Liverpool 3 Galatasary 2 – From the sublime to the ridiculously sleepy

Posted by Barrettski on September 28, 2006, 03:17:05 PM

Liverpool 3 Galatasary 2 – From the sublime to the ridiculously sleepy

Anfield played host to the most bizarre of European games last night.  Old friends Galatasary were first blitzed by the kind of reception Juve, Butch and Sundance will be familiar with.  Then, as if Wee Willy Winkie was patrolling L4, everyone in a red shirt fell asleep and Gala were back in the game.  An atmospheric Anfield managed to endure the kind of comeback pain that AC Milan know only too well, until the final whistle saved us from unlikely embarrassment.

Liverpool lined up with a rare balanced look.  Reina (3/4 clean sheets) lined up in nets with Aurelio and Finnan the preferred full backs for this encounter.  Carragher returned to join Agger with Hyppia rested.  Gerard and Alonso occupied the middle of the park with Pennant and Garcia looking like genuine wide players outside them.  Crouch returned to join apprentice legend Kuyt upfront.

Galatasary had a sprinkling of familiar names dotted around an organised 4-4-2 formation.  Mondragon kept goal, but failed to return the Kop’s applause.  Rigobert “only one” Song started in the middle of defence with Tomas, Ak (not Barney Rubble) and Haspolati alongside him.  Topal, Akman, Ilic and Turan formed an intended lolly stick bank of four in the middle and Sarioglu and Sukur provided the speed and heading goal threats upfront.  For some bizarre reason Sas started on the bench, but more of him later.

Satisfyingly, the reds kicked off attacking the Annie Road End and instantly began making in roads into a collection of startled Turkish bunnies.  The pace and ferocity of Liverpool’s early charge was a joy to behold just as it was against Chelsea, Juve and Leverkusen.  If the weight of passing and Barnes-like first touches were a training video in the making, then the movement on and off the ball made this pure footballing pornography.  A whiff of goals filled the air inside Anfield.

Early chances arrived in multipacks as Garcia, Pennant and Aurelio provided the kind of width that only Neville Southall can match these days.  Crosses rained in on Mondragon’s goal like an episode of Buffy.  Crouch, Garcia and Agger all strained to get on the end of this bountiful service only to see their efforts drift wide or blocked. 

The whiff of goals was getting stronger and we didn’t have to wait long.  First Aurelio scampered down the left and pinged a sweet cross in for Crouch to run onto and volley home.  We were on our way and that European Cup feeling returned to everyone’s hearts.  Barely four minutes later a pesky Pennant latched onto some wayward defending and, spotting Garcia loitering with intent on the back post, released the intelligent cross the situation required.  Garcia flexed his neck muscles with a powerful header and the onion bag rippled once again.

We were two to the good and it didn’t look like enough for the redmen.  Further chances were carved out for Kuyt, only for Mondragon to race out and deny him a shot, Garcia who flashed his effort wide and Gerrard whose long range (in non-Xabi terms) effort deceived Mondragon.  Having gone the wrong way, he somehow managed to get enough on it to force it over the bar.  The whiff of goals smelt more like the rotting carcass of Gala’s chances at this stage; the only question was going to be how many?

We were half an hour in before Liverpool ran out of octane and Mondragon’s goal now looked likely to hold out until half time.  In front of the Kop, Gala only caused a couple of scares, both with incisive moves down the right and crosses that only served as range finders for strikers that were by now unfamiliar with the ball.

Half time was ushered in with an eerie sense of “job done”.  Galatasary had other ideas and replaced a couple of bunnies with proper rabbits out of the hat.  Karan was on for Haspolati and it was taxi for Mehmet Topal who made way for Hasan Sas.  Aurelio had clearly been identified as the weak link and Sas was labelled as the man to exploit it.  Within minutes of the restart he’d taken the ball past five players on a cross field run, only to pass it ahead of an embarrassingly static team mate on the left.  It looked like a cameo but was actually a vision of things to come.

Meanwhile, refuelled and re-energised, the reds set up another rapier like attack.  One touch football saw Finnan approach the byline at pace and pull a decent looking cross into the area.  Crouch was in a cloud of his own as the ball sailed in.  He pulled a penny farthing of a bicycle kick, caught the ball with his laces and thundered the ball high to Mondragon’s left.  Slow motion will not have done this goal justice, it was like something David Attenborough should have commentated on.

I’m not sure how “shit or bust” translates into Turkish but Galatasary were now signed up to the philosophy.  The match opened up like a sevens game and discipline gave way to athleticism – the lolly sticks went out of the window and Gala’s midfield transformed itself into a dynamic unit of ball players.  Reina made a double save as Sukur failed to pull a goal back.  Within minutes Kuyt saw his crashing drive come back off the post and then Mondragon keep Gerrard’s follow up out with his legs. 

Having rudely awoken the Galatasary passing machine with three goals, Liverpool now looked to be on the back foot.  Sabri zipped a neat free kick round a poorly positioned wall to hit Reina’s right upright.  It wasn’t only the woodwork that was shaken, Liverpool now looked a shadow of their first half selves.

Sas now led the charge to redress the balance, toying with a positionally challenged Aurelio down their right.  His industry led to Karan heading home from between our twin pillar centre backs.  Six minutes later it was the same player, similar position and a similarly crushing header from a Sas cross.  Three – two and now and we looked ragged. 

It was too long before Momo arrived to play the Hamann role and tackle the rejuvenated Gala midfield.  But ten minutes isn’t enough for a midfielder to find the pace of a game like this and we were locked into a final few minutes of nail chomping.  This game had promised to be a 5-0 Nottingham Forest thrashing for this generation but now looked like being an Istanbul in reverse.  The irony was not lost on anyone.

We were one dodgy decision away from deflation, but the referee could only manage to deck Garcia.  For their part, Gala could only manage half chances and scuffed shots.  Sukur was the main culprit and will have made a better job of kicking himself after the game than the two chances he spurned in the final moments here.

Whistles rang round the ground from those who’d run out of nails. Nervousness finally gave way to relief and we were free to laugh at the events of the evening.  Having finished Spurs off so admirably at the weekend, sleepy positioning and complacency had let Galatasary back into this game.  But take nothing away from them, their attacking play and Sas in particular was worthy of both goals and praise.  The return fixture will be interesting.

© Barrettski 2006

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