Friday, December 17, 2004

Reshuffled pack does job

A looping header from Craig Bellamy was enough to secure the draw we needed to qualify top of the group last night in a pretty tedious match against a team of Hugo Vianas.

Obviously wor Hugo wasn't given permission to play, but in his place a side of technically proficient but not particularly threatening footballers took to the field. That said, Sporting Lisbon were quite happy to kick lumps out of Bellamy all night, with several heavy tackles in the second half ultimately prompting Souness to withdraw our most potent player on the night and give Lewis Guy eleven minutes of football that he won't forget.

The same can't be said for the rest of us, who having seen us take the lead then saw Darren Ambrose and Bellamy again go close in the first half. However it was the visitors who scored the only other goal of the game when Custodio headed a free kick past the static Given. The fact that he was unmarked once again highlighted the problems we've had with team selection this season as nobody really seemed to know their defensive role.

The team had lined up with Bernard playing left midfield, with Robbie Elliott at left back, and Aaron Hughes alongside Titus in the soft core of our defence. Fortunately Sporting were unable to exploit any likely weaknesses as their play lacked the directness which more ruthless teams would have used to tear us apart.

That they didn't and we did enough to top the group is a relief to all, and hopefully we will benefit with a kind draw today as a result.


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