11 December 2007

Liverpool 4-0 Marseille

Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Riise
Benayoun Gerrard Mascherano Kewell
Kuyt Torres

Gerrard 4’
Torres 11’
Kuyt 48’
Babel 90+1’

Had I only seen Liverpool’s last three Champions League games, I’d absolutely refuse to believe that this team only took 1 point from the first three group matches.

Once again, Liverpool scored 4 in the Champions League, bringing the total to 16 over the final three group games. When backs are against the wall in cup competition, this is one of the toughest teams to come up against in the world.

After all the worries and chewed fingernails, it was over within four minutes when Givet hauled Gerrard down in the box (there will be a lot less talk about Gerrard buying penalties, as this one was clear-cut, but he also suckered Givet into lunging). Mandanda saved Gerrard’s resulting penalty, but Ste was first to the rebound. And the early goal completely took the wind out of OM’s sails.

Seven minutes later, Torres once again summed up his qualities, blowing by three Marseille defenders with a lovely run through the penalty area, making an absolute mug of Julien Rodriguez, before beating Mandanda inside the far post.

Marseille had no answer throughout, and Liverpool was happy to soak up pressure for the remainder of the half. Gerets attempted to change things up by brining Nasri on with 30 minutes barely off the clock, but the ‘new Zidane’ did little to alter proceedings.

An early goal three minutes after the restart made the second half a formality. Kewell kept the ball in on the left and sent in a blistering cross. Torres dummied, Kuyt was into space, and it was 3-0. Liverpool could have added more, but was on cruise control. Marseille rarely threatened, but each attempt was snuffed out.

Babel, who played as a lone striker for most of his 20 minutes after coming on for Torres, finally made it 4 (with yet another goal off the bench) in injury time, beating the offside trap and Faty for pace before rounding Mandanda to cap the game off. Gerrard could have summed up matters even further with a fifth in the last minute of stoppage time, but the shot went high and the referee put an end to the debacle.

After a performance like that, and even with Liverpool going through the motions for much of the match, I can spin effusive praise about all eleven players on the pitch. Mascherano cleaned up everything that came his way, and it was heartening to see him come back on after he looked to be injured going into the tackle with Hyypia. Kuyt gave his usual workman’s effort, and deserved his well-taken goal. Riise had one of his better matches of the season, and both he and Arbeloa supported well from midfield.

But I’ll reserve my most effusive praise for Torres and Kewell. What can you say about Torres? He was a constant threat, now possesses the deed to Rodriguez, and could have scored more. Worth every penny that Liverpool paid for him. He may miss some opportunities you expect him to convert after seeing what he’s capable of, but every time he does, Shankly’s quote about Roger Hunt pops into my head.

And Kewell is slowly proving Benitez’s faith in him. Two pinpoint assists, constant harassment down the left, looking to get to the byline, and a willingness to get back and defend if required. He’s still not fully fit, evidenced by the fact he hasn’t lasted much longer than an hour yet, but on form so far, he’s well on his way.

This is the best possible result after Saturday and before Sunday. It was a comprehensive win, but the team will also know that they can play better. Even with a 4-0 scoreline, some chances were spurned, and after the second goal, Liverpool had little impetus to play full bore. I hate to steal Bill Simmons’ jokes, but I can’t help but quote a Pulp Fiction line here: let's not start sucking each other's dicks yet.

So European football is on hold until February. Now, focus has to be on what’s been Liverpool fans’ main focus all season: the Premiership. A match against Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday can’t sharpen the focus much more.


Starting11 said...

Cheers Nate, great result. This just might be the most dangerous big-game club in Europe. Wonder what the meeting between Rafa and the American owners will be like now?

Ace Cowboy said...

As bad as OM looked, and man did they look bad, Liverpool came out tails motherfucking up. Their tackles were fierce, their passing was crisp, and aside from Torres' two missteps on the left flank early on, they came out fairly flawless, in true "Cup Final" style.

You could tell that they knew the importance of this one, and you could tell that Rafa really had them up for it. Four more goals, a clean sheet, and no major injuries (fingers crossed on Monster Masch) is just about the greatest result you can imagine.

OM did look terrible, though, the back line at sixes and sevens, as they say. Torres made Julien Rodriguez look like an amateur, a piece of brilliance that's been wholly lacking these last few years outside of the skipper. Gerrard drew a nice penalty and made sure it went in, and his tracking back and tackling today were perfect. He's been EVERYWHERE over the past 10-12 matches. Kuyt's workmanlike prowess was commendable. A healthy 'Arry on the left wing makes a world of difference -- no wonder Rafa has a major man-crush on him (and because he's kinda dreamy). Yossi wasn't his best today, but he played well and controlled whatever tempo came that way. Babel's a superfuckingsub off the bench, one of the best in the world right now at coming off the bench in the 70+ minute and doing what's asked of him. And the backline + Masch played impeccably, with Reina mostly untested and on top of his shit when called. A truly overwhelming team performance.

Torres really is the missing link, the perfect piece to compliment Gerrard's talent. His goal was simply stunning. So many of his goals this season are highlight-reel caliber. He's worth every pound and pence. But man is he get tackled hard. Every time out. I'd love to rotate him out more often, really, because he's gotta last the full season. But this club is about a third as good without El Nino, so I just don't know. Goddamn I love that kid.

And it's onto the next round as a #2 finisher (I really wanted the warm smell of Besiktas to win that one today), and we'll see who we get. But for now it's three tough matches -- ManU, The Fighting Avrams and Pompey Peed On My Sofa -- in the Prem and Carling Cups over an 8-day span. So we'll see who Rafa trots out for those.

Anyway, the road ahead is tough as shit, but it's hard not to have some serious optimism about the state of this club. They're really firing on most cylinders, and we're about to welcome back Xabi and Agger. I can't fucking wait til these two get back in there. Full speed ahead, YNWA.