7 April 2010

BORDEAUX 1 (Chamakh 45)

Dead ball specialists Bordeaux should have took an early lead through Gourcuff, who broke from the wall and rose high but headed over a Wendel free kick. Diarra hit a sledgehammer of a left foot half volley from 30 yards, the ball bounced violently off the top of the crossbar. Diarra started the move which lead to the goal with a crossfield pass out wide left to Torremolinos, he played a one-two with Jussie before pulling back a centre which Plasil sliced but Chamakh pounced and his shot bounced in off a defender.

Gomis ran clear of the Bordeaux offside trap but having rounded Carasso he took the ball too wide and his shot was easily cleared. Lloris pulled off a fantastic left handed save to prevent Wendel from scoring the goal that would sent Bordeaux into the semi-finals, much to Bayern's delight.

Bordeaux's form has been in the toilet in recent weeks/months. A question of too many games and not enough depth? Two domestic cup competitions cannot help and this will inevitably lead to speculation over Laurent 'Blankety' Blanc's future.

After almost a decade of failed attempts Lyon finally make the last four. Lloris and Pjanic aside this isn't a particularly impressive squad especially in attack - Lisandro and Gomis have scored five goals between them but then Bayern's defence isn't too hot either.

Lyon win 3-2 on aggregate.

Attendance : 32,000
Assist : Plasil

MANCHESTER UNITED 3 (Gibson 3, Nani 7, Nani 41)
BAYERN MUNICH 2 (Olic 43, Robben 74)

The big news was the sudden, dramatic return from injury of Rooney and we have no idea how he effected Bayern's preparations because the idiots on UK TV didn't bother asking Van Gaal or anyone from Bayern that particular question. Rooney had an immediate impact. Rafael shrugged off a challenge from Ribery as he turned onto a ball out of defence and passed infield to Rooney, Rooney knocked the ball forward to Gibson who beat Butt with a low shot just right of centre, a shot you would expect any top class goalkeeper to save. Rooney found Valencia in space with a glorious crossfield pass, Valencia baited Badstuber before firing in a centre the second Nani made a run across a Bayern defender, Nani connected with an outrageous backheel which, to some Bayern fans at least will invoke memories of Porto legend Madjer. Rafael was booked for kicking out at Van Bommel (Beckham-Simeone style) after the Dutchman sneakily tripped him. Rafael wasted a great chance on the break after Van Buyten inadvertently helped on a Gibson pass but with Rooney screaming for the ball at the back post, the young Brazilian fired wide. Shortly after Olic botched a great chance on the break, United added a third. Valencia made the hopeless Demichelis look a complete fool by collecting a throw-in and flicking the ball over his head, Valencia overhit his centre but Nani arrived to slam a left foot shoot into the roof of the net. Muller headed on a Schweinsteiger cross, Carrick slipped when challenging Olic for the ball and the Croat hooked a left foot shot across goal into the bottom right corner. Bayern, who had been anonymous as an attacking threat to that point, suddenly came to life. Robben drifted in from the left, dribbled past three players and drew an excellent save from a poorly positioned Van der Sar.

Rafael pushed then pulled back Ribery as he attempted a ran from the centre circle. Ribery, and several Bayern players, pleaded with the ref for a second yellow card and he duly obliged. Badstuber was lucky he didn't join Rafael in the stands for an appalling, two footed, jumping foul on Valencia. He must have been watching Scholes. As O'Shea was warming up to replace Rooney, Nani failed to punish another mistake by Butt, volleying over his head and over the bar. Nani missed an even better chance to complete his hat-trick when Evra's clever pass sent him clear of a Bayern defence caught flat footed on the half-way line. As he cut in from the left, from an admittedly tight angle, he tired to beat Butt at his near post but the veteran parried the ball out for a corner. Vidic got a block on a Robben shot to force a corner. Unfortunately for United he got nowhere near the Dutchman when defending it. Ribery swung the ball to Robben who was standing free on the edge of the box, not because Bayern had an extra man as erroneously pointed out by the so called experts on Sky and ITV (Man United had more players in and around the box) but because of poor marking, Robben connected with a perfectly struck, perfectly timed volley which bounced low inside VDS' left post. As he had done against Fiorentina, the Dutchman's goal killed the tie stone dead, with no further chances.

Taggart was, as usual, gracious in defeat. On Rafael's dismissal :

"The young boy showed a bit of inexperience, but they got him sent off, everyone sprinted towards the referee - typical Germans."

No hint of irony there, this coming from a team who turned the barracking of referees into an art form in the EPL.

Van Gaal's response :

"I thought England was a country of fair play and I don't think that is fair. I don't share Sir Alex's opinion. Part of being a player is control. Every player must know if you pick up one yellow card, a second one means a sending off. I certainly believe it was a yellow card offence and that is down to the player."

This could be a watershed result for Manchester United. For a club in such a precarious financial position (playing against a club with no debts) the loss in revenue as a result of an 'early' elimination will have a severe impact in the transfer market as they seek to rejuvenate an ageing side. If they fail to win the EPL that problem will only be compounded. In Gibson however they have a ready made replacement for Scholes. While he lacks the ginger twat's range of passing he is a cleaner tackler and has a sledgehammer of a right foot. Bayern will, inevitably, be favourites in their semi-final class against Lyon but a team that has conceded eight goals in four games is going to face a defence that has conceded three in four and the best younger goalkeeper in the World.

The elimination of all EPL clubs should Gabriele Marcotti make a welcome return to ITV's Champions League highlight show. There's no such luck for Sky Sports viewers who will have to endure the expertise of that bitter, sour faced git Graeme Souness and wide boy Jamie Redknapp.

Match is tied 4-4 on aggregate, Bayern win on away goals.

Attendance : 74,482
Red Card : Rafael 50 (Manchester United)
Assists : Rooney, Valencia, Valencia, Muller, Ribery (ck)

6 April 2010

INTER 1 (Sneijder 6)

Sneijder, a doubt before the match, struck a low free kick under the CSKA wall as they jumped and the unsighted Akinfeev didn't have time to react. Odiah beat Eto'o to a 50-50 ball and his hurried pass turned into an unlikely assist for Necid but his shot bounced wide of the right post. Odiah, booked in the first half for a foul on Sneijder, was dismissed in the second for an EPL style leg breaking tackle which, thankfully, Eto'o hurdled. Milito blew two one vs ones in each half. He looks ill at ease in this competition and the player most likely to miss a penalty in a shoot out.

A deathly boring match. As an attacking threat CSKA offered as much as they did in the first leg - bugger all.

Mourinho gets two more shots at Barca. That should come in handy when he's coaching Real Madrid next season.

Inter win 2-0 on aggregate.

Attendance : 50,000
Red Card : Odiah 49 (CSKA Moscow)
Assist : Milito (won fk)

LIONEL MESSI 4 (Messi 21, Messi 37, Messi 42, Messi 88)
ARSENAL 1 (Bendtner 18)

Barcelona were nowhere near as impressive in the opening 20 minutes as they were last week in London and fell behind to a counter attack. Diaby stripped Milito of possession with a strong tackle on the centre circle and released Walcott with a brilliant reverse pass, Walcott turned on the afterburners and left the Barca defence in a cloud of smoke, Bendtner beat Alves to his centre, drawing an excellent save from Valdes but scrambled to his feet and poked in the rebound. Arsenal hung on - for all of three minutes. Messi tried to thread a ball through to Xavi, Silvestre intercepted but gave the ball back to the Argentinean who thundered a left foot shot between two sprawling defenders into the top right corner. Messi continued his abuse of the hapless Silvestre but having turned him inside out couldn't find the finish to match. Another mistake in the Arsenal defence, another goal. Vermaelen didn't get enough on his clearance, Pedro touched the ball back to Messi, a fabulous first touch with his left foot took him inside Silvestre and he accelerated forward before shooting high over Almunia with his right. Messi took flight as he challenged Vermaelen for a longball, Abidal sent him clear with a firm header and as Almunia advanced off his line the Ballon D'or beat him with a delicate left foot lob.

Pedro should have made it 4-1 but failed to take advantage of Messi's quickly taken free kick, lobbing hopelessly wide as Almunia. In a low key second half Messi dribbled through the Arsenal defence, held off Eboue and Vermaelen, Almunia overshot his dive, the ball bounced off his left knee, Messi took a touch, waited for him to get up and fired between his legs to join a mostly illustrious list of players who have scored four goals in a single European Cup match. In case you're wondering the full list is Ferenc Puskas (Madrid), Marco van Basten (Milan), Simone Inzaghi (Lazio), Dado Prso (Monaco), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United), Andriy Shevchenko (Milan) and now Lionel Messi (Barcelona).

Almunia has been lobbed in both legs and beaten by high shots on two other occasions, that accounts for four of the six goals. He has a tendency to come off his line early and it rarely pays dividends. His decision making is woeful. Speaking of woeful - Dani Alves. He may light it up in La Liga, thanks largely to his pace, but it's clear to see why he's such a distant second to Maicon at international level - poor crossing, poor passing, poor positioning. Pedro had an awful game as well, too slack with his passing. Unfortunately for Mourinho that is an area of weakness Maicon cannot exploit as he too is stationed on the right and will face the considerably more disciplined Abidal who I thought was tremendous.

"We lost against a team that is better than us and who the best player in the World." - Arsene Wenger

Barcelona win 6-3 on aggregate.

Attendance : 95,000
Assists : n/a, n/a, Pedro, Abidal, n/a

31 March 2010

ARSENAL 2 (Walcott 69, Fabregas 85 Pen)
BARCELONA 2 (Ibrahimovic 46, Ibrahimovic 59)

Barcelona should have buried Arsenal under an avalanche of goals in the opening 20 minutes. Almunia made brilliant saves from Biscuits, Messi, Ibrahimovic and Xavi and Song charged down two goalbound shots. Fabregas was booked for making a studs up challenge for the ball (and Biscuits' acting), meaning he will/would miss the return leg, had he been fit.

Big match bottle Ibrahimovic scored a quick fire brace to give the European Champions a deserved lead. In the opening minute of the second half he lobbed a Pique longball over Almunia as he rushed off his line to close down the angle. Bendtner almost scored a quick equaliser, his bullet header, from a Clichy cross, was brilliantly saved by Valdes. Seconds later Song went to sleep on a cross but Xavi failed to capitalise. Messi split the Arsenal defence with a lofted through pass and Ibrahimovic raced clear before blasting a shot into the roof of the net. Barca, almost bored with the ease at which they were creating chances, switched off. Suddenly the incessant pressing wasn't anywhere near as intense and the passing wayward. Within three minutes of replacing Sagna, Walcott scored. Biscuits gave away the ball in midfield and Bendtner released Walcott with a fabulous pass inside Maxwell, he hit a low, weak shot at Valdes but he dived over the ball, 1-2. Henry replaced Ibrahimovic and did what he normally does in a Barca shirt - look out of place and give the ball away but Guardiola clearly did this out of sentiment and who can blame him? Traitor Fabregas, who bailed on Barca as a teenager, was shaping for a volley after a cross bounced up off Puyol, the Barca captain ran at him, Fabregas kicked him as he blocked the shot, fell and appealed for a penalty. Not only did the ref oblige he also sent off Puyol which means he joins the suspended Pique in the stands next week. Fabregas converted and injured his knee in the process, having been a doubt for the game prior to kick-off after suffering a typically, thuggish tackle at the weekend. Early reports claim he has a broken leg. If true he has paid a heavy price for playing hurt.

One of the most fraudulent results of the season. Arsenal deserved nothing less than a caning, such was Barcelona's superiority. Barca's suspensions will change little. With two away goals, on their huge pitch, facing an Arsenal side without Fabregas, Gallas, possibly Clichy and more importantly Arsenal's fantastic home support you can't see Guardiola's men letting their opponents off the hook again.

Attendance : 60,000
Assists : Pique, Messi, Bendtner, Fabregas (won pen)

INTER 1 (Milito 65)

Sneijder wasted the only clear cut chance of the first half in injury time. He ran into the box onto a Pandev reverse pass, played a one-two with Milito and having brilliantly controlled the Argentinean's pass with his right foot, volleyed horribly wide with his left. Both 'keepers were finally troubled in a much improved second half. Julio Cesar was forced to tip over Aldonin's fierce long range drive while a Pandev shot from the edge of the box drew a great left handed save A minute or so after Eto'o forced a save, albeit a comfortably one, Inter recovered the ball and scored. Sneijder picked up possession on the half way line and drove forward, he looked to play a one-two with Milito as he approached the box but the Argentinean caught everyone by surprise with a sudden shot, low into the bottom left corner. Only a spectacular goal-line clearance, by Berezutski, denied Inter a second after Pandev skinned Akinfeev as he rushed off his line to close down the Macedonian. Sneijder fudged his lines again after Inter produced a Barcelona quality move with the magic trident of Eto'o, Milito and Pandev all involved. Akinfeev beat away successive efforts by Cambiasso and Stankovic from a late corner.

Inter take a slender lead to Russia but not giving up an away goal is huge, usually.

Attendance : 70,000
Red Card : Puyol (Barcelona)
Assist : Sneijder

30 March 2010

LYON 3 (Lisandro 10, Bastos 32, Lisandro 77 Pen)
BORDEAUX 1 (Chamakh 14)

Cissokho punted a high longball into the Bordeaux half, Ciani made a mess of the clearance, Bodmer drilled a low shot across goal and Lisandro stuck out a boot to poke the ball between Ciani's legs and into the net. Chamakh equalised with, what else, a header, Gourcuff providing a superb left foot cross. The abysmal Delgado wasted a one vs one against Carasso and Bordeaux immediately countered, Gouffran met a centre with an outrageous volley on the turn but Lloris parried to safety. Chamakh went agonisingly close with another header but just as the French champions were in the ascendancy another awful mistake in defence cost Bordeaux a second. Torremolinos' farcical mistimed jump fell to Bastos and Brazil's left back hammered a punishing shot into the top left corner.

In the second half Lloris pulled off an amazing save from Chamakh and Wendel left the crossbar trembling with a fantastic volley as Lyon's forwards tried desperately to repair the damage done by their defence. A ridiculous penalty, awarded for 'handball' helped Lyon seal a thoroughly undeserved victory.

If Bordeaux defend like this in the return leg they're done but if they attack as well as they did tonight they got every chance of turning this around and sealing a semi-final place.

Attendance : 37,859
Assists : Bodmer, Gourcuff, n/a, n/a

BAYERN MUNICH 2 (Ribery 77, Olic 92)

Demichelis kicked Nani to concede a 10th second free kick and the winger's deflected cross fell invitingly for Rooney, thank to a Demichelis slip, to volley United into a 1st minute lead. Olic should have turned in Altintop's wayward shot but missed from six yards. The absolutely dreadful Demichelis failed to clear a cross, letting in Rooney but er Butt came to the rescue. On 77 minutes Man United's limitless reserves of good luck ran out when a Ribery's free kick deflected off the United wall, leaving VDS rooted. United almost hit back immediately, Vidic's header rebounding off a post. Scholes should have been sent off for one of his trademark, leg breaking fouls. Sky Sports of course decided not to show the incident in the highlights which speaks volumes and epitomises the way in which Sky Sports, above anyone else, have helped build the Man United brand. Gomez made a powerful run into the United box, leaving Vidic in fits as he lost his balance, Gomez fired off a shot but VDS made a superb two handed save, the ball floated above the crossbar and dropped wide of the left post. Rooney injured himself when attempting to challenge Gomez as he made another marauding run from midfield, Gomez fell on the edge of the box after colliding with Vidic, Evra got the ball caught in his feet but before he could clear Olic ran in the blindside, skipped past Ferdinand, feigned to shoot, which forced VDS to take a step to his right and then he smashed the ball into the opposite corner. Superb finish.

Rooney hobbled off in the build up to Bayern's winner and was also booked four minutes earlier. They do say good things come in pairs.

Scholes reputation in the English game is thoroughly undeserved. It doesn't matter how quiet he is off the pitch, he is THE dirtiest player in the game. Not even Mascherano, Materazzi, Montero, Van Bommel or Zidane sinks to his levels, no one ROUTINELY makes as many leg breaking fouls as that ginger bastard and certainly no one gets away with it as regularly as he does.

Attendance : 66,000
Assists : n/a, n/a, n/a