Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Liverpool 2-1 Maccabi Haifa

Well, I'd been more than usually worried about this game, and not without good reason it seems. Not only did Haifa pull off quite a shock by taking the lead, but they were never over-awed and generally lived up to the tag of being a difficult banana skin. We may have won it in the end (just), but don't forget in the last two seasons we've actually lost the second leg of the third round qualifier. We'll need a good performance away - though hopefully Haifa, needing a win, will leave themselves a bit exposed at the back. (Though in credit to them, they played a good open game tonight - rather than trying to shut up shop for 0-0, as many teams would have done).

As for the game itself, while something has to be said for rustiness/lack of match fitness, I don't think this team/formation particularly gelled. I'd expected Crouch alongside Bellamy, but as it was we lacked numbers in the box up-front, and many crosses from Pennant were wasted. (Not surprisingly, things did improve when Crouch came on). Also we had confirmation that Zenden is not a left winger - I'd have started Garcia there myself, though with both him and Gonzalez nursing pre-season injuries, and Kewell, Aurelio and Warnock out, maybe we didn't have much choice.

The good side is that the news lads Pennant and Bellamy played well, and it looks like once we get on the same wave-length we'll be a much more potent attacking force this season now we have a few more pacy players. The bad side is I'm not sure how we'll accommodate everyone in our midfield and play two up front. Maybe it'll be a case of rotation, as someone on the Liverpool FC messageboard pointed out, a midfield of Gonzalez/Kewell - Alonso - Sissoko - Pennant still looks pretty good, even without Gerrard. I suppose it's a sign of our squad quality that, even with some injuries, we can't include everyone.

As for the game itself, they only had about three decent chances, but unfortunately took the first one clinically. We had plenty of possession and crosses, but without men in the box failed to fashion many real openings. I think Garcia probably should've had a penalty after squirming through four men in the box, but he did rather throw himself over the last man's leg. Also I'd been hoping for most of the second half that Gonzalez would make a brief cameo - probably in place of Pennant - and it turned out he not only did but scored the winner. After a somewhat indifferent pre-season, he may just have justified his signing already!

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