Europa Quarter Finals Mixed Bag

The first leg of the Europa League quarter finals was on today. Benfica, Chelsea & Fenerbahce played at home and defeated Newcastle United, Rubin Kazan & Lazio respectively. Tottenham Hotspurs could not grab a win at home and drew with Basel 2-2. A brief look at the matches below.

Benfica 3-1 Newcastle United

Benefica defeated Newcastle United coming from behind to secure a 2 goal lead. Having the valuable away goal Newcastle still have a slim chance of reversing the results next week at home.

Benefica 3: Rodrigo 25′, Lima 65′, Cardozo (pen) 71′
Newcastle United 1: Cisse 12′

Question to the readers: Newcastle manager Alan Pardew had suggested that Benfica were not as good as the best teams in the premier league – Benfica proved their point to him today. What do you think will be the result of the second leg?

Chelsea 3-1 Rubin Kazan

Fernando Torres finds his goal scoring quality to score twice against the Russian team. Holding onto the healthy lead Rafa Benitez’s side will be travelling to Moscow next week to play the second leg. Benitez commented that he was happy but not 100 per cent as his team had conceded a goal when they were in control of the game. His post match comments paraphrased.

Chelsea 3: Torres 16′, Moses 32′, Torres 70′
Rubin Kazan 1: Natcho (pen) 41′

Question to the readers: A reporter, after the match, lightly asked Rafael Benitez if Torres should stick with the mask until the end of the season. Do you think Torres has returned to form and will he maintain the class he displayed against the Russians today?

Fenerbahce 2-0 Lazio

Fenerbahce made sure they utilised the advantage of Lazio going down to 10 men. Webo’s 79′ penalty and Kuyt’s 90′ goal secured their victory ahead of the second leg at Rome.

Fenerbahce 2: Webo (pen) 78′, Kuyt 90+0′

Question to our readers: Do you think the Turkish team will be able to hold on to the lead past the second leg to make their first appearance in the Europa League Semi Finals.

Tottehnam Hotspur 2-2 Basel

The Spurs came from two goals behind to finish on a draw during the first leg against a fantastic FC Basel. For the Spurs fanatics it was a tough to see their team down 2-0 with Basel scoring two away goals before half time. Much to their reilef the goals from Adebayor and Sigurdsson evened things before the final whistle.

To add to their misery Gareth Bale had to be taken away on a stretcher after rolling on his right ankle after a tussel for the ball with David Degen. Though it looked horribly worn on TV and pictures Villas-Boas revealed the initial diagnosis was positive. He will be undergoing scans for a definite answer.

Tottenham Hotspur 2: Adebayor 40′, Sigurdsson 58′
Basel2: Stocker 30′, Fabian Frei 34′

Question to our readers: Basel already has the valuable 2 away goals and on top of that Bale’s ankle injury – is this the end for tottenham’s Europa dream this year? Or will the spurs reverse the score next week?

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Real Madrid 3-0 Galatasaray

Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain led Real Madrid to a 3 nil victory at home. Galatasaray’s defence was not organised enough to contain the Spaniard’s counter attack.

Scoring his 18th goal from 16 UEFA appearances Cristiano Ronaldo opened the account for goals just 9 minutes into the game. Benzema doubled the score line at 29′ and Higuain headed in the third one after half time.

Ahead of the second leg at Istanbul Jose Mourinho commented “If we score a goal they have to score five, but in football I have seen so many incredible things that nothing can surprise me.”

Real Madrid will be playing at Turkey next week without Captain Sergio Ramos.

Goals: Cristiano Ronaldo 9′, Karim Benzema 29′, Gonzalo Higuain 73′

Match stats:
Teams: Real Madrid – Galatasaray
Possession: 48% – 52%
Goal Attempts 12-11
Shots on target:10-4

Players in today’s match:

Real Madrid: Diego López, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Fábio Coentrão, Michael Essien, Mesut Özil- substituted for Luka Modric, Ángel Di María- substituted for Pepe, Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema- substituted for Gonzalo Higuaín

Galatasaray: Fernando Muslera, Semih Kaya, Emmanuel Eboué, Albert Riera- substituted for Nourredine Amrabat, Dany Nounkeu, Selcuk Inan, Wesley Sneijder- substituted for Gökhan Zan, Felipe Melo, Hamit Altintop- substituted for Umut Bulut, Burak Yilmaz, Didier Drogba

Málaga CF 0-0 Borussia Dortmund

Holding the Bundesliga champions to a draw Malaga have not let their championship dream die out in the first leg. However the return leg will be interesting as they will be without Weligton and Manuel Iturra for the second leg.

Borissia Dortmund, on the other hand, were unable to capitalise on numerous occasions. The first half was full of opportunities for the German shirts to convert for a healthy advantage in the scoreline.

Mario Gotze had three golden openings to get past Willy Caballero at La Rosaleda but the Germans left empty handed.

Malaga will have another opportunity to to prove their presence next week in Germany. Lets look at some of the match stats.

Match stats:
Teams: Malaga – Borussia Dortmund
Possession: 50% – 50%
Goal Attempts 10-13
Shots on target:7-7

Players in today’s match:

Malaga: Willy Caballero, Martín Demichelis, Jesús Gámez, Vitorino Antunes, Weligton, Jérémy Toulalan, Isco- substituted for Duda, Julio Baptista- substituted for Roque Santa Cruz, Joaquín, Manuel Iturra, Javier Saviola- substituted for Portillo

Borussia Dortmund: Roman Weidenfeller, Lukasz Piszczek, Neven Subotic, Marcel Schmelzer, Felipe Santana, Kevin Großkreutz, Mario Götze- substituted for Oliver Kirch, Ilkay Gündogan, Marco Reus- substituted for Julian Schieber, Sebastian Kehl- substituted for Sven Bender, Robert Lewandowski

UEFA Champions League Quarter Finalists – A brief look

UEFA QF

With the quarter final stage approaching lets have a brief look at the 8 teams appearing on this leg of the championship.

Málaga CF

First time qualifiers to Champions league Málaga Club de Fútbol are a Spanish football team from Malaga, Spain. Having defeated FC Porto in the round of 16 they will be playing Borussia Dortmund for a place in the semi-finals.

Interesting fact: Cash strapped Malaga have been banned from the Champions League and all other UEFA competitions for the next season they qualify in the next four years and will get another year’s ban if they can’t clear any outstanding payments to clubs, players and tax authorities by March 13, 2013.

Recent Matches (CL): W W W D D D L W

UEFA Trophies:
UEFA Intertoto Cup Title 2002

Borussia Dortmund

The current German Bundesliga title holders Borussia Dortmund are making their 12th appearance in the UEFA champions league. The 11th biggest football club are looking to repeat 1996/1997 history and bag the title.

Interesting fact:  Borussia Dortmund were recently fined $25,550 (€20,000) for fan trouble during two Bundesliga games. Dortmund fans threw lighters and other objects onto the pitch in the league game against regional rivals Schalke & goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall was hit in the back by a coin. On the second game fans threw paper rolls onto the goal of the visiting team forcing the referee to briefly stop play.

Recent Matches (CL): W D W D W W D W

UEFA Trophies:
UEFA Champions League Title 1996/1997,
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Title 1965/1966,
Intercontinental Cup 1997

Real Madrid CF

32 Spanish La Liga title winners Real Madrid also hold record for most successful team in the UEFA Champions League with 9 title wins from 43 appearances. This richest club in terms of revenue has never been relegated from the top flight of the Spanish league. Domestically, besides the already mentioned La Liga, Real Madrid have won 18 Copas del Rey, 9 Supercopas de España, 1 Copa Eva Duarte and 1 Copa de la Liga

Interesting fact: The Real Madrid coach, José Mourinho, was once given a two-match ban for poking Barcelona’s assistant coach in the eye during one of the Spanish Super Cup games. Television cameras caught Mourinho poking a finger into Vilanova’s eye during a scuffle between the two teams at the Super Cup second leg on 17 August.

Recent Matches (CL): W W L D D W D W

UEFA Trophies:
UEFA Champions League Titles 1955/1956, 1956/1957, 1957/1958, 1958/1959, 1959/1960, 1965/1966, 1997/1998, 1999/2000, 2001/2002
UEFA Super cup title 2002
UEFA Europa League 1984/1985, 1985/1986

Galatasaray AŞ

The 18 time Turkish Super Lig title winners are making their 21st appearance in the UEFA champions league. They are the most successful Turkish football club with numerous Domestic titles.

Interesting fact: Galatasaray fans broke the “loudest crowd roar at a sport stadium” record on 18 March 2011 at Galatasaray’s stadium Türk Telekom Arena in Istanbul. A reading of 131.76 dBA was recorded. To give you an example of 130 Db it is the sound you would hear from a jet plane 100 ft away.

Galatasary fans in action.

Recent Matches (CL): L L D W W W D W

UEFA Trophies:
UEFA Super Cup title 2000
UEFA Europa League title 1999/2000

Paris Saint-Germain FC

PSG, one of only two French clubs to have won a major European trophy, are appearing for the 6th time in the UEFA champions league. PSG has been playing in the Ligue 1 since 1974 and is one of the most prestigious clubs in French football. They have won two League titles, eight French Cups, three League Cups and two Trophées des Champions.

Interesting fact: One million fans have applied for tickets to watch the Champions league quarter finals on 2nd April at Parc des Princes. Unfortunate for the fans the stadium only accommodates 45000 seats out of which 25000 are owned by season pass holders and 5000 reserved for Barcelona fans and UEFA officials.  The club has revealed that fans bombarded the phone lines at the rate of 100 calls per second.

Recent Matches (CL): W L W W W W W D

UEFA Trophies:
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup title 1995/1996
UEFA Intertoto Cup title 2001

FC Barcelona

The current Copa del Rey champions who have also won 21 La Liga, 26 Copa del Rey, 10 Supercopa de España, 3 Copa Eva Duarte and 2 Copa de la Liga trophies are making their 23rd Champions league appearance. Barcelona is also the only European club to have played continental football every season since 1955, and one of three clubs never to have been relegated from La Liga, along with Athletic Bilbao and previously mentioned Real Madrid.

Interesting fact: Barcelona ended their 111 year old tradition on not having a sponsor on their shirt for a record setting 125 million pound deal with the Qatar foundation in 2010. Up until then barcelona did not have any paid sponsors on their shirt.

Source: arabianbusiness.com

Recent Matches (CL): W W W L W D L W

UEFA Trophies:
UEFA Champions League Titles 2001/2002, 2005/2006, 2008/2009, 2010/2011
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup title 1978/1978, 1981/1982, 1988/1989, 1996/1997
UEFA Super Cup title 1993, 1998, 2009, 2011

FC Bayern München

Biggest revenue football club in Germany, Bayer Munich, are making their 29th UEFA Champions league appearance. The most successful team in the Bundesliga, Bayern, is also one of the only three clubs to have won all three major European competitions and also the last club to have won the European Cup three times in a row entitling them to wear a multiple winner badge during Champions League matches.

Interesting fact: From 1994 to 1996 during the leadership of coaches Giovanni Trapattoni and Otto Rehhagel Bayern finished trophy-less.During this time Bayern earned the nickname FC Hollywood as players started to appeared in the gossip pages of the press rather than the sports pages.

Recent Matches (CL): W L W W D W W L

UEFA Trophies:
UEFA Champions League Titles 1973/1974, 1974/1975, 1975/1976, 2000/2001
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup title 1966/1967
Intercontinental Cup 1976, 2001
UEFA Europa League title 1995/1996

Juventus

Current and 28 time Serie A champions are making their 37th Champions league appearance. Officially winning over 53 titles in national and international stages Juventus have earned respect as the most successful Italian club. They are the only club in history to have won all possible official continental competitions and the FIFA club world cup title.

Interesting fact: Juventus was one of the five clubs linked to a Serie A match fixing scandal, the result of which saw the club relegated to Serie B for the first time in its history. The club was also stripped of the two titles won under coach at the time Fabio Capello in 2005 and 2006.

Recent Matches (CL): D D D W W W W W

UEFA Trophies:
UEFA Champions League Titles 1984/1985, 1995/1996
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup title 1983/1984
Intercontinental Cup 1985, 1996
UEFA Super Cup title 1985, 1997
UEFA Europa League title 1976/1977, 1989/1990, 1992/1993
UEFA Intertoto Cup Title 1999

End of an Era – Michael Owen

Michael Owen - End of an Era

Michael Owen – End of an Era

All good things come to an end and so has Michael Owen’s professional football career. Owen announced that the current season at Stoke City will be his last. “Big day today. I have decided that this will be my last season as a professional footballer.” Owen tweeted.

Lets take a walk down memory lane and remember the legend’s moments with the game. Debuting with Liverpool at just 17 Owen played with many other star clubs in his career – Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and finally the club he is retiring from Stoke City. He scored 179 goals in 306 appearances for Liverpool and 40 goals for his country from 89 appearances.

Any fan of Michael Owen will remember his fantastic goal against Argentina during the 1998 World Cup – Owen believes this goal changed his life. He received the FIFA World Cup Best young player award and was coined ‘BBC Sports Personality of the Year’ that year. Besides this he has received various recognitions in his club career- 2 x Premier League Golden Boot, Premier League Player of the Season just to name a few.

Though he leaves football professionally he has already left his mark in the game. A legend we will all remember.

I’ll leave you with some quotes form his personal website about his retirement.

“It is with an immense amount of pride that I am announcing my intention to retire from Professional Football at the end of this season.

Having progressed through the ranks at Liverpool to make my first team debut at 17, before embarking upon spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City, not to mention representing my country on 89 occasions, I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career.

I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey that like many young players starting out, I could only have dreamt of.”

Pelé – His Last Game

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On 23 October (21 on birth certificate) 1940 a boy was born in Brazil. Parents João Ramos do Nascimento & Dona Celeste Arantes named him Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Through his liftime he received many different titles and names “The Black Pearl”, “The King of Football” and many more but we know him best as Pelé .

I can fill pages of this blog yet I would not be able to cover all his marvels and acomplishments in life. Scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games, winning numerous medals, receiving multiple honours he made his way to be named the Athlete of the Century, elected by International Olympic Committee: 1999, FIFA Player of the Century : 2000, Greatest football player to have ever played the game, by Golden Foot: 2012, and many more.

So I’ll just get to the point. The way pele left the game- an honor in itself.

On 1 October 1977 Pelé’s father, his wife and a number of his friends including Muhammad Ali & Bobby Moore were present at Giants Stadium to witness Pelé close out his legendary career. The game was betweenthe New York Cosmos – who he had been playing with for two years, and Santos – the club where it all began, the club he played 17 seasons with, the club he joined when he was 15. The stadium was packed at full capacity and there were audiences glued to their television screens through out the world. Pelé gave a brief pre-match speech during which he asked the crowd to say the word “love” with him three times.

He played the first half for the New York Cosmos and the second half for Santos. At halftime, Cosmos retired Pelé’s number 10 jersey. Pelé presented his Cosmos jersey to his father, who was escorted to the field by the Cosmos’ captain. After the match, Pelé was embraced by the New York Cosmos players and then ran around the field holding an American flag in his left hand and a Brazilian flag in his right hand. What a finale to a fantastic career.

Pelé final goal was against his former club. He scored on a direct free kick which the Santos goalkeeper was unable to contain. New York Cosmos won that match 2-1, but the audience got more out of it than just three goals.

Little Messi is here

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Looks like the next big thing is here. Well almost, 15 years or so away. The person we are referring to is a 4 year old Englishman Archie Shepherd. ‘Little Messi’, as he is known as, has already caught the attention of major football clubs. West Ham, Arsenal & Chelsea are already helping to train the 4 year old star in the hope that he might join one of their youth academies on a full-time basis, according to the Mail.

At the moment he practices twice a week with West Ham’s U-6 academy team, once a week with Arsenal and for a part of last summer he was at Chelsea’s Summer School.

His father, Pat Shepherd, says Archie eats, sleeps and breathes the game.

“He has played club football since he was three but even when he was a baby he didn’t want toys, he just wanted a football,” the elder Shepherd said. “He doesn’t stop playing and he doesn’t care if kids are bigger than him — he shows no fear.”

Archie recently scored 10 goals in one game for his club County Park FC, against a team of boys two years his senior.

‘He is a normal height for a four-year-old but his natural skills and footwork are way above average for his age.’

Though he is known as ‘Little Messi’ Archie says: ‘I love football.
‘I like Real Madrid – when I grow up I want to be Cristiano Ronaldo.’

Picture Source: Essex News and Pictures.