Euro2008 catch-up: Lubos Michel shone as Russia defeat Holland
The tournament has not relaxed in entertainment value. Superb. The Germans played their best football so far with a controlled, enterprising, performance against one of the major favourites in Portugal. Lukas Podolski is a front man but on the wing he has been overall as clinical. Exchanging one-twos' with first Miroslav Klose then Michael Ballack, Podolski ran down the left side followed by Jose Bosingwa and Pepe, crossed for the rapid emergence of Bastian Schweinsteiger into the box for the first goal.
Incidentally, Schweingsteiger got a one-match ban for a shove in the Croatia match whereas Turkey's keeper Volkan Demirel received two for his on The Czechs' Jans Kollar. Personally, neither were red cards but just bookings although Koller should received an Equity card from the actors' association.
Then two from set-pieces, ie free-kicks, to which Portugal were found very very lacking in defence surprisingly. The second one should have been disallowed for a shove by Ballack on Paulo Ferreira, maybe Paulo will let Ballack know about it come pre-season training at The Bridge. Nonetheless Germany were far more industrious than Portugal, who seemed subdued for some reason.
Another comeback from the Turks, a very very late one at that. Why were some people saying the game was dull, I thought it was superb. Both sides missing chances, Croatia had a few sitters, the application in the final third of both sides lacking which brought on extra-time. Why Rustu Recbar came out when he did I dont know but good play by Luka Modric simply found Ivan Klasnic with an open goal in the last minute of extra-time. Wild Croatian celebrations later, a Rustu free-kick high towards the Croatian goal brought a Turkey goal from Semih Senturk!! Seconds to spare!!
Considering familiar balls up the field towards the Croatian defence were picked up easily by the head of Jospi Simunic towards Stipe Pletikosa, on this last-gasp occasion I saw Sabri Sarioglu leap across Simunic's POV, which led to the ball not being dealt with and instead dropping dead amongst a little melee of players, from which Semih struck. Bilic prior to this tried to run down the time with a substitution, to no avail and he was livid. Cue Turkey's celebrations over yet another comeback. Following penalties made the drama all the more final, Croatia only scoring through Mario Srna out of three as Turkey deposited their spot-kicks, superb stop bu Rustu from Mladen Petric.
Last night went against the odds yet again. The third quarter-final, the third runners-up team from their group going through. Arguably Croatia outplayed Turkey but Germany and Russia have played their best football at this stage against strong favourites for the semis, if not the final. Holland were not their usual self, the Russians had more of the play, the ball, the chances, they just seemed to want it more and playmaker Andriy Arshavin was inspirational. Not the only one, but the main one. the Dutch could not stop him, he was the equivalent of Christiano Ronaldo in the EPL on a good day.
How often did Yuri Zhirkov get down the left, the touches of Konstantin Zyryanov, the strikes of Denis Kolodin, which brings me to a touching moment in the game. Wesley Sneijder chased the ball to the touchline and appeared to have kept it in, only to be challenged by Kolodin and go down. Now Kolodin has been virtually man-marking Ruud van Nistelrooy and picked up a yellow card in the process, so with this challenge he was due another one. And got it, to be dismissed in deep injury time, Russia facing Holland for extra-time with ten men.
Or so it seemed until ref Lubos Michel, the Slovakian official who was criticised by Chelsea's Jose Mourinho for the goal given in the Champions League semi-final 2nd leg with Liverpool at Anfield in May 2005, criticised by Martin O'Neill for his officiation of the 2003 Uefa Cup final between Celtic and (ironically Jose Mourinho's) Porto where he sent off Celtic defender Bobo Balde, must have been altered by his linesman and went to consult with him. Thereafter, Michel rescinded the 2nd booking for Kolodin and gave a Russia goal-kick.
It is presumed the linesman indicated Sneijder did not keep the ball in, therefore it was a Russia goal-kick that rendered Kolodin's challenge ineffectual to any decision. Replays may have indicated otherwise but it also showed Kolodin's challenge has having minute or no contact with Sneijder to warrant a booking. Criticise them as you see fit, praise them as they deserve. I don't think many of us would be courageous to be an official considering the abuse I am aware of they receive, both professionally and at amateur level. All round, the accolade and applause went to the Slovakian official for changing his mind as he did.
At that stage it was 1-1, skipper Sergei Semak was found by Arshavin, and one cross later found a first-time touch by Roman Pavlyuchenko. The Dutch struck 4mins from time when Sneijder curled over a free-kick which van Nistelrooy headed past Igor Akinfeev. Extra-time simply found the Dutch wanting time to race down fast with Russia constantly battling and working with top energy levels, culminating at first with a penalty shout as Zhirkov was fouled in the box by Johnny Heitinga, rightly denied. But then another Arshavin burst down the left ended in a cross that danced across the crossbar and down for sub Dmitri Torbinskiy on the run to touch in.
Then to cap off the evening and the game, a quick throw found Arshavin with two Holland defenders, no off-side from the throw-in, the Dutch defence surprisingly allowing such a ball to emerge through. The Zenit St. Petersburg man simply dragged the ball and shot it through the legs of Edwin van der Sar. What a display from the team, the other players and Arshavin.
Displays by the likes of Turkey and Russia makes me feel for a final meeting between the two. As industrious as Germany are, and whoever from Spain v Italy, the spirit from Turkey and Russia has been one of bravery, commitment, never-say-die until the end, and quality at times that I couldn't associate anyone else with in the tournament. It should take them both into the final. Considering the current trend of runners-up emerging further in the competition, we should then see Italy overcome Spain, believe it or not. Don't be surprised of a match this evening where the Spaniards dominate the first half, Torres scoring in the 41st minute, only for the Italians to strike eventually through Luca Toni in the 57th minute, and then Alessandro del Piero to win it in the 79th minute.
I predicted Portugal would not make it past the QF, T sent me one saying last night's game would end 1-1 after 90mins. Goes to show how we both read the game!