Early Doors

Same old failings

Early Doors

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One round of games gone and it has been a winning, if not
scintillating, start to the Champions League for English teams.

First Manchester United and Chelsea put in far from
convincing performances against Besiktas and Porto
respectively, yet still managed to eke out 1-0 wins amid boot-throwing strops
and biblical rain storms.

Then Arsenal had to come back from a nightmare start to beat
Standard Liege 3-2
and Liverpool laboured to a 1-0 home victory over minnows Debrecen.

Rafa Benitez, when summing up his own team's performance at
Anfield, could easily have been speaking on behalf of Messrs. Ferguson,
Ancelotti and Wenger too. "At least we won," he said.

While all four teams have issues to address, it was Liverpool's performance that has given cause for most
concern.

Playing against a team making their group stage debut, and
one that has a UEFA coefficient of 1.633 compared to Liverpool's 118.899, Benitez's side once again struggled to break down a 'lesser' team's defence.

Echoes of last season's home draws against Fulham and Stoke rang
out, as Liverpool failed to get that all
important early goal and proceeded to struggle against a team that packed their
midfield and showed little attacking ambition.

Even Dirk Kuyt's goal just before half-time failed to spark
the flood of goals that came so easily against Burnley at the weekend and
Debrecen might have found an unlikely equaliser late on had their ungainly
forward Adamo Coulibaly not been so,
well, rubbish at finishing.

Rafa may not be that bothered with the Premier League, but
you'd think he might have given some more thought as to how to break down teams
like Debrecen in Europe, where he so craves success.

Playing Dirk Kuyt in the 'Steven Gerrard role' may have elicited
one of the Dutchman's best performances in a Liverpool shirt for ages, but Gerrard
still does it better.

Better teams than the Hungarian champions are going to visit
Anfield this season - Lyon are up next before Fiorentina visit in December - and
should they employ similarly spoiling tactics, and should Liverpool fail to find
the right formula in the final third, Rafa could well be forced to turn his
full focus to the Premier League by the new year.

That said, how many Liverpool
fans would be more than happy to do that? It is, after all, the trophy they
most crave. If only Rafa understood.

- - -

Another day in the life of Eduardo da Silva, another topsy-turvy
sequence of events.

Having suffered the ignominy of a "witch-hunt"
against him for his 'dive' against Celtic, he emerged victorious when a UEFA
ban was overturned and he was cleared to play against Standard Liege.

He should have been riding the crest of a wave heading into
the game in Belgium,
but a reckless act of self-indulgence soon threatened to send him under once
again when a flick went badly wrong and gifted the opener to the Belgian side.

But after everything he has been through recently, he is clearly
made of sterner stuff and credit to him, he once again managed to turn things
around, ultimately scoring the winner for the Gunners, albeit with a crisp
strike off his knee.

He already proved it by returning from that horrific broken
leg, but Eduardo is rapidly carving out a reputation for himself as a bit of a
comeback king.

- - -

FOREIGN VIEW: Considering both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel
Eto'o were returning to their former clubs, Inter against Barca was naturally billed
as this week's standout game in Europe. Almost
inevitably, it ended goalless. Not that Jose Mourinho, ever his own team's
biggest fan, was disappointed. He enthused: "I think that normally that
people think 0-0 is not a great game of football, I think this was a great game
of football. It had everything, a big tactical, and I don't like to use this
word war, physical, mental, a game for details, a game for a little mistake
could be a goal and a goal could be victory. So I feel in the end a draw is a
fair result."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It's important to keep some dignity
and not shout off." Brave Dennis Wise commendably decides to keep schtum
on his ill-fated time at Newcastle.
No, no wait, he's not finished there. "But there are a few other people
that need to look at the situation as well." Come on Dennis, you were
doing so well.

COMING UP: Danny Murphy will be along at some stage before lunchtime to give
his thoughts on this season's Champions League. Plus, we'll have all the
reaction from last night's games, a fantasy football blog and the latest in our
100 greatest games of all time series.

TONIGHT'S LIVE ACTION: And of course this evening you will
be able to follow Everton, Fulham and Celtic kick off their Europa League group
stage campaigns, against AEK Athens, CSKA Sofia and Hapoel Tel Aviv
respectively.

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