(pic: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
While I had great faith in Liverpool’s ability to win this match, by no means would I have guessed that the game would be in hand so early on and effectively sealed the result right after the half-time break.
The match started exactly as I thought (and hoped) it would, with both teams coming out with all guns blazing. But, the match quickly was turned on its ear when Liverpool’s highest caliber weapons (Stevie G and El Nino) shot Marseille’s hopes full of holes after only 11 minutes.
Four goals, a clean sheet and no apparent serious injuries (assuming Mascherano holds up, but it looked as if he wasn’t too bad off) will go a long way in rendering this past Saturday’s match a blip on the radar and should also serve to fill the squad (and the fans) with cautious optimism ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester United.
Individually, the superlatives are easy to dish out because so little went wrong for the Reds. Torres and Kuyt both displayed their usually high work rate, not only constantly asking tough questions of the OM backline, but stoutly defending from the front. Those two seem to link up pretty well (then again, Torres seems able to do it with anyone) and once again, we see just how dangerous Fernando Torres can be at any given time (cue broken record). He seems have a plan of attack for each and every area of the final third he finds himself in and he continues to demonstrate the inate ability to shed defenders like a tree does its autumn leaves.
Does this look familiar?
(pic: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Benayoun, though it could be said had a quieter match than some of his teammates, was industrious on the right side of midfield. His counterpart on the left continues to fill me belief that a healthy Harry Kewell may just be the perfect solution on that side of the midfield (please don’t let me down, Harry… or Harry’s body, as it should be). Mascherano’s name might not have popped up too often, but his job of shielding the backline and allowing the ever-excellent captain to venture forward was well done.
The backline held steady, bending a few times but never breaking. Riise had a solid game at left back, although one can assume that future starts that position will be few and far between should the squad stay healthy. Hyypia continues to enjoy a resplendid season, suggesting the old dog still has life in him after all. I hope his legs carry him through the second part of the season in the same steed.
So, Rafa and the lads rose to the occasion and got the results they needed. We obviously can all feel a little better now that their squad’s attention can be focused back on domestic issues for the next three months. Plus, there’s probably never a better time to have United and Chelsea back-to-back on the fixture list with the team playing the way they have.
The captain on the night’s performance:
The most important word in the team talk was cup final. When the manager says it’s a cup final situation you know you have got to give everything you’ve got. From the goalkeeper to the front men, every one of us has done our job.
We made it difficult for ourselves in this group. We are disappointed it came down to the last game. We needed to perform tonight. It was a performance full of character and hard work. We knew we’d got the quality so we’re very happy with the performance.
Rafa sounds to be in good spirits about it all too:
I am really proud of the players and the supporters. It was an amazing performance from everyone concerned with Liverpool.
The players had the right mentality. The key was they were really focused on the game. We scored an early goal and afterwards we controlled nearly everything.
Now I am thinking about United.
That kind of sends a shiver down your spine, doesn’t it?
Let’s not forget this is a team that is still sans Alonso and Agger. With the reinsertion of those two top-tier talents back into the rotation (no pun intended) might be labeled as tricky, I have to trust that Rafa will continue to draw out the best from his players. While we’re not even quite to the halfway mark, it’s still promising to be alive in all competitions and recording the results that we have. I’m getting quite used to seeing Torres, Gerrard and Babel score with regularity (one might even say I’m getting spoiled by it).
United is next up.