Saturday, February 07, 2009

Rafa rotates his way to the top

The knives were out with Rafa's team selection on Saturday where he made 6 changes due to injuries, suspensions and the fact that we'd just come through a grueling 120 mins derby midweek. When we went 2-1 down the knives were poised at the managers back. But two of Rafa's striking subs made decisive contributions against a tired defence. Kuyt and Torres scored to send us back to the top of the table which sent a giant "fuck you" to the begrudges.

A 3-2 victory over Portsmouth had the knockers declaring us lucky. Bullshit. I watched the match in it's entirety and we were way better than them. To read the match reports we were abject until Torres came off the bench. Au contraire, we were really good in the first half, without Torres, Xabi and Dirk, who were on the bench, Lucas who was suspended and Gerrard who was injured. Why are we lucky when we score late goals but it's the mark of champions when Utd do it or Morinho's Chelsea did it?

Yossi was central in this period. He took centre stage as the playmaker and was central to our passing, movement and invention. He was unlucky to hit the side netting in this period. Towards halftime he danced past two defender, leaving them for dead. He was the one who crossed for Torres' header at the death. He's been in good form recently but this was probably his best ever game for us. Playing in the middle definitely enables him to have more of an influence. I thought he was just a squad player but if he keeps up this form then surely he deserves a start ahead of Riera or Kuyt?

Another player who performed well on the day was Aurelio. He lined up alongside the superb Javier and Yossi in central midfield of our 3-4-3. A lot of journalists seemed to think that Rafa choose this set up for the laugh, rather than injuries and suspensions. What dopes. The brain trust on Setanta were "baffled". Poor Tim Sherwood was nearly in tears when we won. They clearly hadn't researched Fabio as he's played central midfield for Rafa before at Valencia. He is a superb passer and slotted into the Xabi role seamlessly. He hit the post with a free in the first half and scored from an indirect free in the second. Free kick Fabio is happy with his goal and the result. He should be put on set piece duty from now on.

Agger excelled as the libero of the three central defenders. He frequently ran forward with the ball at his feet and hit some superb balls. He is a star and it'll be a disgrace if we let him slip through our fingers. Parry needs to get him signed up NOW! Dossena and Arbeloa ran the flanks with aggression. Dossena had another good game but both wing backs were let down by their crossing.

Rafa sprung Torres and Dirk from the bench towards the end and both scored. If Fergie did something similar he gets named a genius as in the Champions league final 99. Neither Babel or N'Gog had done a huge amount and Ryan missed a sitter after Dirk crossed from an acute angle. Moments later, Dirk scored from a similar angle when he beat James at his near post. Then El Nino hit the winner to send reds into rapture. Stunning.

We had been lucky to see Nugent score when he should have been flagged offside. Dirk had a legitimate goal ruled offside which was a pity as it would have made the finish less frantic. Pepe didn't cover himself in glory when conceding a free header from Hreidarsson.Now we're looking at an international break and it's the usual case of fingers crossed in hope that we don't lose anymore players to injuries. Then we're looking at the mercurial Man City visiting Anfield. They are starting to get a bit more solid and Given was superb at the weekend. Lucas will be back from suspension then and Torres should be fit to start. Insua should be back from captaining Argentina in the the South American u20 championship too.

Could the Barry pursuit be reopened this summer? O'Neil says he won't stand in his way if they miss out on the champions league. I like Barry but if it means Xabi being sold then I'm dead against it.


JJ said...

Spot on chief, I think the performance has been completely misrepresented in the press. Pompey did nothing before half time and were generally pinned back in their own half by a good passing performance.

Had Babel not missed that glaring chance and Nugent not benefitted from bad work from the linesman we would have won easily. As it was, the subs worked perfectly and Pool got what they deserved in the end. Aurelio was my man of the match.

Mal said...

Nugent offside goal, Babel missing a sitter, Kuyt incorrectly offside, Aurelio hitting a post all add up to us being amazingly lucky.
I agree that Aurelio was superb JJ. He was better in that one match than Lucas was in midfield any game this year, with the possible exception of Newcastle at Christmas.