Last Gasp Winner Sends Liverpool Into Champions League
UEFA Champions League Qualifier
LIVERPOOL 1 - 0 Standard Liege
LIVERPOOL 1 - 0 Standard Liege
It was yet another insipid performance from Liverpool and no surprises, a last-gasp winner from Dutch striker cum defensive winger, Dirk Kuyt. 3 games in and 3 different heroes. It all reaped the same rewards….Wins for Rafa’s men in Red.
But Liverpool fans must be thinking when will performances such as this end.
Against the Belgian champions, Liverpool once again looked listless and though they did play at a good tempo, the Reds just didn’t look sharp at all and the lack of width is apparent. That must be a real worry as Rafa Benitez will have to come up with a solution as time runs out with the transfer window coming to a close soon.
The partnership of Torres-Keane was once again disappointing and fruitless. Robbie Keane was eventually replaced by Nabil El-Zhar, who once again put up a decent performance on the flank and had a concrete penalty appeal turned down.
Torres looked off-coloured and was kept in American defender, Oguchi Onyewu’s pocket the whole night. His night was epitomized by the attempt to cross which ended straight in the Kop End and out for goal-kick.
Kudos to Standard Liege, who put up a fight and not only were they stoic in defence, their attack also caused Liverpool much trouble, Without Pepe Reina’s heroics, Liverpool would’ve been finished off in that 90 minutes.
Last weekend’s hero, Steven Gerrard, was unable to come up with the usual spectacular style as he too found himself crowded out and spent much of the game as a peripheral figure. Xabi Alonso had some genuine attempts on goal but it was just not good enough.
With Gerrard and Torres unable to weave their usual magic, Liverpool toiled and laboured in vain. There was no penetration from the flanks while the narrowness of their attack made defending so much easier for the away side.
Even with the introduction of Ryan Babel, his usual move of cut-in-and-shoot wasn’t effective. He replaced Yossi Benayoun, who had a torrid time and was largely ineffective.
Yet ironically, it was the 2 wide men who gave Liverpool the win and an estimated 10million GBP windfall. Babel was the architect of the move as he whipped in a powerful left footed cross and another Dutchman was on hand to connect with it and sending the Kopites into raptures.
A huge collective sigh of relief from the home fans as they were already preparing for a nerve-wrecking penalty shootout.
Dirk Kuyt’s goal scoring record was never much mentioned as he isn’t prolific at all but his commitment to the club was never in doubt and if one day Rafa needs him to play in goal, he would.
He was the hero for the day and with that, Liverpool embarked on yet another enthralling journey towards Rome, where the finals of this season’s UEFA Champions League will be held.
The road to glory this season starts with a path that gives the déjà vu feeling plus a tinge of familiarity. Once again, we’re drawn with French giants, Olympique Marseille, and PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands.
An interesting team was drawn out from the 4th pot and it was Atletico Madrid, former team of Fernando Torres. We will also welcome back out former heroes in Luis Garcia and Florent Sinama-Pongolle plus world class players such as Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez.
It is indeed an unfavorable draw for Liverpool as on paper, it looks really tough. But I can’t wait to see how the group stages will pan out and the intriguing encounters with Atletico.
The draw will be difficult and put our credentials to the test. But I’m sure the Reds will come through fine.
Champions League Draw:
Zenit St Petersberg