Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Didier Drogba scores to beat Juventus and give Ranieri an awful "welcome back"

It's good to hear that Drogba goal leads Chelsea to victory again. The African striker, his season hampered by injury, suspension and a fallout with axed coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, looked back to his predatory most amazing at the moment he took a pass from Salomon Kalou and despatched the ball beyond Gianluigi Buffon in the 12th minute.

Former Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri, now in charge of Juve, was given a warm reception by the home supporters before the game. Ranieri is still held in high esteem by Chelsea supporters even though he failed to win a single trophy during his four-year stint at Stamford Bridge.

Hiddink was taking charge of a Chelsea side at home for the first time since his temporary appointment and it was the hosts who made the first inroads towards goal with Jose Bosingwa forcing Buffon into a save with a left-foot shot from the edge of the area in the fourth minute.

Indeed, four minutes later Drogba almost opened the scoring at the moment he got ahead of his marker to turn a cross from Bosingwa just over the crossbar.

But the Ivorian put the home side in front in the 12th minute at the moment a superb through ball from Kalou provided him with a clear-cut shooting opportunity and Drogba supplied the required finish in style. It was the perfect start for the Premier League side although Juventus claimed Drogba was offside before he fired the ball home from 10 yards.

In the 15th minute, Drogba must have made it two at the moment he met a corner from Frank Lampard inside the six-yard box, but he inexplicably headed wide.

The italian powerhouse enjoyed plenty of possession after the interval but found the Chelsea defense in fine form, with Petr Cech only having to deal with a succession of long-range efforts.

Marco Marchionni and Alessandro del Piero both tried their luck from distance and Pavel Nedved went close near the end for the visitors.

Chelsea also had opportunitys to double their lead, notably at the moment a 20-yard effort from Nicolas Anelka flashed inches wide, but Chelsea held on for the victory.

"We maybe must have netted a second goal to give us some breathing space for the second leg. I felt we suffered a little bit in the second half and Juventus are a difficult side to play, but I'm happy with the result," Hiddink concluded.

Didier Drogba netted the only goal as Chelsea beat Juventus 1-0 at Stamford Bridge to give Guus Hiddink's side a slender advantage ahead of their Champions League last-16 second leg in Turin.

Liverpool heroic win over Madrid in Spain

The not-so-famous Yossi Benayoun netted with a late header Wednesday to give Liverpool a valuable 1-0 away win at Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 knockout match.

In a clash of few opportunities, Benayoun powered Fabio Aurelio's curling free kick past the Merengues' goalkeeper Iker Casillas in the 82nd minute to give the English team an all-important away goal.

Casillas denied first-half scoring opportunitys from Liverpool's Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso, while Arjen Robben created the Spanish champion's most amazing effort with a rising shot that went through the fingertips of goalkeeper Pepe Reina in the 71st but over the crossbar.

Indeed, both squads were largely restricted to long-range efforts. Alonso nearly caught Casillas off his line from inside his own half in the 45th but the Madrid goalkeeper backpedalled before tipping the ball over the crossbar.

Nine-time champion Madrid has underperformed in the tournament in recent seasons and hasn't reached the quarter-finals since 2004. Nevertheless, president Vicente Boluda had predicted a 3-0 victory.

Madrid, which came into the gameon a nine-clash league winning streak, started the better of the two sides. Robben found Raul Gonzalez inside the area as early as the fifth minute, but Madrid's all-time leading scorer failed to beat Pepe Reina with his angled effort.

An amazing Reina again denied Madrid in the 16th minute, parrying Marcelo's hard drive.

Casillas dove to his right in the 21st to keep Torres' shot out, and the Spain forward appeared to hurt his right ankle soon after.

Robben was Madrid's biggest attacking threat, darting free into the middle in the 39th only to send his shot wide. A minute later, the Netherlands forward duplicated the play with exactly the same result.

Madrid coach Juande Ramos brought on Guti for Marcelo to start the second half but Liverpool pushed up with Alonso volleying wide in the 50th. Two minutes later, Robben dribbled through two defenders into the area but hit the ball into the side netting.

Torres didn't manage to snap his scoring drought at the Bernabeu as the former Atletico Madrid forward came off to jeers from the 80,000-plus in the 62nd, replaced by Ryan Babel.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard came on in the 87th for his first appearance after a three-week layoff due to a hamstring injury.

Liverpool will be without Riera for the return leg after the Spanish midfielder was booked in the 84th.

PD: It seems like Madrid is having a hard time to get victories at home, if we recall the defeat against Juventus.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

President Michel Platini angry with interference in Champions League

According to the media, UEFA president has called on the European Union not to interfere in the Champions League regulations if it wants to impose financial restraints and a possible salary cap on teams.

Indeed, Platini wants to push through rules that would cap debt and links between footballers salaries and turnover as he seeks to contain runaway spending.

As we know, the European Union could interfere if it touches on the economic free market rules. Platini insists UEFA should not be bound by that.

We must consider that Platini told the European Parliament on Wednesday: "We must be able to set the conditions on the competitions we organize."

Liverpool ask UEFA to change match date due to Hillsborough anniversary

The board at Anfield have written to UEFA to ask that the date of their potential Champions League quarter-final second leg be changed to avoid a clash with the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

It’s amazing to notice that if Rafael Benitez's side get past Real Madrid in the last 16, they are currently scheduled to face their next opponents for the second time on April 15.

In fact, that is exactly two decades since 96 Liverpool fans died at Sheffield Wednesday's ground before and during the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

We must consider that Liverpool are keen to keep the date free so memorials can take place and have asked UEFA allow them to play the encounter on the 14th if they progress.

"We wrote to UEFA last year, pointing out the significance of April 15 if we do get to the quarter-final, especially as it is the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster," a Liverpool spokesman expressed.

"We have asked not to play on that date and that April 14 should be considered instead.

"UEFA has replied acknowledging the significance of the date and confirming they will do their best to support our request if we progress."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Ronaldo now wants to defeat Mourinho's side

Manchester United ace Cristiano Ronaldo is acting as the club’s very own ‘Mr. Motivator’ as he has attempted to fire up his side-mates ahead of the Champions League showdowns against Italian giants Inter.

The two sides lock horns in what promises to be the clash of the last 16 stage. Ronaldo tasted Champions League success last season as he shot his side towards glory, and the World Player of the Year is confident that the Red Devils can hold onto their European crown.

Inter will not make life simple for United. Jose Mourinho, the team boss of the Italian club, would love nothing more than to send his old adversaries crashing out of the competition. Nevertheless, Ronaldo insists his side have what it takes to beat the Nerazzurri and silence Mourinho.

"We will be tested to our maximum against Inter," Ronaldo told Inside United.

"I always dreamed of earning this trophy [the European Cup]. I felt like a little child with his [new] toy at the time I touched it last season. It was a great feeling.

"We are a great side with great players."

Mourinho has already been spying on United ahead of the big encounters, the first of which takes place at the end of this month. Tickets for both legs have already sold out.

The Old Trafford side are favourites to eliminate the Italians, however, ‘The Special One' has experience of upsetting the English club.

John Arne Riise injuried: Roma will miss him for almost a month

Italian club AS Roma just learned that their left back John Arne Riise is expected to be out for three weeks. The talented player damaged his left knee ligaments.

The Norwegian international picked up the injury during the 2-1 victory over Palermo on January 28.

Tests were carried out on the left sided former Liverpool defender which ascertained that he would not need an operation.

Riise is now a doubt for the first leg Champions League clash with Arsenal on February 24, 2009.

Steven Gerard: I hope i can make it for the derby with Madrid

Liverpool's deadline day sale of Robbie Keane has contributed to them heading into the Champions League knock-out stage with a squad two players short of the full complement, and Steven Gerrard's hamstring tear threatens to leave them further depleted for the visit to Real Madrid later this month.

In fact, UEFA allows a squad of 25 and though Sami Hyypia's name appears on the list Liverpool had to submit by 1 February – contrary to manager Rafael Benitez's suggestions last week that the defender was excluded – Jermaine Pennant, now on loan at Portsmouth, and Philippe Degen have been removed and Keane, nominally still on the list at the time Liverpool submitted it, is gone, leaving a squad of just 23.

Liverpool are not the only side below full potential. Chelsea have a squad of 21, Uefa revealed, with a further five on their B-list thought to be youngsters yet to break into Chelsea's senior ranks. B-list players must be under 22 and the four names on Liverpool's are the goalkeepers Dean Bouzanis and Martin Hansen, the midfielder Ryan Flynn, on loan at Wrexham, and the forward Nathan Ecclestone.