Friday, April 13, 2007

Champions League Quarter-final Wrap-up

Bayern Munich 0 - 2 AC Milan
Bayern had relied on defender Daniel Van Buyten to equalize twice in the first leg, which was unlikely to happen again here. Instead Milan's two first-half goals went unanswered, as they were able to just protect their lead for the rest of the game -- a display of typical Italian defending like Roma had completely failed to provide the day before. (I think the second Milan goal was actually offside, though. I know those close calls are hard for the linesman, but it's Pippo Inzaghi; if you put your flag up every time, the odds are going to be on your side.)

I don't want to jinx United, but I'm not overly worried about facing Milan in the semi-finals. I think Bayern's problem was that their attack was too one-dimensional to break down Milan's defence, which is not something you can say about United right now. Plus, obviously, I'm dubious about how Paolo Maldini's creaky legs will hold up against Cristiano Ronaldo.

Valencia 1 - 2 Chelsea
Ok, so: Jose Mourinho is an asshole (and his team are assholes too -- did they really need to whine at the ref about every call? Or not give possession back after a drop ball?), but he does get things right with his substitutions most of the time. Valencia had taken the lead before halftime with a great spell of pressure that probably should have seen them up by two or three. But they didn't capitalize on the advantage, and Mourinho brought on Joe Cole at halftime to shake things up. Shevchenko equalized after a scramble in the box (apparently he only scores in cup competitions), and then Chelsea basically went into their sledghehammer mode.

Valencia, in contrast, looked so terrified of conceding again that they didn't want to attack. And they paid for that caution in the end, as Essien steamed forward from right-back in the 90th minute and hammered a low, hard shot past Canizares at the near post. He'd already made a couple of brilliant saves to keep his team in the game, but he might have done better there. If Shay Given is the Iker Casillas of the Premiership, then Canizares, I think, is the David James of La Liga.

Liverpool 1 - 0 PSV Eindhoven
Rafa, unsurprisingly, rested a lot of players for this game; maybe half the team, at the most, would have been regular starters. PSV had a few chances, but overall they didn't seem particularly interested in winning the game. With Liverpool taking things easy too, most of the excitement was coming from the crowd, who managed to keep up a remarkable level of noise that was totally out of proportion to the game in front of them. The only notable incident in the first half was Craig Bellamy going off injured -- unfortunate, but it let Liverpool bring on Robbie Fowler for an exercise in nostalgia.

The second half was more of the same -- that is, not much -- until the referee showed a red card to Marcellis for a relatively tame challenge, in what I can only assume was a misguided attempt to liven things up. Shortly after that, Peter Crouch scored the only goal of the game -- he's now got a good chance at ending up the Champions League top scorer, if you can believe that. I suppose Liverpool could have done more to capitalize on their man advantage, but avoiding any more injuries was more important, as they strolled through to the semi-finals.

So it's going to be a rematch of Liverpool v. Chelsea. Greeeeeeat. The mind games have already started; YNBA and I are starting a pool for how many times Jose Mourinho mentions Luis Garcia's goal.

I know someone's going to ask me who I'd be supporting if Liverpool and United end up meeting in the final. It's a tough call; I usually cheer for United, but in this case... well, it kind of depends on what happens in the other competitions. If United win the league and the FA Cup, as I hope they will, then I'll be cheering for Liverpool to win in Athens. Just to be fair. And as much as I'd love to see United win the treble, I would really, really love to watch Steven Gerrard lift that trophy again. And if United haven't won anything else at that point, it'll mean that they've fucked up somewhere, so I'll be mad at them and probably cheering for Liverpool anyway.

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