Last night was a good good night!


There were a few groans, moans and raised eyebrows when the playing eleven for the return leg was announced. Sir Alex is a genius when it comes to winning a battle on and off the pitch. The confidence he had in the young guns to get some European experience at home soil, to let them play with a freedom in the semi final of the biggest trophy tournament ever, might even seem a touch arrogant. But his track record says it all, cause more often than not, he gets it right. A 4-1 drubbing at the theatre of dreams ended an unbelievable European run for Schalke. When the likes of Anderson, Gibson and Evans oozed confidence, the big fellow was resting all the big guns for the title deciding fixture coming weekend.  It was not a tricky night by any means, United were expected to cruise through, but it’s not over until it is over!

A matter of great pride for all Manchester United fans all over the world to see Sir Alex lead his troops to a 3rd European final in 4 years. We have some important scores to settle.. starting this weekend and I can’t really wait as we look to rewrite history again! glory glory manchester united!

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FC Schalke 04 0-2 Manchester United 4/26


Edwin van der Sar and Rio Ferdinand celebrate another shut-out.

Prematch

The road to the semi final has been one of consistency from United, especially away from home, not having conceded even once. United’s record against German opposition in Europe has been abysmal to say the least, not getting past German opposition ever in the knockouts.

  • Tantalizing battle: a Schalke side with a 100% winning record at home en route to the last four vs a United team yet to concede a goal in recording four wins and one draw on their travels in the competition.
  • 3 titles: Manchester United has had the European Glory only 3 times before – Raul alone has had the same success.
  • German KO: United’s record reads 0 wins and 4 defeats.
    • 1996/97 semi-finals: Borussia Dortmund (0-2 aggregate)
    • 2000/01 quarter-finals: FC Bayern München (1-3 aggregate)
    • 2001/02 semi-finals: Bayer 04 Leverkusen (3-3 aggregate, away goals)
    • 2009/10 quarter-finals: FC Bayern München (4-4 aggregate, away goals)
  • United are competing in their 12th semi-final in Europe’s elite club competition, their record to date reading four wins and seven defeats (W3 L3 under Sir Alex)

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ralf Rangnick

Nothing will be decided tomorrow. We know Manchester are much better organised than Inter, so it will not be as easy for us to score. We have to try to be compact as well. A close result will leave everything open for the return leg in Manchester.

Sir Alex Ferguson has won more games and titles at this level, but United will have a very experienced team, much as Inter did. Our team is a bit younger and hopefully hungrier to make up for their lack of experience. Our passion and discipline has helped us against Inter and I hope it will do so again against United.

Team News

  • Schalke: Benedikt Höwedes is struggling to be fit – stomach strain; Kyriakos Papadopoulos (calf) and Peer Kluge (abdominal muscle strain) will be fit. Mario Gavranović (ankle) has missed recent games; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (knee), Christoph Moritz (knee) and Christian Pander (toe, cold) – longer-term absentees.
  • Manchester United: Berbatov (groin) did not accompany the team; Fletcher and Hargreaves are still out, but O’Shea joins the squad despite getting a knock last weekend.

Starting Lineup

Team Lineup

on the bench

Match Review

Fabio bursts through the Schalke defence with typical exuberance.

Schalke kicked off the game but it took only 3 minutes for Rooney to test the German keeper Neuer when a deflected strike headed to the right top corner. That was the beginning of a number of saves the keeper made to give some respectability to the score. The next 10 min saw attempts from Park and Chicharito brilliantly saved by the keeper.

I had a feeling Sir Alex might leave Rooney alone on top, but he instead went for a 4-4-2 with Hernandez holding the attack up front and Rooney lurking behind as a second striker | false nine | playmaker. Raul was also playing a similar position letting Edu lead the line and helping out the midfield.

Javier Hernandez tangles with the outstanding Manuel Neuer.

Carrick set the pattern to how United were going to approach the midfield. He was going to sit back right in front of the two centre halves and protect the line while letting Giggs forge forward in the attack.

Valencia and Park were full of energy running the channels, intercepting play, and soon the pattern of the first half was set. United seemed to grow into the possession and always seemed to be one gear ahead of the Germans.

Spurts of Schalke’s forward runs never found a way into the box, and the multitude of shots on target (from outside the box) were easy pickings for the Dutchman. Fabio seemed the most culpable to conceding a foul and one ‘d imagine Schalke would exploit it; his ability to dribble was on display when twice he made runs into the box with ease and came close with a half volley from a corner flying just over the crossbar.

United midfielders were given the time to get into their stride and they made every move forward count. 2-3 times in the first half, Chicharito was one on one vs Neuer but the ever accurate Mexican was thwarted by the massive frame of the keeper whose judgement was crucial in making the United strikers look like they were having an off day.

There was only one man responsible for the score being 0-0 at HT, and they say he is best in Germany at the moment and for people like me watching a full 90; against a quality attack rests the case. United were denied 6 times while Van der Sar was called to action only 3 times with the former denying good goal scoring opportunities.

Ryan Giggs slides his finish past Manuel Neuer for the opener.

Chicharito’s contribution to this United team is massive. His movement off the ball, his guile and trickery leaves the centres halves confused and helps open channels of scoring for Lampardish runs into the box. And that is exactly how United broke the dead lock. It took 67′ and a string of fine saves but eventually Chicharito dragged the centre backs with his movement allowing Rooney to reverse the ball into the path of Ryan Giggs who after a number of attempts in front of goal finally beat the keeper through his legs! It was a goal well deserved by a team which was dominating all departments of the game and the entire stadium knew it was only a matter of time. A min. later Giggs had another missed attempt on goal but on 69′ when Chicharito with his quick feet found his strike partner, Neuer knew the tie was done and dusted.

United celebrate taking a step closer towards the Wembley final.

Paul Scholes, Anderson and Nani came on replacing the power houses Park, Hernandez and Rooney. United then settled into a keep ball mode and Schalke just never did seem like troubling United. The difference in quality on show was apparent, and the Schalke fans were not too surprised with the outcome of the fixture. They knew it would be a tough game, but it was a truly professional performance from the red devils

Match Stats

General Stats

Pass success rates

Distance covered


Post Match

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ryan Giggs – “We created enough chances to be four or five up at half time,” said Giggs. “Before the game, we’d have taken 2-0 but we’re slightly disappointed it was only two. I thought if we kept creating chances, one would go in and hopefully I would get one on my left foot rather than my right foot!”

Rio Ferdinand – “In some ways, I was a little bit surprised [by how dominant we were] but then I look at the players in our changing room and it doesn’t surprise me because we’ve got quality in there. If we click and play well like we did in the first half, we can open up any team. “

Final Verdict and Milestones

  • As a Manchester United fan, this is easily the best United performance this season in all competitions. We were brilliant in all departments – possession, crisp quick passing, superb interceptions, determined and committed – had it not been for Neuer the icing would be complete.
  • With 2 away goals, United are favorites to go to Wembley, having never conceded more than a goal difference at home in Europe.
  • Ryan Giggs

    • Ryan Giggs has now scored in 15 different UCL editions, equalling the record of Schalke’s Raúl.
    • The oldest player ever to score in the UEFA Champions League at 37 years old.
  • A record 50th clean sheet in Europe for Edwin Van der Sar
  • By beating Schalke tonight, United have won their 1st Champions League knockout round match away against a German side.

Player Ratings

  1. Wayne Rooney –  9.0

    • Playmaker, striker and holding midfielder. All in one package. He was brilliant last night, creating the first goal and scoring the second. Hard to ignore this contribution, hence my MOTM.
  2. Michael Carrick9.0

    • 94/108 = 87% passing – he orchestrated the midfield with ease under no pressure whatsoever from the Schalke players. He covered the most distance too on the pitch – 11.4km, equivalent to Raul.
  3. Ryan Giggs9.0

    • Yup, giggsy will keep tearing you apart.. he converted 1 out of 5 chances he had in the box to beat the keeper. His fitness continues to amaze me as he swapped shirts with Raul at the end of the game. Legendary.

A complete team effort – a performance that questions the belief that this would be the poorest side Sir Alex has ever managed to glory.

Links

Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United 1st leg Review 4/6


a Smiling Rooney clinches the precious away goal

With scorelines of 4 plus goals in all the other fixtures, a 0-1 defeat at home for Chelsea after 9 years by the title rivals may not seem to be as emphatic, but with a crucial away goal, the reds are favorites going home for the return leg.

Squads

Sir Alex opted for a 4-4-2 similar to the last encounter with Chelsea. Hernandez spearheading attack, Park and Carrick in centre, with Giggs and Valencia on the flanks. Rio returned to first team action after 2 months.

Carlo Ancelotti played a similar 4-4-2 with surprise omission of both Anelka and Malouda, starting Zhirkov on the flank and Torres pairing with Drogba.

First 45′

Studs up Essien escapes caution

A few stray passes here and there, with a nervous start from both sides. There was no frenetic pace as the game began. A studs up tackle by Essien on Rooney as early as 5 min was not picked up by the ref and that set the tone to the manner in which Ref Mallenco was gonna let the play go on as far as possible. United slowly grew into a rhythm with Carrick orchestrating the midfield well.

Side tap into the inside of the far post

It took 25 min when a lovely long diagonal from Carrick picked Ryan Giggs on the left, who found Wayne Rooney making a late dash to the edge of the box to side foot the ball off the inside of the far post into the goal. The celebration was a total anticlimax – A smiling Rooney takes a tumble on the turf, points skyward and embracing his compatriots [The Mail will be disappointed that it is an orthodox goal celebration]. So much for all the hoo – haa over the ‘F’ word.

Ferdy is BACK!

At the other end, Drogba was finding it difficult to get beyond first touches. He was well marshalled by Evra and Vidic. Torres on the other hand was fairly successful in slithering this way and that way but his spiteful form continues. An attempted overhead kick was completely mistimed and failed to make more of a one on one with Vidic. His attempt to draw a penalty with a simulation went in vain but was very fortunate not to get booked, though Rio did give him a piece of his mind.

The best opportunity for Chelsea came in the dying moments of the half when a Lampard shot destined for the net was cleared in front of goal by Evra. There was not much to choose from both teams at half time but clearly the form of the United front men the difference in the scoreline.

Second 45′

I was disappointed that Malouda and Anelka did not start, anticipated a change at least at half time. Instead none happened. In the backdrop of how Chelsea bounced back last game, Ancelotti must have rallied the troops in a similar manner cause it took only 5 min for Drogba to whip in a brilliant ball into the box, where a sprinting Ramires missed from 5 yards – an open header. As glaring opportunities like this were being missed, one had to wonder if Chelsea will rue it.

Carrick was outstanding in the middle of the park!

Rafael departed in the first ten min with a body check on Drogba resulting in a knee injury. Sir Alex took a bold move in bringing Nani on and shifting Valencia to RB and boy did he revel. At the weekend we saw Ryan Giggs marshalling LB and yesterday Valencia. He did not disappoint one bit and was the most threatening full back in the second half.

Knee injury - Rafa stretchered off

Rooney and Chicharito’s dogged determination to track back and make life uncomfortable for both ramires and essien bore fruit with Giggs and Park having their work simplified.

A 70min substitution [Drogba, Zhirkov] – a little too late IMO, brought Malouda and Anelka. Chelsea reverted to a more familiar 4-3-3 and all of a sudden van der sar was the busiest of all United players. Pulled off a brilliant save on the stretch to deny Torres a well placed header. He seems to have done his hamstring a bit in that save and took no part in any further goal kicks.

Valencia marshalling RB ever so well

United were nervy and edgy towards the end with last ditch clearances; but with a lacklustre Chelsea forward force, never really threatened to score.  I felt Ramires was brilliant in the second half making a multitude of ‘Lampardish’ runs into the box. His second chance was when Evra mistimed his tackle [and my first reaction – penalty] though on seeing replays looked like the contact was just outside the box. None of the referees spotted the penalty claims and United were let off the hook.  A second simulation wherein Torres intentionally makes contact with Valencia to go down in the box earned him a well deserved yellow.

Rough idea of what goes on in the stands 😉

  • IMO, Carlo was wrong to play such an out of form forward just because his track record is good against united. Drogba was peaking, and Anelka has been brilliant in Europe. There should have been no second thoughts. Torres could have been introduced in the second half if the other two weren’t performing.
  • Chelsea had zero width in attack, couple of those rare moments when Bosingwa did manage to get past Evra, he disappointed with the crosses.
  • Lampard’s 500th seemed like he wasn’t around mainly because he was not playing his favorite position.
  • Rooney was simply outstanding covering lots of ground, helping out in midfield and defence, creative passing, complete package with his finishing.
  • Carrick impressed with his whole repertoire of passing; Valencia showed his adapatability; Rio’s return invariably means a clean sheet.
  • Rafael’s injury needs to be assessed [hectic month of April needs a fit squad]
  • Chicharito, Park – exemplary work rates.
  • Ryan Giggs – just never ceases to amaze. GIGGS will still TEAR YOU APART
  • I still consider Torres to be my favorite striker for the ability he possesses. The longer his barren spell continues, the less favorite he will be to Carlo and the fans. The only thing he seems to be learning at training there is from his buddy Drogba and the art of diving. Despicable and shameful!
  • Manchester United are firm favorites to win this time with the away goal in their locker. Carlo’s questionable comments on the refereeing probably will never seek any reprimand. After all he is not a United coach!

Player Ratings

Van der Sar 8.0, Evra 8.0 Vidic 8.5 Rio 8.5 Rafael 7.5 Giggs 8.0 Carrick 8.5 Park 8.0 Valencia 8.5 Rooney 9.0 Chicharito 8.0

Subs: Nani 7.5 Smalling 7.0

Highlights

Links

Chelsea vs Manchester United 1st leg Preview 4/6


The previous night in Europe must have surely given everyone a run for their money. Spurs spoke to length about the only way they know to play, but lack of experience at this level, has possibly brought  an abrupt end to their European dream run. King Mou was quick to bounce back after a very rare defeat at home the weekend. But the more shocking of the two ties was how the defending champions managed to give away a 2 goal lead and be ripped apart with 3 goals in the second half. Stankovic’s unbelievable strike from the halfway line doesn’t offer them any solace. Inter ‘s entry to this round was after a spectacular comeback against Bayern; anything is possible.

Head  to Head

  • In all competitions, MU – 67, Chelsea – 44 and Draws – 47. This season United beat Chelsea 3-1 in the Community Shield, but lost 1-2 in the league

The managers may claim it's not about revenge, but am sure this man will be on a mission tonight

  • The last time these two teams clashed in Europe, Manchester United went on to win the Final {2008} beating Chelsea over penalties. Misses from John Terry and Nicholas Anelka cost them the title.
  • United at ChelseaMU – 31, Chelsea – 23 and Draws – 19.

United has not won a single game at Stamford Bridge in the last 9 years, last winning in April 2002.

Form Guide

  • In all competitions;
    • MU – WWWWL
    • Chelsea – DWDWW

From the Dugout

  • Chelsea Manager Carlo Ancelotti’s track record is brilliant against United in Europe. Twice he has managed to beat United while at Milan; the memories of Kaka at OT don’t fade.
  • After another draw in the weekend against Stoke, it’s not the ideal start to April for the Blues.

Carlo Ancelotti – We have to play 180 minutes so obviously we want to start well, but everything will be settled at Old Trafford. Nothing will be decided tomorrow. It’ll be different playing United in the Champions League. We have very good confidence and are concentrated. We want to reach the semi-final if possible; if we play better than United we can do that.[The 2008 final] is the past and doesn’t matter. I have a good record against United but we want to focus on the next game and that will be a different story. We’re in good shape. We have to play against a fantastic team, but we have the confidence to do our best. For many years Chelsea have been very close to winning the Champions League and they have the players to win it. Unfortunately they were not good at those moments, but hopefully this season we will have better luck.

The Champions League is not an obsession; it is the most important competition in the world and it’s fantastic. I told my players that we have to be happy because every player and manager in the world wants to be involved in matches like this. You have to be happy to have that chance but you want to win also. This type of game can grow your history as a club, so it’s important we progress.

  • Sir Alex Ferguson is in an overall good mood after a wonderful comeback against Westham this weekend which has moved them closer to a 19th. However, Rooney’s unnecessary gibberish in front of the camera has kept him busy.

Sir Alex FergusonWe had a two-legged game against Arsenal two years ago, which was the first time we’ve seen [an all-English tie] and we tried to approach it in the way we usually would away from home in Europe. This is different because we’re away first, but the name of the game is to hopefully go back to Old Trafford with a goal or two in our pocket. It won’t change our attitude in trying to win the match, but we want to make sure we go back there with a great chance of qualifying. If we get some advantage we’ll be very difficult to beat on our own ground.

I was very happy to get the second leg at home, it will be a quite magnificent atmosphere and the fans will be really up for it. When Old Trafford’s like that it’s a wonderful place to be. Hopefully we’ll go back with something to defend, but we keep making amazing things happen there. The Champions League is definitely [Chelsea]’s driving force, so it will be a difficult game. We used to have a fantastic record in London. The last few years have been poor, but we’ve played well mostly and we need to work on getting that record back, starting here.

Moscow was a really good final. Penalties is always a sore one for the team that loses, but when you win a European final you don’t care how you do it; winning means everything, you’ve gone so far and through so many moments of emotion to get there. It was a great achievement for our club because it was the third time we’d won it. I don’t believe players think about revenge. The motivation to win this game is greater than thinking about a match three years ago.

Team News

  • Chelsea: Alex remains doubtful, while Yossi Benayoun is fit.
  • Manchester United: Owen, Anderson, Evans, O’Shea, Rafael, Brown are available. Rio is training since a week (doubtful)

Milestone

Frank Lampard: huge milestone for the English midfielder. He will be playing his 500th game in a blue shirt tonight.

Predictions

  • Manchester United: Van der Sar, Evra-Vidic-Rio-Rafael [Evra-Vidic-Smalling-O’Shea], Carrick, Park-Anderson-Scholes-Nani, Rooney [4-1-4-1]
  • Chelsea: Cech, Cole-Terry-Ivanovic-Bosingwa, Malouda-Lampard-Essien-Ramires, Anelka, Drogba|Torres [4-4-1-1]
  • Score: 1-1

‘Tis April – The Business end of the Premier League – CHELSEA (1)


Usually when we reach the fag end of a season, the Top 4 that is always at the tip of our tongues – Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool (Man City). Well this was not the season where the top 4 were at their supreme best. Stumbles have decided the pecking order, rather than remarkable team form.

The defending champs, Chelsea, started the season with a lot of promise; only to wither mid season due to internal issues and questionable player performances.

Manchester United were driven forward more with the grit and determination of SAF and his troops without ever reaching their peak. Untimely injuries, off the pace legends and lack of quality replacements in the centre of the park have kept them subdued.

Arsene’s Arsenal are a side that is ever improving, but their innate qualities of losing ground when least expected, and the manager’s stubbornness to deviate even 1o from his principles has seen them also staring down another RUNNERS UP season.

2 managers, 2 different outcomes, Liverpool, has shown a lot of fight to rise from the dead after almost battling relegation mid season.

The noisy neighbours, Manchester City, ably lead by Mancini [I say ably, cause he no doubt has the toughest managerial job], are on course to achieve their top4 goal. What happens next, we shall soon see.

Let’s start off with defending champs, Chelsea

Rewind..

  • First 5 games: Beats West Brom and Wigan 6-0 and trumps Blackpool 4-0 – The champs get off to a flyer
  • 8/8: Loses first silverware [Community Shield 1-3 Manchester United]
  • 9/22: Knocked out of Carling Cup [3-4 Newcastle United]
  • 11/11: Departure of Assistant Coach Ray Wilkins marked the downcurve of the Blues progress in the league.
  • Barren run: 11/7 to 12/27 – Chelsea’s form read P 8 W 0 D 4 L 4  – saw them drop out of pole position.
  • January: Roman gets into the act. 2 massive signings – David Luiz £21.3mand Fernando Torres£50m
  • 2/19: Loses to Everton in FA Cup 1-1 [penalties]
  • Feb/Mar: P 6 W 4 D 1 L 1. Resurgence. Ancelotti and Luiz bag the Barclay awards.

Carlo's second this season and Luiz' first.

Road ahead..


Team News

  • 8 games in the month of April, with 3 in the first ten days, a fit squad will be key considering Chelsea have only European glory to chase and having to win all games in the league to exert any pressure on the top 2.
  • Yossi Benayoun‘s return to footballing action last week [20 min, Israel] means he is one more weapon for Chelsea to wield and none other than Torres will be looking forward more.

Round 1

(A) Brittannia Stadium: Following Manchester United’s early kick off at Upton Park, the Blues will battle it out against the Potters (1930 IST ESPN). Any point taken there will be a struggle and well worth it.  I go for a 1-2 with Torres to score the winner. [I see Torres returning to his old self this month – the scene is set for him.]

Next post will be on table toppers and the very likely title winners  – MUFC.

Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona


Highlights available here for download

Download HD torrent here

When playing the best team in the world, the opposition has to get the elements right:

  • Tactically well prepared
  • Best squad available to execute the plan
  • The entire squad to have a very good day at the office
  • Good fortune: Eg: injury ridden opposition, few refereeing decisions; world’s best player to take a day off.

Apart from the single goal conceded due to a defensive lapse of concentration, Arsenal were well worthy of the result.

Teams

There were no elements of surprise in the playing XI with Puyol out injured and Sagna suspended. Both teams went out to play their natural game with their usual formations. Return of Nasri from injury was Wenger’s boost.

First 45

With a backing of a vociferous home crowd, Arsenal started the game with a wonderful tempo, bossing possession and giving a piece of their own football to the best passing team. With hardly 6 min into the game, a late but intentional tackle from behind on Messi, saw Alex Song getting into the book, which in the circumstances was very harsh. This didn’t seem to hamper his game much, as he continued to be involved in a series of small fouls thereafter [4-5] and each time he fouled, the crowd waited with baited breath, hoping the dreaded second yellow wouldn’t pop out.

A couple of free flowing passes in the final third saw some lovely link up between Cesc, RvP and Theo. Nasri seemed to take a bit of time to get into the game, not willing to stretch his hamstrings. This lead to a lot of space opening up for Alves to run behind  Nasri and every movement forward through acres of green pitch on the right, threatened to punish Arsenal.

Twice Villa – Messi duo coupled to beat Arsenal’s high line with through balls, whilst Messi missed his opportunity, Villa didn’t and the score read 0-1. Though in this case, Clichy was culpable for losing shape and playing Villa on. As the half grew on, the possession stats quickly reversed, with Barca homing into easy possession as always and threatening to breach Arsenal’s high line.

At the other end, RvP had a couple of good opportunities to test Valdes, one stinging the keeper, the other abysmally wide, after being sent thru with some lovely quick short passing. When such opportunities pop up we expect, RvP to convert and it seemed like it might come to haunt them.

Second 45’+2

Barcelona resumed services in the second half, but Arsenal looked keener to make an impression and the impressive defensive work by Koscielny to thwart off threats was remarkable. The lad played with a lot of confidence and authority, and seemed to be marshalling the line very well. Jack Wilshere was getting some nifty footwork going in the middle of the park, and was soon finding himself speeding from box to box with an intent to deliver. One such beautiful run, sent RvP through but again he failed to test the keeper. In another he dribbled past 3 players, played a 1-2 with RvP and was denied a goal scoring opportunity by a desperately diving Abidal.

Barcelona were surprisingly getting stifled in midfield with the gritty work by Cesc and Jack working up Xavi and Iniesta. So Pep swapped David Villa for Keita to address some defending. Walcott was hardly given any space to rip down the channel today, so Bendtner came on. Arsene expressed his intent replacing Arshavin for the booked Song. Nasri moved in central, leaving the left wing for the Russian. The Arsenal full backs were making more open runs on the break whenever possible and one such beautiful reverse pass from Clichy, released RvP into the box, who scored a lovely goal from a tight angle between the keeper and his near post.

The impact of the goal and the sudden change in tempo was evident. The Arsenal players had an extra step in their attack, were making more positive runs and soon caught Barcelona on the break where a superb cross into the box was curled in from 15 yards by Arshavin beating the keeper and two defenders. The quality of the strike deserves due credit, for a player who had just come on and made the most meaningful contribution.

Barcelona came close to an equalizer in the dying moments of the game when a soft back pass header from Arshavin almost landed Szcesny in a bit of bother but Arsenal managed to hold on to mark a remarkable comeback.

Final Verdict

  • Arsenal have improved as a unit. Did not let their shoulders drop after conceding. Were defensively very impressive though one lapse cost them an away goal.
  • Koscielny, Wilshere were standout performers for Arsenal.
  • Messi uncharacteristically missed 2 bread n butter chances on goal, and was ruled offside for the one he did net.
  • Will 2-1 help them withstand the barrage at Nou Camp.. we will have to wait and see.
  • It was an eye soothing 1.5 hrs of football and that is why we follow this beautiful game.

AC Milan 0 – 1 Tottenham Hotspurs


After a long break, trying to stay up for a late champions league match seemed more stressful than it used to be, but was worth it when I woke up ten min into the first half. I’d missed the pre match buildup, the formation and the injury lists. But it took me only 5 min to realize which team was calling the shots. Harry did not come up with a full strength team, and by ‘full strength’ I mean a team without BALE and Modric [bench], however a fit Van der Waart was always a key.

Spurs were beyond doubt calling the shots for the first 30min, making the home team look old and slow. Industrious quick passing, long balls targeting the infallible Peter Crouch, and VdV dictating most of the play in the absence of Modric, Milan were a shadow of what was expected of them. They lacked desire, the lanky Ibra straying offside once too often, the veteran midfielders were given no space or time on the ball by some clinical interceptions by the Palacios – Sandro – Pienaar triumvirate. More than two-thirds of Spurs attack was left winged through the Pienaar – Ekotto – Vdv – Crouch quartet which was surely a tactical approach, however every move which saw Lennon one on one with the Milan full back, resulted in a delivery to the box.

The remaining 15 min of the first half saw some scrappy passage of play with Milan able to contain the flow, and Spurs losing some of the rhythm and momentum going forward, however the defensive back four and Gomez were  hardly tested, and Harry would have been very satisfied with the team’s performance.

The Milan captain Gattuso was cutting a frustrated figure as he was literally swatted away in any aerial challenge against the 6’7’’ English forward.

The Milan coach was no doubt the one who had to do all the halftime work, and a positive move with injection of pace and strike came through Pato in place of an ineffective Seedorf. Spurs looked to start the second half just like the first, with a clever half turn chip over the keeper by VdV just going past the top corner.  Ten minutes later a blatant red card offence – a two footed driving tackle from Flamini took Corluka out of the game, however both were lucky, former to still be on the pitch and latter to not have broken a leg. The reluctance of the referee to not book the home player for an offence as clear as ever, is beyond me. But we have grown to become so accustomed to the fallacies of the UEFA, it was no surprise to see such an incorrect decision being made. A fiery Gattuso over the Corluka incident, shoved Spurs first team coach, Joe Jordan on the face [reminded me of CR7 recently pushing Pep for not giving the ball to him] and Jordan stood his ground.

The injury to Corluka added more spice to the game with Pienaar‘s retribution by tripping Thiago immediately, but not even one percent cynical. A lot more unnecessary tangles continued between Crouch and Gattuso and for all the latter’s frustration he got yellow carded for a clean tackle which saw him writhing on the carpet like a boy who has just been denied something he so badly wanted!

The yellow card meant he misses the return clash at White Hart Lane. But Milan continued to prod with more authority in the latter half of the game and came close twice but two brilliant saves by Gomez and a bit of luck meant this might just be their day.  With only ten min to go, a superb break started through Kranjcar releasing Lennon, saw Crouch slot in his 4th goal in 7 matches, a crucial AWAY goal in the context of the game and Harry couldn’t have been happier.

But bad scenes erupted towards the end of full time, with Gattuso head ‘nudging’ Jordan again and Bassong retaliating. Surely this incident has marred and probably snatched the limelight away from a tactically astute and perseverant performance by Harry’s  men and one can only imagine an Italian miracle will hinder this up and rising Spurs side from reaching the quarter finals.

FINAL VERDICT

  • Spurs were the underdogs coming into this game, but a surprisingly poor show by the Italian veterans could very much end their European dream.
  • Impossible to pick star performers in the Spurs team, they played as a wonderful unit right from back to front and are worthy of the WIN and returning with the precious Away goal.
  • Gattuso’s boiling over more so at his team’s hapless play, is still no reason to justify his indiscipline on and off the pitch. UEFA are always better making decisions off the pitch, so expect him to be treated to a lengthy vacation.
  • Harry’s request to review Flamini’s yellow to a red will surely fall on deaf ears.
  • Excellent start to the European campaign for England and lets hope Arsenal will ‘attempt’ to seek revenge 🙂