Friday, February 23, 2007

Champions League Round of 16: February 21

Barcelona 1 - 2 Liverpool
You couldn't write this script, could you? Bellamy scores, Riise scores, and Liverpool leave the Nou Camp with an amazing victory. And Bellamy celebrates with a golf swing, because that's exactly the kind of entertaining asshole he is.

Speaking of scripts, you know who could have used one? The announcers on ESPN. I realize that it's unorthodox to play Alvaro Arbeloa, nominally a right-back, on the left side of defence. (Although, doesn't Zambrotta switch back and forth all the time for Barcelona?) Regardless, it shouldn't have taken them the entire first half to figure this out. Maybe if they'd paid attention to what was actually happening instead of mistakenly berating the players for being out of position.

As for what was happening on the field: Liverpool started off well, but Barcelona gradually cranked up the pressure. A surging run from Zambrotta, a cross to the far post and some slack marking, and Deco (not exactly known for being good in the air) headed home the opening goal. It was all Barca for a while after that, and I was starting to think things were going to end very badly for Liverpool. But they held out and sneaked one back just before halftime. Actually, it was gifted to them by Victor Valdes, who caught Bellamy's header but slipped and let his momentum carry it over the line. (Valdes was apparently in self-destructive mode, as he also picked up a back-pass later in the game.)

Having made it to halftime with the score level, Liverpool looked solid in the second half, stifling every Barcelona attack. Meanwhile, on one of their occasional forays forward, Liverpool scored again, with some poor defending allowing Bellamy to set up Riise for the winning goal. Rijkaard's substitutions, bringing on Iniesta and Giuly, didn't have the intended effect and instead just made the team look disjointed. There were a few moments at the end of the game to make me nervous, including a free kick from Deco that hit the post and Pepe flapping at a couple of crosses, but this was far from being the fluid Barcelona football we're used to seeing. You could say that they just weren't up to par. (HA HA I KILL ME.)

Inter Milan 2 - 2 Valencia
I watched this game with the Spanish commentary, because that's the only version that was on TV here, so I didn't understand a word of what they were saying, aside from the occasional "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!" And it was still miles more enjoyable than the morons from ESPN. For one thing, I didn't spend the whole match wincing every time they mispronounced a player's name or were befuddled by the formation.

Inter were the better team throughout most of the game, and they'll be kicking themselves for conceding those two goals -- especially the second one. Although Valencia started brightly, Inter had the first real chances, first with a clearance from Canizares careening off an attacking player and having to be cleared off the line, and then with another attempt hitting the post. They finally scored from a free kick, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic poking it goalwards and Esteban Cambiasso heading home the rebound. It looked to me like Cambiasso was offside when Ibrahimovic made contact, but although the goal stood, karma was served when he had to go off injured shortly thereafter, apparently from bashing his head on the post in the follow-through. Valencia equalized in the second half with a venomous free kick from David Villa that curled around the wall, but Inter kept up the pressure and went ahead again 10 minutes later. It wasn't enough, though, as they conceded again late in the game to leave Valencia with the advantage heading into the second leg.

Porto 1 - 1 Chelsea
Has somebody out there got a John Terry voodoo doll? Because he's just come back from injury, and he limped out of this game with a sprained ankle after only ten minutes. (I do feel bad for him, actually. Not for Chelsea at all, but I have a bit of sympathy for him. Just a bit. He looked like a kicked puppy on Wednesday.) Anyway, with Terry on the sidelines being treated, Porto rubbed salt into his wounds and took advantage of a poor clearance to score the opening goal. Jose Mourinho responded by putting on Arjen Robben, and the substitution had an immediate impact, as Robben set up Andriy Shevchenko for the equalizer. I seem to recall saying that without Robben, Chelsea's attack looks unbalanced; does this mean I can start calling myself the Special One? Robben had to come off with an injury at halftime, and Chelsea were unable to score again despite dominating possession. Still, they'll be happy to take this result back to Stamford Bridge. They'd be happier if they were taking a healthy John Terry back as well.

Roma 0 - 0 Lyon
Another draw. Woo. I see that Roma are still playing with their "Strikers? Who needs 'em?" lineup, which probably explains why there wasn't even a goal to enliven things.


linda said...

My sincere congratulations re: Barca v Liverpool. Not to take anything away from Liverpool's performance, because it was a stirring comeback in typical Liverpool style, but we were absolutely dreadful. And now even if Eto'o is all better it's probably too late. It's Anfield, after all.

Jen said...

Thanks. I'm still not taking anything for granted, because I know that Barcelona are capable of thumping them 3-0 or whatever if they get their act together. It's not likely, since they'll be at Anfield, but it is possible. It's more than just getting Eto'o back, though -- they need everyone else to start playing like a team again.