 - A very quiet evening for the Dutch. Perhaps a little tired after 3 consecutive starts.


Emma said...

I'm happy. You know why. :D

Drogballs said...

Yea I know, that's why there's the big one there for you hahaha. :D