By Kevin Koczwara
This match week in Champions League play saw some miracle wins, disastrous losses, and some thumping wins from struggling sides. Overall it was just another match week in Champions League play, and just another poor week in fantasy sports for me.
Let’s Start With Liverpool and Lyon…
Liverpool had a remarkable streak broken on Tuesday, their streak of 22 years without 4 consecutive losses was broken by French powerhouse Lyon. To top off the 2-1 defeat at the hands of the French club, was that the loss happened at Anfield, a fortress in the footballing world.
Anfield has been Liverpool’s home field since 1892(after Everton left for Goodison Park) and Liverpool has had 7 undefeated seasons of home league games there. Last year (2008-09) saw the team go unbeaten at home, which helped them come close to winning their first league title in 19 years.
But this statistic from LFCHistory.net may be the most frightening statistic of all about Anfield: “Liverpool did not lose at Anfield between January 1978 and January 1981. 85 games in total, 212 goals scored against 35.”
So, as you can imagine, Anfield isn’t the easiest place to play, and the fans love their squad, which makes them a major part of the game, and they have even been known to intimidate opponents many times before.
To top off Lyon’s win was the fact that they went down early and going into the second half were without any true center-backs as Cris went out with an injury during the first half. The only good news Lyon had was that Liverpool’s best player and captain, Steven Gerrard, had to be removed from the match after aggregating an injury he received while on international duty.
But Lyon pulled through. They have been tearing up Ligue 1 in France, and made some great transfers during the summer to improve their squad for European and league play. The additions of Porto players Aly Sissoko and Lisandro Lopez gave Lyon more attacking prowess than they had just a year ago. Lopes gives them a definitive goal-scorer with experience and a lot of heart. While Sissoko tears up the left flank and can produce some wicked crosses into the box, he gives them attack and overlap from the defensive position. And with their additions came more depth to the French Squad, and it showed because their 2 goals came from substitutes.
20 year-old Maxime Gonalons scored to bring the game even in the second half, he came on for the injured Cris in the first half. The 20 year old put in his goal after 2 miraculous saves from Pepe Reina. But the ball bounced to Gonalons in the box and he knew what to do with it. He slotted it past Liverpool’s Martin Kelly (the 19 year old had a great first start for the club but injured himself on the play. He filled in for the injured Glen Johnson and showed why he is thought of so highly by the Liverpool coaches).
Then Lopes sub Cesar Delgado put in the finishing blow in the 90th minute. He slotted in a nice goal making Liverpool’s chances of moving past the group stage slim. Now Liverpool have to win their final 3 games to have any chance of moving on. The next game for Liverpool is at Lyon, which will not be a walk in the park for the English giants because Lyon is real and they proved it at Anfield.
Watch for Lyon to move past the group stage and challenge the giants of Europe for the Champions League crown. The French side have great depth and a beautiful style of play.
For Liverpool, they have a game against Manchester United this weekend, which will decide their fate in the League. And players aren’t ducking away from the pressure, or laying the blame on the manager. They know the importance of the game and winning their final three group games.
“Now we have to win the last three games in the group,” said Javier Mascherano.” But we have done that before, we just have to do it again.”
Ligue 1 Dominates
French clubs won all their matches this week in Champions League play. An impressive feat from a league that is looked down upon by many people outside of Europe.
The French league, Ligue 1, doesn’t have the wealth that Italy, Spain and England have, or the monsters that Geramany has (Bayern Munich is a monster of a club with powerful alliances and bank accounts). But this week French clubs showed that they know how to play, and develope some of the ebst talent in the world.
Defending French champs, Bordeaux beat Bayern Munich 2-1. Marsielle beat FC Zurich 1-0. And Lyon toppled Liverpool 2-1. It was an impressive week for the French clubs and don’t be surprised if one of those teams is in the semi-finals of the Champions league (I like what Lyon and Marsielle have done and the additions they have brought in).
AC Milan Make A Statement in Madrid
Real Madrid looked to be unbeatable. The Juggernaut was rolling over opponents like a steam roller. And they looked to be in control as Raul put in a goal in the 19 minute at the Bernabéu.
Now Real were without Ronaldo, but they were not short of scoring power and all-star players. The one weakness Real has is their defense and it was exposed by a determined Pato and AC Milan as they tried to prove tot he world that the sale of the world-class Kaka to Real is not the end of the road for them. Kaka suited up for the first time against his old club, and didn’t play the type of game that most AC Milan fans came to expect from the one time Balloon d’Or winner. Whether is it was nerves or the style of the game, nobody will really know, but Kaka looked out of place in the Real Madrid white jerseys.
It has been no surprise to anyone that AC Milan has struggled this year because they are lacking an attacking flavor in the middle of the pitch. They did sell off arguebly their best player in Kaka, but the other reason is that Pato hasn’t shown signs that he has developed enough to be the striker he is believed to be. He struggled early on, but this week has seen him score once in Serie A and then twice today to push AC Milan to two consecutive wins.
Pato slotted in two goals today, a beautiful game winner in the 88 minute, and he picked up the junk in the 66 after a misplayed save from Iker Casillas. Goals is what Milan fans expected from the 20 year old Brazilian and he has started to produce like expected. If he can keep up this type of play than Milan may be on the right track to pick up the pieces in Serie A and the Champions League.
This was a huge win for the Rossoneri (AC Milan) as they look forward to the rest of the season. If they can stay fit and in form they can compete in any league. They are much like Liverpool in that they have a short bench of quality players, but their starting 11 can compete with anyone if it is running on all cylanders, which it looks to be right now.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com. Follow The Soccer Guys on Twitter @TheSoccer Guys.