I could have predicted two things before last night’s Liverpool/Maccabi Haifa match. The first being the ever reliable Clive Tyldsley saying that Peter Crouch has got ‘a good touch for a big man’ and secondly, that the match itself would be one of the dullest in history.
Will the alleged title contenders please step forward?
Last night, I could hear the pathetic mews of "We got the result, and that’s the most important thing" and "we were professional and did the job…" long before the final whistle. These two lines are relatively new in football. Once, a manager would have said "We were lucky to win", now, middle management rhetoric. You see, Rafa’s Reds looked terrible last night. Fair enough, Maccabi Haifa are no mugs, and have played in these big matches before, but from a team that looked incredibly exciting on paper, to what I saw last night… well, I’m not sure if the red half of Merseyside will have much to celebrate at the end of the season.
Of course, I understand that the season is "a marathon, not a sprint", but Criag Bellamy looked lost in his pitch time last night. Crouch needed support and didn’t get it. Pennant rarely threatened and spent most of his time winning freekicks. Against better opponents, Liverpool would be out of Europe. The victory was also tainted by the cries of foul play from the Israeli side.
Haifa coach Roni Levy said Uefa’s decision to switch the tie to Kiev due to the Middle East conflict had not helped his side. "It was always going to be difficult for us with the way we had to play here in Kiev and not in Israel. At this level of competition, home advantage is crucial. Liverpool got a very late winner at Anfield because of their home backing, and we would have done much better had we been on
home soil. Maybe in Israel it would have been different."
Still, Liverpool are through, and probably don’t care much for the criticisms. They’re millions of pounds richer now, and can look forward to tackling the big guns.