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AC Milan 3-0 Man. United – UCL – 2 May 07 May 4, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Sports.
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chmps.JPGAfter another thriller at the San Siro, Athens 2007 will be an Istanbul 2005 revisited as AC Milan book a place in the final against Liverpool. The Rossonero took their game to higher ground and in the process defeated a worn out Manchester United side 3-0. 

Kaka and Co. produced a wonderful team performance catching United early with 2 first half goals and then never looked back. They got the third in a counter attack late in the second half when Manchester United were all but beaten. The Red Devils were out of ideas and out of steam after their busy end-of –season schedule. All credit to Milan who most importantly looked very solid in the back in the absence of captain Maldini. So now it’s Liverpool-Milan for the second time in three seasons; I’ll be happy if we get 50% of the thriller we got last time. Best of luck all Liverpudlians!

Liverpool 1-0 (4-1) Chelsea – UCL – 1 May 07 May 4, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Liverpool FC, Sports.
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chmps.JPGLiverpool outperform themselves once again and fly by Chelsea in the Champions League’s semi final just like they did two years ago when they went on to take the title. Liverpool went a goal ahead early in the first half via Daniel Agger. Both teams then held on and sent the tie into an exhilarating penalty shoot out which the Reds won 4 to 1. The game was a tense one with Liverpool fully in control especially in the first half. After the break both teams were scared to open up fully and the status quo remained unchained until the spot kicks, of which the hero was Pepe Reina saving 2 out of Chelsea’s 3 attempts.

Liverpool contained Chelsea well especially dangerous Didier Drogba who seemed at the defenders’ mercy. The balance between attack-defense was in the latter’s favor unexpectedly but again it worked wonders for Benitez against arch rival Mourinho; who’s side seemed tired and helpless against the Reds! A difficult match to analyze, I’ll just stop at noting that Liverpool are the best side in England on a good day, they just need a few more strikers up front and more consistency to get to the coveted Premiership title any time soon!

Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool – UCL – 25 Apr. 07 April 29, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Liverpool FC, Sports.
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The battle of the English in the Champions League semi final’s first leg ends with Chelsea taking the upper hand and unfortunately a probable finals birth. Chelsea will undoubtedly push for an early away goal in the second leg (which is an achievable task given Liverpool will be on the offensive trying to get goals themselves!). Once they do get the goal, they’ll fall back leaving the Reds with a very difficult task of scoring 3 without conceding any more. I hope Benitez has a master plan cooking up.

The game itself was average with Chelsea controlling the first half getting an early goal in the process. Liverpool did put up a fight in the second but to no avail, they failed to score the very important away goal they needed. Let’s hope for the best on Tuesday.

Man Utd 3-2 AC Milan – UCL – 24 Apr. 07 April 25, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Sports.
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chmps.JPGIn a wonderful thriller, Manchester United managed to outdo AC Milan 3-2 thanks to a last minute goal by Wayne Rooney. It was a game of two haves; Milan dominated most of the first (it ended 2-1 in their favor) by containing the Red Devils before they finally wore out in front of the tireless Red attack that got the best of them by the end of the game.

The match witnessed an average display from Milan with the exception of brilliant Kaka who single-handedly made and scored both their goals. Manchester United on the other hand showcased another one of their consistent strong displays with everyone on the team playing well especially youngsters Ronaldo (who scored a goal) and Rooney (who scored two). The result keeps options open for both teams and we’ll definitely get another classic in the return fixture in Milan next week!

Liverpool 1-0 PSV – UCL – 11 Apr. 07 April 12, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Liverpool FC, Sports.
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chmps.JPG While resting a few of his regular starters, Benitez’s Liverpool made it through to the Champions League semi’s beating PSV 1-0 in an expected boring match. With PSV requiring 3 goals to extend the tie (if Liverpool don’t score themselves), both teams knew it was a near impossible task and just had an adventure-less match with one goal coming from Peter Crouch. 

 

Liverpool will now meet Chelsea (who disposed of Valencia) in the semi-finals, while Manchester United entertain AC Milan (who beat Bayern Munich 4-2 over their two legs) in the other semi. With three English sides amongst the last four, the trophy will most probably end up in England this season, but who will it be? Let’s hope Liverpool come up with some magic as they did in 2005!

Manchester United 7-1 Roma – UCL – 10 Apr. 07 April 11, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Sports.
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chmps.JPG Manchester United’s display of power against humble Roma yesterday only sealed my conviction in a fact all football enthusiasts know but try to ignore: Like it or not, Manchester United are the strongest football team on the planet. So what makes the Red Devils work ike clockwork?

   

1-      Employment of both experienced players and young blood. Unlike a few Italian clubs that depend on experienced players (Milan for eg.) and clubs like Arsenal who have teenagers running all over the place, Manchester United employs and uses both experienced players (Giggs, Scholes) and youngsters (Rooney, Ronaldo) effectively.  

2-      Not too many stars, but not too few! Unlike star studded teams (like Chelsea and Real Madrid) and teams that do need a few major signings (my team Liverpool for eg.), Manchester united again employs from all ranks of players (I’ve only heard of Vidic this season), it keeps costs down, squad rotation easy, and provides little bad publicity (keeping stars on the bench is bad propaganda, ask Cappello!).  

3-      Work ethic! Nobody tolerates fiascos at Old Trafford (ask Jaap Stam and Ruud Van Niestelrooy), elsewhere; stars are sometimes recruited without the manager’s full support (Shevshenko and Ballak maybe and prospective club presidents now promise recruiting stars as part of their election campaigns (Real Madrid, Barcelona).  

4-      Finally and most importantly, the perfect blend of attacking flair (the beautiful game) and solid defense Unlike most Italian clubs that are well known for their solid boring defense (Juventus, Inter) and other Dutch and Spanish clubs that entertain but always seem to end up loosing (Valencia, and now Barcelona), Manchester United get it right most of the time, they rarely fail to entertain but are consistent enough to win trophies.

Hats off to Sir Alex!

PSV 0-3 Liverpool – UCL – 3 Apr. 07 April 7, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Liverpool FC, Sports.
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chmps.JPGA terrific performance from the Reds against an inept PSV side virtually guarantees them a spot in the semis. The well taken away goals from Gerrard, Riise, and Crouch make PSV’s task of salvaging a comeback at Anfield next to impossible. 

Benitez’s lineup worked interestingly well again; with Sissoko out suspended, a more vibrant Mascherano seemed to partner Alonso better at the center of midfield (both of them being accurate passers as well as tough defenders), and although Gerrard started the game on the right of midfield, he seemed to have the freedom to roam around and never left his favorite spot behind the strikers (that’s where he got his goal from). However, the void created on the right was duly filled by the energetic Steve Finnan who had a great game and created two of the goals. On the opposite side, another excellent performance from Riise channeled most of the play and got Liverpool another goal as well.  Up front, the strikers had an average game (as usual!).    

Will this slightly unstable lineup hold up against a team with more title aspirations than PSV? Maybe not, but Benitez’s unpredictability is what makes him the good tactical coach he is!

Roundup – Uefa Champions League – 7 Mar. 07 March 10, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Sports.
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chmps.JPGIn a livelier set of matches than the away games, Manchester United beat Lille 1-0 to follow Brits Liverpool and Chelsea into the quarters, AC Milan had to wait to extra time to manage a 1-0 win against Celtic, Bayern Munich beat Real Madrid 2-1 to make it through giving Roy Makaay in the process the record of scoring the fastest goal in the competition’s history (10 seconds was it!), and finally, a never duller Arsenal side only managed a 1-1 draw with PSV and are now out of all cup competitions.

Roundup – Uefa Champions League – 6 Mar. 07 March 10, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Liverpool FC, Sports.
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chmps.JPGIn an exact replica of their game against Manchester United 3 days ago, Liverpool lost 1-0 in a game they once again dominated! However, this time they did get to their objective, and they are through to the Champions League quarters at the expense of the defending champions. With a defensive minded lineup, Benitez once again showed what a terrific defensive job the Reds could put on. It was total containment! The Catalans did not breathe until the last 15 minutes or so when they got the goal! Putting all my admiration of the performance aside, I have to voice my concern once again about the lack of attacking firepower! Liverpool’s strikers once again ceased to cause any major trouble in the visitor’s box. A defender and a defensive midfielder were the two who hit the Catalan woodwork. I can go on and on! I’ll just wait until the summer transfer window opens to see if Misters Hicks and Gillett are going to cash in on a major striker, the only path to winning ways!  

Elsewhere, Valencia drew 0-0 at home with Inter to make it through, Chelsea beat Porto 2-1 in London to advance as well, and finally, the surprise of the evening, Roma won away 2-0 against title favorites (in my opinion at least) Lyon to thwart the French’s hopes of a championship title once again.

Roundup – Uefa Champions League – 21 Feb. 07 March 2, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Liverpool FC, Sports.
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chmps.JPGThe highlight of the evening, if not of the competition so far, was Liverpool’s emphatic beating of Barcelona 2-1 at the Nou Camp! Defying the odds, (and statistics as well, Liverpool rarely win outside Anfield, let alone while trailing by a goal against giants like Barca!) the reds put on a brave performance and duly reaped the harvest. They now have upper hand against the Catalans in the second leg! The goals came from Bellamy and Riise, who were in the headlines 2 days before but for the wrong reasons, they were both in a brawl! And with each other! All in all Liverpool amaze us with what they can sometimes achieve. However the key to silverware is consistency, maybe next season!  

Elsewhere, FC Porto drew with Chelsea 1-1 in Portugal, Roma drew with Lyon 0-0 in Rome, and finally Inter Milan held Valencia to a 2-2 draw in Milan.