Posts Tagged ‘Champions League’

Jews etc.

March 7, 2019

By a curious coincidence, both of last Tuesday’s matches in the UEFA Champions League round of sixteen (or eighth-finals, as other languages have it) featured teams that have traditional connections with Jews: Ajax Amsterdam and Tottenham Hotspur. (It’s one of the reasons I am a Spurs gan.) It so happens that both teams won their matches and on aggregate, and both will proceed to the quarterfinals. In the case of Spurs, they added to their 3-0 first-leg win over Borussia Dortmund. But Ajax overcame a 2-1 home loss in the first leg, beating Real Madrid 4-1 and so making (recent)  history: it was the first time since 2010 that Real were eliminated at this stage.

What’s more, if Ajax make it to the semifinals, they will be — as I wrote last year — the first team from outside the Big Five to do so since 2005.

They may be joined in this distinction by Porto, who the next day also came from behind to beat Roma. At the same time Manchester United overcame their first-leg loss to Paris Saint-Germain and won on away goals. Three come-from-behind victories in four matches — a good week for soccer fans.

In the aforementioned post I also wrote about Gianluigi Buffon, referring to “what was probably his last appearance on a global stage”. I was wrong — at age 41 he is still PSG’s number-one goalkeeper. Whether he should be is another matter: Of United’s three goals, the two by Lukaku were clearly the result of Gigi’s mistakes, and the third was his failure to stop Marcus Rashford’s not-too-hard penalty kick.

I am looking forward to next week’s matches.

 

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(Semi-)final thoughts

April 23, 2018

The upcoming UEFA Champions League semi-finals will be the first since 2010 in which all four teams are from different leagues. The time before that was in 2004. In that year Porto was one of the semi-finalists. The following year Eindhoven was one. Since then, only teams from the Big Five (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) have made it to the semis, and out of the 52 teams in the last 13 semi-finals (including this week’s) only two have been French  (as against six Italian, nine German, 15 English and 20 Spanish), so maybe it’s really the Big Four.

The second leg of the quarter-finals was exciting, except for Liverpool’s repeated sweep of Manchester City. Both Roma and Juventus managed to overcome their three-goal deficits, with Roma beating Barcelona on away goals and Juventus losing  to Real on a second-half stoppage-time penalty that saw none other than Gigi Buffon, in what was probably his last appearance on a global stage, given a red card.

The other semi-finals, those of the FA Cup, were less dramatic. My Spurs disappointed once again; after a first-half goal by Eriksen they let themselves be dominated by Manchester United in the second half, and Harry Kane was as useless has he has generally been since coming back from his injury. He was nowhere to be seen in midfield action, and in his semi-fixed position near the opposing goal he flubbed several chances on good crosses. I was hoping that I might cheer the Spurs on against Chelsea (who won easily as expected) when I am on a stopover in England on finals day (which also happens to be the day of the “royal wedding”), but I’m afraid I’ll have to root for Chelsea — any team against one coached by the execrable José Mourinho.

Spurs have been disappointing in league play as well, since Kane’s return. Their winning streak was snapped when they lost to Manchester City 3-1 (their only goal being also by Eriksen) and they only managed a 1-1 draw with 13th-place Brighton (their one goal was, to be fair, by Kane).

But in general soccer has been fun to watch, with mostly close games, since I first wrote about it.

Close encounters

April 9, 2018

Over the past several weeks, almost all the soccer games that I had been looking forward to, both in the EPL and in the Champions League, turned out to be uninteresting one-sided romps. Even might Manchester City didn’t just lose to Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final, but lost by 3-0.

It all changed this past weekend. Of the ten EPL matches played, five were draws and the other five were won by one goal, including some dramatic comebacks like the Manchester derby, in which City were coasting 2-0 at half-time only to be overcome by United’s three goals in the second half. And these results happened even in such disparate encounters as Chelsea (5th place) vs. West Ham (14th), 1-1; Arsenal (6th) vs. Southampton (18th), 3-2; and Stoke (19th) vs. Spurs (4th), 1-2. It was hard to get away from the TV.

I hope that this trend continues in the Premier League. In the Champions League, on the other hand, the only thing that will make this week’s second-leg matches interesting is one-sided romps by the losing sides of the first leg (Man City, Roma and Juventus, all behind by three goals; I’m not expecting much from Sevilla against Bayern in Munich, though they trail by only one goal).

And I’m looking forward to the FA Cup semi-final between my Spurs and the team managed by a man whom I once compared to Donald Trump.