30 April 2008
CHELSEA 3 (Drogba 33, Lampard 98 Pen, Drogba 105)
LIVERPOOL 2 (Torres 64, Babel 117)
The match was played in a downpour and Drogba tested Reina and the conditions with a drive from the edge of the box. The over-rated Joe Cole lost possession on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area when trying to check inside Benayoun prompting a Liverpool counter attack. Benayoun and Gerrard traded passes before the Liverpool captain played in Torres with a glorious first time pass between Terry and Carvalho but for once Torres' control let him down and Cech raced off his line to close the angle and punch the ball out for a corner. Drogba almost put the finishing touch to the best passage of football Chelsea have probably played in the entire Abramovich era, a marvellous move involving 8 players and spanning 13 passes ended with Drogba racing past Carragher onto a Lampard pass and dragging a shot agonisingly wide of a post. Chelsea's next chance also came after Torres lost possession. Lampard threaded a ball between Arbeloa and Carragher, as Carragher appealed for offside Kalou checked inside Hyypia, on as a sub for the injured Skrtel, and drew a save from Reina but he parried the ball back into the box and Drogba ran wide of Riise before slamming a first time shot inside Reina's near post. He then turned, raced up the touchline and slid to his knees in front of the Liverpool bench and the king of hypocrites Benitez clenching his fists in celebration.
An excellent free kick routine forced another save from Cech. Gerrard played a high one-two with Mascherano straight out of Pro Evolution Soccer, the Argentinean dropped a fantastic ball into the box, Gerrard headed across to Kuyt and Cech saved his first time shot with his left foot before Ashley Cole cleared. From the resulting corner Drogba made an immaculately timed goal saving tackle on Torres Joe Cole failed to punish a slack Hyypia clearance, shooting straight at Reina and a minute later Liverpool were level. Mascherano, Kuyt, Riise and Xabi Alonso worked the ball out wide to Carragher on the opposite flank, in unknown territory (the Chelsea half) he was shaping up to swing a cross into the box but though better of it and instead hit a pass into Benayoun who had his back to play, he turned and ran inside Makelele, held off Drogba and with a subtle feint took out Terry then skipped over Carvalho's despairing lunge and played an inch perfect pass between his legs to Torres whose brilliant first touch allowed him to send a shot inside an unguarded bottom right corner. Outstanding goal.
In the first period of extra time Anelka replaced big game bottler Joe Cole and looked to have played a part in Chelsea restoring their lead. The ball broke to him from a corner, his shot was charged down and Essien slammed the rebound in the back of the net. A linesman's flag, for 'interference', cut short 20 seconds of celebrations. Liverpool's relief was short-lived however as minutes later Ballack made a meal of a clumsy challenge by Hyypia on a 50-50 ball to win a penalty. How gloriously ironic. Lampard stepped up and did his trademark routine of constantly spitting before despatching the ball past Reina. He took off his black armband and pointed to the heavens, dedicating the goal to his mother who passed away after losing a battle with pneumonia last Thursday. Babel tried to win a penalty of his own at the other end, diving theatrically after hooking his leg under Essien but Italy's #2 Roberto Rosetti was having none of it. In first half injury time Chelsea's 12th man (Riise) conceded a throw in. Essien swapped passes with Makelele before feeding Malouda who played a blind pass inside Hyypia and Riise and as their hands went up for offside Anelka ran into the box and pulled the ball back for Drogba, 3-1. He was probably too tired to goad Benitez again so this time celebrated with his team-mates and seconds later Rosetti brought the half to a close.
In the opening minutes of the final period of extra time Liverpool won a corner. The ball eventually fell to Hyypia, Malouda just failed to bring him down with a suicidal tackle and a split second later he threw himself over Drogba but once again Rosetti waved away the protests and once again he failed to produce a yellow card for diving. As Shevchenko was preparing to come on as a time wasting substitute Babel collecting a ball from a throw in and let fly from 30 yards, the normally reliable Cech flung himself at the ball and slapped it into his own net but Chelsea comfortably rode out time.
This was the spectacle most people were expecting from Barcelona and Manchester United. The football played by both teams was fitting of a European Cup semi-final.
Today is a joyous day for European football. Benitez was up to his tricks in the build-up. This lowlife, hypocritical son of a bitch had the nerve to criticise Drogba for diving and Roberto Rosetti for favouring home teams. Where do you begin? Seriously. What a complete bastard. Fortunately his cowardly games backfired spectacularly and it seems UEFA received my e-mail criticising them for the disgraceful officiating of Liverpool's Champions League matches in recent seasons. The Benitez plague is over. It's ironic that when forced to abandon catenaccio, forced finally to chase a game away from home, they produced one of their best performances of the season playing some marvellous, inventive football in the process. Chelsea haven't played this well since the early days of Mourinho.
For what it's worth I think Chelsea's superior muscle will make the difference in the final against United. Let's hope it doesn't go to penalties.
Chelsea win 4-3 on aggregate.
Attendance : 38,900
Assists : n/a, Benayoun, Ballack (won pen), Anelka, Xabi Alonso
29 April 2008
MANCHESTER UNITED 1 (Scholes 14)
The only highlight in this wretched, wretched match was provided by Scholes. Zambrotta intercepted from Ronaldo as he tried to run in from the left but undid his hard work by playing a blind pass out of defence straight to Scholes who took one step forward before ripping a shot into the top right corner of Valdes' net. A poor touch from Park allowed Milito to send Messi away on a counter attack, he accelerated past Scholes and cut inside Brown but his low curling effort was nothing more than an opportunity for VDS to produce a nice save for the bank of photographers. Carrick picked out Ronaldo with a fabulous first time pass from the half way line, the bounce forced the newly crowned PFA player of the year to check outside Zambrotta, he centred to the onrushing Park but he dragged his shot wide of a post. Nani should have made it 2-0 late in the first half but made a mess of a Park's fabulous cross.
In the remaining 45 minutes Barcelona re-produced the insipid, square passing rubbish they bored the World with at the Nou Camp. On the only occasion the Spaniard's managed to get a dangerous cross into the box the mentally and physically shot Henry, who is notoriously poor in the air, sent a weak header into the grateful arms of VDS.
Another pitiful encounter. Man United have looked less than impressive against a very poor Barcelona side but the familiarity of another EPL team should produce a better spectacle in the final. As for Messi he's not the next Maradona, he's the next RVP, an frightfully injury prone player with immense technical ability.
Manchester United win 1-0 on aggregate.
Attendance : 75,061
Assist : n/a
23 April 2008
MANCHESTER UNITED 0
The visitors or Cristiano Ronaldo to be more precise, blew a chance to score a crucial away goal in the third minute. The ref pointed to the spot after Milito slapped away a Cristiano Ronaldo diving header. Ronaldo took the spot kick himself but completely missed the target, shooting high and wide. He tried to redeem himself by winning a second penalty, theatrically going down in the box under a Marquez challenge but the ref ignored his protests.
Messi seized on a heavy first touch from Brown, playing in the absence of food poison victim Vidic, stripping possession from the defender with an aggressive slide tackle, the ball broke to Eto'o who kept his balance after Ferdinand tried to chop him down and pulled the ball back towards Messi but Carrick cleared. Eto'o wasted Barca's best chance minutes later. He started the move by running away from goal, pulling Brown and Park out of position, and laying off to Messi, Messi played a one-two with Deco then passed into Iniesta, his fabulous back heel ran perfectly for Eto'o but he slammed the ball into the side netting. Brown headed a United corner in the wrong direction but Carrick intercepted before Barca could launch a counter attack, he ran towards a defender, sold him a dummy and with the goal at his mercy, admittedly not from the best of angles, shot wide.
Who would have thought a match between Barcelona and Manchester United would have been a much poorer spectacle than Liverpool vs Chelsea. Barcelona are the masters of the square pass. The possession was 61% in their favour and yet they only created two chances all night. United were even worse and Ronaldo disappeared after the penalty miss.
Attendance : 98,000
Assists : n/a
22 April 2008
LIVERPOOL 1 (Kuyt 43)
CHELSEA 1 (Riise 95 og)
Kuyt should have been booked for bringing a glorious 60 yard pass Xabi Alonso pass under control with his arm, the ball bounced away and combination of Cech and Carvalho cleared the danger. Not surprisingly neither of the imbeciles on ITV noticed the handball. Drogba went down in the box under a clumsy challenge by Carragher but as we all know Carragher and that dirty little bastard Mascherano can commit on-field buggery at Anfield. Two minutes later Liverpool broke on a counter attack, Carvalho appeared to clear the danger with an excellent sliding tackle on Torres but Gerrard intercepted and sent Torres through with a superb pass but Cech, taking up a perfect position off his near post, stood firm and parried. Liverpool were awarded an extremely soft free kick after Torres went down under a Ballack challenge. As Lampard back heeled the ball and strolled downfield the ref watched Xabi Alonso, standing 20 yards away from where Torres was fouled, send the ball down the right channel towards Kuyt. His cross was headed clear, Lampard foolishly tried to dribble the ball out of defence but Kuyt pressed him into losing possession, Xabi Alonso back heeled to Mascherano and his miss-hit shot dropped over the Chelsea defence and Kuyt shrugged off a pathetic Makelele challenge to fire Liverpool in front.
Kuyt intercepted Makelele's awful pass out of defence, it was over a distance of 10 yards which is his limit, and let the ball run to Gerrard, the Liverpool captain played a give and go, brushing aside Makelele as he ran into the box and hit a fabulous dipping volley matched by Cech's spectacular one handed save. 90 minutes of catenaccio at Stamford Bridge were looming large before Riise mercifully put the ball into his own net. Kuyt went in high on Kalou for a 50-50 ball and the ref awarded Chelsea a throw in. Cole throw the ball at Kalou, he turned Arbeloa before driving a low centre into the box and with Anelka on his shoulder Riise sent a spectacular diving header past Reina.
Makelele was beyond awful but Grant probably felt he couldn't trust card magnet Mikel. He should have played Alex as DM instead. Makelele has always been a poor man's Gattuso. Essien returns from suspension in the second leg but just as importantly both Carragher and Gerrard are carrying yellows so let's hope for a good referee and by good I mean one who books them.
Attendance : 42,180
Assists : Mascherano, n/a