PSV Eindhoven 1
Babel 45, Riera 69, Ngog 77.
Argh a Champions League game not deemed important enough to be shown on the main ITV channel, it was on ITV8 or something. Still it didn’t stop them pulling their old trick of dredging up all sorts of old Reds’ footage from their archives to tart up what many would regard as a match which, in terms of the overall scheme of things, was not a key one.
Rafa seemed to think so? He made seven changes Cavalieri, Dossena, Lucas and Ngog among them. Gerrard and Alonso and Kuyt, who did travel, were benched. Although this was a second string side, there was a nice balance to it. The holding Lucas and Mascherano complemented by Babel and Riera out wide with Ngog and Keane in the middle. First thoughts were that we would do really well or get tonked! Thankfully it was the former (eventually) and indeed, despite its dubious importance, there were plenty of positives to take from this evening.
We began confidently without making too many inroads. PSV, with a UEFA cup place to earn, didn’t really show much ambition. In all honesty neither did we although Babel seemed to be having plenty of opportunities on the right and Riera looked lively. Robbie Keane, who if ITV’s preamble was anything to go by, was the only player on the pitch, also looked purposeful. At the back we were assured and untroubled with Agger and Carragher confidently and routinely dealing with anything the Dutch attempted. However on the whole nothing much happening and no real signs to suggest that the home side would be first to score.
A disputed corner, the ball was incorrectly deemed to have come off Dossena, lead to Mascherano missed an easy header. The ball, via a PSV player’s hand, then fell to Lazovic and who squeezed it home through Cavalieri’s legs. A scrappy goal that caught us on the hop. After that we allowed ourselves to get caught up a few annoying little spats with Arbeloa getting himself booked over nothing, before Dossena gave us our best chance with a cross to Ngog which the Frenchman was unable to get any force behind. However, was not long before parity was restored.
Riera was clumsily fouled by Mendez. Lucas took the kick and Babel, who had been jeered by the home crowd because of his Ajax connections, checked and dodged to make space and guide the ball past Isaksson with his head. A deserved goal and at a vital time just before the break. Exit to comforting jeers of discontent from the home crowd.
In the second half we had much, much more about us. Keane, with a nice turn, set up Ngog who was thwarted by a lunging PSV defender. Then Ryan Babel perhaps displayed why Rafa has been so reluctant to play him. Keane set him up and then made a brilliant run that was begging for a return pass for to make it 2-1 instead of the speculative, wild, hoof over the bar the Dutchman chose. Keane’s ire with his team mate was entirely justified.
After Bakkal had tested the not entirely convincing Calvelairo, Babel, again, but this time no so deservedly, had Keane shaking his head as he cut inside and fired into the side netting rather than cross. Keane then had two half chances. The first was foiled as the ball just wouldn’t sit and the second when the through pass, from Babel (eventually), was just over cooked. However the demeanour of Keane, despite his bad luck, was not one of man lacking in confidence. Clive Tydesley was even prompted to describe him as man “on the verge of scoring”. Which is why our second goal was scored by Albert Riera!
And what a cracker it was too. PSV were slack in clearing the ball which fell to Lucas who fed Riera about thirty yards out who took two touches before blasting it home into the top corner. Cue shouts of “What! He’s never done that before”!
PSV then began to over commit themselves as they chased the game. Keane exploited the situation with superb ball for Ngog who was policed, but not challenged, by a PSV defender and allowed to fire home emphatically. Job done!
So a very satisfying evening. Another three goals, top of the group which doesn’t necessarily see us avoiding big opposition in the knock out stages but at least the second game will be at Anfield. Rafa was able to rest plenty of players for Saturday and blood some youngsters (Spearing, Darby and Kelly). We also saw good performances from players who have, rightly or wrongly, come under the critical microscope recently – Lucas, Riera, Babel and in particular Keane who was unlucky not to get the goal his performance undoubtedly deserved.
PSV: Isaksson,Culina, Marcellis, Brechet, Salcido, Mendez (Manco 80), Simons, Dzsudzsak, Bakkal (Nijland 83), Lazovic, Amrabat (Koevermans 72).
Subs Not Used: Cassio, Rodriguez, Pieters, Wuytens.
Liverpool: Cavalieri, Arbeloa (Darby 69), Carragher (Kelly 81), Agger, Dossena, Mascherano, Leiva Lucas, Babel, Ngog, Riera (Spearing 76), Keane.
Subs Not Used: Reina, Gerrard, Alonso, Benayoun.