CHAMPIONS LEAGUE REVIEW

The reality of miracles

Now where do I start? Having now got my voice back after a thrilling week of European club football it gives me great pleasure in the knowledge that there will be an all English representation at both European cup finals (Champions League and Europa League).

I am sure everyone watched and appreciated some amazing games of football this week and witnessed history being made (average players became heroes). First up were Liverpool who were trailing the mighty Barcelona 3-0 on aggregate and without their influential midfielder Salah.

Prior to the game the entire world had written off Liverpool after the first leg in which Messi put in a one man display of share brilliance. We all watched in amazement as the little Argentinian magician dazzled (I really believed it was over for the Reds). The return leg at Anfield would need to be extra special to overcome a mountain of a task.

The anfield faithful sang their hearts out full of believe and hope for their team who always manage to find that spirit on the big occasions. This match saw Klopp make some changes. I certainly raised my eyebrow (and am sure many across the world did too, be honest hehe!!) when I saw Divock Origi in the starting line up. I thought right, he’s gonna mess up big time ( well………I used a different phrase at the time).

Origi to my surprise opened the scoring in the 7th minute sending the Liverpool supporters into jubilation. They could sense something special was about to happen. They pressured Barcelona for much of the first half and continued in the same vain in the 2nd half. Wijnaldum added a brace in quick succession on the 54th and 56th minute respectively leveling the tie at 3-3 on aggregate.

Barcelona at this point looked worried and disheveled and a far cry from their more disciplined and organised displays. At this stage the atmosphere in anfield was electric, the fans believed. Step up that man Origi who found the winner in the 79th minute after a clever corner from Alexander-Arnold. The boys from Liverpool had done it and defeated the mighty Barcelona and Messi 4-0 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate.

Now the question people were asking was could lightening strike twice? Can Tottenham repeat the heroics  of their English counterparts? Were they mentally strong enough and tough enough to challenge and defeat a young vibrant, athletic and clinical Ajax side?

The answer to those questions, YES, YES, YES, YES!! Yes they can and yes they did. we were treated to another jaw dropping, heart racing and dramatic encounter between two warriors. Spurs were already down by a goal to nil on aggregate having lost at home the previous week and needed to go to the Johan Cruyff Stadium to perform miracles of their own.

Ajax are a very very good side and carried their impressive form from the first leg into the match and were ahead on the night after their brilliant young captain de Ligt headed in. The home supporters went bananers, especially when Ziyech put them 2 goals ahead in the 35th minute. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and thought Tottenham had blown their opportunity once again.

Moura was nowhere to be seen in the first half likewise Son who was billed as the player that would make all the difference in the 2nd Leg. However, I am not quite sure what Pochetinno said to his team at half time but a different Spurs came out of that changing room.

The players now started to work for each other and the confidence and believe started to grow. Moura pulled one back for Spurs in the 55th minute before shortly adding a brilliant second goal (he’s foot work was poetry in motion). Ajax now seemed lethargic and although they hit the post, the night belonged to the boys from North London.

Moura was able to find the back of the net in the 96th (and complete his hat trick)after a clever flick from Dele Alli put the Brazilian through on goal. It was a great comeback for Spurs and once that final whistle went Pochetinno was overcome with emotions and who could blame him. His team had been written off long ago but here they are as Liverpool’s competitors to be crowned the best in Europe. June 1st is the date and Madrid is the place, so I’ll see you there for what promises to be an epic encounter between two footballing giants (yes Spurs are footballing giants!!!!).

Champions League Final 

Liverpool V Tottenham

Europa League Final

Chelsea V Arsenal

Cup

He who dares, wins!!!

De Gea fumbles United’s top four hopes

Top four up for grabs, any takers?

In a weekend of footballing action that saw all eyes focused on all the teams competing for the exclusive top four positions, no one seized the opportunity. It was a schedule that could have potentially either confirmed your place in the top four or ruined any chance of it happening.

Well thanks to David De Gea it looks like Man United may be the first team out of the running. The united stopper was at fault during the game against fellow top four hopefuls Chelsea. Mata had earlier given United the lead against his former club after getting on the end of a good team build up.

United looked the better of the two sides in the opening exchanges and were looking good in the first half until De Gea’s blunder presented Chelsea with a chance. Alonso was the man to capitalise on the goal keeper’s error in the 43rd minute given Chelsea continued hope of  a top four finish (it looks like De Gea may have cost United their champions league place next season, however the remaining games will be vital). The match ended 1-1 with everything to play for.

Tottenham on the other hand needed a victory at their new stadium against bitter London rivals West Ham to all but ensure a top four finish (provided the other results went their way). Well, whilst they did create chances it is clear that the players had one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League semi final encounter with Ajax.

Take nothing away from the Hammers, they turned up and did a job on Spurs. I had a feeling West Ham would be the first team to beat Spurs at their new ground. Thanks to Antonio’s goal in the 67th minute (not sure about the celebration though hahaha!!) the visitors ran away with a 1-0 win. Not to make excuses for Spurs but you can’t help but wonder had they had their fully fit first eleven it most likely would have been a different outcome.

I read in the newspaper that West Ham reckon they have provided the blueprint for Ajax on how to beat Spurs (alrightyyy thenn!!). I don’t think that game is anything to go by and it will be a totally different game against the boys from Amsterdam. Tottenham now need just a win to secure a top four finish and are best placed to achieve the feat amongst the other chasing pack.

Arsenal suffered a crushing defeat against Leicester and currently sit 5th in the table. The gunners now have slim hopes of qualifying for the champions league and may have to win the Europa League to guarantee a place in the champions league next season. Leicester won the game 3-0 thanks to a brace from Vardy (86, 90+5) and Tielemans effort in the 55th minute of play.

Manchester City still sit top of the pile after a hard fought 1-0 victory away to Burnley, whilst Liverpool battered Huddersfield 5-0 (Mane and Sane amongst the goals). It could go right down to the wire between the two clubs, however City still remain favourites.

CONGRATULATIONS to Raheem Sterling who won the PFA young player of the year and Virgil Van Dyke who won the PFA player of the year. Both players have had an amazing season and I personally would have given Sterling the best player award if it were down to me (but it’s not, so there you go!!!).

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PFA player of the year Virgil Van Dyke!!!!!

Manchester City dented by resilient Spurs

Greatest game of all time?

Forget the billions of viewers who tuned in to watch the return of the eagerly anticipated GAME OF THRONES season 8 opener (great watch!!!) this past week. The real drama unfolded on Wednesday evening at the etihad  stadium in the champions league quarter final match between favourites Manchester City and Tottenham.

I have never seen anything quite like it in my entire life. Spurs went into the game with  an aggregate advantage of 1-0 having beaten City in the first leg of the tie at home. The 2nd leg was viewed by many as a game set to be dominated and won by City. However, what we got was the total opposite. The opening felt like a game of basketball with both teams unleashing attacking prowess.

The action was non stop and that was just the first 3 minutes of the game. Raheem Sterling opened up the scoring with a beautifully taken goal in the 4th minute sending the etihad faithful into euphoria (City fans were full jubilation). I thought it was going to be another lackluster gutless performance from Spurs but boy was I wrong. Spurs did the total opposite and attacked City like a team possessed.

Their efforts were rewarded when Son leveled in the 7th minute before putting Tottenham ahead with an absolute peach of a goal in the 10th minute (nothing the City keeper could do about the finish). Before Spurs could blink they were picking the ball out of their own net thanks to Bernado Silva’s deflected effort which eased past Lloris in the 11th minute. That’s 4 goals in 11 incredible minutes jam packed action. City would not allow Spurs to settle into the game and clearly dominated possession.

City’s player of the moment (Sterling), stepped up to the plate again and slotted in at the far post to give Guardiola’s men a 3-2 lead on the night. At this point Spurs would still go through. A night at the etihad wouldn’t be complete without an Aguero goal and the Argentine did just that in the 59th minute. After great work from De Bruyne who provided the assist, Aguero hit the ball with venom to put City up 4-2 and closer to the semi-final. At this point you’re thinking the flood gates will open and City will run through Spurs.

However, Spurs showed great resilience and pegged back in the 73rd minute with a Llorente goal from a set piece (even I was chanting his name, trust me I really don’t RATE him). The drama wasn’t over yet as Sterling found the net in the last minute of injury time before the goal was disallowed thanks to VAR which meant Spurs go through to the semi-finals 4-4 on the away goals rule. I am pretty certain someone suffered an heart-attack because that was just too much tension for one to handle.

The contrast was amazing!! Pep running down the sideline jumping in the air one minute, and then head in hands the next. Pochettino hand in head one minute then hugging and celebrating with players the next. Even the home fans were silent when the VAR ruling was upheld. It truly was a beautiful match and possibly the best champions league game if not  of all time, then definitely in recent years. The beautiful game delivered a beautiful story……..well done boys!!!!

Champions League Semifinals

Spurs V Ajax

Barcelona V Liverpool

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Spurs celebrate epic victory!!!

 

Relegations,Top four battles and that Stadium

Fast and Furious

This week has been full of action as we near the closing stages of the season. As always, the closer we get to the end the faster and more it seems the games are being thrown at us. I am highly entertained by all the drama and definitely happy to see the return of some premier league football after the international break (well done England by the way!!!).

In the past week we have seen some movers and shakers on both ends of the table and the league is now becoming a lot clearer. There are two teams competing for the title, four teams battling it out for the the exclusive champions league spots and the relegation dog fight. It’s a lot to get through (I know) but it’s definitely worth the excitement and hype.

Firstly we have to say goodbye to Huddersfield and Fulham who have both been officially relegated from the Premier League having lost respective matches this week. Huddersfield’s fate was sealed when they lost 2-0 away to Crystal Palace whilst Fulham suffered back to back defeats to Manchester City (2-0) and Watford (4-1) respectively. The results mean that both teams will be in the Championship next year. However, I expect to see them return to the premier league soon enough.

Cardiff are the other team in the relegation zone and with 5 points adrift from Burnley may also find themselves in the championship next season. They too suffered back to back defeats at the hands of Chelsea (2-1) and Manchester City (2-0) casting doubt over their survival chances in the top flight (let’s face it, they’ve got absolutely no chance in hell and will be RELEGATED!!! yes i said it).

The drama at the top is yet to be decided between the top two, although many will feel Liverpool have made the task a lot harder for themselves having thrown away a 7 point advantage. Over the past week we have seen them exchange places with City at the top of the summit and unfortunately only one team can be crowned champions.

Liverpool made sure they were still in the title race thanks to an own goal from Alderweireld in the game against Tottenham. Firmino gave the home side the lead in the 16th minute before Lucas Moura equalised for Spurs in the 70th minute. To be fair to Spurs they made a massive improvement in the second half after a very poor first half showing and could have won the game if not for the awful finishing of one Moussa Sissoko (absolutely terrible, the ball ended up in Row Z).

Take nothing away from Sissoko as he actually did perform well but that’s just football I guess. Still, Liverpool pressed on and were rewarded thanks to Salah’s quick thinking and Spurs’s inability to defend. The Reds proved they are willing to go toe to toe with City and it could all be decided on the last day of the season (we’ve seen that before, so here’s hoping).

City meanwhile are steamrolling everything in sight and are unplayable at times. It’s very hard to overcome a team/squad full of immense quality and talent and there’ll be no surprises if they go on to win every competition they are in. As mentioned, they made light work of Fulham and Cardiff by dispatching both 2-0 ensuring they remain top of the table by a point ahead of Liverpool. They now have 6 more games to go and who would bet against them? Certainly not me!!

In the race for the top four between Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham the drama is also unfolding. There are just 3 points separating 3rd and 6th place so it’s looking very tight indeed. Arsenal staked their claim for the prize in their 2-0 win against Newcastle at the emirates whilst United, although they won 2-1 against Watford, dropped points in their 2-1 defeat to the very impressive Wolves (what a season the Wanderers have had).

Chelsea  are also back in contention having had back to back wins against Cardiff (2-1) and Brighton (3-0) respectively. Tottenham on the other hand have gone from being title contenders to a possibility of missing out on the top four places especially after that 2-1 defeat to Liverpool. They always make it hard for themselves but as always the Spurs go marching on. And march they did as they bounced back in their 2-0 home win against Crystal Palace. By home I mean the Tottenham Stadium (think they could have come up with a better name to be honest!!) and not Wembley.

It’s official the mighty Spurs have finally moved into their new stadium and what a sight to behold. While things may not be great on the pitch, the new stadium definitely brought a lot of smiles to the Spurs fans especially knowing that it’s a lot bigger  than the emirates (Arsenal’s stadium, hahaha!!!) well by 1000 seats me thinks. It boasts the longest bar in Europe and lets hope the players can turn it into an impregnable fortress (now there’s something to behold). So cheers Daniel Levy for a job well done, how’s about a couple of trophies in the next few years to liven the place up (don’t worry I won’t hold my breath).

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Home sweet home, Casa de Tottenham!!!

Champions League Review

The story so far

The draw for the champions league quarter finals have now been made and the biggest shock of the knockout round was holders Real Madrid not advancing to the next phase. The knockout  stage of this year’s competition brought lots of entertainment to our screens. Some of the games being played were decided in the last minute of play (literally the final kick of the match).

Firstly, all the premier league clubs made it through to the quarter finals stages and only Manchester City had an impressive result over two legs after knocking out German side 10-2 on aggregate. Spurs did well also with a 4-0 aggregate win over Dortmund having done damage to Dortmund’s chances in the first match at Wembley.

Liverpool, with the inform Mane were able to defeat footballing powerhouse Bayern Munich 3-1 on aggregate to progress through to the next round whilst Manchester United knocked out PSG thanks to a Rashford penalty and VAR. Never was that a penalty but many United fans will argue to the cows come home that it was a penalty. Nevertheless all English clubs made it through and it kind of guarantees premier league representation in the semi-final if not the final.

Ronaldo proved yet again why he is regarded as the best in the world (well him and the little magician Messi) as his hat-trick for Juventus saw off Atletico Madrid. Ronaldo was in scintillating form as he helped the Italian giants claw back a two goal deficit to ensure their place in the quarter finals. Meanwhile Ronaldo’s old club were beating and humiliated by Ajax 5-3 on aggregate prompting Real Madrid to reappoint Zidane as manager (now that’s hilarious!!!). Barcelona and Porto make up the rest of the qualifiers having both won their respective fixures.

The question now remains, who will be crowned Champions? With the holders now out of the campaign, a new champion will be crowned in May but who will be triumphant and celebrating glory?

The fan in me would love to say Tottenham but I do not suffer from delusion (unlike some Arsenal fans hehehe!!!). However, there are some really strong teams left in the competition. Barcelona, Juventus, Liverpool and Manchester City have to be among the favourites to win it. But let’s wait and see what happens.

QUARTER FINALS

Tottenham vs Manchester City

Liverpool vs Porto

Ajax vs Juventus

Manchester United vs Barcelona

Cup

He who dares wins!!!!

MAN UTD OUT GUNNED BY ARSENAL

Arsenal stake claim on 4th spot

All eyes and focus were at the emirates stadium to witness the duel between Arsenal and Manchester United. In a fixture that always provides plenty of entertainment, Emery’s men were going to do battle with a United side who were full of confidence especially after their heroics in the champions league against PSG in midweek.

A few years ago (many moons to be honest) this match would have been billed as a top two clash. However, those days are over for now at least and fans of both sides have to accept their current standing respectively as they look to secure a top 4 finish. Arsenal took the initiative right from kick off and attacked Man Utd with intent. Arsenal can be a little bit unpredictable at times and you’re never quite sure which Arsenal will turn up on match day.

Unlucky for Man Utd, the Arsenal that they were faced again was the precise passing and attacking Arsenal accompanied with hard work. Although Man Utd went closest to scoring in the first few minutes of the first half after Lukaku hit the crossbar from close range (should have scored!!), it was Arsenal who took the lead through Xhaka after he struck the ball from distance which deceived De Gea to give Arsenal the lead in the 12th minute.

United did create chances in the game but to no avail as Arsenal showed some good defensive displays also much to the frustration of the United forwards. Arsenal knew they needed another goal to ensure all 3 points and when Lacazette was brought down in the penalty box it was left to Aubameyang to do the rest. The Gabon striker coolly dispatched the resulting penalty in the 69th minute. The win means Arsenal sit 4th in the league with 8 games to play.

Tottenham will be thanking their North London rivals for beating Man Utd because if the result had gone the other way then United would be 3rd on goal difference. What has happened to Spurs in recent weeks? How can you go from being title contenders to a 3rd and 4th place battle (I just don’t understand). All that hard work and graft for nothing.

Spurs suffered another loss (no surprises) to Southampton 2-1. Kane opened the scoring for Spurs in the 26th minutes before Valery leveled for the saints in the 76th minute. The winner came courtesy of Ward-Prowse in the 81st minute sinking Spurs to their 3rd defeat in 4 games. They’ll be very lucky to remain in 3rd place come the end of the season.

The battle for the summit still remains the same as 1 point separate Manchester City from Liverpool as both teams won their respective games comfortably. City are looking more and more likely to defend their title and win a much coveted back to back championship.

Chelsea meanwhile drew 1-1 with Wolves after Hazard equalised for the blues late in the 92nd minute of added time. Crystal Palace lost 2-1 to Brighton, Cardiff beat West Ham 2-0, Newcastle beat Everton 3-2 in a thrilling encounter, whilst Bournemouth beat Huddersfield 2-0 away.

AUB

Gunning for fourth!!!!!!!!

Cheeky Mane back heals Reds to victory

Liverpool hanging on

Liverpool proved in their match against Watford that they have exactly what it takes to be crowned champions (Spurs take note). The current leaders came out of the blocks full of desire and energy with the incredible Mane leading the charge. Klopp’s men wasted little time finding the net as Mane scored to put the home side ahead after 9 minutes of play.

His second goal followed shortly on the 20th minute and what a goal it was. It will definitely go down as one of the greatest goals scored in the premier league history (yes i said it!!!). He sublimely back healed the ball past the out-rushing Watford goalkeeper after his controlled first touch set up the opportunity. Watford had it all to do and rarely gave Liverpool any worries. Van Dyke also joined in on the fun banging in two headed goals and Origi got in on the act also. The game ended 5-0 to Liverpool and deservedly so.

It was a good day for Arsenal also who are pushing for the final champions league spot as they easily saw of Bournemouth at the emirates. The game saw the return of the ever neglected Mesut Ozil and the German international marked his return to first team action with a goal in the 4th minute. Arsenal fired on all cylinders and won the game 5-1.

Manchester United are also fighting for the 4th spot along with Chelsea respectively and both teams won their respective matches. Man Utd won 3-1 against Crystal Palace with Young and Lukaku grabbing the goals. Chelsea won 2-0 at home to Tottenham leaving them 3 points from 4th place. Spurs let themselves down again and played poorly against Chelsea. I think it’s safe to say that the title dream is permanently over for Tottenham.

In the other games, Manchester City won 1-0 against West Ham, Southampton beat Fulham 2-0, Everton won 3-0 against Cardiff, Newcastle United won 2-0 against Burnley, Huddersfield defeated Wolves at home 1-0 and Leicester won 2-1 against Brighton.

Other News

Fulham have sacked boss Claudio Ranieri after 17 matches. Ranieri will be succeeded by Scott Parker who takes the helm as caretaker manager until the end of the season. The tinkerman only managed 3 wins in 17 matches which is a far cry from the heroics and miracle he performed with Leicester in their premier league winning campaign.

As much as we all love Ranieri, unfortunately you get judged on results. The 2-0 defeat against Southampton proved enough for the club’s hierarchy to take action and relief him of his duties at Craven Cottage.

Whilst we say goodbye to one manager we are happy to welcome another to the premier league. Brenda Rodgers has been confirmed as the new Leicester City manager having left Celtic. Much has been written about his Celtic legacy, however the premier league offers a different Challenge and he will be very aware of what to expect.

Rodgers previously managed Swansea and Liverpool and almost won the league with the latter if not for the now infamous Steven Gerrard slip (the memories!!!). He will be ready and chomping at the bit am sure (lets hope he lasts longer than 5 minutes).

 

ranieri 1

Arrivederci Ranieri!!!