I’m not sure where to begin here, so I’m just diving in to recap a fairly amazing game.
We opened up weathering some fairly consistent pressure from the visitors. We conceded much of the opening possession and four corners in the first twenty minutes; I wouldn’t say that we were being dominated but we were definitely on the back foot and ahead of the game not to have conceded. Our side started asserting themselves as the half wore on…Kanoute looked very good dropping back to receive the ball deeper than usual as our center mid pairing of Romaric and Renato struggled to impact the game. His touch for the most part was excellent and he got Fabiano involved early in the game.
And speaking of Fabiano, El Fabuloso (yeah, I said it) opened the scoring by collecting a deflected shot off the foot of Kanoute and finishing to the ‘keeper’s left. He then closed out the half by drawing a penalty…he turned a cross with his chest toward the goal and was clattered by two Bilbao defenders. Kanoute finished the penalty off the left post for a two goal advantage at the half.
Fabiano completed his brace (yeah, said that as well) through a beautiful lofted Romaric pass that he settled with one touch and chipped the ‘keeper with his second. Smooth, unhurried, ultra confident finish…vintage LuFa. Things immediately turned interesting, however, as Navarro earned a second yellow and was sent to the showers. In quick succession, Llorente finished a header from inside the six…maybe Palop should have come for it, but the cross was inch perfect and Llorente was not going to miss. Soon after, Konko conceded a penalty as he avoided a flopping Llorente and turned to to have a shot rocketed at his face from two yards away…definitely a penalty, but quite unlucky. Llorente took the penalty weakly, Palop saved but unfortunately the rebound went straight to Llorente who finished for his second of the game. Again, almost immediately we reestablished a two goal lead as Negredo (on for LuFa) challenged for a ball in the box and was either:
- fouled by the ‘keeper.
- fouled by the defender.
- in the right spot as the defender handled the ball.
- exceedingly fortunate to receive the call.
Again, Kanoute finished from the spot. We spent the rest of the game defending furiously, and saw off the game despite allowing a third goal in the third minute of added time.
It was interesting to see Romaric leave the pitch to a standing ovation…he played a very good second half and had a splendid assist on LuFa’s second goal. He played higher up the pitch in the second half and was much better than in the first…seemed to be allowed a freer role and responded well. A pairing of an effective Romaric with Zokora could work, but it remains to be seen if Romaric can play at that level consistently. Renato? Still largely ineffective in my opinion…
To wind up, some quick observations in short order:
LuFa: looked great, finished well. Harbinger of better days ahead? One can only hope.
Capel: rusty coming back, but nice cross for LuFa’s initial strike.
Negredo: looked quite good in his twenty minutes.
Kanoute: as complete a game as I’ve seen from him in a while–provided service, threatened on offense, defended as necessary.
Konko: off today.
Dabo/Navarro: solid, Navarro mildly unlucky to be sent off.
Caceres/Alexis: Solid for the most part…Llorente is an in form beast right now. He is what I wish Negredo could grow into…