Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Champions League Semis: Real Madrid vs Barcelona Recap (2nd Leg)

1 – 1
Real Madrid vs Barcelona (2nd Leg)

Barcelona advances to the finals.  Recap of the el clasico series, there have been two draws and a win for both teams:

el clasico VI – Champions League Semis leg 2 (May 4): Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid

Real started strong in the match and was more alive, offensively speaking, compared to their 1st leg performance.  However, Barca found their footing and began to dominate the 1st half having a lot of spectacular attempts, putting Casillas to work.  During the 2nd half, again, RM started strong with a few attempts but was handled quite well by Barca defense.  And then Barca scores the 1st goal when a through-ball from Andres Iniesta was received by Pedro who then beat Iker Casillas in a one-on-one situation and found the back of the net.  Real equalizes when a shot from Angel Di Maria hits the post, the ball bouncing back to him and he crosses it to Marcelo who had a clear shot to the goal.  

The end part of the match was a bit disappointing as it seemed to fall into the pattern of fouls, time-wasting and some injury feigning.  But fortunately, there were no ugly scenes of bad tempers and fighting like the 1st leg match.  Although, Real Madrid are protesting Gonzalo Higuain's disallowed goal due to a foul by CRonaldo on Javier Mascherano (I guess preventing Mascherano from defending Higuain) prior to Higuain’s attempt.  The replay happened so fast so I’ll try to look for the vid.  I wonder what Pierluigi Collina would say about this referee decision.

But, overall, it was Barca’s night as they dominated with 69% possession and had 11 shots (5 on target) and most are probably are Messi’s or had some assist from him.  On the other hand, Real Madrid only had 3 shots (1 on target) and still playing a more physically aggressive game as they committed 31 fouls compared to Barcelona’s 10.  At least this time, no one from Real Madrid was sent off in this match.

photo courtesy of Reuters

poor Messi
photo courtesy of
Throughout the match, Leo Messi was a threat to Real Madrid’s defense, making close attempts or providing assists for his teammates.  But he got pretty banged up in this game.  I guess if you’re a prolific scorer like Messi, you would be a well-marked man. He was tackled a lot, I’d say around 12 times in the match.  At one point in the 1st half he was sandwiched by 3 Real players who were tackling him at the same time.  In the 2nd half he was sent flying off from Marcelo’s tackle, then his head was pushed down by (was it) Diarra? and seconds later Adebayor pulls him down.  I worry about this coz you can pick up scary injuries from this (remember Ronaldo?).  I wonder how many times he gets tackled in a game?  Pique also had quite a good game, making great calls in tackles, suppressing any attempts from Real and dispossessing the ball from RM.

Abidal got a touching reception from teammates and fans on his return to the pitch
photo courtesy of Getty Images

Of course, one of the special moments in the match was when Eric Abidal comes in for Carles Puyol during the 90th minute.  Both players got cheers from the fans.  I’m glad Abidal has recovered from the removal of the cancer in his liver, he's a very crucial part of Barca’s defense. As the match ended, Barca teammates playfully tossed him in the air a couple of times

Karanka, Real Madrid's assistant coach.  I wouldn't mind seeing him instead of Mourinho :P
photo courtesy of Real Madrid

Jose Mourinho, of course, missed the match due to a touchline ban he earned during the 1st leg .  He opted to watch the game from the hotel.  Aitor Karanka, his assistant who took charge of the match, is quite the hottie. :P 

hhhmmmm….why is his hand cupping Morientes’ butt?? :P
photo courtesy of
Apparently he used to play for Real Madrid as a central defender during the pre-galacticos era, alongside Fernando Hierro, Roberto Carlos, Fernando Morientes, Raul, etc.

rain, rain go away… a very wet pitch.  photo courtesy of
Other match observations: The pitch was quite slippery as there was a thunderstorm prior to the match and it continued to rain until 2nd half.  Also, a fan managed to go inside the pitch before the 2nd half was about to kick off, there was a bit of chasing before they caught him.

Sighting: what’s that pink thing on CRonaldo’s right hamstring? Wish I could find a photo of it.

I’m grateful that Balls Channel has aired live telecasts of the Champions League matches but where is the half-time and post match commentary?  I know there usually is one…And I know UEFA usually flashes the 1st half stats before going to commercial break.  Did Balls cut to commercial way too soon?  Would’ve loved to see the 1st half stats.  The only 1st half stat I saw that flashed was Barca having 7 attempts and Real Madrid had 0.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Champions League Semis: Real Madrid vs Barcelona Preview (2nd Leg)

Real Madrid vs Barcelona (2nd Leg)
May 4 @ 2:30AM (Balls Channel)

The el clasico series this season will come to an end with the 2nd leg of the Champions League Seminfinals.  So far, there is one draw and both teams have one win (click here for recap, stats, etc of el clasico I & II and here for recap, stats, etc of el clasico III):

el clasico I – La Liga (Apr 16): Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid
el clasico II – Copa del Rey (Apr 20): Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid
el clasico III – Champions League Semis leg 1 (Apr 27): Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

Barca comes into this match with a 2-away goal advantage.  It’s not a big mountain to overcome but according to Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho in his post-match comment in the 1st leg game, it’s an “impossible” task.  His skipper disagrees with him, though.  According to Iker Casillas:

"The names of the two teams that will play the final haven't been inscribed yet.  You never know what may happen. We will play in Barcelona knowing a final is set to take place in a month and that any of the four teams still in the championship may be in it."

And I agree with Casillas, never say never.  And in football, you never know.  But for Real to win this match, they need to score goals, they need to change tactics as the defensive football they played in the 1st leg did not work and honestly it was unpleasant to watch.  I mean, they have a lot of great offensive players like Kaka, Gonzalo Higuain, CRonaldo, Karim Benzema, etc. so playing offensively won't be a problem for them.  However, I wonder how the team will function with Mourinho banned from the game after he was sent off during the 1st leg.

For Barca, on the other hand, have happy news for the injury-plagued team.  Andres Iniesta and Eric Abidal trained normally and are in the squad for the game.  Eric Abidal has been out since March 17 from a surgery to remove a tumour in his liver and now the doctors have given him the clearance and he’s included in the squad for this match.  I don’t know if he’ll be in the 1st eleven or could just be an unused substitute.  Guardiola has said that, “Abi' can't play 90 minutes, he has lost weight. But he is in perfect health and he'll be able to help us.” So maybe a few minutes of game time?  But either way, I am glad he’s fully recovered.  Andres Iniesta, who was sidelined in the 1st leg because of a calf injury, has also joined the training and is included in the squad, no official word yet if he’s starting.  Carles Puyol, however, worked separately from the rest of the team as he continues his recovery.  He played during the 1st leg (he had a spectacular game, btw) but did not play in Barca’s domestic match during the weekend, probably being rested in time for the 2nd leg.

Barca can capitalize on Real Madrid missing two of its key defense players, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, due to suspension.  They may have a 2-goal advantage, but I hope Barca won’t play too defensively (although I shouldn't worry as that isn't how they play).  Guardiola has said they will attack, but attack with common sense, so maybe we'll to see some amazing goals from them.

I do hope this time it will be a showcase of great football from the best teams of this sport and not a war of the words as what happened in the 1st leg (click here to read on the 1st leg controveries/issues).  There was just too much controversy that it detracted from the amazing goals that Messi scored.  

the no-nonsense Pierluigi Collina
photo courtesy of Reuters
After three stormy el clasico matches within two weeks, tensions will be high, so I guess UEFA is not taking chances in this match as they are sending Pierluigi Collina to monitor this game.  I love this guy.  When I started watching football, he was one of the most respected referees.  A highly recognizable figure in football, he even had a sponsorship deal with Opel, how many referees could say the same?  He’s retired now but he’s considered as the best referee of all time.

So I hope both teams will play clean and fair and I’m looking forward to an exciting match.  I’ll be crossing my fingers for a Barca-Schalke finals J

Monday, May 2, 2011

El Clasico woes

I don’t really like to give opinions or comments on controversial issues on football and my opinion probably doesn’t mean much as I’m not an expert but as a fan, but I’m very disappointed on how things progressed with the whole Barca-Real conflict.  It has reached a point where the focus is no longer about the game.  If you win, then be a humble winner, if you lost, be a gracious loser. 

Tempers were probably a little frayed as they were halfway thru the el clasico series.  We can all assume that both teams were already feeling the pressure to win.  Mourinho fired the 1st shot as he criticized Pep Guardiola as a coach said prior to the 3rd el clasico (click here to read what Mourinho said).  The Barca coach who was usually diplomatic respond to Mourinho’s “statements” had responded with expletives (click here to read Guardiola’s response), Guardiola shouldn’t have lost his cool (although this article suggests that it was actually “a cool, calculated and carefully planned strategy – a premeditated message: “We won’t be bullied any longer.””)

Then there were allegations from Real Madrid on unsporting behavior/diving of certain Barca players and the infamous Pepe red card.  I can’t really tell most of the time if a player dived or not but to claim that it was only Barca who is guilty of it?  What about Di Maria and CRonaldo? How many free kicks were given from Di Maria’s “fall”? And if Barca is notorious for diving and play acting more than any other team normally does, shouldn’t they also have a history of finishing matches with opponents having 10 men left? (correct me if I’m wrong as I haven’t been following football that much until this year and I haven’t really researched this much).

And did Dani Alves really “dive”?  I don’t really know.  Here’s a video of the tackle, you decide:

But some are claiming that Pepe never really touched Alves at all, here’s a video that from a certain angle, shows that there wasn’t any actual contact between the Alves and Pepe (of course, Barca fans are questioning its authenticity):

Whether there was contact or not, isn’t there a FIFA rule about tackles with studs up and off the ground (plus Alves touched the ball 1st) are considered a serious foul play?  And if you look closely at the video, wouldn’t be very difficult for Alves’ leg to go on one direction (kicking the ball forward) to suddenly change course to the other direction and continue doing so until his whole body rotates/flips 360 degrees and land on the ground and all with only one foot on the ground as balance?  The force that made Alves flip/turn 360 degrees is very difficult to do with just one foot on the ground, there has to be some other force (like a kick from Pepe) that made him turn/flip before landing on the ground.  Just sayin’.  And the fact that Real Madrid (and Mourinho) seemed to have a bit of “history” of ending matches with only 10 men says a lot about how they play (click here to read an article listing Morunho’s experiences of ending a match with 10 men).  In this particular match, Pepe was already warned a couple of times prior to the red card.  And his tackle in the Copa del Rey? Some are saying it should have been a red card. My point is Pepe has “history” with bad tackles, maybe this is one of those instances?  And while I was trying to find the video of the Pepe-Alves tackle, I found this instead: 

skip to 0:38
I know, I know, this has nothing to do with the match and trying to use this as “proof” that Pepe does bad tackles is a stretch, but this is just one crazy ass video that I just had to share.  Pepe’s scary!  But he’s kinda hot in bad-ass kind of way… hihihihi :P

Going back to the topic now…. And lastly, Mourinho’s post game rant was way out of line, especially when he said (click here to read all what he said):

"[Wednesday] once again showed that you don't stand a chance against Barcelona. Uefa doesn't allow any team to really do something against them. I really don't know what's behind all this. Maybe it's their ties with Unicef or maybe it's because they just find Barcelona a sympathetic club. I've been wondering about this all my life and I'll get an answer one day."

He should really need to think before saying anything.  If he makes claims, he should be able to back them up.  To imply that Barca and Pep Guardiola have only achieved what they have on an alleged connection with UEFA or Unicef and alleged referee favors without offering any proof, it seems like he just wants to make trouble.  You cannot deny that Barca is a great team.  They could not have won 32 domestic games (losing only two) if you’re not a great team.  If they are as bad as Mourinho claimed, other coaches and teams should have complained by now.  If you want to prove you’re the better team and the better coach, then show it on the field, not off it.  And even former Chelsea Manager, Guus Hiddink, called out Mourinho on his post-game rant (read the whole article here).  He said:

“Before I knew it, he [Mourinho] got me involved. Jose compared the Real - Barca game with the Chelsea – Barca semi-final in 2009 when I was manager at Stamford Bridge. We missed out on the final, too.  But the big difference is that we did not moan about conspiracies. I don’t agree with Mourinho at all on this. It is right that Chelsea was badly disadvantaged then, especially with the handball penalty we were denied in injury time. That was a clear mistake from the referee.  A couple of days later, when all the emotions had gone, we realised we had been robbed of a Champions League final. But never, ever, did anybody at Chelsea claim there was a conspiracy. You just don’t say things like that. The thought would not even enter my mind.”

I found an interesting article that states that Mourinho could be guilty of what he is accusing Guardiola of (click here to read it).  And oh yeah, apparently, this isn’t the first time that Mourinho was involved in a controversy, click here for the list of controversies he has involved himself in, he really needs to think before he speaks.

I tried to be very objective in this post (I really did), as obviously I’m a Barca fan.  I tried to find articles listing Guardiola’s past misbehaviors but I just couldn’t find any (if you find one, please share it).  At this point, what I can says is, what happened to Real Madrid?  I used to like this team (especially during their pre-galacticos era where it they had Fernando Morientes, Raul, Roberto Carlos, Fernando Hierro and a young Iker Casillas).  I’m still a big fan of Casillas and I think Ozil is pretty great, too.  I don’t really care much for Kaka and I think CRonaldo is an ass.  But Mourinho is something else.  No question he’s a great coach in terms of winning trophies, but he should prove it only on the pitch and keep his mouth shut.  Let the awards and wins speak for itself.

Here’s what others have to say about this:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Champions League Semis: Real Madrid vs Barcelona Recap (1st Leg)

0 – 2
Real Madrid vs Barcelona

Barcelona was back with a vengeance scoring two away goals in the 1st leg of the Champions League Semifinals.  So here’s the update on the el clasico series (click here for recap, stats, etc on the 1st two el clasico matches):

el clasico I – La Liga (Apr 16): Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid
el clasico II – Copa del Rey (Apr 20): Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid
el clasico III – Champions League Semis leg 1 (Apr 27): Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

All the CRonaldo vs Messi debates? Well, Messi shows them who’s boss as he scores the two goals of the match (scoring 11 goals in 11 Champions League matches and scoring on each of his last four visits to the Bernabeu).   “Another Messi master class,” according to the commentator.  His 1st goal breaks the 67 minutes of deadlock when he converted a brilliant cross from Ibrahim Afellay.  His 2nd goal was from a 20-30(?)-yard run, eluding four Real Madrid players then beating Iker Casillas with a right-footed shot to score.  As the commentator said, it was “Delightful!”  Can I just say that Messi is well marked man?  Whenever he has the ball 2-4 Real Madrid players flock to him. 

cute cartoon showing who won the Messi-CRonaldo debate in this match
Messi master class
photo from
It was another enjoyable tiki-taka football from Barca with them ending the match with a 72% ball possession and 482 passes completed while Real Madrid only had 127.   All the passing frustrated CRonaldo during the 1st half, as he ran around in a circle trying to dispossess the ball from Barca, eventually throwing his hands up in defeat.

tempers flare in this very intense match
photo courtesy of
The game was full of the tension and you can feel the pressure as tempers flared causing the game to stall twice in the 1st half as a brawl was about to erupt between the two teams on the field.  Then during half-time, both teams went at it again as they made their way to their locker rooms.  I couldn’t tell how it started as the camera only started to capture it when there was already a lot of pushing and shoving but apparently it started from a confrontation between Seydou Keita and Alvaro Arbeloa they left the field, Barca's substitute keeper Jose Pinto ended up with red card from the scuffle.  During the 2nd half, things started to get ugly again when Pepe got sent off from challenging Dani Alves.  This makes it the 4th consecutive time a Real player gets a red card in a game against Barca, I guess Real kept their “practice” of ending a match with 10 men.  Jose Mourinho got so heated up about this and Carles Puyol was seen trying to calm him down.  But Mourinho ultimately sent off to the stands after he sarcastically clapped and showed a thumbs up to the fourth official.  The look on his face when he was made to sit on the stands… priceless! Btw, they that challenge on Dani Alves looked like it hurt like hell, he was stretcher off the field.  I hope he doesn’t end up with an injury from this match, he got battered in this game, taking a lot of knocks.

the look on Mourinho face
photo courtesy of Getty Images

Mourinho sent off to the stands
photo courtesy of
Real Madrid played a very aggressive game (in the physical sense), there was Marcelo stepping (or was it more of a stomp?) on the leg of Pedro, Adebayor hitting Busquets on the face, hard tackles and challenges, etc.

Pepe sent off
Trivia: Pep Guardiola never lost a match at the Santiago Bernabeu, amazing right?

Jersey Watch: nobody asked for Messi’s jersey after the game.  I’d ask for it if I was there :P

After the match: sighting, Puyol walking around with a ball on his belly, inside his jersey.  He had an outstanding performance in this match. He seemed to be playing across the whole defence, helping out whenever his colleagues at the back made a mess of things.  I’m glad he was fit enough to play, Barca really needed his presence in this game.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Champions League Semis: Schalke vs Manchester United Recap (1st Leg)

0 – 2
Schalke vs Manchester United

I guess I could be right when I said that Manuel Neuer could be the next Van der Sar (also, I didn’t realize he was the captain).  He made a lot of awesome saves, denying Man U’s dangerous scoring attempts from Rooney, Giggs, etal.  He’s probably the main reason the score was still 0-0 by half-time.

for me, Manuel Neuer was the man of the match
photo courtesy of

But after 67 minutes of deadlock, Man U finally beat Neuer when Ryan Giggs found the back of the net from a set up by Wayne Rooney.  And two minutes later, Rooney scored another one, this time from a set up from Javier Hernandez.  Well, Neuer held it off for as long as he could.  Schalke’s defense just exposed their keeper one too many times in this match.  I’m surprised that Man U didn’t score more than two.

I was hoping for Schalke to pull off another 5-2 kind of win against the Red Devils.  But Man U’s defense was just pretty solid, neutralizing any attempts from Schalke. 

Jersey swap watch: Saw Raul swap jerseys with Giggs after the match.  Raul had hoped to swap jerseys with Giggs and actually said so prior to the match.  Neuer approached Giggs afterwards, I think he may have asked for a jersey too, but I’m only just guessing, hehe.  This is one of my favourite parts of the game, the minutes after the final whistle blows when players take off their shirts, swap jerseys… I wish the camera/coverage would be a bit longer during this part.

Christoph Metzelder wearing a face mask

On an unrelated note… I’ve been wondering why Christoph Metzelder was wearing a mask when I saw their previous games.   Apparently he broke his nose… for the 4th time.  Too bad, though, coz without the mask, he’s kinda hot J

Metzelder without the mask.  Isn't he a cutie?

Champions League Semis: Schalke vs Manchester United (1st Leg)

Schalke vs Manchester United (1st Leg)
April 27 @ 2:30AM