Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Champions League Semi-final: Liverpool v. Chelsea

Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (1-1 on aggregate; Liverpool win 4-1 on penalties)

210 minutes of football, and this is what it came down to in the end: Petr Cech, supposedly the best goalkeeper in the world, saved zero out of four penalties. Pepe Reina saved two out of three, because he is a fucking stud. And so Liverpool are going to Athens.

I have to admit that I was sceptical about the lineup at first, with Zenden at left midfield and Xabi Alonso on the bench (so that's why he had to play against Portsmouth). But it was designed to use the wings and put crosses in to Peter Crouch, exploiting the absence of Ricardo Carvalho from the heart of Chelsea's defence. It was a smart strategy, and it worked for the most part, although Liverpool's one goal came not from a high ball but from a beautifully worked set piece. Steven Gerrard squared the free kick to Daniel Agger on the edge of the box, who curled it perfectly around the defenders and in at the near post. Maybe a bit of redemption for his performance against Drogba last week. He also had a much better game at the other end of the pitch -- Drogba still saw a lot of the ball, but Agger and Carragher pretty much shut him down.

Gerrard was much more effective than in the first leg as well. (And his hair was much less stupid; coincidence?) I don't want to get into the endless debate about what his best position is, but I don't think the difference is entirely due to where he plays; it depends on the approach he brings to the game and the way the team plays around him, too. Anyway, he and Mascherano won the battle with Lampard and the rest of the Chelsea midfield, although they did miss Alonso's passing and the ability to build the attack.

Mourinho is claiming (of course) that Chelsea deserved victory because they were the only team that was really trying to win. This, in my ever so unbiased opinion, is bullshit. Liverpool definitely wanted it more from the outset -- closing players down quickly, fighting for every ball -- and they were dominating possession at halftime. Other than Drogba, Chelsea's attackers were almost invisible. It was more evenly balanced in the second half, but Liverpool still had a few good chances, including Kuyt hitting the bar. And then in extra-time, Kuyt had another effort ruled out for an extremely marginal offside call. Chelsea may have been showing a bit more sense of adventure than Liverpool as extra time went on, but that's hardly surprising given how damaging an away goal for Chelsea would have been.

Maybe it wasn't the best game for neutrals in terms of the level of skill on display. But if you had the slightest partisan interest, it was riveting. Culminating in a penalty shoot-out, which I still hate, but Livepool could almost, almost make me like them. I am a total sucker for that line of boys in red with their arms around each other, erupting in joy after the winning shot.

A final note: I have less than zero tolerance for the theatrical crumbling of Drogba et al. Particularly since I took an elbow to the jaw in my game on Monday and still stayed on my feet. In other words, suck it up, you fucking pussies.


Anonymous said...

Abramovich should get rid of Mourinho.

Jess said...

We're going to Athens!!!!!!!!!

Hin said...

Interesting points you make in your entry.

Love the bit about Drogba, fukkin diver. Robben is much worst though. That guy should be awarded an Oscar for his acting. shocking