The following paragraph has little if anything to do with football, so if you want to skip it, I won't be offended.
This was rather an odd affair, and I'll get to why in just a second. For now though, I'd like to give you a little sneak peek into my adventure yesterday not to hear or see anything regarding this match prior to seeing it on taped delay. First, I left work at 3 to avoid the temptation of checking the score on my computer. Then I went to a restaurant to get a pre-game pint and maybe something to eat, but low and behold, what was playing on the TV at the bar? Not hard to guess, so I walked out immediately and went to a local dive where there's no TV and old men sit around talking about Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. I shit you not, there were four or five geysers swimming in a sea of cheap booze and alcohol that you could substitue for gasoline, chatting away about the current troubles of Kevin Federline's ex-beau and the girl who thinks that cosmopolitans are part of the food triangle. Needless to say, I got a few good laughs. Then a girl I know comes trotting into the place and walks right up to me and says "So, did you hear?" I put my hand to her mouth and told her if she said anything regarding the match I would post her number in every men's bathroom in town with the most lewd invitation to call that I could think of. Though I think it hurt her feelings, it worked, and to avoid allowing her the chance to return the favor, I chugged the rest of my beer and went on my way. Finally, I was headed to the bar of which I was to meet a few friends to watch the match. As I entered the bar, I didn't know what the hell I was thinking, but I glanced at one of the TVs above the bar. Maybe I thought it would be off. It wasn't. Not only was it not off, ESPNews was on, and what score do you think was showing the mere millisecond I let my eyes stray? You bet ya. I was so happily angry I could have punched a hole in the wall and then sang to it. I would hate to think what would have happened if they had loss? It would not have been pretty. Anyhow, on to the match...
I called this match odd because quite frankly we had no right to win it. They held possession for more than two-thirds time, had nearly twice as many attempts on goal (though, strangely enough, one less shot on), and had three times as many corner kicks (six to two). You would think it was our stifling defense that won this for us, but honestly, that was one of the most questionable performances from our back four that I've seen all season, despite some huge sliding saves in the box. Some of the clearances were mind-blowing, and the passing overall was dreadful. The things we did best in this game were take advantage of the sparse opportunities given to us and tackling. Our tackling was superb, finally we looked like an aggressive team, could have used that against Arsenal a couple times earlier this season though. And the reason was? Mohammed Sissoko. Momo was brilliant, and though I would love to give the man of the match to Bellamy, Sissoko earned this one the hard way. He completely and utterly dominated the middle of the pitch, putting Ronaldinho on his ass a couple of times, I might add. If this was a chess match, and I guess in a lot of ways it was, Momo did it by the book: own the middle, own the game.
A lot of times when Barca entered our box in possession, I was sort of baffled by their execution and shot selection. I recall Ronaldinho bringing it into the top with not a man within ten feet, he hesitated and then wasted a shot. If that was almost any of our boys, they would have instantaneously attempted a shot. Our marking and positioning, forcing them to take the harder shot, was excellent as well. Deco, the man I thought we needed to watch the most I might add, had a few opportunities, but whomever was on him always made him go for the narrow shot instead of risking him getting past them. Carra seemed all over the place and played well, but he, like Pepe, made some poor passing decisions. Arbeloa seems to be a nice compliment to our more offensive-minded defenders, he doesn't try to make the glamorous play or the big pass, a little blue collar, which is something we tend to need.
The goals were all clean and well executed. Zambrotta's cross to Deco's head, Finnan's pass to Bellamy's noggin', and Bellamy's superb pass to Riise, who pounded the ball in the top back of the net. The latter showed a great deal of awareness and vision, something we see little of from Bellamy, on and off the pitch. The misses/blocks/saves were just as spectacular as well, especially Kuyt's header that hit the top of bar and Deco's curling free kick that nailed the side bar. Liverpool was lucky not to head Anfield-ward with a draw. Here's a five minute highlight reel. Enjoy.