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Thursday, 14 August 2008

Squarefootball Diary; Reds Fail To Meet Standard; More Young Gunners; Mac's Back (with the same post-game analysis as before)

Squarefootball Diary - Wednesday August 13 2008

Liverpool face a nervy second leg clash at home to Standard Liege for the right to play in the group stages of this year's Champions League.

Rafa Benitez's side are held to a 0-0 draw by the Belgian champions, and it could have been an awful lot worse.  Most observers felt that Marouane Fellaini's header had crossed the line after it glanced off Pepe Reina's post, but to the relief of all wearing a garish green referee Tom Obrevo did not.  Minutes later Liege were awarded a dubious penalty when debutant Andrea Dossena handled several yards outside the penalty area.  No matter, penalty-stopping King Pepe was on hand to block Dante Bonfim's rather tame effort.

And there ended the majority of the excitement, with Liverpool's new front pairing of Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane stifled by Benitez's insistence on playing the former Spurs man in a deep-lying role behind the Spanish star;

"We were not playing well. The only positive thing you can take is that we didn't concede a goal." admits Rafa, although they did.  Technically;

"There were a lot of things that we were not doing well and everyone is upset that it was a bad performance."  he continues.

Arsenal have things a lot easier, though they would do since they had the good fortune to come up against a team coached by former England disaster area Steve McClaren.  Arsene Wenger's side win 2-0 in Holland against McClaren's FC Twente outfit, and look dead certs for the group stages.  William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor are the men on target in the win;

"We were so young in the middle of the park for a game of that level and you could be worried but I have confidence in them." says Wenger, clearly plotting to unveil another set of superstar schoolboys onto the main stage;

"I think we should have scored in the first half. You don't get many chances and you have to take them. We didn't do that. We lost concentration on two occasions and got punished." states McClaren, almost as if he is still the manager of England.  Or Middlesbrough.

Elsewhere in the qualifiers there are wins for Juventus (4-0 at home to Artmedia Petrzalka), Barcelona (4-0 over Wisla Krakow) and Marseille (1-0 at SK Brann).  More surprisingly, Anorthosis Famagusta trounce Olympiakos 3-0, while Schalke's single-goal victory over Atletico Madrid leaves their future very much in the balance.

Back home the first round of the Carling Cup is completed.  Birmingham City thrash Wycombe Wanderers 4-0, while there are comfortable victories for Coventry City (3-1 over Aldershot), Nottingham Forest (4-0 winners at home to Morecambe) and Sheffield United who see off Port Vale with a 3-1 victory.

By Stephen Orford

14 August 2008

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