Thursday, October 25, 2007

Red's Champions League Shambles

3 Games Without A Win In Current Campaign

UEFA Champions League

Besiktas 2 - 1 LIVERPOOL

BES - Hyypia (og 13min), Bobo (82min);
LIV - Gerrard (84min);

In a group which consists of Besiktas, Marseille and Porto, 5 times winner Liverpool should probably have no problem going through and qualify for the knock out round. Anything less could be a nightmare.

But just last night, the nightmare turned into reality and their hopes of advancing into the knockout phase is hanging on a thread.

It could've been the same mentality that I had on my opening line that explains ineptitude and abject performances for the past 3 games. Probably Rafa and his Reds underestimated their opponents?

Nevertheless, after having to force myself to sit through the entire 90 minutes, I have to be honest. It's shameful. It's utterly embarrassing. What has became of the Reds? We're often monikered as a 'good cup team' and now we can't even qualify for the knockout phase.

In front of a fanatic Turkish crowd, Liverpool huffed and puffed their way through and they totally deserved what they got. Saturday's derby was already a wake up call and nobody heeded it. Without Mark Clattenburg, it was always going to be difficult.

Though Liverpool started off decently with Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin going close, the passing was horrendous especially in the central midfield area while Dirk Kuyt looked especially isolated upfront.

The horror show continues when Sami Hyypia scored his second consecutive own goal in a week following the derby victory.

The own goal just epitomizes Liverpool's downfall this season as the miser and ungenerous defence of past seasons were found wanting. Bobo broke through the line and although Jamie Carragher expertly executed a sliding tackle, he panicked and lashes his clearance right into Steve Finnan.

A penalty box scramble ensues and with Liverpool in sixes and sevens, Ozkan mis-hit the shot and seemingly off target but Hyypia, at the wrong place and wrong time, deflected it past a wrong footed Jose Reina.

Utter nightmare for Liverpool. A must win game now turned into an uphill task. Who would've thought that Besiktas, a club that is inferior in every way to Liverpool, could've scored first?

Just when Rafa needed a response from his men, all he got was a hollow silence. Movement was poor and there was a total lack of penetration and the profligacy of Liverpool's forwards were apparent.

Steven Gerrard, berated by the press for his recent poor form, did trouble the Besiktas defence with his usual timed runs into the box but goalkeeper, Hakan Arikan, is always up to the task.

Liverpool then started to show some urgency after the introduction of Israeli playmaker, Yossi Benayoun, and that was when they started to move the ball around more swiftly and accurately. The following 5 minutes after Benayoun's substitution is by far Liverpool's best phase of play.

Being totally impotent upfront, Liverpool defence deceived to flatter as well and warning sirens sounded when Bobo squandered a wonderful chance from a wonderfully engineered Besiktas move.

But the Brazilian striker turned from zero to hero in the next minute after jinking past the seemingly lost Sami Hyypia before slotting the ball under the legs of Reina and into the net. It sent the Turkish fans into raptures!

Although Steven Gerrard once again, headed a goal into the net in Istanbul, it was all too late for Liverpool to rescue anything out of the game. It was a game that the Reds didn't deserve anything out of it.

Were Besiktas anything special? From the way they play, not at all. Is that a cocky comment from me? No as well, because I'm honest. Players struggling to trap ball, goalkeeper who couldn't direct his kick at all and many other flaws.

But what happened to Liverpool? Used to be conquerors of continental football and dispatched team after team, from Barcelona to Chelsea. Now Besiktas looked to be a goliath to them. Where is the confidence and the fear that they used to impose on teams?

A long hard journey ahead for the Reds as we all know. Qualification is theoretically still possible but there are severe problems beneath this defeat. Arsenal is up next and how we're going to cope with a team that has gone on a 12 games unbeaten run and a recent 7-0 route of Slavia Prague?

Rafa needs to do something. We're lucky at the derby. But lady luck can't be with us all the time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Plucky Liverpool Victor In Derby

Kuyt On The Double From Penalty Spot

English Premiership

Everton 1 - 2 LIVERPOOL

EVE - Hyypia (og 38)
LIV - Kuyt (54, 90)

The 206th Merseyside Derby proved to be not only a hotly contested match but also a game marred with controversial refereeing decisions, talking points and more red cards added into statistics.

Dirk Kuyt kept his cool and slot two penalties past Tim Howard as the red half of Merseyside were sent into raptures and you could just tell how much the victory meant to the players just by looking at their post match celebrations and probably 'p*ss-take' in front of the Goodison faithfuls.

It was a game won by Liverpool but one would feel that a draw would've been a fairer result as referee, Mark Clattenburg, will no doubt be the key figure in the papers in the days to come as he sent off two Everton players and awarded Liverpool with two penalties, a rarity in football.

Others argued that he failed to spot a clear-cut penalty incident just before the full time whistle when Jamie Carragher looked to have wrestled Joleon Lescott to the ground. But probably as they say in football, comes around and goes around.

Liverpool started the game well enough and nearly caught Everton out after Benayoun managed to cut the ball back for Voronin, only for the Ukrainian to scruff the shot straight at Tim Howard.

But Everton hit back and managed to take hold of the game and are exceptionally dangerous when it comes to set pieces. And that exactly was hot Everton managed to crack Liverpool's defence.

Everton's corner was half cleared by the Liverpool and Leon Osman managed to put the ball back into the danger area. Sami Hyypia inexplicably flicked the ball past Reina, in off the post and Everton got the lead.

With Gerrard shafted onto the right flank with Mascherano and Sissoko partnering in the middle, the skipper was given the license to roam. And he made good use of the freedom by rampaging down the heart of Everton and Tony Hibbert was adjudged to have tripped him.

Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot without hesitation but the controversy on what did Gerrard said to the referee as he clearly took out his yellowcard and right after some exchanged words, he changed his mind and took out a red instead.

It was a harsh sending off, considering a penalty was already awarded. Dirk Kuyt took up the responsibility of taking the penalty in an extremely hostile environment and calmly slotted it past Howard for the equaliser.

Liverpool started to take advantage of the extra man and did decently to contain Everton while managing to string a few good moves. There were a few chances which dropped to the strike duo of Kuyt and Voronin but both squandered them.

In a mystifying move, Rafa Benitez then withdrawn skipper, Steven Gerrard, and replaced him with a newbie in Merseyside derbies, Lucas Leiva. That move was quite a surprise, even for Gerrad himself, showing it through his body language.

Considering he was playing pretty well, it was a gamble from Rafa Benitez.

But it paid off ultimately as Lucas himself had a hand on the winning goal. After a goalmouth screamble, his goal bound shot was fantastically saved on the line, albeit it being Phil Neville.

That save must've made the Everton fans proud and Paul Robinson quaking in his boots, fearing for his place as England number 1 (tongue in cheek comment).

The younger of the Neville brothers was duly sent off and Kuyt again, was given the responsibility to bulge the onion bag for Liverpool and it was a monumental moment for the Dutch striker. The outcome of a point or three lies solely in his hands...

And he puts it away, with Howard nearly stopping it. That sealed Liverpool's win and you could see the joy on Carragher and company's face, seeing how much the victory meant for the boys.

It was not without controversy and red cards but it was truly a highly entertaining game, good for the neutrals. The win could probably put Liverpool back on track with Arsenal next, visiting Anfield.

PS: Thank you Liverpool for the birthday present :)