Friday, August 6, 2010

Champions League Draw Preview: The Big Guns Enter


At 12:00 CET on Friday 6 August 2010 the draw for the play-off round of the Champions League 2010-11 will take place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. The results will be given as they happen on this article.

As per Michel Platini's overhauls since taking over as FIFA chief, there are two routes to this play-off draw. Ten teams will enter the Champions route, which will see two seeded pots drawn to face each other, with the five winners each taking a place in the group stage.

Then there are ten teams, mainly from larger nations, in the Non-Champions route, who must undergo the same test.

These teams will join twenty-two other clubs in the Champions League group stage, which is to begin on the 14 September, following the draw on August 26.

But what have we to look forward to?

Unsung Heroes

For the Champions, it's a chance for lesser-represented countries to make their mark on the European stage. Debrecen and APOEL found themselves in the group stage last year, and players around modest clubs such as Zilina are hoping for the same.

Meanwhile the lowest-ranked team left, Sheriff Tiraspol, are hoping to bring Champions League football to the Moldovan league for the first time. In their impressively modern Sheriff stadium this wealthy club has aspirations beyond their locality, but first must face the likes of Anderlecht or Hapoel Tel-Aviv.

Meanwhile Sparta Prague just squeeze into the seeding section, but could still face a tough test: on-form RB Salzburg and Norwegian giants Rosenborg are both seasoned European competitors. Basel, meanwhile, are top dogs, while Partizan Belgrade enter in the non-seeded stage.

Tough Test For Big Dogs

Stat Shot

Champions League
Teams Remaining:
Round 1Q: 76
Round 2Q: 74
Round 3Q: 57
Playoff: 42 Then there's the non-champions route, which many would argue is actually stronger. Sevilla are recent European heavyweights; Werder Bremen need no introduction; Tottenham Hotspur come from the glitz and glamour of the Premier League; Zenit are Europa League winners; and Ajax won this contest just over a decade ago.

And that's just the seeded teams! In the other pot are Dynamo Kyiv, an Eastern force, while Sporting Braga shocked all in Portugal to finish second and earn their spot at Europe's top table. Sampdoria ousted the likes of Juventus to end up fourth in Italy, while France's Auxerre and the Young Boys of Bern both have quality midfields.

It's hard to say whom the seeded teams would most like to avoid. Sampdoria, led in attack by the unmistakable Antonio Cassano, are decent contenders for that title, but it's fair to say that they do not have quite the same sheen that they did at certain points last season. Braga, while vanquishing Celtic to arrive at this stage, similarly lack continental pedigree. Dynamo Kiev cannot rightly any longer be called a trip into the unknown - they are very much renowned and their players well-studied - but that's a title that could go to Young Boys. Meanwhile Auxerre have been largely out of European contention for some time but have stormed back from recent poor seasons to become a French force.

For those unlucky teams in the unseeded pot, there's scarcely an appealing tie in the lot. Ajax, far from their glory days, are maybe the easiest side - not just as far as seedings go, but also because their recent continental adventures have ended in disaster. Nonetheless they have quality throughout the side - needless to say, so do the other four.

It's set to be quite a draw, and you can follow it all here...


Champions Route (PRE-DRAW)

Teams will be drawn from the left pot and right pot against each other at 12:00 CET.

Seeded Unseeded
FC Basel Rosenborg
Anderlecht RS Salzburg
FC Copenhagen Partizan Belgrade
Hapoel Tel Aviv
Zilina Sparta Prague
Sheriff Tiraspol

Non-Champions Route (PRE-DRAW)

Teams will be drawn from the left pot and right pot against each other at 12:00 CET.

Seeded Unseeded
Sevilla Dynamo Kyiv
Werder Bremen Sporting Braga
Zenit St. Petersburg Sampdoria
Tottenham Hotspur Auxerre
Ajax Young Boys


One team from each of the two-legged ties will progress, meaning five from each path and ten in total. Ties will be played on 17-18 and 24-25 August 2010.

These ten teams will then be drawn as part of a seeded group stage, comprising eight pools of four, along with the following clubs:

Inter Valencia Lyon CFR Cluj
Chelsea Roma Rubin Kazan Benfica
Man Utd
AC Milan Spartak Moscow Bursaspor
Arsenal Bayern Munich Shakhtar Donetsk Panathinaikos
Barcelona Schalke Twente Rangers
Real Madrid Marseille

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mourinho = " The Special One "


Mourinho proved it again! He can now leave Inter Milan with head high as he earned his carrier second CHAMPIONS LEAGUE with a competent squad. There has been numerous speculations about the former Chelsea coach being called " The Special One" . Many complained about his defensive mind set and tactical approach to game instead of the free flow of football. But the players whom he coached loved it actually. Thats what evident from the emotions shown earlier by Chelsea players and now Inter ones when "Mou" says good bye to Italy conquering all that he can in Italy.

Mourinho's Inter was been in the best of their forms last two years and they have conquered almost everything. And now that the Champions League is also in their bag , Mou is left with nothing to look at. So he is flying high to conquere another domain - The Spanish League , that too with the most prestigious post " COACH OF REAL MADRID" .

Mou won Champions League with his PORTO side years back and then EPL three times with his Chelsea men and now Seria A twice and Champions League with Inter. His acheivements so far justifies why all call him as " The Special One" . No doubt , he is the best tactician in the football world now.

Now that he announced his good bye to Milan and set to join Real Madrid , we will wait and watch how he is going to pull the triggers against the mighty Barca next season.



Bayern Munich 0-2 Inter

Inter have been crowned champions of Europe after they emerged victorious against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. Diego Milito scored twice either side of half time.

The Nerazzurri started on the front foot, trying to take the game to the Germans, but the danger of FCB was evident when Arjen Robben led a counter-attack in the third minute and was quickly brought down by Walter Samuel.

The Argentine then had to make an excellent defensive header to keep Ivica Olic from heading in from close range, before the Italians went on the counter-attack but Wesley Sneijder's through ball crept away from Goran Pandev.

Bayern looked the more comfortable team in possession, biding their time as they looked for an opening. After 10 minutes, Robben was again the instigator of an attack as he took the ball past Cristian Chivu and Walter Samuel before cutting the ball back for Olic, but he couldn't get a shot on target from close range.

Robben was at the centre of most of the early action, and it was the Dutchman's cross on 15 minutes that led to the first major penalty appeal of the evening. Maicon's arm appeared to beat the ball into the box away, but Howard Webb ignored FC Hollywood's protests.

Sneijder brought a good save from Hans-Jorg Butt with a long-range free kick moments later, before Esteban Cambiasso's close-range volley was blocked. The tempo of the game dropped as both teams adopted a more patient approach, but Robben was impatient midway through the half as he snatched at his shot as the ball broke to him on the edge of the box.

With 35 minutes gone, the deadlock was broken emphatically. Julio Cesar's long ball was flicked on to Sneijder by Milito, and the Dutchman played it back to the Argentine who raced into the penalty area, held off two players and clipped the ball over Butt into the roof of the net.

Just before the break, the duo combined again when Sneijder fed Milito as Inter counter-attacked at pace. The striker drew Martin Demichelis towards him before picking out his team-mate in the penalty area with a perfect pass, but Sneijder's shot was straight at Butt.

Bayern should have equalised only seconds after the restart as the Nerazzurri's defence fell apart. Altintop squared a great ball across the box for Thomas Mueller to shoot from 12 yards but Julio Cesar made a good save to parry the ball out.

Barely a minute later, Milito cut the ball back for Pandev to shoot from just inside the penalty area but Butt made a superb save as he flew to his left to tip the ball over the crossbar.

The second half had started in electric fashion; Bastian Schweinsteiger found himself in space 25 yards from goal but chose to pass instead of shoot before Sneijder curled a free kick over the bar from 20 yards. Altintop pulled a shot wide following an error by Lucio in the 54th minute as FC Hollywood tried to get back on level terms as soon as possible.

Little was happening for them in the final third though as they wasted a number of corner kicks, with the pressure of the situation beginning to show. Inter had every man behind the ball when the Germans attacked, forcing them to try and play the perfect pass to open them up.

Bayern had another set piece opportunity when Robben was brought down on the hour mark by a combination of Chivu and Pandev on the edge of the box. The Dutchman's shot was blocked by the cluster of players in the six yard box, and Mueller's follow-up shot also failed to reach Julio Cesar as Cambiasso headed the scuffed effort away.

The Brazilian had to make a save five minutes later though when Robben curled a shot from 20 yards towards the top corner, only to see the keeper tip the ball away magnificently. Daniel van Buyten then showed equally proficient defensive prowess as he stretched his leg to its limit to hook Sneijder's clipped ball away from the onrushing Milito in the penalty area.

Van Buyten could do nothing in the 70th minute, however, as Inter doubled the lead. Eto'o picked out Milito 30 yards from goal, and the Argentine jinked past the defender before opening his body and curling his shot past Butt into the far corner.

Time was rapidly ticking away from van Gaal's side as they struggled to break down the Beneamata's resilient backline. Lucio and Samuel were confidently dealing with the balls into the box, while Zanetti was more capable of dealing with Robben than Chivu after he was moved to left back.

Bayern piled forward in the last 10 minutes in an attempt to salvage something from the final, and in the 82nd minute Schweinsteiger won a free kick 25 yards out in a central position. Robben stepped up to take it, but it was straight into the wall and Inter were able to reorganise.

As the final whistle neared, Mueller tried to take matters into his own hands and clipped a neat ball over the top for Miroslav Klose to head towards goal but it just evaded the substitute and bobbled out for a goal kick.

The referee signalled for three minutes of added time, halfway through which Milito was replaced to a standing ovation from the travelling Inter fans. His brace made the difference on club football's biggest stage, and the final whistle marked the start of a long night of celebrations for the Nerazzurri.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Inter Milan 3-1 Barcelona Highlights


Inter 3-1 Barcelona: The Nerazzurri Storm Back To Stun Holders


Inter came from a goal behind to record a famous victory over European Champions Barcelona at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, as the Italian giants move into pole position to reach the Champions League final.

Pedro had given the Blaugrana an early lead, but the Nerazzurri roared back thanks to goals from Wesley Sneijder, full-back Maicon and Diego Milito, and it is advantage Jose Mourinho heading into the second leg next week.

The pre-match team news saw Pep Guardiola offer Zlatan Ibrahimovic a return to his former stomping ground for the second time this season, after proving his fitness, and the Swede partnered Lionel Messi and Pedro in attack.

Jose Mourinho, meanwhile also employed an offensive formation, with Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o offered capable support by the roving Wesley Sneijder.

The atmosphere crackled from kick-off, and was befitting of the occasion. The Giuseppe Meazza positively rocked, but the home support was left frustrated by a pair of debatable calls in the opening ten minutes.

Firstly, the wily Milito looked to have timed his run perfectly to spring Barcelona’s offside trap, but the assistant referee’s eventual flag for offside was met by a chorus of disdain from the Nerrazzuri faithful. Moments later, they were up in arms once more, as Eto’o looked to have legitimately robbed Maxwell of possession, and he was shown an early booking for kicking the ball away in disgust as play was halted.

Then, we had the first sight of goal of the contest. Samuel Eto’o picked up the ball on the edge of the area, and his curling effort could only be beaten away by Victor Valdes. However, Milito on the follow up slammed his effort straight across goal.

But for their vibrant start, you just cant afford this Barcelona team chances, and the reigning champions hit a hammer blow on the 19th minute.

Maxwell, a former Inter player, was allowed to roam freely to the by-line almost unchallenged, and his cutback landed perfectly at the feet of Pedro, who coolly slotted home from 15 yards.

It was the young winger’s 20th strike of a hugely fruitful campaign, and even this early in the tie, Inter faced a monumental task. They had failed to score against the Blaugrana in the last four meetings, and now they would be forced to chase the game.

However, to the credit of Mourinho’s side, they were undeterred from their game plan. Milito should have perhaps looked to pick out Eto’o but instead curled wide of the post from the corner of the six-yard area.

Moments later, though, The Argentine showed inspired awareness to divert Eto’o’s low cross into the path of Sneijder, who beat Valdes calmly from just inside the area, and the match was level on the half-hour mark.

It was a frenetic opening 45 minutes, in contrast to the closely-fought tactical tussle many had foreseen, but Guardiola’s side sought to slow down the contest as the interval approached. The Catalan side enjoyed a spell of possession, with Xavi at the heart, probing and searching for the slightest gap, but Inter stayed resolute.

At the beginning of the second half, Inter immediately appeared to press further up the pitch in an attempt to allow Barcelona less time to control the pace of the game, and Mourinho watched in satisfaction as his team turned the match on its head.

Milito again peeled away from Pique to pull out wide, and provide the pass into the feet of Maicon. The Brazilian still had plenty of work to do, but his control and volleyed finish was perfect, and he nestled his effort into the corner.

Inter were most definitely in the ascendency, and Barcelona, uncharacteristically, appeared shaken.

However, there was almost an instant response, as the incessant tempo of the match continued unabated. Firstly, Messi stung the gloves of Julio Cesar with a long range shot, then Sergio Busquets somehow headed straight at the Brazilian number one from just six yards out.

But Inter were hugely impressive throughout the contest, and their comeback from going behind so early on was complete when Diego Milito added a deserved third.

Thiago Motta started another Inter counter-attack from deep in his own half, picking out Samuel Eto’o on the wing. His cross found Sneijder arriving late, but while his effort looked to be heading off target, Milito was in the right place to simply nod into the net past the exposed Valdes.

It was 3-1 – Barcelona’s players looked around in disbelief; it was the first time this season they have conceded more than twice in a single match.

Guradiola’s response was to remove the utterly ineffective Ibrahimovic, who barely touched the ball during the entire match, and bring on Eric Abidal and reshuffle his side.

Barcelona were the dominant force in the closing stages, knowing that another away goal would swing the pendulum back in their favour. Gerard Pique camped in the Nerazzuri penalty area, causing havoc, and on a number of occasions almost found the killer touch to net a vital consolation.

Then, controversy. Daniel Alves stumbled under the challenge of Wesley Sneijder, and it appeared to be a cast-iron penalty kick. However, the referee booked Alves for simulation, to the disbelief of the Brazilian.

Barcelona continued to attack, throwing forward wave after wave, but the damage had already been inflicted, and in the end it was a famous night for Inter and their coach Jose Mourinho.

However, this tie is far from over yet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who is it gonna be Mourinho or Guardiola ?


As Inter Milan and Barcelona meets each other on 20 th April at Camp Nou for first leg of Champions League semi finals , all eyes will be on two charismatic managers of the season Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Guardiola have been leading the invincible Barcelona squad last two seasons with alot of glory. While Mourinho who joined Inter last season is gleaming with confidence as his side defeated his previous club Chelsea in the pre quarters and CSKA Moskov in the quarter finals.

                                              The Barcelona side has a mental edge as they are coming after a 2-0 comprehensive victory against Real Madrid in the El Classico meet and also thrashing Arsenal for 4-1 in the second leg of quarter finals. With Messi and Xavi at the best of their form , Pep Guardiola expects his side to secure its place in finals or the consecutive second time.

                                                               But the task won't be that easy as Barcelona has to face "The Special One's " Inter Milan. Mourinho has been famous for his tactical brilliance and grace that he transfers to his team. But the recent failures in Serie A could make some amount of tension in the Italian Squad. Mou is very much confident about his side and he beleives the former Barcelona man Eto is going to be the key. Also the in form Snjider can pose a great threat to Barcelona defence.

                                                                    Who ever wins , it is going to be a great football match we are going to watch on April 20th. Lets see who over takes whom.

Key Players :
Barcelona :
        * Messi
        * Xavi

Inter Milan
         * Eto
        * Snjider

United buckle under Bayern strain


Manchester United 3-2 Bayern Munich

FC Bayern München fought back from three goals down on the night to oust Manchester United FC from the UEFA Champions League on away goals.

On a pulsating evening, United stormed into a three-goal lead through Darron Gibson and a Nani double. Yet Ivica Olić's goal just before the break raised Bayern hopes and after Rafael's 50th-minute dismissal, the Bundesliga leaders capitalised on the extra man thanks to a stunning Arjen Robben volley 16 minutes from time.

It was a repeat of the Dutchman's decisive goal in the identical away-goals win against ACF Fiorentina in the last 16 and means Bayern can look forward to their first semi-final since 2001, the year of their last European crown when they also beat United at this stage.

The home fans had a lift before kick-off with the news that Wayne Rooney would be starting, just days after Sir Alex Ferguson had said he faced "two to three weeks" out with the ankle injury sustained in the first leg.

United then made a dream start with a third-minute goal involving two other surprise names on the team sheet. Rafael, in for Gary Neville, dispossessed Franck Ribéry and played the ball to Rooney, who laid it on to Gibson. The Northern Irishman, making only his second start of 2010, side-footed a low shot inside the near post from the edge of the box for his first UEFA Champions League goal.

By the seventh minute United were two up. Antonio Valencia teased Holger Badstuber out on the right before driving in a low cross that Nani, ghosting beyond the Bayern back line, turned in with a cute flick of his heel. Michael Carrick, with a shot, and Rooney, a header, then went close with Bayern struggling to live with the pace of United's play, even with Rooney now hobbling. They duly made it 3-0 as Valencia broke down the right and crossed for Nani to drive the ball high into the net.

Two minutes later, however, Bayern pulled a goal back through Olić, their first-leg matchwinner. Latching onto Thomas Müller's flicked header, the Croatian shrugged aside Michael Carrick and beat Edwin van der Sar from a tight angle. Louis van Gaal sent on Mario Gómez for Müller at the interval and within minutes Bayern found themselves with a man advantage when Rafael collected a second yellow for pulling back Ribéry.

With Rooney making way for John O'Shea, Bayern pressed for a second and Van der Sar punched clear a Ribéry drive just before the hour before Gómez skimmed the crossbar with a header. It was not all one-way traffic, not with United's counterattacking threat – twice Butt saved well from Nani, while Carrick and Gibson spurned half-chances.

With 16 minutes remaining, though, Robben broke United's resistance by levelling the aggregate scores at 4-4. Ribéry's corner found him on the edge of the box and the Dutchman drove the ball on the volley across a helpless Van der Sar and into the far corner. For United, the dream of a third successive final was over.

Lyon hold firm to oust Bordeaux


Bordeaux 1-0 Lyon

Olympique Lyonnais withstood a barrage of pressure to clinch a gritty aggregate win against FC Girondins de Bordeaux and book their place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time.

Leading 3-1 from the first leg, the visitors defended with fierce determination to protect their advantage, although it took another sensational Hugo Lloris save in the closing moments to ultimately seal the triumph. Marouane Chamakh had halved the deficit with his fifth European goal of the season just before the break, setting up a thrilling second half in which Les Girondins poured forward relentlessly. Lyon stood firm, however, thus ensuring they will compete in a semi-final after falling in the last eight three times in the previous six years.

Les Marine et Blanc entered the contest boasting a perfect home record in this season's competition yet three defeats from their last three outings was clearly playing on the French champions' confidence. As Laurent Blanc's men struggled to find their passing game, OL warmed to the task and twice threatened to extend their aggregate lead early on. Michel Bastos rifled a powerful free-kick narrowly wide and Bafétimbi Gomis nodded César Delgado's corner over before the hosts gradually got a foothold.

Not surprisingly, when Bordeaux stirred on 18 minutes the danger came from a free-kick. Wendel's superb delivery from the right drew Lloris off his line but Yoann Gourcuff failed to add to Bordeaux's 11 set-piece goals this term, glancing his header over. The opening brought the crowd to life, though, and suddenly the momentum was firmly with Bordeaux. Only a series of towering headers from Cris kept Claude Puel's side afloat as Benoît Trémoulinas and Wendel fizzed over crosses from either flank.

Les Girondins were out of luck on 44 minutes when former Lyon midfielder Alou Diarra thundered a dipping volley against the crossbar from distance, although the home fans were soon celebrating. Seconds before the interval, the marauding Trémoulinas collected Jussiê's return ball on the left, surged to the byline, and when Jaroslav Plašil flicked on his near-post cross, Chamakh was on hand to force in his second goal of the tie from close range.

If Les Gones were struggling to create chances without their suspended talisman Lisandro, his replacement Gomis was quick to show in the second half. Directly from the restart, the French international broke free on the right side of the penalty area and evaded the advancing Cédric Carrasso, only to shoot tamely at covering defender Marc Planus from a testing angle.

Bastos then fired a volley wide before the French champions seized control and threw everything at Lyon in the last half-hour. Chamakh was a constant menace yet with Cris and Jean-Alain Boumsong typically combative, the Moroccan international could not forge a clear opportunity. Bordeaux always looked capable of scoring the all-important second from a set piece, but for once their favoured weapon failed to deliver. Ludovic Sané headed Gourcuff's corner wide with ten minutes remaining and Lloris pulled off a stunning save from Wendel's header on 87 minutes as time ran out on Bordeaux.

Magical Messi makes light work of Arsenal


Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal
It required a performance of absolute brilliance and four wonderful goals from Lionel Messi but FC Barcelona underlined their status as European champions by sweeping past Arsenal FC to advance to a semi-final against FC Internazionale Milano.

Even after falling behind to Nicklas Bendtner's early goal on the counterattack, Barça built on last week's impressive display in north London as Messi contributed a sumptuous 22-minute hat-trick and added a fourth two minutes from time. The 6-3 aggregate scoreline took the UEFA Champions League titleholders into the semi-finals for the third year in a row and will also give food for though to José Mourinho, whose Inter side now face the task of stopping the Barça juggernaut in the last four.

The visitors had started full of self-belief and intensity of purpose, unfazed by Barça's attacking arsenal. Abou Diaby combined telescopic tackling with lung-busting runs, and that earned his team their 18th-minute breakthrough. The Arsenal midfielder robbed Gabriel Milito on the halfway line, Theo Walcott sprinted down the right and passed towards Bendtner. Daniel Alves arrived in time to block and Victor Valdés pawed away the loose ball, but the Dane was up quickest to prod in.

By then it had already taken a fine fingertip save from Almunia to turn away a Messi drive. It was obvious the inspirational Argentinian wanted to appear in a third successive semi-final, and he duly took matters into his own hands. Three minutes after Bendtner's strike, Messi's attempted pass bounced back off Mickäel Silvestre so he simply crashed a left-footed drive high past Manuel Almunia from outside the box.

After the power came the finesse as the European champions started to find their passing rhythm. Eight minutes before the break that culminated in Messi sending Eric Abidal through and, though Thomas Vermaelen got a foot to the left-back's low cross, Pedro Rodríguez tapped the loose ball to Messi. One touch to take him free of a challenge and the next to dink over Almunia and Barcelona were in control.

Two become three when Arsenal were caught pushing up. Seydou Keita headed a loose ball into the path of Messi and the No10 was bearing down on Almunia again. Once more the Spanish goalkeeper was reduced to the role of helpless spectator as the 22-year-old deftly scooped the ball up and over his dive to complete his hat-trick in style.

Although Messi's play was sublime Arsenal continued to push Barcelona close to their limit, Diaby and Denilson striving to contain Xavi Hernàndez. Josep Guardiola's side lost Abidal, in his second comeback match after seven weeks out injured, Maxwell coming on, and the home coach added a tactical change with Bojan Krkić being replaced by Yaya Touré.

Arsenal would not concede defeat and although both were offside, Bendtner and Walcott hit the woodwork with efforts which showed the spirit in Arsène Wenger's team. It was their misfortune to come up against a team at their imperious best, and Messi underlined that with one last flourish in the 88th minute, rounding Vermaelen and Gaël Clichy before clipping past Almunia at the second attempt – only the sixth time a player has scored four goals in a UEFA Champions League match.

Sneijder strike takes Inter into semis


InterMilan 1-0 CSKA Moskov
Wesley Sneijder's early free-kick was the key to FC Internazionale Milano ending their seven-year wait to return to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Already a goal down from last week's trip to Milan, PFC CSKA Moskva were left needing to score three after Sneijder, a doubt before kick-off with an ankle injury, found the target. A CSKA comeback never looked likely, especially after substitute Chidi Odiah's 49th-minute red card, and Inter take on familair opponents from the group stage, holders FC Barcelona, on 20 and 28 April with the first leg at home.

The suspensions of Evgeni Aldonin and the hugely influential Miloš Krasić meant starts for Mark González and Alan Dzagoev with Keisuke Honda moved into a defensive midfield position but that did not stop the Japanese international having an early effort just wide. However, just six minutes were on the clock when Inter broke the deadlock, Sneijder sending a low free-kick beneath the leaping Honda and past the bamboozled Igor Akinfeev.

That was a cue for an early CSKA change with Odiah replacing Vasili Berezutski, who had hurt his leg in the warm-up. Odiah had the freedom to push forward and found Tomaš Necid on the edge of the box to put a shot just past the post.

CSKA were certainly pressing an Inter defence strengthened by the return of Lucio after a first-leg suspension and restricting their hosts to long-range efforts, notably several Honda free-kicks that sailed over and an Odiah effort that Júlio César was forced to tip wide. One flowing move set Dzagoev free in the box but he slipped, allowing Inter to break and first-leg goalscorer Diego Milito to test Akinfeev.

Only four minutes into the second half, CSKA's task was made harder when Odiah's foul on Samuel Eto'o earned the substitute a second yellow card. Still the home side were doing more of the attacking and they came close when Honda cross from the right just eluded the overhead kick of Dzagoev but fell nicely to González, whose effort was matched by Júlio César's save.

Gradually, though, the ten men of CSKA seemed to tire and Inter began to have chances. Akinfeev denied Sneijder from distance and moments later produced an excellent diving stop to block Dejan Stanković's swerving drive. Milito then shot straight at the goalkeeper and soon after was sent clear only for Akinfeev to again stand firm.

Mario Balotelli replaced Milito as Inter became more and more dominant, CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky trying to refresh things by bringing on Elvir Rahimić for Honda. Stanković shot fractionally wide and Sergei Ignashevich's last-gasp tackle denied Eto'o as he jinked into a goalscoring position, but the tie was already secure for the visitors.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Quarter Finals First Leg Results


Lyon 3-1 Bordeaux

 Two goals from Lisandro ensured Olympique Lyonnais have a wonderful opportunity to reach their first ever UEFA Champions League semi-final after Claude Puel's team got the better of domestic rivals FC Girondins de Bordeaux in a pulsating game.

Bordeaux's chances of an eighth straight victory in the competition diminished in the tenth minute when Lisandro opened the scoring, and though Marouane Chamakh quickly levelled, Michel Bastos re-established the hosts' advantage before the break. Although Laurent Blanc's team rallied in the second half, Hugo Lloris was in stunning form, and when he was beaten the crossbar denied Wendel an equaliser. Lisandro's 76th-minute penalty capped a wonderful night for Lyon, soured only by the yellow cards picked up by Lisandro and Sidney Govou who will miss the second leg in south-west France on 7 April.
Bayern Munich 2-1 Manchester United 
Ivica Olić struck in the dying seconds as FC Bayern München turned the tables on Manchester United FC to gain the upper hand in their quarter-final tie.
Olic Struck in the death to claim a win
Bayern suffered one of the UEFA Champions League's most dramatic reversals at the hands of United in the 1999 final, but got a measure of revenge with Olić's goal deep into added time. United looked set to maintain their 100% away record in the competition this season after Wayne Rooney fired home with less than two minutes gone. Franck Ribéry, though, levelled 13 minutes from time when his free-kick ricocheted off Rooney before Olić seized the initiative for Bayern ahead of next Wednesday's second leg at Old Trafford.

Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona
Arsenal FC mounted an unlikely comeback in the final quarter to fight back from two goals down against FC Barcelona and keep alive their chances of reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-finals in a pulsating contest.

The holders were at their scintillating best from the first minute, and only an inspired display from Manuel Almunia in the home goal kept the scoresheet blank at the break, only for Zlatan Ibrahimović to finally beat the goalkeeper with a fine chipped finish less than 60 seconds after half-time.

The same player doubled the advantage 13 minutes later but substitute Theo Walcott's 69th-minute effort brought the Gunners back into the contest. Five minutes from time they were level when Carles Puyol was sent off for bringing down Cesc Fàbregas, the Arsenal captain – who will miss next week's second leg after his booking here – making no mistake with the resulting penalty to level the tie.

Inter Milan 1-0 CSKA Moskva
FC Internazionale Milano will be hopeful of reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time in seven years after overcoming PFC CSKA Moskva at San Siro, but a fine performance from goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev means Diego Milito's goal is all that separates the sides.
Millito made the victory for Inter
Milito scored midway through the second half after a sustained spell of Nerazzurri pressure, but Inter may rue a succession of late chances that could have given them more daylight. Akinfeev was largely responsible for that, though suspensions to Miloš Krasić and Evgeni Aldonin, who both picked up bookings, could prove just as telling in the second leg.

Inter Milan , CSKA Moskva , Barcelona and Bordeaux go into Quarter Finals as Chelsea crashes out


Inter Milan 1-0 Chelsea
José Mourinho said he is "the happiest person on earth" after guiding FC Internazionale Milano into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of his former club, Chelsea FC. Although the Inter coach believed the visitors were "the best team by far" throughout the 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge − secured by Samuel Eto'o's 78th-minute goal − Mourinho urged caution by stressing that the "road to Madrid is still long". Counterpart Carlo Ancelotti admitted the Nerazzurri were deserved winners because of the way they pressurised his players into mistakes.

CSKA Moskva 2-1 Sevilla
As Manuel Jiménez reflected on a "disastrous" defeat for his Sevilla FC side, PFC CSKA Moskva counterpart Leonid Slutsky was typically phlegmatic. His Army Men marked their first appearance in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages by booking a quarter-final place, but the coach preferred to reserve judgment. He did praise his players for keeping their heads after Diego Perotti had cancelled out Tomáš Necid's opener, however, "controlling the course of the game" after Keisuke Honda's 55th-minute effort restored their advantage.

Barcelona 4-0 Stuttgart
Josep Guardiola hailed his FC Barcelona side's "great intensity", VfB Stuttgart's Christian Gross their exhilarating pace, but in the end one man dominated both coaches' thoughts – Lionel Messi. After Messi scored two and set up another goal in the 4-0 win at the Camp Nou, Gross compared the 22-year-old to Diego Maradona while Guardiola called him "simply the best".

Bordeaux 2-1 Olympiacos
Laurent Blanc was left breathing a sigh of relief after FC Girondins de Bordeaux were made to sweat for a UEFA Champions League quarter-finals place, Kostas Mitroglou cancelling out Yoann Gourcuff's opener midway through the second half to set up a tense finale. With each team down to ten men after Matt Derbyshire and Alou Diarra had been dismissed, home nerves were not settled until Marouane Chamakh's clinching late header which left Blanc "wholly satisfied" and opposite number Božidar Bandović bemoaning a lack of belief.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mourinho confident of glory at Stamford Bridge


José Mourinho will be the centre of attention when FC Internazionale Milano visit his former club Chelsea FC in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie. The coach, though, hopes his players steal the limelight as they seek to press home a 2-1 advantage and reach the quarter-finals for the first time in four years.

"The good thing is that I don't have far to walk," he told as he looked forward to Tuesday's encounter. "From the dressing room to the bench is five metres – I don't have to cross the stadium, I don't have to feel the emotions and reactions from the crowd. I will just sit there and play my game.

"The players play on the pitch, I play outside," he continued. "They are much more important than me, because on the pitch you win matches, not on the bench. But I will be there with my heart fully on either side. That's what a professional does. I don't hide that Chelsea are a very important part of my life."

Mourinho can nonetheless be confident of getting the required result in west London. As Chelsea manager, he went 60 league games unbeaten at Stamford Bridge and won back-to-back Premier League titles. He also claimed the Scudetto in his first year in Milan last season, although the Nerazzurri fell short in the UEFA Champions League – losing to Manchester United FC at this stage. Mourinho, a European champion with FC Porto in 2004, believes Inter are now better placed to advance, because "year after year, the tendency is to improve".

"If the coach does well and the club supports [him], and this is the case; we always modify to improve," the 47-year-old explained. "We bought a few players, the type of player we did not have last year – a purely creative attacking midfielder in Wesley Snijder. We have more solutions in attack with [Diego] Milito, [Samuel] Eto'o and [Goran] Pandev.

"Of course we lost Zlatan Ibrahimović, but with these three players we have more solutions and more options. Also, Lucio is the type of central defender we didn't have – tall, strong in the air. I think we are more adapted to the needs of the modern game."

Lucio was outstanding in the 2-1 defeat of Chelsea on 24 February, keeping a close watch on Didier Drogba, while Sneijder, a close-season capture from Real Madrid CF, also caught the eye. "He is an Ajax player, and normally Ajax players – with the coaching they have since they are kids – are technically superb," Mourinho said.

"The left and right foot are exactly the same, the way they think about football is very smart, and they have their eyes open to read the game. It is the consequence of the youth work in that beautiful culture that is Ajax. [At Inter] now there is a structure that can give Sneijder the freedom to play as he likes. Sometimes I think he is a striker because he has so much freedom to play. Here he has found the environment to express his potential."

Inter's improvement is not just down to recruitment. According to Mourinho, they are also mentally stronger. January's derby victory against AC Milan was one example – achieved despite finishing the game with nine men. The 4-3 win against AC Siena was another marker, resulting from a stoppage-time goal by a centre-back, Walter Samuel, playing as a centre-forward. Even the goalless draw with UC Sampdoria on 20 February, when Inter played with nine men for more than an hour, showed an ability to a grind out results.

"The Siena match is a good example of what we are," Mourinho said. "We were losing and scored the equaliser for 3-3 in the 91st minute. A normal team, normal players and coaches, would have said: 'Okay, we did it, we have a point, we did not lose, it's done.' But I was shouting to the players: 'Three minutes to go, three more minutes.' You can win or you can lose. We won.

"Samuel was asking me, 'Do I go back?' My reply was, 'No, don't go back – stay up for three more minutes and see what happens.' It was my decision, but a coach can only be arrogant, can only have this winning mentality, if he knows the players' response is good." The Portuguese recognises, however, that not even a winning mentality will guarantee UEFA Champions League glory.

"It's really about details – lucky or unlucky in the draw, if the ball that hits the post goes in or out, the player that is suspended and cannot play a crucial game, the timing of injuries whereby a team goes into a game missing two or three key players, a refereeing decision that can go for or against you. Of course, only a very good team can win the Champions League, but I can find seven, eight, nine teams who can win the competition. It's so hard to predict."

Bayern 2-3 Florentina ( Agg 4-4 )


Cesare Prandelli was left to ponder how his ACF Fiorentina team managed to win six out of the eight UEFA Champions League games and still get eliminated on away goals. The difference, he concluded, was FC Bayern München's superior experience, though counterpart Louis van Gaal warned his side would not get away with so "many individual errors" in the quarter-finals.

Cesare Prandelli, Fiorentina coach
I have always said that when we have a full squad available we can do great things. We have only had problems [this season] when we have had a crisis with injuries. Vargas was injured but showed great spirit to play and score anyway. We are out of the competition despite winning six games out of eight and facing teams superior to us on paper.

We should really have defended better after twice taking a two-goal lead; most likely [Bayern's] experience at this level made the difference. I congratulated and thanked the whole team as I could not have asked for more tonight. I'm proud of what we achieved in the Champions League this term.

Louis van Gaal, Bayern coach
Under those circumstances [the strong winds] we played some good football, but made too many individual mistakes, especially at the back. It was not easy for us in this weather, but wasn't easy for Fiorentina either. We should have used the space better in the last ten minutes and really, we performed better than a 3-2 defeat suggests. But we made too many individual errors, which made life difficult.

Franck Ribéry put in a strong performance in the second half but for the second goal he did not mark his opponent. He played a big part in that success by brilliantly setting up our first goal. But today, we have also seen what we are still lacking. We have to improve on that. We can play a dominant game, but we did not do so over 90 minutes today, the way we should. But we are through, and in the end that's what counts

Arsenal thrashes Porto ( Arsenal 5-0 Porto [ agg 6-2] )


Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger played down talk of perfection but nevertheless reflected on "a very good performance" as Nicklas Bendtner scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 defeat of FC Porto which spectacularly overturned a 2-1 first-leg deficit. The Frenchman is already looking ahead to the 19 March draw for the quarter-finals, and a potential meeting with another English club; opposite number Jesualdo Ferreira could only look back and pinpoint Arsenal's ruthlessness as the source of his team's demise.

Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager
It's never perfect but that was a very good performance, very strong. We had a very good first half. They played well for ten to 15 minutes at the start of the second, but after Nasri scored the third goal that made a big difference; from then on it was easy. Nasri's goal was individual brilliance but overall it was a good, solid team performance.

The hat-trick shows how quickly football changes. [Bendtner] played well on Saturday without scoring and had less chances today and scored three goals. I hope it will give him the desire to work even harder. I don't know [about the quarter-finals] but have a funny feeling that it would be good for us to play an English team. We haven't done well against Chelsea and Man United this year and it would be a good opportunity to put that right.

Jesualdo Ferreira, Porto coach
We started well but Arsenal capitalised on our mistakes. The result looks harsh given how the game developed; they took advantage of almost all their chances and we didn't take advantage of ours. We had to do what we could because at this stage it's about goals and not points. We had to attack to try to score but this made it easy for them to take advantage as they're a very talented and mature squad.

We could have closed down the spaces and defended better but we had to play our game and push. We made mistakes which were unusual for this team but we were never lucky at crucial moments and they didn't make the same mistakes we did.

Lyon puts the 'Million Dollar Baby' out of Champions League { Real Madrid 1-1 Lyon (agg 1-2) }


Claude Puel was basking in a "great achievement" as Miralem Pjanić's late goal took Olympique Lyonnais into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of Real Madrid CF. Cristiano Ronaldo's early opener had revived home hopes of reaching the final at the Santiago Bernabéu on 22 May but instead Manuel Pellegrini could only ponder a "very big setback".

Claude Puel, Lyon coach
It's a great achievement, especially considering how the game started. We escaped a disaster in the first half. The early goal lifted Madrid's confidence and put us on the back foot. That meant the first half was tough, and half-time was too. [Jean-Alain] Boumsong and [Jean II] Makoun had to be substituted with groin injuries, and Lisandro also had a problem but he was able to last the whole game. The substitutes were key, they did a fine job. We changed the system and totally reshuffled the team. Mire [Pjanić] moved up to support Lisandro and that made us more fluid. On top of that, he scored the goal.

The first leg was good and we did the same job in the second leg. We were in trouble as they played quickly from deep, and had a bit of luck when they hit the post. We changed the system in the second half and played ten metres higher as Madrid were tiring having produced lots of effort before the break. We were more fluid, there was more quality in our game. We could play wider and made them run as they enjoy having the ball at their feet. When you look at the second half, we deserved to go through. This squad is writing its own story. We must now go on.

Manuel Pellegrini, Madrid coach
The first responsibility is mine, but we have to overcome this blow and keep fighting for the Liga title. It is a very big setback. We played well in the first half but had two chances and failed to convert them. After the break the team were growing anxious until the Lyon goal came. It was a dream for all of us to play the final at the Bernabéu. The players are hurt by a painful elimination, but we have to lift our mood and keep working. That's all I can do; keep working. It's a big blow but we must look ahead.

We had a great first half and could have scored a second. That would have opened Lyon's defence and made things easier. In the second half we tried more individual actions but that was because we were concerned about it only being 1-0, and then we began to feel the effort of the first half. The chances we missed in the first half are really to blame. It's a very strong setback suffered by Madrid for the sixth consecutive season but we have to keep fighting.

Manchester United 4-0 AC Milan ( Agg 7-2 )


Sir Alex Ferguson was in bullish mood after watching his Manchester United FC side overwhelm AC Milan 4-0 at Old Trafford, inspired by the "sensational" Wayne Rooney. Counterpart Leonardo bemoaned a succession of injuries but conceded the better side had won and is already turning attention to the Rossoneri's Serie A title ambitions. For United it is onto next Friday's draw, though for Sir Alex it "doesn't matter who we play next".

Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
It was a marvellous second-half performance. We got the break with the early goal in the second half and after that we played very well. When we play with that tempo we're difficult to play against; it was a solid United performance.

It's a challenge [for Wayne Rooney to beat Cristiano Ronaldo's 42-goal haul of 2007/08]. I was happy with him getting to 30 to be honest with you. He just keeps improving and tonight again he was sensational. Ji-Sung Park showed sacrifice, intelligence and discipline and we needed that against [Andrea] Pirlo because he's a very good player for them. With the kind of team we've got it doesn't matter who we play next.

Leonardo, Milan coach
We will have to analyse many things about the game but this is not the time to do it. We deserved something more in the first leg but this time around United's victory was clearly deserved. They had a brilliant start, scored early on and everything became easier for them.

We did some good things in the Champions League this season. I thought we had a chance after our first-leg performance but we were up against a very good side. We lost [Alessandro] Nesta a few hours ahead of the game, than his replacement [Daniele] Bonera in the first half. I took a risk by fielding [Massimo] Ambrosini in defence, but it didn't pay off.

It will be impossible to quickly put this game behind us but we are just four points adrift of Inter in Serie A with 11 games to play and we have to try to catch them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Arsenal lose Ramsey to broken leg


Arsenal FC have confirmed that midfielder Aaron Ramsey will miss the remainder of this season after sustaining "fractures to the tibia and fibula in his right leg" in Saturday's win at Stoke City FC.
UEFA Champions League hopefuls Arsenal FC will be denied the services of Aaron Ramsey for the rest of the season after the midfielder suffered a broken leg in his team's 3-1 win at Stoke City FC on Saturday.

Ramsey, 19, was taken to hospital immediately after leaving the field on a stretcher in the 71st minute following a challenge by Ryan Shawcross. "During yesterday's match against Stoke City, Aaron Ramsey sustained fractures to the tibia and fibula in his right leg," read an official statement by Arsenal. "Yesterday evening he underwent surgery. The operation successfully reduced the fractures and whilst it is too soon to state an exact timescale for recovery, Aaron will certainly miss the remainder of this season."

The victory took the Gunners within three points of Chelsea FC at the Premier League summit and they will look to overturn a 2-1 deficit when they host FC Porto in their UEFA Champions League first knockout round decider on 9 March.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Inter Milan beats Chelsea while CSKA holds Sevilla


Chelsea 1-2 Inter Milan
José Mourinho's employers earned the edge against his former club thanks to Diego Milito and Esteban Cambiasso goals after Salomon Kalou had equalised.
Four minutes after Kalou's shot had escaped Júlio César, Cambiasso unleashed two thunderous shots; Branislav Ivanović blocked the first, the second was unstoppable.The win was Inter's first in six matches against Premier League opposition – although the Nerazzurri have been beaten on their last two visits to England.
Wesley Sneijder and his marker Ivanović played a key role in all three goals, their intelligence and incisive run respectively setting up the chances.Lucio's superb tackle and raking crossfield pass to Sneijder set Inter on the attack, the ball being worked to Samuel Eto'o only for the striker to miscue in front of goal.
Inter will be optimistic of avoiding a fourth successive first knockout round defeat although Chelsea have won their last three home games against Serie A sides.

CSKA Moskva 1-1 Sevilla

Álvaro Negredo put Sevilla in front against the run of play but CSKA were on top after half-time and were rewarded with Mark González's spectacular 66th-minute equaliser.After González had finally rewarded CSKA's pressure, they looked the likelier winners and only a fine Andrés Palop save to deny Tomáš Necid late on kept the scores level.
Vasili Berezutski and Miloš Krasić made their 50th appearances in UEFA club competition; both have played in all seven of CSKA's games this season.Navas and González were lively on the same wing, the former providing dangerous crosses from the Sevilla right and the Chilean threatening on CSKA's left.
On a cold Moscow evening, the home crowd gave CSKA vocal backing although it was not until González's stunning 25-metre strike, that they had tangible reward.CSKA won at FC Barcelona on their only previous visit to Spain and will need to score at least once on 16 March at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán to stay in the competition.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bordeaux 1-0 Olympiacos


FC Girondins de Bordeaux are within sight of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time as Michaël Ciani's header in first-half added time earned a narrow but vital victory at Olympiacos FC.

Laurent Blanc's team, who collected the most points of the 32 teams in the group stage, continued their impressive form in the competition by soaking up long spells of home pressure and snatching the win with Ciani's third goal of the season two minutes into added time at the end of the first period. Bordeaux twice reached the last eight of the European Champion Clubs' Cup in the 1980s, and will be optimistic of completing the job at the Stade Chaban-Delmas on 17 March.

Olympiacos had booked their place in the last 16 by finishing second in Group H thanks largely to their home form and, roared on by a typically passionate crowd, were quick to press for a seventh UEFA Champions League victory in as many matches in Piraeus this season. Olof Mellberg threatened first, heading Jesús Alberto Dátolo's right-wing free-kick just wide after four minutes. Olympiacos wingers Dátolo and Lomana LuaLua saw plenty of possession in the early exchanges and both men had Bordeaux on the back foot with their pace and trickery.

Although the visitors had little opportunity to display their attacking prowess – Fernando's fierce long-range drive drawing the first save from Antonis Nikopoldis in the home goal after 26 minutes – Olympiacos had no such problems, thoroughly testing a Bordeaux defence that conceded just twice in the group stage. Cédric Carrasso tipped an Ieroklis Stoltidis header over his crossbar and, just as it seemed the home team could be satisfied with their first-half display, the French champions struck seconds before half-time. Again it was a set-piece goal, Yoann Gourcuff delivering a free-kick from the left and Ciani muscling ahead of the home defence to nod in.

Gourcuff had another free-kick opportunity at the start of the second half but this time the wall blocked his kick, before Ciani got on the end of a corner only to head too high this time. Olympiacos, however, missed a golden opportunity to level just before the hour, Enzo Maresca meeting Raúl Bravo's cross firmly but inaccurately, heading over Carrasso's crossbar, but that proved a rare opening for the home team, who struggled to penetrate the Bordeaux defence despite Božidar Bandović replacing defensive midfielder Cristian Ledesma with winger Jaouad Zairi in an attempt to add impetus to his attack.

With 14 minutes left, the Olympiacos coach threw on Matt Derbyshire, who made an instant impression with a neat lay-off for LuaLua to unleash a low shot that was brilliantly kept out by Carrasso. The Bordeaux goalkeeper then tipped over another effort from the Congolese striker, although from the resulting corner he was grateful for Benoît Trémoulinas clearing Vassilis Torosidis's effort off the goalline. There was still time for Carrasso to deny LuaLua again, the goalkeeper's instinctive block repelling another close-range header to preserve Bordeaux's advantage.

Barcelona 1-1 Stuttgart


Stuttgart almost recorded a sensational victory over European champions Barcelona in the Champions League, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalised Cacau's opener to share the spoils ahead of the round of 16 second leg.

The line-ups contained few surprises, with Cacau continuing alongside Pavel Pogrebnyak for Stuttgart after his four-goal haul against Koeln at the weekend. Andres Iniesta started on the left of the Barcelona front three in preference to Thierry Henry.
Lionel Messi ran into the area early on, looking set to fire a left foot shot after cutting back. But he lost his footing completely and on the counter-attack Pogrebnyak was denied by Rafael Marquez as he looked to get a shot in at Victor Valdes.

Stuttgart made a decent chance on 12 minutes when Cristian Molinaro drove forward before feeding Cacau, but the in-form striker couldn’t quite tee himself up and ended up completely mis-hitting his effort at goal.

At the other end it was the usual story, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Messi each being denied by last-ditch tackles as the home side looked to defend deep against the marauding Catalans.

Ibrahimovic became goal-saver on 23 minutes, when he flicked away a right wing corner, before getting in front of Delpierre at the far post when the ball was swung back in. The Swede got a bang on the nose for his troubles, but he’d done his job.

But that chance had come as part of a real period of pressure from Stuttgart, and they deservedly took the lead in the 25th minute. Aliaksandr Hleb made good progress on the right, allowing Gebhart to cross delightfully towards the far post, where Cacau rose above Carles Puyol to power an unstoppable header past Victor Valdes and send the home crowd into raptures.

Within four minutes the Germans were hoping for a second when Pogrebnyak chipped a cross in the direction of the six-yard box, but the ball caught Marquez on the arm. Referee Kuipers rightly waved away appeals, deciding that the Mexican had little time to move his arm away as the ball came in.

Stuttgart continued to dominate and Cacau almost became provider when he brilliantly shrugged off Marquez before drawing Gerard Pique and playing a low ball into the six-yard box, but Puyol covered well. Khedira then had his own chance for a second when he got clear of Puyol on the left, but his quickly-taken toe-prod was blocked by Valdes.

The dominance of the home side was becoming almost embarrassing, as Hleb dispossessed Marquez deep in his own half and played a low ball for Christian Trasch, whose scuffed cross-shot spun across goal, escaping both attackers and defenders on its way out of play.

Despite the one-way traffic, Stuttgart almost gave up their lead five minutes before the interval when Jens Lehmann failed to hold a fairly weak left-foot shot from Messi and the ball spun out of his grasp and against the post, allowing the former Arsenal keeper to scramble back to collect gratefully.

The home side had without doubt deserved their half-time lead, but it lasted less than seven minutes after the break, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally registering his first goal in a Champions League knockout fixture.

As everyone retreated from a Barca corner, Sergio Busquets played the ball back in to the far post for Pique to head down for Ibrahimovic, and after the Swede’s first shot came back off Lehmann, he side-footed home with ease to bring the European champions level.

There were then attacks back and forth as Stuttgart looked to regain their advantage without risking a potentially fatal second Barca goal. The visitors introduced Gabriel Milito in place of Rafael Marquez at the back, knowing that the Mexican’s presence could be very important come the return leg.

There was a moment of real controversy on 68 minutes when Barcelona had a possible claim for a penalty. Lehmann failed to collect a left-wing cross, allowing Ibrahimovic to turn and shoot, but his goalbound shot was blocked on the line by the upper arm of Molinaro. The referee waved away the Catalans’ appeals, presumably believing it to have been another case of ball to hand.

Moments later, Molinaro broke through a crowd of players in the box to reach the byline before pulling back towards Cacau, but Valdes managed to claim the striker’s stab towards goal at the second attempt.

There followed a period of stalemate, as both teams seemed increasingly aware of their need to maintain the status quo at the very least ahead of the second leg in the Camp Nou.

Stuttgart had a late opportunity to take a lead to Barcelona when substitute Marica was tugged back by Pique on the edge of the box. The defender was shown a yellow card and the set-piece was drilled in by Kuzmanovic, but Valdes managed to hold on with attackers running in looking to take advantage of any slip up.

There was still enough time for Khedira to pick up a booking for a poor challenge on Lionel Messi which brought a strong reaction from Ibrahimovic.

Bayern 2-1 Fiorentina


Miroslav Klose headed a last-minute winner as Bayern saw off a Viola side who had Massimo Gobbi dismissed (73) after Per Krøldrup cancelled Arjen Robben's opener.
Bayern were bracing themselves for an awkward half-time team talk when Krøldrup halted Franck Ribéry in added time – Tom Henning Øvrebø pointed to the spot.
Louis van Gaal's side had scored at least three goals in each of their last five matches but two were enough to extend their winning run to 13 games in all competitions.
Save for Mark van Bommel's full-blooded challenge on Riccardo Montolivo there was little direct confrontation between captains but they had enough defending to do.
Dazzling throughout, Robben was at his brilliant best just before the opener as he cut inside and flicked a pass to Thomas Müller – the striker demonstrated less poise.
Fiorentina's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time rest on them defeating a Bayern team that overwhelmed Juventus 4-1 on their last trip to Italy.

Porto 2-1 Arsenal


Łukasz Fabiański deflected in Silvestre Varela's early cross-shot but Sol Campbell equalised seven minutes later only for the quick-thinking Falcao to strike the winner.
Fabiański picked up a Campbell back pass and Rúben Micael's quick free-kick in the box set Falcao free to score the winner before Arsenal had been able to regroup.
Campbell made his 200th appearance for Arsenal and headed a goal just like in his previous UEFA Champions League match, another 2-1 defeat in the 2006 final.
Campbell had been keeping the in-form Falcao quiet ever since an early saving tackle but the striker showed his predatory instinct in the move that decided the game.
Given close attention on the edge of the area, Hulk eliminated his marker with a deft chip and produced a vicious volley that Fabiański had to dive low to keep out.
Porto go to London on 9 March with the advantage but will be well aware that their two trips to Arsenal since 2006, both in the group stage, resulted in 2-0 and 4-0 defeats.

Manchester United 3-2 AC Milan


Ronaldinho gave Milan a dream start but Paul Scholes hit a fortunate equaliser (36) and Wayne Rooney added two more before Clarence Seedorf left the tie in the balance.
Darren Fletcher's cross evaded Scholes' air shot, hit his standing leg and rolled in off the post – not pretty, but enough to help end a run of four defeats at San Siro.
Daniele Bonera recently returned after eight months out injured, but there was no rustiness in two exquisite first-half tackles to halt attacks from Ji-Sung Park and Rooney.
Rooney looked set for an unusually frustrating night as Thiago Silva kept him subdued throughout the first half – but the striker can only be keep quiet for so long.
Four times a European champion, Seedorf has always had fine timing and showed it again with time running out, applying an exquisite flick to Ronaldinho's centre.
Milan's hopes rest on becoming only the second team to win at Old Trafford in 25 games in this competition on 10 March. They did it last time, prevailing 1-0 in 2004/05.

Lyon 1-0 Real madrid


A thunderous strike from Jean II Makoun two minutes after half-time proved the only goal of a vibrant contest as Lyon defeated Madrid at the Stade de Gerland for the third time in five years.
Although César Delgado hit the Madrid post with a wonderful first-time volley just before half-time, the French side were grateful for Hugo Lloris' spectacular save from Cristiano Ronaldo to keep their lead intact.
Iker Casillas made his 100th UEFA Champions League appearance for Madrid and marked the occasion with a series of fine saves, particularly a late block from Aly Cissokho.
One on one
While Casillas produced a characteristically reliable display, opposite number Lloris was in more eye-catching form, denying Kaká and Gonazalo Higuaín – more will be needed at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Substitute Karim Benzema was given a warm reception on his return to the Stade de Gerland, although the former Lyon favourite struggled to make an impression against his old team-mates.
Madrid have it all to do if there are to avoid a sixth successive first knockout round defeat and will be without the suspended Marcelo and Xabi Alonso for the second leg on 10 March.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Clubs will be restricted to spend what they earn as football revenue - Platini


UEFA president Michel Platini recently launched a 'financial fair play' initiative revolving around the idea that clubs should only spend the money they earn through football revenue.

General secretary Gianni Infantino has now stated that from 2012-13 clubs will have to break even - spending only what they earn - if they want to play in the Champions League or Europa League.

"What we are doing, with the support of all the stakeholders in the game including the major professional clubs, is to try to improve the long term stability of European club football by encouraging clubs to live within the revenues that they generate," Infantino said to the Daily Telegraph.

"We are concerned, and many of the clubs and owners are concerned, about the sustainability of the game. We surveyed more than 650 clubs all over Europe, and found that 50 per cent of those clubs are making losses every year, and 20 per cent of them are making huge losses, spending 120 per cent of their revenue every year.

"Our intention is not to make all clubs equal with the same money to spend," he highlighted. "What we see is that the rich owners already go to the big clubs because they make more money.
"We want a healthier environment which will allow smaller clubs to invest in their infrastructure and be able to compete with the bigger clubs, knowing that they can only spend what they earn."

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Am Not In A Rut, The Goals Will Come - Cristiano Ronaldo


Speaking to the press before Real Madrid's friendly match against Albanian side Gramozi Erseke in Albania today, Cristiano Ronaldo spoke of his goal drought in 2010, after having finished 2009 in hot form.

The Portuguese winger denied being worried about his inability to find the back of the net in Madrid's past three matches in comments reported by Marca.

"I am not worried, things like this come naturally because I continue to work in the same way. I am not in a rut and the goals will surely come," said CR9, who has not scored since Madrid demolished Zaragoza by 6-0 in the Santiago Bernabeu before the Christmas break.

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