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.