LFC Talk

Match Review: Standard Liege 0-0 Liverpool by lfctalk
August 13, 2008, 22:33
Filed under: Match Reviews

A difficult evening in Belgium saw Liverpool come away with a fortunate goalless draw. The home side made the brighter start and the tone was set for most of the 90 minutes.

The Belgian champions maintained the form and confidence that saw them go 31 games unbeaten last season. Laszlo Boloni sent out a technically proficient side that were quicker and hungrier than their older and more experienced opponents.

Marouane Fellaini had the best chance of the game early on that needed clearing desperately off the line by Jose Reina. The midfielder rose highest to the ball, which only connected off his right shoulder and hit the post. Jose Reina quickly reacted a clawed the ball off the line as Standard attackers loomed to steer the chance home. The home coach, Boloni, strongly debated the decision with the fourth official. The Romanian coach was animated through much of the match, often mixing things up with his opposite number Rafa Benitez.

Soon after Liverpool’s lucky escape, the referee awarded the Belgians a contentious penalty after Andrea Dossena was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area. There was  definite connection with the ball by the Italian’s arm, but it was clearly outside the area. The £8m left-back had too much momentum and continued into the penalty area, but the handball was certainly outside of the box. Brazilian left-back Dante stepped up to take the spot kick, but the strike was saved by Jose Reina. The Spanish keeper was instrumental in keeping the score level throughout the match.

Xabi Alonso was booked for a late challenge in the first-half and could have seen a red in the second. The Spanish playmaker could justifiably have been given a second yellow for a clear shorts pull directly in front of the Norwegian official. The midfielder was Liverpool’s star performer with some classy passing and tempo control. Alonso and his new midfield partner, Damien Plessis, worked tirelessly throughout as the Standard midfield pushed forward to support the frontmen. Steven Dufour and Marouane Fellaini bossed the midfield battle for long periods of the game and made some fine passes forward.

Deiudonne Mbokani and Igor De Camargo worked hard up top for Standard and were rewarded with several clear chances to open the scoring and give the home side a deserved lead. Both forwards had gilt-edged headed chances in the second half, but each went narrowly wide. De Camargo latched onto a long ball from Dante and his nicked header pinged off Reina’s elbow and ran to Dossena. The chance was one of many that could have seen the Belgians take a lead into the second leg at Anfield.

New signing Wilfried Dalmat, brother of former Spurs man Stephane, worked hard in the midfield battle and added some classy touches in attack. The schemer gave Dossena a torrid evening and created a few key openings for Standard. Dossena had a fairly difficult baptism into competitive life with Liverpool and the Champions League. The defender failed to get too far out of his own half after heavy pressure throughout from the underdogs.

Robbie Keane made a surprise early exit in the second half. The £20m striker made way for captain Steven Gerrard, who was spared from starting after two recent thigh injuries. The Irish frontman failed to make an impression in his full debut for the club and struggled to strike any understanding with Torres. The two strikers were marshalled well by the home defence, and were often split by top-class defending. Keane will be disappointed with his first experience of the Champions League, but will remain confident of making an impression at Sunderland on Saturday.

A second penalty shout for Standard was waved away by the referee late on in the second period. De Camargo felt he was harshly treated after a strong, but fair, challenge by Dossena. 

Young Belgian winger Axel Witzel showed signs of promise in phases of the game. The 19 year old international worked tirelessly and was a constant thorn in Alvaro Arbeloa’s side. Neat passing between the youngster, Dufour, Mbokani and Dalmat was a constant threat to the 2005 European Champions.

Rafa Benitez will be satisfied with the draw given the nature of the game, but will overall be disappointed with his side’s first competitive showing of the season. The Spaniard even turned to young Moroccan Nabil El Zhar in the 87th minute. The attacker came on for Dirk Kuyt, who had put in a characteristic performance on the right flank. Unfortunately the Dutchman and Yossi Benayoun could not provide the front pair with any chances and will be unhappy with the inconsistent passing that dogged their play.

Many top European clubs will be closely looking at the likes of Fellaini, Dufour and Witzel as well as striker Mbokani. The frontman put in a strong performance reminiscent of a young Didier Drogba and will have impressed many scouts with his tireless display.

Player ratings

Reina 8, Arbeloa 6, Carragher 7, Agger 7, Dossena 6, Plessis 7, Alonso 8, Benayoun 6, Kuyt 6 (El Zhar 6), Keane 5 (Gerrard 6), Torres 6.

Man of the Match

Xabi Alonso – A classic performance from the Spaniard, akin to this earlier showings for the club. A great response to the speculation that he could be the man to make way if Gareth Barry signs. A summer long saga that seems to have bought the best out of the playmaker.


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