Thursday, April 26, 2007

Advantage Chelsea

Cole Gives Chelsea The First Leg Lead

UEFA Champions League
Semi Finals 1st Leg

Chelsea 1 - 0 LIVERPOOL

CHE - J. Cole (29min);

The Reds visiting fans were singing about how they dream about going to Athens. But after that sort of below par performance from Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, They should stop dreaming because reality has hit.

Joe Cole's goal was all that separates the two sides but the result certainly flattered Liverpool and it beggars belief as to how it was only 1-0. Liverpool's performance was nothing but asking for a royal thrashing by the Blues and it was the brilliant form of Pepe Reina that salvaged some pride for Liverpool.

Liverpool should not look back at this game and get demoralized but rather, use it as a catalyst for a better second leg performance. Because last night, they were woeful and this is not what we expect from a team that have reached the semi finals.

Rafa surprisingly gave a start to Dutch winger, Bolo Zenden, and with Steve Finnan failing to recover from his neck injury, Alvaro Arbeloa was in place for him while Riise reverts back to left back.

With Rafa's intention clear before the game, which is to win it, he might have made a mistake and cost Liverpool the game.

With our defence being so solid and compact for most part of the season, it fell apart last night and Chelsea at times, tore it to shreds. The midfielders left so much space in front of them and the defenders were left exposed.

And Chelsea's insistence to play long ball to Drogba certainly didn't help and it caused havoc. It was a nightmare scenario for an inexperienced player such as Daniel Agger, who was constantly beaten in the air and out-muscled.

And that was how Chelsea got the lead.

It was a counter attack started off by Ricardo Carvalho back in his own half and his through-ball found Drogba, who out-sprinted Agger before turning him and laid the ball for Joe Cole to fire into the net.

Liverpool presented Chelsea chance after chance in the first half and it can be described as miraculous as to how the score was only 1-0 at half time. The usually solid Liverpool backline was shaky while there was nothing to show for in front.

Liverpool will have to thank Reina for keeping the score down to one as he pulled off a couple of vital saves while given little protection from his defenders.

But the goalkeeper in the other end of the field, Petr Cech, also made a wonderful save to stop Steven Gerrard from scoring an all important away goal. His half volley was heading towards the bottom corner but Cech brilliantly parried it away.

Despite being outplayed and outmaneuvered byt Chelsea throughout the whole game, it was very lucky for Liverpool to only go down by a goal to nil.

It's still possible for Liverpool to go through but they'll have to turn up the heat at Anfield and score two goals. Another point of note, if their defence puts up another similar performance next week, start dreaming of next season instead.

Tactical Viewpoint:

I'm not some master tactician but I personally thought Rafa got his tactics wrong this time round. I understand the need to get a positive result away from Stamford Bridge but it backfired spectacularly.

We started with two strikers, Kuyt and Bellamy, hoping they can cause trouble to the Chelsea backline but they were particularly ineffective while our usually solid backline was constantly tormented by Drogba and Cole.

So we were impotent upfront while can't hold it at the back. Now that's disaster.

Finnan's injury gave Rafa some selection headache as I believe Riise would've played on the left wing instead of Zenden and Arbeloa to the left if the Irish right back was available.

Zenden's appearance did take me by surprise and certainly did Chelsea. But he did nothing of note throughout the whole game and that's the price you pay for a Bosman signing, I guess. His job was to hound Paulo Ferreira, whom we all agree to be the weakest link in Chelsea. But once he got past him, his crosses were often either blocked or hit the first man.

His insistence to go down the bye-line was certainly frustrating as there were a few times when he should've released the ball earlier into the box but was too slow and the covering defenders were able to recover.

Gerrard's position was another problem last night as he was drifting around the pitch without aim last night. Supposedly played as a right winger, he was found on the left and most often, in the middle as well. That certainly suffocated Alonso off any space in the middle while vacated the right flank for Arbeloa.

Bellamy started but seriously, where was he? He dropped so deep at times that he looks as if he's playing in the midfield while Kuyt too, formed up a 6 men midfield that threatened f*** all.

Since we've played Bellamy, why not drift him into the left to support Zenden and provide some width? Until he was substituted for Crouch, I didn't even notice he was on the pitch.

And why not play Pennant on the left and take off Zenden since we're chasing for the game? It was until the 82min before we introduced Pennant. Like as if it's going to make a difference?

It was a dire performance and if this is the sort of performance they're going to give in the semi finals, might as well just go out rather than embarrass ourselves in the finals and expect Gerrard to do his magic every single time.

But the good thing was it's only 1-0. It's still possible.


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psychohare said...

was watching the ESPN pre-match discussion, they were saying that Rafa's tactics were spot on coz they're gonna exploit the weakness of the diamond formation by attacking on the wings. Having Bellers on the left to beat Ferreira using speed....
that obviously didnt work out... Zenden was purely poor, and we persisted on feeding balls to him...
I dont understand! why does Rafa like Zenden so much! hes not fast, not tricky, not the best crosser of balls, his long shots never seem to hit the target, let alone score, but he still features quite a bit! well it's only unfortunate coz Finnan couldnt return from injury, or else Zenden wouldnt play, Riise would've been left winger, and everything would've been perfect.
BAH! im annoyed, but it's not over... although now im not as confident as before...
must we always be feeling this uneasy and annoyed before we see some big out-of-the-world performance that knocks the socks off everyone! ARGH!

Reds In The Burgh said...

Oh well, roll on next Tuesday

patrick said...

One crumb of comfort is that even though Liverpool were under the cosh, they only came away with a one goal deficit. It's all very do-able.


psychohare: Zenden started because Kewell is unavailable (duh) and Mark Gonzalez won't be able to provide much cover for defence. Zenden started because Rafa had in mind that he's better defensively. Can't blame him, he's free after all.

patrick and reds in the burgh: True, the tie is far from over. But to score two against Chelsea, we really need to roar them on. Do-able but need to be at our very best.

J said...

we need THREE to be safe. if we only have 2 and they sneak a last minute goal (as they did many times before to other teams eg valencia) we're out by the same rule that got us thru against barca.

so yeah. really need to turn hte heat up.
i wonder why rafa used riise at the left BACK tho? we have plenty of other defenders but we;re lacking in left wing. riise fits in left wing well. and we could easily have played sami in defense.
i'm sad to say the goal was our own fault >_< but really. i'm not blaming arbeloa...but i'm just goign to express my surprise at his poor game that time... was really shocked.

anywyas. here's to a good result at anfield... *dying from suspense*