It was a final worthy of Wembley. Congratulations to Jurgen Klopp and the lads for making it through 120 mins. In the end, there can only be one winner but we did not shame ourselves (just think how Cardiff felt when we won this cup the last time around under King Kenny!)
Now that the final is over, its time for more sombre and careful thoughts on our future direction with the season nearly coming to an end and to focus on the Europa, our only competition left.
Firstly, events in the PL. After Arsenal’s loss and Spurs’s win, I think Spurs could very well be the one lifting the PL trophy. I must say it was absolutely incredible of Ulloa getting that late 82′ winner when all Norwich had to do, after they played the match of their lives, was to hold the ball and defend. But there you have it. Every key player at Leicester really want to win the league and you can see Ulloa, Vardy, Mahrez making key passes and playing a role in their late, sole goal. Leicester or Spurs could lift the trophy.
Ok, now back to the Wembley final. Pellegrini brought out a regimented, tight and compact City defense after what happened when they last played us and they relied on Aguero and Sterling upfront. I must say Aguero was impressive going forward but Migs was up to the task with some incredible flying saves. I don’t want to dwell too much on the actual match since there’s lots of great reviews already but more on what we need to do post-match. So here it is.
The cold hard facts as I predicted before is that Moreno, Firminho, Hendo and Sturridge would be getting the lowest player ratings. I was already worried about Firminho. Can’t understand why JK rates him so highly but as an attacking player, he really does slow the game down somewhat. In this final, he loss the ball countless times, was caught offside frequently with low attacking desire. Count on the other hand, almost always scores the vital goals, makes something from nothing and has exquisite and proper weighted passes (so does Benteke). Moreno played well with moving quick upfront but as I have always said, that ability MUST come with the ability to cross the ball properly or make a great final pass which Moreno didn’t. He’s also a bit rash naive and doesn’t track back quickly enough.
Hendo is a strong box to box player but he lacks the creavity needed when we want to create scoring chances. Milner is more or less the same but Milner makes up for it a bit with great crosses and cut backs and being a workhorse. Hendo has scored vital goals for us and I for one, must say that, why oh why, didn’t JK put Hendo (as the club captain) to take that second penalty instead of Lucas? We had such a huge psychological advantage with Emre’s cheeky **** and ManC’s penalty hitting the post and we just had to finish the job. The game doesn’t finish after 120 mins. It finishes after the penalty shootout and contrary to what most people think, penalty shootouts are not a 50-50 chance taking exercise. You reduce the odds by selecting the right players to take the shootout.
I would say that if we really want to improve the team next season then Firminho and Moreno must move on. Coutinho is a great link player and we really must find somebody worthy to linkup with him. And that player is not Firminho. As for Migs, he has let some really simple goals in but if you look at all his performance throughout, the positives outweigh the negs…with his shotstopping, etc. It was just too bad that ManC penalties were really excellently taken, tricklingly right at the corner posts despite Migs guessing right.
And one final thing I have to talk about is that wonderful diamond formation JK changed it late in the 2nd half, which changed our fortunes, and sprung up spaces and opportunities in ManC’s formation and got us our late equalizer. Lallana coming on for Hendo. Origi for Moreno. With the double strike force of Origi and Studge, Cou finally got us the equalizer. I was faulting Studge for not really delivering but after his exquisite cut back to Lallana who hit the post and the ball rebounding to Count who tapped it in, well…if you don’t score, then at least assist somebody else who will. So I hope Firminho and Moreno do move on this summer and we build a better attacking base with some fine South American talent.
Finally, the Europa. We only have the Europa left. Can we do it? I saw the Sevilla – Barcelona La Liga match just a moment ago and this was a match where the four times Europa champs took on the CL champs. Sevilla got the first goal at 10′ through Vitolo until Messi’s sublime freekick at 15-20 yards out at the 25′. An absolutely unstoppable Messi-Suarez combination got the ball back to Pique for the second half winner. I watched Sevilla play thinking that they had won the Europa League 4 times previously (twice in the last two years) and what would happen if we progressed far enough in the Europa and had to take them on. And then there’s Dortmund too. Well I’ll be watching our Europa performance closely. We have got this far so let’s cross the finish line and get that added CL bonus attached to it now that we know the draw for the last 16 and how teams will progress.