The annual semi-final with Chelsea arrived and the sun was out to bring memories of 2007 flooding back when the Annie Road End was bathed in sunlight as Agger hit that goal’¦ The weather added to the atmosphere around the ground and inside with the Kop filling up early on. ‘˜We’re gonna bounce in a minute’ declared one banner in recognition of the Torres song, another paid respect to Reds fan Liam Harker ‘“ both were outside the Sandon pre-match and Liam’s took pride of place where Torres’ normally appears in the Kop/Centenary corner.
I’d missed the last two semi-finals due to differing circumstances (I had to watch last year’s in a British bar in California surrounded by Cockney’s and Yanks, thank god we won that one) so this was finally my first Champions League semi-final, mind the Uefa Cup semi against Barca in 2001 was my first European semi, I was hoping for a moment like Gary Macca’s penalty’¦. It arrived just before half time, and Dirk Kuyt is becoming somewhat of a Gary Mac with his goals in the Champions League this year. That’s seven in 10 for the Dutch forward turned wingback/midfielder!
The thing with the goal was that it was Kuyt who actually won the ball from Lampard on the edge of the box then managed to stay on his feet under pressure from Makelele from behind and Cech coming at him, and Cech isn’t exactly small, but he finished it well and it was much deserved. I lost count of the number of times he harried players into giving up possession and/or winning the ball back. What he does so effectively is win the ball back high up the pitch meaning we retain possession high up and keep the pressure on the opposition’s defence, it’s clear to see why Rafa likes him in this role, especially in this sort of game. Even defensively he won the ball many a time with a player running at him. And the amount of times he controlled the ball on his chest from a long ball, impressive for anyone but especially for a player with Kuyt’s usually poor first touch!
Another player who did this well was Alonso, he’s been off form all season but he was definitely on form ‘“ including some class little turns and skills, like in the build up to the goal, showing more than a glimpse of the old Xabi with his passing and awareness. If you want to see something funny too, watch the goal but watch Alonso at the bottom there actually volleying the ball himself! Brilliant.
Going back a bit and to Torres’ one-on-one chance ‘“ I’d have bet my house on him putting that away, I still can’t believe he messed it up so badly. He took one touch too many allowing Cech to make himself big then fluffed the shot. Did the occasion get to him? Maybe, not that I’d blame him.
What really annoyed me most was the fact that both Torres and Drogba spent most the night on the floor ‘“ except in completely different circumstances! I already hated Drogba before this (didn’t we all) but he completely took the piss ‘“ aided by a crap ref out his depth and too scared to clamp down on his play-acting. Players should be booked if they pretend to be that injured the stretcher comes on but then doesn’t even get used. There’s no point me typing away about how much of a cunt Drogba is though because we knew all that already. What was good to see was how much the Kop got to him, with his crap touch letting him down several times in the second half, I think I spotted him spitting his dummy out a good 15 times ‘“ not just at the crowd though but at his team mates too. I’d be ashamed to play alongside him, he makes Emile Heskey look like he stays on his feet. But the treatment of Torres is more the point here, and once again the lack of protection from the aforementioned crap ref.
|A familiar sight – anyone seen the assassin?|
What else? Oh yes, that. Oh shit. My view was half obscured by scarves but having seen the replay I can completely question how a professional footballer can be so one-footed he cannot hoof the ball away with the other foot. I don’t agree with the scapegoating of Riise by certain people but there’s no doubting it will be one of his last act’s in a Liverpool shirt. The injury to Aurelio was maybe the turning point in the whole tie as we will miss him down at the Bridge too. Will Rafa play Riise next week or maybe switch Carra to left back and bring Sami back in?
I have to say, I don’t agree with Rafa’s post-match comments regarding the criticism of time added on ‘“ mind, why the fuck Sky Sports News choose to show up Benitez with their breakdown of the time, have they ever done that when Mourinho, Wenger, Ferguson have moaned similarly? Have they bollocks. Anyway, I digress, I’d much have preferred Rafa to comment on the brutal treatment of Torres and the ref’s failure to put any authority on the game and the fact Terry the thug stamped on Torres ‘“ notice that’s gone unnoticed by the great British media’¦ I’m not trying to make excuses but the ref was shocking, he was a wimp reffing a game which was too big for him and let them get away with their antics, Drogba in particular.
So now we’re left looking for somebody to take Bruno Cheyrou’s place as the last Liverpool player to score at Stamford Bridge. We’ve definitely got it stacked against us with Chelsea‘s home record and our record there but there’s no reason we can’t do it, as ever with these types of games, the first goal will be key.
|SKRTEL: Took care of Drogba|
I wanted to end on a positive and that for me is Martin Skrtel. My god what a signing he is proving to be. He handled Drogba perfectly (much better than the bloody ref did) and there was one bit in particular which had me chuckling in the second half, I can’t remember if it was Drogba for definite but Skrtel stepped in, took the ball away and rather than hoof it up field he showed composure on such a huge stage to play more of a placed long ball down the left. He is definitely one of Rafa’s best signings, already, and how fast he has settled in is even more impressive. Remember it took Agger until the following season before he fit in, Skrtel though looks to have a very long future at Anfield.
Bring on the Bridge next week, let’s end our post-Cheyrou hoodoo and put their home record to bed in style whilst killing Abramovich’s dream of a Russian final. Kuyt first scorer anyone?