José Mourinho was interviewed after the match, and despite the defeat his words will have raised a smile amongst many a Red. He started off in quite acceptable form, pointing out his view that a Chelsea goal at Anfield would see them through: “We normally score a goal and if we score a goal we have got a big chance of reaching the final.” Well one goal from Chelsea would require three in reply from Liverpool at Anfield, so there’s no real arguments there.
He went on “I’m happy with the players. I thought our performance was top class. We had so many chances and we finally scored with chance number six. I think Liverpool think they can overturn the result but we are winning 1-0 and have a good defensive team. The second half was different from the first, when we had so many chances. Liverpool attacked more and had a chance with a great shot from Steven Gerrard and great save by Petr Cech.”
TV replays showed an incident where Alvaro Arbeloa clearly handled the ball, clearly accidentally, clearly outside the box. A yard outside the box in fact. He hadn’t even been in the box, the whole passage of play took place outside the box. José was sulking: “I don’t understand how we don’t have penalties. When the penalties are so clear, I don’t understand. I go for the facts and it’s a fact. In the Champions League this season we have good referees and to be fair to Mr Merk he was comfortable. But the penalty is a big chance for us to be 2-0 and 2-0 is a completely different game and a different story. I feel it is not fair. They had their mistake but it was not a penalty. I hope after the second leg we are not crying and thinking again about a big decision. Two years ago we were. I hope we are not looking back on the penalty.”
It brightened up a disappointing evening to hear that kind of comment. It was a fact he says! The fact is he claimed the incident a yard outside the box had happened inside the box, and that it was a “fact”, and then compared that incident to his “fact” from two years ago that Luis Garcia’s goal had not crossed the line. The “fact” is that this comment makes him look a bit of an idiot really. He’ll no doubt find some way to put some spin on what he said, if the media bother to press him on the matter, but there’s no getting away from the fact that his mouth is running away with him. Is he under pressure more than he cares to admit? For all his boasting of being still in three competitions, there is of course no guarantee they’ll win any of those three. Roman Abramovich won’t be pleased if they end the season with “just” the Carling Cup. José mocked Rafa Benítez’s record as Liverpool boss by claiming he’d have been sacked by Chelsea if he’d had the same record. Rafa won a European Cup, an FA Cup, the European Super Cup and the Charity Shield in his first two seasons. Mourinho of course won two league titles, a League Cup and a Charity Shield in his first two seasons. He’s won the League Cup again this season, but that’s all so far. Has he been warned by his club’s owner? And has he realised his personal conduct in the past couple of seasons has made him very unattractive to fans of most clubs? He’s not unemployable, but Chelsea is probably the only place he’ll get a job with a decent transfer budget.
It was strange to hear those comments from a winning manager. Such bitterness (and inaccuracy) might be excused for a losing coach, but Mourinho had just won and could hardly have asked for a better result. The former translator likes to try and play mind games, but it looks like he’s lost his.
Rafa was excellent in his response to Mourinho’s comments: “If he says it was a penalty, I am sure it was a penalty.”
Mourinho had also said: “In two days’ time Liverpool play Portsmouth and it is not an important game for them.” Don’t worry, he did mean three days’ time, the game on the South coast isn’t on Friday. Again it came across as Mourinho getting his excuses in early just in case the second-leg on Tuesday doesn’t go his way. Rafa’s response: “ “We are playing against Portsmouth and someone says that is not important but we will try to win.” Of course it’s unlikely that Rafa will put out his strongest team for that game.
As for last night’s game, Rafa said: “The game was made up of two different parts. The first half wasn’t good for us; they had chances but it wasn’t because they were playing well, it was because we were giving the ball away. We needed to be a bit more compact and were doing foolish things in the first-half. The first-half we were not controlling it at all, but the second was a little bit better.”
Chelsea played on the counter last night and with a one-goal advantage going into next week’s game Rafa knows what to expect: “In the second leg we have to be mindful that Chelsea like to counterattack. We spoke before the game about being careful because we know they like to play on the counter-attack, but in that first half we were doing the wrong things and making the wrong decisions.”
Rafa brought Crouch on for Bellamy after five minutes of the restart: “In the second half we had a target man and we played better. We had much more control of the game and possibilities to score. Now we look forward to Anfield and the chance to play in front of our own fans. We have confidence because we know we’re a good team, we know we can score goals and we know we can beat them. We’ll need to be careful because we know how dangerous they can be on the counter-attack.”
The media like to ask the managers of every club in games like this who they think is favourite. Rafa said: “I don’t know who’s favourite. I don’t know what each side’s chances are of going through now, I just know we can still do it. We need to win against a good team that likes to counter-attack. But we have the supporters there. We want to win and the last result between the teams gives us a good feeling.”
Rafa also felt that Mourinho’s pre-match moans about Didier Drogba being one card away from a suspension might have affected the referee’s decision making: “It’s difficult when decisions are going against you. Drogba is a good player and he had a good game, but usually decisions go against the striker in some of the situations we saw tonight. When people talk before the game then maybe it puts some pressure on the referee.”
Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt tried to be positive after the game: “It obviously isn’t the result that we wanted, but it’s still only half-time in the tie. We would have liked to have won or at least drawn the game but the result is what it is and we just have to make sure we score first at Anfield.”
Again the Anfield crowd, in particular the Kop, are being relied upon to lift the players to an important victory: “The supporters at Anfield are very special and they won’t need any encouraging to make the atmosphere incredible on Tuesday night. European nights at Anfield are like nothing else and we have to make sure we produce a special result. With the supporters behind us, we have a chance to change this result.”