If this game was played in a forest and nobody was there to see it, the trees would have uprooted themselves and found something better to do than watch this tantamount of tedium. At least Rafa got to do his 'tinkering'. We seemed a tad tired, but the elevation and the fact that we just played on Tuesday were probably reasons why. I'm going to do player grades only for the players I feel had some sort of impact whether it was positive or negative.
Nikolay Mihaylov C+
For a first match, a clean sheet is always a good thing, though honestly, he didn't have to do too much. The saves he did make were basically right at him and Auxerre were unlucky not to score at least on one occasion where one of their strikers missed an easy header literally right in front of the goal. Anyhow, our 'number three' will probably just be a reserves player anyways.
Gabriel Paletta C+
Would have probably gotten a higher grade or possibly even Man of the Match had he not made a bonehead pass that almost cost us a goal. He made an outstanding save and a stop and showed some pace that we desperately needed. He's probably a year away from being a squad regular though.
Yossi Benayoun B-
Yeah he made mistakes, but his energy and desire to push the ball forward is undeniable. Definitely a candidate for Man of the Match.
Steven Gerrard D+
I expect so much more from our captain, but he might just have been tired. He made some pitiful passes and just didn't seem into the match at all.
Fernando Torres C-
Um, I'm going to lay off El Nino this time, but let me just say this, he was rubbish. In his defense though, he was played with Crouch and they basically play the same role for the team so I'm not sure what Rafa was thinking. I seriously doubt we'll ever play those two together for any extended amount of time ever again.
Peter Crouch D
Can we please sell him? Missed a simple header goal and was just plain useless.
Jermaine Pennant B
This was the JP I expect. He was a threat every time he got the ball as he toyed with Auxerre's defense and rambled down the right side seemingly effortlessly, but I would have loved to have saw him take a couple of shots.
Nabil El Zhar C+
Nabil might have made the first team squad today with a solid performance as he set up Agger's header goal on a perfectly placed corner. He has finally shrugged off the 'first team jitters' and looked competent. The problem with keeping him on is, when and where will he play? Barring injury he's not going to get the nod over Yossi, Babel, JP, or Kewell, and as far as I can tell Rafa fancies him a winger, left or right. It might be better to loan him out to a Championship or lower EPL side because I think having him on the bench or playing him on the reserves is not going to help his development.
As for the rest of the team, I pretty much summed up Babel's performance and the rest of the first half squad here. I don't really feel it's necessary to write much more about that. Daniel Agger scored a goal but was otherwise invisible. It's pretty evident that neither Jack Hobbs nor Stephen Darby are ready for the first team, though the latter has a much better chance than the former, as Hobbs was wholly unimpressive.
Xabi scored a goal that was, for some reason unknown to me, disallowed. I guess they called a foul on him when he stole the ball, but it could have gone either way. Basically he stole the ball from an Auxerre defender around the top left of the box, dribbled toward the middle a little and then fired a shot to the right of the goal that went in. Other than that, he didn't appear to take this match too seriously and did little to make me not believe that.
I hope that our defense playing so far up is just another experiment because it scares the crap out of me. Even with Agger out there, we don't have the pace to get away with it. This brings me to sum up this match it one word: frustrating. Torres' performance was frustrating, JP looked frustrated out there at times (and almost got a card for it), and I'm frustrated that Peter Crouch is still on our team.
Our next match is in Hong Kong against South China FC next Tuesday. It is the first match of the Barclays Asia Trophy tournament. I honestly don't expect us to even win the first match and definitely not the tournament. The other participants will certainly want to beat us more than we'll care. I don't know if it's a possibility, but since Harry Kewell's already over there, I guess he might be available? I guess it really depends on whether or not Australia beats Japan in the Asia Cup tomorrow.