Hrumph! Holidays! Any thoughts about not being able to find a pub showing the game were dispelled as ITV announced they were going to show it on their main channel. This meant I could watch it at the cottage we were renting. However, the seemingly incessant rain and number two son deciding that our time away was an ideal opportunity to contract chicken pox meant that an evening out, on my own, to watch the game was a more than welcome break!
Standard Liege, or “Standard Leaguer” as the landlord of the Cornish pub pronounced them, are Belgium Champions and we played them in their own backyard. However, if ITV, and particularly Clive Tydesley, are to be believed they are the equivalent of Havant and Waterloo who we faced in the FA Cup last season. “Plucky”, “spirited” were some of the many words patronisingly used, to describe their performance together with a tone of voice which suggested surprise and amazement that they should have the temerity to even think about crossing the half way line and having a go at us! Which they did, often!
I guess for those who were thinking of the money, some £12m we are told if we reach the group stages of the Champions League, the result was the main thing. For those where football is the key issue it was a less than satisfying evening. Torres and Keane didn’t fire, I can’t recall us having one significant chance. The midfield, weaken by Gerrard’s and Mascherano’s absence, was largely unproductive failing to take the sting out of Liege and allowing them to mix it with us legally and illegally, there was one foul on Benayoun that surely would have earnt a red had it been a Premiership game? The defence, Carragher aside, looked jittery at times perhaps understandable as this was Dossena’s first proper game and Agger’s for a while? Significantly Alonso was our best player and Gerrard, who came on towards the end, had little impact.
Liege’s dominance, but also their inability to capitalise on this, was seen in by Fellini’s header which hit the post and was clawed away by Reina before it crossed the line. In the second half Camargo also wasted a fairly decent chance. In between Liege were awarded a penalty which Dante had saved by Reina giving ITV the opportunity to make a pun between on the words “inferno” and “infernal”. Although the pub was noisy as far, as I am aware, they missed the chance! After that Tydesley blew a gasket every time the ball went in our box and near to one of our defender’s hands.
The clear light of day facts are that we should have done better but should not have expected a cake walk. We, and ITV, should have expected a rough ride from Liege. Being the home team this was their time to take the game to us. However, the likes of ITV still felt the need to stoke up the game as if it was something ten times more dramatic or significant than it was? Sure we were “Sub Standard” (more p*ss poor innuendo from someone!) however let’s get things into perspective. We managed to fend off the opposition and hold out for 0-0 draw albeit with an not inconsiderable slice of luck. All is not lost. We live to fight another day.
Surely we will play better against Sunderland on Saturday, won’t we?