Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Champions League Semifinal 1st Leg Part II

Liverpool 1-1 Chel$ea

I don't think I'd go so far as calling the match "entertaining", but it didn't max out its boring potential either.

Before halftime Liverpool took the lead when a Mascherano miskick fell to Kuyt who managed to scrap it between the keeper's legs. A classically crap Liverpool goal is what the cynics would say, but the scoreboard is not interested in such matters, only in cardinal numbers. Commenter Killing My Liver said it best: "Dirk Kuyt is the best no talent player ever."

Liverpool pretty much controlled the second half and played some pretty good stuff, especially in contrast to Chel$ea, who were a step below awful. Not that I watch all of their games, or even half of them for that matter, but I really don't know if I have ever seen a Chel$ea team play so poorly since Abromovich bought the club 4 or 5 years ago. I also must note that Drogba reverted back to his old form when all he would do is dive and whine, both to the point of absurdity. I wonder would win in a dive/whine-off between him, C Ronaldo, and Ruud Van Nistelrooy if each were on their best form.

And that was that. The 5 minutes of extra time were being played out, and all of Anfield were singing at the top of their lungs, when in the final minute an innocuous cross was played in and 1) Reina stayed on his line when many keepers would have taken 2 steps out and collected the ball and 2) Pool defender Riise, a strongly left footed player whose right foot is never used for soccer but only to stand on, declined the easy option of booting it out with his right foot and decided to try to clear the ball with a diving header. Instead he slotted a beautiful diving header past his own keeper for an own goal on literally the final touch of the match.

Heartbreak for The Pool, as 1) Chel$ea did not deserve to get anything from that match, and even a 0-1 loss would have flattered them a bit 2) now Chel$ea have the crucial away goal, so 0-0 at home and they win.

Some crazy stats that I've come across in the last 24 hours:

1. Yesterday was Liverpool's 9th European semifinal leg at Anfield, and they had never conceded a goal until that last second blunder yesterday. That is flat out amazing, and technically another team has still not scored on them. Remarkable considering the magnitude and assumed quality of the competition of such games.

2. Liverpool must now go to Stamford Bridge next week and score a goal to have any chance {1-0 gets them a win, 1-1 would get them extra time and perhaps penalties}. Sounds pretty simple, right? Liverpool have scored a grand total of zero goals in their last 8 trips to Stamford Bridge.

Today
Barcelona-Manchester United
11.45 a.m. ESPN2

In contrast to yesterday's matchup, both of these teams play attacking soccer and always try to score goals, so there's potential for this tie to live up to it's matchup of the season hype.

Barca have been the strangest team this year. On paper, they should win every game that they play in, given their insane collection of talent. But like Real Madrid's galacticos before them, it doesn't quite work out that way when they get off the paper and onto the field. They have been team turmoil this season {a very interesting read} and so it's hard to predict what might happen in this tie. Messi the wunderkind savior is back, but now Henry is injured, and talismanic capitan Puyol is suspended for card accumulation.

Their league challenge is dead, so this is all they have left to play for, making one think that they could band together and rise to the occasion. On the other hand, they could also stutter. I only know that the Camp Nou and it's 100,000 seats will be rocking tonight. The night I was there for a league match against Getafe 2 years ago there were maybe 65,000 - 70,000 people there, and it was still loud and an incredible atmosphere- I can't imagine what it would be like with a sold out and hyped up crowd.

ManUtd are favorites but have been a tad wobbly of late, and in the last round Roma outplayed them in Rome but ManUtd got the 2 goals. There's a chance for Barca to do the business but they will have to capitalize on any opportunities they get. Maybe C Ronaldo and Deco {if he sees the field} can have a diving contest of their own {although Deco interestingly seems to dive like Greg Louganis for his country but not so much for his club}.

Obviously this Arsenal fan is pulling for Barca in a major way.

*Update*

Barcelona 0-0 Manchester United
Even though this match had no goals to yesterday's 2, this one was, as predicted, much easier on the eyes.

The game opened with Barca conceding a penalty when Milito went all bump-set-spike in the 2nd minute. C Ronaldo stepped up to take the kick and tried to place the ball instead of shooting it {similar to baseball when they talk of pitchers aiming the ball instead of throwing it}, and it crashed off the bar. Very embarrassing for CR7, so of course I loved it.

The rest of the match Barca dominated, and as many chances as they created most were half-chances or not great chances, and they managed to not cash any of them in. They outshot ManUtd 20-7, shots on goal were 6-1, corners were 8-3 and possession was an astonishing 73%-27%. Rooneh and Tevez were completely invisible and both were substituted. Their only offense was Ronaldo, who seemed to be trying more to dive and draw another penalty kick for himself rather than score. Yesterday I said that Drogba was really bad about the diving and whining and gesticulating and complaining, but holy shit, CR7 was amazingly even worse today. All he did was dive, throw his arms up, complain, and yell at the officials, even on plays where he pushed a dude in the back to the ground, then fell to ground himself, then appealed for a foul, then complained and sulked like a 5 year old when he was rightly called for a foul. Granted he was fouled a few times during the match, but many more times his dives and whining was beyond pathetic, especially for such a talented player. I don't care if he scores 100 goals a season- I will never respect him because he is such a whiny little bitch, and a cheater and a diver to boot. I haven't been so happy to see a missed penalty since RVN's smash off the crossbar after Forlan's dive in the 2004 ManUtd-Arsenal 0-0 at Old Trafford.

So missed opportunity to gain a big advantage for Barca, but most importantly they did not concede an away goal, so they go to Old Trafford next week knowing that any scoring draw will see them through, and that if they can score 1 goal them ManUtd will need to score two.

Other observations:

Paul scholes is past it, and Fergie should have picked Anderson {unless he wasn't fit, but he was on the bench so I assume he was fit}. Does he feel obligated/indebted to play his longtime loyal guy in the remaining huge matches because Scholes missed the 1999 CL final due to card accumulation suspension?

Been meaning to write this all spring, but Tommy Smyth is completely past it and is basically a senile old man. Sad because he seemed to really be good and sharp 5-10 years ago. First the Hleb/Kuyt penalty clearly wasn't according to him, then the Toure/Babel one clearly was, then tonight the Ronaldo dive at the side edge of the box after being tackled was. This in addition to a bunch of other lunatic shit that he says these days. His "commentary" has become more of a disservice to the viewer than an aide. I suppose you knew he was past it a few years ago when he caved to whatever Disney exec who surely insisted that he sign off with "I'm Tommy Smyth with a yyyyyyyyyyy..." Should have known at that point that he had lost it.

Whether or not Messi was fully fit today, he was by far the best player on the park, and subbing him after 60 minutes when he didn't appear to be tired or hurt at all was really strange. Sad for him, as he signaled over to the bench more than once that he was fine and wanted to keep playing, only to be taken off.

Can't believe I have never written this here in 2+ years, because I think it every time I see Barca play, but you'd have to go a long way to convince me that Xavi doesn't wear makeup.

Return legs are next week: ManUtd-Barcelona on Tuesday, Chel$ea-Liverpool on Wednesday, both on ESPN2 at 11.45 a.m. PST.

1 comment:

Killing My Liver said...

Re: The Reds


ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Although it's not over, Starr Jones is warming up as we speak.