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Bayern Munich 1 (3)-1(4) Chelsea – Blues reach the pinnacle

Bayern Munich 1 (Muller 83) – Chelsea 1 (Drogba 88) – Scores tied after ET

Penalty Shootout – 

Lahm (Bayern) – Scores 1-0

Mata (Chelsea) – Saved 1-0

Gomez (Bayern) – Scores 2-0

Luiz (Chelsea) – Scores 2-1

Neuer (Bayern) – Scores 3-1

Lampard (Chelsea) – Scores 3-2

Olic (Bayern) – Saved 3-2

Cole (Chelsea) – Scores 3-3

Schweinsteiger (Bayern) – Saved 3-3

Drogba (Chelsea) – Scored 3-4

Come to think of it, in the end, it was probably in Chelsea’s destiny to win the Champions League this season. After getting past hurdles such as Napoli, Benfica and Barcelona, all of them hard-earned wins, it took another full-blooded performance from the Blues to conquer Europe.

Roman Abrahmovic has finally laid hands on the one trophy he so long wanted. Nearly a decade after pumping in millions of pounds into Chelsea, and a dozen managers later, it was Roberto di Matteo who delivered the Russian his gift, after a close match at the Allianz Arena, in Munich.

However, it is back to the drawing board for Bayern Munich’s young talented squad. With players like Badstuber, Alaba, Lahm, Muller, Kroos, Schweinsteiger, it ended in heartbreak. And the pain will be even more bitter for Arjen Robben, formerly of Chelsea, who missed the most crucial of penalties.

Both sides, keen on putting their final dissapointments of 2008 and 2010 behind them, came into this game with a host of suspensions. Chelsea were without the quartet of Terry, Ivanovic, Ramires and Meireles, and Bayern without Gustavo, Badstuber and Alaba. Gary Cahill and David Luiz passed late fitness tests and were named in the centre of defence, and there was also place for Ryan Bertrand in midfield. Bayern ployed the experienced Ukrainian Anatoliy Tymoschuk at the back, with Diego Contento at left-back. In midfield, the German trio of Schweinsteiger, Kroos and Muller started as expected, with Ribery, Robben and Gomez upfront.

In a first half, almost entirely played in Chelsea’s half, it was Bayern who would rue the numerous opportunities they missed and the many patient buildups they squandered. Chelsea’s resolute defending, and well organised backline, ably supported by Bertrand and Mikel in defensive midfield, was serving them well.

Petr Cech made a fine save with his legs from Robben, and the wasteful Gomez skied a shot, despite being in a good position, and working a fine turn. Chelsea’s only real chance to Salomon Kalou, who found some space on the right, but Manuel Neuer saved. In contrast to Chelsea’s meagre 2 shots on target, Bayern had recorded 13, but yet the scores were untroubled.

Bayern continued to pound Chelsea with some good patient buildups. Frank Ribery had a stinging shot cleared by David Luiz, while Ashley Cole made several clearances. Ribery then thought he had scored, only for the referee’s assistant to rule it out as offside. Didier Drogba had a great chance to score for Chelsea, when Neuer mishandled the ball. However, the Ivorian’s shot was saved by the German keeper.

Bayern finally got the goal they deserved, for all their industry when a Schweinsteiger cross was headed in by a rising Thomas Muller, who escaped the attentions of Ashley Cole. It took a bounce, and went over Cech, from the narrowest of angles. Chelsea by now had thrown on Spanish striker Fernando Torres, and it was his work that won Chelsea a corner in the 88th minute, which was taken by his compatriot Juan Mata.

It fell perfectly to Drogba, who powerfully headed home. It was (gulp!) one of the best headers I have seen till date. It was perfectly placed, with the right power and pace. It was majestic. Clearly, by now Bayern’s confidence seemed to slowly drain away, but that of Chelsea began to rise. Bayern had already replaced the creative Thomas Muller with defender Daniel van Buyten, after they went ahead, and now faced extra-time.

Croatian striker Ivica Olic came on for Frank Ribery after the Frenchman was impeded in the box by Didier Drogba. Arjen Robben stepped up, and forced a fine save by Cech. The Czech international clearly had a workout dedicated to penalties, it seemed.

The shootout was Chelsea’s chance to exorcise the ghosts of Moscow 2008, but only Bayern stood between them. Philip Lahm scored, despite Cech getting a touch on it. Juan Mata had his penalty saved finely by Manuel Neuer to his left. Gomez was up next, and Cech guessed right, but the kick was well-placed, and out of reach. David Luiz blasted one in, and surprisingly, Manuel Neuer scored one too. Frank Lampard, the penalty specialist converted his. Ivica Olic, though, wasn’t as lucky, and Cech made a fine save. Ashley Cole, who never misses in a shootout, scored his. Bayern’s last penalty fell to Schweinsteiger, whose spot-kick had ensured passage into the final in the first place. He hesitated in his run-up, and his shot struck the post. It was all left to Didier Drogba to take Chelsea to the promised land, and he did exactly that, sending Neuer the wrong way.

Chelsea’s old guard had finally done it. The class of 2004/2005, which had started with Jose Mourinho’s reign, had finally ended their quest for European silverware, with di Matteo’s Chelsea. The trophy would come to London for the very first time.

Match Ratings (Bayern Munich)

Neuer (7) – Barely made any saves, and quite clearly should’ve done better when he got to make one.

Lahm (7.5) – A good display. Not one attack from Chelsea on his flank.

Boateng (7.5) – Played Drogba really well. Should’ve marked him better on that corner though.

Tymoschuk (7.5) – Playing out of position, a good shift.

Contento (6.5) – Caught out of position too many times.

Schweinsteiger (7.5) – A hardworking display in the centre of midfield.

Ribery (7) – Lacked composure in the final third, but played in a lot of crosses, and worked out some good positions.

Muller (7.5) – A good industrious display, and almost scored the goal that won Bayern the Champions League.

Kroos (7) – Helped in keeping good possession in the centre of midfield.

Robben (7.5) – Tried the same thing far too many times. Chelsea had him well marked. A good display, with plenty of crosses. Missed the all-important penalty with a weak shot, in extra-time.

Gomez (6.5) – A poor lacklustre display. There has always been a criticism of him, that despite his fine goal scoring tally, he misses too many chances.

Subs –

van Buyten (6) – A substitution, that went wrong. Didn’t mark Drogba on the corner, and probably cost Bayern that creativity in extra time.

Olic (6.5) – Seemed lively in extra time, but not enough to force a goal.

Match Ratings (Chelsea)

Cech (9) – An amazing display. After all these years, he richly deserves a Champions League winners medal.

Bosingwa (7.5) – Gave too much space for Ribery and Contento, but a good composed display overall.

Cahill (7.5) – A bit off-pace, but a good committed performance.

Luiz (7.5) – Partnered Cahill well. Should’ve marked Muller better though.

Cole (8) – A brilliant display, again. The most consistent left-back in the world.

Mikel (6.5) – Had a hard game against a creative midfield.

Bertrand (6.5) – Looked out of depth, but stuck to his task well.

Mata (7) – Barely had a sniff of the ball, but always looked dangerous on the counter.

Lampard (7) – Curbed his attacking instincts, to put in a restrained, defensive performance.

Kalou (7) – Created some good chances on the right.

Drogba (7.5) – Scored a fantastic equalizer, and the decisive penalty. Couldn’t ask for more.

Subs –

Malouda (6.5) – Offered one more option on the wide, but with minimal impact.

Torres (7) – Looked sharp, and has clearly shown improvement in his work rate.

Overall Match Ratings – 

Bayern Munich – 7.03

Chelsea – 7.26

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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in General, Match Reports

 

Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United – Blue Moon Rising

Manchester City 1 (Kompany 45’+1) – Manchester United 0

Man of the Match – Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

It was billed as the ‘derby game of all derby games’, the ‘unmissable’ match. And, it did live up to its billing.

In the biggest game of the English domestic season, a game that would almost decide who would win the coveted Premier League trophy, on a cold night in Manchester, Manchester City finally seem to be emerging from the shadow of their much celebrated cross town rivals, Manchester United.

A packed Etihad crowd, and over 650 million viewers worldwide watched on, as the rising blue wave of Manchester took on its blood red counterpart. The prize was massive. Watching from the stands was Diego Maradona, probably the greatest footballer to have lived, and Noel Gallagher, the Oasis musician and a lifelong City fan.

Surprisingly, or rather disappointingly, Sir Alex named what seemed a defensive unit, to counter Manchester City’s talented attackers. The usual names such as Danny Wellbeck, and Antonio Valencia were named on the bench, as Fergie decided to stick to his old guard, comprising Paul Scholes, Welsh wing wizard Ryan Giggs and South Korean Park Ji-Sung. In defence, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling started. This probably indicated Fergie’s intent to break up play and not allow a repeat of October’s 6-1 humbling at Old Trafford.

There were no surprises from Roberto Mancini. His 4-2-2-2 formation has served his side well as of late. With Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero scoring goals for fun, it was all but procedural to name them on the team sheet.

Despite starting with a defensive looking unit, it was United who seemed to be making early inroads into Manchester City, with some neat passing. Wayne Rooney, playing as the lone striker, stuck to his task of frustrating City captain Vincent Kompany. Michael Carrick had a shot blocked by the Belgian, after Joe Hart could only punch the ball away.

Manchester City made their first real foray on 15 minutes, when some delightful footwork from Samir Nasri saw him beat 3 United defenders, and set up Tevez, whose low cross was cleared by Phil Jones.

Vincent Kompany got the first of many yellow cards on the evening for a nudge on Wayne Rooney, as things started to get more feisty on the pitch. Sergio Aguero made a complete hash of a volley, though he had more time to control it than he thought. Pablo Zabaleta too missed a smiliar opportunity.

Then, came the decisive moment of the match. David Silva’s corner was headed in thumpingly by Vincent Kompany, in first half stoppage time. Jolean Lescott, Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure had positioned themselves perfectly for the corner. While Lescott drew in the attentions of Ferdinand, and to some extent Smalling, Tevez gave de Gea barely an inch of space. Kompany’s header was powerful and decisive, as he rose above Smalling, to head home, and send the crowd into raptures.

The second half started at almost similar pace as the first, and Fergie decided to twitch it, as he bought on striker Danny Wellbeck to replace Park Ji-Sung. City, turned rather negative from that point on as Carlos Tevez made way for Dutch defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong.

United, despite keeping possession for large periods, barely threatened City keeper Joe Hart. The introduction of Valencia in place of Scholes in the 78th minute did little to alter the direction of play. The tireless Yaya Toure had a shot on goal, but it went wide, as City looked to shut down the game.

Nigel de Jong then mistimed a tackle on Danny Wellbeck, which got him a yellow card and also sparked a touchline spat between Ferguson and Mancini. The furious Scot lay vent to his feelings, as the immense passion looked to have surged through the coaching staff as well. Mancini responded with words and hand gestures of his own, and it took City’s assistant manager David Platt and fourth official Mike Jones to seperate the two managers.

Ashley Young was introduced, but it was City who had more chances to seal the game, as Toure narrowly missed, while Clichy forced a save from de Gea and Nasri missed a sitter.

In the end, it didn’t matter, as Manchester City secured a famous win over their rivals, which saw them move to the top of the Barclays Premier League table, on goal difference. The title may not be won, but the Citizens can almost smell it. Two more wins, against Newcastle and QPR, and they will reach the promised land.

The parting shot of the day was captain Vincent Kompany applauding the vociferous City support, who went into a chorus of ‘Blue Moon’.

Match Ratings (Manchester City)

Hart (7.5) – Don’t remember seeing him make a single save last night.

Zabaleta (8) –  A good defensive and offensive display.

Kompany (9) – A rock at the back, all season, and yesterday. Scored the goal that could change the club’s fortunes.

Lescott (8.5) – Partnered Kompany effectively.

Clichy (8) – A good matured display. Rarely allowed Nani to run at him.

Toure (8.5) – A tireless display in the centre of midfield.

Barry (8) – Kept a tight leash on City’s midfield. Never allowed them to settle down, breaking their passing rhythm far too often.

Silva (7.5) – Creative, but not incisive.

Nasri (8) – Created several opportunites for his team yesterday

Aguero (7) – Not his best game. Missed a good number of chances

Tevez (7.5) – Never got going, but he did his part in the end.

Subs:

de Jong (7) – Helped pack the midfield, and close down the game. Made a silly foul here and there, though.

Richards and Milner – Came on too late to get a rating.

Match Ratings (Manchester United)

de Gea (7.5) – Should have dealt with the goal much better, but made a few saves that kept United in the game.

Jones (7.5) – Struggled a bit, but the best among United’s defenders.

Ferdinand (7) – Is his best past him?

Smalling (7) – Partly at fault for the goal, but a decent display after his return from injury.

Evra (6.5) –  A poor display. Allowed far too many crosses from his flank.

Carrick (7.5) – Slowed down the pace a bit, but was United’s best player last night.

Park (6.5) – Playing a high intensity game after a long time. Looked a bit jaded.

Scholes (7) – A good director of play yesterday, but not his best game.

Giggs (6.5) – Out of sorts yesterday.

Nani (7) –  Well marked by Clichy.

Rooney (7) – Never got going. Was kept under wraps by City’s defence.

Subs:

Wellbeck (6.5) – Did little to change the course of the game.

Valencia and Young – Came on too late to get a rating.

Team Ratings

Manchester City – 7.87

Manchester United – 6.95

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in General, Match Reports

 

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Real Madrid 2(1)-1(3) Bayern Munich – Bayern set up historic final

Real Madrid 2 (Ronaldo 6 (pen), 14) – Bayern Munich 1 (Robben 27 (pen)) – Scores tied after ET

Penalty Shooutout – 

Alaba (Bayern) – Scores 0-1

Ronaldo (Real) – Saved 0-1

Gomez (Bayern) – Scores 0-2

Kaka (Real) – Saved 0-2

Kroos (Bayern) – Saved 0-2

Alonso (Real) – Scores 1-2

Lahm (Bayern) – Saved 1-2

Ramos (Real) – Misses 1-2

Schweinsteiger (Bayern) – Scores 1-3

Man of the Match – Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)

Bayern Munich booked a place for themselves for the European final, in their own city, in their own stadium, as they overcame Real Madrid’s challenge, in dramatic fashion, winning on penalties.

Real Madrid were turning out after a thoroughly absorbing encounter over the weekend in the El Clasico against Barcelona at the Nou Camp, which they won 2-1, thanks to goals from Sami Khedira and Cristiano Ronaldo. Bayern Munich, seemed a bit more relaxed, having almost conceded the Bundesliga title to high-flyers Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern Munich named an unchanged squad from the first leg at the Allianz, while Real Madrid drafted in Brazilian left-back Marcelo, in place of the ineffective Fabio Coentrao.

The start to the game, was completely the opposite. Real Madrid started on the front foot, and after just 5 minutes, young Austrian defender David Alaba was adjudged to have handled a Angel di Maria cross. Ronaldo stepped up and scored. And, within no time, Real had the tie by the scruff of the neck, after Ronaldo’s fine finish after being set up by Mesut Ozil.

With Real Madrid coasting away, Bayern’s response was pretty quick. Pepe fouled Germany international Mario Gomez in the penalty box, and Arjen Robben made no mistake from the spot, to level scores on aggregate. It was justice done, as the German side was as attack-minded as Real.

Gomez, who has been in fine nick this season, showed the same wastefulness in front of goal, as he had done last week, against the same opponent. His low driven shot was saved by Iker Casillas, and his header glanced wide.

Real Madrid almost scored early into the second half, when Benzema was released on the right. His half-shot, half-cross was met by no one, but ambled just short of the goal. Bayern responded as Lahm’s cross was met by Gomez again, but it ended up just wide.

There were more soon shots on goal, with the usual culprits Benzema and Gomez in the thick of things. Benzema has a shot from long range, while Gomez’ shot is deflected away. Arjen Robben, then, went on a fine run, but the alert Casillas, saves from his heavy touch.

Late on, with minutes left to play, Arjen Robben played in Mario Gomez, who was in a fantastic position to score, but he took too long to make a decision, and Real cleared.

The extra time played out was actually quite uneventful. Both teams were visibly exhausted, and lacked the pace to trouble the opposition. However, David Alaba and Luiz Gustavo picked up cards, which meant they would miss the final.

There was enough tension at the Bernabeu, to be cut open by a knife, as the match had gone down to penalties. David Alaba made no mistake. Cristiano Ronaldo did, as Manuel Neuer produced a fine right-sided save. This was the second time Ronaldo had missed a penalty in a shootout in the Champions League. The last time it happened, Manchester United went on to beat Chelsea.

Mario Gomez slotted away his, and Neuer produced a photocopy save of the first to deny Kaka. Iker Casillas, then made the most vital of saves off Toni Kroos, to keep Real in contention. Xabi Alonso managed to put away his, and it seemed Real had clung on, after Lahm forced a brilliant one-handed Casillas save.

Sergio Ramos made a complete hash of his penalty, akin to the Charlie Adam miss against Cardiff City in the League Cup Final. Bastian Schweinsteiger slotted home the final penalty, to take Bayern through to the final.

Bayern will be without key players Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber for the final. But, they will relish the chance of playing Chelsea in their own backyard.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in General, Match Reports

 

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Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea – Blues scrape their way past Barca to final

Barcelona 2 (Busquets 35, Iniesta 43)- Chelsea 2 (Ramires 45, Torres 90) (Agg. Barcelona 2-3 Chelsea)

Man of the Match – Petr Cech (Chelsea)

Chelsea finally have their revenge over the Catalan giants. In what can be described as a classic European game, Chelsea absorbed all of Barcelona’s pressure, and took their chances as well to book a date with destiny, on the 19th of May, in Munich.

Leading 1-0 from the first leg, and having rested most of their players in the important league clash at Arsenal, Chelsea named the same team, that managed to topple over Barcelona 6 days previously. Didier Drogba had recovered from a strain in time, to torment Barca’s shaky defence.

Barcelona, on the other hand, on the bounce of 2 defeats in a week, the second of which cost them the Spanish league title, in another absorbing encounter against arch rivals Real Madrid, made a few changes to their lineup. Gerard Pique returned in the centre of defence, to partner Carles Puyol, probably to counter the physical threat of Drogba. In what was to be a 3-4-3 formation, Javier Mascherano completed the defence. Young winder Isaac Cuenca too got a start, so did Alexis Sanchez, who scored, what is now a consolation game, as a substitute over the weekend.

Barcelona needed to attack from the word go, and they did. Chelsea seemed a bit short at coping with Barcelona’s possession. And, the first blow was struck, when Gary Cahill limped off, with just 12 minutes gone. In came, Portugal international Jose Bosingwa. This meant, Branislav Ivanovic moved back to the centre of defence.

Barcelona continued their relentless pressure on the Blues. Chelsea, had to rely on long ball tactics and used the physicality of Drogba up front. A long ball played, saw Pique, Drogba and Valdes contest for the same ball. In the process, a clash of bodies, saw Pique taking a bad hit on the head, and having to be taken off, to be replaced by Daniel Alves.

Barcelona’s pressure finally paid off, after some good work by Cuenca on the left. Busquets finished in front of an empty net, as the Catalans were clearly in the ascendancy. 2 minutes later, it seemed Chelsea had pressed the self-destruct button, as John Terry’s off the ball knee challenge on Alexis Sanchez, coupled with a bit of playacting from the Chilean, saw the Chelsea skipper being sent off. The sending off did seem a bit harsh. Chelsea now had to do it with 10 men against the best team in the world, over the last 2-3 seasons.

It seemed all over, and Barcelona were set for a rout, when Iniesta collected a Messi pass, and expertly finished past Cech to put Barca in a 2-1 lead on aggregate. Then, completely against the run of play, Frank Lampard, played a brilliant throughball to the tireless Ramires, who chipped Valdes, to give the Blues a lifeline, going into half-time. At this stage, it was Chelsea who would go through.

Barcelona began the second half with the same attacking intent as the first, and were immediately rewarded with a penalty when Drogba was rightly adjudged to have bought down Cesc Fabregas in the penalty box. Up came Lionel Messi, the best player on the planet. With 63 goals to his name, and 14 already in this season’s Champions League, he lost the battle of nerves with Petr Cech, who did his best to unsettle the Argentine. Messi’s penalty struck the post.

Chelsea defended astutely for the remainder of the half. Barcelona applied relentless pressure, with their pressing game, but they could hardly penetrate the Blue brick wall. Barca did get the occasional opportunity. Isaac Cuenca’s shot was well saved by Cech, and Messi struck the post again, from outside the penalty box. Cech, did manage to get a finger on it though.

With the Blaugrana having put all 11 men in attack, it was infact Chelsea who struck the decisive goal. Fernando Torres, much maligned this season, came on for Didier Drogba, and raced clear of Puyol, rounded Valdes, and scored to level the match 2-2, and win the tie for Chelsea 3-2 on aggregate.

Despite having only 28% possession of the ball in both ties, Chelsea managed to score 3 goals, all in injury times of halves, which proved to be the difference at the end.

However, they will be without key players such as John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles for the final, against Bayern Munich, in their own backyard, the Allianz Arena.

Match Ratings (Barcelona) – 

Valdes (7) – Should have stuck to his line for Ramires’s shot, rather than making a wild gash. Didn’t get too many chances to make saves, though.

Pique (No Rating)

Puyol (7.5) – Struggled against Drogba all night.

Mascherano (7.5) – He too, couldn’t get the better of the Ivorian.

Xavi (7.5) –  A taxing season has taken its toll, it seems.

Iniesta (7.5) – Like the last two games, never got into his comfort level at all.

Fabregas (7) – Struggled to make the incisive passes, he is renowned for.

Busquets (8) – The best player on the night for the Catalans. Scored a vital goal, and a polished display in midfield.

Sanchez (7) – Never looked to threaten Chelsea’s makeshift defence.

Cuenca (7.5) – Occasional flashes of brilliance from the youngster. Still has a lot to learn.

Messi (7.5) – Seems like the burden of expectation and fatigue has gotten into him, too. 63 goals, he has done his part. Needed some support. Mentally, too, he looked completely exhausted.

Subs – 

Alves (7) – Always up attacking, and didn’t help out Puyol and Mascherano.

Keita (7) – Coming on as a sub, looked to give that extra bit in midfield. But, dissapointed.

Tello (7) – Injected some freshness, but only momentarily.

Match Ratings (Chelsea) – 

Cech (9) – A brilliant display from the Czech.

Ivanovic (9) – In the absence of a recognized centre-half, played with great determination.

Cahill (No Rating)

Terry (5) – Poor on his part, to get a cheap red card.

Cole (8.5) – A fine performance at left-back.

Mikel (8) – Was given a hard time, but played a vital role, in manning the midfield.

Ramires (8) – Tireless, unsettling Barca’s defence, and scored the most vital of goals.

Meireles (7.5) – Hardly got a sniff of the ball, but off the ball movement was top notch.

Mata (6.5) – Dissapointing over the last two legs, but played his part, in the end.

Lampard (8) – Massive figure for Chelsea, in the absence of Terry. Rallied his troops, and did his bit to frustrate the opposition.

Drogba (8) – Hassled and harried the Barca defence, all night.

Subs – 

Bosingwa (8.5) – A big display from him.

Kalou (7.5) – Seemed to do better than Mata, in going forward, and stifling.

Torres (7) – The goal must’ve done him wonders.

Team Ratings

Barcelona – 7.30

Chelsea – 7.73

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in General, Match Reports

 

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Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid – An entertaining El Clasico

Barcelona 1 (Sanchez 70) – Real Madrid 2 (Khedira 17, Ronaldo 73)

They are humans afterall. Real Madrid proved to world that Barcelona is human, and not an alien football team after all, as they beat the Catalans 2-1 in their own backyard to take a firm grip of the Spanish League title.

Like all its predecessors, this El Clasico did not dissapoint. A brilliant game of football. Two star-studded sides. Two legends of the modern game. A fantastic arena. What more could you ask for.

Barcelona’s team selection was a bit surprising, with young striker Christian Tello preferred to Chilean Alexis Sanchez. Also rested was Gerard Pique, as Argentina international Javier Mascherano started beside Carles Puyol in defence. Also, in the starting lineup was Thiago Alcantara. Real Madrid’s team selection was pretty straight forward, though few eyebrows were raised when Fabio Coentrao was named instead of Marcelo at left-back.

With Barcelona needing to win the game, to move to 1 point of the Madridistas, all the pressure was on the Blaugrana to take the game to the opposition. But it was infact, Real who started with a more composed game, and had the first attempt on goal, with Ronaldo’s header being tipped away by Victor Valdes. Dani Alves then was sent through, after some poor defending from Pepe, but equal to it was the alert Iker Casillas.

Christian Tello showed why he is considered the ‘next big thing’ at Barca as he beat a couple of Real defenders and forced Casillas into a save. However, moments later, it was Real who struck first. Barcelona’s susceptibility to dead ball situations was clear to see. Pepe headed towards Valdes, who made a complete hash of the situation, allowing Sami Khedira to slot in front of an open goal, with Puyol in close attention.

Lionel Messi, who had looked a bit subdued, so far, then showed his brilliance as he played a through-ball to Xavi. However, his effort was slightly deflected by Casillas. Despite some more pressure from Barca, Real were happy to go into the break leading 1-0 at the Camp Nou.

Early in the second half, Alcantara played a defence-splitting pass to Tello, however, his effort was woefully over. Xavi, who looked a bit jagerred, was soon taken off, with Sanchez coming on, 20 minutes to go. And he had instant impact, as he took full advantage of the confusion in Real’s penalty box, to slot home the equalizer.

However, all of Barca’s industry came to nothing, as 3 minutes later, a Mesut Ozil pass, was met with aplomb by Ronaldo, who fired in the winner, from an acute angle. His celebration told it all, as he asked the crowd, or rather his teammates to calm down.

Madrid defended astutely, and never allowed Barca a clear cut opportunity to score, as they held on to an important win, that sees them 7 points clear at the top, with 4 games to go.

Match Ratings (Barcelona)

Valdes (6.5) – Made a costly error, early on, and probably should have saved the second goal.

Alves (7.5) – A constant menace on the right, but not threatening enough.

Puyol (6.5) – Not his best game either.

Mascherano (6.5) – Clearly a bit short at centre-back.

Adriano (6.5) – Had a poor game, according to me Never up to the task.

Thiago (7) – He put in a good display in a largely midfield battle.

Iniesta (7.5) – Well marshalled, like the Chelsea game, by the Real midfield.

Xavi (7) – Another player who looked really tired.

Messi (8) – Tried everything he could, but Pepe marked him really well.

Tello (7) – He is still young, and needs time. A more experienced player would have put one of his shots away.

Busquets (7) – I thought he and Thiago are too similiar to play in the same midfield.

Subs:

Sanchez (7) – Had an instant impact. But then, Real held on. Never used his pace to run them over.

Fabregas – Came too late to get a rating.

Match Ratings (Real Madrid)

Casillas (8) – Had a brilliant game, and pulled off some vital saves.

Coentrao (7.5) – Was caught out a couple of times, but played well.

Pepe (8) – A rock at the back. Marked Messi out of the game.

Ramos (8) – Partnered Pepe effectively.

Arbeloa (7) – Looked suspect to Tello. Luckily, Tello was equally wasteful.

Alonso (7.5) – Put in a great game, stifling Xavi and Iniesta.

Khedira (7.5) – Scored a vital goal, and helped Alonso frustrate Barca’s midfield.

Ozil (8) – Brilliant play from the German, all over.

Ronaldo (8) – His reputation of not scoring in big games was proved wrong last night.

di Maria (6) – Never really got going.

Benzema (7.5) – Caused a lot of problems to Barca’s defence with his physicality and pace.

Subs:

Granero – Came too late to get a rating.

Callejon – Came too late to get a rating.

Higuain – Came too late to get a rating.

Team Ratings – 

Barcelona – 7.0

Real Madrid – 7.54

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2012 in General, Match Reports

 

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Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona -Drogba powers Blues to vital win

Chelsea 1 (Drogba 45) – Barcelona 0

Yet again, the Champions League didn’t dissapoint us as Chelsea and Barcelona played out an enthralling semi-final at Stamford Bridge.

In the end, the difference was Chelsea’s resolute defending, and Didier Drogba’s rather decent acting skills. A match touted to be ruled by Barcelona turned out exactly that way. Barcelona were far superior in ball retention than the London club, and their pressing game was being demonstrated at its best.

There were no surprises in team selection. Raul Meireles, Frank Lampard, Ramires, Juan Mata and Mikel Obi all started in midfield. Fernando Torres, who has 7 goals against Barcelona to his name, all during his time with Spanish club Atletico Madrid was rumuored to be a surprise selection by Roberto di Matteo, but the in-form Didier Drogba started.

Barcelona, on the other hand, started with ex-Arsenal skipper Francesc Fabregas, probably for his knowledge of English teams. Gerard Pique, surprisingly was on the bench, with Brazil international Adriano Correia given a start at left-back. Javier Mascherano partnered Carles Puyol at the back. Alexis Sanchez started up front with Lionel Messi.

Barcelona, as expected attacked from the word go. Alexis Sanchez lobbed effort hit the crossbar in the 8th minute. Lionel Messi then set up Andres Iniesta, but his shot was saved by Petr Cech. Off the rebound, Fabregas only managed to miscue his effort. Messi then attempted a header of a Sanchez cross, but it was again well saved by Cech. Barcelona almost scored, when Fabregas rounded Cech, but was denied by an off-the-line clearance by his ex-teammate at Arsenal, Ashley Cole.

When it seemed both teams would go into the break scoreless, Chelsea took their chance. Lionel Messi lost possession to Frank Lampard, who released Ramires on the left, with the Barcelona defenders, who had played a high line all night, scrambling back. His perfectly weighted cross was met with the left foot of Drogba, who ambled the ball past Valdes to send the crowd into raptures.

Barcelona came into the second half, with the same attacking intent. Another Adriano shot was pushed away by Cech, and Sanchez missed a sitter, after being set up by Fabregas. Chelsea rarely mustered an attack, but it was rather down to Barcelona’s expert ability in holding on to possession. On the rare ocassion, when they didnt get forward, Drogba displayed his full range of playacting, to break up Barca’s momentum.

Barca did have enough opportunities to equalize though. Cech again managed to save a Puyol header off a Messi free-kick. Speaking of which, Barca squandered all their free-kicks in good positions. Late on, in injury time, Spanish striker Pedro struck the post, with Cech completely beaten, but Sergio Busquets’ effort managed to reach the top row in the stands.

The final whistle bought palpable relief at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea 90 minutes away from their 2nd Champions League final in 5 years. All they have to do is, prevent Lionel Messi and Co. from scoring in their own lair, the Camp Nou, and arena famous for refereeing decisions favouring the home side.

For now, Chelsea can celebrate a famous night.

Match Ratings (Chelsea)

Cech (9) – Fantastic saves all night.

Ivanovic (7.5) – Barca rarely threatened from the left. Had a good game.

Cahill (8.5) – A fantastic game. Put his body on the line plenty of times.

Terry (8) – Led from the front.

Cole (8.5) – One of his best games in a Chelsea shirt. Tireless.

Mikel (7.5) – Seemed naive. Caught out in possession.

Ramires (7.5) – Set up the vital winner.

Meireles (7.5) – Hassled Barca in midfield.

Lampard (8) – Set up the all important goal.

Mata (6) – Rarely got the ball to threaten.

Drogba (8.5) – Won the free-kicks at the right junctures, and scored the winning goal.

Match Ratings (Barcelona)

Valdes (7) – Barely got to touch the ball, thanks to his defenders.

Alves (8) – Bombed down the right all night, but kept quiet by Cole.

Puyol (8) – A good defensive display, but was a bit out of position in the lead up to Chelsea’s goal.

Mascherano (6.5) – Drogba had him in wraps through the game.

Adriano (7) – Lacklustre last night.

Busquets(7.5) – Should have scored at the death. His workrate in midfield was good, however.

Xavi (7.5) – A bit anonymous, and never really got into his groove.

Iniesta (7.5) – Like Xavi, he too didn’t get into his groove, which makes you wonder, whether they operate only in tandem.

Fabregas (7) – Didn’t have a great return to London.

Sanchez (7.5) – Missed a sitter.

Messi (7.5) – Uncharacteristically quiet. The goal machine was under Chelsea’s radar all night.

Overall Team Ratings

Chelsea – 7.86

Barcelona – 7.36

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in General, Match Reports

 

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Bayern Munich 2-1 Real Madrid – Bavarians down the Madridistas

Bayern Munich 2 (Ribery 17, Gomez 89) –  Real Madrid 1 (Ozil 53)

Mario Gomez managed to turn an anticlimax to a massive win for Bayern Munich with a priceless late winner, that will give Bayern a huge boost before they head to Santiago Bernabeu for the second leg.

Real Madrid were overall, very ineffective, as Bayern produced another efficient performance, akin to German engineering.

Bastian Schweinsteiger got the nod ahead of compatriot Thomas Mueller for Bayern, while Fabio Coentrao was chosen ahead of Brazilian Marcelo at left-back. Karim Benzema kept his place, with Higuain having to content with a place on the bench.

The start was pretty even, with Real having the first real shot, when Benzema’s effort was parried by Manuel Neuer. Controversy soon followed, when France winger Frank Ribery went down too easily, after the slightest of touches from Sergio Ramos. There was a small kerfuffle, but it didn’t take Ribery long to get on to the scoresheet.

Sergio Ramos was involved again, as the ball chested off him, into the path of Ribery, whose low shot beat a horde of bodies in the box, as well as beating Iker Casillas. Real seemed to be struggling on the wings, and their midfield seemed ineffective against a well drilled Bayern unit. Cristiano Ronaldo rarely troubled the opposition, while Mesut Ozil and Angel di Maria were kept under wraps.

Mario Gomez, the German international of Spanish descent, almost scored, when he lost his markers Pepe and Ramos, but his effort was just about pushed away by Casillas.

But, Real took lead completely against the run of play in the second half. Ronaldo was put through, but his effort saved by Neuer, before Benzema crossed to give Ronaldo another chance. He flicked it back to Ozil, who netted in front of an empty net.

Mario Gomez then missed a few chances for the host. First, he was beaten to the ball by Casillas, having been put through by Robben. Then, he miscued his shot off a Kroos dead ball. He even managed to scamper a couple of headers from goal scoring positions.

When it seemed, Bayern would pay for all their profligacy, Philip Lahm cut from the right, and Gomez finally managed to find the back of the net.

There was a bit of tension at the end, when substitute Marcelo kicked Thomas Mueller, which was a red card foul, but escaped with only a yellow. Bayern closed down, to hold on to a slender advantage to take to Spain.

Match Ratings (Bayern Munich)

Neuer (7.5) – Rarely threatened on the night.

Lahm (8) – A fine performance at right-back.

Badstuber (8) – Commanding game from the young German.

Boateng (7.5) –  A completely different player from what we saw at Manchester City.

Alaba (8.5) – The 19 year old Austrian was tireless in attack, and never shunned his defensive duties.

Gustavo (7.5) – Lost the ball a few times, but a composed game.

Kroos (8) –  In the thick of things, all night.

Schweinsteiger (7.5) –  A bit subdued, didn’t really justify his selection ahead of Mueller.

Ribery (7.5) – Adept at playacting, and scored a vital goal.

Robben (8) – A constant menace to Real’s defence.

Gomez (7) – Scampered way too many opportunities.

Match Ratings (Real Madrid)

Casillas (8.5) – It could have been a rout without him.

Arbeloa (7) – Never really managed the pace of Robben.

Ramos (7.5) – Constantly under pressure. Centre back is not for him.

Pepe (7) – Prone to errors.

Coentrao (7) – Another player who didn’t justify his selection.

Alonso (7.5) – Workhorse in midfield.

Khedira (7) – Anonymous.

Ozil (7) – Scored a vital away goal.

di Maria (7.5) – Alaba had him under wraps most of the game.

Ronaldo (7) – Never really gathered momentum in his game.

Benzema (7.5) – A mixed game for the France striker.

Overall Team Ratings

Bayern Munich – 7.81

Real Madrid – 7.31

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in General, Match Reports

 

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