Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Round Pegs at Anfield
In my view, it is the coach who must shoulder a good proportion of the blame.
I mentioned recently that Frank Rijkaard has been expecting certain players to do the job that Samuel Eto'o has done in the past, even though the players in question are not suited to it. In the second leg, there were plenty of round pegs in square holes, and Barcelona were a mess in the first half as a result.
Ronaldinho, probably the most brilliant player in the world but hardly a central striker, started at the apex of the front three. Samuel Eto'o, not entirely fit but still undeniably dangerous, started on...the left wing. And, as Gary Bloom never tired of mentioning, barely saw the ball in the first half hour.
Moreover, Andres Iniesta - one of the most under-rated players in Europe, in my opinion - was transformed from the influential all-round midfielder he usually is into a virtual left wing-back.
Meanwhile, on the right of Barca's new-look back three, Oleguer couldn't seem to decide where he was meant to be much of the time, with the result that Jon Arne Riise had an embarrassing degree of freedom in the opening stages.
Small wonder that Liverpool dominated the first half, and should have scored more than once.
They hardly deserved to, since they went into the game with the same come-and-get-us attitude with which they had approached the first leg. All very well in the Nou Camp, but misplaced at Anfield, I felt.
Although things got much better for Barca in the second half, Rijkaard managed to ensure with his first substitution that there were no Barca strikers on the pitch at all. And this when they were desperate to score!
When one finally arrived in Eidur Gudjohnsen, he scored the only goal of the game in typical striker's fashion; cleverly beating the offside trap before deftly rounding the 'keeper. A message there, surely.
Victory without glory for Liverpool, then...and hopefully some serious reflection on the part of Frank Rijkaard.
Put it this way; I reckon Barca lost the tie rather than Liverpool winning it, to a large extent.