Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Champions League Matchday 4: Liverpool 8-0 Besiktas

Eight-nil. EIGHT-NIL. That's four times as many goals as Liverpool had scored in the group up until now, as a matter of fact. It's hard to convey just how thoroughly they dominated this game if you didn't see it, but how about this stat: one measley shot on target for Besiktas versus 19 for Liverpool. Yeah. Needless to say, Pepe Reina and the rest of the back line had very little to do. As for the rest of the team, they played extremely well, although it's hard to judge that accurately because Besiktas were abysmal. Their defending was almost comically inept, and the goalkeeper just couldn't seem to hold on to the ball -- he made Paul Robinson look world-class in comparison.

But regardless of the quality of the opposition, it was good to see Liverpool playing the ball around so easily, stretching the play across the entire field and finishing confidently. The whole team was just clicking, although I thought Yossi Benayoun, who scored a hat-trick and created a whackload of other chances, was one of the standout players, along with Andriy Voronin, who seemed to be everywhere and did just about everything but score. After Peter Crouch scored the opener, that seemed to ease the pressure, and Liverpool were 2-0 up and cruising by halftime. But they didn't retreat into a defensive shell for a change, coming out even stronger and absolutely destroying Besiktas in the second half.

They did have a bit of luck as well, like with Ryan Babel's second goal, or the way the ball broke into Peter Crouch's path for the opener. But a lot of their goals were also created by hard work and getting into the right place at the right time -- like Benayoun's second and third -- or by beautiful bits of skill -- like Steven Gerrard's surging run and one-two with Voronin for the fifth goal, or Babel's cheeky backheel for the sixth. Overall, it was just a fantastic team performance.

As for why they couldn't do this before? I have no idea, really. Playing at home shouldn't be that big an advantage, although I do think it was a factor in Besiktas offering slightly more robust opposition a couple weeks ago in Turkey. The thing is, though, that Liverpool weren't terrible last time -- aside from their finishing, that is -- and they were a bit unlucky that Besiktas took the lead with an own-goal. Certainly, they were worse against Porto in Portugal, when they were outplayed and had a man sent off, but scrounged a draw nonetheless. And they were much, much worse against Marseille at Anfield, when they unquestionably should have won but totally failed to step up. Maybe they were too constrained by the pressure of not losing those games, whereas this time, when there was even more pressure and they absolutely had to win, there was nothing to do but go for it.

Or maybe Rafa spiked their Wheaties. Who knows.

Meanwhile, in the other games:

  • Porto 2-1 Marseille: Porto earned a tight victory over Marseille to vault them into first place in the group. This result makes things a little tougher for Liverpool, though.

  • Valencia 0-2 Rosenborg: An extremely disappointing result for Valencia, losing at home to the Norwegian underdogs, thanks to two goals from Steffen Iversen.

  • Schalke 0-0 Chelsea: Chelsea eked out a lucky draw with Schalke that still leaves them well positioned to qualify for the next round. The most serious consequence, though, was losing Petr Cech to a calf injury that may require surgery.

  • Lazio 2-1 Werder Bremen: Three much-needed points for Lazio, with two goals from Tommasso Rocchi. Diego put away a late penalty for the German side, but it wasn't enough, as they fall to the bottom of Group C.

  • Olympiakos 0-0 Real Madrid: Olympiakos frustrated Real Madrid, with neither team able to score, although Madrid remain undefeated and comfortably on top of their group.

  • Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 AC Milan: It was all scoreless at halftime, but Milan broke through in the last half-hour with two goals from Pippo Inzaghi and one from Kaka -- also set up by Inzaghi -- to move three points clear of the Ukrainian team.

  • Celtic 1-0 Benfica: A goal by Aiden McGeady just before halftime was enough for Celtic, whose solid home form continues with a win over Benfica that moves them level with Shakhtar Donetsk on points in Group D.

No comments: