Archive for April, 2012
Despite the efforts of Iker Casillas at redeeming his Real Madrid team’s horrid start to the six-yard lottery shots, Bayern Munich will square up with Chelsea for the ultimate prize in European club football.
A jet paced start to the match saw CR7 “not do a Messi” and give the Merengues the lead before once again being the recipient of a Mesut Ozil assist to put Real 2-0 up in the night and 3-2 ahead on aggregate.
Both goals came either side of Arjen Robben side-footing over when scoring seemed sure… before bundling himself into the Madrid net, comic consolation.
The Dutchman soon after got the ball into net from the penalty spot and level aggregate scores. The rest of the night was huff and puff really, with Mario Gomez squandering a number of chances, CR7 sending two ‘trademark’ ‘spot kicks’ straight into Manuel Neuer’s waiting gloves before poking a third well over.
And Kaká… the Brazilian was uncharacteristically below par after replacing Angel di Maria and him going off for Granero rather than Ozil wouldn’t have been a bad idea.
And indeed it wouldn’t have, as Kaká saw his penalty saved by Neuer after extra time had seen no further goals scored. Kaká’s was Madrid’s second penalty, the first had also been missed.
Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo eventually did a Messi. Neuer did very well to get down and save ego personified’s six-yard lottery shot. Thus putting Messi’s miss into perspective… “shit happens!”.
Why Kaká decided to duplicate CR7’s spot kick is a bit annoying, and Neuer obliged gladly by duplicating the save. It was Bayern’s UCL final ticket now…
Cue in the drama that had gone awol from the second half through to extra time and Casillas saved a poorly taken pelanty from Badstuber; who will miss the final suspended, before putting his left arm out in position to keep out Philip Lahm’s pelanty as well. A top draw save there.
Xabi Alonso had put Madrid on their way back between both Casillas saves, or so it seemed. Up stepped Sergio Ramos, the man who has seen red almost as frequently as the Bayern squad.
He missed, in a most woeful manner.
That left Bastian Sch… *quits trying to spell name without looking it up*… weinsteiger to send the Bavarians home, on the night, for that night, for the night.
It also left me (and I’m sure it’s not just me) wondering why Ramos when it could have been either of Higuain or Granero. Putting things to perspective, again… “shit happens!”.
All that said, this saves the world from another round of Martian Messi vs. Lord Ronaldo previews. We’ll instead have another proper final between teams that will be extremely motivated albeit differently.
Bayern will be playing in front of home fans, and be sure the beer will flow that day even before the match’s over and more so should Bayern win.
Chelsea meanwhile will play knowing it’s their best chance of making next season’s Champions League. The Blues are not out of contention to finish fourth in the Premier League but it’s not like Newcastle United would do the West Londoners a favour and sleep off at this moment, Tottenham though… *smh.
That said, it’s actually the best possible final for neutrals of the beautiful game. We’ll get to argue over theatrics by Drogba, Ribery and Robben though we’d rather a pulsating tussle for the right to be crowned kings of Europe.
I’ll be honest to admit that Chelsea have far exceeded my expectations in the gruelling period the Blues have just gone through, one that leaves them on the brink of FA Cup and Champions League glory while being set to finish potentially outside the top four.
The latter bit of the reality at Stamford Bridge sets the club up for quite the thrilling climax to their season, which I’ll expatiate on right after coming to terms with what the club have achieved.
Following the draw in the West London derby at Craven Cottage, Chelsea was faced with a tasking run of matches that would see them face the Sillywhites in the FA Cup semi final before hosting Barcelona four days after, visiting Arsenal three days after and then visiting Barça in the return leg of their Champions League semi final.
A poor decision by the referee may have helped a very little in the 5-1 demolition of the Sillywhites but nonetheless it was a scoreline I least expected, as I was hoping those Londoners would rise to the occasion and serve up an intriguing semi-final that (preferably) would stretch into extra time and even to penalties.
Then came Barcelona to town and despite “gaining all the world”, it benefitted them none as Didier Drogba’s strike on the stroke of half time proved the only goal of the UCL semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge. Crucially, Barça was twice denied by the Chelsea post and more so, Ashley Cole cleared a Fabregas effort off the line.
Next up was Arsenal, my dear Arsenal at the Ems. With eight changes made; changes that meant no starting shirts for Mata, Lampard, Mikel, Ivanovic with a suspension, Ramires, Meireles and gunner-nemesis Drogba with a ‘knee injury’, Arsenal should’ve won this derby.
Alas, we were twice denied by the post but (thankfully) unlike Barça, there was no Drogba to score a match winner. Unfortunately, we neither got that. Goalless draw that ultimately left both clubs satisfied not to have lost.
At this point, it didn’t seem to me anymore that Roberto di Matteo had been riding his luck since becoming interim manager at the Bridge. He’d tinkered with the squad so much that Salomon Kalou was getting more games than the AVB-preferred Daniel Sturridge, and he was being vindicated all the way through those testy affairs.
One last tinkering needed to be done, at the imposing Camp Nou where Barcelona had won 24 successive league matches prior to effectively losing the title to mortal rivals Real Madrid with that 2-1 loss. Match winner of that night CR7 had been crowned world player of the year soon after, a move labelled immature and not well thought through…
If the first leg was dramatic, the second leg’s was gilt-edged epic as goals from Sergio ‘diving talent left unappreciated’ Busquets and Andres Iniesta either side of John Terry’s sending off meant Barcelona was cruising to another Champions League final, this time at Munich.
But just as against Real Madrid, the Catalans got pegged right after scoring with Ramires coming through with the crucial away goal for the Blues to wrap up a pulsating last 10 minutes of the first half.
Second half began in a frenzy and when the world’s beloved Lionel Messi stepped up to take that (hotly contested among fans hundred and thousand miles away) penalty, I’d have had my face, with its defeated countenance, covered by my palms if I was a fan of the Blues.
That penalty in my opinion made the 2012 world footballer of the year crown that of CR7, and that’s even if Real Madrid fail to make the Champions League final. It was a ‘moment’ that would surely have set tikitaka on their way to another final and the headlines would’ve told another tale of greatness from the Leo.
Alas… Messi missed!
I cannot imagine the levels the emotions of Chelsea fans such as my oldest brother would’ve reached in the closing moments of the match, more so when Messi saw an effort come off the Chelsea post and surreally so when El Niño sealed the fate of the night with a second goal for Chelsea deep in stoppage time… and probably also a place in Spain’s Euro 2012 armada.
There’s still some way to go for the Blues though, with two matches against Liverpool in the league and FA Cup final to come along with a league match against the in-form Newcastle United… thin is the line between a glorious campaign with two cups in the kitty or what could end up being a “what could have been… ” season.
As for Barcelona, “no love lost… no love found”. Fans of the Catalan club can cqmp with gooners who know all too well what it feels like to be thrown out of contention from at least two competitions in a week.