Riise to the occasion!

Barcelona 1
Deco (14)

Liverpool 2
Bellamy (43) Riise (74)

Barcelona: Valdes, Belletti, Marquez, Puyol, Zambrotta, Xavi (Giuly 65), Motta (Iniesta 54), Deco, Messi, Saviola (Gudjohnsen 82), Ronaldinho.
Subs Not Used: Jorquera, Van Bronckhorst, Thuram, Oleguer.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Finnan, Sissoko (Zenden 84), Alonso, Gerrard, Bellamy (Pennant 80),Kuyt (Crouch 90).
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Hyypia, Gonzalez, Mascherano.

Att: 88,000

Sometimes it takes time to appreciate the enormity of a good result. Only after a few weeks, months or even years does the significance of it really hit home and find its natural place in the history of your club.

Yesterdays result, for all its glory, will be tarnished if we mess up at Anfield in two weeks time and let Barcelona go through the Champions League quarter finals. I pray that we don’t because yesterday’s effort deserves a place on the increasingly long list titled “Great Liverpool European Nights”.

Sceptics and those of more disingenuous nature will say that we rode our luck or played a Barcelona side out of kilter compounded by their manager’s bizarre tactics. However, if you are one of these and support an English side that has been lucky enough to play Barcelona at the Nou Camp, you will no doubt remember your team’s result. Please also remember this.

THERE ARE ONLY TWO ENGLISH SIDES TO HAVE WON AT THE NOU CAMP IN A MAJOR EUROPEON COMPETITON – THE LIVERPOOL SIDE OF 1975-76 AND THE LIVERPOOL SIDE OF 2006-07.

For me that is the most memorable thing about this game. That and the fact that we’ve set ourselves up beautifully for the second leg. It is not that Bellamy and Riise scored, or the formers crass, self indulgent celebration after his strike. No doubt this will make the headlines rather than the overall team performance, with a bit of luck was brave and disciplined. One can not ask for more. I am proud of the team.

As usual Benitez produced a googlie with his team selection. Does he enjoy this? In came Arbeloa for his first full debut. I guess there was a certain logic to this as he had preformed well against Ronaldinho for Deportivo early this season but it still had me shouting “what the f***” at the screen!

Much of the game is a blur due the tension and the excessive amounts of “Belguim medication” I decided to take to ease this! I think we started reasonable well before Ronaldinho and Deco combined to nearly set up Saviola. The referee blew for offside but it wasn’t. Barca then had a penalty appeal turned down after the dentally challenged one had been upended. Not given, but I’ve seen them given.

Shortly after Barca scored. Zambrotta was tracked by Gerrard but not closed down and was allowed to cross. The ball sailed over Arbeloa, who arguably should have snuffed this out, on to Deco, who was definitely not picked up by Riise, to nod home. A poor goal, and Barca’s first against us at the Nou Camp after 284 minutes of football. It was also one that must have really annoyed Benitez because of our combined lack of concentration.

After this one would have expected one way traffic. A relaxed Barca, with an early lead, looking dangerous especially as we must have been taken aback by the early goal? A Deco effort hit the side netting and then Saviola went close and Deco again. However, although Barca had plenty of the ball, not unusual in this type of tie, we pulled ourselves together and began to look more solid. Even to the extent that Bellamy went close with a header from Gerrard’s free kick.

Our goal came at a crucial time, two minutes before the break. Alonso’s cross from the right was met by Bellamy who had evaded his marker to ghost in at the back post. Valdes caught the ball, but carried it over the line and spilt it. Although Kuyt followed up to make sure, it was clearly Bellamy’s goal seemingly giving him, if his golf swing celebration and post match interview is anything to go by, some form of exoneration, at least in his own eyes anyway!

At half time Benitez must have wandered how to play out the rest of the game. The goal, which in all honesty was terribly soft, and Bellamy’s earlier miss had showed how vulnerable Barca’s defence was. Should he push on and try and win or, shut up shop and protect the away goal?

Barca’s insipid response in the second half almost forced us into the decision. Gerrard’s free kick was saved and held on to by Valdes. The keeper then blocked a Gerrard shot which fell to Alonso. His cross was missed by Kuyt when it would have been easier to score. Overall however, I can’t remember to much about this period I was already thinking about the second leg and walking up and down the sitting room, watching the fish and looking out into the garden. Why? It was dark, I couldn’t see anything. Part of this was the realization that Barca were very very much there for the taking! This wasn’t helped by Rikard’s insistence on weakening his sides chances even further by bringing on more offensive players. Rather than shore up the defence at 1-1 he tried to chase the game as if it was a one off tie. He was to pay the price.

After a slight reality check, in which Saviola and then Messi went close, the enviable happened. Finnan put Kuyt through but he failed to bring the ball under control. Valdes saved and ball was poorly headed away by Marquez. It broke to Bellamy who coolly passed to Riise who fired in from around the penalty spot with, good grief, his right foot! Riise reeled away in delight, away from Bellamy. What goes around comes around John!

After that it’s a blur. Saviola went close again. Deco hit a post but again it was a case of pacing up and down the room. A routine which bought back memories of the 2005 Champions League run!

Final whistle. What can you say? Except this is why I love football! It doesn’t have to be Barcelona away though, and if you’re got this far down the piece I suspect you know what I mean.

Now watch us lose at home to Sheffield United on Saturday! And that is also why I love football!!!!

“Walk on…”

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