Liverpool take one step into the semi-finals
The display was tremendous. The respect paid by both, superb. Both sides came together to make one, and the match hadn't even begun. Scarves with Juventus and Liverpool together, black, white and red. A banner carrying the message 'Memoria e amicizia' (in memory and friendship), by both Liverpool and Juve fans, the Kop displayed a mosaic 'Amicizia'. However, the banner and the minute's silence before kick-off was met with the turning of the back of some Juve fans in the front rows of the Anfield Road End. Time can heal wounds, provided you can stop bleeding. 39 family members and/or friends were remembered, and in the case of those who turned their backs, were clearly not forgotten. A cauldron that may boil over in the second leg in Turin.
Liverpool's display in the first half emanated their desire, so quick it was that Emerson was caught slipping and Baros took advantage, gaining a shot and corner within the first seconds. Hyypia took his goal as well as a striker should do, being a defender and on his weaker foot. Le Tallec looped a ball that seemed intended for Baros but was overhit, and fortuitously bounced into Garcia's path for the Spaniard to hit a delicious volley over, who many regard as the best keeper in the world, Buffon. In reply, Ibrahimovic hit the post and Nedved missed the follow-up, so Juve were, at the most, momentarily stunned. Del Piero linked up to emerge into the box and produced an effort that was equalled by Carson's save. The young keeper also claimed a ball in the box that could have gone haywire.
2-0 lead looked very supple enough to go into with, the only thing was that Liverpool needed to do exactly the same thing again, easier said than done. But realistically, if they'd attacked from the kick-off again, they could have levied the pressure onto Juve again and pinned them back, weaken their psychology. The Italian side had held their belief, and those in the know already sensed that. Del Piero, Nedved, Ibrahimovic, Cannavaro, Thuram, Buffon....let's stop there. The side that is joint top in Serie A with AC Milan, separated by a single goal difference, with talent and pedigree in abundance, Liverpool needed to steady themselves for an inevitable onslaught. Something which they weathered for almost 20mins, until Cannavaro got a head to a cross which bounced the ball awkwardly in front of Carson and in. The kind of mistake that allowed Bayer some belief for the return in the BayArena, which Liverpool thankfully turned to a non-advantage for the German side.
Moments before Juve's goal, Carson had come for a cross that was put out by Carragher, the defender couldn't blindly leave it for a Juve player to touch in. Carson could have then been over eager and looking to show more confidence. When the telling header happened, it's as if Carson got down too early in eagerness and mistimed the bounce. Such a mistake against a suspension and injury hit side as Bayer, with a two-goal cushion, was comfortable enough. A slender goal advantage, an away goal, against Juventus, with their squad of available players, in Turin....well, that can be a lot more difficult. Especially if the majority of their fans wish to make Liverpool's arrival after 20 years unwelcoming. Juve need to score only once and keep a clean sheet. They did so with Real Madrid, who didn't play as Real Madrid.
Liverpool will need a healthy availability list and then 90mins+ of focus, determination, stamina and tenacity to either hold Juve to 0-0, or go heroically and score. If the former, we have sat back before, looking for teams to come at us and then eventually conceded in big games. If the latter, then we need to score first. Very crucial as Juve would need to score 3 to win. I believe we can score, but our focus must be to shut down Juve at every moment, practically our first half last night.
Importantly, the likes of Traore came through with better report, Biscan once again added to enhancing his reputation in the side. But more importantly was Benitez's reaction after both Liverpool's goals. Cool and ever thinking while others around him celebrated, against a side like Juventus, one cannot switch off until the game has ended. If only Liverpool can have a guarantee of the forementioned availability of players for Turin, I feel Benitez could pull a victory in Turin. Not necessarily on the night, but overall.