It was a very entertaining set of fixtures in the first leg of the Quarter-Finals of the Champions League with no less than 18 goals scored and none of the matches ending in a goalless draw.
Real Madrid and Barcelona showed why they are tagged as favourites to win the competition as they virtually ensured an ‘El Clasico‘ semi final with thumping home victories against Spurs and Shakthar Donetsk respectively. Schalke, on the other hand, also pretty much ensured themselves a semifinal berth, thrashed champions Inter Milan at the San Siro much to everybody’s surprise.
Chelsea’s dream of winning the Champions League also suffered a severe blow as they lost to Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in an all England tie.
Game Of The Matchday:
Internazionale 2-5 Schalke 04
The game got off to the most amazing starts with Dejan Stankovic scoring one of the goals of the season after just 23 seconds. From then on, it was end to end stuff as both teams surged forward in search of goals. Schalke equalized through Matip but the champions once again went ahead as Milito rounded off a lovely move in the 34th minute. But the Germans were not bogged down as they leveled once again through Edu to complete the first half at 2-2.
The second half started much like the first with both teams having a go at each other but then Schalke grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck by scoring three more times in the half and virtually ending Inter’s hopes of retaining the title which also rounded off a horrendous week for them having already been thrashed by city rivals AC Milan. Chivu was sent off for the Italians as he was in the Milan derby at the weekend.
Player Of The Matchday:
Emmanuel Adebayor: The man from Togo is eager to impress Jose Mourinho in order to earn a permanent deal at the Bernabeu and he certainly put the foot in the right direction against Spurs. With a goal inside five minutes under his belt, Adebayor never looked back causing a constant threat to the Spurs defence. He later doubled his tally with another powerful header into the corner leaving no chance for Gomes. Only a brilliant tip-over from the Spurs’ keeper prevented Adebayor from scoring a well-deserved hattrick. The ex-Arsenal man has now scored 10 goals in 13 games against Spurs. Arsenal fans must be shouting – ‘Once a Gunner, always a Gunner’.
Goal Of The Matchday
Dejan Stankovic: The Serb scored the fifth fastest goal in the Champions League history as it took him only 23 seconds to break the deadlock and it was a spectacular volley from the half way line. Manuel Neuer was forced to come out of his area and, to his credit, made a wonderful headed clearance. However, the ball reached Stankovic on the half way line, who volleyed the ball back with interest as it arrowed in straight into the goal leaving everybody in awe and giving Inter the dream start.
Angel Di Maria also deserves a mention as he put the tie all but beyond Tottenham’s reach by curling a left footed shot past a stunned Gomez in the top right corner to triple Madrid’s lead. A goal of rare precision and beauty from the Argentine!
Pass Of The Matchday:
Iniesta: The diminutive Spaniard showed his class in the 34th minute as he collected the ball in the center of the park and lobbed an inch-perfect ball towards Dani Alves, who in turn had made the perfect run from the right hand side. The pass lured the Shakhtar keeper out of his goal line, but he failed to get close enough to the ball to be able to catch it. This made it easier for the Brazilian whose touch took him away from the keeper en route to sliding the ball in an empty net.
Michael Carrick gets an honourable mention as his sumptuous cross field ball to Ryan Giggs started a wonderful move by Manchester United which was rounded off by Rooney side-footing the ball in the Chelsea net.
Save of The Matchday:
Edwin Van Der Sar: At the ripe age of 40 the ‘Flying Dutchman’ defied gravity to pull off a match winning save. With time running out for the English champions, Ancelotti ordered his troops to throw caution to the wind. Bosingwa produced, not for the first time in the match, a tempting cross at the far post, which was headed by Torres towards goal. The Spaniard must have thought that his goal drought was over but it was not to be as Van Der Sar leapt and climbed like a man possessed to deny the Spaniard of his first Chelsea scalp. The fans thought just the same as the commentators – “Why is he retiring?”
Miss Of The Matchday:
Fernando Torres: The Spaniard is yet to break his duck since his multi million pound move to the Stamford Bridge, but it looked like the moment had arrived at the end of the first half. Drogba chipped in a delicious ball into the area onto the path of Torres six yards out, but the striker failed to get any contact on the ball and hence it bounced off the post and was cleared by Evra before an onrushing Lampard could save Torres the blushes.
Luiz Adriano also missed a sitter after doing the hard part as he brushed aside emergency center-back Sergio Busquests and found himself one-on-one with Victor Valdes. But the Brazilian, side footed his shot wide and was left ruing the miss that could have brought his team back into the game.
Biggest Controversy Of The Matchday:
Disallowed Penalty at the Bridge: The biggest talking point of this round of games came almost in the dying ambers of the tie at Stamford Bridge. When all seemed lost for Chelsea, Ramires picked up a loose ball and before you could blink an eye it was through on United’s goal. To commentrators, fans and pundits alike there seemed only one outcome, a penalty to the Blues. Well, the men who mattered seemed to disagree and Sir Alex’s team went home with a precious lead. Debate all you want, for United fans there is only one word to say – Karma!
Class is permanent:
Two great players, Raul and Ryan Giggs were on show to demonstrate that class is indeed permanent. Give them the stage and they will perform. On one hand we had the ex-Real Madrid man, who was a constant nemeses for the Inter defence with his incessant off the ball movement and showing his great touch and scoring instincts with the ball on his feet. On the other hand, Giggs was outstanding for the Red Devils in an uncustomary central midfield position, bossing the play and also showing great touch in providing the assist to Rooney’s goal.
The Tale Of Two Forwards:
Peter Crouch: The England striker bottled it in the biggest game for Spurs as he managed to get two bookings in just fifteen minutes ensuring his early route to the shower. If Spurs’ task at the Bernabeu wasn’t tough enough, Crouch’s moment(s) of madness compounded it several fold. One would have thought that the lanky front man would have learned from his earlier mistake but it was not to be as another lunge just seven minutes after his first booking left the referee with no option but to reduce the Lilywhites to ten men.
Con-ning rather than scoring?
Fernando Torres: Is he the same man that banged goals left, right and center for Liverpool? Is he the same Torres, that gave Vidic the biggest nightmares of his career? Well, two months into the contract at his new club, one could easily get mistaken. With the Spaniard missing yet another glorious opportunity to score his first goal and seeing flying Van Der Sar saving his goal bound effort, he opted for ‘diving’ to create a place in the hearts of the fans. Being let off the hook in the first half, Torres had another go in the dying moments of the game but this time was rightly booked for his troubles. Sadly though, ex Chelsea coach and now commentator, Ray Wilkins was neither in the dugout, nor on air to advice him to ‘Stay on your feet‘.
Team Of The Week