British teams in Europe; Man Utd v Chelsea on Sunday
There were mixed happenings in the Champs League for the British sides. Celtic held well against Man Utd at Parkhead and it was Shunsuke Nakamura with his left again from a freekick who sealed the win on Tuesday. A helping hand to that was Louis Saha on two occasions. One where he was not given offside with Artur Bobac to face but stalled in fear of a decision and the keeper came out to block. Then came the freekick from which Christiano Ronaldo struck the hand of Shaun Maloney, giving away a penalty. Saha stepped up to coolly choose his right and the keeper's left but Bobac choosed equally and saved away. Celtic through to the knockout stages of the competition for the first time in its history. I was surprised the likes of Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney didn't take it, but if Saha felt confident to do so then that is enough for someone to step up.
Arsenal endured a scare for 50mins after Rafael van der Vaart ran into space in 4mins and shot over Jens Lehmann to take the lead at The Emirates, but another Dutchman in Robin Van Persie ran into space himself and slotted the equaliser. From then Arsenal engaged forward, Theo Walcott came on and delivered a pass for Emanuel Eboue to chase down the right and aima hopeful shot that wedged under the keeper and inside the goal. Julio Bapiste wrapped up the events by heading into the goal from a Walcott cross.
Liverpool took on difficult opponents PSV at Anfield, PSV had been unbeaten in 18 months in all competitions and held the Reds to a draw at home. Along the way we played 'Knock Down Player' which was our version of 'Knock Down Ginger', where our players were knocked down through injury. Xabi Alonso suffered a hip problem on 21mins, Mark Gonzalez followed fifteen minutes after with a hamstring. There were two impromptu changes we could have done without. The breakthrough occurred after the hour with dirk Kuyt turning his marker and passing into space for Steven Gerrard to run onto and place inside the keeper's left. Then a third change of Jermaine Pennant with another hamstring problem. Peter Crouch wrapped up this game with Luis Garcia crossing from the left for Kuyt to back across for Crouch to nod in. In fairness Crouchie should have had a hat-trick as Liverpool went on to top the group.
Chelsea entered Werder Bremen's ground for a win and left it the losers after Torsten Frings crossed a corner for Per Mertesacker to head in. Injury worries to Dider Drogba and Michael Ballack were dismissed as both are expected to be fit for Sunday's big game. Main thing is Chelsea qualified as they have the better of their clashes with Werder Bremen.
Unfortunately I had a busy schedule on Thursday and only got in to hear of the UEFA cup matches than see them, but all the British sides did well. Blackburn and Rangers gained the point required to qualify for the knockout stages, though Morten Gamst Pedersen was struck with a plastic cup of beer and again highlights the issue of objects projected from the crowd, which I have just heard will be investigated by UEFA. It inadvertently highlights the opinion of the beer served at the Feijenoord Stadion. Newcastle and Spurs recorded wins. Newcastle's skeleton crew coming from behind to fend off Celta Vigo with a first goal of his Newcastle career for Stephen Taylor and another goal in which Albert Luque had an influence in in European football. Could be something there. Dimitar Berbatov returning to the BayArena to haunt his former place with the winning goal.
As for the big game on Sunday, all I have to say is for anyone to lay off Howard Webb and let the man officiate the game with no pressure. I don't think he or any of the other officials go into any match thinking of whether they will please either or both teams and their fans. They go out and officiate as they see it. I don't agree that referees look to balance decisions. But timely words from Jose Mourinho and chief executive Peter Kenyon have added fuel to the broil so it will be an interesting combat.