The two Champions League semi-final first legs this week produced some tense and dramatic football without ever really developing into the feast of football that most neutrals would have been hoping for.
The Liverpool against Chelsea game was played at tremendous pace and with great passion, but contained little cohesive attacking football whereas the Barcelona against Manchester United game contained some exquisite individual skill, lots of pretty possession football, but little goalmouth action.
It was probably wrong to expect anything else from the first leg games which were always going to be cagey affairs with nobody wanting to risk leaving themselves open at the back and finding themselves out of the contest before the second leg even starts. As it stands, both ties are perfectly poised and I am already really looking forward to the return matches next week which should have all the ingredients to be absolute classics.
In both semi-final games so far, with the possible exception of the unfortunate John Arne Riise, the defensive units of all four teams have come out of the games with great credit.
For Chelsea, Ricardo Carvalho showed once again, as he has done all season, that he is a world class centre half. John Terry was his usual combative self despite still not being completely at his best. For Liverpool, Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher both excelled. For Manchester United, Rio Ferdinand showed his class and Wes Brown stood in admirably for the absent Nemanja Vidic. For Barcelona, Rafael Marquez and Milito looked totally comfortable even without the presence of their suspended captain Puyol.
It was sadly at the other end of the pitch that only one of the big stars really produced what most neutral fans were hoping to see.
For Chelsea the performance of Didier Drogba was disappointing and in my opinion, occasionally shameful. He is a striker with all the assets anyone could possibly want, pace, power, strength and skill. It is such a shame that he spends so much time play acting and pretending to be hurt that he becomes an embarrassment.
For some reason, Avram Grant decided to play Florence Malouda rather than Solomon Kalou. It didnÃ¢â‚¬Ëœt make sense before the game, and it made even less sense afterwards. Malouda hasnÃ¢â‚¬Ëœt produced the goods for Chelsea all season and he abjectly failed to do so again.
Joe Cole was totally anonymous and the fact that he was substituted rather than Malouda speaks volumes for the quality of his performance.
For Liverpool the attacking threat provided all season by Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres was notable by itÃ¢â‚¬Ëœs absence on Tuesday evening. Gerrard was totally ineffective and Torres had a very rare off night, producing nothing of quality and missing the type of chance he has snapped up without a second thought in most previous games this year.
Manchester United didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really provide an attacking threat at all in the Camp Nou and Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were seen only in hard working defensive roles.
For Barcelona Samuel EtoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢o looked to be a shadow of his former self and provided little challenge for the United back four. The only attacking superstar who produced the goods was the mercurial Lionel Messi who despite having not played for some time looked dangerous every time he got the ball. His probing and passing was a constant threat to United.
The first leg games have been dominated by the defensive players which has provided an excellent master class on defending for the football purists and students of the game, but disappointment for a majority of the watching football fans. The second legs provide an opportunity for all those attacking superstars to show the world what they can do on the big stage.
With the two games being perfectly poised it would be a brave person who was prepared to confidently predict the outcome of either tie. It is probably just about advantage to Chelsea and Manchester United but Liverpool and Barcelona will both feel confident of success in the second leg.
In the Chelsea and Liverpool game a 0-0 draw would see Chelsea into the final and that may lead to them playing a compact type of game. Liverpool need to score and that will give Gerrard and Torres the chance to shine and show everyone what they are capable of.
In the Manchester United and Barcelona game both teams need to score. That may lead to the type of game that all football fans would be hoping for. It could turn out to be the battle between Ronaldo and Messi that was being hyped before the first game.
There was much to admire in the first two games and there will be memorable moments, controversy and excitement in the next two. I just hope that after the second legs we are all talking about the brilliance of some of the attacking players rather than the admirable qualities of the defenders.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!