They may have left it late, but the Reds eventually wore Porto down (a few times, for good measure) and live on to fight another European night.
I was worried. The juxtaposition of the first and second half Liverpool performances was almost maddening (through 78 minutes, that is). What started as a sharp-passing team, venturing forward with swashbuckling spirit came out of the locker room for the second 45 a cataract-suffering shell of itself. Although the game always felt like it had a deciding goal in it, it could have come for and from either side.
That is, until El Nino stepped up. Again.
I’m comfortable in my heterosexuality and am not afraid to say it — I’ve got a full-on Man Crush on Fernando Torres. I get genuinely excited when I see his name in the starting XI, because he’s capable of producing something sublime with each and every touch of the ball. It could come from a solid build-up of play or appear out of thin air. Either way, I’m thoroughly entertained by his play and have supreme confidence in his ability to lead Liverpool to victory.
(photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
And that he did today. After opening the game (and his Champions League account) with a well-taken header, he successfully seperated himself from his defender to put Liverpool ahead and keep them in the hunt for knock-out stage qualification. And that second goal served as the adreneline-filled needle to heart that jolted the boys (as well as fans) in Red on to another two goals.
Let it also be said that ball fed to Torres for the winner came from substitute Harry Kewell, who continues to tease me with visions of a fully-fit Aussie torturing defenders on the wings. I think/hope Rafa will do his best to keep Harry in decent shape, not wearing him out, instead deliberately doling out the minutes in measured amounts. Should he stay healthy, he could make a severe impression on the Premier League.
Let me also note that Gerrard, emblematic of the team, faded in and out of the match but notched the penalty to tie him with Little Mikey Owen as Liverpool’s leading European scorer. Maybe one day Fernando Torres will be challenging that record.
(photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
As for Rafa, he must be pleased with the way the team has responded in the last few matches, as well as with the pro-Benitez demonstration by the Liverpool faithful. I didn’t hear it myself, but word is that amongst the various chants was “Rafa’s going nowhere“. One would hope with continued results like today, that should be certainly be the case.
Rafa on the fans (and the owners):
I want to say thank you to our supporters because I think that they were as always magnificent. The most important thing is the team so I say thank you for the support. To the players it was important as I said before the game and it was also for me, so I say a thank you, a big thank you.
I am really proud to be here and I say thank you because they know I want to stay and fight for my club.
I don’t have any personal problem with the owners or anyone. We will talk and try to go forward.
Forward, indeed. The team has some momentum now, headed into Sunday’s match versus Bolton. Here’s hoping that the off-field BS gets resolved properly. Families fight — it’s just a fact of life. But, it’s the strong ones that know how to patch things up.
So, where does this victory (coupled with Besiktas’ win) leave us?
Quite frankly, Group A is looking like a crap shoot from a neutral’s stance. Porto sit top with eight points, followed by Liverpool and Marseille on seven with Besiktas sneaking up with six points. Liverpool still control their own destiny, but the margin for error is razor thin.
If we win at Marseille, we go onto the knock-out stages regardless of the Besiktas-Porto result. A loss kills us. A draw clouds the picture if Besiktas to beat Porto (therefore winning the group on nine points). Liverpool are then tied with Marseille and Porto on eight points. We have the superior goal difference, which I assume would be the decider, since it’s a three-way tie and the second decider after head-to-head results is GD. That’s good because we lose the head-to-head result to Marseille (who lose it to Porto).
So, it’s another must-win situation.
I like our chances.
As for videos of the goals, it looks as if those may not be as quickly forthcoming. Watch this space and I’ll link to them here if a dedicated link is discovered.
(edit: Good ole 101GreatGoals came up with the goods)
My thoughts on the match:
- Liverpool started the match with exactly the kind of energy you’d hope for (in every game actually, not just ones in which they’re facing elimination) — flying around, chomping at the bit, obviously hungry.
- I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I’m a big proponent of the tri-line numbering on jerseys. For years I’ve said (so much that my last GF was sick of hearing it) that it’s the far superior look — classy with a suggestion of a retro-look. Kudos to adidas for bringing it back this season. It’s a shame they’ll abandon it after 18 months like they do almost everything else.
- Early on, Liverpool’s passing was impressively sharp. Even when they didn’t find their intended mark, those passes still had elements of quality.
- Masch absolutely wiped Quaresma out well after the winger took a shot. And, without the hint of a card.
- EL NINO!!!! 19 minutes in, Torres nods home a relatively unchallenged header off a Gerrard cross and gives Red fans the early goal we were all craving.
- And a minute later, SopCast starts fucking with me. Fuck you, internet.
- Checking on the Besiktas-Marseille score, I see that Harry Redknapp has been arrested by the anti-corruption police. Methinks that might complicate his bid for the English managerial job. At least this will reintroduce the word ‘bung’ back into the lexicon.
- Twenty-something mintues gone, Benayoun and Babel switched flanks. I really like having versatile wingers because I think this is a nice little wrinkle for the defenses. And while on the subject, I think for all the preseason talk of Yossi historically preferring a central advanced role, he’s now superior to Pennant on that right wing.
- After a half an hour and one goal, Liverpool are still playing with the same energy, surging forward at every chance. This is precisely the way I’d like to see them play each match. Granted, there is a metric fuck ton more space tonight than your average PL match (but what else is new?).
- I love how Torres can come to a stand-still in the box, step over the ball and the defender has to step off — yet he still goes around them.
- Fucking LiveFooty. They’ve lost their feed. And I miss the Porto equalizer. Actually, that may have been for the best.
- A little poking around and I’m back. Just in time to see Gerrard flash a free kick wide.
- Watching the reply of the Porto goal, I’m unsure who to blame. Arbeloa was there, he just misses the header. Perhaps Reina could have been better positioned? *shrug* It was a quality header.
- Torres almost poached a goal off of a sloppy Porto pass-back. Please save us, El Nino. Please.
- Halftime and the confidence I had after the opening goal disappeared with the lead. Besiktas is still leading Marseille 1-0, but Captain Obvious knows that Liverpool still need to win.
- Now, Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero” is stuck in my head. But, we do need a hero. Arrrrgggh.
- Assuncao seems amused that the ref thinks kicking a player in the back of the leg is a bookable offense.
- Remember how I was praising the Liverpool passing in the first half? Well, the other shoe has dropped.
- Cutting the ball in from the left, Torres set Benayoun up at the top of the 18 but the Israeli wasted it. That should have had a cherry on top of it. That sort of chance needs to be on target.
- An hour in and Gerrard has been absent for most of the second half.
- Liverpool seem intent on wasting their chances by cutting the ball to a player at the top of the 18, only to not have that shot ever be taken, for whatever reason.
- Kewell for Voronin after 63. Here’s hoping the Aussie provides the lift the team needs.
- Gerrard reintroduced himself with a long-range effort that takes flight. At least he got the shot off. Baby steps, you see.
- Liverpool’s passing could use baby steps. Instead, it has straight up regressed from ‘sharp’ to ‘shitty’. What a difference a half makes.
- Crouch replaced Benayoun in the 71st minute. I’m ready for some tic-tac fouls called on him during 50-50 balls.
- THERE’S MY HERO! Kewell to Torres, who spins and seperates himself from his mark and nails it home. God, that felt liberating.
- The crowd is alive and there can’t be any way the team doesn’t feel it. Time to step up and lock this result down.
- A foul called in Crouchie’s favor on a 50-50 ball! Shocking. Although, it was in our own half. I’d be beside myself if that happened within 30 yards of the Porto goal.
- And Peter draws another one, getting clattered by Stepanov (who receives a yellow for his troubles), roughly 31 yards out.
- A hand ball by Stepanov on the resulting free kick!! It may not have been the most convincing 83 minutes by the skipper, but Stevie gets his seventh goal in the last eight games.
- I could almost cry right now I’m so happy. We (and by we, I mean I) needed this win. Marseille’s equalizer is of little importance to me now.
- Kuyt for Babel who gets a hearty hand from the faithful. Although he went quiet for stretches, I thought the young Dutchman had an influential match. It’s nice to bring on somebody of Kuyt’s workrate to help kill off a game, isn’t it?
- On the stroke of the 87th minutes, Crouch puts in Gerrard’s corner. I’m not sure which cliche to use right now — “When it rains, it pours…” or a “Blood in the water” line?
- It wasn’t a pretty second half, but I’m proud of how the team responded, having stuck in there and worn Porto down.
- Besiktas have scored a go-ahead goal. With four teams seperated by two points, Matchday 6 should prove quite entertaining for Group A.