Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanks Ramos for the roller-coaster ride last night

Well what a game we witnessed last night... and how can I pass judgement on it without using such over-used cliches like "it was a game of two halves" or "football's a funny old game"? Although I did predict a narrow victory, I certainly didn't expect events to evolve quite like they did.

Our first half display was poor. Yes our defensive injury crisis continued, but that alone cannot be used as an excuse for making glaring mistakes (again). Despite not having a shot on target in the first half I did remain mildly optimistic - as I didn't think Aalborg were really that great. They were only on top because we kept losing possession and making too many individual errors. Yes they were well organised, but they hardly looked like a deadly European side.

At half time I pointed out to my friend what a pivotal moment this was for Ramos. His half-time team talk was where he was really going to earn his money. Although I felt we could get back into the game, were we actually going to? Not on the first half performance... something needed to change. I then said that by the end of 90 minutes Ramos would either be a hero for turning things around or it would be the end of his honeymoon period.

And oh what a second half. After using three centre-backs in the latter stages on Sunday against the Spammers, it seemed that last night's plan was to use just one. I thought Ramos was pretty brave to basically play Daws as the lone centre-back after his poor first half performance. Pascal was then moved back to his favoured right-back position, and although Zokora was on hand to help out the defence when needed, we were able to get forward and really attack. Once Berbatov's goal went in, I would have put a lot of money on us winning (if someone had offered me a bet). We took the wind out of Aalborg's sails and I felt we were home and dry from then on.

The game really reminded me of last season's match against.Sevilla (the second leg of the UEFA Cup quarter final), where we fought back from 2-0 down at half-time to draw 2-2. Only last night we went one better and managed to win the game, although admittedly Aalborg weren't in the same league as Sevilla. Anyway, rather than us throwing away two goal advantages (we've done it three times in the last year against Arsenal, Chelsea and Fulham), it was us who could happily sing, "Two-nil and you f**ked it up..." Great stuff!

Full credit to Ramos and to the players used in the second half. However, despite Ramos' ropey English, he summed things up perfectly in his post-match comments, "Our defence is conceding too many and we have to find a solution because we won't score three goals in every game." Spot on.

So next up Birmingham, and let's hope that we ensure McLeish gets off to a difficult start whilst we keep on winning. Depending on how other results pan out, we could well be 'top of the bottom half' by Sunday evening, and with some tough league games to come against Man City, Pompey and ARSEnal we need to go into those games with all the confidence we can.

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