Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pompey pay penalty

That's about as run of the mill as they come. Consequently, there's not a huge amount to say about it. I couldn't find a decent stream until half time so I missed most of the first half. From what I saw in the second, we played well but struggled to get the breakthrough when Bouba Diop punched the ball and Stevie converted the peno. I think it's the type of game that has given us problems in the past when teams sit 10 behind the ball and force us to break them down. But we got the break through here and looked slightly nervous afterwards which was unnecessary.

Babel had a good match and gave their right back loads of problems. He looks back to full fitness and it was a good match to start him in, given that the regular right back Johnson was out injured. Agger, Keane, Riera and Javier all got a rest allowing Sami, Pennant, Lucas and Babel to start. I would imagine we'll see something similar once we've qualified for the knock out phases of the Champions League.

The north London derby seems to have been the game to watch last night. I only saw highlights but Arsenal should have won it easily well before time. Spurs defence and goalie look fairly poor. I have a little soft spot for Spurs and wouldn't like to see them go down but I would have preferred their renaissance under 'Arry to have waited a week or two until after our visit to White Heart Lane. I don't think it'll be easy on Sat but I'll be confident of us scoring more than them, especially with the possibility of El Nino back in action.

It's good to see other fans are writing us off. That way we can sneak in under the radar, like some sort of stealth fighter or the Red October submarine. I loved the sound effects in that film.

This is Anfield have a feature on young Aussie goalie, Dean Bouzanis. I know that he's highly rated at the club and seen as one for the future.

Messi says that we are Barcelona's biggest rivals for the Champions League which is flattering. He's more than welcome to come and join us any time he gets sick of FCB.

Gillett has been talking shite about the stadium and the fans. What's new?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stamford Bridge has fallen down

Rafa is appealing for calm. Well I for one, intend to lose the run of myself. Look at this. It's a sight for sore eyes.
An 86 game unbeaten record at Stamford bridge came crashing down with our 1-0 win. Glorious. It's a pity Jose wasn't still around to see it. But more than that, we layed down a marker that we are going to title contenders as long as we can keep this form up, or at least, recover quickly when our form dips, which it inevitably will at some stage. Can we do it? Maybe. Will we do it? I think that depends on Hicks on Gillett more than anyone. Don't be surprised if they fuck us up by selling players or sacking Rafa at a crucial moment. I'm more worried about that than matters on the pitch destabilising us.

Rob Smyth in the Guardian match report suggests that Boswinga was less inclined to rampage forward due to "the considerable threat of the excellent Albert Riera." Henry Winter in the Telegraph says of Riera "if Bosingwa suffers a recurring nightmare over the next month it will involve a deft Spaniard ghosting past him." He had a great game. But Xabi was man of the match for me. He was superb. THe fact that he scored a deflected goal makes up for a few deflected Lampard and Joe Cole goals that Chelsea have scored against us. I am so happy that he didn't leave for Juve and I hope he goes on to spend many years here. Gerrard had a fine game too, probably his best of the season. He's sometimes accused of not showing it against the other big 4 clubs. No way that could be leveled at him yesterday. John Giles was full of praise for the captain on RTE tv.

The BBC blogger Phil McNulty suggested that a win would suggest that our start to the campaign wasn't another false dawn. So it has proved to be, so far. We're top and three points clear of Chelsea. Utd fell further behind by drawing with the blueshite at Goodison which makes the weekend even sweeter. Rafa says that it's a massive win. It is indeed Rafa. Before this game, Rafa hadn't beaten a top four side away from home in the league. That coupled with the fact that Chelsea haven't lost at home in four years make it something of a red letter day. I'm really happy that we managed to beat both Utd and Chelsea without Torres and Utd without Gerrard too. 6 points from 6 against top 4 opposition so far. This shows the strength of the squad that Rafa has developed. Henry Winter reckons that the gaffa was central to the win. "Liverpool were all heart, lungs and flying feet but the key factor was the mind of Benitez".

John Giles said that we were far better than Chelsea on the day and deserved the victory. I find it hard to argue with him. They created very little of note. "We didn't expect the result, but need to understand that Liverpool are a very good team," Scolari said. "Benítez is intelligent. He knows and I know that we don't have a two-metre centre-forward, so they gave us space, but when we crossed they have players who are very good at winning the ball." So Rafa let them cross, knowing that we could deal with it, and then we could win the ball back and channel it down the middle where Javier, Stevie and Xabi dominated Lampard, Mikel and Deco bar the end of the first half. Clever. Carragher and Agger were rocks at the back. Nothing got past them and Pepe didn't have too much to do.

It was hilarious to see England's Lionheart John Terry shit his pants when he was confronted by Pepe. He was well able to stick the elbow in when Reina had us eye on the ball, but once Pepe squared up to him he ran off to hide behind the ref. Such courage.
As Rafa said, we need to keep it going against Portsmouth on Wed. We slipped up badly against Stoke after beating Utd. Let's not let the same h=thing happen here. I'm hoping they'll be vulnerable with 'Arry gone. But Defoe and Crouch are going to be dangerous. Crouch is going to want to prove a point.

Here is some footage of Atleti and LFC supporters exchanging scarves and embraces at the Calderon on Wednesday night. Good to see. We're making friends all over Europe, as happened when the Barcelona fans visited Anfield last year.

Ryan Babel on the mike in case you've missed it. He had an impressive cameo when he came on against Chelsea. I hope to see him add a few more of those over the next few weeks.

Andy Gray reckons that Rafa could cost us the title. He is a blue nosed bullshitter. What's he saying now? Prick. He must be sick having to praise us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Robbie's mixed bag

Rafa's not happy. Neither am I, to be honest. While an away draw in Spain isn't a disaster by any means, given how the match went, we should have put it beyond doubt at half time. We created loads of chances in the first half but only took one. As a result we let a ragged Atletico regain confidence and come back at us in the second half. They got their equaliser at the depth and they deserved it but we shouldn't have given them the opportunity to retrieve the match.

Robbie Keane mixed the sublime and the ridiculous. He did superbly well with a through ball from Gerrard to finish below Franco and give us an early lead. It was great to see him go one on one with the keeper and put it away. Well done Robert. But he undid the good work by trying to be too clever with a ball crossed from the right, and attempted to flick it when a sidefoot or tap in would have put it away and the game beyond doubt. As it happened, his miss left it open and we were made to pay for our profligacy. Annoying.

We did make a few more chances and had a goal disallowed when yossi was incorrectly ruled offside. The linesmen had a bit of a shocker and ruled a legitimate goal out for Atleti too. Babel went very close with a diving header from a superb Kuyt cross which went just past the post. Dossena whipped some wicked balls in from the left and had probably his best game for us, after a long bedding in period. It's still early days for him and he has a long way to go but I think there are signs that's he's adapting to the defensive system and gradually improving.

So we now have 7 points in the group with our hardest games out of the way. It looks like it will definitely be us and Atletico to progress but we'll probably need to beat them at Anfield to be guaranteed top spot and the favourable draw in the knockout round.

Eamo Dunphy on RTE was unimpressed. He reckons that LFC have "no chance of challenging for the premier league at all. "The back four's poor. Agger's a poor player, Arbeloa's a shocking player". I hope that we go onto prove him wrong this year. This is the same man that said we had no chance of winning the Champions League in 2005 and promised to retire if we won. Unfortunately, he's not a man of his word. It's a pity that he didn't as he used to be a good pundit but he's now merely a parody of himself, courting controversy, making up facts and figures and ignoring all evidence on the pitch. Being outspoken is more important to him than being correct.

Sid Lowe reports that there was great camaraderie between the home and away fans in the Calderon, which is fantastic. There were some worries beforehand, given the trouble in the Atletico v Marseille match. The two sets of fans joined in Torres chants and the Atleti faithful gave Gerrard a huge ovation when he was withdrawn with an injury.

Stamford Bridge and Chelsea is a daunting prospect for Sunday lunch. I expect that Torres won't be fit in time so it'll probably be Keane up top and Kuyt or Gerrard behind him. Xabi was superb against Atleti and I hope that he's recovered in time for the bridge. He's come in for some tasty tackles so far this season and I wouldn't be surprised to see Lampard trying to break his ankle again. I would snap your hand off for a draw now as it's possibly the most difficult game of the year. Utd at Old Trafford is in or around the same but Chelsea have a stunning home record. Could we be the first ones in years to break that record? I doubt it to be honest. We would have had a fair chance with El Nino but I think that a draw is the best we can hope for without him. Charlie Nicholas reckons we've no chance of winning the title.

Have a look at the kids. The Academy team drew 2-2 away to Utd after being 2-1 down. This is the first time I've seen highly rated players like Amoo and Pepper on camera.

Could this article by Tony Evens mean that the Americans are admitting defeat? We've been around the block with this so many times that I'm not counting any chickens yet. Let's hope that the Sheikh is still interested and Hicks and Gillett lower the asking price given the current financial climate. This could be an interesting twist, but will probably come to nothing.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Keeping the faith

Another 3-2 victory. This is becoming a habit. Coming form behind has become almost predictable. Did that make it easier to keep the faith on Saturday? Maybe so. Even when we were behind, I thought that we've been here before and got out of it. But while a comeback was somewhat predictable, a win against a Steve Bruce side wasn't, as it's something that's evaded Rafa over the last 4 seasons.

Going 1-0 down wasn't the ideal way to start the match. Agger looked a bit rusty and a poor touch left him in trouble with Zaki bearing down on him. The Egyptian stole the ball and finished beyond Pepe. Not clever. Agger showed his mettle by running the length of the pitch before setting up Dirk for the equaliser. Great way to show his mental fortitude or moral courage, if you prefer.

Albert Riera got the second equaliser to open his LFC account. A mighty strike, and with his right foot, no less. The winger has made a telling contribution since his arrival but I'm happy to see him get off the mark at Anfield.

The ruling out through injury of Torres and Babel during the international break was a major blow. But thankfully we had deadly Dirk deliver a dutch double. He could have had a hat trick had an earlier effort not been palmed onto the crossbar by Kirkland. Rafa really went for it by taking off both full backs and bringing Benayoun and El Zahr on, the latter making a great contribution to the winner. Kuyt now has three league goals for the season, more than he scored all of last year. Add that to his goals against Liege and PSV, and it's a rich vein of form for the Dutch destroyer. He reckons we can go all the way to number 19. I think it's too early to say. The match against Chelsea on Sunday should give us more of an indication.

Atletico Madrid are going to provide some stiff opposition on Wednesday night. The match is back in the Calderon which is great news for our fans who would have been screwed if it had been moved to Valenica or somewhere else. I'm looking forward to seeing Sergio Aguero perform, but hopefully he won't have a great night. It looks as if Javier will be back and Babel may be fit but Torres won't which is very unfortunate for el Nino. I'm sure it would have felt like a dream come true for him to be walking out in the Calderon again. But now he'll have to make do with a seat in the stands. I reckon we could be looking at a draw on Wednesday.

Some elements in the press linked Heskey with a return to LFC in January. Barrett in the echo says that a move is very unlikely, as are any signings unless they are preceded by sales. Pennant's refusal to move to Blackburn in August put paid to any spare change knocking around the club kitty.

Guillem Ballague effuses about some of our young talent on his blog. He rates Pacheco but thinks that he may be too small for England and will end up back in Spain.

Anelka reckons that Everton are shit. It's not really LFC related, it's just funny.

Have a listen to this. Sounds like the real Rafa, Stevie and Carra.

Tony Barrett in the Echo had an interesting piece comparing the strength in depth that we have now compared to when Rafa arrived four years ago. Our opponents in his first match were City and the bench consisted of Diao, Biscan, Pongolle, Warnock and Harrison. Last week, also against City, our bench was Keane, Yossi and Dossena who all came on and made a contribution to the comeback, and unused subs of Agger, Cavalieri, Babel and Lucas. Stark contrast which goes to show how much Rafa has improved the squad.

The "A Liverpool thing" blog has a translated interview with Dossena. He talks about settling in the team, the city and the training.

101 great goals has a video containing Gerrard's first 100 goals for the club. Hopefully it'll be boosted by a few more goals this year.

Xabi is leaving the door open for a move to Juve, despite Ranieri saying our boy Xab is too slow for Serie A. It seems quite likely that Ranieri may not be the boss for too long at the Della Alpi, so the next man may have the final say on a move.

The Guardian have an interesting piece on the history of terrace fan culture and the part the Kop played in starting singing in the early sixties.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Comeback kings

Rafa will not be happy tonight. Yes we won before staging a stunning second half comeback, we allowed city to establish a two goal lead at half time. That is a cardinal sin according to the gaffa. But that is the third time in the league this season where we've been behind and have comeback to win the game. The Marseille match was the same. Impressive, no? Rafa's new phrase is "on fire". I think he could safely say it about us now.

We were fairly shit in the first half and made some stupid defences mistakes to enable Ireland and Garrido to score. Pepe will be pissed off with himself for the free kick he conceded at the near post. It was doom and gloom at Eastlands when the half time oranges were being consumed. I expect that some journos were getting their pieces ready about Liverpool's title challenge only lasting until October. Alas for them, Torres and Kuyt had something to say. Three second half goals means that we're still joint top of the table. That was stirring stuff. El Nino looks to be regaining his form after a sluggish start. Ands we scored a goal directly from a corner, wonders will never cease. I'm very happy to see Dirk get the winner. It followed some great build up play by Yossi, another inspired Rafa sub. He get so much stick that it's great to see him score a winner and get some praise. He made for a terrible miss earlier in the match by hitting his first league goal of the season. I love the guy but there are games against the weaker teams when I don't think he's needed. It's been a good week for him though. Could this be true?

Riera had a good match. He looked dangerous on the left and caused the city defence lots of problems. Poor Marty Skrtel was taken off injured with his leg in a brace. He landed awkwardly on it and was in fierce pain when he fell and stayed down. It would have to be serious to keep Skrtel out of the line of fire. The upside is that we should get to see more of Dagger playing if Skrtel is out for some time.
Speaking of our great dane, Real want Agger according to sky who are picking up on a story in the UK press. Ballague discusses the rumours on his website and reckons that it's not cut and dry.

After the international we'll face Wigan who are doing well so far this year. I assume Skrtel will be out. Any chance of Degan being back soon? Slim. Let's hope we don't pick up anymore international injuries.

Chelsea are being linked with the newest of new Zidanes, a player we've been linked to in the past.

Aldo is worried about the American owners. Me too John. Parry says the stadium is being delayed due to credit crunch. The worst part is that I fear we'll be stuck with these jokers in charge for the foreseeable future.