Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Round one: Advantage Liverpool

I don't know about you, but I had a great time last night. There is something about midweek champions league matches that gets the adrenaline going. And what a match it was? It was standing room only in my local and there was a superb atmosphere. I'm glad the match didn't go on another 5 mins as I don't think that my nerves could have taken it.

It finished 1-1 and we've got to be happy with that. The guardian say that it was an occasion that the premier league could be proud of. While we rode our luck at times, we played with the experience we've built up over the last few ties. Rafa knows how to win these games. I hope he can finish the job next Wed night.

Kuyt gets loads of stick, from reds as well as opposition fans. I have to say that I love him. I know that he's limited and isn't really good enough to be starting every match for us. He will more than likely lose his first team place this summer when a quality replacement is brought in. But last night he was a hero. Put your hands up for Dirk Kuyt. He was my man of the match and Rafa agrees. He played a clever game and knew when to go forward and support the attack and when to track back and help Carra. He was immense. He hasn't scored many this year but I doubt he'll ever score a more vital goal than he did last night. He did superbly well to ghost in from the right and get in front of the defender to knock it home. He was lucky not to concede a penalty but he's had poor luck most of this season so maybe it's evening itself out now. Red legend.

Sami and Skrtel did well by and large but had a few hairy moments like when Van Persie got between them. There was a bit of a mix up for the goal as both seemed to leave it for the other. They, and Rafa, won't be happy with that. Carra was great as we expect him to be in Europe. One of his best games of an inconsistent season so far. He may not offer a huge amount on the attack from full back, but he's worth his weight in gold for his goals saving tackles, blocks and interceptions.

Monster Masch was awesome, as we've come to expect. He was everywhere and Fabregas didn't exert the kind of influence that he usually does. It's such a pity that he won't be able to play the league match on Sat. Gerrard was fantastic too. His run for the goal was inspired. He surged from deep and exchanged passes with Torres before attacking the defence and slaloming past first Eboue and then Kolo Toure. He made it look so easy that the defenders must have felt foolish. His cross was perfect for Kuyt to muscle in and prod home. A strikers goal from somebody who's rarely a striker these days.

Martin Samuel had a good piece in the Times ahead of the champions league match. It goes into how close the team is to mounting a sustained challenge on both fronts. Well worth a read. Richard Williams in the Guardian has an article on the contrasting performances on Fabregas and Gerrard.

Saturday is going to be like "deja vu all over again". I think that Rafa will rest and rotate a few of the players. I wouldn't be surprised to see Crouch start and Torres rested. He looked knackered towards the end last night. I predicted a league loss and a euro win over two legs. I'd take that now. We are good enough to get a result on Saturday but I feel Arsenal are going to want it more given they're still after the league. I'd be happy with another draw.

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