23 April 2003
MILAN 3-2 AJAX
Marco Van Basten was in the crowd, presumably in the Milan section, and witnessed a European classic between his two former clubs. A rare moment of controversy in an otherwise tremendous, physical match, came when Lobont clawed Brocchi's deflected shot from behind the goal-line. Milan took a deserved lead on the half hour mark. Ambrosini back heeled to Rui Costa and he sent Shevchenko racing down the left with a perfect 30yd pass, Shevchenko turned a defender inside out before slamming a cross into the box, via a deflection, and Inzaghi powerfully headed past Lobont.
Litmanen, on as a second half substitute, equalised just past the hour mark. O'Brien pounced on a mistake by the dreadful Brocchi and found Van der Meyde, he centred and Litmanen tapped in at the back post. Ajax's euphoria was short lived. Inzaghi brilliantly pulled down a Nesta long ball, turned away from Pasanen and powered into the box, his cross deflected off Pasanen and Shevchenko headed into an empty net. Ajax's second equaliser again came from the left flank, Van der Meyde chipped a ball into the box, Ibrahimovic headed across the box, Pienaar's initial effort was blocked by Costacurta but he quickly recovered, 2-2. Ajax had a miraculous escape at the other end from an Ambrosini header. In injury time Costacurta launched a ball forward, Ambrosini headed on and Inzaghi leapt in the air and hit a fantastic lob over Lobont and Pasanen, Tomasson made sure the ball crossed the line. Nesta was bleeding like a stuck pig after eating an elbow from Litmanen.
Koeman's powerful, pacey young side seemed to be wearing down Milan but experience and testicular fortitude are qualities you do not learn on a training pitch. Ultimately that was the difference. Ajax did not play like Ajax, they played like an Italian side. Their pace and power were intermixed with just the right amount of cynicism. Koeman, and I dare say many Serie A fans, should be proud! Inzaghi was fantastic. Ambrosini wasn't far behind at the man of the match. One of the matches of the season.
Having completed the double over Inter this season Milan will be favourites in the semi-finals but a derby is a derby, anything is possible.
Assists : Van der Meyde, Inzaghi
Milan win 3-2 on aggregate
MAN UNITED 4-3 REAL MADRID
A chance as early as the fifth minute for the Mancs. Van Nistelrooy turned inside Helguera, ran past Bobby Carlos and send an extremely hard shot to the top corner but Casillas parried. Guti controlled a Zidane pass with his right foot then hit a perfect ball into Ronaldo with his left, Ronaldo left Rio Ferdinand for dead and beat Barthez at his near post. It was a fine shot but shocking goalkeeping nonetheless. A mistake by Bobby Carlos lead to the equaliser. He sliced a long ball to Giggs, Giggs passed to Solskjaer he centred and Van Nistelrooy tapped. Ronaldo scored his second with an easy tap-in after Man United ball watched Real string passes together. Helguera scored a brilliant back heel own goal. Casillas made two excellent saves from Solskjaer and Veron before Ronaldo completed his hat-trick with what initially appeared to be a spectacular long range effort but no 'keeper should ever be beaten by a shot at mid height. Van Nistelrooy struck the outside of a post shortly before Ronaldo was substituted. Solskjaer missed a free header. Beckham, on as a substitute, earned himself a move to Real Madrid in the summer with two late goals. A stunning trademark free kick, easily the goal of the night and he scrambled in a second via a deflection off Hierro.
I've seen less mistakes in Championship Manager 4, appalling defending by both teams. Man United played like a bunch of schoolgirls. They were clearly star struck, as they had been in the first leg. Once Ronaldo was substituted Real took their foot off the gas and thus, in an act of extreme charity, allowed Taggart to save face - at least according to some pundits. Hopefully the press will be sharpening their knives.
Assists : Guti, Solskjaer, Roberto Carlos, Figo, Van Nistelrooy (won fk)
Buffon is going to be extremely busy in the semi-final.
Real Madrid win 6-5 on aggregate
22 April 2003
BARCELONA 1-2 JUVENTUS
Referee Graham Poll was up to his old tricks. He failed to award Barca a penalty for a blatant handball despite having a perfectly clear view of the incident. Kluivert played a ball into Saviola and the Juve defenders didn't notice Luis Enrique make a run on the blindside, Saviola did and he played him in, Enrique run in on goal, skipped past Montero with some ease and with the goal at his mercy curled the ball wide. Davids won a ball in the Valencia half, rode a tackle and passed to Nedved, Nedved came inside the box, dribbled past a couple of defenders and shot inside the post. Minutes later Nedved drew a fantastic save out of Banana and almost immediately thereafter Barca were level. Xavi returned a weak clearance from Thuram, who had another poor match, with interest. Luis Enrique typically made a of a Davids foul but failed to get the Dutchman a second yellow so took matters in his hand minutes later and floored Davids with a despicable foul, earning himself a yellow card in the process. Mendieta was more successful and earned Davids a second yellow with a typically cowardly dive. Poll missed another blatant handball, this time by Tacchinardi. Buffon made a fantastic save from a Kluivert volley and with the game headed to penalties Zalayeta, who even on a good day makes Dugarry look like Zidane, popped up with the winner, an excellent volley from Birindelli's cross.
Juventus win 3-2 on aggregate
Assists : Davids, Birindelli
Red Card : Davids 79 (Juventus)
VALENCIA 2-1 TOLDO
Crespo sent a hopeful ball forward to Vieri, Ayala made a complete mess of it and Vieri scored at the second attempt. Valencia gave an immediate response. With his back to goal Carew turned Cordoba brilliantly then rolled the ball across goal, Aimar picked it up, skipped past Gamarra and drilled low into the corner. Toldo then took over. He saved from Angulo following a quiet superb move. By the rights the next passage of play should go down in Champions League history. As Di Biagio stood arguing with the ref Baraja quickly took a free kick and Vicente shot at Toldo, saved, the ball came back to him and his second effort was again saved by Toldo, the ball broke to Aimar and his first shot was blocked by Gamarra then his second was again saved by Toldo and the third time Aimar sent the ball out for a goalkick and as he did so Toldo charged towards Di Biagio grabbed him by the throat and cast aspersions on his heritage.
At the start of the second half Toldo made a magnificent save from a perfectly struck Baraja volley. He could do nothing however from the resulting corner as Baraja headed Valencia in front. Valencia had penalty appeals turned down when Materazzi booted Sanchez. Recoba wasted a rare opportunity on the counter attack when he shot straight at Canizares. Valencia run out steam and ideas as Inter held on defiantly to earn a semi-final place.
Toldo wins on away goals, 2-2 on aggregate
9 April 2003
INTER 1-0 VALENCIA
Emre played a one-two with Coco, sent a first time cross into the box, Crespo flicked on the ball and Vieri headed past Canizares. Conceicao had a chance on the break but took too long to shoot and was closed down. Nothing happened until the double sending off. Albelda fouled Emre, Emre got up and barged into him, the ref sent both of them off. Aimar was booked for trying to win a penalty.
Assist : Crespo
Red Cards : Emre 56 (Inter), Albelda 56 (Valencia)
Inter are obviously going to sit back and defend in the return leg. Could be very boring unless Valencia get an early goal.
JUVENTUS 1-1 BARCELONA
Juve's goal, like many of their goals, came from a set piece. Nedved and Camoranesi worked a short corner, Barca failed to clear, Banana dropped Del Piero's overhead kick and Montero nonchalantly curled the ball into the top corner. Alessia Merz was in the crowd, of course the commentators didn't know who she was (the Italian Dani Behr). Tudor should have put Juve out of site but sent a header over the bar. A speculative effort from Riquelme and a weakly struck volley by Xavi were all Barca had to show for their efforts. Frank de Boer cleared a Davids goal bound effort and on the follow up Banana saved Del Piero's overhead kick. Del Piero selfishly tried a shot when surrounded by players on a counter attack and seconds later Barca went upfield and scored. Thuram got caught ball watching, as he marked Kluivert he hit a great reverse pass to Reiziger who ran into the space left by the Frenchman, Reiziger passed to Saviola and his shot deflected in off Montero. Juve rallied after Kluivert wasted a great chance to put Barca in the lead. Nedved shot wide and Di Vaio missed an open goal.
Juve should have finished off Barca. They are of course notoriously bad travellers but still have a chance against what is after all the weakest team left in the competition.
8 April 2003
AJAX 0-0 MILAN
In the fifth minute Lobont parried a violently struck shot by Shevchenko. Late in the second half Van der Vaart deflected Pienaar's wayward effort just wide of the post. Ambrosini almost grabbed an away goal for Milan but Lobont made a fine reaction save after his team-mates failed to clear a corner.
REAL MADRID 3-1 MAN UNITED
Taggart's men enjoyed early possession but failed to test Casillias, despite Real's continual non defending. Shortly after Van Nistelrooy sent an overhead kick flashing above the crossbar Figo scored a fluke goal when his cross dropped into the top corner. Referee Anders Frisk then mysteriously lost the ability to see out of both eyes. He failed to award a penalty when Brown body checked Dodo in the box, a red card to Barthez for a blatant handball outside his box and a yellow to Bobby Carlos - take your pick from a foul on Beckham or handball. Professional ginger tosser Scholes intercepted a pass and thought it would be a bright idea to dribble the ball back towards his own goal, Bobby Carlos intercepted, Zidane passed to Raul who expertly turned away from Ferdinand and steered the ball inside the post. There were chances for Bobby Carlos and Van Nistelrooy as the half drew to a close.
Raul scored his 2nd with a fantastic shot from the edge of the box. Van Nistelrooy gave the Mancs a glimmer of hope with a close range header after Casillas parried from Giggs. Beckham shot wide with the goal at his mercy, as he did for England last week, following great work by Van Nistelrooy.
2-0 will send the Mancs into the semi-finals. Given how they're playing right now, 2-0 against Real Madrid seems highly unlikely.
Assists : Zidane (x2), Figo