Watched the FA Community Shield between Liverpool and Chelsea last evening and it was a evenly contested match, particularly in the second half when Chelsea settled down and was last nervous. The first half belonged mainly to Liverpool who were doing most of the attacking. Riise scored a wonderful solo goal on the ninth minute. He ran close to the entire length of the pitch to score a thunderbolt goal from outside the box though I was expecting Cudicini, the Chelsea goalkeeper, to save it. But I guess he was bitten by the swerve and sudden dip of the ball. There was another chance for Liverpool to score after some good play by Gonzalez. But Garcia and Crouch got into each other’s way and allowed Cudicini to scoop the ball from under the cross bar. And Shevchenko proved why Chelsea paid so much (£30 million) for him by showing how simple scoring can be. He slipped through Liverpool’s lame offside trap to chest a Lampard cross and placed his shot clinically in the bottom corner of Reina’s net a minute before half-time. The TV cameras then cut to the VIP box of Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire owner of Chelsea, smiling broadly and pumping his fists in the air. He MUST be really pleased with his huge investment.
In the second half, Chelsea came into the game more and had a couple of chances to take the lead. Drogba had a try from an acute angle and Reina had to tip over the bar. From the resulting corner, Shevchenko stooped low to head it goalwards and again Reina had to be alert to tip it round the post. And that’s when Benitez, Liverpool’s manager sent in the big boys of Gerrard and Alonso to stop Chelsea from overrunning them. But it was another substitute and new boy, Bellamy, that supplied the killer cross for Crouch to head into goal from the six yard box.
Some thoughts on the match:
Chelsea didn’t seem at all comfortable playing in the match. Their boss, Mourinho, attributed it to lack of pre-season preparation and that they were only playing at the 50 percent level. To me, I feel that they are still getting used to a new system that Mourinho introduced to accomodate Ballack and Shevchenko. There was a lack of steel in the middle of the pack without Makele playing and both Zenden and Sissoko were able to dominate both Lampard and Ballack for most of the first half. The other big signing for Chelsea, Ballack, seemed really uncomfortable with the robustness and speed of English soccer. He suffered a minor hip injury on the 20th minute and was substituted. On the other hand, Shevchenko impressed me and I believe the other Premiership clubs need to take note of him. He was industrious, dropping deep to collect the ball when there was no crosses coming in from midfield or the wings.
As for Liverpool, Agger and Carragher seems like a good pairing as they managed to keep both Drogba and Shevcenko quiet for most of the match. Given the amount of praise Benitez has heaped on Gonzalez, he wasn’t that impressive as compared to Aurello who came on in place of him in the second half. Zenden didn’t impress me as well. Felt that he makes a better winger than a central midfielder. Didn’t know when to pass the ball and doesn’t have the range of passes of Gerrard and Alonso. Had a couple of chances to score, but dragged the ball really wide both times.
Overall, a good win for Liverpool to boost their confidence a little for the 10-month long Premiership challenge plus the UEFA Champions League. But it does show that Chelsea can be beaten if the right tactics are employed by the other team. So, next Saturday begins the real Premiership season and we’ll see where either team ends up next May.
Oh … forgot to tell everyone that the final score was 2-1 to Liverpool (if you didn’t know from reading the post).
[Disclaimer: If the report seems Liverpool biased, I apologise. But that’s because I’m a Liverpool fan. :) ]