Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “We are at the top of the Uefa rankings in Europe because we have been so good for the last five years. This was another great result for the club. We couldn’t really imagine such a result happening playing Real Madrid because normally it would be very tight. Maybe the players had a little extra bite because of some of the criticism they received in the last few days. They hear things, they read things, and it gives them that little bit more, although they are always motivated. I don’t know if it was our best European result but we played very well and I am very pleased for the fans, the players and the club. I don’t want to single out individuals, I prefer to talk about the team.” – Rafa Benitez.
Runner-up: â€œI did not see a drop in the first half, as our opponents were there too, you know! They only had that free kick and a deflected shot from distance, so to concede at that time was a cold bucket of water over our heads.” – Claudio Ranieri.
Today’s overview: The hacks try and outdo each other in the superlatives employed to describe Liverpool’s incredible thrashing of Real Madrid.
Richard Williams kicked things off by claiming that never could Real’s “famous all-white strip, worn by the heirs to men who won the European Cup on a record nine occasions, have so closely resembled a flag of surrender.” For Kevin McCarra, “awe at an overwhelming victory is matched only by disbelief that Real Madrid could be so humiliated,” while Sam Wallace claimed that “this was Liverpool playing like European royalty.”
Henry Winter singled out Torres and Gerrard for praise. “Torres, fit and fired-up, an Atletico old boy running on adrenalin, needed little incentive to set about Real, scoring early, doubling their first-leg advantage. Gerrard followed suit, converting a penalty, nutmegging Fabio Cannavaro, adding a sensational second after the break and constantly tormenting anyone in a white shirt.” Torres was also lauded by James Lawton calling the Spaniard “the centrepiece of a force which, who knows, might once again find a way of conquering Europe.”
Matt Dickinson offered a forensic critique of Los Blancos failings. “A big rebuilding job awaits on the evidence of these two matches. Real were pitiful last night. Raul barely had a kick. The nearest he got to greatness was when he shook Gerrard by the hand. Cannavaro, a World Cup-winning captain, suffered the humiliation of being withdrawn midway through the second half â€” humiliation because that meant that Ramos ranked him worse than Pepe. Arjen Robben is as weak in spirit as he was at Chelsea, substituted at the interval after a totally anonymous first half. This was agony for the Real fans, not least when Torres departed to another standing ovation.” Ian Herbert added, “the result is likely to open a major inquisition into the future direction of Real, who have not progressed beyond the last 16 for five years.”
Following Chelsea’s progression past Juventus, Dominic Fifield heralds that while the Blues “may not have sent shockwaves across Europe, at least there is evidence that the resilience is back.”
Trying to identify what has changed at Chelsea, Paul Wilson reckons that “the new manager is not pulling the strings, he has simply restored the team’s own ability to act independently.” Matt Hughes offer Hiddink greater praise arguing that the Dutchman “has turned a collection of unhappy, self-centred individuals into a team” while also being aided by luck that saw him “roll the dice with an outrageously bold team selection and his numbers came up.”
Looking at the bigger picture for the Blues, John Ley comments that “with each success, [Hiddink] is making it increasingly harder for Roman Abramovich not to offer him the world to stay at Stamford Bridge.”
Patrick Barclay jumps on Drogba’s did it/didn’t it free-kick just before halftime as the launchpad to open a fresh debate on the need for goalline technology. “What is wrong with traditional technology in the shape of television and the use of it by the fourth official to alert the referee through his earpiece?”
The question of the day, as asked by Jonathan Wilson, is why are Premier League teams so dominant in the Champions League, with the columnist citing “money, money, money and its lack of even distribution,” “continuity and competitiveness” and “stretching domestic hegemony to breaking point.”
Building up to Inter’s arrival at Old Trafford, Oliver Kay applauds how Fergusonâ€™s dynasty at United is now “so impressive that the poor record against Mourinho barely registers as a scratch on the surface.” While a mischievous Martin Samuel speculates what Jose Mourinho’s next move will be if Inter get knocked out tonight arguing that Liverpool could be the perfect next destination for the Special One. “There is much to aim for in that elusive Premier League title, a solid bedrock of players to be finessed by a handful of new arrivals, and nobody would place unrealistic demands that Mourinhoâ€™s team plays football from the stars to achieve success because, under Benitez, the locals have come to appreciate the value of efficient pragmatism. Even his big mouth would not be so irreconcilable after Benitezâ€™s colourful behaviour this season.”
Transfer stories continue to appear in the tabloids, the Daily Mail alleging that “Tottenham face a fight to hang on to Aaron Lennon this summer, with Liverpool set to make a renewed bid to land the winger.” Colin Young reports that “Newcastle fear they could lose Sebastien Bassong to Arsenal in the close season as they try to tie the defender to a new contract.” And the Sun link teenage Danish defender Simon Kjaer, “who has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave Palermo at the end of the season for Â£11million,” with both Liverpool and Chelsea.
List-making is common in the papers this Wednesday, Sandy Macaskill listing the top 10 managers in the history of the European Cup/Champions League while Matthew Fearon puts together his Ajax dream team in the independent.
Paul Kelso picks up on the story of the authorities closure of a ticket-touting website “www.official-tickets.net, [that were] selling tickets for Premier League games at up to seven-times face value, with some tickets never reaching purchasers.”
In an offbeat article, Rob Bagchi sources the start of light-hearted football shows. “Twenty-five years on, Sky’s Soccer Saturday is its only heir and what we cherish in that format, ex-professionals talking candidly and wittily, was pioneered by St John and Greaves.”