Thursday, May 01, 2008

Champions League: Chelsea vs. Liverpool

It should be noted that nothing about the many, many games played against these two teams suggested an exciting game. Liverpool (and in fact, most EPL teams) haven't scored much or at all against Chelsea at home. Their last three or four games have been desultory affairs, with little scoring, and featured two teams determined to play defensive, boring football.

But for whatever reason (perhaps a berth in the Champions League Final in Moscow) changed the dynamic, and both teams came out firing in this game. But it was Chelsea, striking through passes to Drogba and Kalou who had the most dangerous attacks throughout the game. It often looked like Liverpool flat out bungled offsides traps--how does Didier fucking Drogba end up one on one with the keeper otherwise? If I were coaching against Chelsea, I would say, "No matter how deep you are, you always stay 5 yards behind Drogba; I don't care if you end up off the field--you give him that cushion so he can't beat you on a 50/50 ball. Benitez thought different. And he lost.

Apparently, much will be made of Lampard's striking of the Penalty kick that put Chelsea up 2-1 in overtime, but really--if his mother hadn't died this week, we wouldn't consider that a very dramatic moment at all. And if he had missed, we would have been all over Avram for not letting Ballack take the kick. It worked out, but it was Drogba who put this game on ice, scoring a 3rd goal in OT, thus making Babel's rather lucky finish in the 125th minute or whatever not so scary.

It was a 3-2 finish, and it was neither that close, or that far. Chelsea did have a 3-1 lead in overtime, but it did take overtime to make it happen.

Here's why Chelsea is fucking badass--they can actually turn to Michael Essien, who is probably the best center midfielder on his home fucking Continent. Continent! And they can say, "Hey, today, you are playing right marking back, but do try to get forward when the opportunity arises. Sure enough, Essien was launching dangerous shots from 30 yards out off of rebounds. Here's the other thing--either Essien is a fine defender, or Liverpool never attacked him hard enough. They didn't build much on the wings, even knowing that Essien was playing defense. Their one real goal came from a brilliant dribble, with a nasty through ball right down the middle to El Nino, who knows how to finish.

But regardless, you know your team is stacked in a very crazy way when Michael Essien is on the pitch, and he isn't playing Center Midfield. Even Essien on the Right in midfield suggests crazy stackiness. But for him to be playing right marking back? Sick, fucking sick.

I will love Manchester United for as long as Ryan Giggs is their left winger, but he's got a rough assignment if he finds himself opposite Essien. And clearly, Drogba will be the only true Striker in that Final. But we will get into that analysis when the Final draws closer.

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