If American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. know anything about soccer, they’ll be grinning from ear to ear tonight after Liverpool’s historic 2-1 victory against Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
The win creates a whole host of riveting topics to debate: Is Rafa Benitez a better manager than Jose Mourinho based on Chelsea’s exit to Barcelona last year? How does Liverpool excel in the Champions League but continues to underwhelm in the Premier League? Is La Liga really the best league in the world? And while England’s national team slides from mediocrity to continual embarassment, will England’s club teams rule the Champions League and hence the world?
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves yet, though. Barcelona is the type of side that could grab a win against Liverpool in the return leg at Anfield. But what a match that’ll be. If you thought the noise at the Nou Camp was deafening, just wait until you hear the Kop roar on Tuesday, March 6.
For Barcelona to advance to the next round of the Champions League, they’ll need to defeat Liverpool at Anfield by a score of 2-0 or better. Hence the intricacies of away goals and how crucial it was for Liverpool to get TWO goals at the Nou Camp. Even if Barca beats Liverpool 1-0, the Reds would still advance on the away goals rule.
Liverpool was fortunate to play a woeful Barcelona side with Valdes and Marquez making crucial mistakes that led to the goals. That said, Liverpool was deserving of the win with a gritty display and Benitez, once again, getting his tactics correct in the Champions League. If Benitez can overcome Rijkaard in the second leg, can Liverpool go all the way to Athens for the final?
Note: It was a rare treat to hear Martin Tyler and Andy Gray commentating the match that was broadcasted on Setanta Sports. ESPN Classic, meanwhile, had Adrian Healey and Seamus Malin commentating; another quality set of commentators.
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