Well, I finally got to watch this match again and despite pausing it on multiple occasions due to tedium and letting my cloud like attention span float through the sky of the internets, I finally finished it. What's more amazing is that I didn't fall asleep, though when actually watching I tried to focus on other things going on on the field: movement, spacing, etc, to keep me entertained.
The first thing me that struck me was how Sammi Hyypia played in the first, he looked like the Hyypia of five years ago. He was simply everywhere, making clearances with foot and head as well as marking strays and providing coverage for Arbeloa and Finnan when they went forward. There seemed to be a little gas left in his aging tank, revealing a couple of glimpses of seemingly long-forgotten pace. Unfortunately in the second half, heat and fatigue seemed to get to his geriatric bones and he was miles less effective. If he can learn to be a bit more reserved and distribute his energy more intelligently and evenly throughout the match, it will make our lack of depth on the backline a little less troublesome.
Babel is clearly better on the left, particularly when the opposition is so physical. On the right it seems he needs a little bit more time to gather his wits and think about what he wants to do, while on the left his instinct appears to just set in. A couple of his runs were impressive and as he gets older his decisions on the ball will probably improve. At times though, it looked as if it almost pained him to pass the ball back as he constantly wanted to go forward, which can be taken as a good sign of his development, though I would much prefer him be able to go forward at will. He almost looks best going forward horizontally, if that makes any sense. He also showed some solid defensive ability, which is always nice to have in a predominantly attacking player.
The ref was a bit of a plonker, especially in the second half. He was clearly calling the game more one-sided in Toulouse's favor. A couple of incidents come to mind, Gerrard's attempt that deflected off of Toulouse defender's back yet a goal kick was awarded and when Mascherano clearly cleanly takes the ball away from a Toulouse player, who falls, and wins a free kick. Rubbish. I'm not sure how Toulouse didn't collect more cards. One of the tackles on Benayoun was just ridiculously reckless and if it had more force to it, could have possibly broken his leg. That's just inexcusable. Also, on the bicycle kick attempt, Carra gets dragged down by the shoulder, which gave Emana the space to make the acrobatic shot.
As for the rest of our squad, as mentioned in a previous post, Mascherano was probably the Man of the Match, though had Hyypia regained even half of his first half form, he'd probably be my choice. I don't think Voronin warranted the superlative over those two despite his fantastic goal, but he played well otherwise. Arbeloa arguably played his best match for us and showed a lot of defensive discipline. Nobody else played particularly bad except for maybe Crouch, who brought a new element of my disdain.
For some reason, when Stevie-G was still on the pitch, every time Crouch got the ball down low, he would immediately look for our skipper. It's not a bad idea most of the time, but when Babel or Benayoun or Voronin would pass the ball to Crouchy with the intention of getting it back on the forward, it completely destroyed the flow of the match. I hope this isn't some sort of ploy to win over Gerrard, so the captain will argue more in the favor of giving Crouch more pitch time.
In conclusion, the final tally for this match would have probably been worse in our favor had the ref called a more even match and Crouch gotten off of Stevie-G's jock. Those two factors really killed the ebb and flow. Anyhow, Chelsea on Sunday. Cheers.