Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bore draw

The Villa game on Sunday was one of the worst games that I've seen in a long time. I feel sorry for anyone who had to sit through it. Reina had nothing to do and the only real save that Sorensen had to make was from Fowler's header at the end. Our defence had nothing to do but our attack was incapable of getting through Villa's five man midfield. As has happened a lot of times this season, we've struggled to break down a team with a deep defence and a massed midfield. Xabi coming on earlier might have helped if he could have played a ball in behind for Bellamy. But the Villa defence were sitting so deep that there wasn't too much space in behind. As I've said in previous posts, we lack the top quality wingers needed to break down a massed defence. I'm hoping that we buy a top class winger this summer, preferably for the left so that we can stretch the play and make the difference in tight matches like this. Luckily for us, Everton managed to beat Arsenal so we gained ground on them in third and there is only one point in it now even though they have a game in hand. At this stage I would imagine that they will probably finish thrid as it means more to them. Their season is over while we still have the champions league to play for.

I head Andy Gray was bleating on about Gerrard playing in the centre again on Sky the other night. Gerrard hasn't been as good this season as last year, no matter where he has played. I didn't hear Andy complaining last season when Gerrard scored 23 goals, mainly from the right.

No game until Arsenal visit Anfield on the 31st. I hope that our attacking play has improved by then. Remember that you can send me on any spare tickets that you might have for this match as I'm going over and I need two.

Well done on the youth team who beat Newcastle 3-1 in the second leg to go through 7-3 on aggregate to the FA youth cup final. They will play either Utd or Arsenal in it. It would be a great achievement for them to retain the trophy.

There has been a lot of talk this past week about extending the capacity of the new Stanley Park stadium. The original plan was for a 61k seater stadium but this is now under review and we could end up with of 70k or more. I'm not that surprised by it considering that we have around 56k fans on our season ticket waiting list. I hope that it does mean that it will be easier to get hold of tickets as it's currently very difficult to get tickets if you are going over on a day trip.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Quarter final delight

All things considered PSV is about as good as it could have got for us in the quarter final draw. I wanted to avoid an English team and Valencia if possible so I was happy with the way that it panned out. We were able to beat them 2-0 on agg over the two group matches and I don't see any reason why it should be any different now. Koeman is a competent, if unadventurous coach. He did manage Benfica who put both us and Utd out last season so we must be wary. It won't be a walkover but we have every chance of going through. The fact that Alex and Kone will probably be out makes the task easier. If we do get through it may be Chelsea in the semi. It would be a fitting end to Joses english career if he were to come full circle and get knocked out at the same stage by us in the Champions League. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Of the other matches, I am really looking forward to Roma v Man Ure. I feel that Roma are capable of doing it given their attacking talent. But they also have a soft underbelly and a lack of discipline. So we can expect them to win in Roma but self destruct in Old Toilet with Totti getting himself sent off and Utd going through. Chelsea v Valencia is a tough one to call. It'll probably be Chelsea but it's not beyond Valencia by any means. I fancy Milan to beat Bayern and go through there.

So to Villa park and Aston Villa in the league this Sunday. Villa are down in 13th and don't really have much to play for. I would always expect an O'Neil team to be competent and steady, if unspectacular. Probably won't be a blinding match but we should have enough in our locker to get a 1-0. We beat them 3-1 at home and I would be thrilled if we could manage something similar this time around.

Finally, I'm going over to Anfield on the 31st of March for the Arsenal match and don't have tickets as of yet. If anyone has two spares I would be eternally grateful.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Kop Idol Carra

Oh what a night? Anfield erupted as the holders were knocked out of Europe. Pity that we didn't score despite all of our chances. We really took them to pieces in the first half and it could easily have been 3-0 at half time. Riise hit the bar as did Momo. Bellamy, Kuyt and Riise all had efforts saved in quick succession with JAR's effort being cleared off the line by Puyol. But because we didn't score, we let them back into it in the second half. Gudjohnson scored to make the last 15 mins really nervous. But thankfully we had Carra and Finnan on hand to foil their efforts. There were some amazing tackles from them both to save us and keep our season alive. I think that we played very well over the two legs and deserved to go through. Ronaldinho could have been sent off for a petulant kick out at Carra if the ref had seen it. Barca can't have any hard luck stories. Rijkaard was magnanimous in defeat. Messi wanted Liverpool when the draw was made but didn't get the result he wanted in the tie. I hope that Barca can recover from this and go onto win La Liga, starting with beating Madrid on Saturday night.

Anfield has a deserved reputation for being special on European nights. This was the case again here. The Kop was full of colour. Even the Rafatollah got an outing. I hope that when we move to the new stadium that we can still create nights like this. It was a fitting occasion for David Moores to bow out as chairman. Similarly, it was good timing by Hicks and Gillett for their first game at Anfield.

Good atmosphere and decoration in the Lotts on Liffey st. Thomas was the lone Barcelona fan in the pub and it was fairly quiet when he celebrated the goal. I hear both sets of fans got on well in Anfield too. Good to see the respect between our two great clubs.

In the draw on Fri, I don't think it matters who we get too much. I don't mean that we're over confident but I mean that they are all hard teams at this stage of the champions league. Lille would be nice. I fear that it'll be an English team given that there will probably be four in the next round. I'm glad that I backed us at 33-1 in December when we drew Barcelona and Paul Merson sniggered. It's not nailed on but we have as good a chance as anyone given that it's a relatively weak season in Europe this year.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sucker punched

Most days I love football. But today I am disgusted with it. I hate Utd and the only thing that I hate more then them is being beaten by them. To concede a last minute goal to them after dominating the match is about as bad as it gets. And to top it all off, John O'Shea is a boyhood red.

Not for the first, and probably not for the last time this season, profligacy in front of goal has cost us dearly. It's no good dominating against a team if you can't convert your dominance into chances. But we don't seem capable of learning this lesson. We had Utd on the rack for most of the game but didn't put them away. We restricted them to one shot on target all match, John O'Sheas. Crap. "It was a fantastic result," said Fergie. "We had a lot of narrow escapes and Liverpool upset our rhythm. They will feel very unlucky and they deserve to." But I have to grudgingly say fairplay to them for sticking with it and keeping the faith for 90 mins. It reminded me to when we played them off the park last season only for Rio to score from a set piece with around 5 minutes to go. I get really annoyed when we concede late goals.

Utd will win the league now and I feel they deserve it. They've been the most consistent team. They have been very lucky with injures and haven't been playing well over the last few games against us, Lille and Fulham. But critically they've managed to win all three games that they deserved to lose. When you see that happen it's hard to see the league title going anywhere other than old toilet.

It's time to clear the heads in preparation for Barca's visit on Tuesday. I expect the atmosphere to be incredible and I'm very envious of those going to the match, like Sergi. As I've said before, this tie isn't over by any means. FCB on form are well capable of scoring two away goals. If we can score the first goal then I think that it will be over. I expect Momo to have another legendary game as he did in Camp Nou. He wasn't up to his usual standards on Sat but I think he'll be better against the Barca midfield. Bellamy had a great game in the first leg and his pace and aggression seemed to unsettle the Barca defence. More of the same on Tue Craig. Think of your club, not your golf clubs. You can expect to hear many more poor puns if he scores a goal.