The results from the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final most definitely surprised most people.
It’s easy for everyone involved to talk about how they foresaw Ajax running riot in England. Ajax has since looked like a club set to go all the way, especially after eliminating Real Madrid and Juventus. Taking on a Son-less and a Kane-less Tottenham must have been a huge source of joy.
If we all foresaw Barcelona winning against Liverpool, no crystal ball could have predicted that Liverpool would leave Camp Nou without scoring a goal. In prolific form, the Reds were largely expected to at least score an away goal.
Apparently, Mohamed Salah and co. had other ideas.
In a few days’ time, the second leg will be upon us. Before those games arrive, here a few things learnt from the first leg.
There’s Still Plenty to be Done at Anfield
Taking a 3 nil advantage into the second leg of a UCL game is an amazing feat for any side. For a Barcelona side playing away from home, with Lionel Messi in it, things couldn’t get any better. Two or more away goals and they are home and dry.
However, in Liverpool, Barcelona faces one of the most prolific sides in Europe. Their 84 league goals make them the fourth highest scoring side in Europe in terms of league goals scored this season. On their good day, scoring three goals should not be a problem.
The Reds have scored 3+ goals in 10 of their last 20 matches in all competitions. Barcelona will be very much aware of this and have to prepare for the ‘Anfield Pressure’ in the second leg.
Son: Spurs’ Ray of Hope
Lucas Moura is good. However, the Brazilian, unlike his South Korean counterpart, has not showed up for Spurs when it really mattered. He may be the third highest goalscorer for Tottenham this season. However, he has come second to Heung-Min Son this season in every aspect.
Mauricio Pochettino will welcome Son back to his squad for the second leg in Netherlands. Son’s return will give Spurs a ray of hope and will give renewed vigor to the Tottenham attack, something they lacked in the first leg.
Virgil van Dijk Needs More Time is a Scam
Recently, the defender was compared to the likes of John Terry and co. Well, after becoming the first defender in over a decade to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, you can understand the hype.
His presence has helped Liverpool immensely this season.
However, the Dutch defender, against Barcelona, was pretty much exposed.
Forget the blame game for a minute.
Van Dijk, throughout the game, opted to shadow mark instead of challenging opposition players head on. He has every right to his kind of game. No one can argue that.
What is arguable is this: If you’re heavily depended on by a club as big as Liverpool, let your presence count! Anyone can stand up and be counted against Huddersfield and Cardiff City. It takes a really great player to put in a life-time performance when the stakes are really high, especially in a UCL semi-final game.
Dear Liverpool fans, be my guest and feel free to defend your star player. However, you should remember this: the years won’t stop counting and that trophy cabinet has missed new additions for a while now.
Ajax’s Lack of Fear is the Game Changer
It’d be fallacy to say a side like Ajax is not good. They are the third highest scoring side in the UCL this season.
Dusan Tadic has scored six of those goals. Hakim Ziyech has put in average of 4.9 shots per game, coming in third behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. With 25 yellow cards and one red card so far, they are the most aggressive side this campaign.
We can look at these stats and attribute Ajax’s success to them. Furthermore, we can go on and on about their manager and how he sets up his side.
However, Ajax’s success in the UCL this season has been down to one major factor: they fear no foe.
The defining moments of their season will be their away games to Real Madrid and Juventus. They played with reckless abandon, attacked at random and passed the ball around with so much ease that it confused their opponents.
Fondly called ‘the sons of gods,’ the little kids have forgotten about fear and they’re gunning for glory.
Which one of these opinions do you disagree with? Which one would you like to comment on? Join the conversation by dropping your comments and sharing your thoughts with me. I’d love to hear from you.
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.