This is my blog on the unpredictable world of football. Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two reds, second leg meaningless?

What a morning of football? Who would have thought in two first leg matches we would see a combined total of eleven goals? Not me thats for sure! Real Madrid overcame ten man Tottenham 4 nil, after striker Peter Crouch was dismissed early on. But the result of the Champions League so far has to go to Schalke beating current champions Inter 5-2 in an end-to-end match full of drama and goals - the only way the Italians and Germans know how to play football.

First we go to the Bernabeu, where Tottenham were forced into a last minute change with Aaron Lennon succumbing to illness before kick off forcing manager Harry Redknapp to bring in Jermaine Jenas on the right wing. Cristiano Ronaldo had the first half chance of the match firing wide from long-range. However it was on the right side where Angel Di Maria was playing that caused Spurs their first problem, conceding a corner kick in the 4th minute. The corner was duly converted by on loan striker Emmanuel Adebayor who headed home with the non-exsistent marking making his job easier and opening Madrid's account. Peter Crouch then committed a silly foul on Real's right back Sergio Ramos and was deservingly booked. He followed this up with his second yellow in the space of seven minutes and was given his marching orders. For a player of his experience it was unexplainable, the challenges will go down as two big brain snaps for the lanky lad. Against the run of play Gareth Bale won a throw-in in Madrid's half before launching a giant throw to Rafael Van Der Vaart who could not make the most of the opportunity. It was then Michael Dawson picking out Bale on the left wing with a superb diagonal ball. Unfortunately Bale couldn't make the most of it as he fired into the side netting. The numerical advantage gave Real a great opportunity with Marcelo dazzling on the left flank, with a brilliant cross that found marauding right back Ramos, who in turn headed across goal with Adebayor just inches short of finishing the ball. Just before half time Madrid had a genuine hand ball penalty turned down by the referee, who was booed off at half time.

The second half began with a change for Spurs, as Defoe came on for Van Der Vaart - a move many Spurs fans would agree on. Once again Ronaldo had the first chance of the half with a left foot shot going wide. Cristiano still looked not quite match fit in this game. Spurs won a corner early on, with the ball spilling out for Spurs left back Assou-Ekotto who selfishly smashed the ball at goal from long distance. Real then went on the attack winning another corner and how Ronaldo made them pay taking a quick, short corner passing it to Marcelo who managed to pick out Spurs old nemesis - Adebayor - who headed home brilliantly to give Madrid a two goal lead. Jose Mourinho then looked to his bench as he pulled off German Sami Khedira for Lassana Diarra. Diarra had an immediate impact, playing in Adebayor for the umpteenth time and forcing Spurs 'keeper Gomes into another save. Madrid's constant possession strangled Tottenham and gave Argentine Di Maria an absolute screamer of a goal. He received the ball outside the box before cutting in from the right onto his favoured left foot inside the box and curling his effort around Gomes into the top corner to make it 3 nil to Madrid. He then got a well deserved rest as Mourinho brought on Kaka, as well as bringing off Adebayor for Higuain - who is back from injury. Late on Madrid looked to kill off the second leg at White Hart Lane, with some great inter-play between Diarra and Kaka who crossed to Cristiano Ronaldo on the right hand side of the box. Ronaldo then slammed a powerful volley toward goal and Gomes tried feverishly to push it wide, but to no avail as Ronaldo made it 4 nil for Real.

Finally to the San Siro where Schalke posted one of the greatest upsets of European football history beating Inter at their home ground 5-2. Fans didn't have to wait long for the first goal as it came within the first minute, as both sides touched the ball before Inter caught Schalke on the counter, with Cambiasso trying to find Diego Milito with a long ball. Schalke and German 'keeper Manuel Neuer came out and headed the ball away, but straight to Inter midfielder Dejan Stankovic who volleyed the ball home from just inside the oppositions half to make it 1 nil to Inter and score a goal that will be remembered for a long time. Raul then got on the end of a Uchida cross but headed wide of the goal. Schalke went onto win a corner, from which they scored. Some sloppy play - in particular Inter's marking - allowed Schalke three attempts on goal, one was saved by Julio Cesar, the second blocked by a defender but the third was slotted home by defender Matip levelling the scores. Ranocchia - one of Inter's centre backs - played a brilliant long ball to Milito who brought it down but was then brought down by Schalke right back Uchida but the referee was having none of it. However Milito didn't have to wait much longer as he skipped down the left flank before passing back to stand-in left back and captain Javier Zanetti. The captain then found Wesley Sneijder in space, he then delivered a neat chip to Cambiasso who in turn headed the ball across to Milito who jumped and side footed it home to put Inter back in front at 2-1. Schalke were quick to respond as they played the ball forward quickly. Young German playmaker Baumjohann sent a beautiful defence splitting pass through to Brazilian striker Edu whose shot was deflected by a defender forcing Julio Cesar to stretch to the ball. It rebounded to the side but as any good striker does Edu followed it up and slotted home from a more narrow angle and again put Schalke on terms with Inter at 2 all.

The second half began with another great chance for Inter, as Wesley Sneijder played a superb aerial through ball to Milito who failed to finish a superb chance. Sneijder got on the ball once again just outside the Schalke box and played Eto'o through with a wonderful ball, he then turned his marker and forced a world-class save from Neuer. Schalke had a reply as Raul dropped deep to collect the ball, he then played a brilliant cross field ball to Peruvian speedster Jefferson Farfan, who raced away from stand-in centre back Christian Chivu, but not enough for Chivu not to foul him blatantly and receive a yellow card for his troubles. Farfan then played a neat one-two with Jurado, before exposing Chivu once again with a pass that found Raul. He then calmly slotted it over Julio Cesar and gave Schalke the lead at 3-2. Another slick passing move resulted in a goal for Schalke, as Uchida played it forward to Raul who delivered a neat pass to the flying Juardo. Juardo then took on the Inter defenders and slid in a cross that was put away accidentally by Inter centre back Ranocchia making it 4-2. It then got worse for Inter as Chivu - frustrated by his failings on the night - went in rashly on Edu, but didn't go through with the tackle and clipped the back of Edu as he twisted and went to ground rather dramatically. The referee gave Chivu his marching orders after his second yellow card. This forced Inter into their second change of the match as Kharja made way for Ivan Cordoba. It was in the first place a poor decision by manager Leonardo to put Chivu in for the suspended Lucio. Chivu had been thoroughly out classed in the previous two ties against Bayern and should have been dropped altogether. The numerical advantage showed for Schalke as Juardo came close to scoring as a great forward move from Schalke spilled outside of the box for the lurking Juardo who drilled a low shot only into the upright. Another chance went begging as Raul set up the play with a pass to Farfan who nut-megged Ranocchia and shot at goal only for Julio Cesar to save, but the ball spilled out and Farfan managed another shot. However Ranocchia was there - in a deja vu moment from the last tie against Bayern - to clear into the post only for Cordoba to have an air swing before getting the ball out of the area. Only for Schalke to get it back and play it to Edu who turned Ranocchia brilliantly and fired home with his left foot wrapping up the match at 5-2 to Schalke.

The talking points? It is surely the performance of the referee's in both matches as they were far too inconsistent to be refereeing matches at this stage of the tournament. Both send-off's are arguable - to a degree. Personally I think Crouch's send off was the right call, the second yellow for Chivu was however a bit harsh. I maintain that Leonardo should have started with Cordoba at centre back rather than the clumsy Chivu. You could almost guarantee that both Real Madrid and Schalke will progress to the semi-finals, but we have seen weirder things, just remember what happened today.

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