Thursday, April 05, 2007

Champions League Quarter-finals: April 4

Roma 2 - 1 Manchester United

You'd think he would have learned his lesson after being suspended for the Champions League final back in 1999. And yet he just keeps doing it. Sir Alex can blame the referee or the Roma players all he likes, but both tackles looked like clear yellow cards to me. And he'd already given up a couple of other free kicks in dangerous territory.

United actually adapted pretty well to the sending-off -- not panicking, hanging on to possession -- but the defence let them down for Roma's first goal. Unsurprisingly, with three regular starters out injured, the United back line looked shaky all night, and Roma's 4-6-0 formation must drive you nuts trying to figure out who to pick up. But the goal came from sloppy defending, no excuses. They left a bunch of Roma players unmarked at a corner and didn't react quickly enough, giving Mancini time to cut the ball back to Taddei for a shot.

Roma stepped up the pressure to start the second half. But United got an equalizer against the run of play, created by Ronaldo -- undoubtedly their most threatening player all game -- and finished beautifully by Rooney. Unfortunately they weren't able to hold Roma off, with the Italians attacking in waves straight through the middle. I think Van der Sar could have done better for the second goal if he'd tipped Mancini's shot it over the bar rather than parrying it straight at Vucinic. Again the United defence was scrambling, but that one you couldn't really blame on them.

Anyway, the result leaves United not too badly positioned for the next leg -- 2-1 is better than 1-0. It's hard to imagine them not being able to score at least once at Old Trafford, but the question is whether they'll be able to keep Roma from doing the same. And I wonder who they'll draft into the lineup to replace Scholes. (Probably Fletcher? Oh joy.)

As for the crowd trouble: there are a lot of people who are better informed than I am about this (especially considering that they didn't even show it on the version I saw), but the impression I got is that although neither set of fans was blameless, the Italian police handled the whole situation incredibly badly. Not that I expect UEFA to admit it, though.

And finally, kudos to TSN, who, in their infinite wisdom, decided to start the match 27 minutes in. Well done, boys.

Chelsea 1 - 1 Valencia
A very tight game, as expected, and the second leg will probably be more of the same. I think Valencia just had the edge in this one, but there's a good chance that Chelsea will grind out a victory in Spain. And I do mean grind, because although both teams were playing at about a jillion miles an hour, there's wasn't much flow to Chelsea's game in particular.

A few items of note:
- Petr Cech's puffy helmet is still funny. I know, that's not nice of me. But it makes him look like he should have idiot strings attached to his gloves.
- Canizares really is a terrible keeper. I noticed more than one free kick where he started to come for the ball and then got blocked by his own players or just stranded in no man's land. So it was hardly surprising that he was caught out of position for Chelsea's equalizer.
- David Silva's goal = fabulous. Just watch it.

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