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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Champions League round-up

It's been a long while since the previous post, a longer while since my previous article. But at 8.30am I have eventually made some time to come onto the computer. There have been mixed results in Europe over the past 48hrs from the British contingent and a controversial ending in one of them. Not the Lille v Man Utd fixture, I refer to the Nou Camp last night!! We were not expected to get anything there, that is controversial!

Joking aside, it was a good result for Liverpool, quite frankly even a draw would have been good perhaps with the exception of a no-score one. The seven days prior to last night documented issues within both camps. Samuel Eto'o publicly responded to the words of Barca coach Frank Rijkaard and teammate Ronaldinho who spoke out after apparently refused to come on, after having warmed up, against Racing Santander. Eto'o and Ronaldinho publicly hugged to show it was not contentious between them, yet between the Cameroon striker and the coach it is questionable still. Eto'o was not in the team last night.

Liverpool went on a training break away in Portugal and encountered an alleged altercation between John Arne Riise and Craig Bellamy leading up to an attempt of kneecapping with a 9 iron. This would appear to threaten any build-up and such a thing is unheard of going into an important match. It was good to see Riise and Bellamy congratulate each other after the goals and at full time. Put the handbags away and get on with business.

Much is currently the headlines in football of the Lille - Man Utd match. There is the old debate about when is a freekick allowed to be suddenly taken without the opposition being ready. I'm not so clear on it myself, my understanding is when it is direct the referee need not signal with his whistle. He steps away and the kick can be taken, which Ryan Giggs duly obliged with a well placed curler. The ensuing scenes of derision with a member of the Lille coaching staff clearly gesturing to the Lille players to come off the pitch in protest, players angrily approaching the referee. When play resumed, Gary Neville was struck by an object and met a hail of objects when taking a throw. I await what findings UEFA will come to.

Paul Merson was on Sky Sports Gillette Soccer with Rob McCaffrey and guests commentating over the PSV v Arsenal match when I switched over to tune in on all football results briefly. Merson mentioned that PSV simply resigned to not chasing the ball and therefore left Arsenal with overall possession. In Merson's words, he said there was no way Arsenal were going to lose the game. McCaffrey made reference to the effect that Merson's words were bold so early into the game and so they turned out to be. I was more concerned with Celtic v AC Milan and did not watch Arsenal, however Merson stated Thierry Henry had given the ball away so often it was a surprise Arsene Wenger had not torn his hair out. Henry being Henry, I found that difficult to believe. Arsenal enjoyed the first half and then apparently PSV played better in the second. Yet with the return leg at The Emirates, I fancy the Gunners to reverse the deficit.

I would imagine Celtic being content with not conceding to AC on Tuesday. While AC enjoyed chances from the beginning with a save by Artur Boruc from Alberto Gilardinho, Celtic equally contested through chances from Lee Naylor and Thomas Gravesen, to name two. With both sides missing a few key players, who may hopefully return in a fortnight's time, this battle is not over. Ac maybe favourites in their home ground but with players returning, Gordon Stratchen could still pull a result out of the ordinary.

Jose Mourinho returned to his former club, with the memories of his first European cup win. With John Terry's left ankle strapped after Monday's training, the centre-back appeared prepared to lead the Chelsea side onto the Estadio do Dragao pitch. Yet after just seven minutes into the match Terry went over on his right ankle and it looked painful to the degree the defender signalled he could not carry on. I hope Chelsea have not rushed him back too early, he will miss the weekend's League Cup final. Porto seemed to be of no persuasion of Chelsea's reputation and took the lead, only for Andriy Shevchenko to cut across a typical Shevchenko goal to equalise. While Chelsea worked well to keep out an energetic Porto, I felt Didier Drogba was not his effective self and otherwise would have put Chelsea ahead. The main thing is Chelsea finished unbeaten to take back to Stamford Bridge.

A word on the other teams: I fancy Lyon and Valencia, bot of whom held well away from home. Though Lyon are apparently not firing as excellently as before at home, they still looked good last night at Roma. Valencia came from behind twice at Inter with two sweet goals, particularly that of David Villa's freekick from some 30-35 yards. Real Madrid looked good but conceded twice so it is still open as to their progress.



Anonymous Striker said...

Hi guys:
Valencia indeed looked very good. Will be very tough to beat on their home ground in the return leg.

Real Madrid are playing badly, & Im not too confident that theu will go through. The match at Munich is a very difficult affair now that Bayern has "lost respect" for Real.

Liverpool are in the box seat to knock out Barça, they have it all on their side. If Barça rises from the dead it will be thanks to Liverpool & no one else.

Great Footy ahead!

2/23/2007 2:33 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks Redsman for a good Champs League commentary and Striker for your perspective on the Spanish teams.

I haven't seen Villa's goal yet but it sounds an excellent strike. Way back in September I decided to go for Valencia as my outside tip for the comp so am happy so see them get into a good position against Inter.

Liverpool rode the early storm and in the second half had very good control of the match. When I saw Barca take on Valencia last Sunday at the Mestella I wondered then whether playing such a demanding match - and losing - would take its toll against a Pool team that had a ten day break and I reckon this did have an impact because Barca lacked the power to retaliate in the second half while Pool looked sharper and physically stronger. If Eto'o comes back and is sharp you cannot count out Barca- but it will be a surpise.

I liked Edison Mendez against Arsenal and thought it deserving he scored the winner. It was a frustrating match from a Gunners standpoint- PSV were defensively very strong and a bit like Barca it looked like the toll of matches Arsenal have had recently had an impact in the second half because we lacked the sharpness to make a fight of it.

Also, something for Wenger to think about is that last season we progressed thru the comp playing 4-5-1 which - as I wrote about earlier in the season - is a good system for Europe because essentially the priority is more about not conceding than scoring. On Tuesday we played the Adder and Henry together and they did not link up well and in retrospect the extra-man in midfield could have added more power in this congested part of the pitch (PSV played a very hard-working five in midfield). It is very important that Arsenal can score and score first at the Emirates- we are capable.

Finally, I want to note Shevchenko's finish against Porto- for me it was one of the best finishes I have seen this season and a reminder of why he has been rated as one of the very best in the last decade.... it was good to see.

2/24/2007 10:37 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks Striker, that can be a trait of Liverpool that they have a game in control very well then drop a gear and find it a task to get back up into control of the game again. Certainly this will be a test of proportion, Eto'o potentially back depending on dialogue between himself and Rijkaard (but I would say it's a certainty for Barca will push to win and that, to the eyes of the board and the fans, could mean the Cameroon's unequivocal selection to start to the coach).

T, top drawer comments on PSV - Arsenal. I saw the highlights and matched word for word your comments to the game. Key is not conceding at the least and with a 5-man midfield beavering away, it can work to grasp that clean sheet with the defence just tidying up. I've admired Mendez from the World Cup, so has apparently Ronald Koeman. And as I labelled it a typical Shev goal, it was the kind he has scored on occasion for AC for seasons, so to see it again in Chelsea colours showed he had gotten back to some of his traits from previous.

I watched Valencia v Barca, was surprised at the lack of discipline that found both Albelda and Deco dismissed, Ronaldinho among others booked, and how Valencia took two bites before Barca could respond. I see them or Lyon as serious contenders for the final.

Final note: playing Pro Evolution Soccer 6 on PS2, Serie A is the only representative for Italy in the game. No Juventus, looking for Vieira to transfer, I was disappointed. The tolls of Italian football scandal taken as far as the games console. Omitted from European football, Italian football rocked again by the rioting that led to the death of a police officer, can it all turn the corner, to see Juve back in the forefront again?


2/24/2007 1:49 pm

Blogger T said...

Yes Redsman, Italy home of the World Champions featuring players all based in Serie A... and yet their league is in a shambles.... a big contradiction!

(We need to have a battle on Pro Evo some day soon- I remember I won the last time!:))

2/24/2007 3:06 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Yes, we'll resume the battle, T!!


2/24/2007 5:24 pm


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