Saturday, April 07, 2007

Everyone Loves Mickey

The poll has officially ended and the conclusion is...

Majority of you still wants to see Michael Owen don the red jersey once again despite his 'foolishness' and being misled. Well, that's a good thing of course, being forgiving and all. Liverpool fans are reknown for being a little touchy, nostalgic and emotional so I'm not at all surprised by the result.

Cheers and thank you for voting!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hear, Hear

You know, I'm beginning to hate going to Soccernet because they're so boring and their editorials are, not much better. Came across this article saying how Liverpool still won't be successful despite the reported 40million warchest.

I'm not a blinkered Liverpool fan saying that we'll win the treble next season with that money, don't worry. I'm just aghast as to how these people in the press got the digits and figures from. 40 million? Since when and where did Rafa, Hicks or Gillett mention the amount of money?

As usual, number plucked out of nowhere. I did see Rafa predicting a bright future and there's a meeting between the leaders but I've not seen ANY figures released or out of the mouth of anyone.

And to use a number that plucked out of nowhere to write an article about how Liverpool still won't be successful is just lazy journalism and a little myopic.

Alan Hansen once said 'you can't win anything with kids' with a touch of myopia and ignorance and the former Liverpool great's quote has been used and reused for various reasons. It also shows the unpredictability of football and does the writer dare say that he put Man United as favourites for this season's title?

Does he have a crystal ball?

For me, that 40 million is just a random number generated by the papers and I do not believe it exists. I know Rafa will be granted money to bid for certain players but I doubt he's a big spender and go on to thrash the money around. The owners are certainly aware of that.

Money might run the league now and 40million might not be enough for the writer to win cups in Championship Manager/Football Manager but hey, it's Rafa at helm. It didn't take him too much money to overthrow Barcelona and Real Madrid, eh?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Liverpool Squad Next Season

With 40million, how would you spend it if you're Rafa?

Just kidding fans, don't take it too seriously of course.

Bad News, Guys

Like the previous Liverpool teams, we enjoy the time outside the limelight and we often fail when we're the favourites. We're everyone's favourite underdogs and in the last few seasons, we saw us overcoming all odds to defeat Barcelona and Juventus when nobody gave us a chance.

But when we're made favourites....Things like the defeat to Benfica happened..

The bad news is...

British bookmakers have made Liverpool favourites for the European Champions League after their emphatic 3-nil victory over PSV Eindhoven in their first leg quarter-final match in the Netherlands.

Steven Gerrard, John-Arne Riise and Peter Crouch scored the goals to almost guarantee Liverppol a semi-final against either Chelsea or valencia.

William Hills have Liverpool favourites ahead of fellow-English clubs Chelsea and Manchester United.

Nah, just kidding. It's about time we stop being the underdog and go into every match as favourties. Come on!!

When Rafa Says 'Perfect'

Three & Easy For Liverpool

UEFA Champions League
Quarter Finals 1st Leg

PSV Eindhoven 0 - 3 LIVERPOOL

LIV - Gerrard (27min), Riise (49min), Crouch (63min);

Match Highlights:

Liverpool made a giant stride towards their 6th European title after an emphatic 3-0 win over Dutch champions, PSV Eindhoven.

Did I say emphatic?

It was emphatic yet all too easy for the men in yellow as they put up with an effective and professional performance and finished off their opponents off easily, clinical as it is.

After the 4-1 routing of Arsenal on Saturday, Liverpool went into this game full of confidence while PSV isn't having the best of time in the Dutch League. Looking so indifferent without their key players, Alex and Aruna Kone, PSV suffered from being too negative and were royally punished by Rafa Benitez's men.

On the sour note, Fabio Aurelio had to be stretched off after what they believe as a ruptured archilles tendon and just when the Brazilian starts to find his way into his first team, injury didn't help him. But he has a reputation for being a regular visitor to the medical team and Rafa knows that well. In his 4 seasons at Valencia, he only started 40.

His team mates, meanwhile, didn't disappoint with their performances. It was a great team effort and Rafa, once again, showed that he's one of the best tactician in Europe currently, coming up with a plan that even Ronald Koeman had no answer to.

Perhaps, you could see it as another revenge mission as the Dutchman engineered Benfica's win over Liverpool last season. But being oh so close to the final, Liverpool was unfazed by the prospect. They went, they saw and they conquered.

The match started off just as expected and finished off just as expected. Both team were extremely cautious and one would certainly be hypnotised by the number of passes between Agger and Carragher in the first half. Waking up at 2.30am in the morning didn't help.

But when it all happen, it was so fast that PSV didn't know what hit them.

Steven Gerrard, despite being played out on the right, was found right in the thick of things within the penalty area after a well worked right wing attack from Steve Finnan and Javier Mascherano. Finnan's cross was perhaps meant for Kuyt but Gerrard went in for the kill instead.

It was like a training ground goal. Fast, well executed and clinical.

Perhaps knowing that conceding the one goal was enough to kill off the tie, PSV went into self destructing mode and you could tell from the body language that they've given up already. But what else could you expect when all they muster were a few stray long range strikes and maybe one particularly dangerous cross from former Liverpool man, Jan Kromkamp, that jerked Liverpool back to life.

They were depleted, demoralised and were totally uninterested.

Maybe that's what Rafa's plan was, to wait for the prey, study it, go in for a deadly hit and then watch it slowly dies.

Riise hit the second blow and my word, what a hit. He finished it with aplomb when half the PSV defenders went into snooze mode. Even the highly rated goalkeeper, Gomes, couldn't stop it. Filing bankruptcy against him might make us question his ability to invest his money but never in doubt were his ability to hit shots at such pace, power and deadly accuracy.

Timmy Simmons was the culprit as he needlessly presented the ball for the Norwegian to smash home. You could see the expressions on their faces and they know it isn't over yet.

Because truly, it isn't over yet at the moment. With Peter Crouch extending the scoreline and putting the result to the bed, we could still testify that 3 goals is never enough. Remember Istanbul?

I'd expect a professional approach to the second leg and let's treat them with a level of respect. We might score another 2 or 3 in the second leg but at least show that we're in serious business. Dirk Kuyt might beg to differ as he got himself booked perhaps, with a purpose to miss the second leg and made available for the semi finals but still, no trace complacency should be found.

Truly, it was a poor and abhorent PSV that turned up last night. They didn't seemed to have a game plan other than keeping a clean sheet and see what happens at Anfield. Ronald Koeman was stumped while his men crumbled.

Perhaps it's a curse that Liverpool put on the teams they meet in the Champions League. The teams they're supposed to meet seemed to be going through tough times and it's always Liverpool who go in for the kill at the right time.

But what a performance from them. It made an European away game looked so easy and made the quarter finals looked like a regular pre-season friendly. If they manage to bring this sort of form into the Premiership, they'll be feared.

For goals and highlights, head over to for more!


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's The Quarter Finals!

Champions League beckons and with only 8 teams left in the competition, every club will have the right to feel that they have a chance to win the prestigious European Cup.

Being a Liverpool blogger, of course my concern will be tonight's game against Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. Seemed like a relatively easy draw on paper but one should not underestimate the Eredivisie leaders.

PSV's coach, Ronald Koeman, was the very man who plotted Liverpool's downfall last season and already, Arsenal were downed by his team in the last 16.

This will be the 3rd time this season that the two teams meet as previously, they've been drawn together in the same group during the group stages with Liverpool getting 4 points out of a possible 6.

Contrasting fortunes for both the teams as Liverpool will go into the game brimming with confidence after the 4-1 thrashing of Arsenal on Saturday while PSV saw their seemingly unassailable lead in the Dutch League slip and are on a run of poor form.

Liverpool will be without Malian midfielder, Momo Sissoko, as he is suspended for this game and therefore, Javier Mascherano could make his Champions League debut at the Phillips Stadium tonight.

Craig Bellamy, who missed Saturday's game due to rib injury, has been passed fit as well as Steven Gerrard, who shook off the slight calf injury and is expected to play on the right hand side of midfield again.

The injury problems faced by PSV is well documented and they will certainly be without towering Brazilian defender, Alex. He scored the all important goal to knock Arsenal out of the Champions League with a header and his presence will be sorely missed by Koeman and his men.

Aruna Kone is a major doubt for this game as well and the burden of scoring goals will land on the lean shoulders of Jefferson Farfan.

Expect a cagey game as both teams will not want to concede the early goal. PSV, who looked short on confidence, will try to hold out and keep a clean sheet while Rafa Benitez's men will want to hit PSV on the counter attack.

Drogballs' Prediction: PSV 0-1 Liverpool.

Possible Lineup: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Riise, Kuyt, Bellamy;

Drogballs' Weekly Thoughts

Relegation Battle Heats Up!

The battle to avoid the last 3 places of the English Premiership seemed to have reached it's boiling point as teams now scramble for points and getting some surprise results.

It's where the show starts and gets interesting.

When it seemed like some teams were dead and buried before Christmas, it now started to look more open and some teams might find themselves in unfamiliar position if they continue to drop precious points in their upcoming games.

Watford though, looked destined for the drop. They played with pride and even though they're last in the table, they didn't have a particularly bad time in the Premiership like Sunderland last season. They're a decent side which just don't have enough quality to make the cut and scoring goals is always going to be a problem for them.

West Ham now plays with renewed hope as they have chalked up two precious wins back to back after defeating both Blackburn and Middlesbrough. Carlos Tevez could be the key man to rescue the Hammers from relegation mire but with tough fixtures coming up, it's not looking too good for them still.

Under Alan Pardew, it seemed like Charlton have revived their season and are now on a roll. They had good results in recent games and they managed to beat last season's black horse, Wigan, 1-0 at The Valley. The 3 points might prove to be a very precious one indeed.

Further up, you have Sheffield United hovering above the drop zone. It's too close for comfort for the Blades as their hope of survival was severely dented by the injury of their top marksman, Rob Hulse. He'll be sorely missed as now they'll do a battle against relegation.

Wigan, meanwhile, lacked confidence within the squad and Paul Jewell have a difficult task to stop them from the free fall. They've disappointed this season after last season's high but should have enough quality to keep them safe, at least for another season.

Even teams like Aston Villa and Fulham should not take their foot off the pedal as they're not far ahead either. Both teams didn't have a particularly successful campaign and if they aren't careful, they might get dragged into the battle as well.

Drogballs' Prediction on the last 3 placing: Watford, West Ham, Sheffield United

Red Devils Steamroll Past Everyone

Seemed like nobody is going to stop them from winning the title. They've shown everything needed to win the title and I think they deserve it fully.

Comebacks? Check. Playing badly and winning it? Check. Good fixtures run in? Check.

But what impressed me most would be the fact that even though they have some injury problems throughout the season, they showed that they've coped well and the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo is also a positive point to note.

Blackburn scored first through Matt Derbyshire but United came back strongly and just by watching the game, you'll wonder how did Sir Alex coach a group of players that attack with such class, tenacity and precision.

Hand it to them, now.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Spot The Difference

Post-match interview from Rafa Benitez: "We knew right from the start that we had to make sure that we were first into the tackle. Alonso shadowed Cesc and the nearest player to Alonso was to told to double up with him on the tackle. This stopped their main creative player. We played Gonzales and Pennant on the wings which stopped their attacking full backs and again would disrupt their flowing football. Carragher was to push Adebayor out into wide positions and all the defense again were told to get into the tackles hard and double up at all times.

"We discussed the problems that Arsenal have at defending set pieces, especially at the near post, and that payed off really quickly. They have also had problems with set pieces from inswinging free kicks as they no longer have the traditional big centre halves that they used to have,so we worked on that during the week too."

Post-match interview from Arsene Wenger: "We went into the game expecting to attack and win the game but my players are mentally exhausted."

Now we know why....

Post Match Thoughts

Race For Third Is Not Over, Yet

First of all, I must say well done to the men clad in red for their win over Arsenal. Although once again it was up against a depleted Arsenal side which are missing key players such as the inspirational, out-of-the-world, Thierry Henry, enigmatic Dutchman Robin van Persie and the dependable Gilberto Silva, just like what happened when Chelsea visited Anfield back in February, giving fans some excuses for our win.

Whatever the case, the Arsenal team that came to Anfield were not as bad as some made up and with Emmanuel Adebayor returning to the side, they certainly have strengthened firepower up front instead of the limp and out of sort Frenchman, Jeremy Aliadiere.

Maybe the main downfall of Arsenal have been the fact that Monsieur Wenger is too stubborn at times to admit that playing free flowing football without scoring is erroneous. While I'm not touching upon this subject at the moment, one have to wonder why Arsene took so long to react to the relentless waves of Liverpool attack.

Only in the 70th odd minutes, he threw on Ljungberg and Rosicky. Understandably, both players played for their respective nation's European Qualifier games but the duo will undoubtedly prove to be the thorn in Liverpool's flesh with their movement and pace.

But it was just too late. Adding to the fact that Julio Baptista was horrendous that afternoon, Clichy looked shaky, Gallas and Toure failed to inspire any confidence to their team mate and Denilson looked raw and inexperienced.

Good thing is they didn't get overran by Liverpool the entire afternoon. So they are very well capable of achieving things in the future.

Touching on Liverpool, it's pleasing to see the team being so clinical and professional throughout the game. The defeat of Chelsea and Arsenal on our home ground means we've improved a little from last season but we need to watch for our overall consistency.

Arsenal are known for their bouncebackability and also killing the giants such as United at Old Trafford but it took a superb team effort to thwart them and it must be a pleasing scoreline for any Liverpool as finally, there was a sweet revenge for all thrashings they've handed out to us this season.

I can't neglect Couch's contribution to this game as he was immense throughout the game. Other than the 3 goals, he worked hard and did carved out a few other chances. He has now scored 16 goals and adding to the fact that he don't always finish all the 90 minutes of the game and he rarely starts, it's no mean feat.

He could be frustrating at times and his finishing had been found lacking throughout the season but thankfully, he delivered. The headed goal is surely, the surprising one as it was headed with such power and pace. Looking like a ball dampener most of the time, he managed to get so much velocity onto Aurelio's cross and even the best goalkeeper can't keep that out.

Crouch aside, the rest of the team were fired up and looked like they're in for a revenge mission.

If Steve McClaren is watching, he should now be able to tell Gerrard's best position on the pitch. He was placed behind Crouch and ahead of Alonso & Mascherano, flanked by Gonzalez and Pennant. It suit him perfectly, giving him the license to roam.

Yet, he didn't look like a headless chicken like he used to be. He controlled his energy, timed his run, position himself nicely and you could tell Benitez have coached and moulded him into the team without making him looking like the most important player on the pitch. 'One man team' they used to call us, now we could withdraw him in the 55minute and suffer little implication.

The Argentinian that wasted his time at West Ham, Javier Masherano, looked better each game and you could tell why football great, Maradona, called him a 'monster of a player'. He has an eye for the tackle like Sissoko but his technical ability is echelons above the Malian as he stroke the ball around, cool as a cucumber.

He excelled at reading the game and he was instrumental in the win.

The men on the flanks didn't disappoint as well. Aurelio, who started at left back, impressed me with his deadly deliveries and Pennant with his heart on sleeve performance. The former Arsenal man ran rings round Gael Clichy at times and as a confidence player, once he has a certain level of belief, he'll do extremely well.

Alvaro Arbeloa shouldn't be discredited too. Although still looked a bit short of match practice and maybe a little shell shocked with the pace of the English game, he fitted in well in place of the very dependable Steve Finnan. It was a big boots to fill, but he did it with little hassle.

Mark Gonzalez still looked light weight and lost at times. Perhaps it's unlucky for him to suffer so much injuries in his first season with the club but he still need to do something more to impress the fans and myself.

Agger have grew in stature although still looked unsure at times. Experience could help him while playing beside Carragher is an invaluable opportunity. The Dane have officially taken over the mantle of Sami Hyypia in the heart of defence.

Reina had a pretty decent game as he made a couple of good saves including the one from Toure but still lacked the composure when it comes to crosses as he spilled the ball upon catching it twice.

A win over Arsenal might make the heart joyous and fans gleeing in delight but it's never enough. The Champions League quarter finals coming up and the race for third place is still not over yet. The team should continue to stay focus and not be distracted by the win.

Battle is won but the war is still yet to be settled.

Liverpool Owners Announced

There is a big possibility of a ground share and Rafa might want Heskey back at Liverpool.

Happy April Fool's Day, friends

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Clinical Reds Finish Off Gunners

Crouch Scored The 'Perfect Hat-trick'

English Premiership

LIVERPOOL 4 - 1 Arsenal

LIV - Crouch (4min, 35min, 81min), Agger (60min);
ARS - Gallas (73min);

Match Highlights:

What a way to score your first ever hat trick for the club. Peter Crouch, despite having a nose job prior to the game, showed that he hasn't lost his sense of sniffing for goals as he scored the perfect hat trick, with his head, left and right foot.

The journeyman of football, stigmatised as just a targetman and ridiculed because of his height, rose above everyone last night as he tormented world class defenders like Kolo Toure and Willy Gallas with skills, precision and clinical finishings.

But it was a superb team effort as Liverpool leapfrogged Arsenal into 3rd place and there was the air of vengeance at Anfield last night as Rafa Benitez's men ruled out the possibility of a 4th defeat in a season by the same team.

The Spaniard created confusion prior to the game as he surprised everyone with a 4-2-3-1 tactic with Peter Crouch the focal point of his attack while Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano protected the defence.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were depleted off several key players including Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and Gilberto.

With the new owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks spotted in the stands, Liverpool came out all guns blazing to show their worth and it took only the first minute of the game for Steven Gerrard to take up a good position to fire a shot just over the bar.

With all the talks about Arsenal's brand of beautiful football, Liverpool showed that they're capable of it as well when Alvaro Arbeloa and Jermaine Pennant both showed trickery and a bit of magic as they exchanged backheel passes before the Spanish right back put in a brilliant square ball into the penalty box.

Crouch uses his advantage well, which is his dandy long legs. He got ahead of his marker, Toure, and slotted the ball nicely past Jens Lehmann. Just like the match against Chelsea, Liverpool took the early lead and the rest as said, is history.

But after the home side took the lead, they started to slacked off a little and allowed Arsenal to dominate possession. And we are well aware of what Arsenal of capable of when they have the ball. With their flair and free flowing moves, they can unlock the stingiest defence with ease.

Adebayor came close when Denilson's corner was well met with his head but the Togolese striker couldn't control the height of the ball as it went over Reina's goal. Baptista had the best chance for Arsenal as he was found unmarked just inside the penalty box but he mind-bogglingly sliced the ball away from the goal.

Arsenal were made to pay for their generosity in front of goal as Peter Crouch scored his second of the game with a brilliant header. Fabio Aurelio's fantastic cross from the left was met with a leaping Crouch as he overpowered Gallas and Toure before heading past a stranded Lehmann.

With Alex Hleb and Julio Baptista ineffective and the rest of the team a little tired and jaded, Arsenal lacked any bite in them despite having the possessions while Liverpool threatened whenever they spread their plays wide and the Arsenal defence struggled to deal with their crosses.

It's a common knowledge that Arsenal's defence against set pieces is weak and Liverpool exploited it well with Daniel Agger nodding home the third goal. Once again, it was Aurelio's ball into the box and the Dane only needed to get a touch of the ball before it flew past Lehmann.

Although Arsenal did made an attempt to make the score line look more respectable with William Gallas, yet again, scoring from a corner, it was too late when Crouch twisted and turned the defence inside out and with his left foot, smashed the ball into the goal and sent the Anfield faithful into raptures.

What a neat piece of skill, from a man who looked so awkward and gangly. It's his 16th goal of the season in all competition and only 4 away from being the '20 goals a season' striker.

It was a perfect revenge for Rafa Benitez's men as they gain the upper hand in the fight for 3rd place. And Crouch must be delighted with his efforts. Well done, son.

Drogballs' Player Ratings:

Reina (7) - Comfortable but still looked unsure when it comes to crosses.

Arbeloa (7) - Nice league debut for him. Solid and composed
Carragher (8) - As usual
Agger (7) - Some awkward moments but overall, did well and scored a good goal
Aurelio (8) - His delivery is top notch and one of his best performance in the red shirt

Pennant (8) - Tricky and determined. Did well against his ex club
Mascherano (9) - Hard working, imposing and dictating play. Good at tackles and game reading
Gerrard (8) - Usual self, although could've done better and score!
Alonso (7) - Pretty subdued. Lot's of defensive work for him
Gonzalez (7) - Put in some good crosses and provided width but still look too light weight

Crouch (10) - All things positive. Good control, header, touch and scored a hat trick. Nothing more I could say.

For all the goals, interviews and post match videos, HEAD OVER TO for more!

Pardon Me, My Fans

Liverpool 4-1 Arsenal:

Even though I might be the most dedicated Liverpool blogger out there, I'll have my off days and you know, it's getting difficult for me to review matches on Saturday again as I personally have other commitments but fear not.

I'll still bring you in depth reports perhaps a day late after I watch the replay.

Anyway, what a fantastic result. Rejoice, everyone!