Hmm. Well, it was an eventful game, to say the least.
Liverpool came out on fire. Galatasaray was hesitant, and possibly awed as the fans were in excellent voice. Liverpool had a corner within a minute, three or four good attempts at goal in the first five minutes, and two goals in the back of the net by 15 minutes. Both Crouch and Garcia’s goals were well taken, with good build-up from Aurelio and Pennant respectively, but I believe it was Gerrard marauding forward from the center of midfield, drawing defenders, which allowed Liverpool so much space.
But after going up two, Liverpool seemed to be happy to sit on their two goals, and stopped pushing forward as hard. They created a couple of chances in the rest of the half, but did not have the impetus they started with, and Galatasaray grew into the game. Galatasaray made two changes at the half, bringing on two strikers for a midfielder and defender, but they weren’t immediately effective. Liverpool came out much like they did in the first half, and scored after seven minutes through Crouch’s absolutely picture perfect bicycle kick. Seriously, he’s tried similar shots before, but I did not think he had that goal in him. Liverpool has really been putting in some wonder strikes lately.
And then, once again, Liverpool seemed happy with their lead. They again took their foot off of the gas, and invited Galatasaray onto them. And within 10 minutes, Galatasaray had pulled the score to 3-2 through two excellent headers by substitute Umit Karan. The first goal allowed Gala back into the game, and was down to lazy defending. The ball should have been cleared before it came to Arda on the wing, who crossed it in perfectly to Karan.
But Liverpool was resolute, and defended adequately for the rest of the game. They held on under severe pressure, and that in and of itself is an accomplishment. But it should have never come to that point. 3-0 at home in the second half is done and dusted. While it’s great they held on, it’s embarrassing it came to last-ditch defending.
While it feels like I’m criticizing the team’s performance, I was mostly pleased with the players. What more can you say about Crouchy; he scored two great goals after being on the bench for four games, looking like he hasn’t missed a beat. His pairing with Kuyt concerns me though. I was afraid they’d play too similar a role, and Kuyt seemed to be forced out onto the wing too often, and much was less effective than he had been recently. It’s going to be interesting to see how Rafa juggles them.
Garcia was very good offensively today; when he plays, Liverpool always looks more likely to score. But he is also infuriating. His defense today was particularly atrocious. Aurelio is not familiar enough with the team to be forced to cover for Garcia going too far forward, cutting inside, and not dropping back to defend. Garcia’s ball-watching on defense almost led to two goals in the first half. But, boy was he influential on attack. And that’s what you get with little Luis.
Liverpool did and didn’t miss Sissoko today. Gerrard is such an excellent midfielder when he plays centrally, and he was fantastic yet again this game even though he missed an excellent chance in the second half. But when Liverpool did sit back and let Galatasaray play, they certainly missed Sissoko. If Momo was in there breaking up play, Gala would have never gotten two goals back. But I don’t know if Liverpool would have gotten three either.
I hope Rafa is getting answers to his queries, because while the past three games have been very promising with three straight wins, I only see more questions and possibilities for the rest of the season. I really am curious to see the line-up he’s going to settle on, and it feels like he’s getting closer to that point.