Liverpool 2 Chelsea 1 – Community Shield Reaction

FA Community Shield, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

Liverpool 2 Chelsea 1

Another win for Liverpool over Chelsea
and another piece of silverware won after beating them on the way.
Liverpool’s European Cup win in 2005 and FA Cup win in 2006 both came
after semi-final wins over Chelsea. Today it was the Community Shield
and despite what Chelsea might say, they wanted to win this.

A well-below capacity crowd saw the
Reds take the first prize of the new season, below capacity because
although Liverpool sold all their 25000 tickets, Chelsea sold only
around 13000 of their same allocation. When the attendance of 56,275
was announced, it was met with boos from the Liverpool supporters. By
the time the Chelsea players were walking up to collect their losers
medals the Chelsea fans had already left the stadium.

Rafa Benítez picked a team that
he said would win the game, despite it having quite a different look
to the team on Champions League duty on Wednesday. What Rafa has been
looking for since taking over at the club is quality in depth. The
squad now really does seem to have quality in every position, but
more than that – quality in depth in every position. This provides
cover from injury and time for rest between fixtures.

Jose Mourinho has the biggest budget
probably in football history, and there are still two-and-a-half
weeks of the transfer window left – but he’s complaining about
player shortages already. He had seen his cheapest signing (in terms
of transfer fee, not wages) limp off injured shortly after being
booked. Mourinho, who has admitted he didn’t plan pre-season very
well, told Sky Sports he didn’t have a clue if Ballack was badly
injured or not, he hadn’t checked, but said he hoped not: “Ballack
is injured, that is obvious. I’m not sure if he will miss the start
of the season. I hope it is nothing big because we have Joe Cole,
Claude Makelele and Petr Cech injured – we have to try to start the
season as best we can.”

Hearts all over the country were no
doubt going out to the outspoken coach on hearing of his current
plight. So how did the poorest of poor losers take defeat? “If I
look at the game as a pre-season game, I think it was fantastic for
us because we played against a team in much better condition than
us,” said the loser in the battle of minds as well as the battle on
the field. He played probably his strongest team for what he tried to
play down as an unimportant fixture. I used to get annoyed at things
Mourinho said, but listening to him this afternoon was amusing to say
the least. Still trying to make out it was a meaningless game, he
continued: “If I look at the game as a minor trophy of course you
don’t like to lose but if you don’t think about the difference of
condition of both teams they deserved to win because they were better
than us.”

Both sides have had as long as each
other to prepare for pre-season, Liverpool had to make changes to
allow for the fact they’d played a tough competitive fixture midweek.
Rafa might have got to bring some key players off early in that game,
but it was an extremely important fixture and Liverpool didn’t get in
front until 88 minutes had gone. Jose thought that was an advantage
for Liverpool going into this game. It’s hard to believe he really
thinks that, but if he does let’s hope he goes on thinking that way.

Not only is he a poor loser, but he’s
possibly the most arrogant of all managers in football. The arrogance
he shows is still evident this season, although there does seem to be
at least a little doubt in his voice. He wanted to win this one
badly, Liverpool are closer to his side than he’ll admit, and victory
today would have given him a huge psychological boost. Instead he
sounded quite downhearted: “Every team will try to improve to catch
us but I think we will be the best team.”

It was his opposite number who say his
players get the boost, as he reflected after the game: “At least it
gives to us confidence in ourselves. We know it was difficult to play
against one of the best teams in the world and we have done a very
good job and we have confidence for the rest of the season. I think
the team worked really hard. We know they have a lot of good

Rafa was pleased with how his improved
squad were able to perform so well so soon after that difficult
Champions League game: “This shows we have have a very good squad.
We tried to use players that are fitter than the others and then
bring on some of the bigger names. But I think in both halves we
played well. We can try to improve if it is possible but I am happy
with the squad, although you can improve a little bit.”

Liverpool’s winner was scored by Peter
Crouch, who’s now made sure he doesn’t start this season like last
when he took so long to open his account for the season. He’s been
advised by Rafa on which aspects of his game he needs to improve and
which ones he needs to keep at the same level, and he’s ready to take
the challenge on. Also speaking to Sky Sports, Crouch said: “The
manager wants his players to improve and I want to improve as a
player. I want to win things and this is a good start to the season.
We hope it is going to be a good season.”

As for the claims from Mourinho that
this game was meaningless, Crouch pointed something out quite
obvious, at least for Liverpool fans: “People say it’s not
important but you see the fans and the players and see it is

Crouch was partnered up-front for the
last part of the game by Craig Bellamy, who was playing in his
country’s national stadium for the first time in a club fixture. He
was asked about Rafa’s decision to make so many changes to the
midweek squad: “The gaffer had a meeting and said he would be
looking to rest people, and to do that throughout the season. They
are all good players. Good players come off and then players of high
quality come on.”

Liverpool’s opener was scored by John
Arne Riise, who scored a wonder from around 25 yards after running
the length of the field with the ball. He said he’d not seen anyone
to pass the ball to and decided a shot at goal was his best option,
but he didn’t really expect to score: “I looked around and just
decided to have a go. They backed off and I thought just go. I felt
the goalkeeper would save it. I went so far and looked around and
didn’t see anyone so it was down to me. Everyone worked hard today.
We beat the Premiership champions and now we have to move on.”

Liverpool: J Reina, S Finnan, D Agger, J Carragher, J
Riise, J Pennant (S Gerrard, 60), M Sissoko, B Zenden (X Alonso, 60),
M Gonzalez (F Aurelio, 56), P Crouch (F Sinama Pongolle, 89), Luis
Garcia (C Bellamy, 66)
Subs: J Dudek, S Hyypia, S
, F Aurelio, X Alonso,
C Bellamy, F Sinama Pongolle
Alonso 62
Riise 9, Crouch 80

C Cudicini, R Paulo Ferreira (J Mikel, 82), J Terry, A Ricardo
Carvalho, M Essien, N Geremi (W Bridge, 53), M Ballack (S Kalou, 26)
, F Lampard, A Shevchenko, D Drogba (S Wright-Phillips, 71), A Robben
(L Diarra, 62)
Subs: H Hilario, J Mikel, W
, L Diarra, S Kalou,
S Wright-Phillips, M Mancienne
Booked: Ballack
7, Lampard 17, Diarra 68
Goals: Shevchenko 43

M Atkinson

Attendance: 56,275

Official Man of the Match: Momo

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