Archive for the ‘Champions League Final’ Category
Champions League semi-final . . . and Torres scores! This was match that had everything as Chelsea’s 10-men slay Barcelona
Football is the greatest game on the planet because you just never know when something magical is going to happen . . . and tonight’s epic Champions League encounter at the Nou Camp was one of those occasions that will go down in sporting folklore as a match that had just about every twist and turn you could possibly imagine.
For Chelsea’s heroes, who fought on against all the odds after skipper John Terry was sent off for a moment of madness when he inexplicably kicked out at Alexis Sanchez, it looked like mission impossible when the West London club fell 2-nil behind on the night. Didier Drogba’s one goal advantage from the first leg was blown away in 10 minutes of meyhem at the end of the first half in Barcelona, as Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta struck either side of Terry’s red card.
It was a crazy spell punctuated on the stroke of half-time by a breakaway deliciously converted by Ramires – the Brazilian unfazed by the knowledge his earlier yellow card had ruled him out of the final. It was a mighty blow as powerful as Roy Keane’s in similar circumstances that dragged Manchester United back from the brink against Juventus back in 1999. That made it 2-2 on aggregate and put Chelsea ahead at the interval on the away goals rule. But it was far from the end of the breathtaking drama.
When the world’s best player Lionel Messi – who has never scored against Chelsea – smacked his 47th minute penalty against the crossbar after Drogba felled Cesc Fabregas, it was the start of another riveting half. Barca, with over 70 percent of the possession, came forward in wave after wave of attacks. But when they did find a way past the stubborn 10-men, a raking shot from Messi hit the post and then Alexis Sanchez had an effort ruled out for offside.
When Drogba made way for Fernando Torres I remember saying out load ‘If he comes on and scores the winner all his misses will be forgotten.’ It was a script you could not write and there was another lucky escape for Chelsea when they survived a handball that probably should have given Barca another penalty. But the official missed it and the ball immediately broke to Torres who was suddenly clean through on his own.
It was as if the Spaniard had been signed purely for this moment of destiny and this time there was never any doubt the player who has been guilty of so many shocking misses since he was signed from Liverpool for £40 million in January 2011 would seal the tie. As he effortlessly rounded Victor Valdes and steered the ball into the empty net, the man who had masterminded this remarkable sting, interim manager Roberto di Matteo, began his ecstatic victory celebrations on the touchline.
It was a scene that will be etched into many memories for generations to come. It was the day tactics and experience got the better of the team so many had put on a pedestal as arguably the greatest club side we have ever seen. But on this evidence Barca are not the masters we all thought – and even the magical Messi lost his aura of invincibility as he was brought to his knees by the team that lies sixth in the English Premier League.
FT: Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (Chelsea win 3-2 on aggregate). Goals: Busquets 35, Iniesta 43 – Ramires 45+1, Torres 90+1
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You’ve got to admire Di Matteo – but success for Abramovich’s sack the manager policy would be bad for football
Roberto Di Matteo is an excellent manager and against all the odds has done a terrific job since he was thrown into the Stamford Bridge firing line as interim manager. But it would be bad for football if Chelsea go any further in the Champions League.
The problem is success for the Blues will be interpreted by Roman Abramovich as justification for his ridiculous policy of sacking managers on a whim.
The suspicion is that the mega rich Russian owner does not respect the role of the manager because he thinks he knows better and gives silent approval to the player power influences that have undermined more than most recent failure Andre Villas-Boas.
Can you imagine the triumphalism of Abramovich if Fernando Torres was to score the winning goal in the Champions League Final? The crazy thing about football is that the impossible sometimes does come true. And Di Matteo’s men are in touching distance of reaching the final four after tonight’s first leg 1-0 win over Benfica in Lisbon.
But then of course there is the magical Lionel Messi and his brilliant Barcelona team mates who will surely be waiting in the semi-final unless Milan can pull off the shock of the tournament so far.
Di Matteo’s FA Cup Final goal against Middlesbrough in 1997 made him a Chelsea legend . . .
BIG MONEY TRANSFERS WILL NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF WHY ENGLAND ARE FALLING BEHIND REST OF THE FOOTBALL WORLD
The English Premier League may be the most exciting domestic football competition in the world. TV viewing figures certainly suggest that it is. And the global reach of the world’s biggest and most popular club Manchester United is second to none. But do not let this confuse you. English football needs a root and branch revolution because it is just not good enough.
Not only is England’s national team a poor relation on the world stage, with a zero chance of winning the next World Cup in Brazil in three years time. But we will always be no hopers unless drastic changes are made to the way we coach the game. Ironically, the upcoming regulations that are forcing our top clubs to develop home grown talent could be the best thing that has happened to the game in this country since 1966 so long as the elite do not fall into the trap of thinking money alone is the answer.
For Manchester United and Liverpool to lead the way recruiting England’s most promising youngsters is the inevitable reaction to UEFA’s upcoming requirement for nine homegrown players in a squad of 18. But forking out huge wads of cash – Phil Jones £20M, Ashley Young £20M, Jordan Henderson £20M, Andy Carrol £35M – does not tackle the underlying flaw in our national game.
When England miraculously escaped with a draw against Spain in their European Under-21 Championship opener on Sunday, it only served to confuse the issue. Just as Barcelona played football from a different planet in their Champions League Final triumph over Manchester United last month, the Spanish youngsters demonstrated how their skill and technique is light years ahead of the game in England.
It is not that our players lack the ability to match the Spaniards. It is a fundamental flaw in the way the game is being taught from grass roots upwards. We are blinded by the rigidity of out-dated formations and the fear of losing or making a mistake. We must go back to basics and teach our young players the fundamental skills of pass and move, keeping possession, dribbling, shooting and passing with both feet.
In essence it is time to learn how to play total football. The enduring success of Barcelona – Champions League winners twice in three years – and the Spanish national team, champions of both Europe and the World is not something that money can buy. It takes a sound footballing philosophy and a commitment to mastering the skills of The Beautiful Game.
At Barca Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Zavi have grown up together learning their skills and understanding. OK Catalonia’s adopted son Messi was born in Argentina and we are talking about a club side not a nation. But the point is that the Catalans have developed a purist style of football that can be taught. Take any of the Barca players and they are at home playing in just about any position on the pitch because they are comfortable on the ball. Until English footballers can express themselves with the same confidence they will forever be making up the numbers.
WAY TO GO WAYNE! CONGRATULATIONS ON HAVING THE BALLS TO ANNOUNCE HAIR TRANSPLANT ON TWITTER #HAIRWEGO
Wayne Rooney deserves enormous credit for announcing to his 740,000 followers on Twitter that he has had a hair transplant.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having the treatment and I can personally vouch for the latest direct hair implantation technique because I have had it myself – and the results are miraculous.
By going public Rooney has shown he is a real man with balls. And he has single-handedly done a great service to all those men – and women – out there suffering from hair loss who want to do something about it.
Two years ago I started filming a documentary ‘The Bald Truth: Back To My Roots’ because I wanted to expose the myths and find out the truth about hair loss
There are many celebrities and sports stars out there who have had the treatment but are too shy to talk about it.
We all saw Ryan Giggs being photographed coming out of a clinic. And does anyone doubt that David Beckham has had a hair transplant?
Not to mention half of Hollywood and many of the most famous men on the planet.
Many congratulations Wayne Rooney and we wish you a great result. As you said yourself on Twitter what do you have to lose?
For those who missed Rooney’s tweets here they are: “Just to confirm to all my followers I have had a hair transplant. I was going bald at 25 why not. I’m delighted with the result.
“It’s still a bit bruised and swollen when it dies down u will be first to see it. Anyone recommend any good hair gel. Haha.”
Rooney has receiver morale support from thousands of well-wishers on twitter, including a message from his wife Colleen who said: “Hiya!! Yes Wayne’s had his hair done! His own decision not me asking him, like a lot are saying!! Pleased for him and it will look great.”
Meanwhile, Manchester United and England teammate Rio Ferdinand joked: “Just don’t go down the wearing a alice band route!! You’ll be doing head&shoulders adverts soon! Hope its gone OK Good luck lad.”
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BRILLIANT BARCELONA HAVE RAISED THE BAR AND MAGICAL MESSI IS ALREADY ARGUABLY THE GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME
If there was any doubt before Barcelona’s intoxicating Champions League Final triumph over Manchester United, surely there is no argument now. Barcelona boast the best football team in the world – and their talisman Lionel Messi is the best player on the planet.
Still only 23, Messi is the already arguably the greatest player the world has ever seen.
Before the Argentinian adopted son of Catalonia came on the scene Pele and Maradona were the undisputed masters of The Beautiful Game. Now the pint-sized genius – around whom Barcelona have built probably the greatest football team ever assembled – is staking his claim to be the No.1
It is frightening to think just how great the magical Messi can become when you consider that footballers rarely hit their peak before they reach their 27th birthday. In a world increasingly dominated by giants it is reassuring and refreshing to see that small can be beautiful. At 5 ft 61⁄2 in Messi is dwarfed by Cristiano Ronaldo at 6ft 1. But Messi stands tall as the undisputed king of football.
Manchester United entered the record books and became English football’s most successful side by winning their 19th League title, finishing a runaway nine points clear of Chelsea and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. In the Champions League Sir Alex Ferguson’s men hadn’t even conceded a goal away from Old Trafford until Barca’s crushing 3-1 win in the Final.
But Barca were simply too good for United at Wembley – repeating their win two years earlier in the 2009 Final – and showed the rest of the world why they are simply the best. There is absolutely no disgrace, only pride for the cream of Manchester, who can rightly calm to be the second best team on the planet after reaching their third Champions League Final in four years. And yet the gulf between the top two has never been bigger. Wayne Rooney gave United short-lived hope with an outstanding strike that levelled Pedero’s equally brilliant opener. But Messi with a long-range effort and David Villa with an exquisite finish blew the English champions away in the second half with football from another planet.
United’s beaten boss Ferguson honestly summed it up when he said: “In my time as a manager it is the best team we have faced. I think everyone acknowledges that. I accept that. It’s not easy when you have been well beaten like that to think any other way.
“No one has given us a hiding like that. It’s a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and they enjoy their football.
“They mesmerise you with their passing and we never really controlled Messi. When we got the lifeline of Wayne Rooney I expected us to do better in the second half but it wasn’t to be.”
Barcelona have set the bar at a new level of excellence and it will take much more than money for any club to match their brilliance because the Catalans have mastered a new way of playing the game and they have created a team, the nucleus of which has grown up together playing their own brand of carousel football.
Barca embarked on a long term plan that has taken a nearly a decade to evolve when they persuaded Messi to commit his career to their dream for fantasy football. Andres Iniesta and Xavi are the other mini maestros who complete the most devastating trio that is the heartbeat of this majestic side. But this is a team where every player has an important role and they are all 100 per cent comfortable with playing their stylish brand of total football.
Whether or not Barcelona have hit their peak remains to be seen. This was not a heavyweight showdown that hung in the balance beyond the first half because Pep Guardiola’s men were untouchable in the final 45 minutes. All their star men hit the top of their form in a breathtaking display that was as close to perfection as you will ever see.
Maybe this was the best Barca will ever play. God help us all if they are to raise the bar any higher.
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FIRST IT WAS DAVID BECKHAM NOW IT’S RYAN GIGGS: WHY MANCHESTER UNITED FANS HATE CHEATING MAX CLIFFORD
Whatever you think of the Ryan Giggs affair, do not make the mistake of believing self-publicist Max Clifford when he says Imogen Thomas never had any intention of selling her story to the press.
That is complete and utter bunkum from the self-confessed liar and cheat who has spent weeks peddling the Reality TV star’s story of her alleged relationship with Giggs, hitherto the nation’s favourite football role model.
It is over 20 years since my first dealings with Clifford who has made himself rich by selling stories based on half-truths and never letting the facts get in the way of the fiction.
He has never looked back since conning a gullible newspaper editor into running the made up headline ‘Freddie Starr ate my Hamster’. He even cashed in on his own adultery in his autobiography a few years ago.
For his latest client to be able to dish the dirt on one of Manchester United’s biggest stars is another giant windfall for the ruthless spin doctor who told me only a few days ago that he does not represent anyone for less than an initial fee of £45,000.
It is not the first time of course that Clifford has made a fortune out of selling stories about one of Manchester United’s biggest stars. It was the London PR guru who brokered the story on David Beckham’s alleged affair with Rebecca Loos shortly after he joined Real Madrid.
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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL: WHY BARCA AGAINST MAN UNITED IS DESTINED TO BE ULTIMATE SHOWPIECE FOR BEAUTIFUL GAME
Forget the FIFA World Cup Final. This is the big one. The Champions League Final. The biggest game on the planet bar none. And never has a game been more eagerly anticipated. The 2011 Final at Wembley on Saturday (May 28) could be the ultimate showpiece for The Beautiful Game. It will certainly draw one of the biggest TV audiences of all time – and my prediction is that this time we will be treated to a contest to match the hype and delight the purists.
There is no doubt it is absolutely the dream final. Between the two most exciting teams in world football, whose history and fans demand entertainment as well as glory. Fortune favours the bold and with both sides committed to goals and glamour the recipe for a classic is surely guaranteed.
Two years ago Barca triumphed when Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi scored the goals in a 2-0 win against a Manchester United side weighed down by a shocking contribution by Cristiano Ronaldo – playing his final game in a red shirt before his £80 million move to Real Madrid.
But this time the Catalans know they face a much tougher challenge to their status as the World’s top ranked club. United have got better and better all season making the critics – who keep telling us this is not an outstanding team – look more and more ridiculous.
At times this season United have hit extraordinary heights to match any in the epic 25 year resign of the world’s greatest football manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The twin threat of a Wayne Rooney back to his glorious best and Mexican sensation Javier Hernandez is as good as it gets. Edwin Van Der Sar will be retiring as the world’s best goalkeeper and skipper Nemanja Vidic is an absolute rock alongside the elegance of Rio Ferdinand.
Ryan Giggs has never played better and his reinvention as a central midfield playmaker gives United an extra creative dimension that at times this season has mirrored the famous Barca carousel orchestrated by Andres Iniesta, Xavi and the incomparable Lionel Messi.
As David Beckham said earlier this week: “If anyone can beat Barcelona at their peak Man United can.” With the width offered by any combination of Antonio Valencia, Ji Sung Park, Nani, Patrice Evra and the Da Silva twins this United team has the ammunition to hit Barca where it hurts.
Barca are certainly not underestimating the Red Devils. “This Manchester United team is much more unpredictable without Cristiano Ronaldo,” says wing-back Davi Alves “They have formed a more balanced group and they are stronger than they were two years ago.” Striker David Villa added: “Ronaldo’s departure has liberated them. Many great players come and go and that has allowed them to remain at the top for so long.” Andres Iniesta belives United have “grown as a team”.
And coach Pep Guardiola – who watched in awe as United’s second string completed a staggering 6-1 aggregate win over Schalke in the semi-final – admits: “We have been looking at the 2009 game and they were better than us in the first half.
“The level is equal, they are strong, competitive and they can play with four or five different formations and they stay competitive. They are one of the best teams in the world, and not just this year. We are proud to be playing them.”
As Steve Bruce, a European Cup Winners’ Cup winner with the Red Devils against Barcelona 20 years ago, says, Sir Alex will “want to win the trophy the Manchester United way.” And Bruce predicts the Boss has a master plan that will confirm why he is the greatest: “If anyone can get it right on the night the great man can.”
Whoever lifts the trophy The Beautiful Game will be the winner if both sides come out without inhibition and a determination to show the world just how good they really are.
1999 – THE GREATEST FINISH EVER TO A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
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IF ANYONE CAN BEAT BARCELONA AT THEIR PEAK IT IS MAN UTD SAYS 1999 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNER DAVID BECKHAM
It was good to hear David Beckham pay tribute to Manchester United’s record-breaking feat of winning their 19th League title and hit back at the critics who have questioned the quality of Sir Alex Ferguson’s latest trophy winning side.
“People have criticised the team this season but you can’t ask much more than winning the Premier League and getting to the Champions League final. They are up there with the best United teams of all time,” says United’s former hero.
And Becks has no doubt that Sir Alex has the team to beat Barcelona in Saturday’s Champions League final at Wembley and is clearly 100 per cent behind his former boss. “As a manager he can’t get any better than he already is. But I’m sure it will be an unbelievable moment if he picks up that cup by beating Barcelona who have been talked about as one of the greatest teams ever. If any team can beat Barcelona at their peak it is Man United.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere, especially being at Wembley. And I just hope United can do it.”
Meanwhile, Beckham is back at Old Trafford on Tuesday night to play in the testimonial for his old pal Gary Neville and clearly relishes the chance to pull on the famous red shirt again. “It’s always amazing wearing a Manchester United shirt. Just talking about it gives me goose bumps. Man Utd have always been my team. It’s going to be emotional and an amazing night for Gary.”
The Testimonial against Juventus will reunite members of the famous Class of 92 including Beckham, Neville Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt. And Fergie urges United fans to support the occasion declaring: “When a player like Neville gives you 20 years of his life I think we should show our appreciation.”
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RYAN GIGGS EXPOSED BY MP ABUSING PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE – BUT MANCHESTER UNITED’S ROLE MODEL IS STILL A HERO
How sad that RYAN GIGGS has been named as the Premier League footballer identified on Twitter as having an injunction over an alleged affair with reality TV star Imogen Thomas. Giggs has been named in Parliament by Lib Dem MP John Hemming during an urgent Commons question on privacy orders.
Using parliamentary privilege to break the court order, Hemming said it would not be practical to imprison the 75,000 Twitter users who had named the player.
The media have waged a long campaign to reveal the identify of Giggs. But is it in the public interest to have revealed the identity of a sporting legend in a matter that is private and personal?
Giving the gutter press a licence to slaughter the character of the most popular role model in modern football serves no purpose or public interest. Shame on MP Hemming for taking the law into his own hands.
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