Hello everyone, I encourage you all to post your own in the comments as I’m taking a page from MoKo’s book here with some ol’ ratings.
Look for another episode of the Our Kop Podcast following the Man City match this Sunday.
Well it was time for our favorite football club to venture into unfamiliar waters tonight with our first leg tie against the Romanian side Unirea Urziceni who, like ourselves, had dropped out of the Champions League by finishing 3rd in their group.
Generally unfamiliar would suggest exciting and new but tonight it was more of the same that we’ve all come to expect against this type of opposition at Anfield. We enjoyed plenty of possession as we knocked the ball aimlessly about the penalty area without offering a whole lot in the way of a sustained threat. Here and there we had our chances from a cross or two (Skrtel’s header over the top comes to mind) as well as a near beauty from our captain that went just wide.
The goal finally came from our substitutes near the 80th minute as Babel put a nice cross into the 6 yard box for Pacheco, who had the presence of mind to nod the ball centrally to N’gog rather than attempting to score himself when he lacked the momentum and the angle to do so. It was a finely worked chance from a fairly pedestrian buildup.
The bottom line is we should have put the tie to bed in the first leg, but with that said we managed to keep a clean sheet to deny Unirea the away goal, and take a 1-0 lead into the 2nd leg against a side who showed very little this evening. It would take a major blunder on our part to concede in my opinion.
REINA: 7 – Another lonely night for Pepe, but his distribution was above average and did what he needed with little fuss.
CARRAGHER: 6.5 – Solid defensively against a lesser side as you’d expect, but other than a cross or two he lacked any inventiveness going forward. I don’t hold that against Jamie as he’s clearly not playing in his preferred position. Hats off to him for taking one for the team and putting in a good day’s work.
SKRTEL: 7 – Dominant in the air and assured in possession, he looked in control for the whole 90 minutes. His passes were sharper than usual, but really not a whole lot going on here in central defense tonight.
AGGER: 7 – See Skrtel’s assessment, and toss in a bit more physicality than he generally shows us. I saw several occasions where he was getting awfully handsy with his marker when attacking corners and not shying away from muscling their lone striker off his runs and the ball.
AURELIO: 6.5 – Similar to Jamie, he performed his defensive duties well, but his total reliance on his left foot leaves him unable to cut inside effectively while they take the outside away from him. His crosses were his strong point when he managed to turn them in.
KUYT: 6 – Hustling as always, his touch particularly let him down today (yes more than usual) and he worked his way into few scoring opportunities. He’s looked a bit knackered lately, and is as close to a permanent fixture in the lineup as we have these days. Just look at Aston Villa’s form this time each season with a side facing similar levels of playing time.
MASCHERANO: 6.5 – Would have been between a 7 and a 7.5 had he avoided a senseless booking late in the match and giving possession away lazily after we had scored. With our opponents lacking technical skill, he was an absolute monster to them when they did manage to gain possession. Also, could he please stop arguing with the officials when he’s on a yellow? I want to send him off personally just to shut him up, and if I’m feeling that way, the official….
AQUILANI: 6 – I feel badly for Alberto, as this whole season has been a turbulent one for him. He looks as though he’s never played football before at times. Compared to the styling of Roma, he may feel the same way. His game is to place through balls and flick ons onto the runs of his teammates, and with our lack of these things at times he seems at a loss as to what to attempt. His passing was a bit more accurate today.
RIERA: 6 – Perhaps this Alberto is still feeling the lingering effects of his stay on the injured list, but his form has yet to hint at what it was last season. Caught in possession repeatedly, and the cause of several breaks to fall apart, it was merciful when he was substituted.
GERRARD: 6.5 – Not that I blame him, but our captain seemed a bit disinterested tonight. He wanted to win certainly, but he was not giving the 110% we’re used to. His running and his tackles were at about 80% capacity as I’m sure he has no interest in picking up an injury against a Romanian side in the Europa League. One inspired shot that drifted just wide, and average service from corners at best.
N’GOG: 7 – Boosted a bit by his scoring of the only goal, our young Frenchman is another that seems more than a little exhausted by the massive workload dropped onto his shoulders this season. His confidence on the ball is suffering a touch, while his workrate has dropped considerably the past few matches.
BABEL: 7.5 – The inverse of N’gog, Babel seems to have a bit of a new found workrate of late. While he used to fade after a minute or so, tonight he ran at the defenders with pace and fought to regain possession whenever it was lost. His cross led to the goal, and the others he put in weren’t half bad either. It’s good to see him showing a bit of promise again.
PACHECO: 7 – The architect of our winner tonight, showing just a hint of what made Barcelona quite so angry when we unburdened them of this young man. A simple nod down into the path of N’Gog showed terrific composure on his part. He wants the ball, and he knows what to do with it. He is one for the future to be sure, but there is no reason he shouldn’t start to feature more often against less physical sides. (re: Europa League, EPL relegation scrappers etc.) It would certainly be interesting to see him given a longer run-out.
LUCAS: N/A – Brought on late in the game for N’gog (possibly due to injury), he did little but get a headstart on the handshakes following the game.
TEAM: 6.5 – Fairly uninspiring, but it got the job done as we are primed to advance to the next round of the competition. I can’t blame the players too much, when the problems they show are the same ones we have had for several seasons now with approximately this same squad. When Torres is out, we lack our cutting edge. Injuries to Riera, Gerrard, and Johnson haven’t helped, nor have the rumors swirling around Babel. A workmanlike performance in the end, but not one to tell the grandkids about.
MANAGER: 7 – Rafa put out what he had, while being smart to place Fabio in at left back to keep counter attacking down that flank to a minimum. His best idea was allowing Unirea to tire sufficiently before unleashing Babel on them. Say what you will about the Dutchman, his pace is terrifying to lower level players. Playing Pacheco is also a bonus no matter which way you look at it.