Friday, March 09, 2007

Champions League Round of 16 Wrapup

I was a less than impressive three for eight in my predictions. But I'm quite happy with that, because in almost every case the team I liked better is through (the obvious exception being Chelsea, and even there I couldn't quite bring myself to cheer for Porto).

Liverpool 0 - 1 Barcelona (2-2 aggregate)
Yeah, they lost. But who cares? Because last year's champions are out and Liverpool are not. And now we do the dance of joy!

I was nervous before the game about how Liverpool would approach it -- whether they'd try to just defend their lead from the first leg and end up paying for it. And they did put on a very organized, disciplined display. Jamie Carragher was awesome once again (I could watch him make tackles like this all day, seriously), and the whole back line was solid, including Arbeloa once again playing out of position at left-back (which makes more sense than you'd think, since Leo Messi cuts inside onto his left foot a lot). They didn't spend the whole game sitting back, though. Liverpool actually had a lot more shots than Barca did, but they just could not hit the net. And I've made that exact same comment way too many times this season. More shooting practice, please, boys?

Tuesday's other games

  • Valencia 0 - 0 Inter Milan (2-2 aggregate): Ok, you've all seen the fight, right? Watch it again anyway. It's not like there are any goals to tell you about. Plus, even though we're officially supposed to disapprove of this sort of thing, it's still tremendously entertaining. A twisted kind of credit goes to Valencia's David Navarro for actually breaking Nicolas Burdisso's nose rather than just flapping at him like a sissy, but negative points for then running away afterwards.

  • Chelsea 2 - 1 Porto (3-2 aggregate): Chelsea were hardly dominant in this game, but they were also helped by some terrible goalkeeping from Porto's Helton, who made a complete hash of stopping Arjen Robben's shot. And hey, look at that! Michael Ballack finally did something useful and scored the winning goal. He's been well worth that gazillion pounds a week in wages, eh?

  • Lyon 0 - 2 Roma (0-2 aggregate): Yeah, Roma still have no strikers. But apparently they don't need them.

Manchester United 1 - 0 Lille (2-0 aggregate)
Thank you, Henrik Larsson. If that was his last goal for United, it's a good way to go out. I really wish they were able to keep him, though; he may have only scored three goals so far, but they've been valuable ones. And all of a sudden they're short on strikers, with Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out injured. And considering that Wayne Rooney is now their only option who (a) is fit and (b) hasn't spent the past year recovering from a horrific injury, maybe the thing to do is not strand him out of position and hope that he'll magically be in form. Yes?

No. Instead Sir Alex opted for the dreaded 4-5-1, with Rooney and Ronaldo on the wings and John O'Shea in the centre in place of Ryan Giggs. There are several possible reasons for this: resting Giggs before this weekend's FA Cup game; trying to placate Lille; giving a start to O'Shea in hopes that he'd repeat his heroics against Liverpool; and/or attempting to drive me around the bend once and for all. But whatever the reason, it didn't work out. Admittedly United were less defensive than they often are with this formation, morphing into a 4-3-3 when they went forward, but that flowing attack is still missing. They desperately need to get their attacking form back for the run-into the season, because they're going to be looking for goals from all over without a guaranteed finisher in the lineup.

Wednesday's other games
  • AC Milan 1 - 0 Celtic (1-0 aggregate): Celtic's abysmal away record in Europe continues, but they put on a good show here, taking Milan to extra time before they were defeated by a brilliant goal by Kaka, which was the first time either side had scored in more than three hours of football.

  • Arsenal 1 - 1 PSV Eindhoven (1-2 aggregate): Arsenal's season has gone to shit in less than two weeks, and it's all their own fault. This game was a microcosm of their problems this season: Trying to pass the other team to death rather than shooting, and then, when they did deign to shoot, terrible finishing. They probably would have gone through if they'd been able to score in either leg, but in fact their only goal came courtesy of a PSV player -- Alex, who also scored at the other end to put his own team into the quarter-finals.

  • Bayern Munich 2 - 1 Real Madrid (4-4 aggregate): Real Madrid shot themselves in the foot right from the kickoff, as a mistake by Roberto Carlos let Bayern Munich in for Roy Makaay to score the fastest goal in Champions League history. Bayern went 2-0 up before Real pulled one back with a late penalty, but it wasn't enough as the Spanish side went out on away goals.

Quarter-final draw
  1. AC Milan v Bayern Munich - Bayern have already knocked out one former heavyweight in Real Madrid. Can they do it again?
  2. PSV Eindhoven v Liverpool - Probably the best draw Liverpool could have got, although they can't underestimate PSV.
  3. Roma v Manchester United - This could be tricky. United should try to take the game to Roma in the away leg.
  4. Chelsea v Valencia - Go Valencia. That is all.

Semi-finals: W1 v W3, W2 v W4

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