Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009 Final: USA 0-5 Mexico

The CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009 did not come across as one of the most awaited competition of this summer. Yet it ended in stunning fashion. If the contested final between USA and Mexico was expected, the scoreline was not. On the day that Liverpool and Manchester United recorded huge pre-season wins, the CONCACAF final conspired to bring the most amazing result.

Ochoa and Vela elated - Image from Associated Press
A 5-0 scoreline will fill El Tri with confidence and motivation going into next month's crucial World Cup qualifier at the Azteca Stadium. A 105,000 cauldron of Mexican colours which should eclipse the 70,000+ crowd at the Giants Stadium on Sunday.

Rapid-fire goals in the second half from captain Torrado, Gio dos Santos, Vela emphasized the underlying knowledge that although Team USA made the Gold Cup final, players from this feeder squad (bar Stuart Holden) will not be in the final Team USA World Cup roster.

Jose Antonio Castro and Guillermo Franco merely added further gloss to a comprehensive victory over the Americans. It snapped Team USA's 58-match unbeaten run in CONCACAF competitions and similarly broke a 10-year winning spell against the Mexicans.



Here are my top 3 reasons why Mexico are the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup Champions.

1. Speed and Movement of the Mexican attack
Right from the first whistle, the Mexican's speedy attack had the American defence backpedalling. The dribbling skills and pace of Gio dos Santos proved too hot for the likes of Pearce and Heaps. Every time Gio had the ball, he was penetrative and looked capable of creating something magical. The clever movement of the Mexican forward line also made it very difficult for the American defenders to pick them up. Utilising their speed and movement, Mexico frequently got behind the US defence and was a constant danger to the US backline.

2. Second Half Introduction of Carlos Vela
Having played in the U-17 World Cup winning side with Gio dos Santos, two of the La Generacion de Oro displayed their amazing telepathic understanding and tore Team USA apart. Vela had two assists and one goal, producing a performance only bettered by Gio. If the US dealt manfully with the skills of Gio in the first half, they had no answer when faced with twin terrors on both flanks in the second half.

3. The Inexperience and Naivety of Team USA
The enthusiasm and determination that were so strongly in display against Panama and Honduras worked against the Americans in this match. Team USA attacked relentlessly after going a goal down against Panama and was duly rewarded. Against Mexico, that proved detrimental as the Mexicans exploited all the vacant space left behind as the Americans poured forward. The youth, inexperience and naivety of US were laid bare and they could not recover from a three-goal salvo. Bob Bradley's immediate tactical change bringing on Santino Quaranta and Kenny Cooper further isolated the defence from midfield, allowing Mexico to use the space in between to great effect. The first goal gave Mexico the chance to sit on their lead, make Team USA come forward and look to counter attack. Team USA, through its inexperience and naivety fell into that trap and paid the price for it.

The killer second goal from Gio - Image from Reuters

The Official website of the 2009 Gold Cup named the award winners and 18-man select Gold Cup team. The choice of selection was made by the Technical Study Group (TSG), a panel of former players and coaches who spent their time analyzing and discussing the tactical aspects of all the Gold Cup contenders.

El Tri recovering well after the Sven "mistake" - Image from AFP

Award Winners
Most Valuable Player Award:
Giovani dos Santos (MEX)
Golden Boot Award: Miguel Sabah (MEX)
Best Goalkeeper Award: Keilor Navas (CRC)
Fair Play Award: United States

All-Tournament Team
Goalkeepers
Keilor Navas (CRC)
Guillermo Ochoa (MEX)

Defenders
Mike Klukowski (CAN)
Freddy Fernandez (CRC)
Fausto Pinto (MEX)
Luis Moreno (PAN)
Clarence Goodson (USA)
Chad Marshall (USA)

Midfielders
Julian de Guzman (CAN)
Celso Borges (CRC)
Stephane Auvray (GLP)
Gerardo Torrado (MEX)
Giovani dos Santos (MEX)
Stuart Holden (USA)

Forwards
Alvaro Saborio (CRC)
Walter Martinez (HON)
Miguel Sabah (MEX)
Kenny Cooper (USA)

Fifth Gold Cup title for the overjoyed El Tri - Image from Mexsports

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Manchester United Asia Tour 2009: Zhejiang Greentown FC, Hangzhou, China

Giggs, Owen star as Man Utd rout Zhejiang Greentown

I can't help myself. I have to admit that I have been keenly following the pre-season tour exploits of the Red Devils. Central to my interest is the performance of Michael Owen. And he has surely not disappointed! From the moment he signed for United, I felt he had found the one of two clubs (the other being Arsenal) that could offer him the opportunity to rediscover himself.

Four goals in four preseason matches makes a lot of difference to a player who has been written off due to the fiasco at Newcastle United. Though one may argue that preseason matches mean nothing and that the Asian teams are inferior, goalscoring builds confidence. Michael Owen now has the confidence in front of goal again. What makes it even more terrifying is the understanding and expectation that his new United team mates will look to present him with opportunities. Ever the gambler, Sir Alex Ferguson looks well satisfied with his bet for the new season.

Berbatov the Cantona-esque artiste - Image from Reuters

Can Owen stay injury-free? - Image from Reuters

The one main worry is the United defence shipping six goals in four games. Something that Fergie will have to look into before the EPL season starts. But United completed their Asia Tour playing some really exciting matches and finished unbeaten. They now go back to Europe and will play in Germany in the Audi Cup tournament friendly. The Audi Cup is a tournament of four clubs - Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Boca Juniors and AC Milan.

I read a report about this last leg of the Manchester United Asia Tour 2009 on Yahoo! News, which I thought, is one of the better and more comprehensive match summary around.

HANGZHOU, China (AFP) – A brace from Michael Owen and a hat-trick from veteran Ryan Giggs helped fire Manchester United to a thumping 8-2 win over Hangzhou Greentown Sunday.

The former Newcastle and England striker, who moved to Old Trafford on a free transfer earlier this month, scored twice in the first half to continue his bright start at his new club. Further goals from the lively Zoran Tosic and Dimitar Berbatov underlined United's dominance as they ran the home side ragged in the first 45 minutes.

United scored four more goals in the second half, including two by Ryan Giggs, as Hangzhou failed to live with their illustrious visitors in a half-full stadium. United enjoyed the bulk of possession in the early minutes but a combination of poor finishing by Berbatov and Paul Scholes and the offside flag denied them early reward. On the rare occasions Hangzhou came forward, they tested United's strong backline, featuring Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra and Fabio da Silva.

But on 23 minutes United made their dominance count when Owen, 29, scored from close range following a cross from Nani, seeking to cement his place on the wing after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Berbatov volleyed in from close range after another Nani cross after half an hour and Tosic lashed home into the far corner to make it 3-0 two minutes later.

On 39 minutes Owen, who also netted two goals earlier in the tour, chested the ball down just inside the area and volleyed in after a clever layoff from Berbatov. Wayne Rooney replaced Owen for the second half and Nani got himself on the scoresheet after just four minutes when he beat Han Feng after a backheel from Berbatov.

Ryan Giggs, who was given a rousing reception when he came on as a substitute, made it 6-0 on 62 minutes and scored again eight minutes later. Hangzhou clawed one back when Wang Hongyou headed in from a corner on 77 minutes. Giggs completed his hat-trick on 88 minutes to make it 8-1 but there was still time for another goal from Hangzhou, scored by Valdo.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has used the tour to test different permutations in attack as he works out his best striking options, which also include teenaged Federico Macheda. Ferguson, who handed Owen the legendary number seven shirt worn by greats such as Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Ronaldo, has backed Owen to score 15 goals in the coming season if the injury-prone player manages 25 games.

United's win in the eastern city of Hangzhou comes after two wins on the Malaysian leg of their tour and a win in South Korea as they build towards a bid for a record fourth consecutive Premier League crown.

The Kop Comes to Asia 2009 Liverpool Tour: Liverpool 5-0 Singapore

Football: Torres on target as Liverpool crush Singapore

Liverpool arrived at Singapore in the second and last leg of their Asian Tour. With the boost of news that talismanic captain, Steven Gerrard was cleared of his bar brawl, Liverpool turned on the style against a sorry Singapore team.

Prior to the match, Singapore striker, Mohd Noh Alam Shah expressed to reporters that anything could happen against Liverpool. Boy! Was he right...Singapore was no match for a Liverpool motivated by news of their captain's successful courtroom battle.

Seeking to end their Asia tour on a high, Liverpool looked much better tonight than they did against Thailand. Granted, a lot of the younger fringe players played but Liverpool on this tour had looked as if the players were still on summer vacation. Preseason have not sparked life into this Liverpool team yet. No wins going into this match against Singapore testifies to that.

But tonight, Liverpool looked the business and it was literally a five-star winning performance. Particularly pleasing for me was Krisztian Nemeth scoring twice and looking every bit like a potential Liverpool Kop favourite.

Torres and Daniel Bennett in action - Image from Reuters

Dirk Kuyt celebrates with Torres - Image from Reuters

Liverpool now go back to Merseyside and will continue their preseason friendlies with a match against Espanyol scheduled at Barcelona on the 2nd August 2009. After that, Liverpool will play two further friendlies (against FC Lyn and Atletico Madrid) before the opening EPL match against Tottenham Hotspurs on 16th August 2009.

Channel News Asia has the better and more comprehensive report on the Liverpool-Singapore friendly.

SINGAPORE: Liverpool crushed Singapore 5-0 on Sunday for their first win in four pre-season games with Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin among the scorers.

Albert Riera and promising young Hungarian striker Krisztian Nemeth also found the back of the net in the morale-boosting win.

The Reds needed a victory to ramp up their preparations for the new season where they will start as one of the favourites to clinch their first title in 20 years after a credible second behind Manchester United in the last campaign.

To the disappointment of fans here, Steven Gerrard missed the match after remaining in England following his acquittal over an alleged assault but Torres played 30 minutes in a return from his summer break.

And in a potentially significant move, Real Madrid target Xabi Alonso came on with 13 minutes remaining.

The unsettled 27-year-old didn't play any part in their 1-1 draw with Thailand last week but held talks with Rafael Benitez on Friday to discuss his future and his appearance was an encouraging sign for Liverpool fans.

The Reds arrived here after a sluggish performance against Thailand which followed a 0-0 draw with St Gallen of Switzerland and a 1-0 loss to Rapid Vienna.

Despite this Benitez had insisted their pre-season plans were progressing well but he will be relieved to finally get a victory.

Ryan Babel had an early chance when he rose to meet a cross from Daniel Agger only to direct his header straight at goalkeeper Hassan Sunny.

Agger was in the thick of the action and fired a 30 yard drive just over the bar soon after as Liverpool pressed their advantage.

They had most of the possession but badly missed Gerrard's penetrating runs and were fortunate to take the lead on the stroke of half-time when Voronin unleashed a 20-yard strike that beat the diving Hassan.

They doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half when Riera chested down a Javier Mascherano cross and tucked the ball into the net from six yards.

Nemeth, one of the most talked about players in the Liverpool reserves, got his first goal for the senior side when he coolly planted his shot beyond the goalkeeper after Dirk Kuyt put him clear.

Singapore were flagging and crowd favourite Alonso was instrumental in the next, starting a move that Torres finished with an easy tap in before Nemeth completed the demolition with seven minutes left.

Liverpool fly back to England later Sunday with a friendly against Espanyol on August 2 their next action, a game that is expected to see the return of Gerrard.

Report from AFP/yt

Also, my buddies at SoccerUpdated have posted some brilliant video highlights of the Singapore leg of Liverpool's Asia tour. Go over to SoccerUpdated for more news.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Manchester United Asia Tour 2009: FC Seoul, Korea

Manchester United continued their Asia Tour 2009 with a visit to Seoul, Korea. A huge crowd gathered at the birth town of their Korean football team captain and superstar, Park Ji-Sung.

As with the match in Malaysia, United started the game slowly and only began asserting themselves after FC Seoul scored the first goal. For me, I was very interested to see if Mickey Owen will make it three goals in three games. That did not happen but from what I saw, Owen has added an excellent passing range to his goalscoring repertoire. There were two to three occasions since coming on that Owen played excellent and accurate long passes to a United team mate, sparking off an attacking move. This will truly be an interesting season just to watch Owen's bid for an England World Cup spot.

Here is a report I picked up from Yahoo! News:
SEOUL (AFP) – English Premier League champions Manchester United saw off a determined FC Seoul here Friday night, taking a see-sawing exhibition match 3-2 with a brace of second-half goals.

With the scores levelled at 2-2 it was left to second-half substitute Dimitar Berbatov to save the Premier League champions' blushes.

Darron Gibson's sharp cross set up the game-winning header from close range in the 65th minute, as Berbatov redirected the ball inside the near post past the Seoul keeper Kim Ho-Jun.

The home side had opened the scoring in the 23rd, with Kim Seung-Yong's curling cross from the right finding the charging Dejan Damjanovic, who squeezed past two defenders and deftly slotted past the helpless Tomasz Kuszczak.

United equalised eight minutes later when an unmarked Wayne Rooney soared to convert a John O'Shea cross from the right, just out of reach of the diving Kim.

Damjanovic put Seoul back in front moments before half-time. A nifty pass from Lee Seung-Yeoul sent the Serb through alone against Kuszczak, and FC Seoul's leading scorer flicked the ball in over the Polish keeper for the lead. Federico Macheda tied the score again in the 57th when Rooney's through pass from just inside the halfway line set up the 17-year-old, who easily put the ball past the charging Kim.

Berbatov's strike edged United in front and Michael Owen could have put the game beyond doubt but headed wide after diving to redirect Gibson's low, curving cross from the right in the 73rd.

After going quiet for most of the second half, Seoul pressed for an equaliser but late strikes by Jung Jo-Gook and Ki Sung-Yueng went straight to the United keeper.

Seoul had managed to frustrate United early on by crowding their box but the England champions showed their class in the end.

Park Ji-Sung, United's Korean winger who was the star attraction for much of the crowd, did not start and entered the match in the 73rd minute to deafening applause.

Fans had cheered on and chanted Park's name as the giant screens showed him seated on the bench. United travel to China for their next match on the Asian tour against Hangzhou Greentown Sunday. FC Seoul resume their domestic league play on August 1.

Here are the video highlights (www.eplmatches.com) of a very entertaining friendly match.


CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009 : Semifinals Results

Team USA advances to CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, Will Face a Confident Mexico who outlasted the Ticos

CHICAGO, July 24 — Mexico beat Costa Rica on penalties in a tense semi-final yesterday to reach the CONCACAF Gold Cup final where they will play the United States, 2-0 victors over Honduras. Costa Rica's Froylan Ledezma went from hero to villain, equalising in injury time at 1-1 but then missing the penalty in the shootout that cost his team a place in the final.

Ledezma puts the ball past Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa - Getty Images

Costa Rica had plenty of chances to get the lead against Mexico, Armando Alonso hit the post in the 12th minute, but Mexico should have been ahead at the break when Giovani Dos Santos headed wide from in front of goal.

Mexico were awarded a penalty in the 58th minute when Costa Rica defender Freddy Fernandez was ruled to have handled the ball but Miguel Sabah's soft penalty was easily saved by Keilor Navas.

The Mexicans looked to have grabbed a fortunate victory when they went ahead in the 88th minute, Guillermo Franco scrambling the ball home, but the celebrations from the large Mexican crowd at Soldier Field proved premature.

In the second minute of injury time Ledezma raced on to a flick on from Alvaro Saborio, ran past the hesitating Mexican defence and rocketed home a fine shot.

Again Costa Rica had the better opportunities in extra-time but with no breakthrough the game was decided by spot kicks — Ledezma being the only man failing to score.

The forward's well struck penalty was superbly saved by Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoa and Carlos Vela kept his cool to give the Mexicans a chance at revenge for their loss to the United States in the final two years ago.

Enjoy the video highlights at the end of this post!

In the earlier semifinal, goals from Clarence Goodson and Kenny Cooper took the United States into the final of the tournament, for North and Central America and the Caribbean teams, for the third consecutive edition.

Honduras had the better of the early exchanges, going close in the 20th minute with a well-struck effort from Marvin Chavez that was tipped over the bar by Troy Perkins.

Stuart Holden had two assists - Getty Images

Midfielder Stuart Holden was impressive again and in the 43rd minute produced a curling free-kick that Donis Escobar tipped over and then Brian Ching struck the bar with a deflected effort. The pressure paid off on the stroke of half-time when defender Goodson rose well to head home Holden's corner. Honduras were unable to create many chances despite having plenty of midfield possession although Carlos Costly might have done better with a close range effort in the 83rd minute, which Perkins did well to block.

Team USA into the Gold Cup Final - Getty Images

In the final minute, Ching back-heeled to Holden who played a low ball across the face of the goal that was turned in by substitute Cooper.


The final will be held at Giants Stadium in New York this Sunday. — Reuters


Semifinal #1: USA vs. Honduras (Video Highlights)


Semifinal #2: Costa Rica vs. Mexico (Video Highlights)


Video highlights are from www.eplmatches.com. More footy video highlights of all kinds can be found there.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Kop Comes to Asia 2009 Liverpool Tour: Liverpool 1-1 Thailand

Liverpool Football Club continues their preseason preparations for the new season with a tour of Asia. The tour billed as "The Kop Comes to Asia" will see Rafa Benitez and his boys play friendly matches against Thailand national team (22nd July) and Singapore national team (26th July).
Nando "El Nino" Torres visting the King's Palace in Bangkok

During a press conference, Malaysia's The Sun has this report,

BANGKOK: Liverpool insist they are not just in Asia to cash in on the lucrative commercial opportunities the region offers, but to give their fanatical fans a chance to see them in the flesh.

The Reds arrived here on Monday, minus Steven Gerrard who is embroiled in a court case back home, to play Thailand today before jetting to Singapore for the second-leg of their Southeast Asian visit.

Clubs in the past, notably Real Madrid, have been criticised for planning worldwide tours purely for the financial reward.

But Liverpool commercial director Ian Ayre insists his team want to leave behind a legacy.

“We have a duty to contribute to these football markets and to our supporters over here,” he said on the club website.

“We have in place a strong legacy programme encompassing many different initiatives and which can be broken down into different areas.

“For example, we have a knowledge transfer programme at which Rafa will meet coaches from Thailand and Singapore, I will be meeting representatives from the local businesses and the medical team will also be having sessions.

“We will be running a kids programme with open training sessions to try and show people what we do and how we do it.

“The important thing is that when our plane lands back in Liverpool there will still be things going on in our name over here which we can continue to support.”

As with Manchester United who are currently in South Korea, Liverpool has a huge fan following in South East Asia and Asia in general. APAC accounts for one-third of the number of internet visits for Liverpool and Manchester United news are extraordinary from Asia.

Fast forward to the friendly match between Thailand national team and Liverpool.

Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium is packed with 70,000 eager fans thrilled at the chance to see their Liverpool heroes.

Ryan Babel scored Liverpool's first goal of the pre-season as the Reds were held to a 1-1 draw by the Thailand national team. The Dutchman scored with a neat first-half finish and the Reds looked to have held on until Panupong Sutee stunned Rafael Benitez's men with a late equaliser.

The young forward was a threat throughout, almost doubling his tally on 12 minutes, but this time the Thai stopper denied him with a fine save with his feet. Krisztian Nemeth could not produce an end result after he had tricked his way past two defenders.

As with the other two matches, Benitez made wholesale changes to the team, with only Babel returning for the second half. After a period of forgettable football, the hosts stunned Liverpool with a well-taken equaliser from Sutee on 71st minute.

The Thai forward showed a cool head to slot the ball past Peter Gulacsi after he had created the opening with a brilliant one-two. Albert Riera, Pepe Reina, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fernando Torres all came on late in the match. Torres immediately made his presence felt by delivering a through ball to Andriy Voronin who puts the ball wide. Voronin still does not look comfortable in the red of Liverpool.

A disappointing game given the fact that Manchester United's Malaysian stop-over and match were highly entertaining stuff. Let's hope the Singapore friendly will be a whole new ball game.

Steven Gerrard On Affray Trial - Misses Liverpool's "The Kop Comes to Asia" Tour

On July 2oth, 2009, Steven Gerrard stood trial on a charge of affray, allegedly committed in Southport in December last year. He is denying the charge, CCTV evidence however, shows incriminating scenes of Gerrard laying multiple punches on the victim, Mr. Marcus McGee.

According to online reports, Gerrard looked disturbed and visibly upset for being treated like a normal being rather than a celebrity footballer. Due to that, he chose to confront McGee and subsequently cause grievous bodily harm. Before the incident, Gerrard had been drinking with his friends celebrating the superb 5-1 win over Newcastle.

Now there is a consistent relationship between alcohol consumption and violent behaviour. Overconsumption leads to impaired judgement and impulse control which in turn can turn a person violent. This was what happened to Gerrard. I hope he has laid off the sauce since the incident.

The trial is expected to last between two to three weeks.

Joey Barton was sentenced to six months of prison after being found guilty of assault and affray. That is the reality of the punishment facing Gerrard if he is found guilty.

Gerrard standing trial for "losing it" last year - Image from AFP

And now Liverpool's dreams of winning the title next season is in danger of vanishing.
So what about the impact on Liverpool FC if Gerrard was found guilty?

Sriram Ilango, a sports freak who writes on Bleacher Report published this excellent article about the Liverpool captain. The below talks about the talismanic effects of Steven Gerrard on Liverpool FC.

Steven Gerrard has been instrumental in many of Liverpool's success. From Liverpool’s midfield cult hero to one of the world’s best second-strikers, Steven Gerrard’s transformation has been truly magnificent.

He has scored goals, made goals, and importantly raised him team's level of football in more than season.

Zinedine Zidane quoted: “Forget Ronaldo and Messi, the best player in the world is Liverpool star Gerrard.”

Okay, a Daily Mail headline said that. Zidane merely said: “Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of (Lionel) Messi and Ronaldo but yes, I think he just might be.”

Still, that’s some endorsement.

Somewhere amidst all the adulation for Gerrard—he has been compared since to two bona fide English legends, Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards—lurks a sense that a man vital to Gerrard’s flowering as a footballer has been ignored.

His name is Rafael Benitez. He is Liverpool’s manager, and his most important contribution was to move Gerrard out of central midfield.

This was a move criticised widely by a lot of English football pundits, who saw in his athleticism, dynamism and thunderous right foot flashes of Liverpool’s Graeme Souness and Manchester United’s Bryan Robson, archetypes of the all-action, box-to-box central midfielder, a creature so revered in English football that it inspired the comic book hero ‘Roy of the Rovers’.

Here’s Robson himself expressing dismay at Benitez playing Gerrard on the right wing in a match against Manchester United in 2006, which Liverpool lost 2-0: “In central midfield, Gerrard is able to get stuck in, express himself and do what he does best—making those surging runs and chipping in with goals. But he can’t do that when he’s wide on the right.”

This despite Gerrard having scored 23 goals in all competitions from the right wing the previous season.

To understand why Rafael Benitez moved Gerrard out of midfield, we must go back to May 25, 2005 in Istanbul, where, at half-time in the Champions League final, AC Milan led Liverpool 3-0.

In the first half, Milan playmaker Kaka had revelled in the space and time Liverpool’s midfield gave him and conjured the Rossoneri’s second and third goals. He chipped a diagonal pass to Andriy Shevchenko for the Ukranian to cross for Hernan Crespo’s first goal, and then set up Crespo’s second with a 40-yard through ball.

Benitez realised that coming back, or even limiting the damage, would require a major tactical reshuffle.

When Liverpool trotted out for the second half, holding midfielder Dietmar Hamann, instructed to suffocate Kaka, took the place of injured right-back Steve Finnan. Gerrard, who had partnered Xabi Alonso in midfield in the first half, now took position just behind striker Milan Baros.

You know what happened next. In six unreal second-half minutes, Liverpool scored thrice. Gerrard headed in the first goal, and, after Vladimir Smicer rifled in the second, earned the penalty that Alonso converted to equalise.

After extra-time ended goalless, Liverpool won on penalties to claim its fifth European Cup, lifted joyously by Gerrard as red confetti rained on his team.

This wasn’t the first time Benitez had tried this tactic that season. He had entrusted the centre of midfield to two from Alonso, Hamann and Igor Biscan in Champions League away legs, playing Gerrard further forward.

The former Valencia manager, in his very first season in English football, had realised that central midfield wasn’t Gerrard’s best position. <there's more>

Bleacher Report is the world's largest sports network that is powered entirely by fan-generated content.

Press report on Steven Gerrard affray trial can be found in ESPNStar.com.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009 Quarterfinal #4: Mexico 4-0 Haiti

As mentioned in the previous post, Day 2 of Gold Cup quarterfinal action brought a flurry of goals. Mexico faced a Haitian side who could upset them if the Tricolor were not in top form. Fortunately, Mexico picked the right moment to peak and crushed Haiti 4-0. Gio dos Santos was the pick of the Mexican players, scoring one and assisting in two others.

Pablo Barrera coming on and scoring - Image from Reuters

Giovani dos Santos salutes the fans support - Image from Reuters

Mexico now meets Costa Rica in the semifinals on Thursday.
How apt that it is in Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois that will be the coliseum for the Gold Cup semifinal wars.

Below is an excellent player assessment done by Joel Aceves in Goal.com.

Mexico
Guillermo Ochoa (7) - The club America goal keeper had a very quiet game as Haiti posed very little threat on goal. Still, Ochoa did well to keep a clean sheet by resolving the few problems created by the Haitians; especially early in the second-half when the Mexican defense appeared to be caught napping.

Johnny Magallon (6) The Chivas defender continues looking for his old form of which he delivered a few glimpses. Overall, Magallon had a decent match perhaps helped by the fact that Haiti played a very defensive match-up.

Ismael Rodriguez (5) Rodriguez had a regular performance seemed shaky at times and was lucky to not have a penalty kick call against him twenty minutes into the second-half. The America defender will have to pick up his slack for the semi-finals because Costa Rica will not be as forgiving.

Efrain Juarez (5) Regular performance by Juarez who had a few runs into attack but was lacking in accuracy and could have contributed more to the teams attack. Defensively Juarez did his job.

Fausto Pinto (5) The Cruz Azul defender posted a decent performance and was rarely called into action. With Mexico’s victory already in the bag, Pinto was subbed out for Guiller Franco.

Gerardo Torrado (6) The Tricolor team captain was solid in midfield. Defensively, Torrado did well to disrupt the Haitians attack. Still, the Cruz Azul midfielder continues to have problems with his ball distribution.

Israel Castro (5) Castro had a regular performance but was overshadowed by his bad penalty kick shot; which Sabah rescued to open the scoring. Castro shook off his miss in the second-half but went largely unnoticed.

Carlos Esquivel (6) The Toluca striker had a good game but was not as imposing as expected. Equivel combined with medina; who set up Gio for the goal. Other than that we could have seen the last match for Esquivel as the likes of Vela, Bravo, and Franco patiently wait for their turn.

Alberto Medina (6) The silky Medina played his best match of the Gold Cup; cementing his position in the starting eleven. The Chivas striker missed a goal early on the match but made up for it with a cheeky pass to Gio; who doubled Mexico’s lead.

Giovani dos Santos: (8) Gio, highly regarded as Mexico’s best player throughout the Gold Cup, finally managed to find the back of the net with a superb strike, in the 42nd minute, to double Mexico’s lead. Gio continued to guide Mexico’s attack by setting up both Sabah and Barrera with well placed corner kick crosses.

Miguel Sabah (8) The Morelia striker finally had his breakthrough performance by bagging a double. Sabah opened the scoring, in the 23rd minute, after rescuing a poor penalty kick shot by Castro and then gave Mexico a comfortable three-goal lead after heading in a corner kick cross by Gio.

Substitutes
Pablo Barrera (7) The Pumas striker replaced Esquivel in the second-half and proved to be far more productive. Barrera capped his performance with a world class goal after connecting a Giovani corner kick cross with a right footed volley to seal Mexico’s victory.

Guillermo Franco (5) El “Guille” Franco played his first minutes of the Gold Cup, after coming in for Fausto Pinto in the second-half, and contributed as Haiti’s punching bag. The unemployed striker did well to hold the ball and even better to take quite a few late tackles.

Jose Antonio “Gringo” Castro (5) El Gringo Castro replaced Sabah in the 80th minute when the match had long been resolved.

Haiti
Jean Zephirin 6 - Had a very busy night earning his pay. The game could have well been 5-0 by half time but Zephirin kept his team in the game in the early stages. Zephirin had a good game but he had no help from his defense leading to the 4 goals.

Raymond Ednerson 6 - Had good runs down the left flank and beat his marker but his services never created any danger

Frantz Gilles 4 - Had problems keeping pace with the “Cristiano Ronaldo of Mexico”, Pablo Barrera.

Judelin Aveska 3 - Saved a goal from going in but at the same time conceded a penalty which led to the first goal. Lost his man on the third goal and almost committed a silly foul

Pierre Bruny 4 - Did not do very well with the line defense that Haiti was showing. The Mexicans were beating him with their runs.

Frantz Bertin 4.5 - Saved a potential goal in which Giovani Dos Santos was already winding up to take the shot but Bertin poked it away.

James Marcelin 4 - Lost Pablo Barrera off a corner which resulted in a great goal from Pablo Barrera.

Vaniel Sirin 5.5 - Earned a yellow card early in the game which impeded any physical challenges for the rest of the game. Had one of the best shots but it was thrown out to a corner by Guillermo Ochoa.

Mones Chery 3 - Was practically a no show for the Haitian offense as he could do nothing down the right flank.

Leonel Saint-Preux 5.5 - Preux was active up top but lacked the finishing power and also seemed to take his shot’s too early. Was brought down inside the box in what looked to be a penalty but it was never called

Fabrice Noel 6 - Had a clear chance early in the second chance but he waited too long to have a go. In that same play he had another clear shot on goal where he slid into the ball instead of giving it power, where Ochoa made an easy save.

Substitutes
Markorel Sampeur 4-Had a go in the dying minutes but his shot went wide, after that he had no more influence in the game.

Brunel Fucien 4.5 - Had a good look at goal halfway through the second half. He threw himself at the ball though and gave it no direction

Robin Jerome - N/A


From Joel Aceves, Goal.com
Go over to Goal.com for great coverage on the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009.

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009 Quarterfinal #3: Costa Rica 5-1 Guadeloupe

If the 1st day quarterfinals action were dreary but tense affairs, the second day of Gold Cup quarterfinal action turned out to be goal-fests.

Quarterfinal #3 pitted Guadeloupe against the unpredictable Costa Rica and the impact turned out be a magical five goal fest. Celso Borges scored with a spectacular bicycle kick in the third minute. Alvaro Saborio scored in the 16th and 71st minutes, running from deep positions to head home from Alvaro Alonso's cross in the first half and latching onto a long clearance from the back by Borges for his second goal. Costa Rica has now advanced to Thursday's semifinals for the first time since 2003.


Costa Rica's Alvaro Saborio scoring - Image from Reuters

Saborio celebrates - Image from Reuters

Andrea Martinez from Goal.com provided the following ratings for the 22 players on the pitch for Quarterfinal #3.

Costa Rica
Keilor Navas 5- Didn’t have to do much, but on guard for the occasional effort.

Harold Wallace 5 - Good coverage, had an occasional slip that gave the Guadeloupe’s hope.

Freddy Fernandez 5 - Covered the back quite well.

Dennis Marshall 5 - Didn’t have too much trouble keeping Guadeloupe away.

Dario Delgado 5 - Along with the rest of the back line, kept Guadeloupe away, although occasionally pace would over take them.

Celso Borges 6 - Opened the score with great style, kept working hard, and provided much help on the goals.

Christian Oviedo 5 -A quiet force in the game.

Armando Alonso 6 -Provided the assists for goals, and worked tirelessly to try and provide more up front.

Andy Herron 5.5 - Scored a goal, and worked hard during the game.

Alvaro Saborio 6 - Played his part in the game, and had two goals to show for it.

Pablo Brenes 4.5 - Had a decent showing, but didn’t have too much of an influence.

Substitutes
Pablo Herrera 5 - Only a minute after coming into the game he was overtaken and had fault for Guadeloupe’s goal. He scored the fifth goal.

Froylan Ledezma 4.5 - Kept on trying to add more goals, and assisted with the fifth.

Warren Granados - N/A

Guadeloupe
Marius Fausta 4.5 - A poor showing, but saved a few efforts from Costa Rica.

Cedric Avinel 4 - Was outpaced several times during.

Miguel Comminges 4 - Made several mistakes.

Mickael Tacalfred 4.5 - Was absent from defensive duties.

Eddy Viator 4 - Gave everything away to easily.

Aurelien Capoue 4.5 - Tirelessly sent in crosses, worked down the field, but nothing came of it.

Thomas Gamiette 4 - Tried to play the game, but committed too many fouls that hurt the team more.

Stephane Auvray 6 - The best on the field for Guadeloupe. All the balls went through and seemed to be like the only one trying to create anything.

Larry Clavier 5.5 - Tried tirelessly to help out the team. His great pace on the right troubled the Costa Rican defense, and he took advantage of the for Guadeloupe’s goal.

Loic Loval 4 - Missed a lot of chances. Kept on trying to do diving headers but it did not work out, and he seemed to spend more time on the floor.

Alexandre Alphonse 4.5 - Wasn’t present for most of the game, but showed up to score Guadeloupe’s lone goal.

Substitutes
Michael Antoine-Courier 3.5 - Missed a chance for goal when he first was subbed on.

Gregory Gendrey - N/A

Jean-Luc Lambourde - N/A

Player ratings by Andrea Martinez, Goal.com

Monday, July 20, 2009

Manchester United Asia Tour 2009: Owen Scores Again in Malaysia Rematch

New signing, Michael Owen scores again on his second preseason match for the Red Devils! Could this really be a Fergie masterstroke?!

Having said that, in hindsight, Owen has always been a great scoring machine. Has been for Liverpool, did so at Real Madrid and also continued that trend in the first season at Newcastle. My post on "Top 10 values Owen Brings to Man Utd" still seem to be holding up, which I am happy about obviously.

Seriously though, as long as Owen stays healthy, he does bring a lot of experience and predatory movement to this Manchester United team. It looks like Mikey is fitting in well with the United lads and that will not be good news to the rest of the EPL.

This is a snippet of the report posted in Times Online,

"Michael Owen was on target for the second consecutive match as Manchester United defeated a Malaysia XI 2-0 in Kuala Lumpur.

Given the opportunity to atone for a less-than-convincing 3-2 win against the same opposition at the Bukit Jalil Stadium on Saturday, United this time exerted total control over their opponents.

Federico Macheda, now installed as United's fourth-choice striker following the summer exits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, was first to make his mark after 11 minutes. The Italian calmly stroked the ball into the corner after Ryan Giggs had supplied a low cross.

And on United's next attack, Owen carried on where he left off at the weekend when he scored the late winner, profiting from some shambolic defending from the hosts, who failed to clear a Zoran Tosic cross, allowing the England striker to take aim and fire home the second goal...."


Though this is just preseason but a good preseason will put Owen in great nick for the coming season for sure. Well, enough of that already, enjoy this superb match commentary.

Malaysia 0-2 Manchester United Match Commentary

Man United failed to add to their early goal tally even with their many substitutions.

Full time - Malaysia XI 0-2 Man United

The Tigers are throwing the sink at Kuszczak and have gone narrowly wide on two occasions.

80 min - Anderson takes a shot, but goes wide.

76 min - Substitution for Malaysia: Sabre for Thiru

74 min - Substitution for Malaysia: Muslim for Zamani

Despite the many substitutions, Ferguson's men are still stuck in second-gear. Well, this is a pre-season friendly after all.

69 min - Substitution for United: Anderson for Carrick

69 min - Substitution for United: Gibson for Fletcher

69 min - Substitution for United: Scholes for Giggs

67 min - Substitution for United: Rooney for Macheda

64 min - Substitution for Malaysia: Amar for Umar

63 min - Substitution for Malaysia: Badrul for Yahyah

62 min - Substitution for United: Ferdinand for Evans

62 min - Substitution for United: O'Shea for Neville

62 min - Substitution for United: Berbatov for Owen

62 min - Substitution for United: Nani for Tosic

Malaysia are trying their best to score against the Red Devils but they just cannot seem to find the back of the net.

58 min - Substitution for United: Evra for Fabio

56 min - Substitution for Malaysia: Gurusamy for Safiq

46 min - Substitution for United: Kuszczak for Foster

45 min - Substitution for Malaysia: Norshahrul for Zaquan

Half-time

34 min - Substitution for Malaysia: Asrarudin for Azmi

32 min - Owen is looking sharper and sharper by the minute. His tries a cheeky side-footed shot which hits the post!

27 min - Fletcher has been deployed as a right midfielder. He is hardworking and can put in a decent cross. But he is nowhere near as devastating as Ronaldo.

14 min - Substitution for Malaysia: V. Thirumurugam for Mozlizam

12 min - GOAL!!!! The Malaysia defence are chasing shadows at the moment. Owen storms in unnoticed to score his second goal in United colours. Now who said Owen is over-the-hill?

10 min - GOAL!!!! Macheda the wonderkid! A defence-splitting pass from Fabio down the left picks an unmarked Fletcher at the far post who lays it off for the Italian youngster to drill it in past Marlias.

Kick-off

The usual pre-match pleasantries with a coin toss going the way of the Malaysians who kick off proceedings.

A wonderful way to start the night. Players and officials mark a minute of silence out of respect for the victims of the Jakarta bombings last week.

For those who are not in the loop, two bombs went off in Jakarta last week, just days before United were due to arrive and stay at the Ritz Carlton hotel which was one of the affected buildings. The Red Devils called off their Jakarta visit and this match had to be put in place within 36 hours to replace the Indonesia match.


This brilliant match commentary came from ESPNStar.com - the premier Asia sports site.

Full report of "Michael Owen on target again for Manchester United in Malaysia" can be found in Times Online.

You can also read my post on "The Top 10 values Michael Owen will bring to Manchester United" here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinal #2: USA 2-1 Panama (aet)

FOXSports.com reported the match like this,
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Worn down and undermanned, the United States found a way to rally. Now the Americans remain in position to win their third straight CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Kenny Cooper converted a penalty kick in the 105th minute, giving the two-time defending champions a 2-1 victory over Panama and a semifinal berth against Honduras, which beat Canada 1-0 in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader.

Kenny Cooper slots home the winning penalty - Image from Reuters

Goal.com's Zac Lee Rigg had the chance to rate the players on show.

United States
Troy Perkins 6
Hardly had anything to do.

Jay Heaps 5
Looked shaky at times, but luckily for the veteran, Barahona preferred to cut in centrally rather than take him on.

Jimmy Conrad 7
A powerful, stern display for nearly the first 45. One of his tackles saved a certain goal. On the stroke of half, the USA captain bludgeoned his own face into the head of a defender and went off with a gnarly concussion.

Chad Marshall 6
The powerful defender was essential to repelling Panama's long ball game that the team resorted to in the second half. It's nearly impossible to beat Marshall in the air, even when he hyper-extends his knee, as he did in this game.

Heath Pearce 6
Looked sharp going forward, he linked up well with others to press the issue in the second half.

Stuart Holden 6
Was involved in all three goals: Shanked a clearance to let Panama go ahead, stepped over the ball to let Beckerman score the equalizer, and fed Cooper for the winner.

Logan Pause 6
Another tidy, quiet performance from the Chicago Fire man. He doesn't make any game-altering mistakes, but neither does Pause impose himself on games to help ensure victory.

Kyle Beckerman 7
Gave his customary robust and active performance, and added his first international goal for good measure. His displays haven't warranted all the praise he's been given, but it's difficult to argue with the ferocity of the equalizer.

Robbie Rogers 5
Stunted down the left, Rogers never displayed his blazing pace or one-on-one ability. He did play the looping cross that led to the USA's first goal.

Brian Ching 6
Hit the post early on, and from then on out it was a physical, gritty performance as the Hawaiian threw himself around. Offered very little holdup play to help string U.S. attacks together.

Davy Arnaud 7
Had a quietly sharp game. His slick vision and movement helped un-gum the Panama defense early in the first half with a handful of positive plays.

Substitutions
Clarence Goodson 5
Immediately upon coming on, Goodson lost a header that led to the Panama goal. He settled down in the second half for a decent display.

Kenny Cooper 6
Won and scored the game-winning penalty, but wasted a series of chances he should have buried.

Brad Evans N/A


Panama
Jamie Penedo 6
Made a couple solid saves, including one top notch diving one, but conceded twice.

Luis Moreno 7
Largely contained the speedster Rogers with superior positional play and a tidy match at right back.

Felipe Baloy 8
A wall. Abused Ching all night long to suck any longevity out of the U.S. attacks. A towering presence, Baloy was unlucky to be on the losing side. Sent off after the match for arguing God-knows-what with the referee.

Roman Torres 5
Gave up the penalty with a silly and reckless challenge, undoing all of Panama's hard work up to that point.

Armando Gun 5
Misfired in the rare times he ventured forward, Gun largely stated back to try to deal with the U.S. attack.

Rolando Escobar 5
Largely quiet on the right flank. Provided solid service, but didn't enforce himself on the game enough.

Manuel Torres 5
Wasn't nearly as flashy as the bottom tip of his dyed hair, and he faded into the background of the midfield battle.

Gabriel Gomez 5
Anonymous aside from a silly pull-down of Pause.

Nelson Barahona 7
Dictated play in the early goings with a bright, energetic beginning. As the game wore on, the youngster faded, and his influence diminished along with his energy.

Jose Luis Garces 7
Showed excellent movement and linkup play to keep the Panama attack ticking over nicely. Garces seemed composed whenever he touched the ball, making positive things happen.

Blas Perez 7
The first 45 was a tale of blistering pace, unsettling directness, acrobatic agility that led to the opening goal, and a troubled defense. The second 45 was one of exhaustion and no impact.

Substitutions
Ricardo Phillips 6
Looked bright and direct upon coming in. He caused a few problems down the right flank for Pearce.

Victor Herrera N/A
Luis Tejada N/A

From Zac Lee Rigg, Goal.com

CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinal #1: Canada 0-1 Honduras

This was reported in FOXSports.com.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Walter Martinez helped Honduras temporarily put aside thoughts of the political turmoil in its country with a goal in the 36th minute of the first half to beat Canada 1-0 and advance into the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal.

Honduras will play the United States on Thursday in Chicago.

Walter Martinez slots home the controversial penalty - Image from Associated Press

Zac Lee Rigg from Goal.com had the privilege of rating the players on the pitch.

Canada
Greg Sutton 7
Showed some excellent shot-stopping ability to keep the score down.

Paul Staltieri 4.5
A shaky performance. Nearly gave away a penalty in the second minute for handling Medina, and then did concede one for the game's only goal, although that was was a tad harsh. Failed to offer anything going forward, and never looked comfortable in defense.

Dejan Jakovic 6

A composed, calming influence in the heart of Canada's defense, Jakovic's distribution was slightly off today.

Kevin Mckenna 6
Hit the post late on with a header that would have tied the game. Aside from picking up a yellow for dissent and that header, he was largely anonymous.

Michael Klukowski 7
Came into the game more and more, giving a bright performance down the left. His bursting runs up the flank were a valuable outlet for the Canucks.

Will Johnson 5

Wasted two of Canada's best chances before being hauled off for a more attacking option.

Patrice Bernier 5.5
Had a relatively quiet game. It was a crowded midfield, and Bernier was one who got lost in the pack.

Atiba Hutchinson 6
An active game, on both ends of the field. If his skill matched his physical ability, he'd be quite some player.

Julian De Guzman 8
That Canada has no one nearly as talented as De Guzman closer to the goal is the reason Gerba is so isolated up front. The most talented player on the pitch controlled the game and tempo, but was let down once he passed to a teammate.

Josh Simpson 6.5
Created Canada's best chances with some quality service from the left.

Ali Gerba 5
Didn't get even a glimpse of the ball as he was completely marked out of the game and given no service. Gerba didn't even see one of those half-chances he's been burying to bring Canada this far.

Substitutions
Jamie Peters 6
Was bright down the right upon coming on.

Simeon Jackson 5
Gave Canada another body in the box, but failed to convert his few chances.

Honduras
Donis Slatiel Escober 8.5
Canada came up against a masterclass in goalkeeping. Escober pulled off a series of clutch, reflex saves that almost singlehandedly put Honduras into the semifinals.

Nery Medina 7
Was charged with keeping Simpson quiet and largely succeeded. Medina gave a thorough, tight man marking performance.

Osman Chavez 7
Large and in charge. Nothing got past Chavez in the air, and Gerba couldn't find any scraps from the tough defender.

Erick Morales 6
Solid and compact at the back. Helped Honduras' fierce and resolute defensive display.

Carlos Alberto Palacios 5
Solid at the back but frequently gave the ball away in attack. It helped that Canada only threw on an attacker down the right flank for the last twenty minutes.

Marvin Chavez 6
Showed nice touches and explosive acceleration when he did get on the ball. The problem was that those moments were all too rare.

Mariano Acevedo 6
A tidy and solid performance in the central midfield role.

Melvin Valladares 6
Brought the ball out of the midfield triumphantly at times, but most of his game was concentrated on keeping defensive shape as Canada controlled possession.

Roger Espinoza 6

Hardly showed himself aside from an early yellow card.

Carlos Costly 7
Performed the target man role well, bringing others into play and sliding others through. He struggled to find service most of the game, but did well with what he was given.

Walter Martinez 7.5
His pace made Honduras' best chances, and he was a thorn in Canada' side as long as he was on the pitch. His ranking would be higher for an excellent counterattacking display from the Honduras captain and scorer of the game winner, but he proved rather wasteful in front of the net, when clinical finishing would have given him at least a hat-trick.

Substitutions
Alan Lalin N/A
Jonny Palacios N/A

From Zac Lee Rigg, Goal.com

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Manchester United Asia Tour 2009: Malaysia

Manchester United arrived in Malaysia on the first leg of their Asia Tour 2009. This was an amazing time for the Malaysian United fans and it showed in the many pictures that can be found.
The Asia Tour 2009 is expected to cover Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea and China. However, due to unrest in Jakarta, the Indonesian leg have been canceled and instead Manchester United will play a rematch with the Malaysia XI on Monday evening (20th July).

The first match took place at Bukit Jalil stadium today (18th July) in front of a capacity crowd of 100,000 fans. Malaysia XI led by coach K. Rajagopal put on a superb display and pushed the superstars of Utd right to the end. In the end, Owen on his "debut" for Manchester United scored the winning goal. The match ended 3-2 in favour of the Red Devils.

Sir Alex Ferguson has this to say about Owen and his impact coming off the bench,

Sir Alex Ferguson hailed the impact of new signing Michael Owen after he came off the bench to grab the winner for Manchester United in Kuala Lumpur.

Owen struck three minutes from time after Federico Macheda had seen his shot saved.

"It was a typical Michael Owen goal," said Ferguson. "He was the first man to react, which is just what you would expect."

Ferguson revealed he was always likely to leave Owen on the bench to start with but was not in the least bit surprised his new striker found the net immediately.

"I am sure he was looking forward to it," said Ferguson.

"When you consider the type of player Michael is, he was always going to be looking to score that type of goal.

"There was nothing unusual in it and he will be delighted to have got off the mark."

Ferguson confirmed Owen is likely to start Monday's re-arranged game against the same opposition along with Federico Macheda as he tries to ensure all his forwards are fit for the start of the new season.

However, Owen could not have had a better start to his United career after his shock signing for the Red Devils.

And if Ferguson was happy with that, the same could also be said of Wayne Rooney, who scored United's opener in a 3-2 win.

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez now departed for pastures new, all eyes will be on Rooney.

''You are seeing maturity from him now, which is what you expect from all young players,'' said Ferguson. ''I don't believe he needs to look at anything but himself because we know there is a lot of improvement to come from him yet.

''Wayne is not the finished article by any means.'' - ESPN Soccernet

The match report can be read at the official Man Utd web site. ESPNStar.com has a very good section on the United-Malaysia match as well.

Here are some pictures from The Star Online and Associated Press on United's training session and the match itself.





Manchester United's trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is very well covered by two websites. For more comprehensive coverage, I would suggest Manchester United Fan in Malaysia and Soccer Mania.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Copa Libertadores 2009 Final: Estudiantes Wins Cup After 39 Years

Congratulations to the Argentine champions, Estudiantes for a fantastic run to the Copa Libertadores championship win. After a 0-0 draw in La Plata, Argentina last week, Cruzeiro would have been favourites to win the Copa with home advantage. Estudiantes stormed back from a goal down to upset Cruzeiro with goals from Gaston Fernandez and Mauro Boselli.

Gaston "The Cat" Fernandez taps in the equalizer - Image from Reuters

Mauro Boselli seals the win for El Leon - Image from Reuters

With this win, Estudiantes captain, Juan Sebastian Veron has emulated his father's success who led Estudiantes to three previous Cup victories. The Verons are only the second father-son duo to have won the Copa Libertadores, joining Jorge Goncalves and father Nestor who both won a title with Uruguayan club Penarol.

Juan Sebastian Veron "La Brujita" lifts the Cup - Image from Reuters

Seba Veron was voted Man of the Match for his outstanding performance in the final - he was central to both Estudiantes' goals. His leadership kept Estudiantes pushing hard for the win.

These were what the players and managers have to say after the match,

From ESPNSTAR.com,

Estudiantes boss, Alejandro Sabella said, "The first thing you need to worry about when you go behind is to not lose your shape, especially against Brazilian teams. We suffered a little bit, but we equalised. Psychologically, that goal was too bad for them, but too good for us. All the players deserve a statue."

Forward Jose Luis Calderon, said: "We deserve to be champions. We won like Estudiantes play - we were tough, we ran hard and we played good football. When things are well at a club, like in a family, this is what you get. This is the most beautiful thing I have experienced in football because I'm an Estudiantes fan."

"I have no words," Cruzeiro keeper, Fabio said. "Only Jesus Christ can console us. He knows everything. The opponents deserved to win."

Cruzeiro forward Ramires, who is now heading to Benfica, added: "I don't know what to say. This is a sad, disappointing moment for all of us. It's time to hold our heads up."

From Eurosport UK,
Cruzeiro coach Adilson Baptista told a news conference: "We played better in the second half, went 1-0 up and could have got a second. Then we concended goals through a loss of concentration in defence and a dead ball play."
"Let them enjoy this -- it's for the fans. It's unique," former Lazio and Manchester United midfielder Veron told Fox Sports.
"We have to raise a monument to all the players," said coach Alex Sabella. "Veron is the greatest ever Estudiantes player."
"This is what one dreams of," said Mauro Boselli who is the tournament's top scorer with eight goals. "It was our objective and we achieved it."
From SI.com,
"It took a lot of heart,'' Veron said as the Argentine fans chanted his name. "It was incredible.''

"We were able to silence more than 60,000 people,'' Estudiantes defender Christian Cellay said. "That was really incredible. It's hard to believe we did it.''
From FOXSports.com,

Estudiantes coach Alejandro Sabella praised the veteran midfielder and said he was the main reason for the team's victory. "It was a great match by Veron," Sabella said. "He was coming off an injury and we knew he was going to keep improving and play even better today."

Cruzeiro coach Adilson Batista also was quick to show his appreciation for the midfielder's performance. "It was a pleasure to see a player like Veron perform like he did," Batista said. "He is very intelligent tactically."

Estudiantes players savouring the win - Image from Reuters

Estudiantes will now represent South America in the FIFA Club World Cup competition at the end of this year. Definitely will be an interesting Estudiantes-Barcelona final - mouthwatering indeed.



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