Early Doors

The obscure Serb

Early Doors

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If you had been given a list of all 26 players who took to
the field at Anfield last night and told to rank them in order of their
likelihood of making a match-winning contribution, Branislav Ivanovic would
have been dead last.

Or at least equal bottom with the inexplicably ordinary
Lucas Leiva.

As of yesterday early evening, his only claim to fame was
sharing his name with an attractive tennis player. He was to Ana Ivanovic what
Weird Al is to Jelena Jankovic.

Now he is the man who put Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals.

Liverpool's duff
performance showed just why this season has been so fascinating - one day a
team can play like world-beaters, the next they look like they would struggle
to scrape a draw at home to Grimsby.

In previous seasons the result would have been blamed on
Rafa Benitez's squad rotation - only
you cannot do that any more because he does not do it any more.

Not even Early Doors can be bothered to trot out the old
line about zonal marking (if it's so useless, why aren't they scrapping at the bottom with West Brom?) so we'll
just have to settle for the rather more obvious explanation that Liverpool did not play very well. Which happens
sometimes.

The Anfield crowd was shockingly flat from the moment Chelsea started scoring
goals - after Drogba made it 3-1, you could have heard a pin drop. Literally - not
only would the landing have been clearly audible, you could have heard the air whistling past it as it fell.

Given that they will have to score at least three times at Stamford Bridge
and win by two, you can pretty much write Liverpool
off. They will just have to wait until next year to get their revenge on the
Blues.

It got even better for Chelsea
as John Terry picked up a yellow card - ostensibly for falling victim to the
laws of physics and allowing momentum to carry him into Jose Reina - meaning he
will serve a perfectly-timed suspension and return for the semi-finals with a
clean slate.

If the booking had not been so soft, you would almost wonder
whether Terry did it on purpose.

- - -

Chelsea fans will rue Guus Hiddink's
departure at the end of the season, especially as they look set to land one of
the most overrated managers in the modern game.

Carlo Ancelotti is set to leave Milan,
taking advantage of a gentlemen's agreement
with Silvio Berlusconi - who spent yesterday telling homeless earthquake
victims to pretend they were on a camping holiday.

The Italian is top of Roman Abramovich's
wish list and will be offered a three-year contract worth around £17 million.

The question is - why? Ancelotti has shown absolutely no ability
- or even desire - to rejuvenate an ageing Milan squad in which David Beckham looks like
a youngster.

Milan
missed the Champions League last season and are now 14 points behind their
city rivals Inter who, by the admission of Jose Mourinho, are not even playing
well.

Ancelotti has won just two pieces of domestic silverware in
seven-and-a-half years, and does not even speak good English.

Early Doors is not a fan.

- - -

You will be gratified to learn that the annoying 'purist' mate of yours who insisted on watching the
Barcelona-Bayern game last night had to sit through an anti-climactic mismatch
as four first-half goals killed the tie stone dead.

This was very much the Bayern that got thrashed 5-1 by Wolfsburg at the weekend, not the one that put 12 past Sporting
Lisbon in the last
16.

Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer was not a happy man, storming: "What I saw in
the first half is, without doubt, the worst football in Bayern's history."

ED would venture that it was not even Bayern's worst half of the past week. On Saturday, Wolfsburg rattled in four
second-half goals without reply. And, as far as ED knows, they do not have anyone
as good as Lionel Messi.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The aim is to do as well as I can and establish this
club in the top six. Then, hopefully, to hang in there when better players come
along. Then, if they need someone to clean their boots, I will do that as well!"
The new, humble Craig Bellamy on Manchester
City's ambitions. Just don't
ask him to look after your golf clubs.

FOREIGN VIEW: Estudiantes crushed Cruzeiro 4-0 in the Copa Libertadores last
night after the Brazilian side were caught in a traffic jam. The match was
delayed by 40 minutes after it took Cruzeiro three hours to complete the 60km
journey from their Buenos Aires
hotel to the ground.

Palmeiras avoided logistical nightmares by switching hotel ahead
of their 2-0 win against Sport Recife. Last season, fans kept them awake by
letting fireworks off in the street before the same fixture, but this time
Palmeiras did one to a gated beach resort.

COMING UP: Mark Hughes's men travel
to Germany
for the UEFA Cup quarter-finals. We have minute-by-minute commentary of Hamburg
v Manchester City
from 19:45 UK time, and live scores and scorers of every game.

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