Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A great morning of football, especially for the champions

YOU could hardly watch a more thrilling morning of football action and be left thinking that it only improved the lot of the defending champions.

Liverpool's 4 all draw with Arsenal was one of the best games you are likely to see. It was a must win for Liverpool and a sideshow to the main event (the Champions League) for Arsenal, safely in the top four after an wonderful run of late.

The Reds, minus their skipper, but coming off a seven day rest, went into it as firm favourites. After all, the Gunners had had to endure two crucial games since Liverpool's epic 4-4 at the Bridge.

Surely Wengers men, minus their first choice two at the front and back would bow over to Reds, especially at Anfield? Not on your life.

While Liverpool started the better, this morning they were met by an inspirational Fabianski, Arsenal's villain on Saturday. Time and time again he denied Torres and Benayoun.

Arsenal's opener, when it came, arrived on back of a pedestrian mistake from Mascherano, who dwelt on the ball and got pick-pocketed by Fabregas, playing his third game in seven days. Combine the quality of Fabregas and Arshavin in any circumstance and you invariably have a goal.

It was tense times in the Kop and on the couch, but with Liverpool attacking the famous end in the second period, in the goal getting mood they've been in this season, there was hope.

Benetiz pulled a neat shift at the break, swapping the influential Benayoun and the willing Dutchman Kuyt. Benayoun went in behind Torres and Kuyt went out to the right. There was instant success, with Kuyt first teeing up Torres with a flighted cut-back, then hanging one up to the back stick for the Israeli to attack. Wonderful vision and execution.

Up 2-1, surely Liverpool were in control now, but they would need another one, for sure.

Back came the visitors, with two of their own, both from the lethal Russian. Every time Arsenal went forward the Reds rearguard looked nervous, and when Arbeloa waited for a Carragher header, Arshavin pounced and drilled one across Reina. Smashing. Minutes later he picked up a ridiculous clearance from Aurelio (why on earth he didn't wrap his right foot around the it instead on using his left in-step to clear?) and sent Arsenal 3-2 up. Memories of the Gunners and Michael Thomas stealing the title all those years ago came rushing back.

Soon after, Liverpool we back on the front foot, and when the ball was moved into the wonderful feet of their Spanish striker there was only one result. Instant control, a lightning turn, a quick shift of the ball and powerful placement. A parry from Fabianski, but we had parity, 3-3. It was already an epic.

Any more twists? Absolutely! The hosts, desperate to heap the pressure on Man Utd, kept bounding forward, throwing everyone at the Kop end, and when they failed to connect with a corner, or pick up the loose ball, were picked off by Wenger's two whippets, Walcott teeing up Arshavin. Some finisher.

Surely Liverpool's title hopes were shot now? Alas, there were still five minutes of stoppage time, enough for a thrilling equaliser from Benayoun, outstanding throughout.

Despite sending them top on goal difference, the draw might indeed not be enough for Liverpool.

With two games in hand, and despite a hectic calendar, Man Utd are still favourites. But on the evidence of this season, there's no doubt Liverpool will go down swinging.

And who knows? Tomorrow Utd host Pompey.

When I caught my first ever EPL game on a recent work trip to the UK, Portsmouth were fighting for their Premier League lives, just outside the relegation zone. It was a nervous afternoon at Fratton Park as Everton took the lead early, only for Liverpool old boy Peter Crouch to nod in two trademark headers and keep the 'Blue Army' breathing. That afternoon it was a case of Stay Up Pompey rather than their famous anthem, 'Play Up Pompey', but a couple of decent results since, including two clean sheets, gives Pompey hope they can not only stay up, but push on up the ladder.

Tomorrow morning, this Liverpool fan, and countless others around the world, will be hoping that Crouch, David James and Co. can indeed 'Play up' and keep a bit of life in this most thrilling of EPL titles.

And just when you thought things couldn't get more breath-taking, a quick flick of the remote to ESPN showed there is plenty of life left in the LaLiga chase, with champions Real Madrid surviving an almighty scare at home to take them to within three points of Barcelona, who are still battling on three fronts. Down 2-1 to Getafe with only five or so minutes left, Real managed to equalise thanks to a wonderful Guti effort. Then, remarkably, with only a couple of minutes left, Pepe gave away a penalty and was sent off, only for Getafe's Francisco Casquero to clip the penalty, Panenka style, tamely at Casillas.

Low and behold, Real did what they do best, getting out of jail and getting their winner a few minutes, which heaps the pressure on Barca, who host Sevilla tomorrow.

Liverpool also escaped, but only with a draw, and as thrilling as it was, you sense this morning's fixtures, in England and Spain, benefited the champions.

Footnote; If you didn't see it, be sure to catch a replay of the 4 all at 6pm on Fox Sports 3.


Anonymous Multibet said...

Hi TRBA... long time reader but first time comment. I saw both games and was flicking between the both of them. My fascination was particularly intense due to a multibet i have. I was disgusted with the madrid score line... but was jumping out of my skin with the way it ended. Best late drama I have seen since England lost to France in portugal in Euro 2004. Good blog... I definately thought those games needed a comment.

Wed. Apr. 22, 03:50:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous sir alex said...

4-4 in the last 2 games. where is that famed liverpool defence? games maybe exciting but too many defensive errors. mourinho would have had a field day commenting on these games, if he were still in the epl....something along the line of 'training ground game'. not to worry TT. ManU just won tonight. 3 clear with game in hand. 13 points more needed(from 18) to wrap up title no.18

Thu. Apr. 23, 06:53:00 am AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

multibet, thanks for the comment and interest, and good luck with the multi.

Sir Alex, pompey were woeful, never seemingly believing they could get anything at old trafford, and they missed their best play krancjar. The spurs will do the job for us though :-)

Thu. Apr. 23, 08:11:00 am AEST  
Anonymous You know it makes sense said...

Realistically the title was always destined to remain at old Trafford. Its annoying United tease Liverpool and Chelsea by allowing them to get close before claiming another title.

I prefer the title be decided by Christmas to allow other teams to fight over crumbs much earlier.

Thu. Apr. 23, 10:43:00 am AEST  

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