Wednesday, April 9, 2008

You're Once... Twice... Three Times, A Blown Lead...

6 minutes from the CL semifinal was agonizing, needed a minute to collect my thoughts...

Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal
0-1 Diaby 13'
1-1 Hyypia 30'
2-1 Torres 69'
2-2 Adebayor 84'
3-2 Gerrard PK 85'
4-2 Babel 90'

Multi-language highlights over a Justin Timberlake track:


Highlights from last week's 1-1 first leg {sorry, no JT}:


Liverpool advance 5-3 on aggregate

Alot of my thoughts on the match are in the comments section of the previous post, but in no particular order:

- First off, there are a bunch of Liverpool fans that hang out around here, so I want to begin by offering my congratulations to you all. I don't think it's too harsh to call Liverpool a somewhat limited side, but yet again, for the umpteenth time, something Pavlovian happened when the Champions League anthem was played, and per usual they somehow found a way to grind out a result and get the job done. It's uncanny, and there's not much more to say other than when it comes to the Champions League, The Pool be on that kryptonite, straight up on that kryptonite, Pool be on that, straight up on that, Pool be on that kryptonite.

- Secondly, respek to Stevie G for his classy post game comments {I can't ever imagine a ManUtd or Chel$ea player saying this}:

“Arsenal are a fantastic team. At times they passed us off the pitch. That was possibly one of the worst performances I’ve ever put in in a Liverpool shirt.”

More on that last sentence in a bit.

- Or right now. The key moment in the match for me was when Flamini went off after 30 minutes and was replaced with Gilberto, who these days is sadly a total shell of his former self. Flamini has been an amazing defensive midfielder all year, and after bossing EPL midfields and then completely neutralizing world player of the year Kaka over two legs against Milan, he did the same to Stevie G in the first leg as well as the first 30 minutes of the match yesterday. As a result Arsenal dominated the midfield in both instances, enjoyed the lion's share of the possession, and prevented Liverpool from looking functional at all. When he went off and Gilberto came on, the whole dynamic of the match changed and now it was Liverpool who controlled the midfield, kept much more possession, and was able to get into comfortable and dangerous offensive rythms time and again. It's stunning how far Gilberto has fallen, and especially sad since he is such a great guy. Anyhow, this subtle change in the game was huge over the last 60 minutes, and Arsene needs to sack up and pay Flamini whatever he wants- dude is only 24, runs his ass off, is a hard nut, and plays with controlled fire and passion- basically a French Gattuso. Sign him up long term please, Arsenal are a much worse side with him out, as was proven quite dramatically yesterday.

-I was wrong in my prediction for the match- it was Arsenal who came out blazing and completely dominated the match from the off, while Liverpool bunkered down and tried to survive. Diaby's goal on 13 minutes meant that Liverpool had to come out and play, and they did. I must also credit Rafa/Liverpool for playing to win when 2-1 up instead of playing 10 men behind the ball, although I feel a part of that was that Liverpool were controlling the midfield and match due to the Flamini/Gilberto thing described above. Still, Rafa went for it instead of closing up shop like the tactical pussy {but shrewd pussy} that he often is, so credit where credit is due.

-For 3-4 months now Solon and I have been commiserating weekly on the phone about how it is just stunning that Eboue plays in front of Walcott, and how stunning it is how terrible and completely useless Eboue has been this year. For fuck's sake, Eboue has contributed 0 goals and 1 assist from the right wing all season, and specializes in giving the ball away {when he is not diving}. Walcott is still young, raw, and not the finished article, but he is an infinitely better option than Eboue on the right and in his limited appearances this year has contributed 5 goals and 4 assists. The contrast yesterday between Eboue's 70 mintes and Theo's 20 was again stunning, and after Theo's great performance highlighted by that amazing 80 yard end to end run and set up on the looked like tie winning goal on the world's biggest stage, we're basically at the point now that if Eboue starts over Theo this weekend against Manchester United then the only logical explanation is that all those disgusting ManUtd/Spurs/Chel$ea fans are right, that Arsene Wenger is in fact a pedophile, and that Eboue has the proof and is using it as ransom in exchange for his starting place.

- Also, could we have a new rule whereby Phillipe Senderos can play against Fulham, Wigan, Boro, Spurs, and basically anyone else except the top 4? He is a good defender but against world class strikers he is simply out of his depth. The "marking" on the Hyypia goal was shambolic, and although many are giving him a pass of the Torres goal, noting how great Torres is and there's not much many defenders could have done against that, look at it again and tell me why oh why, when Torres has the ball in your penalty area, would you play 3 yards off him and give him the space to turn and shoot with absolute ease? New rule: if Drogba or Torres or Rooneh is on the teamsheet, Senderos sits. It's that simple.

-I guess we should talk about the penalties. I think I'm somewhere between Myles and Arseblogger. The one yesterday was super soft and tough to take considering KT didn't push or really foul Babel, it was more clumsy and they just got a bit tangled up, but we've all seen penalties given for such things and less {although we've also seen yesterday's incident, and worse, not given as well}. On the other hand, you don't make contact with a player in the box in the last 5 minutes of a CL elimination match, especially not on a Liverpool player at Anfield in front of the Kop, and expect a penalty to not be given. As Myles said, if your man beats you in that situation, you let him go by and make him then beat your keeper. Also, part of the whole setup was Arsenal's defense still celebrating Adebayor's goal and not shifting from potential tie-winning euphoria back to concentrating on the task at hand and being ready to refocus when the ball is put back into play.

I can live with the penalty being given yesterday, but when taken together with the beyond horrible no call last week when Kuty clearly arm-tackled Hleb in the box and it was not given, even though the referee was 5 feet in front of the play looking right at it, is just a massive kick in the balls. Whether or not the fact that last week's referee was from the same hometown in Holland as Kuyt is relevant or not doesn't matter: it was 10x more a penalty than Toure's awkward pseudo-collision with Babel, so taken together that is a very bitter pill to swallow. Right after it happened I reflected on something I wrote after last week's match:

But that penalty no call will still haunt me next week when Liverpool 1) hold out for a 0-0 or 2) win on a fluky goal.

And I feel like the penalty qualified under #2 above.

- That being said, shit, these things happen, that's the way the cookie crumbles, etc, etc. And it's not like Arsenal didn't have a whole bunch of opportunities to win the tie and make any dodgy last minute refereeing decisions completely moot, so the focus should be on that as much as the penalties. The total domination last week, Bendtner literally kicking out a ball that was 1 foot from rolling into the net {holy shit what a controversy that would have been if he didn't as he was judged, very late indeed, to be in an offsides position when Hyypia was standing on the goal line and another Liverpool player was behind the goal line altogether}, Adebayor's chance in the second half, and many, many more. Finally, as much as it pains me to say this, it's not a guarantee that if the penalty was rightfully given against Kuyt last week that Reina wouldn't have saved it. I think 75-85% of penalties are converted, so it was probably but not certain that it would have resulted in a goal {and of course then everything would have changed and the rest of the match would have been played differently, etc, etc, etc}

- And let's not forget also that Arsenal took the lead in this tie not once, not twice, but three times, and all together protected those 3 combined leads for a grand total of 22 minutes {4 min, 17 min, 1 min}. So I can totally see where whining about penalties would ring hollow with neutrals/opponents- looked at another way they have no one else but themselves to blame, whether they couldn't seem to catch a break or not.

- So that's that. Again, congratulations to Liverpool. The Champions League isn't a beauty contest, and it's not about playing the most attractive soccer, it's about results, and Liverpool got the result by showing almost their entire repertoire of the ways they can score: 1) set piece 2) hopefully punted route 1 longball to Torres and hope for a moment of magic {29 moments of magic in 40 matches sure seems worth $50 million now, eh?} 3) a penalty 4) a breakaway by a fresh and newly introduced Babel against an exhausted Fabregas after the other team has 10 men in The Pool's box trying to desperately get an equalizer. The only thing missing was a fluky deflection, or the occasional Stevie G rocket shot from outside the box. But again, it worked, they got the result, and they move on, and also once again Arsenal played beautiful stuff, creted numerous chances, and converted exactly 1 less than they needed to win. In that regard this 2 legged tie was a perfect microcosm of both teams.

- I have been trying to get to Zen place about this for nearly 24 hours, and I think I finally have by realizing that I would much rather lose to Liverpool in the CL quarterfinals than win only to lose to Chel$ea in the CL semifinals- that would be 10x worse.

-So congratulations again to The Pool and best of luck against Chel$ea- I'm sure that when 2 weeks rolls around I will be pulling hard for the Reds against the Blue$, and ditto if it's The Pool-ManUtd in the final. Hopefully Barca will win the whole damn thing, or at least Barca and Liverpool can do something to stop the worst potential CL matchup of all time for an Arsenal fan: Chle$ea- ManUtd. I'm not sure I'd watch that, as literally I would not know what to do- what to root for, if I would want every pass to be completed or intercepted, etc- it would truly be dividing by zero for my brain.

So Come On The Pool! and Forca Barca!

7 comments:

Killing My Liver said...

Good stuff, my man.
I agree with about 99% of what you said, and the other 1% can be attributed to Gooner colored glasses. While I agree the penalty was soft, the previous non call looked worse, but was a tangle in the same right. But, that is from scouse eyes. So, 6 of one, half dozen of the other.
Eboue is horrible, and Walcott scares the piss out of me. I'm glad you see past the penalty to what the real problem was: horrible defense, and missed opportunities.

Kanu said...

Thanks man.

Now go out there and beat Chel$ea. If y'all lose to those fuckers then you, BIB & Ryno are all banned from here for 1 week. Two if Barca also fail to beat ManUtd.

Killing My Liver said...

I'm scared of Anelka/Drogba. The Reds have shown alarming lapses in the defense in the past 2 matches, and this leg didn't help any with the fatigue.
Hopefully Babel will figure out a a different move than faking towards the middle then running down the touch line.
This is Torres' time to shine, and I think he will. That goal yesterday was nothing short of sublime.
Remember: ABC - Anyone But Chelsea

Bel Riose said...

Kanu,

Your comments about Senderos were spot-on. He really got schooled yesterday. The (non)marking on the corner was painful to watch on replay. And as you and others have observed, the team lost focus after equalizing 2-2 and didn't play defense. I love Arsenal's style of play, but for all the entertainment value, where's the silverware? Maybe we need a bit less flash and dash, and more of the old-style "boring, boring Arsenal".

beast in 'bama said...

Dude, I just saw your AWESOME ht: on the Leningrad Cowboys at EDSBS. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

That's like a cross between the Wizard of Oz, the Red Army, the B-52s, and Dr. Seuss!

As I said in the comments over there, I’ll be passing through Muscle Shoals tomorrow. While there, I’ll stop and ask if they’ve still got “a Swamperz.”

Go with it, god damn!

(Banned for a week, huh? Can't have that...)

Kanu said...

BIB-

No problemo, it was actually sent to be today my a friend of mine. I'm saving it for Feel Good Friday, but shared it with Swindle and he couldn't resist, and rightfully so. It is pretty epic. You'll see it again here in a couple of days.

Brain said...

I'm sorry about the Gunners Hitting the shit! I followed it in my cube this week. Tons of chances no conversion. I saw the UGA/UVA 98 Peach Bowl Game on classic at lunch. How ddi the Dawgs not win more?!?!?!?! Show the Hit a good time