Lin is a Chinese journalist writes for Titan Sport, the most read sport paper in China. He thinks Benitez is the best coach in the world and who loves the tactical side of football. Benitez gave him a 2 hour lecture. The Chinese Journo's name is
Two months ago in the Champions League final, Liverpool, the team who controlled the match, lost. Liverpool squad was strengthened in every department since Istanbul, while Milan is just a team that ages 2 years in every department. Unthinkable but there you go, Liverpool lost something that should have been in the bag.
Rafa Benitez, the Liverpool manager still cannot swallow the defeat. In the past 2 months, he could barely sleep. Once I started the topic on the CL final, the gaffer couldn’t stop, like a secret he has kept forever finally to be able to speak out. I can’t help but wonder, am I the only one (who’s odd enough) to bring up that sensible topic for the first time?
In the CL final, Zenden was the weakest link. Why him? Like Liverpool haven’t got a better left-winger? Rafa shrugged:” We only had 3 choices: Zenden, Kewell and Gonzalez. Gonzalez has speed but he lacks of experience, his condition wasn't up to it. I wanted to start Kewell, but how much time he spent running on the pitch before the final? I was happy enough to be able to put his name on the sub. Then, Who’s left?”
“I mean” Rafa continues: ”In cup finals, experience means everything. Zenden is an experienced player, he played in many big matches, for the club and for his country. I have to put those factors into consideration. As a manager, you can’t predict everything. Who could have thought that Inzaghi scored a goal like that during the dying minutes of the first half?”
Many people have the same question, Crouch has scored 6 goals in the tournament, yet left on the bench in final? Why bring him on so late until there’s only 12 minutes left?
Rafa took a deep breath:”We had 3 plans before the final. Plan A: start Kuyt, Gerrard playing in the hole. Plan B, start Crouch and exploits Milan with his aerial threats. Plan C, start Bellamy and let him run with defenders, play counter attack if necessary. Kuyt, obviously the most all-rounded striker we have, he can head a ball , he can run with defenders, his work-rate is unbelievable, he can even drop deep when we defense. I wanted to see how things go, then bring on Crouch to add dimensions to our attack if we can’t score. But Milan scored in the dying minutes of first half, that totally ruined my plan.”
“We needed to pull one back asap. Should I bring on Crouch at the beginning of 2nd half? I had hesitation. We controlled the first half so well, Milan had barely had a threat in the our box because of our solid defense. Gerrard played well in the hole, we had created quite a few chances, all we need is the final touch. So I decided to wait. Unlike 2 years ago, I needed to make a swift decision, bring on Harmann and Smicer, cos we needed to gamble. Well, this is football, last time we scored 3 within 6 minutes, this time we couldn’t even find the goal ”
Apart from the strikers, the wingers Rafa picked that night drew questions. Why not play Arbeloa as left back and push Riise as left-winger? Rafa explained:”Attack is the other form of defense. Milan usually initiates their attack with their wing back, with Oddo and Jankulovski to feed Seedorf and Kaka in the middle and Inzaghi forever waiting on the shoulder of the defenders. While I instructed Alonso and Mascherano to look after Kaka and Seedorf, they have Gattuso and Ambrosini to take care of Gerrard, mid-field was way too overcrowded, that’s why I want to play aggressively down the flanks. Riise, he can’t dribble and he’s not the best man to play positional attack (Rafa being honest here ), with a left-winger in front of him during attack that he can over-lap with, that’s what he does best.”
Then, the Mascherano myth, the man who totally marked-out Kaka, the time the Argie were taken off, Milan scored another. Rafa said:”To bring on Crouch, I had to consider the balance. Given the fact that we had to attack, if I don’t take off Mascherano, who should be taken off?”
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