22 April 2008

Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea

Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Mascherano Alonso
Kuyt Gerrard Babel

Kuyt 43’
Riise (og) 90+5’

…And with the last "kick" of the game.

I assume most American readers will get a reference to Bill Simmons. Well, it’s been a while since I’ve read the “Levels of Losing” column, but this draw is about thirteen levels worse than a “stomach punch” loss.

94 minutes and seven seconds into the game (seven seconds after the final whistle should have blown), John Arne Riise, on as a substitute after Aurelio appeared to injure his groin, unnecessarily headed Kalou’s cross into his own net with Anelka lurking. After Liverpool looked certain to win another narrow 1-0 match against Chelsea in a Champions League semi-final.

Avram Grant wasn’t kidding; Chelsea did look to come out on the attack and for the first 20 minutes of the game were the stronger side, taking the game to the home team but with Liverpool having the best chance of the spell, when Kuyt’s first touch from Alonso’s beautiful ball over the top took him too close to Cech in the 13th minute.

But Liverpool grew into the game, although it was still a fairly back and forth affair, which was little surprise given the participants. Joe Cole mishit a volley at Reina when he had more time than he thought, while eight minutes later Chelsea had a penalty claim turned down when Drogba went down under the challenge of Carragher (to be fair, Carra just got a touch on the ball while Drogba falls over in a stiff gust of wind, but I’ve seen them given).

But two minutes later, in the 31st minute, Torres should have put Liverpool up 1-0. Attacking the Kop in the first half, where Torres has scored the majority of his eight straight at Anfield, Gerrard’s perfectly-weighted throughball put El Niño one-on-one with Cech, only for the keeper to get down well to make an excellent stop.

Liverpool continued to settle, began to set the tempo, and kept possession far better than to start the match, but it still was standard fare from Liverpool and Chelsea for the most part. But two minutes before halftime, the much-maligned Dirk Kuyt, who again was absolutely everywhere on the pitch, began and finished the goal that gave Liverpool the lead.

Following a quick free kick out to Kuyt, Chelsea looked to have cleared the ball, only for Lampard to turn it over under pressure from Kuyt and Alonso. Mascherano’s mishit shot found Kuyt over the top (Babel was offside, but not interfering with play), and the striker stabbed home in front of Cech to give the home side the advantage.

It was little surprise how the second half started: Liverpool was still on the front foot and Chelsea was struggling to recreate their performance in the first twenty minutes. But following a Liverpool penalty claim in the 64th minute (it sure looked like Carragher’s cross hit Ballack’s arm, which was moving away from his body), Chelsea started to up the tempo in search of an equalizer.

In a three-minute span, Lampard overran a nice layoff from Drogba in the box, Ballack’s flick from a free kick was gratefully close to Reina, and Kalou’s shot from 12 yards out was deflected in the side netting by a sprawling Mascherano.

But having weathered that storm, Liverpool looked likely to hold their slim edge, although Carragher’s intervention was still needed on occasion (Carragher did superbly on Drogba all match long, he's an utter legend).

Liverpool had two excellent chances to get a needed second in the final five minutes, with Cech coming up huge on both Gerrard’s half-volley in the 85th and Torres’ close range effort from a corner in the fourth minute of injury time, but it looked like yet another semi-final ending with the home side a goal to the good.

But then, with the Liverpool fans whistling in anticipation of the finish, Chelsea went straight back down the field and earned a throw-in. Kalou got free from his marker, was open for the throw near the byline, and whipped in a low, dangerous cross. While Anelka was waiting behind Riise for any opportunity, JAR appeared to have time to step in and clear the ball, albeit with his right foot. But he chose to duck for a header, and sent it past a befuddled Reina. It was the last moment of the match.

And now Chelsea not only has an away goal edge to take to Stamford Bridge, where Liverpool has never scored under Benitez, but the morale boost coming from a late, late goal and undeserved draw.

I’m duty bound to write that it’s only halftime. I’ve certainly seen more miraculous second leg comebacks, and far more miraculous comebacks by this very club. But this is a tough loss to swallow. Chelsea will be thrilled with their good fortune, and it’s even more grating that this is the second time this season’s Chelsea’s lucked their way into a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

Meanwhile, Benitez will have a challenge in motivating the squad for the next leg. This is a tough loss for fans to take; I can’t imagine the sentiments in the Liverpool dressing room. I hate to come off as bitter, but this was a 1-0 win. That’s only the second time I’ve written that since I’ve started this blog, and both times have been against Chelsea at Anfield this season.

But if this team can come back from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan, from 1-0 down to win 3-1 against Olympiakos, to win their last three games in the group stage this year by a margin of 16-1 after it looked like they would struggle to progress to the next round, they can overcome an away goal deficit to Chelsea.

YNWA. Roll on next Wednesday.


Mike Georger said...

well the justification for keeping riise around has always been that he scores one or two huge goals a season, and clown on me he has proved the doubters wrong

the officiating was terrible but i dont think any official outside of the one who shorted us in athens would have not let them take that corner kick

nate said...

Even though I'm not in a joking mood, I do mean this as a joke, as Riise has been a fantastic servant for this club and scored some incredible and timely goals, even if he's had a shit season.

But JAR has scored two huge goals this season! Pity they've both been equalizing own goals.

Mike Georger said...

what was the other one? i cant remember. i just remember fabios and skrtels (which the espn announcers wont let die)

if there is one advantage, and man im reaching here, its that chelsea's biggest game of the season is this weekend and ours is absolutely meaningless by comparison. not that insua or nemeth will play, because im sure voronin and riise will get the nod... DAMNIT

nate said...

first game v luton. another comical mess.

as bad as this review comes off, i'm still hopeful. liverpool was always going to need to score at the bridge given chelsea's home record. and yes, they do have a very big game on satdee.

Django said...

After taking some time to finish the 12-pack of beer that I bought, with only 6 drank before full time, I gotta say that as shitty as it ended, it was probably always going to take an away goal for Liverpool to win. I played college baseball, and one of our coaches always said, "It's gonna take one to win anyway" after we gave up a run, and I always thought he was full of shit, and he probably was, given that we were terrible, but I'm clinging to that now. This squad is fully capable of scratching one out at the Stamford Funeral Parlor, I'm sure Rafa will rotate to the fullest this weekend and ensure that we are at our strongest come next Wednesday. Come on you Reds, let's bounce back in classic Liverpool fashion.

Ace Cowboy said...

I was hoping this post was gonna be called Riise's Boner. Man. Maaaaaan.

Here's Riise's first own goal of the year:


nate said...

I just don't understand Riise's decision-making in either of those own goals, and that's why, as loath as I am to criticize players, I'm more aggrieved with Riise's OGs than either, say, Hyypia or Skrtel.

Against Luton, and thanks to Ace for a video reminder, there's no need to dive in there. It may be unlucky to go in off his foot then hand, but he should have never been in that position. But it was Luton, Liverpool won the replay, and I probably wouldn't even had remembered it had it not been for today.

And then, today. He was so afraid to use his right foot that he tried a ducking header a foot off the ground and inside his own 6-yard box. Words fail me.

Anonymous said...

i don't mean to sound too optimistic (not in my nature) but scoring at the Bridge isn't unheard of. It makes this an uphill battle but doable. Not to mention if United break Chelsea's unbeaten home streak this weekend,things may be different next weekend. It may come down to penalties (again) but I have faith. Heads up. Let's show some class, rise to the occasion, and make Drogba regret his absurd post-match fist pumping.

Anonymous said...

woops i meant next wednesday...

Emerald Nutters said...

I think Stevie G said it best when he said:

"We haven't played there with Fernando Torres," -Gerrard

And that may make all the difference, no?

iskoppa said...

Well boys its time to go to west London and show them hows it done! As for the ginger norg, what a great goal!! Bloody shame it was in our net, but thats football for you. I still have no voice left, and having put up with all the so called 'criticism' all day!!! I have only one thing to say, see you in Moscow. LFCFL-SoS-thyotherside

nate said...

On a day's reflection (and being the sadist that I am, I went and watched extended highlights), I really should have written more about Alonso, who needed to be further lauded for both his part in the goal and his overall play in midfield.

He hasn't been at his best of late, and the fact Lucas has gotten more and more time, coupled with these odd Gareth Barry rumors, has brought his future into question.

But Alonso's play in midfield yesterday was Xabi at his best. There was the range of passing, both short and long, exemplified by the over the top ball to Kuyt 13min in. He was also more composed, and I don't think he committed a foul, despite a referee looking to blow his whistle at every opportunity.

And his involvement in the goal capped it off: a very intelligent quick free kick, winning the ball off Lampard with Kuyt, and a superb backheel to Mascherano that I didn't fully appreciate on first viewing.

He was probably man of the match, followed closely by Carragher, Skrtel, and Kuyt. Long may it continue.

Wow, when starting this I didn't think I'd write so much. Maybe it should have been its own post.

Mike Georger said...

i dont know if barry would play in the middle if we picked him up, i think he would be put on the left. odd as they may be, i like the guy and wouldnt mind seeing him come in.

i know you dont address rumors but there are some floating around about maxi rodriguez. while i doubt a.madrid would be willing to part with their captain two years in a row, he had a good combo going with torres last season and is pretty damn talented on the ball. i still cant believe his goal against mexico

one of the biggest underlying things this summer which will greatly impact what happens with our transfers is carson, which people seem to have forgotten about

nate said...

I just don't like posting about rumors, because more often than not, they don't happen. Mancini, Malouda, Simao, Silva, etc, etc.

But I'm happy to give an opinion. I don't think Barry is an improvement over anyone in central midfield or on the left of a 4-2-3-1. Maybe at left back, but for £12m?

In fact, I'm not a huge fan of any of the English players Liverpool's been linked with: Barry, Bentley, or Michael Johnson. Out of the three, I think Barry's head and shoulders above the other two, but that doesn't mean I think he's right for Liverpool, especially at £12m. If it's a part exchange with Carson, with some £££ thrown in, I'm far less opposed, but the player from Villa who'd have the most impact at Liverpool is Ashley Young.

And yeah, I don't believe the Maxi Rodriguez rumor, but I certainly would welcome him. He's played with Torres, and could play anywhere along the "3" in the 4-2-3-1.

In an ideal world, I want Modric or McGeady, which is saying something I've hesitated putting on the blog in the past, but I doubt either is coming.

Mike Georger said...

the inflation of english players is absurd, and i honestly believe this whole 'we need a cap on foreign players' thing is a tool to drive up the prices.
i think johnson is going to be great, i dont like bentley at all, he reminds me of bellamy in his mentality

i remember telling someone that if voronin were english (and not out of contract etc etc) he would have cost 10 million

Aravind said...

Scoring against Chelsea at Bridge would be difficult. Liverpool haven't done that in 4 years. But as StevieG said, you have Torres now.