Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Champions League Round of 16: March 4

Manchester United 1-0 Lyon (2-1 agg)
This was hardly a dominant display from United, but they've done enough to see themselves through to the next round. Sir Alex fielded a slightly odd lineup, with Nani and Ronaldo flanking Rooney in a 4-3-3 -- although I suppose it could've been just a cunningly disguised version of United's usual European 4-5-1 -- and the team didn't quite seem to gel. The only goal came from Ronaldo just before half-time, after Lyon's defense (still their weakest point) failed to clear their lines after Wes Brown's cross. But apart from hat, United were guilty of some sloppy play and failed to really kill off the game, which could've come back to bite them in the ass if Kader Keita's shot had gone in instead of rebounding off the post. For Lyon, Benzema was once again their most dangerous player by a mile; it will definitely be interesting to see if United pursue him in the summer. I think he'd be a fantastic addition to the squad, even though I also expect him to cost a ridiculous amount of money.

Milan 0-2 Arsenal (0-2 agg)
You know, I'm not sure why everyone was so convince Milan were going to win this one. Based on their historical record, sure, but on current form? Of course it's easy to say in hindsight, but I expected it to be very finely balanced indeed. Milan were the stronger team for the first 20 minutes or so -- I wonder if Arsenal's youngsters were overawed by the San Siro -- but Arsenal worked themselves into the game and only got better as it went on, with Milan looking a bit worn down. Midfield is usually Milan's strength, but Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb were superior to the Italian trio of Pirlo, Gattuso and Ambrosini, with Kaka reduced to running down blind alleys and petulantly throwing the ball away (what would Jesus say, Ricky?). Fabregas finally broke the deadlock in the 84th minute with a long-range shot. It was well struck, but I think Kalac could've done, because he had plently of time to get down and cover it. It didn't matter, though, because Milan had very little time to equalize, and instead Arsenal scored again, as Theo Walcott set up Adebayor in stoppage time, and last year's champions are out. Mostly I feel sad for Paolo Maldini, because this was his last Champions League game ever, and as a total class act -- not to mention, um, a total hotass -- he deserves infinitely better than for it to end this way.

Barcelona 1-0 Celtic (4-2 agg)
A pretty predictable Barcelona win, as Celtic's dreadful away form in Europe continues. Barcelona's goal came in the third minute, Xavi scoring, with Celtic barely having touched the ball up to that point. Barca could have easily run up the score after that, but they didn't really need to bother, coming into the game with a 3-2 lead from the first leg. Although they've easily made it into the quarter-finals, unfortunately the Catalan team has lost Lionel Messi to a recurrence of the hamstring injury that sidelined him earlier this year, as he went down injured in the first half and left the field in tears. Poor kid has had some rotten luck.

Sevilla 3-2 Fenerbahce (5-5 agg; 2-3 pen)
Sevilla and Fenerbahce produced another five-goal thriller after the 3-2 result in Turkey a couple of weeks ago. Sevilla took an early lead with goals from Daniel Alves and Seydou Keita. Deivid then pulled one back for Fenerbahce but Sevilla widened their lead again before halftime through Freddie Kanoute. In the 79th minute, though, Deivid scored again to force extra time. That ended goalless before Fenerbahce finally squeaked through on penalties, as goalkeeper Volkan Demirel, who had flapped at Sevilla's first two goals, saved three penalty kicks to put his team through.

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