Season Review 2007/08 Part II

Posted by Steve_M on June 11, 2008, 01:16:17 PM

Middlesbrough PL (a) 1-1  Whatís that whining sound?  No, not David Moyes, but our title ambitions going south.  Torres goal in an otherwise miserable performance was the only bright spot after Boateng had given Boro an early lead.  Iím convinced thereís some sort of Feng Shui problem with the Riverside which is not conducive to seeing a decent match there.  God help those who have season tickets there. 

Luton Town FAC replay (h) 5-0  Carra made his 500th appearance for the club, but it was Gerrard who stole the headlines with a second half hat-trick.  Luton, in even direr straits than from the first match, managed to cobble a team together of odds, ends and the kitman, but looked like holding out to the interval when Babel managed to open the scoring in time added on.  Gerrard took over in the second period and Sami also got in on the scoring act.  Later Luton revealed that a consortium headed by Nick Owen had agreed to buy them.  Their fans probably didnít know whether to laugh or cry. 

Aston Villa PL (h) 2-2  Although we hadnít actually won a league game this year, we started brightly and Yossi put us in front.  Hate to say it, but the old Ďdidnít take our chances when we had themí phrase sprung to mind as Villa came out in the second half and somehow managed to scramble two goals in three minutes.  With ten minutes left, Crouch was brought on and to general relief hooked in the equaliser.  We had somehow ended up having to rescue a point from a game in which we should have taken all three. 

Havant & Waterlooville FAC (h) 5-2  What a strange day!  Non-leaguers H & W came to Anfield and left as heroes after being on the end of a seven goal thriller.  Unsurprisingly our set-piece defending let us down again, as Pacquetteís header from a corner put the minnows 1-0 up.  Lucas scored a beauty soon after to put us level.  However Finnan then stumbled and on-loan Potter raced through to score their second at the Kop end.  Ah, fairy tale stuff although some of the comments directed at those in red let them know that not everyone was so keen on the romance of the cup at that point.  Yossi however brought us level again and then notched another two just after half-time to put us into the lead for the first time in the game.  Crouch had to wait until injury time, but managed to get his name on the score sheet as well.  I know sometimes you can read too much into these type of games, but it is a little worrying when you concede two goals to such minor opposition in a serious game. 

West Ham United PL (a) 0-1  Carra finally got his hat-trick.  No not a third goal, but the third penalty he has conceded this season.  Added to the ones away to Villa and Reading, this one probably hurt more as it cost us a point and to rub insult into injury, it took place in injury time at the very end of the game.  In saying that, WHU had looked the better team and more likely to score, so we really shouldnít have had too many complaints about the final outcome.  Just a pity the way it came about. 

Sunderland PL (h) 3-0  The first half was pretty mundane but livened up after the break, especially when Crouch nodded in a header.  Things opened up after that and Torres added his customary goal and then was rounded up with a Gerrard penalty to give the scoreline a very comfortable look. 

Chelsea PL (a) 0-0  There wasnít much to report on this game.  We probably had the better of the chances, but failed to take any of them.  BskyB reckoned each team had one shot on target in the game.  That pretty much summed it up. 

Barnsley FAC (h) 1-2  When this game was drawn out of the hat, I donít think it was any secret that we all felt that this should be a fairly comfortable passage into the next round.  Thatís not to disrespect Barnsley, but they had been struggling all season, had to draft a keeper in on loan and we were at home.  And if that isnít a recipe for disaster, I donít know what isnít.  Everything went smoothly early on with Kuyt putting us ahead.  Barnsley though equalised in the first half, but we had more than enough chances to win the game.  No excuses here, we got sloppy, didnít do the smart things and gave away possession on the edge of our penalty area.  Howard turned and slammed the ball low into the bottom corner past Itandje in injury time.  The Kop applauded.  What else could we do?

Inter Milan CL (h) 2-0  When this draw came out I was quite pleased.  I know I was in a minority, but I have always had a belief that Italian teams really donít like playing English ones, especially Liverpool, so I didnít see anything to fear in this contest.  The game began in a fairly open fashion and not as cagey as most of us would have expected.  No doubt having that former Bluenose, Materazzi sent off added to the occasion, especially as replays showed he hadnít made any contact with Torres for the first of his yellow card offences.  Shame really, ho, ho.  Then Cruz was carried of with a knee injury, but it looked as if Inter were going to hang on, even managing to get away with a clear handball offence by Viera.  With five minutes remaining Kuyt got on the end of a Pennant cross and drilled the ball into the ground and over the Inter keeper for a very valuable goal.  Gerrard added another in the last minute to put a little icing on the cake and probably sinks Interís hope of turning the game around at home. 

Middlesbrough PL (h) 3-2  The Spanish lad was at it again, this time with three goals. Some would say heís just showing off.  Tuncay had put Boro in front but Fernando had equalised and then drilled in a second which gave Schwarzer no chance.  His third was a classic cock-up between defender and keeper that allowed him a free shot to seal his first league hat-trick.  Downing pulled one back with seven minutes to go Ė once again we seem to lose concentration near the end (do you see where Iím going with this?).  The only other note of significance was that Aliadiere was sent off when he got a bit too close enquiring about Mascheranoís mascara. 

Bolton Wanderers PL (a) 3-1  Not usually one of our favourite grounds, but Jussi Jaaskelainenís game of head tennis early on gifted Gerrard a goal.  Babel smacked home a second after the ball had come back off the post from Kuytís initial shot and Aurelio rounded it all up nicely by lashing home a third - except with eleven minutes to go we managed to concede another goal from a set-piece (a corner).  Am I the only one that seems a worryingly consistent theme here? 

West Ham United PL (h) 4-0  Now he is just showing off.  A second successive hat-tick at Anfield in the league.  Hardly need to mention that this was the highlight of the evening, as the match in general was poor fare.  West Ham had been thumped 4-0 by Chelsea at the weekend and had decided on spoiling tactics for this game.  However it was to no avail.  Torres finishing was of the highest order and Gerrard scored one of his occasional belters to give the scoreline a nice glossy look.

Newcastle United PL (h) 3-0  What is it that they say at Tescoís? Ė ĎEvery little bit helpsí.  It was certainly the case when Jose Enrique smacked the ball off Pennant and it looped into the back of the net.  Weíll take that.  Torres added the next one (is it actually written in his contract that he scores a goal at Anfield every game?) before he set up Gerrard to add the third.  However easily the most spectacular effort was from Obafemi Martins who hit the cross bar from forty yards.  Kevin Keegan might have gone grey already, but he looks as if heís aged another ten years since he came back to the Toon.

Inter Milan CL (a) 1-0  A run of five straight wins had us heading into this game high on confidence and with the added bonus of the 2-0 home win.  The San Siro is one of those grounds that Iíd call a Ďproperí football stadium and the atmosphere was cranked up right from the start.  Inter looked nervous which suited us.  Putting plenty of men behind the ball and then breaking fast seemed to be the tactics and they looked perfect on the night.  Viera doesnít look like the player we knew at Arsenal and Ibrahimovic appeared to be having one of his disinterested nights. We survived one or two scares, Pepe making a great save from Cruz.  But as the game wore on Inter looked resigned to not being able to turn the game around.  When Torres accepted Aurelioís pass, swivelled and scored, everyone in the ground knew it was game, set and match to us.  Although Torres and Gerrard were claiming the headlines, I have to mention Kuyt and Mascherano who ran themselves into the ground and never gave their opponents a second on the ball.  Sometimes just doing the simple things right is all that is required.  I should also mention that having been at our games in Rome and Turin, it was a pleasant change to leave an Italian stadium without any aggro and for both sets of fans to behave to treat each other with respect. 

Reading PL (h) 2-1  Memories of the earlier encounter with MU came flooding back when Matejovsky thumped Reading in front after only five minutes on the clock.  A free-kick near the corner flag looked innocuous enough, but no-one picked up Matejovsky on the edge of the box and he took full advantage.  (Obviously the Rooney deja-vu situation didnít ring any bells in our defence).  The day continued in odd fashion when Mascherano lashed home an equaliser.  You-know-who scored the winner from a header just into the second half. 

Manchester United Pl (a) 0-3  Did we really piss off some gypsies or mow down a whole street full of black cats?  What is it about going to OT?  Even in the days when we were regularly gathering championships and MU were languishing in mid-table obscurity they seemed to pull off great results against us.  This time things started fine until our defence decided not to bother dealing with a cross and that renowned goal scorer, Wes Brown managed to let it hit him on the back to put them one up.  Then we screwed up again, allowing Ronaldo a free header from a corner (set-piece problems again).  Pepe was all over the shop.  However it was all fairly academic at this stage as Liverpool were down to ten men after Mascherano had received his marching orders at the end of the first half.  Marching orders could be a fairly liberal use of the term, as Javier looked as if he wanted to spend most of the time marching after Steve Bennett.  Now Bennett is a ref that I loath- I can honestly say Iíve never seen him ref a good game and that takes some doing.  However Mascherano was giving him quite a bit of verbal after receiving his initial yellow card.  Unfortunately Masch continued in the same vein after he decided to give Bennett the benefit of his opinion regarding a very harsh booking on Torres.  I have no intention of sticking up for Mascherano, as he was unprofessional knowing he already had been booked, but Bennett showed why heís a poor ref by sending a player off a player for questioning a decision Ė not for swearing or arguing, but for questioning a decision.  And yet Rooney can clearly be seen later f-ing and blinding at Bennett later and he took no action.  If there is one thing fans and players in common dislike about a lot of refs is the lack of consistency.  What probably disappointed me more was that Maschís teammates didnít have a word with him to get him to calm down and focus on the game.  Then again, possibly none of them thought Bennett would hand out another card for such a trivial matter.  Unfortunately Javier only made it worse by refusing to leave the pitch immediately which ultimately led to a heavier suspension. 

Everton PL (h) 1-0  Everton were without Johnston and Cahill and it showed.  If anything will hold back the Bluenoses and Moyes ambitions it will be down to their inability to attract top name players and lack of funding to build a good enough squad that can complete over an entire season.  As derby games go, this one was as easy as they come and at the risk of sounding repetitive, Torres scored again Ė yawn!  The only moan was the margin of victory should have been more. 

Arsenal CL (a) 1-1  Hadnít had this feeling in the pit of my stomach since before the Chelsea semi home leg in 2005.  Arsenal were decent, but we defended well and had them at armsí length.  Might have been different if Kuyt hadnít equalised so soon after they took the lead which seemed to knock the stuffing out of them a bit.  Maybe knowing that we already had the Ďawayí goal affected their confidence, but we werenít complaining.  Wenger had another one of his Ďitís so cruel, we deserved to winí hissy fits which are becoming a bit tedious now that he seems to believe the world is against him.  Maybe heís starting to crack under the pressure of knowing that MU and Chelsea for the immediate future are exceedingly more wealthy than the Arse (and us for that matter). 

Arsenal PL (a) 1-1  Rafa did what most fans wanted and expected and rotated the team.  In came Plessis for his debut (and performed extremely well) along with seven other changes.  Maybe this fooled Arsenal and had the affect of causing them problems they hadnít anticipated.  Whatever the reason, we put in a very solid, controlled performance and lead with a volley from Crouch that left Almunia floundering.  As expected Arsenal upped the tempo in the second half, although the goal we conceded from a free kick was one of those sloppy ones that infuriates us all.  Thereís something about the way we defend at set-pieces that has crept into our game lately Ė hard to put a finger on it, but at a guess I would say we arenít proactive enough and attack the ball.  We tend to react to what the ball or opposition does.  Well thatís my tuppence worth.  Role on game three. 

Arsenal CL (h) 4-2  Ths odds were in our favour Ė we already had the away goal and we had the Anfield crowd behind us.  Which is why we decided to give Arsenal a helping hand by allowing Diaby to rifle them in front.  Do we ever try and do something the easy way?  For the first 25 minutes, Arsenal gave us a lesson in how to keep possession and pass the ball.  This did not look good at all.  Sometimes you get a feeling when weíre playing one of the other Ďbig fourí teams that we just arenít up for it.  For a while it looked like that tonight.  Then Sami lost Senderos in the box and nodded in from a corner.  From then on we started to look like worldbeaters.  Can anyone explain it?  I canít.  Maybe itís a confidence thing.  Maybe Arsenal were rocked, but I wasnít complaining.  We were playing decent football and having a real go at them.  More of the same in the second half and the ground erupted when Torres lost Senderos (who weíre now thankful Houllier didnít manage to sign) and slammed his shot into the top right corner at the Kop end.  Perfect, as Pop Larkin would say.  Except once again, we try and grasp defeat from the jaws of victory by allowing Walcott an 80 yard run that ends in him squaring the ball for Adebayor to calmly slot past an exposed Reina.  I donít think there are enough expletives in the world to do justice to what came out of my mouth at that moment.  I looked around me and everyone seemed to burying their head in the hands and or standing shocked, shaking their heads.  I was livid and screaming at the players to get back up the pitch.  I looked at the clock in the corner of the Kemlyn/Kop and it showed 6 minutes of normal time left plus whatever injury time still to be added on.  I was guessing that we maybe had 8 or 9 minutes left. Plenty of time, I kept telling myself.  Stay calm and focused.  We can still do this.  The very next attack and Babel goes down under Toureís challenge.  What Toure was trying to do is anyoneís guess.  I was ecstatic Ė and then it began to dawn on me that we hadnít actually scored yet.  And I have to be honest, when I saw Stevie G with the ball, I wasnít exactly brimming with confidence.  But have to hand it to the lad, a very high pressure situation and he took a great penalty that no-one would have saved.  Cue mass hysteria all around.  Babel then broke away as Arsenal desperately threw men to try and get a last gasp equaliser and scored the fourth to give the scoreline a slightly generous look.  But again, who was complaining?  (Apart from Arsene, of course)

Blackburn Rovers PL (h) 3-1  On current form this looked a pretty tough encounter although the end result was maybe easier than we had hoped.  Gerrard did one of his rather embarrassing ĎIím not looking for a penalty Ė honestí falls early on, but it was waved away.  However he was taken out on the edge of the box shortly afterwards which should have resulted in a red card for Samba, but he got away without even conceding a free kick.  It was Gerrard himself who managed to break the deadlock early in the second half and that Spanish lad up front added another.  Seems a decent buy.  Voronin added a third, although we again lost composure near the end and allowed Roque Santa Cruz (what a bargain heís turned out to be) to pull one back when we really should have kept a clean sheet. 

Fulham PL (a) 2-0  The Londoners have been struggling all season and were desperate for points.  Last season we rested several players on the run in to the Champions League final and were roundly criticised.  Well actually we werenít.  It was only that tosspot Colin Wanker at Sheffield United who did the yapping.  Somehow Warnock seems to think other teams owe him something for his own failings, but that was history.  We rested several players again this season, the only difference was we performed better.  Pennant was looking in the mood and lashed home the opening goal from a tight angle.  Maybe Keller should have done better, but Iíll give the credit to Jermaine as we all get on his back for not scoring enough.  Indeed Pennant was responsible for helping to set up Crouch later to add the second and again Keller probably wasnít happy with his attempted save, but that didnít particularly concern us as we claimed another three points which virtually assured us of a Champions League berth for next season. 

Chelsea CL (h) 1-1  If itís April, it must be Champions League semi-final time.  Okay, we donít want to get complacent, but our third semi-final in four seasons was upon us and unbelievably it was Chelsea again.  Maybe what irks me about them is the whole nouveau riche thing.  Chelsea to me will always invoke thoughts of a half empty stadium and the likes of Doug Rougvie, Clive Walker, John Spencer and Vinny Jones running about in no particular direction.  It still difficult to understand what the heck they are doing in European semi finals.  In previous encounters this season, we had been the better team and this one began in the same fashion.  Chelsea may have held the ball for a while, but we definitely were opening them up.  Torres and Kuyt missed great chances early on before Kuyt put us in front just before the interval.  The pattern followed that of the Inter Milan game and as it wore on we were looking to get that vital second goal.  There was no doubt that going to Stamford Bridge with a 2-0 lead would have been good enough to send us to the final.  But as luck would have it, Aurelia strained his groin and was replaced by Riise whoís impact was to have huge repercussions.  Memories of Arsenal in 89 came back as we arsed about near the corner flag at our end of the ground and some poor defending allowed Kalou to cross the ball.  Normally that shouldnít have been a big issue, but Riise was like a bad Sat-Nav system.  He totally lost his sense of direction and headed the cross past Reina for the equaliser.  Head like a sheriffís badge as Phil Thompson would say.  Some of the bile that was aimed at Riise was unfortunate in the aftermath of the game as he hardly intended to score an own goal and it was a genuine mistake.  Unfortunately too many of our fans have a Jekyll and Hyde nature allied to being hypocritical when the occasion suits.  Somehow I donít think Carra would have come in for this abuse if it had been his error. 

Birmingham City PL (a) 2-2  No surprises here when Rafa made nine changes to the line-up from the previous game, although I have to reinforce that it is these sort of games where we expect the changes to be made and indeed it makes practical sense.  Young Plessis was again brought in and gave another assured performance, although sometimes our defending as a whole was a bit ropey to say the least.  Forsell put Brum ahead lashing the ball in and they looked to be heading for the three points when Larsson scored a tremendous free kick into the top corner giving Pepe no chance.  What was more debateable was the behaviour of Jaidi who stood in front of Reina, (although onside) trying to distract him.  The goal was perfectly legitimate, but you have to wonder what has happened to sportsmanship in general in the game when people are acting like clowns every week, throwing themselves down, faking injuries, and behaving like loons to distract goalkeepers.  It wasnít that long ago that anyone carrying on like that would have received a clip round the ear from the keeper and the ref would probably have said you deserved that.  Iíll move on before I mention jumpers for goalposts.  Pennant who was probably our best player was causing the Blues quite a few problems and set up Crouch to pull a goal back.  Yossi added to this soon after with a deflected effort that left Taylor stranded.  Birmingham were devastated and must have had that sinking feeling as the threat of relegation looked to be overwhelming them. 

Chelsea CL (a) 2-3  And so it all comes down to this.  After fifty-six games, our season hinges on these 90 minutes.  I know Iím not the only one sick of the sight of Chelsea and Iím sure the feeling is mutual.  Talk about familiarity breeding contempt.  Unfortunately you can see this situation continuing for the next few years.  With the way teams from the same countries are deliberately kept apart initially and also with the seeding arrangements, there is no doubt English teams will continue to meet each other in the knock out stages in the foreseeable future, unless more of the Italian and Spanish clubs begin to sort themselves out.  The opening exchanges reminded me of the previous round at home to Arsenal where we had been played off the pitch for the first twenty-five minutes.  Our midfield didnít seem to be in the game and I had that gut feeling that this wasnít going to be our night.  This was compounded when Drogba lashed a ball past Reina at his near post.  Half-time was spent rationalising the fact that Moscow sounded like a shithole and extremely expensive.  Who would want to go there anyway?  The second half followed pretty much the same pattern as the first, until Torres turned his man and slotted home an equaliser.  Where the hell did that come from?  Who cares?  We were back in it and suddenly Chelsea were there for the taking.  Now Iíd decided I did want to visit the Kremlin, never mind mafiosos and visa hassles.  We werenít exactly rampant, but now looked like the team we knew we should be.  Unfortunately we couldnít add to the score and extra-time loomed.  I donít know if I called this wrong, but my distinct impression was Chelsea looking sharper than us as the game rolled on.  So much for all this rotation malarky that we would benefit from towards the end of the season.  Then out of nowhere we concede a penalty and unfortunately the last person you want to see taking one against you is Lampard.  Sure enough, he drilled it home and I think the collective thought was that we were going out.  Drogba then swept in his second of the game and that was that, except Babel then produced a goal from a long range effort which looked suspiciously like a screw up by Cech.  But it was too late.  I donít think we had any excuses Ė referees, weather, tactics or whatever is usually trotted out by angry coaches.  I didnít see Rafaís post match thoughts, but I walked away shrugging my shoulders.  The better team won.  Moscow is a shithole anyway. 

Manchester City PL (h) 1-0  Thereís something about games at the end of the season when there is nothing really left to play for that tends to kill any atmosphere and tension.  Since we were secure in the fourth place spot, it was a case of going through the motions with Torres looking to increase his goals tally for the season.  Insua was handed his debut at left back and had a quiet, although steady game once his initial nerves had settled.  City who had started the season impressively under Eriksson had now faded and the only real surprise was that we didnít win by more.  Torres didnít let us down and equalled Van Nistelrooyís record for the number of goals by a foreigner in a debut season in the Premier League.  After finishing the season empty handed, weíll be happy to take any record however insignificant.  What was significant was that neither Crouch or Riise made the squad for this, the last home game of the season.  Read into that, what you will.

Tottenham Hotspur PL (a) 2-0  In a way this was a replay of the previous weekís game with neither side really having anything to play for and a case of putting on our new shirts for the punters and seeing if Torres could beat the record.  An entertaining enough game which become more interesting for the away support when Voronin managed to poke the ball home and was quickly followed by the one we had been hoping for Ė Torres notching his twenty-fourth of the campaign.  Considering I had my doubts over whether this ladís finishing ability would be up to scratch at the start of the season, I admit that much humble pie was being consumed, although in my defence, having seen him play about half a dozen times in the past, he had been awful each time.  Honest.  I guess Rafa wonít be calling me for any scouting reports soon.

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