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Monday, August 14, 2006

English F.A. Community Shield: Liverpool the winners over Chelsea

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UPDATED: New picture from the award ceremony!

Image hosting by PhotobucketTonight marks what could be a fantastic season for Liverpool, who beat Chelsea 2-1 in the English FA Community Shield match last night, at the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff. It's been 16 years since the Reds were last league champions, and this year, manager Rafael Benitez thinks may be the year.

But in their way, of course, is Chelsea, champions for two consecutive seasons. If tonight is anything to go by, Liverpool have a fighting chance (no prize for guessing whom myAsylum supports) to become, once again, EPL champs.

Image from BBC Sports - hosting by PhotobucketLiverpool get their first silverware,
beating Chelsea 2-1 in tonight's Community Shield

The first half started with a very unfamiliar Liverpool side. No Steven Gerrard, no Xabi Alonso, no Craig Bellamy and no Robbie Fowler. Also absent were stalwarts Dietmar Hammann (now at Manchester City) and Sami Hyypia. But instead new signings Mark Gonzalez and Jermaine Pennant were in the line-up against a Chelsea team that can only be described as the EPL Gal√°cticos.

Liverpool drew first blood with a beautiful long-range strike from John Arne Riise, in the 6th minute with a strike from 35 yards out, culminating a solo effort which began from the Liverpool penaty zone.

Image from BBC Sports - hosting by PhotobucketMichael Ballack, the new Chelsea signing did not even last the half, substituted after a minor injury. Caution by Jose Mourinho, no doubt, as the injury did not look very serious. Long season ahead.

Chelsea drew level just before the half with a shot from Shevchenko, taking advantage of a lapse in the Liverpool defense, scoring his first ever English football goal. Shevchenko proved to be a thorn in the side of the Reds.

The game ended level at halftime, each team with one goal each.

The Liverpool side "normalized" itself (in line-up, at least) in the second half. Fabio Aurelio, Liverpool's first-ever Brazillian signing, came in, replacing Mark Gonzalez, and a little later on with the double substitution that brought in favourite Steven Gerrard, and Xabi Alonso.

Liverpool went back ahead with an 80th minute header by Peter Crouch at close range, from a cross by Craig Bellamy. Huh? Bellamy? Apparently, the substitution rule was a little different for this game, as Liverpool had 5 substitutions, while Chelsea had at least 4. If anyone can enlighten Walski on this, he would be really appreciative.

Image from TheFA.com - hosting by PhotobucketShevchenko scoring his first English football goal

And that's how the game ended, with Liverpool winning the season's first silverware. Hopefully with more to come!
(more pictures and thoughts in the full post)

Image from ESPN Soccernet - hosting by PhotobucketRiise & Crouch holding up the FA Community Shield
Is this going to be the first of many for this season?

Liverpool see themselves as serious contenders for the EPL crown, currently worn by Chelsea, back-to-back champions. But going by tonight's performance, there still are some kinks that need to be ironed out. For one thing, their strikeforce could be reinforced, and for that manager Rafael Benitez has indicated that Liverpool are seriously looking at Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt, and it is rumored that negotiations with Dutch side Feyenoord are nearly coming to a successful conclusion - successful for Liverpool, that is.

Another area that Liverpool needs to tighten up is the back four. While Jamie Carragher (tonight's captain) is still the Red's superstar in defense, the rest of the defense looks a little suspect.

So, for Liverpool, the 2006/07 Season starts on a resounding note. Perhaps, with a bit of tweaking, they could very well end the season with silverware again - the Holy Grail of English football that has eluded the Reds for so long - to be once again the English Premier League Champions.

On a totally tangential note, Walski wonders how much Celcom must have paid for their new advertising campaign, featuring EPL superstars like Stevie G., Pires, and Michael Owen. Especially for that one spot where Steven Gerrard actually plugs Celcom!