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Champions League: ManU, Barcelona complete obvious, adv...



Champions League: ManU, Barcelona complete obvious, advance to semis

Why didn’t Didier Drogba start against Manchester United? It was a fatal tactical error, one that sent Chelsea crashing out of the Champion’s League on a 2 – 1 loss. For United it was another emphatic performance against a lacklustre opposition. Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t have asked for a more pliant side to play in such an important quarter-final. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.

The story of Chelsea in this match was written on Salomon Kalou’s face when he came on in the second half in place of Nikolas Anelka. He looked dreadfully unhappy, as if he’d been roused from a delicious slumber to put out a neighbour’s fire. Chelsea’s players didn’t look very happy when they were playing and it translated into a half-hearted performance, especially in the first half.

The fly in the ointment was definitely Fernando Torres. Anelka, Kalou and Malouda clearly don’t like playing with him in the team and would prefer to be supporting Drogba. Torres is yet to score for Chelsea despite his ?50 million price tag and the sour pallor at Stamford Bridge is clearly affecting his form. Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti chose to start Torres ahead of Drogba (a decision undoubtedly forced by Chelsea’s billionaire chairman Roman Abramovich) and as a result Chelsea were toothless in the attack.

In the second half Ancelotti substituted Torres for Drogba, and United’s defence were suddenly in trouble. Drogba was motivated and willing to work hard, but his efforts proved fruitless in the end. Ramires earned a second yellow card just before Drogba’s goal for an awkward-looking challenge on Nani, and Chelsea didn’t really stand a chance after that.

Manchester United were never particularly pretty in their game play, but they have been a hard-working team all season and smothered Chelsea with their enthusiastic play. Park, Rooney, Nani and Giggs were all over the field, but more often up front and causing trouble for Chelsea. Sir Alex Ferguson’s brutal work ethic continues to pay dividends.

However, this is undoubtedly one of the weakest United sides we’ve seen in a while, and we can’t see this team progressing against teams like Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Before the match

Manchester United come to Old Trafford leading Chelsea by a goal to nil, thanks to a Wayne Rooney goal in the first leg. Chelsea is still looking at their fantastically expensive ?50 million sharpshooter Fernando Torres to trouble United’s goalkeeper. His recent record at Stamford Bridge does not inspire confidence. This will probably go down in history as one of the noisiest games ever. Champion’s League fixtures at Old Trafford are never a picnic, and this is a English rivalry match.

Starting Line ups

Man Utd: 1. Van der Sar, 22. O’Shea, 5. Ferdinand, 15. Vidic, 3. Evra, 17. Nani, 16. Carrick, 11. Giggs, 13. Park, 10. Rooney, 14. Hernandez. Subs: Kuszczak, Brown, Berbatov, Smalling, Scholes, Valencia, Gibson.

Chelsea: 1. Cech, 2. Ivanovic, 33. Alex, 26. Terry, 3. Cole, 7. Ramires, 5. Essien, 8. Lampard, 39. Anelka, 9. Torres, 15. Malouda. Subs: Turnbull, Benayoun, Drogba, Mikel, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Kalou.

Referee: Olegario Bartolo Benquerenca

Man of the Match

Park Ji-Sung

First half

Hopefully this won’t be as tedious as the first leg.

  • 3rd minute: first bit of action in the game, and predictably it’s a foul. Anelka eats dirt after being bundled off the ball by Vidic. Or is it the other way around? The referee awards United free kick.
  • 3rd minute: Rooney’s cross goes high over the Chelsea goals.
  • 4th minute: Ivanovic clips Nani’s heels just outside Chelsea’s left penalty area corner and concedes a free kick. His free kick lands comfortably into Cech’s hands.
  • 7th minute: Ramires tries to shove his way past Ferdinand and Vidic and gets sandwiched between the two defenders. Van der Sar collects the ball and meets Ramires’s trailing boot with his forehead.
  • 8th minute: Ji-Sung Park makes a better attempt at penetration than Ramires did a moment ago, but is forced to the edge of the corner. His brilliant back-heel is seconds too soon to meet Rooney’s run into the penalty area. Ball is cleared by a defender.

Chris Smalling is warming up off the field. Rio Ferdinand is hobbling about, apparently in some discomfort.

  • 11th minute: Anelka’s cross meets Torres, who nods it just wide.
  • 12th minute: Hernandez tries to find Rooney with a low cross, but it is cleared by Ramires for a corner. The Chelsea midfielder looks as surprised as everyone else.
  • 13th minute: Chelsea means business. Torres is surrounded in the box, and back-passes to Anelka who is just outside the penalty area. Le Sulk’s shot misses by inches.
  • 14th minute: Okay, we know Wayne Rooney is a confident striker, but what the hell was that? He shoots from well within Chelsea’s half and his curling shot doesn’t trouble Cech in the least.
  • 14th minute: Malouda makes a delicious little run at United’s defence and unloads the ball to Lampard from just inside the box. Lampard’s shot is too tame for Van der Sar.
  • 15th minute: Chelsea are putting great pressure on United’s defence. Well, they were until Ashley Cole’s cross goes high over Van der Sar’s goal.
  • 17th minute: Oof, that would have been United’s best chance in the match so far. Rooney puts Hernandez onto a beautiful through ball ahead of Chelsea’s defensive line. Chicharito is too slow with the rebound pass, which would have put Rooney in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper.
  • 18th minute: John O’Shea earns a yellow card for an ill-considered challenge on Malouda. Lampard’s free kick goes just over the goal.

Why is Sir Alex prolonging Rio Ferdinand’s agony? Surely a fit Smalling would be more effective than the knobbled Ferdinand?

  • 22nd minute: After Torres faffs around in the United box, Anelka gets the leavings and curls a shot around the United defence and around Van der Sar’s goal too.
  • 26th minute: Oh, dear. Rooney crosses into the Chelsea box and connects with Hernandez, who sinks it past Cech. Offside. Is this going to be one of those matches.

The game has been dominated by half-chances and fitful stabs at goal. The football being played by both teams is best described as “user-manual boring” rather than “poetry in motion”.

  • 29th minute: Van der Sar charges out to his left to clear a ball and Anelka gets there first. Instead of crossing the ball, he tries to go around Van der Sar, who clears the ball. Stupidly selfish play by Le Sulk.
  • 30th minute: Giggs catches Ivanovic, and the Serb leaps into the air as if electrified. The referee gives the free kick, but not a card. So it was a dive, then…
  • 32nd minute: Ramires fouls Nani on the counterattack, and gets a yellow card. Giggs’s free kick doesn’t get past the wall of players in the box.
  • 36th minute: Malouda gets booked for taking Hernandes out in the centre circle.

Chelsea have collected more yellow cards than serious shots at goal in this half. A red card would really open up this match, which would enliven this otherwise tame match.

  • 40th minute: Yep, and another. John Terry gets a yellow card for raising his elbow to Hernandez’s face. He may not have shoved the United striker, but you can’t expect to get away with a raised elbow.
  • 42nd minute: Essien gives away a free kick just outside Chelsea’s box with a hand ball.
  • 43rd minute: Hernandez scores! Fittingly, Ryan Giggs was the one who crossed the ball low into the box, past two defenders and Petr Cech to reach the Mexican striker. Essien will rue that hand ball.

First half ends. The difference has been United’s industry and purpose in front of goal. They haven’t arsed about like Chelsea’s strikers. Carlo Ancelotti will want to give his attack more teeth, which means taking Torres off.

Second half

  • 45th minute: Yup, Drogba is going to start this second half in place of Torres.

I’m not convinced Van der Sar is keeping a clean sheet because United’s defence is that good. They’ve been largely untroubled by Chelsea so far.

  • 50th minute: Drogba is making his impact already. He’s pushing against Vidic and winning too.

Can Sir Alex please take Rio Ferdinand off? What purpose is being served by having him limp around the field, wincing like an seven-year-old boy in a dentist’s chair?

  • 51st minute: Malouda attempts a volley with his weaker right foot. It goes wide. Obviously.
  • 55th minute: Perhaps feeling affronted by Chelsea’s superior ball possession in the first half, Manchester United are keeping the ball and stroking it around in the middle of the field.
  • 56th minute: Drobga makes his presence felt again with a low shot that skitters past Van der Sar’s post.
  • 58th minute: Evra and Drogba have a bit of what-for off the ball and Evra gets a yellow card for pulling down at the Ivorian striker. Evra makes a credible attempt at pulling a look of thunderous disbelief.
  • 59th minute: Drogba’s free kick forces a save from Van der Sar.
  • 60th minute: Salomon Kalou comes on for Anelka. Did they just wake Kalou up from a deep sleep? He looks about as alert as Winnie the Pooh.
  • 65th minute: Chelsea is giving away more and more free kicks as they try to disrupt United’s possession. Essien is the latest offender.
  • 66th minute: Drogba rounds O’Shea and delivers a useless cross into an occupied box.
  • 66th minute: Alex heads the ball just past the goal.
  • 67th minute: Alex tries an unnecessarily spectacular diving header to clear the ball away from his goal and only manages to pass it to Nani, who makes his trademark skip and chip shot to the near side. Cech only just gets fingers to block the goal.
  • 69th minute: That was clever. Rooney charges down the right hand side of the field, delivers the cross to Giggs who nudges it gently to the corner of the goal. The move catches Cech off guard momentarily, but he recovers and scoops up the ball.
  • 69th minute: Well, the match is now out of Chelsea’s hands. Ramires gets a second yellow card and an invitation to vacate the field from the referee after a particularly clumsy challenge on Nani from behind.

Roman Abramovich doesn’t look too chuffed. You get the feeling that for Ancelotti, a lot more than a win against United is riding on this match

  • 73rd minute: Drogba gets another shot at Van der Sar which the Dutchman collects with little effort.
  • 74th minute: Nani earns a free kick after being tripped by Alex. Rooney smacks the shot into Chelsea’s wall.
  • 74th minute: Antonio Valencia comes on for Nani.
  • 76th minute: Drogba scores! United’s defence get caught napping by Drobga who had drifted into space behind Vidic and Evra. The Chelsea striker turns and beats Van der Sar with the shot. Chelsea may be down, but they’re not out just yet.
  • 77th minute: You have to be kidding me! Chelsea’s defence makes exactly the same mistake as United’s defence made less than a minute earlier, allowing Park to collect a Giggs cross unmarked. The South Korean doesn’t ask for a second invitation and slots the goal past Cech. And yes, this just in from International Space Station: the noise coming from Old Trafford can be heard in outer space.
  • 81st minute: Chelsea substitution: Alex goes off for Paulo Ferreira.
  • 82nd minute: Kalou tries to emulate Drogba’s goal, but this time Evra is there to disturb him.

Someone call the Pope! There’s been a miracle at Old Trafford. Ferdinand appears to have shaken off the knock on his leg.

  • 86th minute: Beautiful strike by Malouda from some distance out, forcing Van der Sar to make one of his famous full-stretch saves.
  • 89th minute: Lampard makes a lame-duck attempt at a goal with a header, which goes well wide.
  • 92nd minute: Rooney sees Cech off his line and shoots from the middle of the field. His shot is just short.
  • 93rd minute: The referee blows for a free kick and the stadium erupts. Not quite match over.
  • 94th minute: Referee blows for end of the match.

Shakhtar Donetsk 0 – 1 FC Barcelona

Photo: Shakhtar Donetsk’s Tomas Hubschman (R) fights for the ball with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi during the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final soccer match at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk April 12, 2011. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich.

Shakhtar’s chances of progressing to the semifinals of the Champion’s League were miniscule at best. They needed to overcome a four-goal deficit after having succumbed to a crashing 5 – 1 defeat at the Camp Nou in Barcelona last week. Their performance before their home crowd in Donetsk was good in the build-up, but lacked finishing – a fatal mistake to make when playing against Barcelona. Messi sank the home side’s hearts in the first half when he scored a brilliant goal, beating several defenders and the keeper with a deft shot struck in a half-movement.

Barcelona are once again looking like the firm favourites to win this year’s Champion’s League trophy, but they have yet to play against a side that matches them in both talent and tactics in the knockout stages. As Inter Milan proved last season, Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola can be undone by a crafty manager like Jose Mourinho. DM

Main photo: Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez (2nd L) heads the ball past Chelsea’s Petr Cech (R) only for the goal to be disallowed for offside during their Champions League quarter-final second leg soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, April 12, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Staples.


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