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Hiddink's sweet smell of success

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Phil McNulty | 00:15 UK time, Thursday, 9 April 2009

Guus Hiddink revealed Chelsea could smell victory in the air as they geared up to all but extinguish Liverpool's Champions League hopes - a far cry from the odour that surrounded them on their last Anfield visit.

Hiddink said: "If a team feels that an opponent can be hurt in some parts it would be stupid not to go for that. The team knows that and if a team smells that it is good. It is good that the Chelsea team had that smell here."

Chelsea followed the scent and it led them to the brink of a place in the last four of the Champions League with a swagger that was a stunning example of the restorative powers of one of the world's master coaches.

When Chelsea played at Anfield on a freezing Sunday in February with a cold snap about to bite, the only stench detected was that given off by a decaying team under the stewardship of a coach who would be sacked eight days later.

If Liverpool's 2-0 win then effectively sealed Luiz Felipe Scolari's Stamford Bridge fate, the manner of Chelsea's performance and approach here will only increase the desire to turn Hiddink's temporary tenure into a permanent residency.

Didier Drogba scores Chelsea's third goal

Chelsea were unrecognisable from the side that lost so tamely at Liverpool only two months ago. Back then they looked like a team ready to go quietly over the hill together, ageing, uninspired and lacking motivation and direction.

Didier Drogba offered up a cameo appearance as a substitute that just stopped short of shameful while Michael Ballack glided ineffectually, the old sting gone from his game.

Cut to Anfield on a warm April night and the spring was literally back in Chelsea's step - re-ignited by a coach who comprehensively outmanouevred his opposite number Rafael Benitez, rightly regarded as one of the Champions League's supreme strategists.

Hiddink is known in his native Netherlands, a little mystifyingly, as "Lucky Guus". If he has had one huge slice of good fortune since arriving at Chelsea, it is that his appointment co-incided with the return to fitness of Michael Essien.

Essien held the key to the tactical approach devised by Hiddink to underpin his stated intention to attack Liverpool at Anfield - a ploy threatened by many but actually employed by few, usually only the supremely confident or the foolishly misguided.

Hiddink detailed Essien to shackle Steven Gerrard, and in doing so cut the cord between Liverpool's captain and Fernando Torres. The Ghanaian delivered and the Dutchman's master plan fell into place perfectly.

He said: "It is not so difficult to know where the weapons and arms are in Liverpool. It is Torres and Gerrard and the triangle with Dirk Kuyt and the right-back Alvaro Arbeloa. This is what you have to disarm and Essien was key in this."

Liverpool's struck first through Torres after only five minutes, but Chelsea treated the setback as a mere glancing blow and when I asked Hiddink about his side's display, the response to going behind filled him with pleasure.

"I have to compliment the team on the way they reacted to this setback. We knew we could score, so there was confidence in the team even at 1-0 and we proved that," he said.

Liverpool played a full part in what was a classic slug-out for an hour until Chelsea simply proved too good for them - helped by some amateurish defending.

Zonal defence is one of the great enigmas of the modern game - why not mark footballers? - and Liverpool employ it with very mixed results. It cost them dearly as the unlikely figure of Branislav Ivanovic headed in two corners either side of the interval.

Hiddink dissected the system with a surgeon's precision as he explained: "Liverpool have zonal defence and they have no marking. We have players who are tall, time everything well and who are brave. We talked about that and how we could get some benefits."

Makes it sound easy doesn't he? The secret is in the simplicity. As former Chelsea star Pat Nevin told me last week: "Hiddink gets good players doing what they are good at."

All Chelsea's players took up the right positions, Liverpool were tested by triangles of passing. It was almost as if Chelsea have been reborn under Hiddink - even the most hardened Liverpool fan would accept they were a revelation.

And this is why we saw Drogba back to his rampaging best, albeit producing some wayward finishing before he scored Chelsea's third, Ballack striding through midfield after an uncertain start and even the under-achiever Florent Malouda actually demonstrating why Liverpool boss Benitez was furious to miss out on him.

Chelsea have had a chequered Champions League history at Anfield - but even the great Jose Mourinho never quite mustered the nerve to take the fight to Liverpool in the manner of Hiddink.

Steven Gerrard was well-marshalled by Michael Essien

Benitez cut a desperately subdued figure on one of those rare nights when his Champions League game plan failed him - he could not, and did not, muster any sort of argument against Chelsea's superiority and eventual victory.

And he seemed almost resigned when I questioned him about the marking at set-pieces that so undermined Liverpool.

He said: "It is difficult to stop them. They have five or six players who are really strong in the air, but it was a free header for the first goal so that was a mistake."

It was a chastening night for a Liverpool side who looked to be on an unstoppable roll after taking Real Madrid, Manchester United and Aston Villa to the cleaners - but they can have no complaints.

With Gerrard and Torres nullified after an explosive start, Liverpool's undercard such as Kuyt and Albert Riera fell short of the quality required to trouble Chelsea while Martin Sktrel looked as vulnerable as he did for Slovakia against England at Wembley.

Images of Istanbul will no doubt be invoked by Liverpool to demonstrate how they can pull this tie around, but all logic suggests the game is up in the Champions League.

And we should not be too harsh on them. Liverpool have been magnificent in Europe in recent seasons and there is no shame in losing to Chelsea in this mood.

Maybe Chelsea's regular visits to Anfield in the Champions League have also crucially anaesthesised them to the unique atmosphere in front of The Kop, which just seemed to lack a little of its cutting edge last night.

Hiddink warns Liverpool have proved they can do the "unthinkable" and he does not do complacency - so all smart money would be on Chelsea now.

If Chelsea do go through they are almost certain (well ok certain) to face another old foe in Barcelona, arguably the most unenviable task in the tournament these days.

Tough times ahead then if it is to be Barca - but Hiddink and Chelsea demonstrated at Anfield that they can enter the toughest arenas and, backed with a sound game plan and players rejuvenated, emerge victorious.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    This tie is by no means over, however Rafa only seems to have one game plan, if they set up in the same way at Stamford Bridge its difficult to see Liverpool scoring three.

  • Comment number 2.

    I've always been an admirer of Hiddink's management and although I never doubted he would be a success at Chelsea, to turn it roun in such a short space of time, to turn them in to realistic contenders THIS season, is hugely impressive.

    As for Liverpool, it might have burst their bubble. Confidence plays a huge part in football and their defence was appalling, most un-Liverpool like. I think they will push United right to the wire in the Premiership though, as Benitez can once again put all of his eggs in one basket (I was really interested to see how he would manage to juggle the premiership with europe, like Ferguson and Wenger for example have to do EVERY season).

  • Comment number 3.

    As a Liverpool fan, I have to hand it to Chelsea and say the better team won. The only real positive to take from the result was that it could well have been five or six.

    It was however refreshing to see two teams both going for it, and fair play to Chelsea for coming out with more than an attitude of "let's keep it tight and try to edge the second leg". The build up for Drogba's goal was superb and Guus got his tactics spot on in my book. The facts that Liverpool fans have to face are firstly, there is a massive difference in a Liverpool midfield that contains Mascherano and one that contains Lucas. Secondly - although we don't like to hear it from smug, ignorant Man Utd fans - if you stop Gerrard, you greatly reduce Liverpool's effectiveness. When you have Crouch on the bench, it gives you an extra dimension when you are desperate for a lifeline in the last 10 minutes which could have potentially turned the tie around.

    I don't want to be too critical of Liverpool here though, I thought this was a great game between two teams that both wanted to win a football match. Hats off to Chelsea. It was good to hear a still packed Kop singing You'll Never Walk Alone in the face of defeat as opposed to the two-thirds empty Old Traford a couple of weeks back. Reminds me of the Liverpool fans applauding a marvelous Barca goal at Anfield a few years back which condemned them to a similar convincing defeat. Sometimes in football you just lose to a team that plays better than you on the night.

    Hopefully Liverpool will come out all guns blazing next Tuesday, and put on a performance to be proud of.

    P.S. Archetypal Man U fans...you may notice some characteristics in this comment that you don't recognise. For your future reference these are called "Honesty, integrity and dignity in defeat".

  • Comment number 4.

    Essien is simply a machine. Arguably - and also tactically - the best midfield player in top flight football at the moment.

  • Comment number 5.

    "We have players who are tall, time everything well and who are brave"

    Why then, would man marking necessarily prove more successful than zonal marking?

    This nonsense about zonal/man marking is lazy thinking. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that the players are drilled thoroughly and implement the strategy perfectly in-game. The goals last night were a result of horrible defending, they were due to individual mistakes and lack of concentration - not the system

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    I still find it amazing that L'Pool fans go on about how gracious they are in defeat and yet still find time to slate Utd, doesn't seem particularly gracious to me..anyway..

    Having watched the game and thoroughly enjoyed it last night as most neutrals probably enjoyed the Porto game I'm still confused as to why Benitez persists with this zonal marking system. It has cost L'Pool so many goals since he took over and is probably one of the reasons why they seem to struggle against the lesser teams who practice set pieces as their only realistic chance of scoring against them.

    The smallest defender on the pitch (well he looked it anyway) surrounded by 4 or 5 red shirts and both times he had a free header. That's about as good as Utd's defending at the moment. Shocking.

    Chelsea played well and on another day Drogba could have (and probably should have) had a hat trick. Hiddink was always going to be bad news for the other top teams as he oozes class, I just hope he sticks to his guns and goes back to Russia!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Wegotmorecorners -

    While I applaud the spirit of your post in conceeding you lost to a better team, why take the shine off with references to Manchester United, who as far as memory serves, were not involved last night !

    Its almost as if you are preparing yourself for yet another season of disappointment !

  • Comment number 9.

    nice to see united aren't the only ones to faulter at home

    but torres will no doubt get 2 at the bridge and a gerrard penalty will take them through

    barca do look scarily good though - can't believe they couldn't score once against us last season

  • Comment number 10.

    Both liverpool and United's home performances were very sub-standard. Maybe we should just leave the Premier League race to them, and let the good football to watch continue in the Champions League. Barca vs Arsenal final repeat?

  • Comment number 11.

    Few points:

    Even when you play well and get your tactics right, you need a bit of luck, had Boswinga been fit would Ivanovic have played? Lucky Guus?

    From what I saw Liverpool were mixing zonal with man to man marking,and Alonso was man marking Ivanovic for the first goal, but he just lost him.

    It was a fantastic performance by Chelsea, our best of the season by a mile, and perhaps the first time this season that all eleven players put in a performance at the same time.

    I am still not counting my chickens though, Torres again showed he is world class with a fantastic goal, and he seems to score everytime he plays against Chelsea. One fooot in the semis, but definately not two, come on Chelsea, work still to be done.



  • Comment number 12.

    Re "Wegetmorecorners" top comments there for niko very funny.

    Re the match fair play to chelsea for playing better than us, we have got to think of a way to get stevie g free in the second leg (because we don't have any other way of attack).

    secondly how badly missed was mascheranos? Lucas although by his standards had a great game (80% pass copletion rate - if it's over 50% he's done well), he was still nowhere good enough to hussle the chelsea attacking midfielders.

    I think John Terry will be a blow for chelsea and can see us scoring two at stamford bridge, however i also think chelsea will score, and for that we're doomed.

    p.s. it doesnt matter we were concentrating on the league anyway

  • Comment number 13.

    chelsea were excellent, mainly due to the tactics. rafa had no reply to SG being man-marked, what is annoying is he said that it was clear after one minute of play what essien was going to do.

    so why didn't he counter this? a bit worrying for future games if other teams do the same.

    it hurts to wake up this morning knowing the tie is already dead, but congratulations to chelsea.

  • Comment number 14.

    It looked like we surrendered possession after the 1st goal, and the team didn't expect such an early goal, so having a goal to defend Liverpool were fragile at every Chelsea attack until Ivanovic scored a goal from a set-piece (Man U and Chelsea use the Man-marking system and leak goals, so why all this attack on the zonal-system? is it only because Liverpool employ it!)

    We didn't know what to do after scoring such an early goal and that period of uncertainty could of cost us 2 goals (like the 1st 15 minutes of the Arsenal game at Anfield last year ).

    Fabio Aurelio who had a resurgence in the last couple of months is looking a ghost of the same player and wasn't able to push up!, Kuyt should have scored that opportunity lobbing it over Cech, instead of shooting it at his body, and that opportunity could have changed the game!

    It's the 1st time Rafa gets it wrong in the Champions League in his 5 year reign with Liverpool, so he will be forgiven, But and a big BUT, will Rafa and the players admit defeat and rest players for Tuesday and concentrate on the league, or will he go for it having nothing to lose?

  • Comment number 15.

    I don't understand why this blog is just the top four teams plus the occasional 'headline' article like Shearer's.

    Can't you branch out more? It's getting boring reading about the top four teams in England and I'm a Man Utd fan!

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com

  • Comment number 16.

    To furiouskwadwo...Essien was magnificent - no more no less. I thought he was a very good player until I saw him from literally yards away from Chelsea's press box in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool last season.

    And then I realised he was an outstanding player. Essien's power is astonishing, on and off the ball.

    He was key to subduing Steven Gerrard last night - but did anyone notice how many defensive headers he also won when the ball came into Chelsea's penalty area?

    A complete footballer and wonderful athlete. If you want to call Hiddink "Lucky Guus" (and I'm not having that given his record) then I will concede the point that he was fortunate Essien was fit again almost as soon as he walked through the door at Stamford Bridge.

  • Comment number 17.

    Chelsea might have played well, but their goals were due to 'gifts'. Liverpool had an off night, simple as - these things can happen. People are going way over the top.

  • Comment number 18.

    How unsurprising to see that as soon as Liverpool lose you are on the bandwagon Phil. I would wager you were slobbering over your notes as Chelsea put the 3rd away, at last a chance to slate Liverpool and Benitezs again.

    Credit to you though. You didnt go for the lazy "zonal marking" arguement for the 1st two goals. Soemthing that really irks me and many Liverpool fans. These ill educated fools like one of the above posters should actually note that Liverpool concede very very few goals from corners and set peices. It just seems like more because when they do concede it gets highlighted. Any of you geniouses care to tell me the last game Liverpool conceded from a corner? I bet you cant without researching it.

    Anyway, Chelsea deserved to win. They out played us in pretty much every position. Kept Gerrard quiet, Riera and Aurelio were a yard off the pace. I hope it is more that we played a Chelsea side having a purple patch rather than it signalling the end of our good run.

    Oh and Phil. Why no comment on Utds result last night? Or Adebayors excellent goal for Arsenal? We are all getting very bored of you jumping on the Liverpool bandwagon everytime they dont win a game 3-0 or more

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    a 2nd question here:

    Instead of having a go on Zonal marking, and rotation every now and then, can you explain why Rafa left it late to introduce Babel and restore Gerrard to CM, losing 3-1 at home when a goal would have obviously helped our case!

    Especially when SG couldn't cut it against Essien as an AM, so why not change his position ; why didn't Rafa move him to the right flank (when it was clear Kuyt was ineffective)and let Benayoun take SG's position?

  • Comment number 21.

    As a neutral (well as neutral as can be as a Man Utd fan) i thought it was a great performance by Chelsea, one that i didnt think they were capable of if i am being honest.

    i was most impressed by some of the "squad" players last night and how well they played - Ivanovic obviously (who i think it looked like Gerrard should have been dealing with for the second goal) but more so Kalou. I thought he was outstanding and always hassling the defender and making a nuisance of himself, very good display by someone i have usually thought is pretty lightweight. Same with Malouda. Also (though not a squad player) i thought Ashley Cole was outstanding last night as well, much better than he has played recently.

    But the return leg is still all to play for, it will be the same again i feel, played like a Premier League game as opposed to a "European" game, which are often more low tempo passing affairs. Especially as Chelsea will be missing Terry, though i thought it was a ridiculous booking he got last night.

    One thing that does grate with me a little though is why some of these players could not play like this under Scolari - it smacks a little of unprofessionalism that some behave like spoilt brats (Drogba) under him.

    A final point - how much longer is Joe Cole out for?

  • Comment number 22.

    Hey Man U fans, twas just a bit of friendly joshing. Not having a nasty swipe at you or your team...just a bit of a friendly joke. I suspect that you will be in the CL semis and we won't. End of story.

    Essien was magnificent. What a masterstroke it was considering at one point he was down to play at right back with Mikkel on Gerrard.

    Despite the loss of Terry (to a very harsh yellow in my book) I suspect that - if he's brave enough - Guus will drop in Mancienne at centre half for the return leg (one defender in the country that may be as fast as Torres). Don't be fooled by one bad performance for the U21s. Mancienne is a class act. He's so good, I can't even spell him.

  • Comment number 23.

    To EL-Liverbird...what may have surprised Liverpool, and many of the rest of us admittedly, was Chelsea's response to Torres scoring.

    They played almost as if it had not happened - and in the past teams have not been able to respond once Liverpool have got on top of them in the Champions League at Anfield.

    Liverpool, perhaps understandably, may have thought Chelsea would be pushed on to the back foot - the opposite was actually true.

    No consolation to Liverpool fans, but it was a superb game of football and it is a long time since Chelsea played like that.

    Benitez has to have hope for the second leg, but reality suggests Chelsea have one foot in the last four. Liverpool's manager simply said they would now go back to focusing on Saturday's game against Blackburn at Anfield - and only think of Chelsea after that.

  • Comment number 24.

    This tie is over.

  • Comment number 25.

    You're bound to get some self styled gracious knows it all's on blogs. But they tend to show where the real hurt is too, so best leave them to squirm in their own soup.
    Anyway it was a scintillating game of football between two tactical giants of the european game. Perhaps no great individual sparkle but teamplay of the highest order. But we'll now have both in a Chelsea and Barca semi final

  • Comment number 26.

    Chelsea's performance was superb last night and Hiddink once again proved what a top-class manager he is. Not only a master tactician, but his teams play with attacking flair - Abramovich needs to pull out all the stops to keep him at Chelsea next season.

    Shows how easy it is to stop Liverpool. The hype surrounding them in the last few weeks was over the top. Real Madrid were atrocious, Man U gave them the game, and Aston Villa didn't turn up. But Liverpool and their fans started to believe they were world-beaters. There's been a lot of debate the last few weeks about whether Liverpool are a one-man team or not - obviously last night has put that argument to bed. Nullify Gerrard and that's it. Hiddink knew that but you don't have to be a genius to work it out.

    As an aside, I think Benitez has really let himself down with his antics in the media of late. Ferguson and Hiddink are men of dignity but Benitez has lost it recently. I remember when he first came to England I liked him, especially when he was up against Mourinho, he didn't react to Mourinho's digs. He didn't get involved and he let his players do the talking. Now he's worse than anyone - even when Everton had the cheek to draw with them he had to come out and say they were 'a small team'. The guy has no class and no dignity - I'm sure he feels at home at Anfield.

  • Comment number 27.

    Andyrac.........

    I don't think people are going over the top, everyone including Liverpool fans recognise the amount of good chances Chelsea had in open play, and that the victory margin could easily have been more. Liverpool may not have been at their very best, but that was down to Chelsea as much as Liverpool.

  • Comment number 28.

    Absolutely brilliant game, Essien is the true king of Stamford Bridge! We can only wonder where we would've been if Essien was fit all season?
    All that said, we really truly have to try & hold on to Guus Hiddink. Sign a petition, gather an army and protest outside the bridge, whatever it takes, HIDDINK HAS TO STAY!!!!!

    HIDDINK HAS TO STAY!!! HIDDINK HAS TO STAY!!! I don't care, he can manage Russia & Chelsea, the fact is, HIDDINK HAS TO STAY!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    the biggest suprise for me is that its taken teams so long to realise that Gerrard is the heartbeat of Liverpool. I mean, all the fans know it, so why don't every team try to shackle him?

    As shown by Chelsea, it's the key - divide and conquer. Maybe now everyone else will focus on this weakness, just as Benitez wished on us.

    Congratulations Chelsea. You get the reward of facing the most dangerous side in Europe, but with a manager who i'd put my money on finding the tactical solution.

    And my condolences on your season to all the "gracious" Liverpool fans of recent weeks. Another potless campagne awaits.

  • Comment number 30.

    We,ve shown the rest of the PL how to stop Man u, well guess what the boot is on the other foot.

    All this rot about singing when your losing smacks of desperation, it's just a big cover up because you cant bear to show how gutted you are.

    Chelski will go through and good luck to them.
    Man u will rise to the task and go through.
    Arsenal might scrape it although I would have a bet on VR.

    I fear that Barca will be the deserved winners of the CL.

    Another fruitless year for liverpuddle to sing about

  • Comment number 31.

    Normal service is resumed. Liverpool faced a very average Madrid side and had the benefit of poor refereeing decisions, caught United on a bad day, could have conceded six against a resurgent Chelsea back to their best...they were outclassed.

  • Comment number 32.

    Liverpool were well beaten, no complaints. Having scored a quite brilliant opening goal i thought it was going to be another comfortable win but Chelsea then took over, cut off the supply lines through our midfield and by and large dominated the game.

    Best performance from an away side since we beat Wigan !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Always interesting that everytime we concede a goal from a set-piece 'experts' like Gray and now McNulty and no doubt, countless other hacks across the country are steaming in about Rafa and his zonal marking. "Why not mark the player?" "Opponents score goals not space" they cry.
    YAWN !!!!!!!!!

    Well, why not look at how many goals Liverpool concede from set-pieces since employing zonal marking and see how many other sides concede from man-marking? Ever wonder why Liverpool consistently have one of the best defensive records in the game? Or why Pepe Reina wins the golden gloves award year after year ?

    I'm sure Rafa has heard of man-marking, he's a pretty good coach, he's even won the odd trophy in his career you know?

    It's a decision he's made that that's the way he wants his team to defend. And when they keep out set-piece after set-piece there's not a murmur from anyone BUT the moment a set-piece results in a goal you're all over it again. Give it a rest.

    The defence didn't do it's job last night. Same as if a player man-marking gets beaten by an opponent. It's football. Goals will be scored, defences could always have done better.

    Have to say i don't see us scoring 3 at Chelsea and wonder whether Rafa should wave goodbye to the tie and rest Gerrard/Torres next week.

    The importance of the response against Blackburn now is HUGE.

  • Comment number 33.

    No doubt one of the keys to Chelsea's confidence came from the fact that they had a clear plan which was logical, simple and extremely effective: "Cut out the supply to Gerrard and break the links with Kuyt, Torres, and Arbeloa" (as explained by Lucky Guus).

    Chelsea Played an effective 4-3-3- system just like the good old days but to do so needs a special kind of midfield player who is strong in defence and also in attack. Not many teams in the EPL could play this system because they don't have the strength in midfield that Chelsea has.

    Well done Chelsea: as a "neutral" it was a classic, compelling match

  • Comment number 34.

    liverpool do not have a chance even in hell 2 over turn dis result. it is payback time for breaking our unbeaten run at stamford bridge. liverpool gonna loose again at stamford bridge in d return match on tuesday 2 set d record straight. pool should concentrate on d league cos dat is where dia hope lies. i will b happy 4 dem 2 win d league as i do not want man u 2 win it again. adieu

  • Comment number 35.

    To put this defeat down to some dodgy defending is to disregard the fact that Chelsea had an awful lot of chances to go with their possession.

    As I said above, if Drogba had been able to finish this could have been a lot worse. I hope Rafa doesn't give this one up, but he's on a hiding to nothing if he loses a player to injury which could effect the title run in (you know...trying to pip Chelsea for second)!

    Judge Red. As an England fan, Liverpool fan and bad lover. Disappointment and anticipation of disapointment are my usual states of mind.

  • Comment number 36.

    Post 2: chips_in_the_queue


    i think you need to go and have a look at Liverpool and Arsenal's respective records in Europe and the Premier League since Rafa took over at Liverpool.

  • Comment number 37.

    Ah Phil very lazy indeed to pick on Zonal marking without you knowing the facts...

    Liverpool have conceded ONE goal, this season...yes ONE goal from a corner kick!!! does that not prove Zonal works???

    Any system can concede goals from a corner kicks, it just so happened that the players did not conform to the system correctly.. if those individuals had been man marking (the taller) Chelsea players, whose to say they would not have scored anyway??

    lazy journalism

  • Comment number 38.

    26. maddog963

    You need to be more subtle than that to be a good WUM, mate.

    'Ferguson a man of dignity'?

    LOL! Thanks. You've cheerd me up no end this morning.

  • Comment number 39.

    Phil, i have to take issue with your somewhat naive comments about zonal marking. No system in football is 100% perfect, but zonal marking has given Liverpool a fantastic defensive record over the last 3-4 seasons and just because a player fails to do his job properly does not mean the system is to blame for Liverpool conceding a couple of poor goals.

    When you see a team who man-mark concede a sloppy set piece goal through a clever run from a striker, or because a defender has been totally taken out of the equation by a collision/obstruction from trying to stick with his man, do you then criticise man-marking? Of course you don't, you criticise the player it was who made the error in letting his man become unmarked.

    It seems a rather easy way out for 'experts' to point to zonal marking as Liverpool's achilles heel, do you not think Benitez - one of the very best coaches in world football - would have done away with the system if it really did not work? Of course he would have.

  • Comment number 40.

    Why are a lot of the headlines this morning about a "shock result" & Chelsea's "shock win"? We're talking about a team with a spine of Cech, Terry, Ballack, Essien & Drogba, some of the best players in the world in their positions.

    Phil, I agree 100% with your opinion on Essien, awsome, awsome player. When you see him with Ghana you really see what a complete player he is. He has a mix of all that was great about Keane & all that is great about Gerrard. I'm a Man U fan but I reckon had he not spent so much time covering full back last season then we might not have won that double.

    I like Hiddink, I think he shows a bit of class by not getting involved in mind games. He's going quietly about his business, he has written off Chelsea's title hopes despite being only 3 points behind Liverpool, he seems to have got Drogba's mind on the game to a point where Didier was even asking the ref not to penalise Alonso after a second half challenge.

    Should be a tasty semi-final with Barcelona. I think Chelsea's power will get them to the final. In the mean-time I hope Ronaldo sits down & watches a few tapes of Messi in action & picks up a few tips from Rooney on how to give his full backs a bit of help.

  • Comment number 41.

    Personally (and speaking as a long suffering tractor boy) - I thought it was an entertaining game of football, with both teams playing their part - it was just that the better team won on the night.

  • Comment number 42.

    TommyOnion,

    Spot on mate.

  • Comment number 43.

    Liverpool have been playing above themselves in recent weeks. Reality check

  • Comment number 44.

    loving all the geniuses stepping forward now with the 'one-man team' nonsense and 'all you have to do to stop Liverpool is stop Gerrard'.

    yeah, why didn't someone think of this before?


    any suggestions as to which Blackburn player should pretend to be Michael Essien at the weekend ? David Dunn perhaps?

  • Comment number 45.

    amoschaka

    You forgot to say "innit" at the end of your post.

  • Comment number 46.

    and Post 30: berbawillawaken

    Liverpool fans don't sing in defeat to 'cover up how gutted they are'

    they sing to show they're still with their team - it's called support

    go look it up in a dictionary

  • Comment number 47.

    Wow, and I thought united had a bad night :)

    I'm a united fan, but I have to say that Liverpool's performance in their defeat to chelsea was better than united's in their draw at OT.

    I'm also a Nigerian, and I have to say that michael essien makes Mikel look like a wuss. He not only pocketed Gerard, he anchored the midfield, sprayed penetrating passes and joined in the attacks, and he was at the end of most of Liverpool's corners. Damn that Peter Kenyon from sneaking him past SAF 4 years ago.

  • Comment number 48.

    Fantastic game and a brilliant showcase for the Premier League (even though it was a Champions League match)
    Chelsea were simply superb and would have beaten almost anybody with that performance. VERY few teams can Live with high tempo Liverpool performance at Anfield but they brutally exposed Liverpoosl weakness in midfield and stratched the defence with two wide players but only a VERY good team playing the right tactics/formation could do this.
    Hats off to Chelsea but also well done Liverpool who have greatly improved again this season - a few more players in the summer and they will have squads like helsea and United to really compete on all fronts.

    Wegotmorecorners - do you not see how idiotic you are? You are slamming what you call "Archtypal Manchester United fans" and you do this by being an Archtypal Liverpool fan, take opportunities to have a dig at United?? This blog has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with United!

    So sad that when Liverpool lose you seek comfort is such pathetic ways....tut,tut.

  • Comment number 49.

    It's one thing talking about stopping an inform Gerrard. It's quite another to do it.

    Phil. What has taken you so long to realise just what a player Essien is? Despite a couple of dodgy tackles in his first season, you only have to look at his performances for Ghana in the 2006 World Cup to realise just how special the 'athletic cyborg' can be. His attitude is also an asset.

    As for someone suggesting about moving Gerrard later in the game. Quite simply, all Chelsea would have to do is to ask Essien to shadow him wherever he is on the pitch and that would have been job done.

    Let's not all jump up and down on zonal marking. It serves teams very well when it works it's just that when it doesn't you can look rather foolish.

  • Comment number 50.

    I watched the man utd game (as a utd fan) on tuesday, and the liverpool/chelsea game on wednesday and was shocked at how open the football was.

    Whilst I love the champions league, the games are usually dull and tactical, but not this week, teams were really going for it, how refreshing. of course I would have perferred it if Porto didnt, but oh well.

    Also watched some of the bayern match yesterday on split screen (for all 4 goals luckily) and Barca were also going for it. They looked unstoppable, but am confident they cannot repeat a great performance like that against an english side

  • Comment number 51.

    The real beauty of last night was that Rafa fell for his own trick.

    At the Bridge in the league game he let the CFC full backs have the ball and cross it in, knowing that Anelka was hopeless in the air and so time after time crosses came in and Carragher and Agger (?) got them away. Welll done Rafa.

    Liverpool are at their best when Gerrard and Torres combine through the middle. As The Observer put it at the weekend, they can be "unplayable". So as well as Essien shackling Gerrard (what an awesome display!), Guus let LFC have it wide. In those last 20 minutes I was originally beside myself as we gave them so much space on the wings, but then it clicked - he's letting them have the ball in there because Torres won't beat Alex and JT to a cross in the air. And so Rafa fell into the same trap he had set at the Bridge. Well done Guus.

    Another thought, I thought Liverpol just gave up after the third goal. There, in front of their precious Kop, Liverpool simply gave up. I was expecting the Alamo for those last 20 minutes and they gave us Trumpton.

    But, hey, it's far from over, but what ever Liverpool do, Drogba will be there to once agin strike the fear of God into them and I dare say we might get one or two more corners...

  • Comment number 52.

    Hopefully, this is the reality check required for all the Liverpool fans down my local pub- all of which have been as high as a kite for a few weeks now!

    I can't help feeling that the outcome of this tie is totally irrelevant- who can stop El Barca? They have the advantage of not being seriously challenged at the top of La Liga- which is weaker this year- and can boast the best squad in Europe.

    This weekend will be interesting. I can see points being dropped at the top due to "euro' hangovers".

  • Comment number 53.

    51. At 10:37am on 09 Apr 2009, politeNorthernblue wrote:

    "...he's letting them have the ball in there because Torres won't beat Alex and JT to a cross in the air."


    Try casting your mind back to 1st February 2009.


    Not sure we gave up but the stuffing was clearly knocked out of us. Congrats though, playing like that you'll give anyone in Europe a game.

  • Comment number 54.

    I've just had a quick look on the BBC website and the headline reads "Hiddink still wary of Liverpool"

    Funny that, but I would've expecdted a neutral News media to have had a headline something like:

    "3 going on 10 as Hiddink takes Benitez's tactics apart"

    or simply "Chelsea thrash Liverpool on their own pitch"


    You know, similar headlines to what you'd normally see from a neutral News media source.

  • Comment number 55.

    As a (not) impartial observer I watched the game in a pub with some Liverpool fans last night. Despite their anguish at the result they were full of praise for Chelsea and the way they played and most said that they would happily swap success in Europe for a PL title. I can't see Liverpool scoring three without reply and do think that a Chelsea - Barcelona semi would be awesome. Do you think Hiddink would lend Essien to Utd for the Porto match??????

  • Comment number 56.

    simsey33

    My mistake...did I say Archtypal or Archetypal. I meant Arch Typer. Looks like it was an arch typo.

  • Comment number 57.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    YOUR NOT SINGING AAAAANYMORE!!!!!

  • Comment number 58.

    When United lost 4:1 to liverpool it wasn't united having a bad day. United have been playing poorly for months and winning now they are just playing more poorly. There is not more than one game this season where they over ran their openents with ease and scored a good few goals to boot. I can't see an all English final this year.

  • Comment number 59.

    JAGOMUFC wrote:
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    YOUR NOT SINGING AAAAANYMORE!!!!!

    ------------------------------

    Did you mean not singing "AAAAAH ANYMORE"? Certainly not, that song my friend is just for the dentist.

  • Comment number 60.

    Bot oh boy did Liverpool miss Mascherano. Him and Alonso have consistantly provided a superb shield, to what is, a shaky defence. You cannot underestimate the importance of him to Liverpool and with him back i dont see Chelsea scoring much, if at all. It is a tough ask but if Liverpool get an earl goal then the tie is bak on.

  • Comment number 61.

    Tell you what is the most telling about this result

    Benitez has been telling anyone who'll listen that he is the best manager in Europe over the last 5 years

    But this is the first year ever that he's still been in a League Title race.

    Not so easy now is it, you little tactical genius you

  • Comment number 62.

    Tommy Onion - Torres 1st Feb

    Typical Liverpool fan - harking back to the past!

    No, fair comment, but that was in the 95th minute and we were alrady beaten and had been down to 10 men for 30 mins due to a miscarriage of justice. What I meant to say was "In a game where we the scoreline still mattered and we had 11 men, torres would never...."

    Typical Chelsea fan - chippily making a point!

    But you did give up!

  • Comment number 63.

    I KNEW CHELSEA WOULD BATTER YOU LOT, AN I ENJOYED EVERY MIN, CHELSEA ARE THROUGH AN IF ANYONE CAN BEAT PORTO AT HOME UNITED CAN!!! DOUBT WE WILL BEAT BARCA THOUGH THEY ARE ON FIRE

  • Comment number 64.

    I really thought that haircut was going to transform Lucas into the world-beater he was supposed to be. Nevermind eh...

  • Comment number 65.

    The plot is thickening and the Champions League is getting interesting. A lot of people said Barca would be beat by Bayern and Man U would walk over Porto and Arsenal would win in Spain.

    Barca are the touranment top scorers and this season are playing by far the best to watch football.

    I just hope the tactical game doesn´t beat the creative play....Barca for Champions!

  • Comment number 66.

    I want Essien's Babies

  • Comment number 67.

    credit to chelsea - they were excellent. liverpool missed mascherano massively in breaking up the play in which chelsea seemed to have at will. lucas is a rubbish, rubbish footballer - he has no passing range and just can't dominate in that vital midfield area. liverpool offered nothing when their two main men were nulified and alonso was tightly marked by lampard last - who for me was the best player on the pitch.
    that is the best chelsea have played in years. kalou looked a threat, drogba was a handful and thier midfield was back to thier powerful, dominating best.
    can't see liverpool scoring three at stamford bridge - though your a mug if you write them off completely.
    have to say what a good week of champs league. really good matches. usually it's tight and cagey - especially in the first legs - but this time we saw the away sides such as Porto, Chelsea and Arsenal have a real go and not go looking for a goaless draw or settle for a narrow loss.

  • Comment number 68.

    As a Liverpool fan, I am obviously disappointed about the result but credit were credit is due and hats off to Chelsea and in particular Hiddink. He said before the game that Chelsea would attack and he stood by his word.

    Quite simply, Liverpool were outclassed by a better side on the day. When a side responds as well as Chelsea did then they are unplayable. Essien was the key in midfield as far as I'm concerned. A lot of people are saying "how come nobody else has decided to man mark Gerrard?" Well the simple fact is that they have all tried to, but Gerrard was far too superior and therefore, their efforts went unnoticed. Essien is no doubt a world class player. Injuries have halted his progress in the last 12 months or so however he is starting to show his class again. It was pointed out on MOTD at the weekend how good he is and how much Chelsea have missed him and it is no surprise that their performances have now improved since his return. Juve will agree from the last round!

    Also Drogba is performing again, even though he missed two good chances last night (one well saved by Reina) at least he is getting chances. Under LFS he didn't even look interested. Not the Drogba I saw playing for Marseille when he dumped us out of the UEFA cup a few years back. He stuck to his game and reaped the rewards later on.

    It's hard to take any positives from the game as a Liverpool fan when we were ripped apart but the simple fact, and it is a fact, is that Liverpool fans have great character. We have belief where others don't. We show solidarity and we always support our team no matter what.

    Istanbul is a memory that will never fade, Benitez will remind the troops of that next week I'm sure. This tie is only half done, however difficult it may seem to overcome the odds, it is still possible.

    YNWA

  • Comment number 69.

    WEGOTMORECORNERS WROTE:Did you mean not singing "AAAAAH ANYMORE"? Certainly not, that song my friend is just for the dentist.

    WOOOW that was funny....NOT, an no i meant what i wrote!

  • Comment number 70.

    Essien was brilliant last night and showed how much he has been missed all season. Guus has taken a side with no pace, tempo or direction and generated passing, movement and believe of the highest quality. Even Malouda had a decent game and was a constant threat down the left.

    I have to wonder if it time to do a 'Rafa' and protect some of the key players in the league to focus on the CL.

  • Comment number 71.


    Mr McNulty I will go back to your comments a couple of weeks ago:

    "Gerrard the world's best midfielder"

    Well if he is the world's best midfielder, even if he is among the top 5 or 10, he surely must have even the slightest infleunce in a game of such magnitude. Especially if the whole system is set around him. Irrespective of what the opposition does or does not, provide a few assists, release teammates, keep posession, make runs, have a few shots on target, something to shout about!

    "Benitez the ultimate tactician in Europe"

    Well if he is the master tactician he surely can change something when he saw in the 1st minute that Gerrard was manmarked? Or later on that the 'triangle' was kept quiet or the defense was a shambles? Or do something about that zonal marking that according to your majesty is pretty useless?

    I'm waiting for the next round when Essien will be by then the best midfielder who will nullify Messi, and Hiddink the master tactician who has proven he can disassemble the mighty Barca machine.

    Mate YOU HAVEN'T GOT A CLUE ABOUT FOOTBALL. Don't take it personally, you've just proven it time after time. Why don't you admit and resign with some pride still intact.



  • Comment number 72.

    Totally agree that Essien shackled Steven Gerrard which I was screaming at Rafa (via the TV set) to switch Stevie to the right and push DK upfront with Torres for the last 20mins: wasn't that a no-brainer? Gerrard and Arbeloa could have got some joy vs Cashley and maybe caused a bit of panic in the Chelsea box. Rafa talks about flexibility and adapting to situations but i think he missed a trick last night.

    Bitterly disappointed with the performance last night although i must commend Chelsea for their efficiency with the ball.

    I have absolutely no idea which Liverpool will turn against up Blackburn, we could give them a mauling or fight out a dour 0-0.

    YNWA

  • Comment number 73.

    politeNorthernblue wrote:

    No, fair comment, but that was in the 95th minute and we were alrady beaten and had been down to 10 men for 30 mins due to a miscarriage of justice. What I meant to say was "In a game where we the scoreline still mattered and we had 11 men, torres would never...."

    I think you'll find that it was still nil-nil when Torres rose above the Chelsea defence to head the opener. The second goal was Cashley's gift. Historical hindsight with 20-20 quality.

    Hang on...if the second leg finishes 17-19...then the score will be 20-20 and Liverpool will progress on away goals. Where's Ronny Rosenthal when you need him? (trying to pull my friend Emily in Cafe de Paris that's where...)

  • Comment number 74.

    I agree with your review of the game last night but would remind you that the game is only half over and that many teams recover from a 2 goal deficit in the second half, I am not dismissing chelsea as they are a very good side but if Liverpool can turn the tables and nulify the likes of Drogbha, Essien,and Lampard they can claw back this defeat. Whoever wins I would wish them luck in the next round even though I have supported the reds for thirty years.

  • Comment number 75.

    Nibs, that is a great post!

    I don't completely agree on McNulty - he's not too bad (for a BBC football pundit) - but everything else is 100% on the money :-}

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    Well what last night's result does first off is temper all the hot air coming from Liverpool fans for the last three weeks. Quite frankly I'd had enough. So for that, even as a Utd fan I thank Chelsea and have to admit Essien probably played the game of his life. He was brilliant and deserved to be on the score sheet. Every commentator, every spectator thinks he was the difference - admit it Liverpool fans.
    Never say never, but I think this tie is over as Chelsea being wary of LFC won't got to sleep at "half time" like AC Milan did in Istanbul thinking the job's done. Hiddink above anything as a coach knows how to temper expectations before the job's done.
    As for JAGOMUFC's enthusiasm, I wonder if Utd can do the job at Porto. I hope you are right and I am wrong - just that the last 3-4 games, to say that our defence has been all over the place is kind of an understatement.
    Wont Chelsea be bemoaning their surprise loss at Spurs even more now? They could have been at both LFC & MUFC throats by now with justified belief had that happened after last night's result? What do you think Phil?

  • Comment number 78.

    Excellent article, Phil, as always.
    As a Liverpool fan I couldn't agree more about the reasons behind Chelse's emphatic win, but just one more important detail that strikes me:

    Although Essien did neutralize Gerrard, and by that Torres, when the Spaniard DID get the ball, he mostly ruined the chances and was simply not dangerous enough. I believe he is an indispensible asset for any club, but I wouldn't go that far just yet to call him the best striker in the world. Torres' problem, in my book, is that he is inconsistent and far too easily disrupted by opposition defenders. If he gets on the wrong foot, he almost without exception is useless for the rest of the game.

    Despite scoring a nice goal at the beginning, he wasted too many good balls and half-opportunities. He is just not sharp enough.

    Maybe the injuries have made him afraid of tackles.

  • Comment number 79.

    Hats off to Chelsea we were beaten, fair and square. Looks like we may have to concentrate on the league and hope ManU overcome Porto next week. However if we can beat ManU 4-1 at their ground we can believe ourselves that we can (although not likely) produce the same shocking result at Stamford Bridge.

    By the way I hoope Rafal has learnt something here - shut up and just concentrate on your own preparation.

    Remember the last time when he had a stick about ManU when we were top? We suffered from a string of poor results while ManU pull together a few wins and back on top. Since then they lost a couple of matches and we were catching up fast but Rafal decided to have another ditch claiming ManU are scared.......

    Looks like everytime when Rafal opens his mouth the team suffers. So please Rafal, do your talking by winning games. I don't think ManU are scared of us, since they are still leading with game in hand and are favourite to retain the title.

  • Comment number 80.

    " Wegotmorecorners"

    You have cheered me up no end with your exellent post's. Keep up the good work !!

  • Comment number 81.

    Hyypia needed to play last night.

    Chelsea's aerial dominance was obvious and Hyypia would have been invaluable.

    Again, Lucas was the weakest link as he was simply out-muscled in a very powerful midfield last night, Mascherano was sorely missed.

    Well, a lesson learnt last night i think, and more worryingly Liverpool got a taste of its own medicine last night at home. They can't take the pressure when teams press them, the exact thing that brought them succes in recent weeks.

    Rafa, please figure out how to take as well as give the pressure.

  • Comment number 82.

    Hiddink is a very great manager. I have always thought so. Phil sums up exactly what is great about Hiddink: he makes good players do exactly what they are good at. That was in display yesterday and I, for one, believe Chelsea is on to meet the great team that is Barca.

    But we all know what is behind Chelsea's revival: the return of Michael Essien. End of....

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 84.

    A word of the zonal/man-to-man marking debate.

    Both systems obviously have advantages or disadvantages, or else everybody would be using the same system. I am inclined to believe that zonal marking (when done properly) is more effective, as it does not rely on a one-to-one battle with an attcker that could go either way. However zonal is undoubtedly harder to master.

    Hiddink disected Liverpool's particular version brilliantly. Malouda is an occasional corner-taker, but more usually Lampard will take them from both sides (fellow Chelsea fans will back me up here). Last night though, Malouda took them from the right and Lampard from the left, swinging them in directly onto the heads of the defender on the six-yard line. It is then very hard for them to attack the ball, as it should be done in zonal marking. This gave the Chelsea boys an advantage. The Liverpool players needed to attack the ball by running parallel to the goal-line rather than away from it as they would usually to head the ball out. They failed to do this and were trying to head it from standing positions.

    Thank you Guus that is the best we've played in a long time.

  • Comment number 85.

    Phil, none of us saw this coming. Hiddink has done a great job with Chelsea in a few short weeks. I was reminded last night as I watched that Chelsea have a great line-up and a strong bench, something I had lost sight of during the past year or so.
    There has been some criticism of zonal defense. The theory behind zonal is that if players each take a zone, instead of man-marking, when the ball arives in the area, the player in the zone, and the two players in front or behind, should be in a position to get something on the ball. Whereas with man-marking typically only one defender is going up for the ball with a chance. Where Hiddink got it spot on last night was in ensuring his players attacked the ball with pace, giving them an advantage over a stationary defender. Liverpool dont have that many really strong headers, and on both occasions the players in the zones didnt execute well. It will be interesting to see if rafa moves away from this since it has been exposed, and you dont need to have Chelseas squad to spring it.
    Second criticism was of Gerrard not being switched right since Essien was marking him. The false logic behind this is that Essien would have stayed where he was and suddenly Gerrard would have been free. I think Essien has legs and eyes, and might perhaps of switched with him. At that point we would have had no chance of creativity in the middle and no space for Stevie on the right. At least with him central there was more room for a mistake or for him to find some space.
    My criticism would be for Kuyt and Arbeloa who didnt get at Cole enough. In the first 20 minutes it was clear he was there for the taking but they didnt get anything of quality in after the goal.
    Hopefully this will bring everyone back down to earth. this Liverpool team is what it is. Very good, but beatable. The players need to focus on Blackburn now, our only hope of silverware is the Holy Grail, so no slip-ups are allowed in that one.

  • Comment number 86.

    Re 36. TommyOnion wrote:

    "i think you need to go and have a look at Liverpool and Arsenal's respective records in Europe and the Premier League since Rafa took over at Liverpool."

    This kinda proves my point. My point is that Benitez has succeeded in Europe because of his failings in the Premiership. He has been able to put all of his eggs in one basket and focus on one competition. I was interested to see how he would adjust to competing in BOTH at the business end of the season for the first time.

    See, this is the thing that irks me about Benitez. Everyone says he is a tactical mastermind in Europe and, true enough, in his time at Liverpool his record is impressive. But i can guarantee you that United (and other English teams) would have won the Champions League more had they had the luxury of resting players as the matches get close.

  • Comment number 87.

    I think Barca are the big winners of the first set of games. A great win for them and the teams considered their 2 biggest challengers are both in a lot of trouble. I'm sure things will change but an Arsenal/Barca final looks the most likely outcome at the moment.

    Interesting to see liverpool falter in Europe so quickly after getting back in the premier league. Fighting on 2 or more fronts is not easy, erspecially when you do it year after year. Maybe they will understand now when they see United tiring.

  • Comment number 88.

    80. At 11:52am on 09 Apr 2009, Alohafan wrote:
    " Wegotmorecorners"

    You have cheered me up no end with your exellent post's. Keep up the good work !!

    Oi Phil...have a look at this mate...can I have a job? First I got made redundant from the Woolworths Group...today I'm getting made redundant again.

    That comment may have been posted by my dad though...

    Nibs is alive. Thank god.

  • Comment number 89.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 90.

    As a Man Utd fan ,I was and am still gutted by the manner of Chelski's Victory over the Liverless pool players. Was this the same team that beat Real and Utd silly a few weeks back: Gerrard did not show up, Torress went from being supernova to nova and finally nowhere, he burnt himself out thoroughly.Lucas was a joke with his 80% completed passes. Never in the history of football has so many accurate passes being so precise in uselessness.

    Although Stamford bridge is under construction,'pool faces a climb up the everest without a Sherpa.

  • Comment number 91.

    Comment 3: Wegotmorecorners

    Is there a more self-congratulatory football fan in the world than a Liverpool fan?

    Singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' is great when the world is watching, but you never sang it when your team were dropping points in December/January.

    And going back to my original point about patting yourself on your back. I didn't see a great deal of integrity and dignity in your post. You've inherited your managers obsession with Manchester United by the looks of it.

  • Comment number 92.

    Has Gerrard been the best midfielder in the world over the past year or so? Probably not, but hes definitely one of the best. You can hardly judge a man on one game.

    On this basis, Messi must be crap, because last year he failed to do anything against Man U over two games in one of last year's Champions league semi-finals.

    God, I remember Chelsea-Man U games under the Mourinho days when even Cashley (not very good at football) Cole had the world's best player, Ronaldo, in his 'back pocket'. Essien is a quality player who, in his role in last night's game, stopped another quality player from performing. No matter of childish bickering on here between some of you Man U and Liverpool fans is going to change that. The teams that you follow are both good at football, unfortunately (for you) they can't always win. Get over it.



  • Comment number 93.

    Zonal marking may well have worked in the past (no trophies to show for it) however, it most definitely did not work last night. Fair enough the first Chelsea goal may have caught out the sleeping defenders - but how do you explain the second? The system is clearly flawed - as is LFC since Lafa joined.

    NO trophies but you did the double over us - lets hear it!!!

    “where your famous Atmosphere” FACT!

  • Comment number 94.


    54. At 10:51am on 09 Apr 2009, Rotterdam wrote:

    "I've just had a quick look on the BBC website and the headline reads "Hiddink still wary of Liverpool"

    Funny that, but I would've expecdted a neutral News media to have had a headline something like:

    "3 going on 10 as Hiddink takes Benitez's tactics apart"

    or simply "Chelsea thrash Liverpool on their own pitch"

    You know, similar headlines to what you'd normally see from a neutral News media source."



    Mate that's nothing. The headline on the other q/f this morning read

    "Woeful Bayern horrify Beckenbauer"

    We have in front of us what is unanimously acknowledged by the world press and observers as one of the best teams of all time, producing in the course of a season videogame football that the younger generation have never witnessed -the previous example being Cryuff's dream team-, and the way the BBC understand it and sum it up is that Bayern are woeful.




  • Comment number 95.

    Wegotmorecorners post #2.

    That had me in creases mate, you're a good sport. Looks like your efforts to get Nibs some action will be in vain though, still good on you for trying!

  • Comment number 96.

    First of all i have to say it was a great game for the neutral with both sides going forward and lots of chances created.

    Chelsea were worthy winners and perhaps should have won by a greater margin.

    It wasn't that Liverpool were poor, just that they were tactically and technically outclassed by a team that's always been better than them but rarely had the confidence to go and prove it in Champions League matches played at Anfield.

    Both teams may have lined up as 4-3-3 but that is about as even as it got. Chelsea played with Essien in the holding role and he was specifically asked to hang around Gerrard, a role he performed excellently for the majority of the contest.

    The rest of Chelsea's midfield and attack proceeded to teach Liverpool a lesson in slick passing and movement which left the home side chasing shadows at times.

    Malouda and Kalou were both razor sharp on the ball and clever in their positioning with Lampard and Ballack finding space in an attacking areas.

    Liverpool were the complete opposite, rigid and out of ideas once the only player in their side with genuine freedom of movement was marked out of the game.

    Hiddink knew the threat and dealt with it but it's not the first time it's been done.

    Manchester United played 4-3-3 at home against Liverpool last year using Carrick to mark Gerrard on the day, Liverpool didn't manage a shot on target in that game.

    It's obvious that the majority of Liverpools play goes through Gerrard and every now and then through their right side and Hiddink by stopping Gerrard automatically gave his side a foothold in the game by the share nature of Chelsea's remaining midfielders - Ballack and Lampard (who are mobile forward thinking players) and Liverpools - Alonso and Lucas (who are more rigid and defensive).

    Liverpool are a rigid side by nature which is why they are often held by weaker sides in the Premier League but if they want to reach the levels that Chelsea reached last night and teams like United, Arsenal and Barcelona (even better) can reach they must be able to diversify their play so it doesn't go through a particular channel and learn to pass and move a lot better.

    Chelsea were guilty of missing several chances but once again Liverpools zonal marking system made sure they weren't punish for their profligacy in front of goal.

    When will Benitez ever learn that man-marking is a more sensible way of dealing with set-pieces.

    Fabulous performance by Chelsea, they're no AC Milan and i look forward to watching what will be a great game between Barca and Chelsea.




  • Comment number 97.

    chelsea all the way boys...

  • Comment number 98.

    86. At 12:08pm on 09 Apr 2009, chips_in_the_queue


    no it doesn't prove your point


    If you go do what i said you'll see that Rafa's Liverpool have twice finished above Wenger's Arsenal in that period in the League whilst having a superior record in Europe


    and other sides do rest players - all the time - that's why they all have such massive squads


    you guys really do fall hook line and sinker for what the red tops feed you about Rafa

  • Comment number 99.

    92. At 12:18pm on 09 Apr 2009, ibai07


    totally right

  • Comment number 100.

    A very good point you raise about Essin. His return and Chelsea's recent upturn in form is certainly no coincidence. But you have to hand it to Hiddink, he effectively nullified the threat of Gerrard and Torres, with the exception of the first 20 minutes or so, and Chelsea have one foot and a half in the semis.

    It is pretty obvious that Gerrard and Torres are the main threat for Liverpool but Barca are a completely different kettle of fish. They a threat from all over the pitch. If you try and double up on Messi that will leave somebody like Eto'o, Henry, Xavi, Iniesta, etc, in space and free to do what they want. The main weakness of Barca is their defence, especially when their full backs bomb forward, and this is something Lucky Guus will look to exploit. If it is a Chelsea-Barca semi (in all honesty, it will be) then Hiddink will have to pull a rabbit (maybe a couple) out of the hat to make the final.

 

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