vrijdag 27 april 2012

Europa league - semi final

Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Sporting Lisbon (Agg 4-3)
Stunning performance from Llorente capped by winning goal as Basques book final berth
The hosts overturned last week's 2-1 loss in the Portuguese capital, with a late goal from the Spain striker securing the victory and a final date with Atletico Madrid

Ander Iturraspe, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Athletic Bilbao, Sporting Lisbon
Athletic Bilbao booked their place in the Europa League final against Atletico Madrid with a 3-1 victory over Sporting Lisbon at San Mames, to progress 4-3 on aggregate after a breathless contest.

The Portuguese side had claimed a 2-1 victory in Lisbon a week ago, but goals from Markel Susaeta, Ibai Gomez and Fernando Llorente were enough to see Marcelo Bielsa's team progess, despite a Ricky Van Wolfswinkel goal.

It was the Portuguese side who came out of the blocks quicker. A poorly-cleared Matias Fernandez corner fell to Anderson Polga, who could only head the ball straight at Gorka Iraizoz when he should have done better.

Soon after, the Chilean sent a free kick well over from distance, but it was not long before the hosts sprung into action. 

Llorente brought the ball down well seconds after Fernandez's free kick, but when he finally wriggled free of Xandao, he failed to send a meaningful shot in.

Bielsa's side were starting to apply heavy pressure. Some fantastic footwork from Gomez fooled the Sporting back line, but the 22-year-old could only fire a shot straight at Rui Patricio.

Soon, however, the breakthrough arrived. Llorente padded an Iker Muniain cross straight to Susaeta, who volleyed past Patricio to put his side in front. 

The Bilbao goal would have seen the hosts go through on away goals, but Sporting soon set in pursuit of an equaliser.

Diego Capel, the hero of the first leg, sent a deep cross to the far post, but Andre Martin could only send a header wide when he should have done far better. Soon afterwards, Iraizoz was called into action to palm away an Polga header after the Brazilian found himself on the end of Capel's corner.

Throughout Sporting's period of pressure, Athletic continued to fashion chances. Gomez had a header rightly ruled out for offside, before Llorente squeezed a volley goalwards, forcing Patricio to palm the ball away with his fingertips.

The equalier finally came just before the break, though. Another corner proved to be the cause of confusion in the Bilbao defence, and Van Wolfswinkel capitalised by sending a left-footed volley into the bottom corner.

However, the Dutchman's effort was not enough to ensure parity at the break. Llorente held up the ball fantastically once again, and slipped in Gomez, who placed it past Patricio to level the tie. 

The frantic nature of the game continued when the two teams reemerged for the second half. Susaeta forced Patricio into a fantastic save with a speculative effort from the corner of the box, and Javi Martinez sent the resulting corner against the bar.

At the other end, the woodwork soon turned into Athletic's saviour. Emiliano Insua belted a ferocious free kick goal-wards, and a heavy deflection took the ball past Iraizoz, but onto the post.

Soon, though, the match settled into a more steady rhythm. Muniain forced a decent save from Patricio with a tame header, before the Portuguese keeper had Insua to thank when he dropped an Ibai free kick, only for the Argentine to remove the danger, hacking the ball off the line.

Finally, the Portuguese resistance was broken with just minutes remaining. Gomez sent a low ball across the face of goal, and Llorente stuck out a leg to prod the ball into the net, via the post.

In the wake of the goal, Sporting sent the ball long in an effort to steal a place in the final, but it was to no avail: it was Bilbao's night, and they can now look forward to an all-Spanish final in Romania next month.

Valencia 0 - 1 Atlético Madrid
Atletico Madrid's Adrian overjoyed with reaching Europa League final
The striker proved to be the ace in the pack for Diego Simeone's men as he netted the winner in the 1-0 victory over Los Che at Mestalla on Thursday to see his side progress

Radamel Falcao, Adrian, Atletico Madrid, Valencia
Atletico Madrid attacker Adrian is overjoyed to have reached the Europa League final at the expense of Valencia.

The Rojiblancos recorded a 4-2 home win in the first leg of their semi-final tie last week, and beat Los Che 1-0 at Mestalla in the return on Thursday to book their ticket for the showpiece in Bucharest on May 9.

"I am delighted. We could not have asked for anything more. We have worked very hard both in La Liga and the Europa League. We put in a tremendous effort and were rewarded for it with a good result," Adrian was quoted as saying by AS.

"We knew that they would start with attacking intentions, so it was crucial to keep them quiet early on. We managed to hold on, and cruised to victory after the interval.

"It says a lot about Spanish teams that there are two of us in the final. It will be a great game."

Atletico will lock horns with Athletic Bilbao in the final on May 9.


donderdag 26 april 2012

Champions League semi-final

Real Madrid 2-1 Bayern Munich 
(Agg 3-3, 1-3 on penalties)
Neuer denies Ronaldo and Kaka in shoot-out as Bavarians set up Chelsea showdown in Champions League final
The Bundesliga club have the opportunity to win the tournament at their home ground as they kept their composure to advance to the showpiece event on May 19

Marcelo, Khedira, Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Ramos - Real madrid

Bayern Munich overcame an early setback at the Santiago Bernabeu to earn the right to play in the Champions League final thanks to a 3-1 penalty shoot-out win over Real Madrid.

The Bavarians found themselves under the cosh straight away as Los Blancos tried to overturn the 2-1 deficit from the first leg. An early Cristiano Ronaldo double set them on their way but Arjen Robben levelled the tie from the penalty spot just before the half-hour mark.

The affair turned cagey in the second half as neither side wanted to over-commit and with extra time unable to separate the pair, the match went all the way to penalties.

Manuel Neuer saved from both Ronaldo and Kaka before Sergio Ramos skied his kick from 12 yards, allowing Bastian Schweinsteiger the chance to net the winning penalty.

Jose Mourinho made only one change from the side that defeated Barcelona at Camp Nou at the weekend with Marcelo replacing Fabio Coentrao at left-back. Jupp Heynckes recalled eight first-team players to the starting XI who were rested for their 2-1 win over Werder Bremen last Saturday.

Real Madrid came bursting out of the blocks and after Sami Khedira failed to beat Neuer from Angel Di Maria's cutback in the third minute, the hosts were awarded a penalty when the Argentine's thunderous volley hit David Alaba's arm inside the area.

Ronaldo stepped up to take the spot kick and coolly slotted into the bottom-right corner, sending Neuer the wrong way.

Bayern were unfazed and had two great opportunities to restore parity on the night. Firstly, Robben failed to tuck Alaba's cross away from inside the six-yard box and then Khedira stopped Franck Ribery from tapping in off a rebound from Mario Gomez's 20-yard strike with just 12 minutes played.

With the Bernabeu rocking, Los Blancos showed just how deadly they can be. In the 14th minute a deflected pass fell to Mesut Ozil and he had enough time to pick out an unmarked Ronaldo on the edge of the box. The Portuguese was clinical as he slid the ball past the keeper at the near post.

Bayern were seeing plenty of the ball and continued to look dangerous as Madrid relied on the counterattack and they were offered a chance to level the tie in the 27th minute.

Pepe recklessly dragged Gomez to the ground inside the area and the referee pointed to the spot. Robben took on the responsibility and exorcised his Bernabeu demons despite Iker Casillas' best efforts to keep his penalty out.

The unrelenting action continued as shortly after the hour mark as Karim Benzema almost curled a majestic effort past Neuer while Casillas was forced into saves from both Gomez and Robben before the break.

The momentum continued early in the second half as Gomez nodded just wide in the 48th minute and Benzema pulled a sprawling save from Neuer.

It soon fizzled out with the game so delicately poised as neither side dared commit too many men forward, making for a second period that starkly contrasted the first.

Chances were at a premium and the only clear-cut opportunity came in the 86th minute. Robben's pass found Gomez in space in the area but rather than shoot first time, he opted to control the ball which allowed white shirts to get back and swarm over him and the chance went begging.

It ensured the game would go to extra time and after nine minutes of the first period Pepe fed Ronaldo at the top of the box but the former Manchester United man failed to pull the trigger and test Neuer in the only chance of the half.

Esteban Granero was booked for diving as he tried to win his team a penalty in the dying moments of extra time but his side would have plenty as the game went on to a shoot-out.

Alaba netted the opening penalty but Ronaldo failed to match the Austrian as Neuer got a strong hand to the ball. Gomez converted Bayern's second and then Neuer saved Madrid's with an almost identical spot kick from Kaka.

Los Blancos pulled one back as Kroos and Philipp Lahm missed while Xabi Alonso scored but Ramos failed to draw level as he blasted over from 12 yards.

That offered Schweinsteiger the chance to put Heynckes' side into the final and deny Jose Mourinho the chance to face his former club, and he did so, dispatching the penalty with ease.

Bayern can now become the first team to win the Champions League at their home ground when they face Chelsea in the final on May 19.


dinsdag 24 april 2012

Champions League semi-final - Barcelona out!

Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea
Torres goal sends Blues to Champions League final after Terry sending-off & Messi penalty miss
The visitors were bracing themselves for humiliation when two down and a man worse off following the captain's moment of madness but the £50m man came good at the death to triumph

Fernando Torres' stoppage-time strike sealed an incredible come-from-behind win for 10-man Chelsea, holding on against the odds to dump Barcelona out of the Champions League and reach the final, with John Terry sent off in the first half.

An astonishing end to the first period saw Sergio Busquets open the scoring for the hosts from close range before captain Terry was dismissed for kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the back off the ball.

Andres Iniesta then put the hosts clear before Ramires' ran through on the counterattack to chip Victor Valdes and claim a priceless away goal.

Didier Drogba gave away a penalty minutes after the break but Messi uncharacteristically cracked it against the crossbar, and it fell to substitute Torres in added time to confirm Chelsea’s place in the final, after rounding Victor Valdes.

Pep Guardiola surprised some by benching Dani Alves, opting for three at the back with Gerard Pique recalled. Youngster Isaac Cuenca was also drafted into the front four.

Roberto Di Matteo, meanwhile, selected the same side that beat Barca 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, with Drogba leading the line once again.

Barcelona started ominously, Messi and Alexis exchanging a quick-fire interchange of several short passes to smuggle the Argentine through into the area, but his effort flew into the side netting.

Chelsea’s troubles started early as centre-back Gary Cahill slipped in the box, clutching his hamstring, and had to be replaced by Jose Bosingwa after just 12 minutes.

Pique was then in the wars, colliding with his own goalkeeper and requiring medical treatment after landing on his head, but he was able to get back up again.

After an opening 19 minutes dominated more by injuries than chances, Cech was called into action. More scintillating neat passes on the edge of the box again put Messi through, this time centrally, but his finish lacked any venom.

Drogba caused brief panic moments later after bypassing Pique in the Barcelona area, though the angle was too tight to trouble Valdes.

That signalled Pique’s last contribution as he succumbed to his earlier knock with Alves replacing the defender one right of a back three.

After several minutes of frustration the hosts broke through. As Chelsea failed to clear a corner, Cuenca picked the ball up on the left and, with Terry playing several men onside, Busquets was on hand to turn in a simple finish.

Terry's evening got a lot worse, though, as moments after the goal, while standing off the ball alongside Alexis, he appeared to knee the Chilean in the back. The referee, Cuneyt Cakir, produced the red card after prompting from his assistant.

Chelsea’s despair was compounded just before half-time. Iniesta infiltrated forward outside the last defender to receive Messi’s through-ball and dispatched an expert finish calmly past Cech.

But out of nowhere, the visitors got back in it. Ramires, who was booked in the aftermath of Iniesta’s goal and would play no part in the final, latched on to Frank Lampard’s pass on the end of a powerful run, and the Brazilian delivered a thrilling chip over Valdes to rekindle the Blues’ hopes.

The second half started disastrously, though. Drogba, back to help his depleted side out, mistimed his tackle on Fabregas, gifting Barca a penalty. Messi stepped up, ready for his first goal against Chelsea - but crashed his effort onto the crossbar.

Barca continued pushing, as they had to, and Cech was alert when young Cuenca tested him with a shot from the left, closing him down to snuff out the danger.

There might have been a game-deciding second for Chelsea in the 67th minute as substitute Salomon Kalou battled forward on his own, getting past his markers before coming over as a rabbit in the headlights at the crucial moment, allowing Valdes to scoop up.

As the bookings mounted up - Lampard, Messi and Ivanovic, the latter also missing the final - Barcelona's chances dried up. Busquets, going for an unlikely double, was only able to scuff awkwardly over.

The home fans cheered when Alexis had the ball in the net on 81 minutes but substitute Fernando Torres was spared blame for losing his man as it was ruled out for an offside in the build-up.

Just moments later, too, Messi came achingly close, firing against the post from a snapshot as Chelsea held on for dear life, Cech's touch key in flicking it onto the woodwork.

As Barca threw their last at Chelsea, they were undone. With nobody in their own half, £50 million man Torres suddenly found himself clean through with space to burn. Racing forward and rounding Valdes with his most composed head on, the Spaniard rolled it into an empty net to seal a famous triumph for Di Matteo's men.


And the Blues go to the Final ... against who????
Real Madrid?
Bayern Munchen?

zaterdag 21 april 2012

Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
Perisic and Kagawa trigger celebrations as Jurgen Klopp's men retain Bundesliga crown
A goal either side of half time was enough for BVB as they cruised to their second consecutive title with two games to spare as they were rarely threatened by Lucien Favre's team

Borussia Dortmund

Jubilant scenes marked Borussia Dortmund's retention of the Bundesliga title with a comfortable 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach at the Signal Iduna Park.

Franck Ribery's late winner for Bayern Munich earlier in the day meant that BVB needed just a point to secure back-to-back championships and they showed no signs of complacency as they dominated from the off. Goals from Ivan Perisic and Shinji Kagawa either side of the break were enough to ensure the title stayed in Dortmund.

The hosts began the game brightly with the Polish combination of Lukas Piszczek and Jakub "Kuba" Blaszczykowski attacking well down the right while Gladbach were clearly looking to stretch the hosts on the break.

In the 10th minute Robert Lewandowski picked the ball up 25 yards from goal. He tried to pick out the bottom corner but Marc-Andre ter Stegen managed to get down and make the slightest of contact, turning the ball behind for a corner.

Ten minutes later Marcel Schmelzer broke forward on the left and centred the ball. Kagawa could only prod the cross onto the post and Lewandowski then stole in to drill a shot on goal from eight yards out but ter Stegen spread himself well to block the shot.

Dortmund were on top of the game and the breakthrough came in the 23rd minute. Schmelzer's superbly executed in-swinging free kick was met by the head of an unmarked Perisic who nodded in at the near post.

But for a goal chalked off for offside, Lucien Favre's side had rarely threatened the BVB defence and eight minutes before the break Dortmund could have enhanced their lead. Mats Hummels beat the offside trap but his volley was met with a sublime reaction save by ter Stegen.

The game seemed to be locked into a pedestrian pace, but nine minutes after the break Gladbach almost restored parity.

Marco Reus lifted the ball over Schmelzer and picked it up the other side where he then nodded the ball past Roman Weidenfeller. The BVB left-back had got back to cover his keeper and obstructed Reus' effort on its path to the net.

That block proved crucial and spurred Dortmund on to increase their lead. A lightning-fast break ended with Lewandowski slipping the ball into Kagawa who rounded ter Stegen with his first touch, slotted the ball home with his second, and was joined in celebration by Jurgen Klopp at the corner flag.

It was a huge relief for BVB and they stepped off the gas soon after. Lewandowski forced the Gladbach keeper into another save just after the hour mark but Dortmund spent the rest of the game holding the ball and soaking up the crowd's adulation.

The victory secured Dortmund their second consecutive Bundesliga title with two games to spare and they can now look forward to another crack at the Champions League next season. Gladbach meanwhile need just a point from their remaining fixtures to secure a place in the same tournament.


Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
Ronaldo the match-winner as Jose Mourinho's side take significant step towards La Liga title
The race for the title is well and truly in the hands of the capital outfit, after an inspired performance to clinch victory in the Clasico and open up a seven-point lead

Sami Khedira, Barcelona Vs. Real madrid

Barcelona's hopes of a fourth sucessive Primera Division title were dealt a potentially fatal blow after a 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou against Real Madrid in the Clasico on Saturday. 

A poor piece of handling from Victor Valdes allowed Sami Khedira to score the only goal of the first-half just after a quarter of an hour. Jose Mourinho's men defended dilligently thereafter, but Alexis Sanchez restored parity by scoring a scrappy effort in the 70th minute within moments of coming on as a substitute.

However, Cristiano Ronaldo put Los Blancos' back in front three minutes later with a record-breaking 109th team goal in the league, and Madrid held on for a priceless victory, which opens up a seven point lead over their great rivals at the top of the table with only four games remaining. 
With Sanchez benched after battling against an injury picked up against Chelsea midweek, youngster Cristian Tello was preferred to Pedro in attack. Xavi started his 32nd career Classico game, breaking the all-time record, but there was no place in the home XI for Cesc Fabragas or Gerard Pique.

The major surprise in Mourinho’s team selection was the inclusion of Fabio Coentrao ahead of Marcelo at left-back, despite the former’s suspect showing in the Champions League loss to Bayern Munich.

Madrid made a positive start to the match amidst the raucous Camp Nou atmosphere, and fashioned the first opportunity after only five minutes, with a powerful header from Ronaldo forcing Victor Valdes to tip over.

Barca were quickly back down the pitch, and Dani Alves appeared to be through after pouncing on a sloppy Pepe pass, but Iker Casillas was quick off his line to block the Brazilian at his feet.

With 13 minutes gone, Tello showed lightning quick feet to evade a pair of challenges out wide, before letting fly with an effort that Casillas did well to save, as the home side grew into the game. But their endeavour was halted, as three minutes later, Madrid were ahead.

The Catalans had their struggles defending set pieces against Chelsea, and so it proved again. Pepe rose highest to get his head to a corner, which was spilled by Valdes, allowing Khedira just enough time to evade the attentions of Carles Puyol and poke the rebound home.

However, Barca should have been level after 26 minutes. An exceptional through pass from Lionel Messi released Xavi on goal, but the midfielder dragged his finish wide with only Casillas to beat.

Both sides continued to provide an entertaining spectacle, despite heavy rainfall in the latter stages of the half. A moment of magic on the right from Ozil nearly carved Barca apart, but Javier Mascherano put in a superb challenge to halt the German from point blank range just before the break.

Barca continued their quest for an equaliser after the restart, but were guilty of another glaring miss. A defence-splitting pass from Thiago Alcantara put Tello clean through, but his first-time finish was woeful, and sent into orbit.

Pep Guardiola’s men continued to keep Madrid penned back in their own half, but for the second time in a week, a determined rear-guard effort made chances hard to come by. With 68 minutes gone, Xavi flashed a long range effort just wide with his last contribution of the game, as he was taken off for Sanchez.

The substitution proved to be a masterstroke, as within two minutes, Sanchez put the hosts back on terms. Tello’s shot was stopped initially by Casillas, cueing a penalty-box scramble that ended when the Chilean squeezed the ball home near the goalline after another save by Casillas.

Madrid’s response was instant. A breathtaking pass from Ozil caught the Barca defence out and released Ronaldo, who accelerated away from the onrushing Valdes and fired home from a tricky angle.

Mourinho’s game plan was simple thereafter, and the visitors were able to hold on to their advantage, defending in numbers and holding onto possession with purpose as they frustrated Barca, and claimed a devastating three points in the title race.

Both sides will look to regain their focus, with deficits to overcome in their Champions League semi-final second-leg matchups midweek. Barca welcome Chelsea on Tuesday, while Madrid entertain Bayern the following day.


donderdag 19 april 2012

Atletico Madrid 4-2 Valencia
Falcao and Adrian run riot but Costa's injury-time strike gives Unai Emery's side hope in return
In the first leg of the Europa League semi-final tie, the hosts dominated throughout but suffered a late goal that gives life to the visitors, who showed little over 90 minutes

Atletico Madrid vs Valencia - Radamel Falcao celebra

Atletico Madrid have one foot into the final of the Europa League after dominating Valencia 4-2 in their semi-final first leg at Vicente Calderon.

Three second half goals gave Atleti a commanding position after the visitors drew level late in the first half, but a late header from Ricard Costa handed Los Che a precious second away goal, and makes the return match at Mestalla a less daunting task.

In the first 10 minutes, the home side had little trouble invading the visiting box, firing two dangerous efforts at Diego Alves, who stopped both Diego and Adrian Lopez with fine saves.

Seven minutes later, however, Alves couldn't continue his heroics. Radamel Falcao found the net with a simple header from close range after Adil Rami could not stop Arda Turan, who beat the France defender at the bye-line with his pace. His ball across hit Jordi Alba before finding the head of the Colombian, who finished with ease. 

With the match appearing to head into the break at 1-0, Valencia struck somewhat against the run of play. From a corner Rami made contact, heading the ball down to the far post, where Jonas pounced to tap it in, sending the away fans into a frenzy. 

The home support would get their chance to celebrate again, however, as their side enjoyed a superb start to the second half. 

In the 48th minute, poor defending saw a free kick from Diego find Miranda inside the heart of the box, where the Brazilian headed past Alves with a simple header. 

It took just six minutes for Atleti's third. Adrian took the ball from Mehmet Topal, flew past Victor Ruiz at the edge of the area before firing into the left side of the net, bagging his seventh goal of the competition. 

The game was getting away from Valencia at this stage, and Atletico almost registered their fourth with 25 minutes remaining. 

Adrian fired a powerful effort from outside the box that was saved low by Alves, with Turan hitting the rebound on goal, but Alves was again there to stop the effort and prevent the visitors from more embarrassment. 

But Atletico Madrid eventually grabbed goal number four on 77 minutes after a fine solo effort from Falcao. The former Porto man dribbled past Ruiz and Jeremy Mathieu at the corner of the box, before cutting inside and drilling the ball into the upper-right corner.

Yet Atletico were to be deflated due to the concession of a late goal. In injury time Ricardo Costa headed home a late cross inside the box in added time, and put a different complexion on the second leg next week.

Sporting Lisbon 2-1 Athletic Bilbao
Capel nets winner as Portuguese side come from behind to take precious lead into second leg
A fortuitous opener from Jon Aurtenetxe put Marcelo Bielsa's side ahead, but the hosts fought back and turned the match on its head with two quickfire strikes

Europa League,Diego Capel,Manchester City FC v Sporting Lisbon

Sporting Lisbon came back from behind to claim a 2-1 victory over Athletic Biblao, and edge towards the Europa League final.

After chasing the game for much of the first period, Jon Aurtenetxe put the Basque side ahead just after the break, but Emiliano Insua got his side level, before Diego Capel completed the turnaround.

It was the hosts who had the better of the early proceedings. Marat Izmailov had already sent a limp effort wide of the target when Insua forced a fantastic save from Gorka Iraizoz with a ferocious free kick.

The early assault of the Bilbao goal continued when Andre Martins pulled the ball across the face of goal, finding an unmarked Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who could only send his shot wide, when he should have struck the back of the net.

In the end, however, Marcelo Bielsa's men were almost gifted the opener. Markel Susaeta swung in a corner straight to the unmarked Fernando Llorente, who could only head over from a matter of yards.

After a frantic opening, the match trailed off as the first half wore on. Susaeta tried in vain to break the deadlock, dragging an effort wide when from just outside the area, before Ander Herrera tried to fool Rui Patricio with a looping effort which the Sporting 'keeper gathered easily.

Bilbao had now come into the encounter after a slow start, but they failed to make it count, with another tame Susaeta effort rolling kindly into Patricio's arms. 

At the other end, the hosts were still threatening, particularly on the break. Joao Pereira struck the outside of the post from a break-neck counter-attack, before Van Wolfswinkel struck wide once more with a powerful effort.

With the last kick of the opening period, Ricardo Sa Pinto's men should have gone in ahead.

Capel launched a break from an Athletic corner, but when the ball came to Insua, who had rocketed forward from the back, the former Galatasaray man lost his footing, letting the opportunity slip away.

Sporting came out from the break in close pursuit of the opening goal. Pereira sent in a cross from the right which appeared to strike Fernando Amorebieta on the arm, only for the referee to wave away frantic Portuguese appeals.

The decision proved to be decisive. Seconds later, a Susaeta free kick fell took an unlucky deflection off Insua into Aurtenetxe's path, and the 20-year-old kept his cool to tuck the ball past Patricio and grab his side a vital away goal.

Soon after, another Susaeta set piece caused mayhem in the Sporting box. Anderson Polga sent a poor clearance into straight to Amorebieta, who drove a shot against the woodwork with Patricio stranded.

The Basque club had now taken control of the contest, and were able to pass the ball leisurely in the midfield, with the hosts visibly down-heartened by falling behind.

Another free kick was deflected straight to Iker Muniain, who miscued his volley and failed to threaten the 'keeper, before Patricio was forced to scramble across the face of goal to deal with a looping Susaeta header.

Despite the visitors' domination, Sporting should have been back on level terms with 20 minutes left to play. 

Izmailov sent in a great cross which Van Wolfswinkel could only nod wide when he should have buried it.

The miss only served to fire the hosts on. Shortly afterwards, Capel crossed the right, and a tame clearance fell to Insua who rocketed into the box ahead of Susaeta and headed the ball into the far corner.

That was just the beginning. Seconds later, Capel collected the ball 20 yards from goal, and sent a pile-driver into the bottom corner, past the sprawling Iraizoz. 

Van Wolfswinkel squandered another opportunity, lifting a left-footed effort over the bar, thanks in part to a brave challenge, before Andre Carrillo flashed an effort narrowly wide.

In the end, however, the Portuguese outfit were made to settle for a one-goal lead, which Bilboa, having netted an away goal, will fancy their chances of overturning in a week's time.


Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona
Drogba strike ensures Blues take Champions League semi-final lead to Camp Nou
A committed defensive performance, rounded off by the Ivorian's breakaway goal just before half-time, secured the hosts a slim advantage ahead of the Camp Nou return leg

CL - Chelsea FC v Barcelona, Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba produced a crucial goal on the counter to top off an excellent defensive display as Chelsea took a 1-0 lead over Barcelona in their Champions League semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Alexis Sanchez hit the bar early on and Cesc Fabregas had a weak effort cleared off the line before Drogba finished a smart break in first-half stoppage time.

The Blues then shut Barca down effectively in a chance-scarce second period, until Pedro hit the post and Sergio Busquets launched the rebound feebly over at the death.

The Ivorian's stunning opener against Tottenham on Sunday convinced Roberto Di Matteo to pick Drogba up front at Fernando Torres’ expense, with Gary Cahill replacing the injured David Luiz. Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic were also both recalled.

Pep Guardiola opted for Javier Mascherano ahead of Gerard Pique at centre-back, with Fabregas starting against a Blues side he knows well and Lionel Messi seeking to end a record of six games without scoring against Chelsea.

Barca immediately began dominating possession but Drogba posed problems early on, a canny flick to burst free of Mascherano let down when the remaining defender, Carles Puyol, intercepted his looser second touch.

The visitors’ patient build-up was suddenly punctuated, though, by an Andres Iniesta through-ball that bypassed Chelsea’s defence and found Alexis free in the area. He deftly dinked it over Petr Cech but unluckily saw it come back off the crossbar.

A hairy moment in the opposite box followed when Chelsea’s long throw almost broke for John Terry, but Dani Alves just scraped it away in time.

Barca were not yet producing their best but should have been in front after 16 minutes. Messi dragged two defenders out of the way before cutting back to Iniesta, whose shot was parried by Cech. The rebound came to Fabregas but he inexplicably scuffed wide.

Midway through the half, Barca were slowly turning up the pressure. First Fabregas forced a near-post save from Cech before Messi leapt on the edge of the box to head an Alexis cross into the stretching keeper’s arms.

A patchy period followed with a few niggling fouls and no great creation. Chelsea were quashing much of the Catalonians’ attacking prospects.

Their resistance was nearly broken on 42 minutes, however, when Barca broke with Messi. The Argentine slid in Fabregas to his left, but his colleague’s attempt to lift it gently over Cech was too underpowered and Ashley Cole arrived to clear off the line.

Half-time parity seemed inevitable but, in added time, Chelsea suddenly broke. Ramires controlled well on the left flank and slipped a perfectly-weighted pass across the box, where Drogba was waiting to finish just past the grasping Victor Valdes.

Barcelona probed after the break, Adriano cutting in on his right foot to send Cech flying to his left to save, but Chelsea’s first corner moments later saw Lampard’s swinger narrowly evade two blue shirts on its way past.

Alexis came close again when Fabregas’ inventive scoop over played the Chilean in at point-blank range, but he had little space to aim into and poked the ball wide.

The half dragged on with little extra purchase for the visitors. Messi attempted more than one run forward from deep into the box but was thwarted first by Cahill and then Terry, with Pedro introduced by Guardiola in place of Alexis in the hopes of better testing the resilient Blues.

It had little effect, though, with clear-cut chances absent and the visitors, short of ideas, looking unlikely to force their way through. 

As they pushed up in desperation, Drogba was able to battle past on the break, but his through-ball into the path of substitute Salomon Kalou on 80 minutes was a touch too strong and the opportunity was gone.

Barca's closest moment in the second half came when Messi's 87th-minute free kick was flicked on by a crouching Puyol. Substitute Thiago Alcantara flashed at it but couldn't make contact, yet Cech still had to do well to dive and parry.

The visitors, though, should really have equalised at the very last. 

Despite Terry's initial excellent tackle to snuff out one chance, Pedro sliced a shot against the post before  Busquets, with the goal at his mercy, lofted the ball disastrously over to ensure that the Blaugrana will return to Camp Nou behind on aggregate.


What is your opinion? Which teams will reach the final????

dinsdag 17 april 2012

Champions League semi-final

Bayern Munich 2-1 Real Madrid
Last-gasp Gomez sinks Spaniards and provides Bavarian giants with valuable first-leg advantage
The Bundesliga side overcame Jose Mourinho's men at the death after Los Blancos paid the price for trying to cling to a draw ahead of next week's return fixture

Champions League, FC Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid, Franck Ribery, scoring

Bayern Munich kept up their impeccable record of having never lost at home to Real Madrid as they earned a dramatic 2-1 win in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at the Allianz Arena.

The hosts opened the scoring through Franck Ribery in the 17th minute but Los Blancos showed great resilience and pulled back a vital away goal through Mesut Ozil early in the second half. However, Bayern assumed pole position in the tie when Mario Gomez slotted home a 90th minute winner.

The atmosphere inside the stadium was pulsating and the early moments were certainly befitting of the occasion. With the play fairly stretched, it was the visitors who settled quickest and began to control possession.

With seven minutes played, Bastian Schweinsteiger gave the ball away in his own half and Angel Di Maria took the opportunity to slip a pass through to Karim Benzema. However, the Frenchman failed to put his effort to either side of Manuel Neuer, who tipped it over the bar.

Los Blancos' keep-ball tactics were clearly grating on the crowd and they were further incensed when Ribery saw his claim for a penalty turned down in the 15th minute.

Frustration then turned to elation just two minutes later as the Bavarians took the lead. Toni Kroos' corner was not dealt with by Sergio Ramos and the ball fell to Ribery, who rifled a low shot past Iker Casillas from 12 yards.

Bayern remained solid and were getting a lot of joy in the wide areas but Jose Mourinho's men regained their composure to end the half on a brighter note. The hosts could not regain the ball and were being pinned back in their own final third.

Madrid's best chance during this spell came as Benzema cut inside of David Alaba to the right of the goal but could only muster a tame effort straight at Neuer, who held comfortably.

In their haste to find an equaliser, Madrid almost went two behind after a swift counterattack from the hosts. Gomez burst in on the left-hand side of the area but his shot was kept out by a diving Casillas who got two strong hands to it and turned the ball behind.

Los Blancos began the second half in a similar vein to the first and drew level in the 53rd minute. The Bayern defence was caught ball-watching as Benzema's mishit committed Neuer to the far post. Cristiano Ronaldo just reached the ball before it went out of play and cut it back into the danger area, leaving Ozil with a simple tap-in.

Mourinho's men were beginning to pose a great threat on the counterattack as they limited the hosts to a number of speculative crosses into the box.

However, that almost paid dividends for Bayern when Kroos whipped in a fantastic free kick from wide on the left after 71 minutes. Ramos again failed to clear the danger and was fortunate that Gomez could not keep his instinctive shot below the bar, blazing over from just outside the six-yard box.

The visitors became more conservative as they sought to hold on to the draw but Bayern continued to pile on the pressure and reaped the rewards in the 90th minute.

After missing two headers earlier in the game, Gomez remained positive and was on hand to slide the ball into the back of the net after some superb play on the wing by Philipp Lahm, who created the space for a tantalising cross.

The result means that Bayern take a slim advantage into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 25, while Madrid slide to their first Champions League loss of the season.


Champions League

Champions League semi-final

Where to watch???

live stream:

zondag 15 april 2012

European Football Tables

Premier League

La Liga


Serie A


Source: ESPN Soccernet

La Liga Report

Levante 1-2 Barcelona
Messi double saves Barca as Argentine joins Cristiano Ronaldo on record 41 La Liga goals
Pep Guardiola's men were awarded a contentious spot kick as they came from behind to beat the Granotas and narrow the gap once again on league leaders Real Madrid

Lionel Messi, Levante, Barcelona

Barcelona had a controversial penalty to thank as they ground out a narrow 2-1 win at Levante to close the gap on Liga leaders Real Madrid back to four points ahead of next weekend's Clasico meeting.

Jose Barkero gave the home team a surprise lead with a penalty before Lionel Messi levelled with half an hour to go. The Argentine then stepped up to score a spot kick to bring his league tally this campaign to 41 goals, joining Cristiano Ronaldo in breaking the Portuguese's record of 40 from last term.

Barcelona started the game brightly and after some early spells in possession, forged their first opportunity on goal in the 10th minute. Alexis Sanchez's cross found Thiago Alcantara in the box six yards out yet the midfielder could only flick his header wide of the mark.

Nine minutes later Thiago should have done better again with his head following Messi's inviting free kick. The young midfielder was able to ghost past his marker but headed his effort straight into the grateful arms of Gustavo Munua.

In the 22nd minute the home side were awarded a penalty against the run of play. Barkero's corner was parried by Victor Valdes with Juanfran's follow-up striking the hand of Sergio Busquets, earning the defensive midfielder a yellow card in the process. Barkero calmly stepped up to slam the ball down the centre of the goal with Valdes diving to his left.

Despite the Blaugrana continuing to dominate possession, they could have gone into half-time two goals down when Levante created a glorious chance in the 38th minute. Adriano and Valdo's collision left Pedro Lopez with plenty of space to attack the Barca goal down the wing. The full-back cut infield before dragging his shot narrowly wide of the goal from the edge of the box.

Although the Catalan giants kept possession well in the early stages of the second half, a sloppy pass from Thiago nearly allowed Levante to double their lead. Arouna Kone took the ball off the Spain international before charging upfield and sliding it to Barkero in the Barca penalty area. The playmaker attempted to play the return ball with Valdes out of his goal but Carles Puyol was on hand to mop up the danger.

With Barcelona stepping up the tempo they got their just reward in the 64th minute when Messi equalised. The Argentine played a clever one-two with Alexis before curling the ball into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box - the attacker now scoring in 10 consecutive Liga games, equalling a record held by Ronaldo and Mariano Martin.

On 71 minutes Guardiola's men were awarded a controversial penalty after Isaac Cuenca and Pedro Botelho collided in the box with the assistant referee flagging for a spot kick to be given. Messi stepped up to smash the ball into the top corner, sending Munua the wrong way to draw level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Pichichi prize awarded to La Liga's top goalscorer. Both men are now on 41 Liga goals this term.

Levante attempted to fight back yet Barca comfortably saw out the game to claim a priceless win in Valencia.

Barca now travel to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Chelsea before welcoming Real Madrid to Camp Nou next weekend in a pivotal Primera Division clash, while Levante are next in action at Sevilla on April 21.

Real Madrid 3-1 Sporting Gijon
Cristiano Ronaldo records 41st La Liga strike as Los Blancos reach 107 goals
Mourinho's side moves seven points clear of Barcelona in the hunt of its first La Liga title in four years.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 41st La Liga goal helped move Real Madrid seven points clear of Barcelona at the summit of the Spanish Primera Division as the team came from behind to deny a valiant Sporting Gijon side at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Los Blancos found themselves behind when Sergio Ramos handled in the penalty area gifting Miguel de las Cuevas the chance to fire the visiting team ahead from the resulting spot kick, which the Argentinean duly obliged in doing.

Jose Mourinho’s side responded seven minutes later when Ramos, making amends for his earlier error, found Gonzalo Higuain with a superb cross to nod home. Ronaldo completed the turnaround in the 73rd minute before Karim Benzema scored the third late on. 

In a tiresome opening that was broken up by constant stoppages Madrid was unable to find its usual rhythm as Sporting remained defensively sound continuously frustrating the home side. 

Despite Real Madrid’s dominance in the early stages the best chance fell to Trejo after the visitors launched a quick breakaway. Alvaro Arbeloa was pressured into a mistake by the midfielder allowing the Sporting man a sight of goal but could only muster a tame effort that Iker Casillas comfortable saved. 

The fabric of the tie continued with Madrid dominating, as both Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo tried their luck with long range efforts but neither truly tested Juan Pablo. The Asturians offering little as an attacking force suddenly sensed an opportunity when Trejo burst through forcing the Madrid defense to retreat. The Argentinean looked to cut inside to fashion himself a shooting opportunity only to be denied by Sergio Ramos’ arm resulting in the visitors being awarded a spot kick. 

Miguel de las Cuevas, the sole goal scorer in this fixture last season, stepped up to emphatically fire Sporting ahead stunning the Bernabeu faithful. 

Jose Mourinho’s side continued to be frustrated by Los Rojiblancos’ diligent defending but were finally rewarded seven minutes after falling behind. Ramos delivered a superb cross toward the far post where Higuain had managed to steal a yard giving him the room to divert the ball home with a glancing header. 

Los Blancos came close to going ahead prior to the break but Nuri Sahin’s wonderful free kick clipped the top of the crossbar as the sides went into the interval level.

The significance of the match was realized on the Real Madrid bench at the break as Mourinho opted to introduced Benzema and Angel Di Maria in the hope of finding a second goal.

Similarly to the first half Madrid controlled the early exchanges as they looked to force an opening but the northerner’s defense remained resolute as the home side’s best chances came from set pieces but Ronaldo failed to convert any of them despite his recent heroics. 

As the match entered into the final furlong Sporting began to slow the tempo in the hope of frustrating the Madridistas, but it was in vain as the home side’s pressure told 17 minutes from time. Di Maria worked space allowing him to swing in a cross that found Ronaldo unmarked and the Portugal international beautifully directed his header into the back of the net via the base of the far post. 

Sporting Gijon’s resilience was finally undone in the 81st minute when Mesut Ozil slipped a gorgeous ball through to Benzema. The Frenchman, from an acute angle, thrashed his finish past Juan Pablo into the opposite corner as Mourinho’s side notched their 107th goal of the campaign equaling the record held by John Toshack’s 1989-90 team.  

Marcelo and Benzema both wasted late opportunities to find the 108th goal but Madrid will know that heading into next week's El Clasico that it will be a minimum of four points clear of Barca, while Sporting continues to look destined for the drop. 


zaterdag 14 april 2012

Liverpool on the FA cup final!

Liverpool 2-1 Everton

Carroll: Celebrates winning goal

Carroll: Celebrates winning goal

The Reds' much-maligned record signing went some way to justifying his huge price with the goal which put his side into their first FA Cup final since 2006 and ended the Toffees' dreams in Saturday's all-Merseyside encounter.

The £35million striker had endured a testing afternoon, heading one straightforward chance wide, but came up with the winner four minutes from time at Wembley.

Everton had earlier gone ahead following a first-half defensive blunder which gave Nikica Jelavic a simple chance. Luis Suarez levelled matters in the second half following another defensive howler.

It could be argued the failure of Carroll to score consistently partly contributed to the removal of director of football Damien Comolli by American owners Fenway Sports Group in a ruthless move on Thursday.

Manager Kenny Dalglish has steadfastly defended his big striker despite all the criticism.

Both the Reds boss and the 23-year-old forward will be hoping such a significant goal in Liverpool's season - hopes of Champions League qualification having been ended by a woeful run of results - will be a turning point for both of them.

Having already won the Carling Cup in February Liverpool remain on course for a cup double, which has only been achieved three times previously - and once by themselves.

Past experience favoured Liverpool against Everton at Wembley in this competition, having had two FA Cup final wins against their near-neighbours in 1986 and 1989.

Of the four FA Cup semi-finals the teams had contested, Everton had been victorious in only the first in 1906 and they went on to win the competition.

But the history did not weigh heavy on the Toffees, who had the better of a relatively incident-free first half with neither goalkeeper having a proper save to make.

That statistic would have been different had Jay Spearing not snatched at a third-minute chance after Andy Carroll had worked space to cut the ball back to the edge of the area.

With no goals in 48 previous matches of his Liverpool career Spearing was the last man the Reds would have wanted to see in a shooting position and he lived up to expectations by firing over.

Everton had two off-target free-kicks from Leighton Baines and Jelavic, who also had an overhead kick saved by Brad Jones, while Martin Skrtel shot tamely at Tim Howard after Steven Gerrard had picked out Carroll.

It may have been no real surprise the opening goal came from a mistake but the source of the error was.

Carragher, a veteran of 696 appearances, hesitated along with stand-in left-back Agger when the ball dropped in the penalty area and when the vice-captain eventually decided to deal with it he succeeded only in driving it at Tim Cahill.

The rebound fell favourably to Jelavic who coolly slotted a shot between the legs of a diving Jones to spark wild celebrations from Moyes on the touchline.

Carroll looked like he was to have one of those afternoons which have been all-too-regular since his January 2011 move from Newcastle with a glaring miss just two minutes into the second half.

Stewart Downing's inviting cross to the far post was headed wide from close range, prompting the striker to rightly hide his face under his shirt and his manager put his head in his hands.

Fortunately for Carroll strike partner Suarez is sharper in front of goal, especially when gifted opportunities like the one in the 62nd minute.

The otherwise-excellent Sylvain Distin badly mis-hit a backpass from wide on Everton's left and the Uruguay international raced into the area to slide a low shot with the outside of his right foot past Howard.

Carroll was at it again in the 78th minute, dragging wide left-footed from a good position but Jelavic, who at £5.5million already looks a bargain, was much closer in drilling a shot into the side-netting.

Suarez got in the way of another Carroll effort which bounced wide before Everton substitute Seamus Coleman, booked soon after coming on, was lucky to escape a second caution when he clattered into Gerrard but Liverpool took full advantage.

Craig Bellamy, on for Downing, whipped in the 86th-minute free-kick and Carroll flicked in a header.

Liverpool could even afford for another substitute Maxi Rodriguez to hit the post from close range as they booked a third appearance at Wembley in three months - they will meet Chelsea or Tottenham on May 5 - and kept their season alive.

For Everton, however, their priority now will be finishing ahead of their local rivals in the Premier League, something they have done only once since its inception.

Source: Football 365

Breaking News: Italian football suspended after player dies

Livorno player Morosini died during the game

All weekend football in Italy has been called off following the death of Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini, the Italian Football Federation said.
The 25-year-old collapsed on the pitch during a Serie B game at Pescara and was later pronounced dead in hospital.
The move, announced by Italian Football Federation (Figc) general manager Antonello Valentini, means there will be no Serie A action this weekend.
Morosini collapsed suddenly in the first half of the game, leading to the match being abandoned.
He was treated on the pitch before being taken away by ambulance to the Civile Santo Spirito hospital in Pescara.
He was later pronounced dead.
Morosini had been conscious when put in the ambulance but his condition was said to be serious when he arrived at hospital.
"He looked me in the eyes when he entered the vehicle," Pescara chief executive Danilo Iannascoli told Sky television.
"Morosini fell, he tried to get back up but fell again. Our masseur realised what was happening."
Iannascoli also said the ambulance was blocked from coming onto the pitch due to a vehicle parked in front of an exit.
Italian press were alerted to Morosini's death initially by an "explosion of shouts and tears" from his teammates who had come to the hospital, news agency ANSA said.
Police started to usher the press away but Edoardo De Blasio, a cardiologist at Pescara's Santo Spirito hospital, confirmed the death.
"Unfortunately he was already dead when he arrived at hospital. He didn't regain consciousness," he said.
Morosini's death comes just under a month after Bolton Wanderers' midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrest during his side's FA Cup quarter-final match against Tottenham Hotspur.
The 24-year-old's heart stopped for 78 minutes as medics battled to keep him alive at the stadium and then in hospital on March 17.
But Kinshasha-born Muamba has since made incredible progress, boosting hopes that he will make a full recovery.
The incident led to calls for stringent heart checks to be made on professional footballers.

Source: smh

maandag 9 april 2012

La Liga Report

Zaragoza 1-4 Barcelona
Messi reaches 60 goals for the season with double against 10-man hosts
Pep Guardiola's men pulled off a come from behind victory to earn all three points against the relegation strugglers, who played half the game with only 10 players

Lionel Messi - Barcelona

Lionel Messi grabbed his 59th and 60th competitive goals of the season as Barcelona labored to a flattering 4-1 victory over 10-man Zaragoza at La Romareda to close the gap on Primera Division leader Real Madrid to just three points.

Despite missing a penalty just six minutes previously, Carlos Aranda gave the home team the lead on the half-hour mark. However, Carles Puyol equalized on 36 minutes before Messi put Pep Guardiola's men in front just three minutes later as Zaragoza were forced to play the whole of the second-half with 10 players after Abraham Minero's sending off for two bookings.

Messi scored a late penalty with four minutes to go before Pedro grabbed a fourth as Barcelona wrapped up their 10th successive La Liga win.

The Aragons made a positive start to proceedings and should have taken the lead in the fifth minute. Ruben Micael found himself clear on the left side of the Barca box and was able to square the ball to Aranda, only for the striker to inexplicably hit the ball in the wrong direction, sending his effort away from goal.

The Blaugrana struggled to create chances in the early stages and were given an almighty fright when Victor Valdes brought down Angel Lafita in the box to give away a penalty on 23 minutes, just seconds after Aranda had struck the post. The striker was the man to step up to take the spot kick but his tame effort was parried away by Valdes.

Despite the disappointment of his penalty miss, it was Aranda who grabbed the opening goal of the game on the half hour mark. Pablo Alvarez's through ball seemed to catch the Barca defense out as Aranda raced clear of Javier Mascherano. The Spanish striker's initial effort was poor as Valdes blocked the ball but he managed to head the rebound into the net.

However, Barca was level just six minutes later and had some nightmare goalkeeping from Roberto to thank. The former Benfica shot stopper spilled Cesc Fabregas' corner allowing Puyol to poke the ball home from 12 yards out.

The Catalans then completed an amazing three minute turnaround when they took the lead on 39 minutes. Hitting Zaragoza on the counterattack, Alexis Sanchez' cross-field pass found Messi who sidestepped Paulo da Silva before thrashing the ball into the top corner from 15 yards out for his 59th goal of the season in all competitions.

Just before the break, the home side's evening went from bad to worse when they were reduced to 10 men. Abraham Minero, who has already been booked, earned his second yellow of the evening for tripping Alexis after the Chilean had sped past him on the right wing.

Barcelona looked far from convincing in the early stages of the second half but could have extended its lead on 63 minutes. Alexis received a pass from Messi before showing some quick feet to get the better of Javier Paredes and slamming a low effort goal-wards from 15 yards out that was brilliantly tipped around the post by Roberto.

The visitors then put the result beyond doubt on 86 minutes after Paredes brought down Alexis in the box. Messi stepped up to slam the ball past a helpless Roberto to score his 60th of the season, before Pedro made it 4-1 in injury time following the Argentine's assist.

Guardiola's side entertains Getafe on Tuesday evening in La Liga while Zaragoza face a tricky away trip to Sevilla two days later.

Real Madrid 0-0 Valencia
Gap at La Liga summit now four points as Guaita produces heroics in visiting goal to earn battling draw
Mourinho’s side was held to an entertaining goalless draw at the Bernabeu where both teams struck the woodwork in a truly compelling match.

Raúl Albiol, Sofiane Feghouli - Real Madrid vs Valencia

Real Madrid dropped points for the third time at the Santiago Bernabeu this season against a determined Valencia side as they shared the spoils in a thrilling goalless draw.

Vincente Guaita ensured the Los Blancos failed to re-establish their six point lead over Barcelona at the summit of La Liga table as the Valencia stopper denied Karim Benzema with a miraculous double save late on.

Earlier Cristiano Ronaldo had struck the post, while Tino Costa and Ricardo Costa were also denied by the woodwork with neither side able to find the winning goal.

Having already threatened Guaita with an instantaneous shot on the turn Ronaldo beat the Valencia stopper with a rasping drive. He set himself superbly only to see the ball hammer back off the upright as Los Blancos started on the front foot, before Sofiane Feghouli came close with effort that flashed wide of the target.

In a frantic opening Madrid reasserted its dominance and a superb move led to Ronaldo led to another sight of Guaita’s goal. Mesut Ozil’s beautiful through ball found Benzema whose back heel gave the Portuguese international a chance to test Guaita.

Valencia then burst back into the match as Marcelo’s loose ball invited Tino Costa to drive towards goal. Iker Casillas parried the shot away presenting Ricardo Costa with a glorious chance but he inexplicably hit the post with his header from six yards out.  

And Casillas needed to be alert again when Feghouli wriggled free in the penalty area before finding Pablo Patti. The Argentinean’s first time effort was kept out by the Spaniard’s strong hand as, incredibly, the match remained goalless at halftime.

Jose Mourinho introduced Angel Di Maria at the break and the Argentinean had an immediate impact threading the ball through to Ronaldo. The former Manchester United ace dragged the  ball onto his left foot before bringing out a fingertip save from Guaita, all within 27 seconds of the restart.

With the game becoming subdued Tino Costa lined up an audacious effort from 25 yards out that he connected with superbly. The shape of the shot saw the ball crash back off the crossbar as the intensity of the match suddenly increased once again.

Chaos erupted in an otherwise controlled affair as tempers flared from both teams, but the chances were at a premium in the second half until Benzema’s first time pass suddenly set Ronaldo clear. But the Portugal international clipped his own heel as he looked to set himself in incredible circumstances.

Valencia came close next as Jeremy Mathieu struck an effort across goal that narrowly missed Casillas’ far post as both side’s were creating opportunities.

Guaita then proved to be an immovable object as he turned Di Maria’s effort over with a flying stop before incredibly denying Benzema with a truly stunning double save as Madrid failed to find a way through.

The match finished in frantic fashion as Los Blancos’ search for a winner gifted first Pablo Hernandez and then Jordi Alba a sight of goal but neither player was able to find the back of the net.

Benzema had a glorious chance to become a hero deep in injury time but his goal bound effort was hacked clear off the line by desperate defending from Valencia who hung on to secure an incredible point.

zondag 8 april 2012

Premier League Report part 2

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City
Arteta strikes to all but end visitors' title challenge as Balotelli sees red
Roberto Mancini's side succumb to defeat at the Emirates as the Gunners all but end their hopes of winning the Premier League this season

EPL, Gael Clichy; Theo Walcott, Arsenal v Manchester City

Manchester City all but surrendered the Premier League title to Manchester United after losing 1-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates with Mikel Arteta scoring the only goal of the game as Mario Balotelli was sent off. 

Arsene Wenger’s side hit the woodwork on several occasions as Robin van Persie was first denied by Thomas Vermaelen and the bar as his header seemed destined for the net. 

Van Persie hit the post in the second-half and was followed by Walcott as it seemed Arsenal would never find the net. 

Five minutes from time Arteta picked up the ball and lashed a sublime effort from 25 yards to beat Joe Hart and give the home side the win. City's woes were compounded when Mario Balotelli saw a late red for a second bookbable offence. 

The Gunners made one change from their side that was beaten 2-1 by QPR last week, Yossi Benayoun replacing Aaron Ramsey as Wenger reshuffled his team into a 4-3-3 formation. 

Roberto Mancini made six changes from the team that drew with Sunderland. David Silva was dropped from the team entirely in a surprise move. Also making way were Micah Richards, Kolo Toure, Nigel de Jong, Aleksandar Kolarov and Edin Dzeko. 

Pablo Zabaleta, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and the fit again Sergio Aguero came into the side to replace them. 

Arsenal made a strong start to the game, dominating possession and putting City under real pressure as the visitors struggled to get out of their own 18-yard box. The hosts peppered the area with crosses which meant defenders Vincent Kompany and Lescott had to be at their best to alleviate the pressure on Joe Hart’s goal. 

Wenger’s side should have taken the lead from a corner when Van Persie rose highest and headed the ball towards goal. The Dutchman’s effort seemed destined for the net but was blocked on the line by his own teammate Thomas Vermaelen, resulting in the ball hitting the crossbar and bouncing to Tomas Rosicky who could only head over. 

Mario Balotelli sparked controversy when he flew into a tackle with Alex Song with his studs showing. He made contact with Song’s shin but referee Martin Atkinson took no action. 

City looked to have weathered the early Arsenal pressure and should have gone ahead through Balotelli when he peeled off his marker at a corner and met the cross with a first-time effort which he miscued when free in the area. 

The Gunners looked to pile on pressure late in the half, particularly down the right through Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna but neither could produce a quality final ball to trouble the resolute Kompany and Lescott. 

At the start of the second half neither side was able to get any attacking momentum going due to mistakes being committed on and off the ball. 

City had a great chance to take the lead when Clichy raided down the left and hit a dangerous cross deep to the back post which Aguero looked poised to head past Szczesny.

However just as the Argentine was about to make contact Zabaleta collided with him taking the power off the effort and the Pole was able to tip the looping header over the bar. 

Arsenal responded to the pressure from Mancini’s side and should have gone ahead through Van Persie whose header hit the post from six yards after he found himself free in the area and picked up Song’s lofted pinpoint pass. 

Van Persie thought he had finally got his goal when latched onto Song’s pass after drifting off Kompany and rounded the challenge of Zabaleta before firing a right-footed shot past Hart only to be flagged offside, much to his frustration. 

The Gunners were beginning to pile on the pressure particularly down the right where Balotelli was offering no defensive support to Clichy. This almost cost them a goal as Sagna found Walcott in the area, who fired an effort at goal but had his shot pushed onto the post by Hart. 

The ball fell kindly Vermaelen, who only had to tap the ball into an empty net but he lost his footing and scuffed his shot. The ball landed at the feet of Benayoun but he couldn't turn the ball in and Lescott managed to clear. 

Arsenal finally got the breakthrough when Arteta picked the ball in midfield and drove towards the City area, then struck a powerful effort from 25 yards which sailed into the bottom corner of the net, beating the outstretched hand of Hart.

City’s day worsened when Balotelli saw red for a second yellow card after bringing down Sagna with a reckless challenge leaving referee Atkinson with little choice but to give him his marching orders, all but giving Manchester United the title as they succumbed to defeat. 

Manchester United 2-0 QPR
Rooney and Scholes on target as Red Devils create clear daylight at top of table
Sir Alex Ferguson's team benefited from a controversial penalty decision at Old Trafford as Shaun Derry was dismissed after being harshly penalized for a foul on Ashley Young.

EPL: Wayne Rooney, Manchester United v QPR

Manchester United took advantage of a controversial penalty decision to secure a 2-0 victory against QPR and move closer towards retaining the Premier League title.

Wayne Rooney scored from the penalty spot after Shaun Derry was very harshly sent off having been penalized for a challenge on Ashley Young in the box. The England winger appeared to be in an offside position as he looked to receive a Rooney through ball.

Paul Scholes added a second after the break to wrap up three points and pile the pressure on Manchester City, who face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium later on Sunday.

If there is one area QPR must improve in order to enhance its survival prospects it is its disciplinary record, having been shown six red cards in the Premier League prior to his match, but it will justifiably argue that it was extremely hard done by when Derry was dismissed before 15 minutes had passed at Old Trafford.

Not only did Young fall after the slightest of touches as he turned to latch on to a pass that seemed to be heading into the arms of goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, but the winger had also begun his run in an offside position. The flag stayed down, referee Lee Mason pointed to the spot and dismissed Derry, and Rooney stroked home the resulting penalty kick.

In Manchester City's eyes, of course, the decision will only serve to further illustrate what Patrick Vieira claimed was favorable refereeing received by United at home. In truth, Ferguson's team was already well on top, having spent the opening quarter of an hour camped in the QPR half, and perhaps the most damaging aspect of the incident will be the Hoops' loss of Derry for three matches.

United continued to probe, with QPR's only real chance of the half coming when Adel Taarabt robbed Rafael of the ball close to David de Gea's goal only to be denied a shot on target by Jonny Evans' excellent block. Rooney tested Kenny with a well-executed chip from 20 yards that the Republic of Ireland international did well to retrieve.

It is difficult to remember Hughes looking as angry as he did when the halftime whistle was blown – at least since Michael Owen snatched a dramatic late winner when the Welshman visited Old Trafford as City manager – but he managed to restrain himself from approaching the officials as the teams departed down the tunnel.

One decision did go his side's way early in the second period, as Welbeck's celebrations were correctly cut short by the linesman when he converted Antonio Valencia's cross from close range.

United proceeded to regularly carve QPR open in the second half but struggled to find a clinical edge to its build-up play. Rafael was denied by Kenny from point blank range and Welbeck could not slide a shot past the former Sheffield United goalkeeper when played in by Rooney.

In the end, an experienced head once again proved the difference. Scholes' impact since his return from retirement has been enormous, and one of the keys to United's rise to the top of the table, and he proved his value once again here by slamming home a 20-yard shot to cap off a virtuoso performance in midfield.

Michael Carrick had been similarly imposing alongside Scholes and almost topped his teammate's effort to make it 3-0. His spectacular shot from 30 yards seemed to be flying into the top corner only to hit Kenny's right post.

Not too long ago United might have viewed a match like this as an opportunity to improve its potentially important goal difference but that statistic is beginning to feel less and less relevant as the Red Devils edge closer to a 20th league title.