Liverpool 2 Monaco 0 - A new pass and move groove (armada)

Posted by Barrettski on September 18, 2004, 09:25:27 PM

Liverpool 2 Monaco 0 - A new pass and move groove (armada)

The last time I was in Monaco, I blagged my way into the Ferrari garage and persuaded a lovable grease monkey to let me start up an 80ís classic, a Testarossa of the variety that Crocket used to fart about in.† Anyway, it had been on stand for a while and consequently it alternated between burbling like a monster and spluttering like a Sierra with diesel in.† The mechanic apologised for the lack of tuning but I didnít care, Iíd experienced something special.† And thatís the feeling I got from watching Liverpool the other night.† This team is without doubt something special and when the mechanic is finished weíll burble along to some trophies.† Thatís my prediction, and I donít even own an alligator.

The Champions League is the pinnacle of world football.† The best players, the best teams and Monaco are, sorry were, one of them.† Monaco have had the heart ripped out of them over the summer and were even without Saviola.† So what could we expect?† A well orchestrated Deschamps side coming for a draw?† Or a team with nothing to lose looking for a win?† Sadly my employers have sold me into slavery and I hadnít had a chance to think about it any more than that in the days running up to the game.

SoÖ Liverpool lined up with the mouth watering prospect of Xabi Alonso and Gerrard in midfield.† Itís a combination that makes sense to me.† There no point in shoe horning Didi into this 4-4-1-1, such ploys are the reserve of England managers and only lead to confusion or players out of position.† So, we had Finnan on the right and Kewell on the left.† Balance I thought, if nothing else.† The back five were unsurprising.† Wrong keeper in nets, Josemi and Riise as full backs with Carra and Sami in the middle.† Possibly the most balance weíve had there in a few years.† Up front we started with Garcia playing in behind Cisse, or Dalglish and Rush as people seem to like to call them these days.† More of that later.

Monaco lined up with a Glen Hoddle kind of formation.† 3-5-2 they called it.† Roma in nets, and how Squillaci, Rodriguez, Givet, Maicon, Perez, Zikos, Farnerud, Evra, Kallon and Adebayor lined up in front of him is probably a mystery to Didier too.† He kind of summed it up when he said they were below par.† What would he have given to start this campaign with Rothen, Giuly, Prso and Morientes?†

The game started with the reds attacking the Kop and a game of keep ball.† This was good.† First time passing to feet and everything.† Alonso to Garcia and back, Alonso to Stevie to Finnan to Josemi and Alonso again.† Itís a while since Iíve seen Liverpool pass and move this well but here it was, pass and move, the new Liverpool Groove (Armada).† Iíll get me coat.

Monaco really didnít look at the races here and resorted early on to a couple of agricultural challenges.† Zikos was booked, others got away with it.† Noticeably Stevie didnít get riled by this and seemed more intent on getting on Garcia and Alonsoís wavelength.† He tuned in early and on twenty minutes it paid off.† Alonso to Stevie to Garcia to Cisse, zip zip zip and thump.† From dead ball to the back of the net in a flash, and made to look all so simple.† The entire team went over to congratulate the big man infront of the Kop, a sight to warm any red heart.† Beautiful.

And so to Garcia, a player who arrived without too much of a fanfare but much more of this and weíll have the bunting out.† The last time people gasped at close control, speed of thought and vision like this it was when Jari Litmanen did continental things in that same hole behind the striker.† Funny that.† Press and fans canít seem to talk about him without mentioning King Kenny.† Premature perhaps but I can see their point.† Heís clever, his skills are undoubted and when itís not happening for him, he makes it happen.† He goes and gets the ball and hey, you know what?, the ball doesnít ping off like itís allergic to him.† Things have changed.

Itís true to say that not everything came off in the first half, but this looked like such a well balanced team that the odd splutter didnít matter.† Finnan and Kewell did more than a job here, they added something.† Both provided wide outlets and options for the creativity bubbling in the middle.† Both provided a corner to the passing triangles that tore Monaco apart.† Much more of this and Iíll need tissues.

Sadly we didnít go into half time two or three up as we should have done.† Garcia had put one low shot into Romaís legs and a late header before half time was turned round the post.† Gerrardís was exquisite and deserved more than the applause Luis gave it.† Elsewhere, Cisseís runs were useful in turning defence into attack but hadnít put him into goal scoring positions, yet.† But god heís fast.

The second half saw more rapid fire passing from the reds, but Monaco had regrouped and re-acquitted themselves.† A ludicrous booking for Gerrard followed and suddenly we were into familiar territory, 1-0 up and desperate for the second goal we deserved.† An all-new Riise free kick was deflected wide, Kewell blasted an ambitious volley over and Cisse scuffed a bread and butter un-a-un with the keeper having been put through by a gorgeous interchange between Kewell and Garcia.† Some seat squirming ensued in the Kop and not just because I was sitting next to Southportís tallest man.

Monaco began to press as the half entered middle age.† Rodney Marsh will have us believe every team has its chances in a game.† Theirs came courtesy of Jerzy, who managed to turn a routine cross into the kind of panic Captain Mannering will have recognised.† I remember a Dynamos under-11 training session when I was taught that anything in the six yard area belongs to the keeper.† Carragher clearly had the same message and looked shocked to have to head the ball clear from his near post.† Unbelievable.† Jerzy followed that up by waving away a bobbling ball that Iíd really rather heíd jumped on.† For the sake of my heart if nothing else.

Once upon a time the sight of someone stripping off at this stage would have meant Didi Hamann coming on to protect a lead.† But no, on came Milan Baros and the side kept that BMW like balance we were beginning to enjoy.† We enjoyed it more as we attacked in numbers with the likes of Finnan turning up in their box.† Better still he headed a golden opportunity to Garcia, on a plate, with an apple in its mouth.† Not for the first time Luis put it comically wide.† Not for the last time, weíll forgive himÖ and didnít the linesman flag anyway?

With Baros on the pitch it was time for some head down motoring towards goal.† With a couple of players beaten it was Milan vs. Roma at the Annie Road End (good one Henry).† Now for me, this is where Milan isnít convincing.† A ball needs placing under a keeper, tickled round him on his wrong side or blasted close to his body where he canít reach it.† Milan doesnít have that genetic make up, Iím just not convinced that it comes naturally to him like it did Rush and Fowler.† That said, he put this chance away well, having stopped, started and shifted from right foot to left.† Hell of a finish, but not a strikers goal.† He then went on to miss a late round the keeper chance, just to prove my point.† Which was nice of him.

Take nothing away from any of the players in red here, this was a truly uplifting performance.† It wasnít polished and it spluttered in places but it was sheer class for much of the 90 minutes.† If I may be permitted to use the word ďbalanceĒ here, I will.† The 4-4-1-1 formation here and the players who performed it were just that, perfectly balanced.† Rafa may not have discovered his best team to play yet, but heís made another huge step to finding it against Monaco.† The Corporationís spy at the game wonít have good news for the sour faced whiskey nosed whinger down the road and letís face it, thatís how we like things.

How the Redmen performed

Dudek:† Had a typical Jerzy game for me.† Held onto shots with the bravery of a Ghurka, stopped shots with the showmanship of Hollywood stunt man, distributed the ball like an American paper boy and commanded his area like John Inman commands a shop counter.

Josemi:† Josemi, Josemi running down wing.† Sorry, thatís a Manc song isnít it?† But this guy has everything for me.† Nothing superlative as yet but the solidity, positional sense and attacking flair of a truly class modern full back.† Love him.

Carragher:† Insert normal Carra paragraph here, but remove anything about him having a lot to do.† Was alive to everything and dealt with everything, including Dudekís nosebleed moment.

Hyypia:† Made new friends again with a striker desperately trying to get out of his pocket.† More like the Hyypia of old than at any stage last season.† Must be looking forward to picking a bone with United.† Personally Iíd pick Horsefaceís shin, but make sure the ball comes first Sami.

Riise:† Remember that old Nurofen advert when somebody fights free of the chains and shackles to break free.† Thatís how Riise is playing (only without the nauseating music).† Even the free kicks are fresh.†

Xabi Alonso:† No disrespect to Didi, who we love and value as one of the best holding players weíve seen (and will probably start on Monday)Ö but this guy is something else.† Alonso can hold while Stevie goes forward, he can tackle and then he brings this rapier like passing brain to the middle of the pitch.† Technically heís close to flawless too.† Pass the tissues, Iím having a moment again.

Gerrard:† Iím beginning to see what Rafa means about intelligent running now.† Stevie now has the quality of players around him that means he doesnít need to make every run, chase down every lost cause or attempt non stop Hollywood balls.† Consequently the team remains balanced and his drive and contribution is more positive

Kewell:† Iíve been harsh on Harry before.† Heís still to convince me, but more games like this and itíll be no trouble.† He fitted in well with the Pass and Move Armada in the middle and contributed no less than they did.†

Finnan:† Players should be judged by what they do on the pitch and everything he did here backed up his words off it.† Steve is here to fight for his place and on this performance, heíll be hard to oust from right midfield.† Who would have thought anyone would have been saying that a few months back?† One class goal this week and a great performance here that brought width and options to the right.† †

Garcia:† I could go on a three page wankathon here, but I think the local press have done that already.† Suffice to say that we havenít seen this kind of link play since King Kenny.† Thereís no greater praise than that.

Cisse:† Great pace, great attitude and a great finish here, his first at Anfield.† Iíve got a feeling heís going to get a few chances this season.† Just hope he can take them all like he took his first here.

Baros:† Loved the finish for his goal, even if it still doesnít look to me like heís a natural finisher.† Showed the kind of harrying a bustling form here that brought him the golden boot in the summer.† Who said we donít have enough strikers?† We only need one and weíve got a couple spare.

Warnock:† Came on late for Kewell and again contributed well down the left.† There on merit and continues to show it too.

Biscan: Came on late to let Garcia get his individual applause.† Comical to see him playing in the ďholeĒ but maybe with new class around him, he can show what he can really do this season?

Kop:† Possibly the only full stand in the ground (donít know).† Had a good sing song, but then itís midweek European night and all the season ticket holders are in front of the TV arenít they?† Controversial they call me.

Them:† Rivalled Grazer for the smallest away contingent Iíve ever seen, but they did make themselves heard.† Didnít hear any yodelling though (or is my geography up the swanny there?).

© Barrettski 2004

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