Barca 1 Liverpool 2
Valdes was terrible, gifting Liverpool their first goal (although leaving Craig Bellamy unmarked at the back post was not his fault). Marquez showed why he had previously been yanked from central defense, especially with a mystifying attempted clearance for Liverpool's second that forced Seamus Malin to dig deep into his Harvard-educated mind to find the right words. (He ended up using "shambolic," which was pretty appropriate. The next time you hear "shambolic" during an NFL game, let me know.) The marking on set pieces, always questionable, is now downright indifferent. The midfield was able to create precious little. Barcelona look like a team that have never played together, which is unfortunate after their teamwork has been a hallmark of their run over the past several years. I wanted to get angry at Liverpool for playing everyone behind the ball and there was a certain element of that, but they created more chances. The old Barca would have cut ribbons through the Liverpool defense and midfield with passing and movement, but the current Barca doesn't move properly without the ball and they don't find one another on the rare occasions that they do pass properly. Leo Messi's inability to see an unmarked Ludovic Giuly at the backpost on Barca's one good attack in the second half was emblematic of the team's inability to link up with one another.
It's quite clear that Eto'ogat'e (maybe a better title would be "L'Affaire d'Eto'o?" French scholars, is that acceptable?) and the rumors of Frank Rijkaard's departure have damaged this team, although those issues might be symptoms more than causes. Maybe the team will be better with Thuram in central defense, Messi back on form, and Eto'o striking instead of Saviola, but those players won't cause the midfield to glue the team together again. Johan Cruyff recently remarked that Barca appeared to be reaching the end of a four-year cycle and the team would need to be shaken up. I had hoped that he was wrong, but it's looking like he has a point.
Rob Smyth, take it away.