Thursday, November 03, 2005

Champions League Matchday 4: November 1-2

Liverpool 3-0 Anderlecht
I wish I'd been able to see this game (TSN showed PSV-Milan instead) because it's a solid result for Liverpool and sounds like they played quite well. Admittedly against a much weaker side, but then we are talking about a Liverpool team that went down to Crystal Palace just last week, so. Good to see the strikers finally scoring -- a Liverpool win without a goal from Stevie G? How shocking! I still don't understand Rafa's thing for Peter Crouch, though. I can only assume he pulled Morientes off because of injury -- if not, there's no excuse, because he's been playing well and seems to make just as good a target man as Crouch, with the added bonus of actually being able to find the net.

Real Betis 1-0 Chelsea
Oh, the glorious schadenfreude that is Liverpool winning and Chelsea losing. There's no way that Jose Mourinho can spin this as anything but a defeat, right? Chelsea looked fairly solid but hardly overwhelming -- not nearly as dangerous as they can be. Betis played a very physical game, and they were damn lucky subsituting Dani for the injured Oliveira -- he was giving the Chelsea back line fits all night.

Lille 1-0 Manchester United
What can I say about United's horrific performance that I didn't already say after the Middlesbrough game on Saturday? How about this: Their defence was abysmal too. Way too many times when there were two or three defenders just standing around ball-watching, rather than closing down their marks. And when they did challenge for the ball, half the time they were chasing from behind the player, rather than being goal-side as they should have been to begin with.

I think Sir Alex made a bad decision moving Silvestre out to the left and playing The Wes Brown Comedy Experience (TM The Guardian) in the centre. You know Brown is going to suck, so if you must put him in the lineup (and why drop Bardsley, who has been solid so far, in favour of John O'Shea's continual mis-hit passes?), why not stick him out on the left so he can suck there, and leave Silvestre in the middle, where he may suck too, but at least it's a position he's used to playing. (Note: Number of times I have used the word "suck" in this paragraph is directly proportional to the suckiness of United's back four. Rio: suck suck suck.)

As for the offence: well, you've got two of the best strikers in the premiership, if not the world, in Rooney and Van Nistelrooy, plus Ronaldo on the wing -- and yet they still couldn't score. I think it's partly because they were getting no service from the rest of the team, and partly because they tried to do too much to compensate, and got themselves into trouble instead. Ronaldo pulled out all his tricks but kept forgetting to look up and find a player to pass to instead of getting buried in the middle of three defenders.Rooney spent way too much time drifting out to the right wing. Van Nistelrooy's reward for wearing the captain's armband was getting dumped on his ass by the Lille players every five minutes -- for once, it wasn't always because he was diving.

So much of soccer is a psychological game -- the skill is essential, of course, but so are the almost instinctive split-second decisions and that indefinable passion and drive. United don't have that right now, and it shows.

Tuesday's games
E PSV Eindhoven 1-0 AC Milan
E Schalke 2-0 Fenerbah├že
F Olympiacos 1-4 Lyon
H Artmedia 2-2 Rangers
H Inter Milan 2-1 Porto

Wednesday's games
A Club Brugge 3-2 Rapid Wien
A Juventus 2-1 Bayern M├╝nchen
B Arsenal 3-0 Sparta Praha
B Thun 2-4 Ajax
C Barcelona 5-0 Panathinaikos
C Werder Bremen 4-3 Udinese
D Benfica 0-1 Villarreal

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