Another preseason win, though frustrating. In the first half, we really let Shanghai's physical play bother us. We are going to have to learn to either 'return the favor' or take the higher road because teams are going to annoy the crap out of us in the EPL just to take us off our game. We need to try and find some way to use it against them without fouling or trying to get the foul called, EPL refs have little sympathy for pouters.
In the second half we created lots of chances, but Shanghai basically put everyone behind the ball. In fact, if it weren't for Steven Gerrard's world class goal, the game would have probably ended 1-0. Kuyt was desperate to score and caused a lot of problems for the Shenhua defense, but everytime he got the ball he was mobbed by two and three defenders and none of our other players looked to help him out by finding the open space to allow him an outlet.
Towards the end of the match, especially the last fifteen minutes or so, after one of our players made a pass, they would just quit the play. Though that might have to do with the number of players Shanghai crowded in and around the box or maybe we were just tired or maybe we didn't give a crap because it was preseason, it's still a little disappointing.
In the end, Shenhua was not a threat to score in the second. They were unlucky in the first when a breakaway goal hit Martin's foot. Our overall play was good, if not leaving a desire for us to learn to use more of the field on attack. It was as if we had invisible boundaries that if a ball was brought into a certain section of the pitch, the only way we could get it out of there was to cross and though most of them weren't off, they were either straight to a Shanghai player or to nobody.
Individually, I think Lucas, Leto, and Insua, despite today's opponent, are ready for the senior squad. I can't say enough about Leto. Having rarely seen him play before, I was very impressed. He's pretty quick for someone his size and has solid dribbling and passing skills. Insua was great today as well. It looks as if he's matured quite a bit and made some great stops. His clearances were solid as well, though he scared the crap out of me when he cleared a cross out of the box toward the backline. Lucas, though not giving a great performance, was solid and looked as if he was, for the most part, relaxed and competent.
If I had to single out a player who was unimpressive, I'd have to say Crouch. Do I really have to go into why? It's the say old crap, hanging on to the ball too long, too many touches, blah blah. He was also out of position a few times as well. Maybe I should just imagine he's not there, it would make my viewing a lot more pleasurable.
Momo continued his fine preseason form, making some great tackles and some spot on long passes. Gerrard came on like gangbusters and within ten minutes pretty much secured the win with a world class goal. Seriously, yes, I know I have an unhealthy thing for Stevie-G, but once you see this goal you'll understand why. It was just ridiculously good. Finally, I really liked Torres' toughness today, it's going to pay massive dividends come EPL time and even if he doesn't score a lot of goals, he's going to cause all kinds of problems for defenses.
Next match is Feyenoord on Sunday and being our final preseason match, I sort of expect Rafa to play what he considers his first team. With Mascherano back, it shouldn't be a problem.