The Tournament of Legends

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Best of British: Liverpool's Worthy Record

Defeated by AC Milan in Athens in May, 2007, Liverpool still have an impressive record in the European Cup/Champions League competition with five victories - the best in British football

The game in Athens against AC Milan was their seventh final, by far the best record of any British team. They have won five of those finals, again the best record in English football and a record across Europe bettered only by their successful opponents this season and Real Madrid. AC Milan have now won the trophy on seven occasions from eleven finals while Real have been victorious on nine occasions from twelve finals.




Liverpool became a power in English football under their legendary manager Bill Shankly but surprisingly they failed to lift the European Cup during his time in charge. It was his successor, Bob Paisley who brought the first European Cup triumph to Anfield.

1977: Liverpool 3 Borussia Monchengladbach 1
in Rome

Goals from Terry McDermott, Tommy Smith and a late Phil Neal penalty secured victory over the Germans.

1978: Liverpool 1 Club Brugge 0
at Wembley

In a very close final, a Kenny Dalglish goal enabled Liverpool to become the first British club to retain the European Cup.

1981: Liverpool 1 Real Madrid 0
in Paris

A goal by defender Alan Kennedy brought Liverpool’s third success over past European Cup masters Real Madrid who had already won the trophy an impressive six times. Bob Paisley became the first manager to win the trophy on three occasions.

1984: Liverpool 1 Roma 1
in Rome

Now with Joe Fagin as manager, Phil Neal had given Liverpool an early lead but following Roma equalising, the game went to extra time and then penalties and Liverpool’s first major penalty shoot-out triumph. The shoot-out will be remembered for Liverpool goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar’s wobby legs as he waited for the penalty kicks to be taken against him. Liverpool’s fourth European Cup success.

1985: Liverpool 0 Juventus 1
in Brussels

A game not remembered for the football but for the terrible scenes and disaster that occurred in the Heysel Stadium and led to the death of 39 fans. Liverpool were unable to repeat their feat of 1978 and retain the trophy but that was of no significance when set beside the loss of life. Following this tragedy, English clubs were banned from Europe for a number of years.

2005: Liverpool 3 AC Milan 3
in Istanbul

Changes to the European competitions now allowed Liverpool entry to the Champions League even though they hadn’t won the Premiership. Finding themselves three goals down at the interval, Rafa Benitez inspired a tremendous second half comeback led by Steven Gerrard. Liverpool scored three goals in seven minutes early in the second half. Gerrard scored the first, two minutes later Vladimir Smicer scored and then Gerrard won the penalty from which Xabi Alonso scored. Into extra time and penalties, Liverpool were always in the ascendance and won as goalkeeper Jerez Dudek became the instant hero by saving Andrily Shevchenko’s penalty.

2007: Liverpool 1 AC Milan 2
in Athens

AC Milan avenged the defeat of two years earlier. Having controlled the first half, Liverpool went behind when Milan scored from a free kick that was deflected into the goal off Inzaghi. In the second half Liverpool never showed the same assurance or belief and went two behind with only six minutes remaining when Inzaghi finished from a lovely through ball from Kaka. Dirk Kuyt’s goal was only a late consolation.

Liverpool’s record in the top European competition is way beyond anything achieved by any English club. Even Manchester United with all their history and worldwide acclaim have only won the trophy three times. First in 1968 under Matt Busby against Benfica and then thirty one years later, when Alex Ferguson’s team caused an unexpected turn around by scoring twice in the final moments to deny Bayern Munich, while they finally added to the tally this year.

While Liverpool may have failed to add to their honours in Athens in 2007, the club’s record as the best British team in the European Cup/Champions League competition is worthy of acclaim and one that will not be easily taken away from them.


Friday, August 15, 2008

How to Choose the Soccer Position that's Right for YOU!

Advice from the how2playsoccer.com website:


I can remember when I first started playing soccer when I was very young, everyone wanted to be a striker because they wanted to score all the goals and getall the glory. And it's probably still true today that young kids first starting to play the game will mostly want to have the ball for themselves and take all the shots. That's only natural and it's why you see people just chasing the ball around the pitch without creating any space for themselves. But just because everyone wants to be a striker, it doesn't mean everyone should be one.

No! Everyone has different strengths in life and this is no different in soccer. So if you're wondering what position is right for you then don't just go with the popular vote and be a striker, think about which position will fit your talents. If this is indeed striker then by all means play up front- it is after all a great position, but if the position that suits you is not a striker, then don't be afraid to choose it.

Of course you might now be thinking, 'how do I know which position my abilities are suitable for?' and 'can't I just play where I want and like to play?'. And to this I say that yes, you should always only play where you enjoy playing- if you don't enjoy sport what's the point in playing right? But you do also need the appropriate abilities to go with any given position and to find out if you have these, you need to know what attributes are needed for each and every one of the soccer positions.

So by now you'll have realised that choosing your soccer position comes down to three fundamental things: which position you think you'll like to play in, which skills are needed for that position and whether you have or could develop those skills to play in that position.

If you want to be a goalkeeper for example, you will need to be brave, agile and have good reflexes. You'll also need to develop presence and confidence as you go along and practice the specific techniques like shot stopping, handling and taking crosses. You'll need to be able to use instinct, have a good sense of position,read the game, communicate well and have good judgement. One thing about being a goalkeeper though is that you get long periods where you don't have to do anything. And keep it in mind that the majority of the action is simply coming out and collecting the ball! Sometimes, however, you will get the chance to make a fine save and this is when the real thrills of the position come out. If throwing yourself in front of a hard hit shot sounds like fun to you then this could be the position you were made for!

With a defender, the ability to tackle and head are very important. A good sense of position is also important and communication is essential. You've also got to be quick and strong as well as to be able to do the simple things like make good short passes. Defender can be a very hard position to play in and is only for a certain type of person who can pull it off. You don't get to score many goals or even set them up so its probably the position with the least amount of glory involved, but if it's right for you then it's right for you: simple as that!

Midfielders need to have good passing and crossing abilities at their disposal, and equally significant is the talent and vision to be able to seek out the people to pass it to. Tackling and positioning can be very important for a defensive midfielder, whilst for an attacking midifelder it is a useful quality to be able to hit accurate long shots at goal... plus speed is crucial for getting up to support the forwards.

Strikers need to good movement, dribbling ability, shooting ability and heading ability as well as the natural instinct to get themselves in the box at the right time. The most succesful strikers can make good runs and get onto the end of balls they're not expected to make, whilst also being able to weave some magic like a skillfull or powerful goal.

I hope by giving you a brief insight into the requirements of each position you can see what qualities you'll need to play there. The aim is that this leads you on to see whether you have or want to develop these qualities in order to play in the position that automatically appeals to you. And if no single position attracts you, just keep watching lots of soccer to try and make a decision. Or even better, try them all out by playing yourself and see what suits you best. Once you've found a position you love you might find yoursef at home there and want to play there forever!

So this article should have given you at least a little assistance if you were unsure which position to play in and if not, then my advice is just to keep watching and playing soccer until it becomes obvious to you.

And if you need any help or furthe reading then I might refer you to http://www.how2playsoccer.com/soccerpositions.html



About the Author

Website helping soccer beginners to get into the game by increasing their knowledge and understanding of everything in the game and then improving their skills. The information covers soccer positions, soccer formations, soccer rules and much more!

Lionel Messi: Saviour of Barca

One of the brightest stars FC Barcelona, a team with no shortage of world-class talent, is a young Argentinean player who has played with Barcelona's youth team since his early teens.

Aged 11, his diagnosis with growth hormone deficiency in Argentina coincided with the collapse of the Argentinean economy and neither the Messi family nor Club Atlético River Plate, which had expressed an interest in the player, could afford the treatment.

The saviour of Lionel - or Leo, as he his commonly called - came when Barcelona's sporting director saw him play for his local club, Newell's Old Boys. Carles Rexach put an offer on the table that his parents were simply unable to refuse - to pay his medical bills in exchange for his family was willing to move to Spain and play in the FC Barcelona youth team, an offer that must have seemed like divine intervention at the time. His performance soon saw him making regular appearances in the Barcelona B team and in 30 matches he scored 37 goals.

Leo Messi made his first appearance in the first team against local rivals RCD Espanyol in October 2004, while May 2005 saw his first goal for the main FC Barcelona team. His appearances in the first team remained sporadic, with Frank Rijkaard seemingly easing him into the first team, but he remained a popular player with the club's supporters and frequently displayed footballing magic on a par with Ronaldinho.

His appearances became more regular throughout the 2005-2006 season, but he received a setback in March after injuring his thigh in a Champions League match against Chelsea. Barcelona went on to win both the League and Champions League titles, with Messi playing no small part in the success of the team.

Finally at the beginning of the 2006-2007 season Messi was awarded his first team number. Until this point he had worn the number 30 shirt signifying his status as B team, but he was now promoted to 19. However he received another setback in November when he was once again laid off through injury - this time a broken metatarsal prevented him playing for three months.

His recovery saw his return in February, in time to play Real Madrid in the Classic. The match, played in March, saw a game fought hard on both sides and FC Barcelona were able to score a 3-3 equalizer in the last minute. Incredibly Leo Messi was responsible for all Barcelona's goals! If he can keep injury free then the future for Lionel Messi remains bright. He constantly demonstrates a resolve to put the ball in the back of the net and his footballing skills, while perhaps not as flashy as Ronaldinho, show equal genius. While internationally he plays with Argentina he seems home in Barcelona and we can only hope that the club is able to prevent him from being lured away by some bigger, better offer. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Serious about American Sports? Visit SportsGist

If you're an American, serious about your sport and are looking for a site that can live up to your passion, then Sportsgist could be the place for you. This site offers a wide range of facilities for the American sports devotee, or even those who are involved in college recruiting.


SportsGist is for all the best high school sports live

The sheer volume of information and resources available make this site the one stop destination for American sport lovers. Featuring the best in regularly update sports blogs, the most up to date latest news,  user groups devoted to the sports that you love, a wealth of stats for all levels of sport from high school boys and girls through to the major leagues, forums for debate and discussion about your most loved (and most hated) teams, as well as a classifieds section, not forgetting the option of watching all those future stars in the college recruiting video area. 

If you're truly passionate about American sports, you can become a member which allows you to truly make the most of the SportsGist networking experience by allowing you to upload your own videos of your future sports stars as well as making your online sports scrapbook, as well as allowing those involved in college recruiting to get that all important head start in finding the stars of tomorrow. Make SportsGist your next stop.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beijing Olympics Women's Football - Can USA Finally Win It?

Expert commentary provided by Ross Howard

Women's football has progressed in leaps and bounds, and there can be no further proof of that than in the Beijing Olympics when watching the live Olympics football. There will be a total of 12 international teams taking part in this edition of the football tournament, and gone are the days when women's football will see huge scorelines in the favor of the more established nations. There is now a close resemblance to the men's game in results, as well as the tactical and technical abilities of the women footballers.

The 2008 edition of the women's Olympic football tournament has a number of excellent teams taking part. The usual suspects of Germany, Brazil, Norway and Asian champions North Korea will all be in the mix and shooting for a medal finish. There is also the very popular USA women's football team, who are in a unique position. They are actually on a better standing in the sport compared to their male counterparts, and have won both the Women's World Cup many times, as well as countless international tournament. It is with this pedigree that expectations are often high of the USA women's football team. But the talent pool is also large, with the sport enjoying immense popularity on various levels from the grassroots up.

The questions are therefore unavoidable. Will the USA women's football team win the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics? They certainly have the players to achieve that, although some key players have suffered unfortunate injuries before the start of the tournament. But with other quality players like Hope Solo still available for selection and fit to play, the strength in depth of the USA team is there for all to see. They have also often competed against their strong rivals like Germany and Brazil, and come out on top at the end of it all.

Perhaps the only point that the USA team might need to take note of that might jeopardize their medal hopes, would be their need to avoid complacency within their ranks. They have been grouped in a relatively easy pool of teams in the initial stage, with the likes of Norway, Japan and New Zealand making up the rest of the competition. On paper, the USA women's football team should overcome these teams easily. Yet, with the leveling up of many teams over the years, the USA will have to be at their best to avoid upset results against their group rivals.

As long as the USA women's soccer team can get off to a good start in the tournament, they should have little trouble qualifying from the group stage. The tough competition will come in the knockout stages, where they might have to face difficult teams like Germany and Brazil. With those matches enjoying a nature not unlike Russian Roulette, it will be the luck of the draw for most teams. But if they are able to safely negotiate the group stage, their medal hopes will be increased dramatically, and the USA women's soccer team will have as good a chance to win the gold medal as Germany and Brazil would have.



About the Author

Ross Howard provides commentary on live streaming football telecasts and will be looking forward to live Olympics football when the men and women's competitions begin.

Friday, August 8, 2008

New English Premiership Season

Well, with the new premiership season on the horizon who is going to come out on top. After the amazing climax to last season with the champions and relegation issues resolved on the final day, can we be so lucky as have the same again.

Mr Scolari will be settling into his new post at the Bridge while the longest serving manager will be the obstacle he will have to overcome. What about the rest? Arsenal, too much in house fighting? Or can the players detach themselves from that? Cup team Liverpool, can they really put up a challenge this year? Who knows?

Outside that top four you have the nearly men, who would love to win the championship, but in reality would settle for a top four place and a spot in the champions league. Everton, Villa, Spurs and perhaps Portsmouth seem to be the main contenders, but can one of them really knock down that door and get in?

After that, the teams who will finish up mid table, their only highlight being when the manage to take a few points off the big four and another false dawn appears until the following week when a team from the relegation zone brings them back to earth.

And finally too the relegation zone. The three teams promoted from last year will be favourites to go straight back down. West Brom are probably best equipped to prove me wrong having been over the course before. If they did avoid the drop that leaves a spot for one of last years survivors, Bolton, Sunderland, Wigan and Fulham are waiting in the wings to fill the vacant spot. Fulham are in the best position to be well away from the relegation area if they can continue from where they left off at the end of last season.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

- The Aragones Era Begins: Fenerbahce 2-0 MTK Budapest

Luis Aragones' era as Fenerbahce coach begins with this second round first leg victory over the Hungarians.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The team that Brian built

Richard Williams on Brian Clough

It would have been nicer, perhaps, if Brian Clough had died with Nottingham Forest's record of 42 consecutive league matches unbeaten still intact. But at least when Arsenal finally surpassed it just under four weeks ago the old magician's name returned to the sports pages for the right reasons.

Bungs or no bungs, what Cloughie did for Forest was nothing short of a miracle. He took an old and proud but stagnant club and, with the minimum of resources, lifted it to the pinnacle of European football for two years running. While a statue inside the City Ground and his name on a grandstand are the visible signs of his 18 years there, his enduring place in the hearts of supporters ensures that all his successors will be measured by his achievements.

Yet the news of Clough's appointment in 1975 was not met with unanimous delight. To many he was the loud-mouthed upstart who, while rescuing the hated rivals Derby County from near oblivion, had stolen the heart of Johnny Carey's fine Forest side of the late 60s. Terry Hennessey and Alan Hinton were among those who swapped the red shirts for the white as Clough drove Derby to promotion from the Second Division and then to the League Championship.

Worst of all, during the 1971-72 season Clough staged a raid aimed at enticing Ian Storey-Moore, Forest's dashing left-winger and leading goalscorer, to the Baseball Ground. He paraded Storey-Moore at half-time during one of Derby's home games. But the contracts had not been signed, and such was the uproar at the other end of the A52 that Forest's directors were forced to withdraw and sell the prized player to Manchester United instead.

It took months and the arrival of Peter Taylor, his old Derby assistant, for Clough to win the wholehearted support of the City Ground. Now players began to flow the other way, although the early arrivals of John McGovern and John O'Hare from Derby via Leeds, followed by Archie Gemmill direct from the Baseball Ground, were greeted with initial suspicion.

It gradually became apparent that Clough was building a team of substance. Peter Shilton moved from Stoke to fill the goalmouth. At right-back the gangling Viv Anderson left the nearby Fairham Comprehensive to start a career that would make him England's first black player. Larry Lloyd, discarded by Liverpool then Coventry, formed a solid partnership in central defence with Kenny Burns, who was transformed from Birmingham's thuggish centre-forward into a sort of Franz Beckenbauer of the East Midlands. The veteran Frank Clark completed the rearguard, replacing the promising but ill-fated Colin Barrett, plucked respectively from Newcastle and Manchester City.

With McGovern as the water-carrier, the midfield creativity was supplied by the bustling Gemmill, the thoughtful Martin O'Neill and the Scottish left-winger John Robertson - who, along with Burns, was the finest example of Clough's ability to persuade a talent to express itself. The "little fat lad" who beat players through guile and wit would play a crucial role in both Forest's European Cup wins.



Up front were the sparkling Tony Woodcock and the powerful Peter Withe, the latter replaced by the unknown Garry Birtles one unforgettable European night against Liverpool. Later came Trevor Francis, whose fee fell a few coppers short of £1m because that was how Cloughie wanted it and who got on the end of Robertson's cross to win the first European final.

As Clough's eye for a deal began to take precedence over his eye for talent, the failures of Ian Wallace, Justin Fashanu, Peter Ward and others began to chip away at the facade. But the fans continued to enjoy teams packed with players as gifted as Des Walker, Johnny Metgod, Peter Davenport, Stuart Pearce, Franz Carr, Hans van Breukelen, Roy Keane, Chris Fairclough, Steve Hodge and Clough's son, Nigel.

Many of those will be queuing up today to express their gratitude for his influence. Perhaps they will be joined by the two young fans whose ears he boxed when they tried to invade the pitch during a League Cup match at the City Ground one night 15 years ago, earning himself a fine and touchline ban merely for treating them as if they were his own sons.

In the end he stayed too long and had to be eased out. But no manager has left a newly relegated club more wreathed in admiration and gratitude, and few will cast a longer shadow.


Friday, August 1, 2008

1968: Manchester United FC 4-1 SL Benfica


British rule extended into a second season in 1967/68, as Manchester United FC marked the tenth anniversary of the Munich air tragedy by lifting the European Champion Clubs' Cup against SL Benfica in London. United had picked up the gauntlet after holders Celtic FC lost to FC Dynamo Kyiv in the first round. They beat Hibernians FC, FK Sarajevo, KS Górnik Zabrze and Real Madrid CF on the road to Wembley, surviving a number of scares along the way.

Matt Busby's side failed to win a single away game, a statistic that almost cost them dear in the semi-finals. Three-one down in the return leg in Madrid, United were facing a fourth defeat at this stage of the competition until late strikes by David Sadler and Bill Foulkes carried them through, 4-3 on aggregate.



Benfica, meanwhile, had been the first team to win a tie on the new away goals' rule. This helped them past Glentoran FC in the first round, before further wins against AS Saint-Etienne, Vasas SC and Juventus FC, 3-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals. However, Portuguese luck ran out in the final at Wembley, just as it had two years earlier in Portugal¹s FIFA World Cup semi-final against England. Alex Stepney's late save from Eusébio sent the match into extra time after Jaime Graça had cancelled out Bobby Charlton's 54th-minute opener. And when Munich survivor Charlton struck for a second time, the result was beyond doubt, goals from George Best and Brian Kidd merely icing United's cake.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Barcelona - The Rijkaard Years


Frank Rijkaard is a world-renowned football player and coach known for his no-nonsense, aggressive style of play. His tenure as manager of FC Barcelona (familiarly known by its fans simply as Barça) was marked by successes and controversy.

The period in which Rijkaard was brought into FC Barcelona was one of turmoil for the club. The past few years had been very disappointing, accentuated by players and managers coming and going, including the betrayal of vice-captain Luis Figo, who left the team to join their rivals Real Madrid. Newly elected FC Barcelona's new president Joan Laporta desperately wanted to turn things around for the team and began by bringing in Dutchman Rijkaard as manager in 2003. Rijkaard's appointment came as a surprise to FC Barcelona's fans due to his inexperience and tarnished reputation.

Rijkaard had made a name for himself as a player for AC Milan years earlier. Although he had played for other teams before and after, it was during his tenure as a player for AC Milan that he was most known. Rijkaard was known for his aggressive style and hot-headed temperament, which brought him many victories and controversy, respectively.

By the time he sat in Barça's manager's chair, however, he had his temper under control. He had already done two years at the Netherlands national football team, leading them to the Euro 2000 semi-finals, and two years managing Sparta Rotterdam, where he did not fare so well. This so-so performance seemed to light a fire under the young manager, as he came into FC Barcelona with a new purpose. Rijkaard was now known simply as a no-nonsense manager with little flash. He let his and his players' actions speak for themselves on and off the field. They were just out to win the match in the most impressive manner possible.

Though he got off to a slow start (losing to archrivals Real Madrid in December 2003), Rijkaard soon turned the team around. FC Barcelona finished the 03-04 season as La Liga runners-up before Rijkaard brought in new players to round out the team. The addition of the new roster allowed the club to go to win La Liga for two consecutive years in 04-05 and 05-06.

Rijkaard was the first Barca coach to ever win twice at Santiago Barnebeu, their rival's stomping grounds. He was also nominated for UEFA's Team of the Year in 2005 and honored in 2006 for his contributions to the European Cup. He also managed the team to a victory in the 2005-06 Champions League, which made him only the fifth person ever to win the European Cup both as a manager and a player.



After these victories, however, came a drought. The following two years were not so great for the team, culminating in a loss to Manchester United in the Semi-Final of the '07-'08 UEFA Champions League. There was much speculation after this about Rijkaard leaving the club, due to them not winning a trophy for two years. Finally, on May 8, 2008, it was announced that Frank Rijkaard would be leaving the team at the end of the season.

Rijkaard has now been replaced with Barca B coach Josep Guardiola. Many players have left the team and have been replaced with good prospects. What this means for the future of the team has yet to be seen. With the fickle nature of football club presidents and fans, it remains to be seen how Guardiola will measure up to his predecessors.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brazilian Ronaldinho is Now an AC Milan Player

The 28-year-old Brazilian footballer Ronaldo de Assis Moreira better known as Ronaldinho Gaucho has recently become part of the Italian Serie A leading team Inter Milan.

Ronaldinho's professional career began to blossom at a very young age as by 18 he participated in his first senior international event in the Copa Libertadores and only one year later was an important part of the Brazilian national team. Short after he transferred to the French Paris Saint-Germain FC during the 2001-2002 season. His time with the French squad was very brief as he soon began to search for new options among which were Manchester United and FC Barcelona. This period is remembered in the football history as one when these two clubs basically declared war to each other in order to obtain Ronaldnho's services.

By 2003 the Spaniard giant of FC Barcelona paid the sum of £21 million for the Brazilian magician whose skills were just unbelievable as his seniority continue to grow on the football field. Despite having the opportunity to sign for the English team of Manchester Ronaldinho opted otherwise as many of his countrymen including Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo had done previously. Without knowing what the future will hold for him the Brazilian began his successful career bringing to the club the Liga title in 2004 and the FIFA World Player of the Year award. In 2006 with Ronaldinho leading his team he managed to have Barcelona crowned as the Liga Champions and only two weeks later the club becomes the Champion League winners after beating Arsenal.

Unfortunately for the young player the 2007-08 season was a dark time for him as he was constantly injured and was not able to live to the standards the club and the fans wanted of him. Barcelona president Laporta began his pursuit to transfer the Brazilian player to either Manchester City or the Italian AC Milan as both teams had persistently assured their interest in acquiring the player.

Less than 24 hours ago the Associazione Calcio Milan or AC Milan paid the amount of £21 million for a three-year deal for the Brazilian player. Now that Ronladinho is part of the Italian leader of the Serie A tournament he will be able to participate in the coming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games an option which had previously been blocked by the FC Barcelona.



Now, it seems things are getting better for Ronaldinho as he feels more than at home in Italy especially after the incredible warm welcome he received at the San Siro Stadium where he stated "I am very happy, after so much time I am eventually here. I am overjoyed to have arrived at [AC] Milan and hope to be able to give everyone so much to cheer about.

If the predictions are not off track we are certain to expect a lot from this exceptional footballer as it seems he feels he now can show the football world he is still a great player and his struggle with the FC Barcelona group has finally come to end.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Great Sporting Venues from Across the Globe

Right throughout the world there are some incredible stadia and venues that have become synonymous with a particular sport; these same places have seen world class performances, memorable matches and incident packed excitement for thousands of spectators.

Recently modernised, Wembley Stadium is often referred to as 'The Home of Football', reflecting the game's English origins. It now has a capacity of 90,000 which makes it the second largest stadium in Europe, behind Barcelona's Camp Nou. This hugely impressive structure with its sliding roof design came at a cost of almost £800 million, making it the most expensive stadium development anywhere in the world.

Wembley has hosted many famous football moments throughout the years, including the 1966 Word Cup final which saw England land the coveted trophy for the first time. 1977 saw a very different set of circumstances which are still talked about today as Scotland supporters invaded the Wembley pitch and destroyed one set of the goalposts on live UK television.

When you mention snooker, one venue in particular always springs to mind: the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. This venue has played host to the Word Snooker Championships since 1977 and is widely regarded by professional players and fans alike as the best anywhere in the world. It has witnessed some truly remarkable tension and excitement over the years, with particular highlights including Cliff Thorburn's televised maximum 147 break in 1983 and Dennis Taylor's black ball triumph over the legendary Steve Davis in 1985, which upset all the odds and had a nation glued to its screens. History continues to be made at The Crucible and the 2008 championships saw two maximum 147 breaks for the first time ever in the latter stages of a ranking event, made by Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ali Carter.

There can be few more thrilling sights in world sport than watching a Formula One car racing through the streets of Monte Carlo. The deafening roar as the drivers skilfully negotiate their way past the beautiful harbour, through the long sweeping tunnel and past the majestic hotels and casinos that line the streets is a truly remarkable sound. The Monaco Grand Prix is an awesome spectacle in a truly stunning setting.

Without doubt one of the most famous locations in the world of golf is the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, USA. Since 1934 it's been home to the prestigious Masters tournament and the much sought after green jacket that comes with the title of Masters Champion. The lush green surroundings make this a remarkably scenic venue for one of the major events in world golf and the course has borne witness to some stunning climaxes. 1986, for example, saw a truly memorable moment in Master's history with the 'Golden Bear' himself, Jack Nicklaus pipping Greg Norman by one shot for the title some 23 years after he'd first claimed the trophy back in 1963. And who can forget Scotland's Sandy Lyle (the first Briton to wear the coveted Green Jacket) after his stunning approach from a bunker found the 18th green and led to his winning birdie in 1988?

More recently, Tiger Woods has become almost synonymous with the Georgia course, winning the US Masters 4 times, including a runaway twelve shot winning margin in 1997, which made him the youngest ever winner, as well as holding the record for the lowest winning score.

But whether its golf at Augusta, rugby at Twickenham, horse racing at Aintree or any other sport at any other venue, every one has a story to tell of triumph and hard luck.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The History of Manchester United


Manchester United are arguably the best club in the world, but this multi-million pound club started as Newton Heath L&YR F.C. in 1878, as the works team for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Health.

They played on a small, dilapidated field on North Road, near the future site of the Manchester Piccadilly railway station for fifteen years, and then in 1983 they moved to play on Bank Street in a nearby town called Clayton. In 1902 this ground was closed as Manchester United were nearly kicked out of the football league due to debts of two thousand and five hundred pounds, but thankfully just before the club could be shut down they received a large investment from J.H.Davies, the managing director of Manchester breweries.

Manchester United's first major signing was of Charlie Roberts of Grimsby Town for £750 in April 1904, they believe that this signing helped Manchester United to third in the very next season. In the 1905-1906 season Manchester United were finally promoted to the First Division, where two years later they emerged as champions for the very first time.

On the 19th of February Manchester United played their first game in the still standing Old Trafford stadium, their first game was looking an ease, beating Liverpool 3-0 at half time only to lose 4-3, they went on that season to win no silver wear, and in the next ten years the club started declining in the ranks until 1922 when they were relegated back down to Division Two.

Three seasons before world war two, Manchester United were promoted, then relegated, then promoted once again, providing them with a spot in division one once the war was finally over.

In the season of 1956-57, Manchester United became the first season to compete in the European Cup, and it was in this competition that Manchester United recorded their biggest win to date, beating a Belgium team 10-0 before being knocked out in the semi finals by Real Madrid.

Tragedy struck the next season as a plane crash killed 8 of Manchester United's players on a trip to the Germany for a European match. Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan where the players killed that day, these players will never be forgotten.

In the early 70s Manchester United changed the badge to the badge we know off today. Soon after that, in 1986, the introduction of Sir Alex Ferguson was happening as he took over the manager's position.

Sir Alex Ferguson didn't have much success at Manchester united until the year of 1998 where his team secured the best season in the history of English Football, completing the treble of the Premier League, the FA cup and the Champions League.



Manchester United seemed ordinary until the season of 2006-07 when they won the Premier League, scraping past Chelsea. This gave Manchester United and their young guns of Rooney and Ronaldo confidence to rule the scenes in the next season as Manchester United completed the double, winning the Premier League and the European Cup.

You can read the latest Manchester United news about Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and the rest of the players on the team every day by visiting the Manchester United Report.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Great football memorabilia at Memorabilia4u

The world of sport is now a bigger business than ever before, with the area of sports and football memorabilia being a significant and ever growing market. I remember starting my collection with some marvellous signed team photos of the legendary Leeds United team of the arly seventies. Probably my favourite item, though, is my Andy Cole autograph obtained immediately after the 1999 Champions league final. Naturally, I would never dream of selling this, but should I want to buy some football autographs, one place I could easily find what I'm looking for is the Memorabilia 4 U website.


If you're going to go online and search for that autograph or signed shirt that you'd just love to own, you'll want to use a website that is as easy to navigate and as functional as possible. Memorabilia 4 U is neatly laid out, enabling the user to comfortably locate the item they desire. For example, if it's signed football memorabilia you're looking for, simply browse the sports section from the left sidebar. As well as sports, the website also covers film and music memorabilia, as well as having it's on place on e-bay. What's more, you can also search according to your language of choice, with 12 different languages available. So, if you're looking to start investing in football memorabilia, Memorabilia 4 U is definitely a great place to get started.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The 2008 Final: Man utd V Chelsea



The 2008 UEFA Champions League Final took place on Wednesday, 21st May 2008. The match was played at the Luzhniki Stadium, home ground of Torpedo and Spartak Moscow, in Moscow, Russia, to determine the winner of the 2007–08 UEFA Champions League. The final was contested by Manchester United and Chelsea, making it an all-English club final for the first time in European Cup/Champions League history. This was only the third time two clubs from the same country contested the final – the others being the 2000 and 2003 finals. The game was won by Manchester United 6–5 on penalties, after a 1–1 draw following extra time.

In a series of coincidences, in the week during which Manchester United qualified for this Final in Russia, Russian side Zenit St Petersburg won the 2008 UEFA Cup Final at the City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, England. This saw the Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich bring Chelsea to the first European Cup final staged in Russia. The Moscow location made this the easternmost final in the tournament's history. It was also Chelsea's first European Cup final in their history. The significance for United was that 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, and the 40th anniversary of United's first European Cup triumph in 1968.

In recent years, the Champions League final has been given an identity of its own with a unique logo, a design concept, and an overall theme. The objective is to help promote the final and enhance the prestige of one of the world's biggest sporting events. The initial idea that inspired the creation of a new identity for each final was to develop a design with a distinctive flavour of the host city. On 31 October in Moscow, the Final's new design was presented to public. The ceremony was held in the press conference room at the Luzhniki Stadium and the design was unveiled in presence of the ambassador for the final, former Russian goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev.


Background

Manchester United went into the Champions League final as champions of England for the 17th time and undefeated in the 2007–08 Champions League. Chelsea came second in the league, finishing with two fewer points than United, and had lost just one Champions League game, the quarter-final first leg away to Fenerbahçe. In the Premier League games between the two sides in the 2007–08 season, United won 2–0 at Old Trafford in Avram Grant's first game in charge of Chelsea on 23 September 2007. Chelsea won 2–1 at Stamford Bridge in the return game on 26 April 2008. Chelsea also won the last cup game between the two – a 1–0 win in the 2007 FA Cup Final in May 2007, although United got their own back in the Community Shield the following August – winning 3–0 on penalties after a 1–1 draw in normal time.

 

Routes to the final
 

 
Manchester United


Manchester United were drawn in Group F along with Roma, Sporting and Dynamo Kyiv. United won their first five group games before securing a 1–1 draw away against Roma, in a game where both teams were already guaranteed to progress from the group, United as group winners and with the most number of points out of all the group winners, 16.

In the first knockout round, United were drawn against Olympique Lyonnais, against whom they drew the away leg 1–1, thanks to a late equaliser from Carlos Tévez. The Red Devils then won the second leg 1–0 – Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the only goal – to ensure a 2–1 aggregate win and a place in the quarter-finals, where they were again drawn against Roma.

The quarter-final matches represented the fifth and sixth times these two clubs had met in Europe in just over 12 months. United went to Rome and secured a very creditable 2–0 win, before securing the tie with a record 11th consecutive home Champions League win, winning 1–0.

The semi-final pitted United against FC Barcelona; the teams had not met since the group stage of the 1998–99 tournament, the last time United won it. The teams also had identical records going into the semi-final, each having won eight and drawn two of their ten games, scoring 18 goals and conceding just five. The first leg at the Nou Camp was a drab affair, with United spending most of the game defending, whilst Barcelona tried to pass the ball around them. United were awarded a penalty in the first minute, but Cristiano Ronaldo sent the ball wide, hitting the stanchion behind the goal. That was about as exciting as the first leg got for either team and it ended 0–0. The second leg at Old Trafford was a game of higher tempo, which United won 1–0 thanks to a goal from Paul Scholes after 14 minutes. This result increased United's consecutive home win record in the Champions League to 12 and ensured that United reached the final unbeaten.

En-route to the final 2008, United won nine and drew three of their 12 matches, dwarfing their record of four wins and six draws in the ten games they took to reach the final in 1999 (in 1999 there was no first knockout round and teams advanced from the group stage directly into the quarter-finals). United scored 19 goals en-route to the final, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring seven of them, more than any other player.

 
Chelsea

Chelsea were placed in Group B, along with Schalke 04, Rosenborg and Valencia. Chelsea's first match in the group was against Rosenborg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's home ground, where they were held to a 1–1 draw. Two days later manager José Mourinho left Chelsea by mutual consent. Mourinho's replacement was former Israeli national team coach Avram Grant. Chelsea's second match was against Spanish club Valencia, whom they beat 2–1, leaving Chelsea with four points from their two matches. Chelsea's next two matches were against Schalke 04 of Germany. The first match was played at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won the match 2–0. The return match against Schalke 04 ended in a 0–0 draw. Chelsea's final two matches in their group resulted in a 4–0 demolition of Rosenborg and a 0–0 draw with Valencia. Chelsea progressed as group winners with 12 points out of six games.

Chelsea faced Olympiakos in the first knockout round. The first leg in Athens ended in a 0–0 draw. The second leg saw Chelsea run out 3-0 winners with goals from Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard and Salomon Kalou to send Chelsea into the quarter-finals.

Chelsea were drawn against Fenerbahçe of Turkey in the quarter-finals. The first leg was held at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, and ended in a 2–1 loss. Chelsea had opened the scoring when Deivid deflected the ball into his own net, but Fenerbahçe equalised on 65 minutes, when Kazim-Richards scored. Deivid won the match for Fenerbahçe with a strike from outside the penalty area in the 81st minute. The second leg at Stamford Bridge was won 2-0 by Chelsea, to claim a 3–2 aggregate victory over the Turkish side.

Chelsea faced fellow English opposition Liverpool in the semi-final. This was the fourth year in succession that these teams had met in the Champions League. The first leg at Anfield was drawn 1–1. The game looked to be heading for a Liverpool win but an own goal by John Arne Riise in the 95th minute gave Chelsea advantage. Chelsea won the second leg 3–2, with goals from Drogba on 33 minutes, Lampard on 98 minutes and Drogba again on 105 minutes sending the Blues through to the first Champions League final in their history.


Leading up to the match

The artificial pitch had also been relaid with turf shipped from Slovakia just days before the final. Thus, there were concerns over the players' safety on the pitch. Manchester United chief executive David Gill had expressed disappointment that the club had only been allocated with 21,000 tickets for their supporters, when the club could potentially sell up to 100,000 tickets for their fans.

Hotels in Moscow were fully booked, and on the day, bars and pubs were packed. One holiday company gave an alternative to hotels: a cruise ship. Fans could sleep in the cabins, as well as travelling to and returning from Moscow just for the final. A study by Sainsbury's Finance reveals that fans would need spending money of around £624 each to cover hotels, taxis, food and drink etc. British media widely but incorrectly reported that the average price of one pint of beer in Moscow was £7.50. The actual price was between £2.00 and £5.00. Sainsbury's Finance estimated that Chelsea and Manchester United fans could take a combined total of £40m spending money with them. The match was expected to generate £200m spending, prize money and TV income, with the two teams sharing £115m. However, some fans spent far less money, using indirect routes such as low-cost flights to Riga followed by a train or bus journey to Moscow.

A flight to Moscow, which was meant to leave Gatwick Airport for Domodedovo International Airport at 0555 BST to arrive just in time for the match, was cancelled after 6 hours of delay. Supporters waited nearly 6 hours after being told the plane would leave at 1300 BST. A spokesperson for the airport said it was a 'hydraulic fault' with the plane, and the plane would not be able to arrive at 1945 BST. 224 Chelsea supporters were left stranded, each of whom had paid near £1,000 for the day trip. By the time they were told, it was too late to make alternative plans to travel to Moscow.


The Match

Team news

Sir Alex Ferguson guaranteed a place in the starting line-up for Paul Scholes, after the midfielder had missed the 1999 final through suspension. He stuck with his regular starting line-up that had served him well all season, with his only real decision being whether to play Park Ji-Sung or Owen Hargreaves in midfield. He decided to start Owen Hargreaves on the right wing instead of his regular role as a defensive midfielder, and deployed Cristiano Ronaldo on the left wing, pitting him against Michael Essien.

Avram Grant decided to start with Florent Malouda on the left-wing instead of Salomon Kalou. He also chose to deploy Michael Essien at right-back ahead of Paulo Ferreira and Juliano Belletti, rather than in his preferred midfield position. The rest of Chelsea's team was fairly predictable, with their spine of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba being the key players.

 
Match summary

 
First half

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring after 26 minutes. An interchange of passes between Paul Scholes and Wes Brown after a throw-in on the right flank gave Brown time to pick out a cross for Ronaldo, who directed his header past Petr Čech. Chelsea almost equalised in the 33rd minute when Frank Lampard's cross was headed back into the six-yard box by Didier Drogba. United's Rio Ferdinand, under pressure from Michael Ballack, was forced to head the ball towards his own goal and Edwin van der Sar pulled off a save to deny Chelsea a goal. United spent the rest of the first half pressing for a second goal, and had two good opportunities to extend their lead, but were denied by a double-save from Čech. Wayne Rooney delivered a long ball into the path of Ronaldo and the United goalscorer placed his cross on the head of the diving Tévez only for Čech to deny him. Chelsea's failure to clear the loose ball gave Michael Carrick the chance to extend their lead but again Čech was equal to the task with another fine save.

Chelsea survived the pressure and equalised in the dying minutes of the first half. The goal followed from a long range shot by Michael Essien, being deflected first off Nemanja Vidić and then Rio Ferdinand. The ball's change in direction caused Edwin van der Sar to lose his footing, leaving Lampard, who had made the run from deep, with a simple finish.

 
Second half

Lampard's equaliser coming at the end of the first half led to a transformed Chelsea in the second half. Chelsea kept United on the back foot for long periods. Nevertheless, they managed to contain most of Chelsea's attacks. Chelsea had a few opportunities to take the lead, with Essien breaking free of United's defence in the 54th minute, only to blast his shot too high. Michael Ballack also sent his long shot just off target. Chelsea's closest opportunity to take the lead came in the 77th minute when a Didier Drogba shot struck the post from 20 yards (18 m) out. Drogba went very close to convert Joe Cole's low cross home for the winner four minutes from time, but blasted wide. Ryan Giggs was then introduced in place of Scholes, making a record 759th appearance for Manchester United.

 
Extra time

The game moved into extra time, and the thrilling pace was maintained throughout. Both teams had chances to score a vital second goal, with a Lampard left-footer hitting the underside of the crossbar and Ryan Giggs having a shot headed off the line by Terry. Following a fracas involving most of the 22 players and the match officials, Didier Drogba became only the second player in history to be sent off in a European Cup Final – the first being Arsenal's goalkeeper Jens Lehmann in 2006 – for a slap on Vidić.




Penalty shootout

Rio Ferdinand won the toss of the coin, and opted for United to go first in the shootout. Carlos Tévez stepped up first and sent Čech the wrong way. Ballack was next up, shooting powerfully past van der Sar. Carrick buried his spot-kick, as did Juliano Belletti with his first touch of the game. The first miss of the shootout came from Ronaldo, who stuttered in his run-up but Čech dived to his right to save. Lampard then put Chelsea 3-2 ahead. Owen Hargreaves levelled things up with a shot into the top corner. Ashley Cole was the next up, and van der Sar got a strong hand to the ball but couldn't keep the ball out. Nani then knew that he had to score to keep United in it, and he did it just. Thus it was all up to John Terry to win the Cup for Chelsea. However, Terry lost his footing when planting his standing foot by the ball and, even though Edwin van der Sar was sent the wrong way, Terry's mis-hit effort hit the outside of the right post and went wide.

Anderson scored the first penalty in sudden death. Salomon Kalou then sent van der Sar the wrong way to make it 5-5. Giggs was next up and he was also successful. Van der Sar then pulled off the crucial save for United by distracting Nicolas Anelka when he pointed to his left (Chelsea's penalties were all attempted on van der Sar's left side of the goal), but correctly dived to his right to deny Anelka, securing United European football's top prize for the third time in their history.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Most Famous Mexican Soccer Players

Mexican soccer was always known for producing quality players and it's actually quite surprising that their best national team record is reaching the quarter-finals of a World Cup (on two occasions, 1970 and 1986, both of these World Cups being organized by Mexico). However, the Mexican national side has always been a constant presence in final tournaments and it's regarded as a tough nut to crack, despite their lack of silverware. Let's take a short look at some of the players that made Mexico the strong soccer power that it is today.

Antonio Carbajal

Nicknamed "El Cinco Copas", or "Five Cups", Antonio Carbajal was the first player to ever participate in 5 World Cups with his national team and has only been equaled in 1998, by German legend Lothar Matthaus. Carbajal played for Mexico in all the 5 World Cups that took place between 1950 and 1966.

Hugo Sanchez

Hugo Sanchez was one of the first Mexico soccer players to play in Europe at the highest level. He was an iconic player for Real Madrid between 1985 and 1992; 7 years in which he scored no less than 253 goals in 283 matches, a goal/match ratio that can hardly be rivaled.

He also played for the Mexico national team on 60 occasions, scoring 29 goals and being an important player in the 1986 World Cup held by Mexico, in which his team managed to equal the quarter-final performance obtained initially in 1970. Hugo Sanchez is currently the manager and coach of the Mexican national squad.

Jared Borgetti

Borgetti was of Italian and Mexican descent and as a striker, he combined the flair and power of Italian soccer with the passion and inventively of Mexican soccer. Although he is still an active soccer player at age 34, he spent most of his time playing in the Mexican league, with 7 years for Santos Laguna, a period of time in which he managed to score close to 200 goals in 300 matches.

But Borgetti's goalscoring run doesn't stop here, as he has also managed to come on top of the Mexican national side's all time score sheet, with 43 goals in 87 matches. Currently, Borgetti is playing for Cruz Azul and although he decided to retire from the Mexican national side for the upcoming World Cup, he stated that he would love to play for his country one last time, during the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.

Claudio Suarez

Unlike many other Mexican soccer players that get to celebrate New Years with a completely new club on their payroll, Claudio Suarez has only gone through 4 teams throughout his entire career: UNAM Pumas (1989-1996), Chivas de Guadalajara (1996-1999), UANL Tigres (1999-2005) and Chivas USA (2006). He made a strong impression for all of these clubs and many consider him one of the best Mexican defenders to have played for his country.

Although an extraordinary defender is currently contesting this title away from Claudio Suarez, namely Rafael Marquez of Barcelona, there's one title that will hardly be touched by anyone for a long time: Claudio Suarez currently holds the record for international caps with the Mexican national team, with an amazing 178 appearances.

Rafael Marquez

Rafael Marquez is probably the best-known Mexican soccer player of today, being one of the most important members of Spanish side FC Barcelona. Marquez' ability to play as a central or right defender as well as a defensive midfielder earned him the aura of a "handyman", being able to play wherever his coach would need him the most.

However, Marquez has recently steadied down as a central defender, playing on this position for the Mexican national side as well as for FC Barcelona in the last years. Age 28, Rafael Marquez is the captain of the Mexican national squad and is already being considered one of the best players in the country's history, next to legendary names such as Hugo Sanchez or Claudio Suarez.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Barcelona's Rivalry with Real Madrid

As long as there have been sport teams, there have been rivalries. Whether it's the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox or the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns, the two rival teams inevitably end up meeting again and again, forming an ongoing heated rivalry that delights fans of the sport. One such rivalry is between Spanish football teams FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

FC Barcelona (also known as Barça by its fans) and Real Madrid are two of the earliest Spanish football teams, both forming in the 1890s. From the start, the two teams were seen as representatives of two rival regions of Spain, the ancient kingdoms of Castile and Catalonia. Both teams were part of La Liga, a Spanish football league and a rivalry that went far beyond football quickly took root.

It was during and after the Spanish Civil War that the rivalry took on more political overtones. Dictator Francisco Franco banned all peripheral languages, such as Catalan, the language of Barcelona. Catalonia had long been associated with more progressive fashions and political ideas, such as democracy--which was the diametric opposite of Franco's dictatorial regime. FC Barcelona suffered as a result of being a part of the Catalonian culture. Real Madrid, on the other hand, was seen by many Spaniards (and Catalonians in particular) as the "establishment" club. Though Franco seemed to favor Real Madrid, members of both teams suffered under his regime.


Real Madrid 4 - Barcelona 1 - 7th may 2008


The fierce rivalry continued into the 1950s when both clubs sought to sign Alfredo Di Stefano to play for them. Real Madrid eventually won out and Alfredo Di Stefano went on to lead them to many wins. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid went head-to-head twice at the European Cup in the 1960s, with Real Madrid winning one and FC Barcelona winning the other. The two teams clashed once again over a player in 2000 when Luis Figo left FC Barcelona and signed with Real Madrid. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid competed against each other again in the UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2002, with Real Madrid getting the win. The Spanish media dubbed the match "The Match of the Century".


Ronaldinho's 3rd amazing goal (Real madrid-Barcelona) 2005/06

In the mid-2000s, the rivalry ascended to further heights when it acquired its own name, El Clasico. The term El Clasico was traditionally assigned to any South American football rivalry, but the growth of football in the Americas coupled with these two great teams' rivalry led to the coining of the term as applied to FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. This was mostly a marketing scheme communicated via GolTV, an all-football satellite channel, but the term has been embraced by fans worldwide.

El Clasico shows no signs of slowing. To this very day, the two teams inevitably seek each other out on the field to find out who is the best team in Spain. Sometimes FC Barcelona wins and sometimes Real Madrid wins, but ultimately football fans worldwide are the ones who win whenever these two giants meet on the field.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ten of the Best from 2004/05

Here are ten absolute belters from the 2004/05 competition:

The Top 10 Goals from 2006/07

Here are ten of the absolute best from the 2006/07 tournament:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

1979 Nottingham Forest 1-0 Malmo

As luck would have it, Nottingham Forest’s first opponents in the European Cup turned out to be their fellow English club and reigning European champions Liverpool F.C.. Despite having finished seven points clear of Liverpool in winning the League Championship, Forest were still heavy underdogs, but they were to take their doubters by surprise in the first leg of the first round match at their City Ground stadium. Liverpool knew little about young Garry Birtles who started up front for Forest, but it was he who tapped home a Woodcock pass to give his side the lead after 26 minutes, and it was Birtles again who pounced on a mistake in the Liverpool defence during the final minutes of the game and crossed the ball to Woodcock who knocked the ball down to the onrushing Barrett to volley the ball home for a crucial 2-0 lead. Still Liverpool were favourites to go through, but the tie was now set up perfectly for Forest. With the defence keeping things tight at the back and with the midfield closing down Liverpool's creative players, the European Cup holders could find no way through in the return game. The match finished 0-0 and Liverpool, after having beaten all comers in Europe for two seasons, found themselves knocked out by a fellow English team.



The tournament was won by English champions Nottingham Forest F.C. in the final against Malmö FF.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

2000 Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia

The 1999-2000 season of the UEFA Champions League was won by Real Madrid, who had clinched an historic 8th title win, against fellow La Liga side, Valencia. This was the 45th Edition of the competition. The final was hosted in the historic Stade de France, in Paris where the original roots of the competition had began.

Morientes:



McManaman:



Raul:



This season was dominated by the Spanish La Liga, with them having three of the four semi-finalists in winners Real Madrid, losing finalists Valencia and the other team in the semi-final was Barcelona. This also culminated in an all Spanish final, where history was made with the first ever all-country European Cup/Champions League final.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ronaldo and Rooney finish off Roma in Rome

AS Roma were left in limbo last night, as they went down 0-2 to Manchester United during the home leg of their Champions League clash. Hopes were high, but realistically - based on their current form - it was going to take a miracle to come away from the game in Rome's Olympic stadium as winners. In recent games in Serie A the team have struggeld to beat last-placed Empoli, and last week drew 1-1 with a Cagliari squad that failed to score (an own-goal from defender Matteo Ferrari gifted the Sardinian team a draw). Add to that the fact that team captain and talisman Francesco Totti was ruled out of last night's game with a knee injury, and only those blind to reason could have expected Roma to do much more than stave off defeat.

In the run up to the match the Italian media focussed on Totti's replacement, the Montenegrin striker Mirko Vucinic, who in the course of this season has done some remarkable work for Roma - literally changing the course of games - particularly in the Champions League games. Last night he was on form in various areas of the pitch, causing problems to United's defence on a number of important occasions. He was not, though, in finishing form, and fluffed a number of great chances.

Manchester United approached the game with caution, content to sit back and wait for their chance rather than risk opening up the game. An approach that, with players like Ronaldo and Rooney pays dividends. It was, in fact, towards the end of the first half that United had their best chance of a goal, and they took it brilliantly. Rooney got the ball to Scholes who crossed in a ball that seemed to float for ever into the Roma box. Roma midfielder Marco Cassetti prepared himself to head it clear, without reckoning for Cristian Ronaldo who appeared, at speed, as if from nowhere, to slam the ball past Doni with a brilliant and decisive header.

Going into half-time Roma may have felt somewhat cheated by the scoreline (Vucinic missed another good chance just minutes after Ronaldo's goal), but all was not lost - in theory. The second half started with renewed vigour for the home team, with ex-Empoli midfielder Max Tonnetto having two good chances early on - one which he missed, and the other saved by Van der Saar. Also missing chances was Cristian Panucci, captain of the team in the absence of Totti. Panucci saved the day two weeks ago against Empoli, scoring a briliant header that won the game, but last night it was not to be. In his defence, though, he was resolute in defence, stealing the ball early on from surprise United inclusion Park Ji-Sung.

While Roma continued to push, hoping for an equaliser, United had a number of chances themselves - including a break from Ronaldo that was, unjustifiably, halted for offside. Twenty minutes into the second half came the coup de grace. Park headed a ball into the Roma box, and Doni and Panucci clashed confusedly to clear it, leaving it at the feet of a grateful Wayne Rooney. Pretty it wasn't, but United fans won't be complaining as it effectively closed off the game for a dispirited Roma - and leaves it a gargantuan struggle for Spalletti's team heading to Anfield.

The last remaining Italian team in this season's Champions League don't look likely to progress further than next week's return leg. It's a huge dissapointment for a talented team that seems to lack that crucial ability to confront the really big games. Vucinic, Mancini, and Giuly have all wowed fans at various stages during the season - but when it counts, either against minnows like Cagliari, or the big fish like United, they just don't have the finishing power it would seem. From the start of the season they seemed contenders, both in the Champions League and Serie A. As the season draws to a close the only honour they look likely to take is that of second place in Serie A. Hopefully they can prove us wrong - unlikely, though...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

19/04/89: Milan 5-0 Real Madrid, European Cup semi-final, second leg

Behind every great Milan side, it seems, is an era-defining victory over a Spanish superpower. Just as Fabio Capello's cosmopolitan mid-90s collective trounced Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League final, so Arrigo Sacchi's ancestors smashed Real Madrid 5-0 in the 1989 semi-final. This was a top-shelf Real side - in the middle of a run of five consecutive titles, and with a devastating attacking unit of Bernd Schuster, Martin Vazquez, Michel, Hugo Sanchez and Emilio Butragueno (the following season they would score a La Liga record 107 goals). Yet they were obliterated, five down inside an hour and lucky that Milan spent the last half hour savouring the moment.



Fittingly, given the English template that Sacchi had used to revolutionise Italian football, most of the goals had a strong English flavour, with three from crosses and another that was thrillingly route-one. Carlo Ancelotti scored the first, zig-zagging past two in midfield before lashing a 25-yarder through Paco Buyo's feeble flap, and seven minutes Frank Rijkaard rammed in a header from Mauro Tassotti's cross after Madrid were caught short at a short corner. Ruud Gullit made it three on half-time, leaping majestically to head in Roberto Donadoni's inviting cross, and just after the break he knocked down Rijkaard's long pass for Marco Van Basten to thrash in the fourth. Madrid's woe was complete when, from another short corner, Donadoni's near-post drive sneaked past the miserable Buyo. Milan added four more against Steaua Bucharest in an equally one-sided final, but it was here that they made their formal, undeniable application for greatness.

Thanks to The Guardian for this text.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The First 50 Years

A compilation of goals from the first 50 years of the European Cup:


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Milan out of the Champions League, after defeat by Arsenal

And then there were two - Roma and Inter - out of the Italian teams competing in the Champions League. AC Milan went crashing out of the competition last night, defeated soundly at home in the San Siro 0-2 by Arsenal. It brought to a close the dream that Berlusconi's team could end a disastrous season in glory with yet another Champions League title (much as they did last year). The World Club champions must now focus all their attention on a difficult struggle to ensure a fourth-place finish in Serie A, if they're to salvage anything from a season plagued by injuries, dissapointing results, and the ever-present whiff of crisis. It won't be easy, given that competing for the same place are Fiorentina and Juventus.

The rossoneri had pinned most of their hopes on a home advantage and on the youthful shoulders of eighteen year-old Alexandre Pato. Both hopes were misplaced. The home advantage was never likely to be worth much. After all, Milan have suffered some of their worst results at home this season, with a number of shocking defeats and draws - to the point where journalists spoke of the 'curse of the San Siro'. At the same time, travelling to this hugely impressive and daunting stadium has not been a problem in the past for Arsenal. It was the scene, most will remember, of a resounding victory over Milan's other team Internazionale back in 2003.

The defeat just emphasises the pressure put on Pato's shoulders. His debut with the club back in January heralded a return to form in Serie A, with his presence seemingly bringing out the best in team-mates like Kaka. Last night, while he had moments that showed off his talent well, he also managed to stuff up some great chances to put his team in front. In particular he chose the wrong option when Kaka managed to send him a surprising and perfect cross, having broken through the Arsenal defence. The young Brazilian striker also seemed as caught off guard as his opponenets, and sent the ball weekly into the arms of Almunia. Where, though, is the root of the Milan crisis? It's hard to point the finger directly at any one source. Last night mistakes were made by all, including Kaka and Pirlo, who together have played such a big part in most of Milan's success of recent years.

Ancelotti played Inzaghi up front, with Kaka and Pato just behind, perhaps leaving his midfield to open given the energy and attack present in the Arsenal team. Wenger started with Emmanuel Adebayor his lone striker, backed by Alexander Hleb in the midfield. The London team started as they meant to go on, agressively bringing the game to a Milan team that is showing its years. The first half remained without goals, but few could doubt that Arsenal had very much won the battle for superiority throughout.

Despite their dominance, though, goals remained elusive until the closing minutes of the game. In fact, despite being outplayed in most areas of the pitch, Milan did have chances largely on the counter-attack, with both Kaka and Pato causing problems but failing to convert chances into goals. Inzaghi, who in past years has - however gracelessly - has been a deadly finisher, never looked like putting one away last night, and with 25 minutes to go was replaced by Alberto Gilardino. Ancelotti had been criticised throughout the last two seasons for his insistence on playing Gilardino, to the point where the ex-Parma striker has had precious few starts in Serie A of late. Could it be that the constant chopping and changing of the Milan attack, in the attempt to find a winning combination, has simply made each potential striker more rusty. Certainly Inzaghi and Gilardino have not benefited from their lack of match-time.

The stalemate was eventually broken by the more confident team, when twenty-year-old Catalonian midfielder Francesc "Cesc" Fabregas Soler got the better of his marker,thirty-year-old Genaro 'Rino' Gattuso (ex-Rangers), and powered home a shot from distance that left Milan's Australian goalkeeper Kalac little chance. With minutes to go, it was always unlikely that Milan would come back, and the final nail in the coffin was hammered home by togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor two minutes into injury time. A well deserved and historic victory for Wenger, as Arsenal become the first British team to beat Milan at home.

Monday, March 3, 2008

1982 Aston Villa 1-0 Bayern Munich

The 1982 European Cup football club tournament was won for the first time by Aston Villa in the final against Bayern Munich. The Final is remembered mainly for the performance of young stand-in goalkeeper Nigel Spink who made a host of saves from the experienced Bayern players. Villa's winning goal came from Peter Withe who converted Tony Morley's cross in off the post.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

1970 Feyenoord 2-1 Celtic

The season 1969-70 of the European Cup tournament was won by Feyenoord Rotterdam in an extra time final victory against Celtic FC. It was the first time the cup went to the Netherlands, and beginning a run of four consecutive years the trophy went there (with Ajax winning the next three).



During this tournament, playoffs were abandoned in favour of away goals, or when each side had scored the same number one side was eliminated by the toss of a coin!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Marco Materrazi gets the blame as Inter lose to Liverpool

Inter went into the game, in theory, with all the advantage. They're the league leaders in Italy, with a clear eleven points meaning less pressure to play stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic during last weekend's games (Roma and Milan, both fighting for their places in the table had no such luxury), and the club has a wealth of talent to pick from - so much so that players like Adriano (now on loan) and Hernan Crespo have struggled to make their way into the team. Liverpool instead came into the game on the back of a dissapointing FA cup defeat against Barnsley and a number of poor results that have led to angry protests from fans.

It was, then, a humiliating defeat for Roberto Mancini's squad - despite the opinion of club owner Massimo Moratti, who described the Inter defence as heroic. The game turned, essentially on one moment, when foolhardy-as-ever Marco Materazzi clipped Torres, who had the Italian defender well-beaten for pace. Materazzi, already on one yellow from the Belgian referee De Bleeckere, the controversy-prone Inter and Italian-squad defender was harshly sent off. Given Inter's record, this season in Serie A, for dubious refereeing decisions that have gone in their favour, they're far from well-placed, though, to lament the decision.

Materrazi's sending off closed off the options for Inter, who had come to Anfield searching for an away victory. At this point a scoreless draw would have been seen as a favourable outcome, and they came close to achieving it. Liverpool, though, made more chances throughout the game (including before Materazzi's sending off), and as a result richly deserved the victory. Add to this the fact that a probable penalty was missed by both referee and linesmen, when Patrick Viera seemingly handled the ball to block a chip from Gerrard, and Inter have very little to complain about.

The talking point of the match was Zlatan Ibrahimovic's failure to spark into action. Currently in second place in the goal-scoring table in Serie A, Ibrahimovic did nothing to stem criticism that he's a big-match choker. Admittedly, after Materazzi's sending off Inter's concern centred on the defence, leaving the ex-Juventus player adrift up front and against the odds. This, perhaps, explained his alleged response to post-match reporters when he's reported to have responded to the question of why Inter lost saying 'Go ask Materazzi' (though he has since denied any ill-feeling between the two). The pressure will be on Ibra in particular for the return leg, to dispell the well-founded accusation that he fails to live up to the big occasions.

The goals, when they came, towards the end of the second half, where devestating. Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt passed a deep ball in to Pennant, who continued to cross the ball into the Inter area, where an unmarked Kuyt received it and powered it home to beat Julio Cesar - who had an outstanding game. A special goal for Kuyt, to make up for the embarrasing dry spell he's suffered this season (13 matches without a goal).

A 1-0 defeat, in the circumstances, would probably have been acceptable for Inter, but in the final moments of the game Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard fired home a blistering shot which took the Inter goalkeeper by surprise. Liverpool have created the perfect occasion, for when they travel to the San Siro, to put Internazionale Milan to the test, to see what Champions are really made of.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

2002 Real Madrid 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen



The 2001-02 season of the European UEFA Champions League football club tournament was won by Real Madrid. It was their ninth UEFA Champions League win. The highlight of the match was one of the all time great goals from Zinedine Zidane:



Interestingly, Bayer Leverkusen eliminated all three English teams on their way to the final: Arsenal in the second group stage followed by Liverpool in the quarter-finals and, famously, Manchester United in the semi-final.





Monday, January 21, 2008

1995 Ajax 1-0 AC Milan

The 1994-95 season of the UEFA Champions League football club tournament was won by Ajax Amsterdam with a late Patrick Kluivert goal in the final against A.C. Milan. Ajax won the competition without losing a game, either in the group or the knock-out stage.



This year included four groups of four teams each in the group stages, up from two groups of four teams each in 1993-94. It was also the first year in which eight teams advanced to the knockout stage and the first of three years in which champions of smaller nations entered the UEFA cup instead of the Champions League.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The best goals: 1992 - 2007

50 great goals from 15 years of the Champions league: