Penalty defeat for Reds in Asia

Liverpool took on South Coast Premier League opposition Portsmouth in the humid heat in Hong Kong on Friday infront of a feisty and loud sell-out crowd.

The big debate that lasted until literally seconds before kick off was if Liverpool’s new record signing Fernado Torres would play any part, and thanks to some last minute work from the Premier League‘s chief executive and the thumbs off approval of Pompey boss Harry Redknapp ensured he would.

Portsmouth kicked off the game, and straight away Liverpool were on top, having most of the posession but not doing much with it. The first real chance of the game fell to Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt, who was starting alongside fellow Dutchman Ryan Babel upfront. Aussie Harry Kewell crossed from the left flank for Dirk, who really had time to control the ball but decided to flick the ball in mid air without taking a touch, to see the ball fly over ex-Liverpool goalkeeper David James’ bar.

Kuyt had most of Liverpool’s best chances during the first half, including a fine save from James from a Jermanie Pennant cross, which he did really well to get in as he was under pressure and pushed to the byline by the Pompey defence only to have Kuyt’s well timed header saved by the long legs of James.

Liverpool’s Malian workhorse Momo Sissoko was excellent throughout the match and showed a lot of attacking intent with Pompey letting him roam. He nearly took advantage of this several times throughout the match. The first time he seemed like a man out of his comfort zone as he charged through the Pompey backline only to be pushed off the ball by Sol Campbell.

New signing Ryan Babel disappointingly didn’t see a lot of the ball and only got one real chance when a mistake from David James where he took a horrible first touch and a slip to the ground, unfortunately Babel couldn’t capatalise quick enough to get the ball round James.

Pompey’s best chance of the first half fell to Gary O’Neil, when a brilliant defense splitting past set him one on one with Pepe Reina who stood up tall to save well with his feet.

Half time: 0-0

Liverpool again like in the semi-final made no half-time substitutions and were hoping to make posession count and try and breach the Pompey goal for the first time. Liverpool got off to a sharp start with Sissoko making another blistering run into the box, and going down under pressure. I cried out for a penalty, but on a replay looked like Momo went down cheaply to Sol’s dismay. But Momo was everywhere, hopefully he’ll put performances in like this regularly. (Take note Rafa)

The thoughts of the game turned to Fernado Torres, with the crowd going crazy, just waiting for El Nino to grace the field. When it finally came after 5 minutes of the second half on for for Kewell, the crowd went wild. Torres for his 40 minutes on the pitch showed glimpses off the £20 million Liverpool spent on him. With a few quick fire passes, and an excellent give and go with the outstanding Sissoko. Hearts were in the mouths of all that were in the stadium, when an extremely well taken first touch that had Pompey centre back Sylvain Distin in pieces for El Nino to fire just over. His next ‘˜near’ moment of glory was when an excellently timed kick from Reina set Torres on his way heading for James’ goal for the Pompey defender to cover well, but when all looked lost a flick out at the ball made James have to come out with an extremely good save down to his right.

Dirk Kuyt nearly scored the winner for Liverpool in the dieing seconds when Torres put a ball that just had too much on it through to him, but James dived on the ball quickly to stop the Dutchman.

Liverpool faced another penalty shoot-out.

Portsmouth’s new signing Utaka took the first penalty and got off to an awful start by putting it wide of the left hand post. Liverpool went 2-1 up with two very well taken penalty’s by Captain Steven Gerrard who was given a ‘˜God like’ welcome from the fans when he came on for the last 5 minutes (which maybe wasn’t the best thing to do due to his injury, but it pleased the fans, and was probably a bit to do with endorsement and marketing in Asia for the club.) And also Dirk Kuyt took his well. But at 2-2 it all went down hill when new boy Fernado Torres stepped up and hit a very poorly taken penalty at the right height for James to make a fairly comfortable save. Then another new boy Yossi Benayon stepped up and had the same fate, but this time forced James to make an excellent low dive to his left hand corner to tip the ball past the post. Portsmouth’s Niko Kranjcar won it for Portsmouth with a very well taken penalty beating Pepe Reina easily in the Liverpool goal.

Same old story as last campaign cost us again. We just couldn’t take our chances, and turn games we dominated into a win. Hopefully this will change by the start of the new campaign.

Congratulations to Harry Redknapp and his boys for the win, and a nice touch from Harry in his post match comments saying we played some excellent football at times, and we will be up there challenging for the title next season.

We should have won it, but it wasn’t to be in a game we dominated.

Better look in Holland boys.

Portsmouth win the 2007 Asia Trophy, 4-2 on penalties.

Report by Matthew Watson