Sunday, September 17, 2006

Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool

Often, the neutral would say that games between Liverpool and Chelsea don't live up to the pre-match hype. Well, I'll grant that there are rarely many goals in it, but for a non-neutral they're always tense, close games. I'd only meant to listen on the radio this week, but after being directed to an internet link screening the match, I ended up watching it all...

Liverpool were undone by a great goal from Drogba. I remember how frightening he was playing for Marseille - he destroyed us in Europe - and this was a glimpse back to form. Normally for Chelsea he's just been a big, clumsy target man, who goes down remarkably easily - rather like a £24m Emily Heskey in fact. Today, however, his turn and volley goal was the difference between the two sides and, while we also saw his falling over, there were some other nice touches.

The sending off of Ballack gave Liverpool a chance to get back into the game, and though ten men are often able to shut up shop and protect a lead, it became a surprisingly open game. On the red card, I have to admit Ballack may have been unlucky. His foot certainly landed on Momo's leg while he was on the ground - thankfully no damage done - but it wasn't obviously a malicious stamp. Further, Momo may have been lucky to have still been on the pitch - Chelsea fans were calling for him to go after he rashly caught Lampard with a late tackle right after being booked. (In his defence, he didn't have too bad a day, and the booking was maybe harsh - it was simply foolhardy not to be more careful so soon after the yellow).

I'd have liked to have seen Garcia and/or Gonzalez involved but, for the most part, I think Rafa's tactics were good. While I heard wildly varying estimates of possession, I don't think either team really dominated the other. Nonetheless, we got plenty of joy out of Pennant on the right - who was clearly knackered by the end - and created more chances than we might have expected. The best two were Kuyt's shot that hit the bar, and Gerrard's straight at Cech. At the other end, it took a special shot to beat Liverpool's defence which, other than a goal-line clearance by Agger after the whistle had already gone, was rarely troubled.

Sadly, performances alone don't bring any points and, with Arsenal's win over Man Utd already putting them above us, it looks like we will face serious difficulty even getting into the top four unless we learn to (i) shut up shop at the back and (ii) put the ball in the net - something we spent £16m on new strikers to do this season. Kuyt's all-action performances have certainly made him a popular figure, but I was wondering when we signed him if the money might have been better spent on a proven English goal-scorer like Andy Johnson.


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