27 May 2007

Champions League final

Okay, I guess I have to talk about this, huh? Over at Sven's, I predicted Milan 2 - Liverpool 1. God, I hate being right.

Even with that, though, I think we did a lot of things right. I was a little dubious when I heard that we weren't planning on man-marking Kaka, since he's pretty much the conduit for all of Milan's attacks. But the zonal marking worked really well, especially in the first half. As opposed to the first half in 2005, where they were running all over us and pretty much destroying the defense, the midfield managed to restrain Kaka really effectively for a lot of the game. In the first half, too, we were getting a lot done down the right flank -- I've been a critic of Pennant before, but he was more effective in this game than I've seen him be in a lot of others. My only thing with him here is that he tended to hold the ball for too long before trying to send in a cross, so defenders had time to get back and cover him. He was definitely more effective than Zenden, though, who seemed to be still recovering from whatever injury he had. Even at full fitness, though, Zenden? Not really a winger. Ugh. Overall, though, we had more shots and were definitely attacking more than Milan, so I felt pretty good going into halftime.

And then the flukiest goal ever happened. Conceding free kicks in that area is always dangerous with Pirlo in the Milan team, but this was a really horrible way to concede the first goal, and the worst possible time to do it. Also, god, I hate Inzaghi.

Milan managed to get more of the upper hand in the second half, but it didn't really go all to hell until we decided to take off Mascherano (taking off Zenden was a good idea, and probably should have happened sooner). Without someone tailing Kaka more attentively, and with Liverpool getting tired -- they hadn't played a full match for ten days or so -- the second goal was almost inevitable. I don't know who that Liverpool defender is who's walking back there, but man. You just can't be that slack in a final, against a team like Milan. Gah. Sloppy, sloppy play, from the midfield on, and you just can't let Inzaghi play himself onside like that. He's so annoying, and I hate trying to defend against guys like that, because they just hover and make it really difficult to mark them. Oh, and also, he's a ratfaced little bastard. Seriously, hate that guy.

So eventually we got a goal back, but it was really too little, too late. Especially with all the timewasting Milan did -- I haven't been able to find video of Inzaghi's ridiculous faked injury, but seriously. I used to think that Milan didn't dive that much, but no.

Even with that, though, I'm proud of my team. They played well overall, but the squad as a whole still isn't strong enough for the 4-5-1 to work to win games. If we had a real left-winger or a stronger striker, this could have worked. (I love Kuyt, but he works a lot without getting great results.) So I think we got a lot of the strategy right, but we're not there yet in terms of the squad. It sucks, and I think Liverpool were the better team for most of this game, but sometimes that's not what matters. I'm glad we're not making excuses, but we've got to strengthen the squad this summer. Two Champions League finals in three years is amazing, but we've got to start challenging for the Premiership as well, too.


badgerdaddy said...

Mascherano's going to be a big player for the Reds next season, for sure. Frees up SG from defensive duty, means Alonso can concentrate on distribution too... He'll be a fine signing. But you really need a striker. Would love to see Kuyt play almost as an attacking midfielder because, for all his incredible work rate, he lacks real penetration. But he can hold the ball pretty damn well and he drops deep to pick it up. With another striker off him, that would work great, but not in a 4-5-1.

Ah well. Season's over. Best of luck for next season.

truth said...

They're Italian; therefore they dive. I think DesCartes said that.