I'm a bit baffled as to why Rafa came out with such a strong back line, as it was quite evident early on that there was no chance South China was going to score. The time they did was on a fantastic free kick, which was questionably awarded. We could have easily gotten away with an Arbeloa, Hyypia, Paletta, and Threlfall backline, and it worries me a bit, since in three days we have to play Portsmouth and Agger, Arbeloa, Carra, and Riise all played the entire match. Maybe Rafa doesn't care about winning the next match or maybe he feels that we are so much deeper than Portsmouth that it doesn't matter. Who knows.
I get the feeling Mark Clattenburg, the head official, was doing a lot of pity refereeing. At one point, he awarded a free kick to South China when Hyypia clearly won the ball, heading it forward, but his head also happened to collide with the head of a SCFC player during the battle. Apparently it was not an equal opportunity ball. Nearly every time a SCFC player fell to the ground, they were awarded a free kick. It was probably the only thing keeping this from being a blood bath.
Anyways, our defense looked solid. We even got a look at Robbie Threlfall on the left and he seemed promising as well. He's a pacey prospect who seems to be quite disciplined, quite a contrast to Arbeloa, who still seems to want to be a midfielder rather than a right back. In his defense though, he did at one point steal the ball and screech down the side line with it, unfortunately though, when his cross found Kuyt, Dirk wasn't ready and flubbed it.
The second half was played at a slower pace than the first until Rafa started to unload his bench, starting with Kuyt and Pennant in the 55th minute. From that point on, the ball rarely entered our half except on an occasional long ball try by SCFC. The final tally could have probably been much worse, but fatigue and the South China defense was not all that bad. Pennant got a great set-up pass from Kuyt late, but he was just too close and would have needed a cheeky finish to get it past the keeper.
The third goal was pretty much all Danny Agger with some help from Riise and Kuyt. From about the mid-half of South China's side, Agger sent a lead pass to Riise down the left side. Riise contained it, dribbbled a tad and crossed it to Kuyt at the top of the box who unselfishly left it for a screeching Agger, who pounded it in the back of the net. Riise could have been called offside, but was obviously not.
Man of the Match really comes down to two players, in my opinion. Xabi was solid as the holding midfielder. He made some great passes, including setting up the Voronin penalty, and was constantly a threat to blast it in from the top of the box. The other candidate was Voronin, who muscled and pestered the SCFC defense to no end, causing them to focus a lot on him and draw less attention on his teammates. I can't decide between the two, so I won't.
Overall, it was a pretty dominating performance. I just hope the sultry conditions don't affect us even more come Friday. The only good thing is we'll have a few fresh players, most significantly Stevie-G.