maandag 27 augustus 2012

La Liga Report - August 26

Getafe 2-1 Real Madrid
Barrada strikes to stun champions
Goals from the Moroccan and Juan Valera cancel out Gonzalo Higuain's first-half strike to heap misery on Los Blancos, who are now three matches without a win

Alexis, Cristiano Ronaldo - Getafe v Real Madrid

Real Madrid have handed a five-point lead to Barcelona at the top of the Spanish Primera Division after slumping to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez on Sunday evening.

Los Blancos took the lead midway through the first half thanks to Gonzalo Higuain, but a two-goal salvo in the second period and a plucky performance from the hosts left Jose Mourinho's men without a win in their first three competitive games of the season.

Madrid came within inches of opening the scoring early in the contest. Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo exchanged a neat one-two inside the Getafe box, but when the ball came back to the German six yards out, and with the goal gaping, he smashed against the crossbar.

Ronaldo, who was subdued in the draw with Valencia last weekend, had the opportunity to take centre stage five minutes later with a pair of free kick attempts on Miguel Angel Moya's goal. The Getafe shot-stopper had to be at his best for the second, as it bounced wickedly a few yards from goal, but the 28-year-old kept concentration to palm to safety.

Jose Mourinho's men eventually took a deserved lead through a well-worked goal just before the half-hour mark. Angel di Maria dropped into a pocket of space just in front of the Getafe defence and slid a pass through to Higuain, who showed intelligence to ride the challenge of Alexis and take the ball past Moya before sliding home from a tight angle.

The battle between Moya and Ronaldo continued, and once again the Getafe goalkeeper came out on top just before the break. The Portuguese cut in from the left-hand side and lashed an effort at goal, only to be denied by a solid save from the confident goalkeeper.

The hosts, outplayed for much of the opening period, came out of the blocks quickly in the second half, and with an added impetus in their play, levelled the game in the 53nd minute. Abdel Barrada was the provider as he whipped in a cross from the right flank for Juan Valera, who powered a header past the rooted Iker Casillas.

Ronaldo tested Moya yet again in the 70th minute when he drifted into a central area and flicked up the ball on the edge of the box, but his snatched volley bobbled into the hands of the Getafe goalkeeper, with the Real Madrid man cutting a frustrated figure.

Mourinho looked to be going for broke, with the introduction of Karim Benzema in place of Diarra, but the added space in dangerous areas for Getafe led to the hosts taking the lead 15 minutes from time.

Substitute Adrian Colunga left Albiol for dead down the left and drove forward before sliding a pass inside to Barrada, who took a touch before slamming the ball past Casillas, sending the modest crowd into raptures.

The final insult on a horrible evening for the capital giants came when Fabio Coentrao received a red card while sitting in the dugout, following an exchange of words with the officials.

The result leaves Real Madrid with just one point taken from the opening two matches, and already the champions are playing catch-up on their arch rivals Barca.

Osasuna 1-2 Barcelona
Messi double earns comeback victory
The Blaugrana were nowhere near their best, but emerged from Pamplona with all three points thanks to a second-half double from their Argentine talisman

Lionel Messi; Raoul Cedric, Alejandro Arribas - Osasuna v FC Barcelona

Barcelona escaped from the Estadio El Sadar with a 2-1 victory over Osasuna in their La Liga encounter on Sunday.

The Blaugrana were second best for much of the game and fell behind in the 17th minute to a goal from Joseba Llorente.

Their woes continued in the second half as Osasuna kept them on the back foot, while coach Tito Vilanova was sent to the stands in the 73rd minute for protesting to the linesman. 

However, a controversial equaliser from Lionel Messi brought them back into the match moments later and Osasuna captain Patxi Punal was sent off for protesting the goal. 

The Argentine would pop up once again four minutes later to poke home the winner and give the Catalans a win that they scarcely deserved, after a spirited and purposeful performance from the home side. 
Vilanova rested Xavi from the start, with David Villa also taking his place on the bench as Cristian Tello and Alexis Sanchez started up front alongside Lionel Messi.

With sunlight beating down over Estadio El Sadar, Barcelona were slow getting out of the blocks, and had Victor Valdes to thank for denying Alvaro Cejudo from close range inside the opening two minutes.

Andres Iniesta would create danger at the other end, teeing up Tello, who saw his effort touched by Andres Fernandez onto the post.

However, just when it looked like the Blaugrana were beginning to get into their stride, Osasuna would bring them back down to earth with the opener after 17 minutes.

Roland Lamah was the architect, whipping in a dangerous cross from the left that was side-footed in by Llorente, who ghosted in behind Jordi Alba at the far post.

Tello saw a close-range shot saved by Fernandez and Iniesta should have found the target after latching on to Sanchez’s cutback from 12 yards out, but the chances did not mask Barca’s struggles in attack, as they failed to connect with many of their passes.

Their difficulties at the back were even more pronounced, as Osasuna looked dangerous every time they attacked. The home side came very close to a second, as the lively Lamah saw his drive parried by Valdes, and Llorente blocked twice by Gerard Pique from the rebound.

However, Barca had a chance to draw level just before the break. A quickly worked free kick from Cesc Fabregas found Messi in range, but his initial attempt was saved by Fernandez, who also recovered in time to smother Iniesta’s follow-up.

The visitors’ problems continued as the second half unfolded and another defensive lapse almost cost them dear just before the hour mark. Carles Puyol’s sloppy pass was pounced on by Sisi, whose low angler towards the corner was tipped wide by Valdes.

Lamah continued to be a thorn in Barcelona’s side and the Belgian made his presence felt again in the 66th minute, as he drove in from the left and drilled a dangerous shot across the face of goal.

Moments later, Sergio Busquets would almost gift Osasuna a second goal, after he was stripped of possession by Nino just outside the box, who bent his finish onto the post from point blank range.

In the 73rd minute, Vilanova was sent to the stands for arguing with the linesman on the sidelines. However, just when Osasuna were at their most dangerous, a moment of controversy undid all their hard work and brought Barcelona back into the game.

Punal was obstructed by referee Fernandez in the middle, but play was allowed to continue, allowing Barca to deliver into the Osasuna area. The hosts were not able to clear and Sanchez was able to poke to Messi, who stroked home from six yards out.

Osasuna protested an offside call on Sanchez to no avail and Punal was given his marching orders in the confusion. Within four minutes of the restart, matters became even worse for the home side as Barcelona struck again.

A sweeping move from the visitors saw Alba drive a low cross towards Messi inside the area and the Argentine did not hesitate, side-footing past Fernandez to put his side into the lead.

Osasuna could not muster a response and Barca held on to claim three priceless points that they barely warranted.


zaterdag 25 augustus 2012

Premier League - Saturday - August 25

Manchester United 3-2 Fulham
Van Persie & Kagawa score as hosts secure first win of season
The Netherlands international struck a sensational goal on his full debut as the Red Devils came from behind to secure victory, but saw Wayne Rooney stretchered off late on

Manchester United vs Fulham

Manchester United sealed their first Premier League points of the season with a 3-2 victory over Fulham, but were made to work hard by Martin Jol's men.

Damien Duff gave the visitors a shock lead from a clever set-piece with just minutes on the clock, but Robin van Persie’s brilliant equaliser got United back on terms only moments later. The hosts then appeared to be cruising after Shinji Kagawa and Rafael increased their lead but an own goal from Nemanja Vidic following confusion in the goalmouth provided a nervy ending.

Sir Alex Ferguson provided an early shock in making Wayne Rooney the most high-profile casualty from Monday’s loss to Everton, with Van Persie making his full debut as the forward’s replacement. Meanwhile, Nani missed out on a place in the squad entirely as Ashley Young and Valencia took their place on the flanks, with Rafael occupying the right-back role previously filled by the Ecuadorian. Veteran Paul Scholes also made way in central midfield for the younger legs of Anderson, whilst Danny Welbeck had to be content with a substitute’s role.

Visiting boss Martin Jol made just one change following his side’s 5-0 win on the opening day, with 21-year-old Matthew Briggs coming in for the injured John Arne Riise at left-back. American forward Clint Dempsey, who is still strongly linked with a move to Liverpool, was left out of the squad yet again.

United will doubtless have spoken of the importance of getting a good start as they looked to bounce back from defeat to the Toffees, but what followed certainly will not have been part of that script. Some clever work from Mladen Petric on the left-hand side tempted the returning Rafael into a needless foul just outside the box with just minutes on the clock. Bryan Ruiz stepped up to take the free-kick and his clever, low delivery caught the hosts’ backline napping and allowed Duff to capitalise as he side-footed into the bottom corner.

The Old Trafford crowd was unsurprisingly stunned into silence, but the Red Devils rarely dwell on such matters. Kagawa was the architect as United carved out a chance in immediate reply but, unfortunately for the Manchester side, the No.7’s cross was beyond the arriving strikers.

The hosts continued to push up against a Fulham team which dropped continually deeper seemingly in the belief that they had scored too early, and thus it was no surprise to see United get back on terms by just the 12th minute.  A patient build-up from Ferguson’s men allowed Evra into space on the left and, though the full-back’s poor cross was not particularly begging to be put in, debutant Van Persie did just that.

Quite how the Dutchman flicked the high, bouncing ball into the far corner on the half volley with such precision may well have been beyond the home fans – and Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal – but it is not something which seemed to overly concern them as they welcomed their latest acquisition with a rapturous celebration.

That strike settled the hosts into their usual rhythm of relentlessly attacking at Old Trafford, but the chances were not as forthcoming as Fulham began to tighten up and grow into the game. However, it was the Cottagers’ wastefulness in going forward which led to United’s next big chance in the 25th minute.

Briggs’ burst forward from left-back ended in a poor pass inside and United’s subsequent counterattack, heavily orchestrated by Kagawa, allowed Young to sneak in behind Fulham’s defence only to shoot hopelessly over the bar from close range.

Though Sir Alex Ferguson will have been pleased with the comfortable nature of the game with half-time approaching, the determination of Fulham’s backline might have provided a concern until it was broken in fortunate circumstances. The visitors may have thought they had done enough to clear a corner from the right-hand side which was nodded away to the edge of the box, but Cleverley’s thunderous drive proved too hot to handle for Mark Schwarzer and provided Kagawa with the easiest  of tap-ins on his home debut.

Though they had been handed a slice of luck with the goal, the manner in which they capitalised on it underlined the ruthless mentality of so many Ferguson sides. A fine passing move released Young on the left again and the former Aston Villa man dinked intelligently to the far post for the approaching Rafael to nod home and put his side 3-1 up.

That goal may have given the Brazilian defender confidence, but just moments later he evidenced the side of his game which so often attracts criticism. Alex Kacaniklic muscled his way beyond the full-back on the left and, though Petric’s overhead effort from the subsequent cross was thwarted, only two incredible saves from De Gea could prevent Damien Duff and Petric again from getting the Cottagers back into the game.
And that missed chance proved the last contribution Jol’s side could make before the half-time whistle saw United go in as deserved leaders.

The game got back underway on a more even keel with the Cottagers appearing to have been subjected to their own version of ‘the hairdryer’ at half-time, but United were equal to their visitors’ attempts to get further up the pitch in a quiet first 15 minutes of the second period.

The decreasing tempo appeared to suit the London outfit, and their increasing grip on the game was underlined as they grabbed an unlikely goal with 65 minutes on the clock. A hopeful ball into the box from the left-hand side tempted De Gea into a needless attempt at a punch, and the Spaniard found himself sandwiched between Vidic and Petric with the ball coming off the former’s heel and bouncing into the goal.

Fulham were clearly buoyed by the goal and almost got themselves back on terms after a run from Dembele saw the Belgian find space in the box to force De Gea into an excellent reaction save. But that mini-revival appeared short-lived, with the introduction of Rooney and Welbeck from the bench in place of Young and Kagawa giving the hosts further impetus.

However, despite the arrival of such illustrious attacking talents, the Red Devils failed to add to their tally and even nearly surrendered two of their points in the dying seconds as De Gea was forced into a reaction save to keep out a drive from the edge of the box.

Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle
Hazard & Torres goals keep Blues top of Premier League
The attacking duo shone again and combined twice for first half strikes that saw off the Magpies and made it three top flight wins out of three for Roberto Di Matteo's side

Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres inspired Chelsea to a routine victory over Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge

The attacking pair scored a goal each, with Hazard handing the Blues the lead from the penalty spot after Torres had been fouled by Vurnon Anita.

The Spaniard then found the top corner from 18 yards with a shot struck sweetly with the outside of his boot after his new team-mate had laid the ball off with a neat back-heel.

Newcastle improved after the break but chances remained few and far between, with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse kept largely at bay as Roberto Di Matteo's side returned to the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea started the game without two of their most experienced players, as defender John Terry was ruled out due to a neck injury and Frank Lampard was left on the bench. Gary Cahill and David Luiz were therefore partnered at centre-back, with Raul Meireles alongside John Obi Mikel in midfield.

Anita made his first Premier League start in midfield for Newcastle, with Cheick Tiote unavailable with a knee injury. Fabricio Coloccini returned to the defence after a thigh strain.

The Blues introduced new signings Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses to the Stamford Bridge faithful before kick-off but once the whistle had been blown all eyes, once again, were on Hazard.

The Belgian was the brightest light of a muted opening quarter of an hour and as Torres grew into the game Chelsea began to ask more questions of the Newcastle defence.

Anita's transition to English football, unfortunately for Newcastle, was not to be quite as smooth as Hazard's and when Torres skipped into the box the Dutch midfielder caught him on the knee with a wild swing of his left boot.

The referee, Phil Dowd, rightly pointed to the spot and Hazard, needing only a short run-up, coolly swept the resulting penalty into the bottom corner to Tim Krul's right.

Chelsea kept a firm grip on the first half thereafter. Torres was unfairly penalised for diving after knocking the ball past Coloccini, who caught the Spaniard as he continued his run, although Jonas Gutierrez likely would have retrieved the ball first regardless.

Cisse and Ba plugged away in attack at the other end while Hatem Ben Arfa hinted sporadically that he could be a threat, but Chelsea coped comfortably even in the absence of Terry.

Di Matteo's team remained patient and gave Newcastle a mountain to climb on the stroke of half-time. Unsurprisingly, Hazard was involved again, and his combinations with Torres are giving Chelsea fans reason to be increasingly cheerful.

The duo will combine for more goals after this one but not many will be of better quality. Hazard received the striker's pass on the edge of the box and, turning away from goal, completed the one-two by back-heeling into his path. Torres was left with little space in which to manoeuvre but instinctively struck a shot with the outside of his boot that flew into the top corner.

Newcastle's chances of playing their way back into the game after the break appeared remote, though Ben Arfa engineered enough space to shoot narrowly wide from the edge of the box and Ba saw a shot from a tight angle saved.

They did have more of a share of possession, however, although Torres' counter-attacking runs continued to prove dangerous and Coloccini, Santon and Anita all needed to either cut out through passes or halt the 28-year-old's progress in the Magpies' half.

With his side unable to create anything meaningful in open play, Alan Pardew turned to substitute and set-piece specialist Ryan Taylor shortly after the hour mark and the change very nearly – and perhaps should have – paid dividends. The full-back curled in a superb free-kick from the left that Cisse could only head over the bar from point blank range.

Bertrand flashed a vicious 20-yard shot past Krul's far post, with a corner awarded despite the Dutchman's claims to the contrary, and Ba should have done better when he shot too close to Cech from 12 yards after miscuing his initial effort.

The victory never looked in much doubt and Chelsea saw out proceedings to make it three league wins out of three in 2012-13.


maandag 20 augustus 2012

First games from La Liga

1-1: Real Madrid deserved much more
The Whites, much superior to their rivals, had to overcome even the posts against Valencia who clung on thanks to Alves and who only had one chance on target

Three months later, almost 100 days, 99 to be exact, the Liga returned to the Santiago Bernabeu. The return of the Liga saw Real Madrid held to a draw despite being far superior to their opponents. The Whites had almost 20 clear opportunities to win the encounter, 11 corners and a clear penalty that was not awarded by referee Delgado Ferreiro. Higuaín put the home team ahead and Jonas, in the closing minutes of the first half, equalised with what proved to be Pellegrino’s team’s only shot on goal. In the second half there were more and more opportunities for the Whites, who came across an inspired Alves and even the crossbar from a Higuaín header. The start to a season is always difficult, but this Real Madrid team, the same squad that won 100 points and scored 121 goals last season, showed clear signs of their pride and wining mentality.

With suffocating pressure up front and plenty of balance in the midfield, Real Madrid was the first team to fire a warning shot, doing so on two occasions barely inside the first five minutes, both shots coming from the forwards. Cristiano Ronaldo was the first to shoot in the second minute, and Di María did the same two minutes later, before setting up Higuaín to put the Whites ahead on the scoreboard. The Argentine’s precise pass was made the most of by his fellow countryman who, in the right position, controlled the ball, and after three attempts, beat Alves. Higuaín scored Real Madrid’s first official goal of the season and only needed 9 minutes to do so.

Nothing changed after the goal. Real Madrid and Valencia shared possession of the ball but the hosts were the only team to convert the possession into opportunities. Xabi Alonso from outside the area in minute 23, Özil, who struck badly with his right foot in minute 34, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who attempted a volley and a poor clearance Alves in minute 39, all had chances to score the second goal. However, the best opportunity fell to Coentrão. A spectacular one-two between Higuaín and CR7 and the Portuguese player’s inviting pass left his fellow countryman in front of the visiting goalkeeper. His shot was cleared by Alves, who put the ball behind for a corner. 

Everything seemed to point towards Real Madrid heading to the dressing rooms with an advantage on the scoreboard, but bad luck had other designs and with four minutes remaining in the first half. A free-kick taken by Tino Costa and Jonas stole a march on Casillas to beat him with a header. It was the visitors only shot on target and after the play both Pepe and the Madrid captain had to be attended to, after clashing in the air with teammate Xabi Alonso. Both received knocks, although the defender was the worse off of the two, ending the first half with a bandage around his head and had to be substituted by Albiol when the game got underway after the break. 

A rush of opportunities after the break
Real Madrid was the dominant team in the second half. The Whites were dangerous and Valencia defended as they could and attempted to surprise the Whites on the counter attack. The opportunities kept coming and Mourinho, courageous and attacking, gambled by adding more cutting edge to the team. Benzema replaced Lass in minute 60, and from that moment the hosts had ten clear opportunities to score their second goal. Higuaín had the clearest of the opportunities, but his header met the crossbar after beating Alves minute 65. 

Real Madrid was a force to be reckoned with. Özil once again came across an inspired Alves in minute 66, Benzema was off target in front of goal in minute 67 and this was the case for another ten opportunities. Even Di María claimed a clear penalty. The Argentine, was knocked down by his fellow countryman Gago, fell down injured and had to be replaced immediately by Callejón, who could have given his team victory but whose great left-footed shot was brilliantly stopped by the Valencia goalkeeper in minute 82. More and more opportunities came until the final whistle, bringing to an end an undeserved draw for a team that has showed clear signs of their pride and wining mentality. The Whites return to action on Thursday at the Camp Nou, with the Spanish Super Cup up for grabs.


Barcelona 5-1 Real Sociedad
Villa returns with a goal as Blaugrana batter Basques
The Catalans' campaign could not have got off to a better start, with the forward putting the seal on a scintillating team performance with a fine strike shortly after coming on

Lionel Messi - FC Barcelona, Real Sociedad

The Tito Vilanova era at Camp Nou began in fine style as Barcelona romped to a 5-1 win over Real Sociedad in their Primera Division season opener on Sunday night.

While Real Madrid stumbled to an 1-1 draw against Valencia earlier in the day, the Blaugrana's new boss picked up where predecessor Pep Guardiola left off, dominating their beleaguered Basque opponents from start to finish during an emphatic victory. 

Carles Puyol headed Barca in front after four minutes, only for Gonzalo 'Chori' Castro to restore parity with an opportunistic finish moments later. But then Lionel Messi took over, scoring a pair of poacher's efforts in the 11th and 16th minutes to give the Catalans a lead they would never relinquish.

Pedro added the fourth just before half-time and Barca's perfect beginning to the season was completed by the return of David Villa from injury, with the Spain international marking his comeback with the home side's fifth and final goal, six minutes from the end.
Vilanova was not the only debutant for Barca, as Jordi Alba, the €14 million signing from Valencia, was handed a start at left-back. One of Sociedad’s new recruits, Castro, began up front, but fellow summer signings Carlos Vela and Jose Angel both had to settle for a place on the bench.

It took the Catalans only four minutes to break the deadlock, though the goal came, for them, in somewhat unconventional fashion, with a corner from Xavi being thumped in by the head of Puyol.

Sociedad were straight back down the pitch, with Castro coming within inches of connecting with a dangerous centre from Xabi Prieto at the far post. However, the ball did find its way to the former moments later - and he took full advantage.

Asier Illarramendi slipped a clever pass just in front of Dani Alves, putting Castro through on goal and he had the time to take a touch before burying his finish high into the roof of the net.

But just as Sociedad were able to hit back right after conceding, so too did Barcelona, who regained the lead within two minutes of the restart.

Messi’s uncharacteristically poor touch allowed a decent cross from Cristian Tello to get away from him, but Pedro worked the rebound back to the Argentine, who wriggled through his markers and slotted home.

Messi’s predatory instincts came to the fore again moments later, the forward reacting quickest to a Tello centre to drill the Blaugrana into a 3-1 lead, all after 16 minutes.

With a two-goal cushion, the hosts settled into their typical monopolisation of possession, suffocating Sociedad in their own half with large periods of metronomic passing.

A sublime combination between Messi and Cesc Fabregas carved the visitors apart, with only the legs of Claudio Bravo denying the Argentine his hat-trick.

Sociedad only threatened intermittently on the counter, but an audacious lob from the halfway line by Gorka Elustondo would force Victor Valdes into a safety-first palm over the bar.

However, Barcelona were always in control and with four minutes to go until half-time, they added a fourth in emphatic and enthralling fashion.

Messi, Xavi and Fabregas were all involved in a build-up that split Sociedad in two, with the ball worked wide to Tello, who centred to Pedro to stroke into the far corner.

Sociedad set up for a damage-limitation exercise in the second half, though Antoine Griezmann snatched at an early opening as he fired wide from a good position.

However, the focus was always at the other end of the pitch and an outstanding one-touch sequence between Messi and Pedro ended with the former blasting his finish into the side netting when he should have hit the target.

Xavi was next to try his luck, letting loose from 20 yards out with a strong arm from Bravo denying him a goal of his own.

The home fans were in jubilant spirits, which were kicked up a notch by the introduction of Villa for Pedro with a quarter of an hour to go, the Spain striker making his long-awaited return from the fractured tibia he suffered last December.

And Villa did not miss a beat, finishing a mazy run from Iniesta with aplomb in the 84th minute to round off a picture-perfect start to the new season for Barcelona, who will now go into their midweek Spanish Supercopa clash with great rivals Real Madrid brimming with belief.


zondag 12 augustus 2012

Real Madrid news!

Real Madrid 2-0 Celtic
Callejon and Benzema ensure straightforward defeat for SPL champions
Goals from Jose Callejon and Karim Benzema hands the Spanish champions a final American tour victory while Dylan McGeough suffers a head injury late-on for the Scots

Jose Callejon, Real Madrid

Real Madrid finished off their American tour in superb style with a comfortable victory over Scottish champions Celtic.

Goals from Jose Callejon and Karim Benzema helped the Spanish giants to go into the start of the league season in winning form.

The game, however, had a sour note as young Celtic winger Dylan McGeough was stretchered off late on after a nasty clash of heads with Nuri Sahin.

Celtic were forced to make a change to their line-up before the game even started, with Anthony Stokes pulling up injured in the warm-up, he was replaced in the side by defender Thomas Rogne, which meant an alteration to the Hoops style.

The Spanish champions had the first real chance after an open first quarter of an hour, as Cristiano Ronaldo raced down the left wing, before cutting back and losing defender Adam Matthews, he then crossed to the back post for Callejon, but his strike went just wide.

Ronaldo then had his own effort on goal as he raced forward, but unfortunately for the Portguese winger his strike went just wide of Lukasz Zaluska’s goal.

Next up for Real Madrid was Kaka, as they looked to open the scoring against their Scottish opponents, with the Brazilian midfielder receiving the ball on the right hand side of the penalty area, but his effort was blocked by Zaluska away from danger.

Jose Mourinho’s side eventually took the lead as Xabi Alonso played a ball towards Gonzalo Higuain. His strike was saved by Zaluska, but the rebound fell into the path of Callejon who slid the ball in from close range.

Real Madrid could have had a second, minutes later as Alonso floated in a free kick from the right wing, onto the head of Higuain, but his effort went just over the bar.

Neil Lennon’s team finally started to get into the game and were almost back on level terms as Kris Commons raced with the ball down the right wing and crossed to the back post, but before Mulgrew could get near the ball Alvaro Arbeloa got his head to it to divert for a corner.

Just before the half time whistle, the Scottish champions had their best chance of the first period, with Joe Ledley receiving the ball on the halfway line before darting forward, but his strike went over the bar.

The Spanish outfit came out for the second half with a renewed vigour and almost doubled their lead, as Alonso fired a cross in search of Sergio Ramos, but the ball went beyond the defender and out for a goal kick.

Mourinho's side continued to pepper the Celtic goal, as Ronaldo dashed in from the left wing, and crossed in search of substitute Benzema, but before the French striker could tap the ball home, Kelvin Wilson stuck out a leg to deflect the ball clear.

The one way traffic continued with Mesut Ozil crossing from the left wing for Esteban Granero on the edge of the area, but his shot went well over the bar.

Midway through the second half Real Madrid finally got their second as Ozil found Benzema free on the left wing, the striker then raced in on goal and drove the ball through Matthews legs and beyond Zaluska’s outstretched arms.

Angel di Maria nearly added to his side’s lead after a superb move involving him and Benzema, before he had a strike from the left hand side of the penalty area which was deflected away for a corner kick.

Celtic were then handed a huge blow as McGeouch suffered a large clash of heads with Sahin which left the 19-year-old winger crumpled on the ground.

The Celtic medical staff was quick off the mark to help the youngster, along with their Real Madrid counterparts, as McGeouch received the care and attention he needed before being stretchered off the park.

Real Madrid continued to push forward for the reminder of the game, with Benzema once again finding Di Maria, but his strike went wide of Zaluska’s left hand post and out for a goal kick.

The game then petered out with both sides comfortable with the final score as they finish their pre-season campaigns.


Xabi Alonso: “We're ready for the start of the season”

Real Madrid - Celtic de Glasgow

“We always want to win, but the aim of this preparation was to get into a good space and we've achieved this”, said the Whites midfielder.

Real Madrid concluded their American tour with their fourth victory against Celtic in the four matches that they have played. Xabi Alonso took stock of the good pre-season that the team has carried out. “We always want to win, but the aim of this preparation was to get into a good space and we've achieved this. In addition, the results have been very good. We're ready for the start of the season and we want to do it in the best possible way”, said the midfielder.

Alonso considered it very positive that this is the third campaign that they embark on with the same coaching staff and that the footballers know the team's playing style very well,“There's a little way to go, but the base is there and the pieces have come together. It's been a short pre-season because we haven't had much time and now we're heading off with the national team and we'll be away for a few days, but we're used to it. It isn't anything new and we hope to start the year well. Many things are already prepared and it's a step forward”.

The team has achieved great results and all the players rise to the challenge when they hit the pitch, something that the Real Madrid midfielder knows will be key to accomplish the aims of the season,“It's a good sign because we have a good foundation and everything that comes after will be improvements. “What's important is that everything that is in the squad right now will serve for what we face during the season”.

In relation to first match of la Liga and the Spanish Super Cup match against Barcelona, Alonso was clear,“We have to be ready because they are matches that require you to give 100% and we have to be in peak form right from the start. We can't think that it's going to be easy. They are both important matches. We know that all Liga matches are very important and the first more so. In addition, the Spanish Super Cup is the first title and we want to win it. We prioritise both. Neither is more important than the other. The Spanish Super Cup is important because you're playing for a title, but I don't think it offers any advantage for the future”.Lastly, he spoke of the tour's other highlights. “I've played everything. I really like sports. I've had a really good time here playing baseball and American football”.

Mourinho: "We're going to fight for each match and each title with all our might"

"We want to want to win titles again and return to Cibeles, which is the best end to a season you can have", said Real Madrid's coach.

José Mourinho faces his third season leading Real Madrid. He does it "excited after two years in which this team has gone from strength to strength and has always won a title". One day shy of concluding the American tour, the White's coach reflected on the pre-season and analysed the campaign about to commence with the first fixture of la Liga against Valencia August 19 in the Santiago Bernabéu. "We're going to fight for each match and each title with all our might. You can't promise more because there are factors that you can't control. This sport is and always will be a game and games are unpredictable. I like reducing this uncertainty to an absolute minimum and having Real Madrid win many more times than not. We want to want to win titles again and return to Cibeles, which is the best end to a season you can have".

What's your assessment of Real Madrid's tour in the United States?
It hasn't finished yet, but it's going well. We worked hard and well in the first period and later the games have turned out how we wanted them to. The first fixture was against an American team that was more worried about playing well and allowing good play. The next match was more complicated, more competitive and intense, against a Mexican team. Later, we played a top level European team in a stadium that we new would bring motivation on the one hand and responsibility on the other. It was good for us and now we're going to finish by playing a team with a completely different profile that plays a British style of football. We're playing well, once again putting together the pieces of a machine that was already working well and trying to step up our intensity and confidence. We're preparing ourselves as best as possible to start well.

Many players have pointed out that this team is well established and that two years of work are paying off. Is this team really so united?
It helps when people know each other and get on well together. The players might have been together for a long time but if there's no empathy and pleasure in working together you have a bigger problem than when you're putting together a group. We all get along well, we know each other well both on a personal level and in terms of football. They know the way I work and my ideas and I know them, their great qualities and the small problems that always exist. We're excited about our third year after two in which we've gone from strength to strength and have always won a title. Last year's was more important than the one the year before. That's where we are and it's a shame that the national teams are leaving us in a complicated situation next week before the championship begins. That's the calendar. We knew about it months ago and we've tried to organise the pre-season in a balanced way so that the players can start, perhaps not all-out, but well.

Much has been said about the goal-fest against Milan and the play deployed by your team. Did José Mourinho expect Real Madrid to respond in this way at this stage in the preparation?
We played well. We won the match and I think that for the players the stadium was an additional motivating factor. The stadium was packed with fans and people that feel a special connection to the team because they don't live in Spain. Another motivating factor was the reputation of our rivals and we played all-out and prepared really well. The result is rewarding but not essential. What's essential is that we play well and we did it at a level at which we played many times last season. They are small factors that add to the confidence this team already has.

In the game against Milan, were we seeing the Real Madrid of Mourinho's third year?
I don't know. We played the first half well against a very closed team that came on with very defensive play and many players at the back. It made us think about our play. That's going to happen to us a lot with teams that are going to lock down against us. When we scored the second goal in the second half and they wanted to attack, the game profile changed. They played more offensively, leaving a lot of space for our transitions. It was a rich game in a tactical sense to train us.

There are many people that wonder why you enjoy coming to the United States so much for the pre-season. In New York, in the Yankee Stadium, we saw many reasons to do it...
The people that ask me that only do so once. The president asked me and after coming he's never asked me again. This time he came with us and we've loved having him. He's not going to ask me again why I want to come because he's going to enjoy coming back himself. With the exception of Philadelphia, where we knew what the temperature would be like, the climate is perfect for working. The organisation is perfect, the matches are good, the stadiums and the fans motivational. We promote Real Madrid in an important market, we promote football in a country where it isn't the top sport. I also think it's good for the club economically... It's also perfect for the players on the Spanish national team because they're going to stay and head from here to Costa Rica, which is much closer than if they had to return to Europe and it saves them some hours of travel. It's perfect for everyone and it's a great experience. I've been doing it for seven years and I want to continue because I like it a lot. Whoever comes never asks again.

They also like you a lot here. In the Yankee Stadium we saw a banner where they proposed you for president of the United States...
It must have been a friend of mine doing propaganda.


Real Madrid rest until Wednesday afternoon

 Salida Filadelfia
Flying back to Madrid

Real Madrid has successfully completed its pre-season commitments after winning the four matches they played in their tour of the United States. After flying to the capital from Philadelphia in the early hours of Sunday, Real Madrid will rest until Wednesday afternoon, which is when they go back to work in Valdebebas. José Mourinho will lead a training session at 18:00, which will be behind closed doors.

Mexico wins gold medal!

Brazil 0-2 Mexico
Dos Santos and Hernandez on target against youthful Seleção
Mano Menezes side failed to make the most of their possession as La Verde put in a stalwart defensive display whilst remaining threatening on the counterattack

Mexico ended a run of eight consecutive friendly wins for Brazil with a famous 2-0 victory at Cowboys Stadium.

Giovani Dos Santos opened the scoring against what is believed to be the Brazilian side that will start this summer's Olympic Games with a fortuitous chip. Javier Hernandez then added the second from the penalty spot after some slack defending from the Selecao. From then on Brazil struggled to forge opportunities to score and the Mexicans remained watertight at the back to secure the win.

Brazil assumed control of the ball in the opening stages with the combination of Marcelo and Neymar looking lively down the left flank. With 10 minutes played the Selecao got in behind as Leandro Damiao finished off Hulk's ball over the top, only to see the goal ruled out for a debatable offside decision.

Mexico were breaking at speed when they won back the ball and it was such a move that saw them take the lead in the 22nd minute. Pablo Berrera's raking 40-yard pass switched the play to Dos Santos on the left of the box where he was stood up by Danilo. He worked a yard of space to clip the ball towards the back post which it ended up bouncing off of and into the net.

La Verde were in the ascendancy as they continued to threaten on the counterattack and they earned a penalty soon after. After stray pass in the area Juan was overzealous in his attempts to retrieve the ball and he brought Dos Santos down. Hernandez stepped up and converted from 12 yards to double his side's lead in the 33rd minute.

Brazil had little to show for all their possession due to some good pressing and Jose Corona was forced into his first save just three minutes before the break. Oscar's swerving 25-yard strike was heading for the top corner but the keeper dived to his left and parried the effort away.

Mexico continued to impress with their high pressing and they forced another error at the back. A misplaced pass was pounced upon by Jorge Torres but Sandro got back to make a fantastic block on Jesus Zavala's shot, with Hernandez was unable to poke in the rebound.

In an attempt to add more attacking guile to his side Menezes brought Alexandre Pato and Lucas Moura on to replace Leandro Damiao and Sandro. However, La Verde remained resilient in defence and a deflected volley from Lucas and a stinging long-range free kick from Hulk were the only threats provided by Brazil.

They continued to gain momentum and after Juan saw his 74th-minute volley saved by Corona, Rafael diverted Hernandez's effort away from goal after another break. The action continued as Hulk found space on the left and put it on a plate for Pato to tap in but his connection was awful as he failed to convert.

Clear-cut chances remained elusive and Brazil will now look towards next week's friendly against Lionel Messi's Argentina while Mexico will begin the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign on the same weekend.


zondag 5 augustus 2012

Men's Football - Olympic Games 2012

First Round - from 26 July to 01 August

from 04 to 07 August

The final will take place on the 10 and 11 August.

Women's Football

First Round - from 25 to 31 July

from 03 to 06 August

The final will take place on the 08 and 09 August.