Friday, August 31, 2007

Champions League Draw

Liverpool Drawn In Group A

Monaco is the start, Moscow is the end. The 2007/08 UEFA Champions League group stage is all set for kick off as 32 teams were separated into the 8 different groups and out of the 8 groups, there will be winners and losers, victors and defeatists.

This is where the champions are born, the best of the 32. The teams will slog it out in the 9 months long competition and the slogan 'who dares win' sounds perfectly true for this.

Liverpool, being one of the top seeded sides in Europe, are drawn in a relatively easy group alongside Portugese giants, Porto, Olympique Marseille and Turkish side, Besiktas.

Porto will pose the most threat as they're a known quantity thought not in the same echelon as the one which won the Champions League back in 2004, led my Jose Mourinho.

Marseille also won't be pushovers while Besiktas could be a surprise package as Turkish teams are renown for their aggressiveness and doggedness, which could cause a problem or two.

Rafa Benitez and his team will probably be please with the draw as the teams are beatable yet poses enough challenges for Liverpool players to keep themselves on their toes.

Group A

Porto (Por)
Marseille (Fra)
Besiktas (Tur)

Group B

Chelsea (Eng)
Valencia (Esp)
Schalke (Ger)
Rosenborg (Nor)

Group C

Real Madrid (Esp)
Werder Bremen (Ger)
Lazio (Ita)
Olympiakos (Gre)

Group D

AC Milan (Ita)
Benfica (Por)
Celtic (Sco)
Shaktar Donetsk (Ukr)

Group E

Barcelona (Esp)
Stuttgart (Ger)
Rangers (Sco)

Group F

ManYoo (Eng)
Roma (Ita)
Sporting Lisbon (Por)
Dynamo Kiev (Ukr)

Group G

Inter Milan (Ita)
PSV Eindhoven (Hol)
CSKA Moscow (Rus)
Fernebache (Tur)

Group H

Arsenal (Eng)
Sevilla (Esp) / AEK Athens (Gre)
Steaua Bucharest (Rom)
Slavia Prague (CZE)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Liverpool Marches Into Champions League

A Perfect Birthday Gift For The Club

Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round

LIVERPOOL 4 - 0 Toulouse
(Liverpool win 5-0 on agg.)

LIV - Crouch (19min), Hyypia (49min), Kuyt (87min, 90min);

Match Highlights:

Uploaded by danyab

Liverpool walloped French side, Toulouse, and advances into the main Champions League competition after a comfortable and comprehensive 4-0 win.

It was a very special night for many Liverpool fans around as they witnessed the team presenting a perfect birthday gift for their beloved club while the sound of 'Z-Cars' ringing over the Anfield tannoys must be the first since Hillsbrough back in 1988.

Family members of the murdered Rhys Jones, were present for the game, donning in their Blue jersey but it was the tragedy that brought the two clubs together, looking past any differences in allegiance.

With the Z-Cars ringing throughout Anfield, much could be said about the conduct of the Liverpool fans last night, who were supportive and gave a standing ovation despite their bitter rival's theme song playing.

A minute of applause was also observed and that sort of lifted the sombre atmosphere off Anfield.

Even as everyone paid their respect last night, the Liverpool players very well know that they have a task at hand and with last night's display, one could say about their total dominance and control on the game is so thorough that Toulouse just stood absolutely no chance from the first whistle to the last.

Post game statistic shows that Liverpool had a total of 25 shots on goal, not a surprising number as the home side rained shots after shots at the visitor's goal relentlessly. Although there was a period of time when nothing seemed to be going in, Kuyt's persistency and the team's self-belief kept them going all the way till the end.

Peter Crouch got the ball rolling in the 19 minute after some good work down the right from Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt sets him up perfectly with a tap in from the far post. Benayoun's never-say-die attitude contributed much to the goal.

Still without Steven Gerrard in the centre of midfield, Liverpool seemed to lost a bit of drive through the middle after the goal. Fellow scouser, Jamie Carragher, was also missing from the game after he fractured his ribs and could be missing up to a fortnight.

But even without Gerrard, Momo Sissoko stepped up and did extremely well last night, alongside Javier Mascherano, who also put up a good show with some good passes and patrolling the back line diligently.

Then chances constantly fell in Liverpool's path but old problems seemed to surface again as Crouch and Kuyt were both guilty of missing some glaring chances. Crouch seemed to justify himself as the tallest player who can't head the ball when he headed the ball from open position over the bar twice.

But Sami Hyypia, the stand-in captain for the night, came to the rescue and could probably teach the strikers a thing or two on heading when he powered the ball in from Benayoun's out swinging corner.

It was just after half time and you could tell the Toulouse players were already deflated.

Then again, back to the routine. Missing chance after chance and Kuyt was desperately unlucky time and again as he sees his header flashing past the post and shots hitting the crossbar.

Just when you thought it just wasn't going to be the Dutchman's day, another Dutch provided him with the chance to extend the lead late in the game.

Substitute, Ryan Babel, flicked the ball selflessly to him inside the penalty box and Kuyt was able to finish it off from an acute angle. It went in off the post and a huge sigh of relief from the Dutch striker, as he had failed to convert the previous chances. It could've affected his morale and belief a whole lot.

He then doubled his tally on the dot of 90 minutes.

Not only was the predatory skill of Kuyt on display for the third goal, it was also a move that justified the acquisition of Yossi Benayoun. Both worked brilliantly in that goal and it was Benayoun's intricate through pass that send Kuyt clear and was able to finish past the onrushing goalkeeper.

All in all, a very good result yet it still highlighted a few problems such as finishing and complacency at the back. Strikers must learn how to take chances while John Arne Riise looked disinterested at times and a few of his passes went astray.

A night which commemorated the birth of the city of Liverpool. A night which a city as a whole remembered the tragedy that befell on a fellow Liverpudlian. All these are certainly more meaningful than just getting into the Champions League.

RIP Antonio Puerta

In a world of sports, players and sports people are constantly pushed to the limits in terms of physicality and mentality. It's always surprising to see supposed healthy sportsman getting sickness as we all know that actively doing sports is good for healthy.

But in recent times, more and more sports players seemed to succumb to heart problems and only on Sunday, Sevilla and Spanish wing-back, Antonio Puerta, collapsed midway through the game and after 2 days in the intensive care unit, he sadly passed away.

Condolences to his family members. I've personally never seen him play and his name doesn't ring a bell but it's always sad to see a bright and rising star leaving just like that.

In another case, the death of Rhys Davies, the 11 year old kid from Liverpool, has brought two rival clubs together for the same cause tonight. The boy was shot and died a week ago and as an Everton support since birth, the Blues of course did make their own arrangement for his commemoration.

But the respectable thing Liverpool did will be tonight when the Reds face Toulouse in the Champions League qualifier. Players will wear black armbands in remembrance of him while Everton's theme song, Z-Cars, will be played before 'You'll Never Walk Alone' just before the game.

It's a tragic moment which united the hearts of two different camps. Bitterness and hatred might still dwell within the two teams but ultimately, it was for the cause of their city. Two clubs it might be, it's still one city.

Fair play.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Booted In The Arse

Italian football. A colourful league with managers that dressed up like Mafias or your regular 'kopitiam' uncles. Brilliant!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Poor Robbo

It's hard not to find a scapegoat when things goes pear shape. Same goes with football, when you're at your low, they just batter you all the way down, leaving you looking like an absolute clown. Nowadays, it seemed like Paul Robinson has officially taken over as the most laughed-at player in football and with some of his shambolic performance in recent times, it's easy to see why.

I myself don't like to get down on players who plays badly but sometimes, you just got to look at the lighter side of things. Therefore, after viewing THIS thread on the F365 forums, I just HAD to share with you all the brilliant photoshopped products that left me laughing like a mad man with tears in my eyes.

The original photo:

The Photoshopped photos:







Well done, bloody well done!

Credits: F365 forums, as usual :)

Job Well Done Without Skipper

Sissoko The Surprise Milestone Setter

English Premiership

Sunderland 0 - 2 LIVERPOOL

LIV - Sissoko (37min), Voronin (87min);


Sunderland's Stadium of Light became the perfect setting for Liverpool to once again, display their proficiency and new found belief as they dominated the home side, stamping their authority and went off with all 3 points.

Also, the mystery scorer of Liverpool's 7000th league goal came as a big surprise.

The one player whom seemed least likely to score came up with an absolute scorcher and all the fans who doubt his shooting ability can be rest assured now. It was Momo Sissoko, the one player most of us would like to see scoring and he did it just at the right time!

Roy Keane's side endured the baptism of fire last week after being thrashed 3-0 by Wigan but that lesson alone didn't seem to wake the players up from the harsh reality of the Premiership.

Within seconds of kickoff, Gary Halford nearly gifted Liverpool an early goal after his backpass was too short and Andiry Voronin was able to pounce on the loose pass but Craig Gordon, who was imperious throughout, blocked his effort valiantly.

But soon the game settled down and the away side had to endure the physicality of the Sunderland side. Sami Hyypia was forced off with a nose injury after he was elbowed while Jamie Carragher was later substituted off with a broken rib and collapsed lung.

It certainly does add injury woes to Liverpool, something unseen for the past seasons. With Gabriel Paletta joining Boca Juniors, the Reds seemed a little short in the centre back position currently.

But as seen throughout the game, defence never seemed to be a problem for Liverpool despite Sunderland crawling their way back into the game. Just when they seemed to catch them asleep with the pace of Anthony Stokes, Liverpool hit back through the unlikely source.

Andiry Voronin intelligently laid off the ball for Sissoko to smash home from range and replays showed that it wasn't an easy chance to take but what a beautiful, it was! That goal seemed to have helped him in building some confidence as he went on to put up an impressive display, winning accolades and man of the match award as well.

After a decent first season, his form dipped while the eye injury didn't help either. He seemingly lost his place to the newly arrived Javier Mascherano last season and thought to be on his way out last summer but this performance alone probably earn him some time to prove himself further.

Liverpool, though put up a decent performance, once again guilty of failing to putting the game to bed with a number of glorious chances. Only the most expensive British goalkeeper, Craig Gordon, kept Sunderland in the game with some magnificent saves, mitigating the score to a respectable one.

But then with determination and some sparkle of brilliance from the front line, they managed to unlock the Sunderland defence again and this time round, putting the ball past Craig Gordon. The nimbleness and vision of Jermaine Pennant combined with the unselfishness and creativity of Fernando Torres gave Voronin the perfect chance to put the game to rest in the 87 minute.

Composed and calm, the Ukrainian cut the ball back before placing it into the far corner of Gordon's net. A lovely move finished with a simply aesthetic goal.

Overall, a professional performance that resulted in a good win. You can say it's only Sunderland but the physicality of the Black Cats could've caused a whole lot of trouble yet Liverpool stamped their authority throughout and never really lost the grip of the game.

Without Gerrard, Sissoko stepped in and replaced the captain seamlessly while Pennant was once again, terrorising the right flank constantly. Torres and Voronin formed a pretty good partnership up front. A combination of hard work, determination and intelligence.

The only drawback was the injury to Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher, with the latter being a little more worrying as he's the integral part of the formidable Liverpool defence line. But Arbeloa should be able to cover during his absence while Hyypia's injury shouldn't be that bad.

It's one small step but this is the sort of 3 points we ought to get. We used to throw it all away but we should appreciate every point we get from now.