Job done. Nothing special, but nothing special was needed following the away leg.
PSV never did enough to get back into the tie. Honestly, their best spell came very early in the game, with Farfan forcing a save from Reina within five minutes, but that was about it. Given Koeman’s pre-match comments, the long injury list, and the tight title race in the Eredivisie, PSV seemed content to play for 0-0 and a modicum of respect. And it didn’t make for much of a spectacle.
The Liverpool crowd was the highlight of the game. To employ a well-worn analogy, they certainly were a jukebox tonight. Throughout the match, the fans went from one song to another, all clearly audible through the television, including a five-minute plus rendition of “Rafa Benitez.” When Gerrard and Carra came out for a jog late in the first half, the fans went straight into “Steve Gerrard, Gerrard” followed by “We all dream of a team of Carraghers.” Even the announcers expressed amazement, and given what was happening on the field, it was little surprise that was a topic they focused on.
In what appeared to be his attempt to liven up the game, the referee showed a straight red card to PSV’s young defender Dirk Marcellis for a fairly bad tackle on Bolo Zenden in the 64th minute. It was mistimed with studs showing, but straight red was certainly a surprise. And Liverpool took full advantage, with Crouch smashing home a much-needed goal from a Fowler flicked ball back across the 6 yard box after Gomes had saved Crouch’s original shot. Afterwards, while Liverpool continued to carve out chances against the overmatched and undermanned PSV side, the last 20 minutes played out much like the previous ones.
As sometimes seems to happen in games like this, the night was spoiled by an injury to Bellamy, who reportedly suffered knee ligament damage. Which is a fairly big concern, as he's had knee problems in the past. That’s twice recently that players have gone down in fairly innocuous circumstances and come away crocked. Hopefully this situation is far less severe.
While tonight wasn’t a performance to write home about, players did have good games. Pennant again looked threatening, never looked likely to pick up the yellow that would rule him out of the next match (he has seemingly matured a good deal during the season), and was probably the man of the match (aside from the Kop, obviously). His performance was only jaded by missing two excellent chances late on, but as he was Liverpool’s main threat and the game was well over, I’m willing to overlook that.
Alonso, Sissoko, and Agger also had nice outings. Passes were coming off for Xabi, he could carve PSV pretty much open at will, and with the game in hand, was able to be rested for the final 20 minutes. Momo’s come in for a lot of stick recently, including from me, but he was solid in midfield and seemed to keep possession a fair amount better than he had been. And while PSV never really threatened, Agger kept good watch over Farfan and Kone. There was also a moment that stood out, where Agger was smart enough to see space open up on the left, and went far forward on the wing to receive the ball and get a cross in. The goalkeeper was the only player in the six-yard box to meet the cross, but it was heady play for a young center back.
In addition, Zenden, who has also often been criticized, had his moments as well. Starting on the left flank, he didn’t offer a ton and gravitated towards the middle of the pitch, but deserved to score on a very nice free kick. And once Alonso went off, Bolo did very well opening up the pitch with his passing. By that time, PSV was solely playing for the final whistle, but Zenden showed vision he’s rarely displayed in a Liverpool shirt.
Now comes a far more difficult test. Chelsea hasn’t been beaten since Liverpool won 2-0 on January 20th. They haven’t shipped a league goal since then either. That win was Liverpool’s first win over Chelsea in the league since Benitez took over, while Liverpool’s only loss to Chelsea in cup competition came in the 2005 league cup final. If we’re counting the Community Shield, the two matches over the semi-final will be the 7th and 8th times the two sides have met in cup competition under their current managers. It’s quite the precedent, but unlike when the two teams met in January, this does not seem like a very good time to be facing Chelsea.
However, on a five-game unbeaten run, it’s doesn’t seem a very good time to face Liverpool either. Which should make for a very interesting tie.
First leg at Stamford Bridge on April 25th. Can’t wait.