The road to Moscow certainly will not be smooth, or even paved, the whole way.
A 1-1 draw at Porto isn’t a bad result. Especially when your team starts flat, you don’t test the opponent’s goalkeeper, your captain goes invisible, your bone-headed winger can’t control himself, you go down to ten men and one player continually fleeces your defense.
Considering, not a bad result at all.
So much for Rafa wanting to kick off the CL with a win. But the way the day turned out, a point is more than fair. Much of the credit should go to Porto. Their team came ready to play, instantly applying pressure in all the uncomfortable areas, immediately disjointing Liverpool’s shape and cohesion.
I have my issues with Hyypia’s starting position (I liked the rest of the line-up), but my biggest beef on the day has to be with the overall squad motivation. From the first whistle, there was no apparent hunger. It wasn’t until the 88th minute that Liverpool showed any sort of sheer determination.
Outside of that, the defense was ordinary most of the game (with a few notable moments), forced to bail themselves out after being broken down (over and over). The attack failed to create real on-goal attempts. The overall passing was sub-par. The captain was a non-factor.
I’m not angry, but I do expect some serious improvement.
Goal links via 101 Great Goals…
My thoughts on the game:
- Since it was the opening day of the CL proper, ESPN treated us to a quick recap of the Athens final. I can’t say it had any effect on my heart beat or blood pressure. Turns out, some wounds heal quicker than others.
- One change for Porto from their weekend game. *mock scoff* One change? Amatuers.
- I got a kick out hearing that Harry Kewell was not available. At this point, everybody can assume he’s not available until you hear the earth-shattering news that he’s fit and ready to go (meaning, of course, when there’s a cup final).
- My guess is that Sami’s inclusion in the starting XI is more about keeping the Finn involved and in some sort of match fitness than resting the 22-year old Agger.
- Porto came out of the gate ready to attack. A horrible defensive miscue by Finnan almost cost Liverpool two minutes in. Carra, Reina and Gerrard bailed him out. That probably should have been a Porto goal.
- Early on, Porto pressured Liverpool all over the pitch — especially with the defenders, giving them no time to think on the ball or casually pick out a pass. If you’ve got the talent, this is the wisest way to go after LFC.
- 8 minutes in and another penalty is awarded after Hyypia failed to deal with danger properly and Reina brought Merieles down. Gonzalez never gave Reina a chance.
- Liverpool’s newfound fondness for giving away penalty kicks this season is outrageous! And if it weren’t for penalties, nobody would have scored on us yet this season.
- I’m not sure if the squad started the game expecting more space & time then they were afforded, but Liverpool looked flat, lethargic and uninspired. Or, in other words, they looked like complete ass.
- Tommy Smyth thought Carra was Finnan. Par for the course.
- Liverpool were able to settle back into the game. A freekick by Finnan, headed on by Hyypia and finished by Kuyt brought the good guys level.
- I wouldn’t say the ref was calling the game tightly, but he certainly wasn’t giving much quarter either.
- Pennant really needs to work on his tackling. Specifically, the timing. We know he’s capable of learning and progressing as he did last season with his runs and crosses, but his game is still deficient in this defensive area (even for a winger).
- A majority of Liverpool’s attack in the first half came through the flanks, but Gerrard’s anonymity was nevertheless rather disconcerting.
- Quaresma looks to be worth every penny of his reported 20M pricetag. On more than one occasion tonight, he made some very fine defenders look like amatuers.
- Pennant is an idiot. Even though the Porto defender made a meal out of it, Pennant’s lack of discipline in tackling cost him and the team. I’ve defended him in the past, skill-wise, but I will not stand by him when he repeatedly shows he can’t control his emotions on the pitch. There was no reason to tackle the player when you’re going out of bounds. A silly, stupid foul. Getting sent off was actually a perfect representation of Pennant’s poor evening.
- Reina was incredibly lucky not to get burned when one of his punches failed and he was stranded at the top of the 18. Thankfully, good ole Sami was there to clear what could have been a opportunistic Quaresma goal.
- There wasn’t a dramatic difference between 11-man Liverpool and 10-man Liverpool. Kuyt did a great job of defending after Pennant’s exit. Maybe the Dutchman can teach Jermaine a little something about defending as an attacker.
- If Gerrard was quiet in the first half, then he was practically non-existant for the second. He almost fed Kuyt for a late winner, if not for the intervention of Quaresma. I don’t think I’m wrong to expect much much more from our captain. That said, I know he expects just as much from himself.
- Voronin for Torres in the 76th minute, not long after El Nino picked up a yellow card.
- Kuyt took a headbutt in the back of the head. That shit hurts.
- A welcome sight in the 85th minute, as Fabio Auriello made his return to action, replacing Babel.
- Liverpool made a late surge in the last couple minutes, but were a few fractions short of stealing the full share of points. There is a certain satisfaction in seeing the side, a man down, going forward in search of a winner.
5 Questions Answered:
- Can Liverpool take advantage of Porto’s back-up goalkeeper? Much like the Pompey game, Liverpool rarely tested the ‘keeper. They HAVE to shoot more.
- Will Quaresma be the difference-maker for his side? He’s utterly impressive. And he’s only 24. I hope he doesn’t end up at Chelsea.
- If Crouch doesn’t feature, how many more ‘Crouch is unhappy’ reports will we be subjected to this week? I’m preparing myself to read about it all season long.
- How fit is Auriello and how much action will he see? A small cameo for the Brazilian, but it’s encouraging to see him back on the pitch.
- Is there any chance Tommy Smyth won’t be doing the commentary for ESPN? No such luck. Shockingly, I didn’t hear one ‘Onion Bag’ reference.
To augment your CL knowledge, Soccernet has a preview of the Champions League, group by group. You can read about Group A here.
In other head-scratching news, Big Sam has been running his big trap about Rafa.
Rafa would be very lucky to be in a job if he hadn’t got to two Champions League finals, because they have had some very, very poor finishes in the Premier League.
While they are a very good Champions League team, they are not a Premier League-winning team yet. They don’t have that mentality to win that yet.
Being a foreigner, Rafa doesn’t understand it’s supposed to be Premier League first and Champions League second.
“If he hadn’t gotten to two CL Finals?”
Allardyce’s use of the hypothetical won’t wash around these parts. If the former Bolton boss hadn’t beaten Preston in the (then) Division 1 playoff final in 2001, would they have achieved promotion the next season? Would Sam have had a job at the Reebok Stadium for as long as he did if he didn’t make it back to the Premiership? Would he have ended up at Newcastle?
I’ve historically liked Big Sam, especially given what he was able to build at Bolton without the help of an extensive budget. But until the Newcastle manager wins the Premier League (or any silverware for that matter), I’m not putting too much stock in his musings on what it takes to win the league.
And Sam, we’re Liverpool fucking FC. We’ll be the ones who decide where exactly our priorities will lie.