Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reds Through To The Quater Finals

Nervy End As Liverpool Slip Through With Away Goal Rule

UEFA Champions League

LIVERPOOL (2) 0 - 1 (2) Barcelona
(Liverpool through on away goals)

BAR - Gudjohnsen (75min);

If there is any further proof of Liverpool needing a top marksman in the team this summer, one could turn to watch the Reds' past 2 games and you could see the inadequacy among a group of well trained and fantastically organised team.

At the end of the day, it's the score that matters.

But Liverpool, being oh so generous, escaped from being royally punished by a plucky Barcelona side, who were once again, stifled and found it hard to get any sort of momentum at Anfield. Perhaps surrounded by the infamous wall of noise within the 'Red Cauldron', their limbs were stiff and looked intimidated. The 12th men prevailed in the end.

With the two new owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett among the Anfield crowd to revel in the awesomeness of the support shown by the Kopites, they will be well pleased that they have someone in Rafa Benitez, who yet again came up with the plan that foiled Barcelona's dream of retaining the European Cup.

With Liverpool setting out the same first eleven just as they did on the reverse fixture a fortnight ago, Frank Rijkaard signaled his intent of grabbing a famous win at Anfield with an adventurous 3-4-3 tactics, the same one which they used to beat Real Zaragoza recently.

With the Kopites singing 'Fields of Anfield Road' at their top of their voices, Liverpool drew inspiration from the magical 'European Nights' and came out top for the first half of the game. They contained Barcelona, closed down spaces well, man-marked Ronaldinho, Eto'o and Messi out of the game, forced Valdes into making some huge saves and also rattled the crossbar twice.

John Arne Riise, who have been deployed as a left back most of the time, found his attacking instinct when Rafa placed him on the left of midfield instead. He fired a warning shot at Valdes' goal and found lots of space on the left. Not afraid to unleash his famous 'thunderbolt' shots, he was unlucky not to get on the score sheet.

Momo Sissoko must have felt total injustice as Liverpool fans held their breathe when Valdes' poor clearance was intercepted by the Malian and with no time to adjust, he took a pot shot at the vacated goal. It dipped, but not enough as it clips the crossbar and out.

Liverpool were on top for the first half as Barcelona could only find their fluidity within their own half as the Reds' midfielders, Xabi Alonso, Sissoko, Gerrard and Riise were everywhere to close down spaces, making life very difficult for Barcelona.

Second half started just like the first, as Liverpool toiled on to find the all important goal which will quash any hope of a Barcelona comeback. Gerrard's brilliant cross was too high for Kuyt, who leaped like a salmon, but Bellamy, who was behind him, was too slow to react and it was yet another chance wasted.

But Barcelona began to dominate the game as they found more spaces and with Rijkaard throwing his kitchen sink at the Reds. They ended the game with Giuly, Gudjohnsen, Ronaldinho and Messi all as strikers.

Liverpool's wastefulness was nearly punished by a rather subdued Ronaldinho, who took his chance when the Reds' defence went to sleep. As he was one on one with Reina, the player voted world's best player could only hit it against the post. A scare for Liverpool but also a warning sign of things to come.

Eidur Gudjohnsen was sent on for Samuel Eto'o, who was kept quiet during the course of the match. The former Chelsea man will be remembered for that miss 2 years back when his shot flew right across the goal mouth.

But this time round, he didn't let Liverpool off the hook as he timed his run perfectly, rounded Jose Reina before slotting the ball into an empty net. Now the Anfield crowd started to get really nervous and it'll be an absolute nightmare if Barca were to score another.

But the crowd cheered them on, faithfully believing that Rafa's men will be able to stop the wave and go through safely.

Peter Crouch nearly found the answer to the Kopites' prayer as Jermaine Pennant's cross was met by his outstretched leg, but he fired it over from 6 yards out. You'll think it's easier to score that miss it.

In the end, Liverpool held on to a famous victory, one in which vice captain, Jamie Carragher, announced as 'one of the best European result'. Although Barcelona did get the goal, they were nullified and were never really in control of the game. Liverpool stifled their 3 pronged attacking with effectiveness and organisation.

Praises will no doubt be heaped upon the immense performance of Jamie Carragher and his rear guards. He seemed to have found the hunger and form which won Liverpool the coveted European Cup 2 seasons ago and was there to cut out every pass, doing his famous last ditch tackles and keeping the back line tight.

As the Liverpool fans sang 'We Dream Of A Team Of Carragher', it'll no doubt be a team which will be unbeaten. But don't bank on him to score the goals as his colleagues at the front line continue to misfire.

Drogballs' Player Ratings:

Reina (7)
- Didn't have much to do but showed confidence and made the penalty box his

Finnan (8) - Went forward to provide width. Silenced Ronaldinho and a couple of great tackles
Carragher (9) - Tackles, interceptions, headers. Immense. Colossal (Man of the match)
Agger (7) - With Carra beside him, what does he need to do? Assured performance though
Arbeloa (7) - At fault for the goal as he played Gudjohnsen onside, but did well to mark Messi

Gerrard (capt) (8) - Threatened down the right and made impact. Should have scored
Alonso (7) - A couple of good tackles and found his range of passing
Sissoko (8) - Covered every blade of grass. Energetic and surprisingly composed at times
Riise (8) - Never afraid to take a shot. Found his attacking instinct and unlucky not to score

Bellamy (7) - Not as effective as the first leg
Kuyt (8) - Energetic, passionate and tried his best


psychohare said...

Sissoko... awesome... who would have thought that this unknown youngster from Valencia's B team (im not sure, but i know he wasnt very well utilized) would turn out to be as good as he is now.
I read an article a yesterday talking about Arsenal's youngsters... saying how good they are but failing to nuture a new youths in the mold of Overmars, Petit, and of course Vieria... Important thing here was that Momo was actually one of the 2 named (cant remember the 2nd dude, Arsenal player...) who are closest to becoming the next Vieira-class player. Momo is fearless... we got super 2 DMCs, how good is that! some teams struggle to even find a decent one, and we got 2... HAHAHAH
i know Carra is MoM, but he is self-explanatory, he plays with his heart and soul, 150% every single game, what a man!

Elia said...

HOORAY!!!....I really wanted Momo to get that goal.Correct me if I'm wrong he hasn't scored for Liverpool yet? I'd like to say one thing about Momo his offensive game isn't progressing like I thought.His passing the last few games is horrible.He gives away possession far to easy,it's sometimes frustrating.

Any predictions on who we might get next round? I say Chelsea he he

BTW your Liverpool badge on your banner threw me off for a second TRC? what the hell?..O THE RED Cauldron ha ha nice one :)




TLR said...

Can't agree on your rating of Sissoko Drog.
He's far too wasteful to take the CM position off Gerrard. With Pennant playing so well when he gets a chance, why Rafa persists with a 'one trick pony' in Sissoko is beyond me.

Sure, he has his good qualities, but his passing is dreadful and other teams are now playing to that weakness by allowing him on the ball while marking Alonso.

Gerrard over the last few seasons has HAD to play RW as we had no other option. We now do and it's time Momo was sent back to school to fix his passing. It's simply not good enough at this level.

But what about Jamie C? Words can't describe what I've seen in the last two games. JC for PM? HA !


psychohare: I think you meant Abu Diaby? He's not as energetic but his passing and technical ability is better than Sissoko's.

elia: Nice to see you back! Anyway, yes he haven't got on the score sheet yet and you gotta wonder when! Hopefully we avoid the English teams because against the continental teams, we tend to perform better.

christina: hey cheers :) newcomer eh?

tlr: it's obvious he's wasteful. I even joked with my friend that everything he touches turns to dust. Anyway I still rate him and I thought he did pretty well last night.

Actually, he was the essential part of Rafa's plan to stifle Barcelona because of his sheer athleticism, energy and determination. He close down players and 'destroy' the shape of the opposition.

He's still young and hopefully, he'll learn how to pass someday.

psychohare said...

i dont think it's a waste to play Gerrard on the right. In fact, the online game i play, Hattrick, has a very popular and commonly used tactic where wingers are commanded to go "towards the middle". It's very common, and he can boost the midfield when Finnan runs up, or put in crosses when he has the chance. Statistically, Gerrard made more crosses than any other Liverpool player this season. His vision will not be wasted.
U probably have not seen many teams playing with 2 DMCs, but they are very strong defensively, and with the passing ability of Alonso, they bring an attacking threat as well.
Sissoko is important, coz hes like a pest, and technical players hate pests... coz they need space to do their thing. Momo has been getting closer and closer towards getting his first goal, he has been unlucky hitting the post/crossbar in several occasions. His energy is critical. Garcia loses possession too, but they make up for things by continuing to do whatever they do best at. Momo is underrated, well actually most of the Liverpool team is underrated...

TLR said...

Far from being underrated. Sissoko is overrated by supporters and Rafa alike.

You can't tell me Gerrard doesn't "pester" the opposition to the same effect?

And as for Sissoko not scoring, did you know that he was actually a striker is his formative years? That beggars belief!

Having two DCM's just might win us another European Cup and I'll eat my words, but in the Premiership in particular, Rafa's "European" system just doesn't cut it. Just like Sissoko.


tlr: I think time will tell. He's still only 22 and we might not have seen the best of him.

Regarding Gerrard and his 'pestering' job, I think it'll be a waste for him because look what happened to him when he plays that role for England.

Rafa seemed to think that he lacked the necessary tactical discipline to be a holding midfielder and unless somebody can play as the DMC well, he won't put Gerrard in the middle to open a huge gap.

Regarding Rafa's 4-2-3-1 formation, I think, yes, it is not making the cut in the Premiership. He's still trying and adapting so I'll give him a good few years to see what he can do. Even Sir Alex took some time.

1 Champions League and 1 FA Cup. Fair amount of time bought there.

TLR said...

Not saying Rafa's tactics are bad ones Drog. Just the players he's using to implement them.
Yes, his record in cup competitions speak for themselves.

I'm still of the firm belief that Alonso is ok as a DCM and Gerrard is the complete midfielder that can attack and defend. (Remember his cameo as a RB in Istanbul?) With two quality wingers in Pennant and Kewell (any news on the poor bugger?), there isn't as much need for Gerrard to get too far forward unless the opportunity arises.

Kuyt does enough offensive running for everyone anyway !!