Not exactly one of the more memorable European nights however, job done under what were, the longer the game went on, increasingly difficult circumstances.
Rafa described the performance as “scary”. It wasn’t exactly “hide behind the sofa” stuff but at times it was creepy enough. However, thankfully, as in most movies, the “good guys” faced their demons and came through, though not without a few white knuckle moments.
Marseille’s performance was a familiar one. Plenty of possession and chances but poor work in the final third. However they got stronger as the game went on and put the opposition under great pressure yet, this wasn’t reflected on the score sheet. Now where have we seen that lately?
Because they needed a result the Frenchmen tried to be positive. However, initially their passing was too predictable and we were able to read them fairly easily and win the ball in vital areas. They needed to tighten up but were over elaborate, didn’t play percentages and never gave themselves time to settle. As a result mistakes were made. Kuyt was given a free header from Torres’ cross and it was long before the inevitable happened.
After twenty odd minutes of Marseille being penned in by us, largely through their own doing, Arbeloa fed Alonso whose excellent cross missed everyone except its intended target at the far post Steven Gerrard. His header gave Mandanda in the Marseille goal no chance. Marseille had their moments with Taiwo testing Reina from distance and then Zubar going close from the resulting corner.
The second half was a different affair. Marseille began to find their range and grow in confidence. With the type of football they were playing there was always the risk that they might strike gold, particularly as we were slowly showing signs of beginning to lose our grip? They were getting lots of reward down the right hand side where Dossena, on at half time, didn’t do much in his handling of Afa to suggest that recent criticism of him have been unwarranted. Afa’s low hard cross just evaded Benoit Cheyrou and later on he burnt Reina’s fingertips from a free kick. Niang missed his second decent chance of the night. However, Carragher kept things in shape and although we finished like the away side ie under pressure, we made the hat.
Perhaps under different circumstances we would have just said “we’re through, great” however the performance with what was, as near as dam it, our strongest line up, coupled with that against Fulham, could give Rafa some cause for some concern in the matches to come?
However, that is for between now and West Ham. For now we can just look at the group table and breathe a satisfied sigh of relief!
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio (Dossena 46), Mascherano, Alonso, Kuyt (Leiva Lucas 85), Gerrard, Riera (Benayoun 63), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Keane, Babel, Kelly.
Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart (Samassa 89), Zubar, Hilton, Taiwo, Ziani, Cana, Cheyrou, Ben Arfa, Niang, Kone (Valbuena 78).
Subs Not Used: Riou, Rodriguez, Zenden, Kabore, Grandin.