Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reds dump Deepdale

2-0 and through to the next round is the headline but there are some interesting sub plots.

First, after being clinical against Newcastle and Bolton, we returned to our normal form this season where we create lots of chances but refuse to take them, letting the opposition back into the game. We made countless chances in the first half and should have been out of sight. I'm afraid to say that Keane was the main culprit here and had a string of embarrassing misses. It's not the the first time this year and I won't be drawing any conclusions from it but it's about time he got his act together and started taking simple chances. But, as he himself has said, let's judge him at the end of the season in May.

Secondly, Torres returned with a goals after coming off the bench. Good man Nando. Stevie unselfishly set him up after Babel had released the pair on goal with a flicked header. Great to see El Nino back in competitive action.

Thirdly, Alonso came off injured with his leg in a cast. There is no word yet on how long he'll be out for but it didn't look good. Luckily Lucas stepped into the breach and did well, but while he's improving, he's no Xabi. Who is?

Lastly, there were contrasting performances from the wingers. Riera was superb after a slow start and was a menace down the flank. He took his goal really well and set up Keane for what should have been another. In contrast, Babel was quite ineffective. I'm starting to think that he's finished at Anfield. He hasn't progressed this year and I fear Rafa will move him on in the summer. He doesn't appear to have the desire to stake a claim to a spot in the team and I can't see Rafa picking a half hearted player ahead of a less talented but more committed player like Dirk. I hope Ryan proves me wrong. We've drawn Everton in the next round which is a bit of a kick in the teeth but we've shown we are capable of beating them easily enough over the last few seasons. To be honest, I would swap a cup exit for three points against them in the league at Anfield the week before.

It's back to the bread and butter of the league when the leaders visit the potteries to face Stoke this Saturday. They managed to frustrate us with a scoreless draw at Anfield and I'm sure Rafa and co will want revenge. This time we should have Torres back in the saddle. The fact that United face Chelsea at the weekend if a huge boost for us. A draw there or even a Chelsea win would please me greatly.
Pennant wants to go to Spain. To Atletico perhaps? I'm happy enough to see him leave for any club as he won't contribute anything for the rest of the season.

Lucas thanks Rafa for backing him. As mentioned above, the kid has improved a lot in recent games. He'll have a good chance to build on this in matches to come if Xabi is badly injured.

Icelandic midfielder Victor Palsson who plays for Aarhaus is being linked with a move to L4. It should get sorted sometime over the month.

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