Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Champions League Round of 16: February 19

Liverpool 2-0 Inter
For 85 minutes, I thought that this was going to be one of those nights. One of those games where, no matter how much Liverpool dominated, they just weren't going to score.

Liverpool started strongly, pushing Inter back and forcing the defenders into errors, like those two fouls by Materazzi on Torres. That may have added up to a harsh red card -- although, come on, if you were going to bet on a player being sent off, it would totally have been Matrix. But even with a one-man advantage and almost 70% of possession, they still couldn't find a way through. You could see the same problems that have plagued them all season with their inability to kill games off; they really didn't create enough clear chances to test the keeper. In fact, I was starting to worry that it would be Inter who'd manage to steal a goal.

But finally, it was the much-maligned Dirk Kuyt who scored the crucial goal for Liverpool, with a lot of help from a deflection. I still don't understand Rafa's penchant for playing him as a winger (considering that he has neither speed nor a great deal of skill on the ball), but at least he was in the right place at the right time for once. By that point, Inter's defence had been weakened further as their other centre half, Ivan Cordoba, had already been taken off injured. And substitute Patrick Vieira, who looks to be about half the player he once was, had been very lucky not to concede a penalty after a blatant handball in the box.

Gerrard added a bit of gloss to the scoreline with a 90th-minute goal that found its way through a crowd of players and arrowed in off the far post. That leaves Liverpool with a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg in Milan, with the bonus of not having given up an away goal. How come they can do it against the best teams in Europe but not against fucking Barnsley? Gah.

Also: Shut up, Tommy Smyth. I should know better than to expect anything insightful from the ESPN commentators, but really. Whatever strategy Liverpool tried yesterday, he criticized. First he didn't like that they were playing the ball back and forth across the pitch -- despite the fact that that's a pretty good way to pull the other team out of position, especially when they're a man down. Then he said that they needed to keep possession more. (More than 70%? Whatever.) Then he said that rather than holding on to the ball, they should be running at defenders instead. Eedjit.

Roma 2-1 Real
Real will be disappointed not to have come away with at least a draw, after taking an early lead with a goal from Raul and dominating much of the play. But Roma got over their intra-team squabbling and came back to win the game, helped by a deflected goal and then a defensive lapse by Gabriel Heinze. Poor Iker Casillas. He deserves better.

Olympiakos 0-0 Chelsea
"Do I want to watch Chelsea grind out another stultifying scoreless draw?" I asked myself. And the answer was, emphatically, no. Instead, I will give you this statistic: Five shots on target in the whole game. For both teams combined. That's the excitement of European competition, right there.

Schalke 1-0 Porto
Kevin Kuranyi gave his team a narrow lead with an early goal. I strongly disapprove of Kevin Kuranyi's facial hair.


weenie said...

I watched the first half of the Liverpool/Inter game at my sports club. There was a Man U fan sitting next to me who gave me a running commentary that went something like..
"...crap...crap...rubbish..offside...crap...stupid....crap..." etc.

Think he went to the same commentary school as Tommy Smyth?

Fortunately, I was able to watch the second half in peace!

thesportsgranola said...

Got to love Liverpool gal! No way did I think they had a chance. But leave it to Rafa, he wins in Europe. Good site, I will be back.