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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Champions League Semi Final Preview

Chelsea Were Lucky - Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has continued to fan the flames ahead of his side's crunch clash in the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea.

After drawing the first leg 1-1, Rafa is keen to play the 'second half' of this tie, insisting his team are as well-prepared as ever."The team is ready. We are focused, concentrated and have confidence," declared Benitez. "I think that we were prepared last time. Now we have half-time in the tie and we will be prepared for Wednesday."Though impressed with Chelsea's weekend win over Manchester United, Benitez insists it will not have too great an impact on Wednesday's game."It was a good game between two good teams and I thought Chelsea played really well in the first-half," said Benitez. "In the second-half they had some problems but I think it is a different game in a different competition with different teams. He also doubted whether Chelsea could snatch a league-Champions League double, though he was full of praise for Avram Grant's work at Chelsea."It could be difficult for them," he mused. "They have had four days between the last game and Wednesday so I think they will have enough time to prepare for this game and after that they can be focused because they have a good squad. "I always say the same, that I think he [Avram Grant] is doing a good job. He is in a very good position in the league and in the Champions League so I think he is doing a good job and I think he is a person with experience."

Lucky

He also felt Chelsea were a little lucky to come away with the result, but is confident he can break his Stamford Bridge curse, as he has not managed a goal at Chelsea's ground during his time in charge of Liverpool."I think Chelsea will be analysing everything and I think they will try to take advantage of the away goal," he said."Sometimes these things happen, so you must just look towards the next game. You know the result so you must try to prepare the next game properly. We know we need to score so we will try to score goals. "[Not scoring at Anfield] is something we can change tomorrow."I don't know how many games they are without losing. When you talk about Chelsea over the past four or five years, they are a team that are progressing and improving so I think it is normal. The majority of teams have problems there. "I remember the last game at Stamford Bridge when we had chances and I think that we were the better team, but, sometimes you cannot reflect these things if you do not score. "It's another competition, it's totally different. The mentality, the atmosphere, the time of kick-off - everything will be different."

Judgement Day

The former Valencia boss has been under much scrutiny this season in a string of dramatic boardroom sagas, but insists he is not worrying about how he will be judged if the season ends trophyless."I'm not really worried about how the season will be judged," he shrugged. "It is more about how can we progress in this competition and can we feel happy with ourselves after the game."I think it is important to know we have guaranteed fourth position. That has been the key over the past few years and now we must try to go to the final. "Success for us is to win trophies. But when you cannot, you must try to do the right things, it is as simple as that."

Chet Winter

Torres Eager For Terry-Carvalho Test

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is eager to test his mettle against John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho on Wednesday night as the Reds take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Torres, who is the second-highest Red scorer in the Champions League this season, told LiverpoolFC.tv of his excitement ahead of the second leg."I have wanted to play against guys like John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho for a long time, and they do me an honour by giving me a tough time," he said. "Now I'm going to try to respond to them by getting a couple of goals against Chelsea. "Everybody dreams about playing in the Champions League, and in the space of a few months I have gone from watching it on TV to having a part in it and I already have plenty of memories. "My goal at the San Siro when we beat Inter Milan 1-0, the 4-0 win over Marseille, and my goal in the 4-2 win over Arsenal – now it is the turn of Chelsea."Professor Rafa?Torres has established himself as a Premier League star in his very first season away from Atlético Madrid, with his coach coming in for much praise as a result.He said of Rafael Benítez, "He calculates everything, including runs and flights of the ball, and studies it on his computer. "If he tells you to stand five feet from the penalty spot, it's not in your best interests to be six feet from it! "He'll show you that the extra distance makes the difference between a goal and a missed chance – and it has worked for me. "The proof for me is I had never scored a club hat-trick in my life before joining Liverpool, but I've since got three, against Reading, Middlesbrough and West Ham. "Rafa explained everything to me before I even signed – how we would play, and what our aims were. He even gave me a work schedule in advance. "He has great powers of seduction, and makes crazy demands on us. At the end of training, when we are all tired, he can still make us repeat routines 20 or 30 times."Healthy CompetitionThe Spanish international concluded by defending Benítez's much-maligned rotation system, contrasting it positively with the Atleti approach.He said, "Nobody is sure of his first-team place at Liverpool. Rafa is merciless, and anyone who wants to play in matches has to earn the right in training. "It is different to Spain, where only an earthquake can change the pecking order at a club. "You soon learn the Liverpool way of doing things. If you train like an amateur you end up dropped to the bench for the next game."

Steve Michaels

TEAM NEWS

Chelsea

Midfielder and top scorer Frank Lampard looks set to return, having played in the 1-1 draw at Anfield but missed Saturday's 2-1 win over Manchester United following the death of his mother Pat from pneumonia.

Squad: Cech, Hilario, Belletti, Ferreira, Carvalho, Alex, Ben-Haim, Terry, A Cole, Bridge, J Cole, Ballack, Essien, Lampard, Wright-Phillips, Malouda, Kalou, Anelka, Drogba, Shevchenko, Mikel, Makelele.

Liverpool

Norwegian full-back John Arne Riise, who scored that injury-time own goal after coming on as a substitute in the first leg, could replace injured Fabio Aurelio, the Brazilian defender having been ruled out by a groin injury.Benitez could also recall Sami Hyypia to centre-back, switch Jamie Carragher to right-back and Alvaro Arbeloa to the left - or recall Steve Finnan to one of the full-back berths.Striker Fernando Torres is sure to start after being rested for Saturday's draw with Birmingham. Peter Crouch, who has scored when used recently, could partner Torres at the expense of Ryan Babel.

Squad: Reina, Carragher, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Skrtel, Riise, Finnan, Babel, Benayoun, Gerrard, Lucas, Alonso, Mascherano, Pennant, Crouch, Kuyt, Torres, Voronin, Itandje.

Connections

Kalou in fact is a former team-mate of Liverpool's Dutch striker, Dirk Kuyt. The two were together at Feyenoord in Rotterdam between 2004 and 2006 and struck up a productive partnership. Kuyt netted 51 League goals and Kalou 35 during their two seasons together.As for Liverpool's Israeli midfielder, Yossi Benayoun, he played for Chelsea boss Avram Grant when the pair were employed by Maccabi Haifa in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. They won two League titles together, and Benayoun later also played under Grant for the Israel national team.Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka spent the second half of the 2001-02 season on loan to Liverpool, scoring four goals in 20 League appearances for the Reds and professing disappointment when then manager Gerard Houllier chose not sign his compatriot on a permanent deal. Andriy Shevchenko may feature in a cameo role but he will be particularly keen to inflict defeat on Liverpool. The Chelsea striker's penalty for AC Milan in the shoot-out at the end of the 2005 Champions League final was saved by Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek, sealing the Reds' amazing comeback against the Rossoneri and allowing Steven Gerrard to hoist the trophy.

PREDICTION

If past clashes are a reliable guide, this will be tense, incredibly tight and unlikely to be laden with goals. The subtle changes this time around are that the second leg is at Chelsea not Anfield, and that Liverpool will have to go out to try and win the game. Both camps have been making the expected pre-match noises, but when the match kicks off it will be decided on the margins, by a flash of brilliance or momentary lapse. It is almost impossible to pick a winner, but Chelsea may just have a jot more momentum after Saturday, and have forgotten how to lose at the Bridge. They might just shade it and give Grant the satisfaction of going one better than Mourinho.

Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool

Graham Lister

Me On TNP Tipster Challange April 27/29 2008






Source - http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/sports/story/0,4136,163252-1209333540,00.html

IT is a day which Ng Ghim Pheng has been waiting for.

He had been wanting to take part in The New Paper Tipster Challenge since last year but since he was a year short of the minimum requirement of 18 years old, he had to bide his time.
A fortnight ago, a month after he turned 18, he wrote in to us.
How could we turn him down?
Anyway, Ghim Pheng is a student by day, and a Chelsea fan by night.
So passionate is he about his club, that he once composed, recorded and sent to us a video footage of himself doing a rap number, singing Jose Mourinho's praises.
As he follows world football closely, it is no wonder his friends often asks him for his predictions.
He said: 'Most of them think I am quite knowledgeable in football as I watch football almost everyday, certainly whenever there is a match involving English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A teams.'
But Gary Lim will not be shaken.
After beating his challenger last week, he has tasted blood and is eager to claim another victim.

THE READER - NG GHIM PHENG

CHELSEA v MAN U

1x2 - Chelsea , 1/2 Goal - Man U+1.5, Total goals - 3, HT/FT - Home - Home, Correct Score : 2 - 1

During the Champions League semi-finals, Chelsea played in England while Man U had to travel to Spain. The travelling for European games usually affects a club's domestic performance.
The schedule of both teams' recent matches suggests that Chelsea should be fresher and more prepared than United for what is potentially the title decider.
And let's not forget that Stamford Bridge has always been a fortress.

BIRMINGHAM v LIVERPOOL

1x2 - Draw, 1/2 Goal - Birmingham+1.5, Total goals - 2 HT/FT - Draw - Draw, Correct Score : 1 - 1

LIVERPOOL have an eight-point advantage over fifth-placed Everton, which means they are almost assured of a Champions League qualification slot next season.
With the second leg against Chelsea coming up at Stamford Bridge four days later, I expect Rafael Benitez to rest his key players against Birmingham to keep them fresh against Chelsea.
Birmingham are quite sound at home and desperate to avoid defeat.

WEST HAM v NEWCASTLE

1x2 - Newcastle 1/2 Goal - Newcastle+1.5, Total goals - 1, HT/FT - Draw - Away Correct Score : 0 - 1

NEWCASTLE have been playing well recently, with the Michael Owen-Mark Viduka-Obafemi Martins combination looking impressive. So, too, the defence.
I'm backing Newcastle despite their poor away form because I believe the Keegan Effect is finally in place.
West Ham have lost three out of their last four matches, and two of them came against strugglers Sunderland and Bolton.
Backing Newcastle is a logical choice.

TOTTENHAM v BOLTON

1x2 - Tottenham 1/2 Goal - Bolton+1.5,Total goals - 3, HT/FT - Home - Home Correct Score : 2 - 1

BOLTON'S back-to-back wins have shocked many but they won't continue such form against Spurs, who have too many attacking talents and higher energy level.
Bolton's players are fighting to stay in the Premiership while Spurs' players are fighting for their future at the club.
I thought Spurs were unlucky to get only a draw against Wigan last week. I believe Juande Ramos will correct the problems soon.

THE TIPSTER - GARY LIM

CHELSEA v MAN U

I AM tempted to go for a Manchester United win here. That would be a perfect way to clinch the title, wouldn't it?
Then, I looked at Chelsea's home record and began to have second thoughts.
On recent form alone, United would win this hands down. But football is never that straightforward. A draw seems a safe-enough bet. But I won't be surprised to even see United pick up a victory.

BIRMINGHAM v LIVERPOOL

LAST season, Liverpool disregarded the consequences of fielding weakened teams against relegation candidates towards the end of the season, when they had already secured Champions League qualification.
They ended up losing two and drawing one in their last three matches.
Rafael Benitez will rest his key players against Birmingham, especially with an important second leg against Chelsea coming up.
And Birmingham will not find an easier game against the Reds.

WEST HAM v NEWCASTLE

THE revival of Newcastle has seen them unbeaten in their last six matches, winning four of them to boot. West Ham, plagued by injuries throughout the season, will find it hard to raise their game tonight.
Alan Curbishley spoke of a tough game ahead of their clash with Derby last week, which gave us an indication of how dire the situation is at the club.
I mean, if they are not even confident of beating Derby, then what chance do they have of beating Newcastle?

TOTTENHAM v BOLTON

SPURS have been an enigma this season, winning when least expected and losing when it seemed impossible to.
There will be no shortage of punters looking at a Bolton upset, especially since the Trotters have won two consecutive games.
And Spurs themselves have not won in four matches. But that's just a sign for me to back Spurs.

Source - http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/sports/story/0,4136,163516,00.html

IT was billed as the title decider. And a decider it was.
When Michael Ballack slammed home the winner from the spot in the 86th minute, it didn't just net Chelsea the match on Saturday.
It also clinched Ng Ghim Pheng the Tipster Challenge.

Poor Gary Lim.
For 30 minutes, after Wayne Rooney had equalised for the Red Devils, he had his feet up on the coffee table, sipping Scotch which smelled like a thousand roses.
It immediately turned foul once the referee Alan Wiley put the whistle to his lips.
Not that Ghim Pheng cared.
The 2-1 result gave him a perfect 25 in the first match of the contest, and it was what won him the Challenge in the end.
Gary was left lamenting how easily it could have been in his favour instead.


THE READER - NG GHIM PHENG (36 pts) - WINNER

IT was a close shave for me as the Clash of the Titans (between Chelsea and Manchester United) could easily have ended up in a draw if not for the 86th-minute penalty awarded to Chelsea.
What could turn out to be the title decider also determined the outcome of the Tipster Challenge.
When Michael Ballack scored in first half, I was delighted. Not only were Chelsea on track to win the match, I also had a feeling that my prediction was coming true.
That would mean I have the upper hand early against Gary.
But when Wayne Rooney equalised, I got worried.
It wasn't just about Gary's prediction coming true. I also felt that Chelsea had to win it, and they eventually did.
Being a Chelsea fan, it was the perfect icing on the cake that Chelsea also helped me win the contest.
I'm looking forward to the Monthly Tipster Challenge.

THE TIPSTER - GARY LIM (8 pts)

I WISH I can think of a better excuse than some computer virus messing around with my predictions.
But really, I don't have any.
The problem is not with losing. It's the tally that irks me.
From breaking the record with a 67-pointer a week earlier, to registering the second-lowest score in the contest history - I feel like a deep-fried ice-cream.
Anyway, I blame Sir Alex Ferguson.
I blame him for choosing to rest Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Patrice Evra in such an important match in the Premiership calendar.
But surely, he knows better than all of us, doesn't he? I hope so.
Ah, but I also give credit to Ghim Pheng. He was so devoted to his Chelsea that he predicted a win for them.
And at least, I had him chewing on his toenails right until the late, late penalty.
Before that, I thought I had it. But I was dead wrong.

TNP On Chelsea Win Over Manchester United And Chelsea Good Sportsmanship

Source - http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/sports/story/0,4136,163441-1209506340,00.html

BIG MATCH

WAY TO GO, CHELSEA
By Ernest Luis
Monday Edition Of The New Paper

HERE'S a poser for admirers of attacking and exciting football

Manchester United? Distinction.
Arsenal? Distinction.
Liverpool? Merit.
Chelsea? Fail.

On the basis of the overall season so far, there wouldn't be much argument with those marks, would there?But let's rewind to Chelsea's last two big matches against Manchester United (on Saturday in the English Premiership) and Liverpool (in their first-leg Champions League semi-final last week).
Be honest with yourself, even if you're a Man United or a Liverpool fan.
Now ask yourself: Who was the more exciting football team in those matches?
Which team actually tried to play the football from the start?
Which team got you hooked with their determination, spirit...and even their smooth inter-passing from flank to flank for most periods?
The answer is Chelsea.

What happened to 'Boring Chelsea' in both games?
Let's credit the 'Boring Blues' when they deserve it.
I myself have, on occasion, found myself suddenly channel surfing while watching Chelsea in one of their English Premiership matches against lesser opposition.
Were they always like that under former manager Jose Mourinho, or did we stay hooked because we expected to see his histrionics?

REPUTATION
Whatever the reputation Chelsea had, built up over the course of the season, they seem to know how to shatter it against the big boys.
And the results are proof.
Late last month, Chelsea pushed Arsenal out of the way in the sprint to the Premiership's finish, when they dramatically came from behind to win 2-1.
It was a contrast from when they drew 0-0 with Liverpool in early February.
On Saturday - in the 2-1 win over Manchester United - the Red Devils were almost like...pussycats.

Sure, they lost Nemanja Vidic, which forced them to suddenly reshuffle, but did they really need to go back to their Champions League mindset against Barcelona?
Perhaps that semi-final had a tactical reason in mind, given its two-legged format.
But on Saturday, it seemed as if Man United - who had the points advantage - were almost afraid of losing.
Yes, they were playing away, but that hasn't exactly been their style this season. Even when they fielded reserves, they never lost that swashbuckling trademark.
If they appear cagey again, at home to Barcelona in midweek, they could well be kicked out of the Champions League.

But back in the Premiership, let's see if either Chelsea or Man United, can finish their season on an exciting and adventurous note.
Exciting Chelsea?
Frightened Man United?
Will it stay that way as they finish off their Premiership season with two games left?

Source - http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/sports/story/0,4136,163439-1209506340,00.html

THAT'S SPORTSMANSHIP
By David Lee
Monday Edition Of The New Paper

YOU'D be forgiven for expecting a highly combustible Battle at the Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United on Saturday.

Fittingly enough, throughout the game, the tables were turned back and forth, plenty of drama unfolding, and even blood was spilled on the turf.
And at the end of an enthralling 100 minutes (including added time) which ended 2-1 in the Blues' favour, United and Chelsea are now neck-and-neck at the summit of the Premier League.
But as billions of dollars worth of egos clashed on the pitch for bragging rights and a much-coveted domestic trophy, could there still be room to squeeze in the trivial topic of sportsmanship?

DROGBA ALERT

I never thought I would say this, but thanks to Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole, sportsmanship is still very much alive in the Beautiful Game.
It would be perverse to consider the eighth-minute Nemanja Vidic injury a match highlight and I still cringe as I review the incident as the Serb was left bloodied after his face bounced off Drogba's knee, Muay-Thai style.
It was a routine robust challenge by the Ivorian, but it most definitely wasn't a premeditated assault.
To add to the drama quotient, Drogba appeared to be appealing for a foul before he saw Vidic hitting the deck.
However, rather than bull-dozing on with the win-at-all-cost mentality he has often been associated with, Drogba realised the damage done to Vidic and immediately alerted the officials to attend to the fallen Serb.

Mind you, with a central defender out of the way, Drogba and company could very well have played on and taken the early lead.
But at that moment, the big Chelsea forward clearly wasn't thinking of how he could score the match-winner to help heap more pressure on league leaders United. The end result simply took a backseat, and for good reason.
When a fellow professional is bleeding profusely, nothing else matters except for the well-being of that player.
In fact, Drogba's act of concern after hurting Vidic belongs to the sort of gentlemanly behaviour coaches all around the world should drill into their charges.
Sportsmanship leads one-nil.

NOT SO COLE-BLOODED

With Chelsea dominating possession and looking more likely to make something happen, frustration began to show in the United players.
As Ashley Cole received a pass from John Obi Mikel, Luis Nani lunged in with a tackle that was late and awkward.
Cole jumped to protect himself, and went down convincingly enough for most referees to book the offender.
But as Nani pleaded his case with referee Alan Wiley, Cole surprisingly sprang up to his defence, waving his hands frantically to indicate his Portuguese opponent's innocence.
Surprising, and how often have we seen players clutching their face/chest/groin/shin/foot in order to get the tackler red-carded and thereby gaining an advantage unfairly?
But for all of our misgivings about Cole, he did the right thing by explaining the truth to Wiley and Nani escaped with a verbal warning.

SPORTSMANSHIP WINS
At the end of the day, it brings a smile to my face seeing that common sense and ethics do prevail in football.
Just like when former Hammer Paolo Di Canio picked up the ball when it was easier to score after Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was lying injured.
Or when Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler unsuccessfully tried to convince the referee that Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman had not fouled him in the box to give away a penalty.
Di Canio, Fowler, Drogba and Cole may have been or may continue to be some of the game's more colourful characters.

There may have been scuffles breaking out during and after Saturday's game. But those can be attributed to passions running high rather than malice or a propensity to cheat.
So Chelsea may or may not win the title come 11 May but I reckon they could have already won more fans through Drogba's and Cole's sporting behaviour.
The Blues may also be slammed for their dour playing style, but football will be a poorer game, and the title chase a lesser spectacle if not for their little acts of honesty and sportsmanship on Saturday.

Player Ratings: Manchester United 1-0 Barcelona

Manchester United progressed to what will be an all-English Champions League final after a 1-0 win against Barcelona at Old Trafford.

Manchester United

Van der Sar: 6 - Was quite shaky with his kicking again. Made one good save from Lionel Messi and kept the clean sheet his side needed.

Hargreaves: 8 - Gave the tireless Iniesta absolutely no joy, as his defensive discipline was essentially faultless.

Ferdinand: 9 - Made many strong and vital challenges, particularly in the first half and led a fantastic defensive line with authority.

Brown: 8.5 - Put in one of his performances of the season when it was most needed. Made good challenges - and crucially, no glaring errors - as he did well to silence the threat of Eto'o as well as Messi.

Evra: 8.5 - Another stellar showing from the full-back, who was often one of the most advanced players on the pitch in the first half, and still managed to be a key defensive player, again forcing Messi into the middle of the park as he did his utmost to match the phenomenon.

Park: 6.5 - Energetic as ever, but also of little use when in possession of the ball. He filled a space and did a job for his team, so full credit for his work ethic. (I read the opposition below, but I stand by my rating. He was picked as a winger, one must remember).

Carrick: 7.5 - Put in a solid performance in central midfield, passing fairly well and getting back well to help out the defence

.Scholes: 7.5 - A little slow to start, and almost gave away an early penalty, but scored a brilliant goal that settled the tie and played a tidy game in midfield thereafter.

Nani: 6.5 - Cannot be faulted for his work-rate, again. Wasn't quite as dynamic as he's been known to be but worked for the team and put himself about. Had a headed chance that could have killed the game.

Ronaldo: 7 - Did not put in the sparkling, Ballon d'Or-winning performance everyone was looking for, but up front he was never going to be in the game as much as he usually is. His movement on and off the ball made him an absolute handful for Barcelona, all he was missing was a key goal or assist to make the headlines. Played for his team nonetheless, and had a huge part to play in the only goal of the tie.

Tevez: 8 - Like Ronaldo, was not the most involved at the sharp end of the pitch, but worked extremely hard and closed Barca down in and around the centre-circle where they were looking to start off all their wonderful passing moves. He did most of the unsettling for United, and put in a far better performance than he did last week.

Substitutes

Ryan Giggs: n/a

.Darren Fletcher: 6 - Stuck his foot in in classic Fletcher fashion and gave Barcelona no breathing space at the death.

Silvestre: n/a.

BarcelonaValdes: 5 - Looked a little shaky coming for the aerial balls, but was as good as powerless to stop Scholes' top corner rocket.

Zambrotta: 3 - Hugely culpable for the goal, as he played a blind pass back into the danger-zone on the edge of the area. After hitting good form lately, he picked the worst possible game to undo all his recent good work. An absolutely horrendous first half that practically lost Barcelona the tie.

Puyol: 7 - Not a lot more could have been asked of the returning captain, who put his body on the line time after time to keep United at bay as they looked for the killer second goal.

Milito: 5 - Similarly gung-ho to his defensive partner, but with a little less accuracy. Committed too many fouls and did not have the best of games.

Abidal: 7.5 - Was solid in a defensive capacity and involved in some good link-up play going forward. Barcelona's best defender, and had Nani and Hargreaves on a short leash.

Xavi: 7 - Pulled the strings in midfield. Was quite strong in the challenge as well and won a few balls for his side. The one black mark against his name was the backwards passing. Sometimes his obsession with possession came at the cost of direct attempts at goal.

Toure Yaya: 8 - A real rock in midfield. Dominated anything in front of him and showed a deft touch when in possession as well. Too bad all that counted for nothing in the end. A fine individual effort nonetheless.

Deco: 5 - Quite woeful. Had a good chance to score in the first half but failed to take it, was sloppy in possession and did not provide a single moment of Deco magic to atone for it either.

Messi: 7.5 - Fought admirably and regularly had the beating of his man, but as a forward, his job is to score, and not even he could manage that tonight against a tight defensive line that doubled and tripled up on the wonderkid when necessary to keep him at bay. Would perhaps have deserved a 9 had Barcelona nicked a goal.

Eto'o: 4 - Did not receive as much service as he would have liked, but when he did, his touch was absolutely shocking. Every time Messi sent the ball to his feet, he made a mess of it. Another very disappointing game from the Cameroon international.

Iniesta: 6 - Was marked well by Owen Hargreaves and unable to hit top gear. Would have been better off in midfield, unlucky to be substituted when he could have occupied Deco's position, who did not have the best of games.

Substitutes

Henry: 5 - His one contribution to the game was putting a free header straight at van der Sar at the death.

Bojan: n/a.

Gudjohnsen: n/a

.Sulmaan Ahmad

Monday, April 28, 2008

Manchester United Vs Barcelona War Of Words



Fergie To Barca: Watch Out For Rooney
Sir Alex Ferguson has sent a warning to Barcelona ahead of their Champions League semi-final return leg at Old Trafford, revealing he is preparing to unleash Wayne Rooney on Tuesday night.


The England forward was given a defensive role in wide midfield during the 0-0 draw at Camp Nou in the first leg on Wednesday, with Rooney and Park Ji-Sung given the task of occupying the dangerous Barca full-backs.Ferguson was thrilled with the 23-year-old’s selfless performance, but insists it will be Rooney’s attacking flair that earns the plaudits this week.“Wayne sacrificed himself on Wednesday and he had no problem when I told him what I wanted from him,” the Scot said. “Wayne's a team player who sacrifices himself all the time. He has the ability and energy to do that for the team.“Although he didn't play to his normal standard he'll be playing a different position on Tuesday. You will see a different Wayne Rooney then - believe me.” StraightforwardWith the likelihood of back-to-back goalless draws between United and Barca being extremely remote given the two teams’ attacking philosophies, the Red Devils will almost certainly have to win outright to reach an all-English final with either Chelsea or Liverpool.But Ferguson believes there is an advantage in having to win to progress, insisting it simplifies the task by eliminating the safety blanket that an away goal would have provided.“It can be a difficult scoreline so we could have done with an away goal but we didn't do that so we have to win the game,” he said. “It's straightforward. “We've had some difficult games at home the last few years but we have done well and beaten teams like Milan, Roma and Inter Milan. “But if someone would have told me at the start of the season that to get into the Champions League final we'd have to win our semi-final at Old Trafford I'd have taken it, absolutely. There's no doubt about that.”DisappointingFerguson was widely criticised for the defensive attitude he employed in the first leg, where Cristiano Ronaldo was used as the lone forward while Rooney, Park and Carlos Tevez took up combative midfield roles.And while he admits his team will have to improve if they wish to defeat a Barca line-up filled to the brim with attacking flair, the Scot is adamant that United will lift in front their home crowd at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.“The atmosphere and the fact that we are at home will help us,” said Ferguson. “We know we were disappointing in Barcelona in terms of our contribution to the game - although we defended very well. “We were disappointed because normally one of our great strengths is keeping possession of the ball but we didn't do that which was a surprise. It's true that it was the kind of disciplined defensive performance that you don't normally associate with United but I think the players realised it was a massive game. “They realised too that Barcelona always get a lot of possession of the ball because the Nou Camp is a big pitch and they always have a spare man in midfield which makes it difficult for opposing teams. We have proved down the years that we put in consistent performances at Old Trafford in Europe more often that not. “And history has shown that when we need a big performance and result at Old Trafford then we get one. And I believe we will beat Barcelona. “The game won't get to penalties believe me. We will win it.”No DoubtThe United manager has also backed star winger Ronaldo after he missed a crucial third-minute penalty at Camp Nou, insisting he will not be removed from his spot-kick duties and is certain to bury the next penalty United receive in the back of the next.“Ronnie (Cristiano Ronaldo) will take the next penalty we get,” Ferguson added. “There's no doubt about that - and he'll score.”

Henry: Barcelona Can Repeat Monaco Success
Thierry Henry took to the Old Trafford pitch as a Monaco player a decade ago and helped the French side en route to an historic win over Manchester United. Now he's looking to do the same in a Barcelona shirt.

Henry's seen a lot of changes since that fateful night in a Monaco shirt ten years ago, but he believes that history can repeat as he prepares to visit Old Trafford with the blaugrana.He told the official Barcelona website, "I remember we played the first game at home and with the goalless draw the people said we were out. But we demonstrated that you can score a goal at Old Trafford and with a one all draw we went through. It was incredible for the club."Monaco is not one of the giants of Europe and to go to the semi-final was incredible and also scoring a goal. It can be done."Indeed, that night saw Monaco under great pressure - they, like Barça, had drawn 0-0 in the first leg - yet they prevailed."We didn’t suffer. We scored on the quarter hour mark and then nothing, Solskjaer drew and very little more," he said.Changed DaysHe acknowledged that it was a somewhat different United lineup."Different, yes, but it was Manchester United. That year they won the Premier. Now we can say that they have more players from outside England. But before they had Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Sheringham. In the end they also won a Champions League in the Camp Nou," he said."But is anything possible? Yes. On that occasion it was another game that we didn’t play well. A team that people said: What are Monaco doing here!"We have now shown that giving our all we play well, that we can do it. It won’t be easy because they haven’t lost any games there but there is always a first time and I hope that it is against Barça. "It will be a different encounter, tactically, to the first leg, said Henry."That’s true. We might have more space but they will also create more danger," he warned."Here they didn’t play their game, because we played well and we expect something different there."

Ferdinand: Concentration Key Against Barcelona
Manchester United skipper Rio Ferdinand told UEFA.com that only thorough concentration can guarantee success against Barcelona on Tuesday night.

Manchester United have a narrow advantage after managing a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou in the first leg, but the England international recognises that the job is not yet done.Barcelona enjoyed the bulk of the chances in the first leg, with Ferdinand claiming that they could take one in Manchester if the hosts are not careful.He remarked, "They're a very good attacking side so if we're not on our game for the whole 90 minutes and concentrating that whole time I'm sure they will find the gaps to score goals."That the Red Devils did not concede in the first leg was, in Ferdinand's estimation, testament to his side's abilities."I thought every one of our players, not just the back four and the keeper, defended resolutely," he continued."Barcelona are a fantastic football team and if you defend well and concentrate for 90 minutes you've always got a chance of keeping a clean sheet, but if you don't for one minute in a game they can score a goal."You expect them to keep the ball for long periods especially in the Camp Nou. People like [Lionel] Messi, [Samuel] Eto'o, Thierry Henry, [Andrés] Iniesta - these kind of players can be the difference in one split second."Difference MakerUnited have their own players capable of a moment of wizardry. Wayne Rooney is one of them, although he is now doubtful with a hip injury.However, for now he is confident of making the game. The Liverpudlian said, "We've got a great record at Old Trafford and we're confident of beating anyone there."We'll attack more and we'll try and win the game as we know we can."Patrice Evra chimed in, "It was hard but the defence played very well and kept another clean sheet."We need to do the same job at Old Trafford. It was not easy, but at Old Trafford I will attack more as well and Messi will need to defend."

Lateste Transfer News









Chelsea can have Kaka for £55m, claim AC Milan






Chelsea's hopes of landing Brazilian superstar Kaka received a boost last night as AC Milan admitted they are ready to sell the South American for £55million to balance their books.
Milan are determined to land Kaka's Brazilian compatriot Ronaldinho from Barcelona, despite haggling over the Catalan club's valuation. But new San Siro president Adriano Galliani put Chelsea on red alert last night as he publicly revealed for the first time that Milan will let Kaka go if the right offer comes in.
Galliani said: "To get the books back in order it would be enough to sell Kaka for £55m."
Milan look certain to miss out on a Champions League spot next season and are set for a massive summer overhaul, with Carlo Ancelotti likely to be replaced as coach by Frank Rijkaard or Roberto Donadoni.

Ronaldinho is set to arrive for around £22m, once a deal is struck with Barca.
And with Milan keen to land Didier Drogba, midfielder Kaka could now be in play for a player plus cash swap that would give Roman Abramovich the fantasy footballer he has craved.




United Chase Santa Cruz
Manchester United are rumoured to be interested in bolstering their strike force by making an offer for Blackburn Rovers’ Paraguayan striker, Roque Santa Cruz.




Santa Cruz, 26, joined Rovers from Bayern Munich in the summer for £4million and has proved to be an excellent buy, scoring 16 goals in his first Premier League season already.
However United manager Alex Ferguson has been looking for a striker for some time to add to his squad alongside Rooney, Tevez and Saha, who has spent large parts of the season out injured.
Although United had been rumoured to be in the hunt for both Tottenham’s Dimitar Berbatov and Ajax’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, both of whom would involve United spending big, it appears that Ferguson may have switched his sights to the former Bayern Munich man instead.
Indeed reports suggest that Ferguson is willing to offer Blackburn £10 million in order to get his man. Although this is likely to be about half what a Berbatov or a Huntelaar would cost, it might just be enough to snare Santa Cruz, especially when he cost Rovers only £4 million a little over a year ago.
Whilst Blackburn Rovers would be loathe to let their star striker go, the money offered by United would be difficult for them to turn down and they do have plenty of others options up front.
South African Benni McCarthy is thought to have recently signed a new contract at Ewood Park and Rovers also have goal scoring options in the form of Jason Roberts and Matt Derbyshire.




Berbatov Can Go For The Right Price - Ramos
Tottenham Hotspur boss Juande Ramos has suggested star striker Dimitar Berbatov could leave this summer if the asking price is met.




The 27-year-old has been linked with European heavyweights Real Madrid, Milan, and Manchester United, among others.Manager Ramos was asked about the player's future after his side's draw 1-1 with Bolton on Saturday afternoon, and revealed there was a chance he may leave this summer."We know the situation of Berbatov and we are calm about it," ensured the Spaniard."If a team comes along and pays the asking price the chairman wants then possibly yes, but we're delighted to have him here." Berbatov has scored 23 goals this season - arguably his finest yet - and his class has always made him a candidate for a move away from White Hart Lane, as the Lilywhites have failed to break into the Champions League.Having signed for £10.9 million from Bayer Leverkusen in 2006, it is rumoured that a sky-high £30 million is being demanded before the club would consider selling their star man, a price so high as to put off any interested parties.He was constantly linked with a move away from the club this past summer and regularly reported to be unhappy at the club, but it seems since the arrival of Juande Ramos, and particularly since the Carling Cup win, that the Bulgarian international is looking happier in north London, and therefore it would take a massive move to prise him away from Ramos as he continues his Spurs revolution.


Mourinho: Barca Or Real Madrid Would Be Perfect
Former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has hinted that he would like to take the reigns at either Barcelona or Real Madrid.


The ‘Special One’ has been a free agent since leaving Chelsea earlier this season and reports have constantly linked him with both Milan and Inter. However it seems as if Mourinho wants to return to the Blaugrana - the club where he learned his trade working alongside Sir Bobby Robson as a translator during the mid-nineties - or their arch-rivals and current La Liga leaders Real Madrid.
“Barcelona are a fantastic club and I enjoyed my time there,” Mourinho told ABC.
“I don’t know if my future will be to train Barcelona or to play against them.
“What I know for sure is that I would like to return to the Blaugrana.”
Mourinho also revealed his penchant for Barcelona’s bitter rivals, Real Madrid and the former Blues tactician revealed that he wouldn’t mind sending some time on the Santiago Bernabeu bench.
“Every coach would like to train Real Madrid, I am not the only one,” concluded Mourinho.
With Barcelona under par domestically and with Real Madrid stumbling in Europe the door at either club is likely to be open come the end of the season. There have been rumours suggesting that Rijkaard’s time in the Catalan city is up and if they fail in their Champions League bid then Mourinho could arrive sooner rather than later.

PFA Player And Young Player Award And Team Of The Season


























Season's selections
Skysports.com pick top players and highlights from the campaign


The 2007-08 season is drawing to a close and the skysports.com team have been making their selections from another thrilling campaign.
Over the coming weeks, our journalists will be picking from a range of categories. We'll also be giving you the chance to comment on our choices as well as selecting your own team of the season.
Our readers' choices will be revealed as part of a special Sky Sports end-of-season review entitled Premier League - Team of the Season to be broadcast at 6pm on 14th May on Sky Sports 1.
Ahead of the PFA Player of the Year ceremony, reporter Chris Burton reveals his selections.


Despite the continued abject failings of the national team, I have found room for no less than five English players in my team of the year.
The first of the quintet fills in between the sticks, with Portsmouth's irrepressible keeper David James enjoying a fine season down on the South Coast. The England international may not be to everyone's taste, but there can be no denying that he is a top class performer when he has his head screwed on.


It will then come as no surprise that the tightest defence in the top flight this season has two representatives in my back four. Manchester United have looked solid throughout the 2007/08 campaign and much of the credit for that must go to the ever-reliable Rio Ferdinand. The former Leeds and West Ham man has been a colossus at times, and both United and England look weaker when he is unavailable.


The other Red Devils star to be handed a role in the side is Patrice Evra. Having initially taken time to settle at Old Trafford, the French full-back appears to have found his feet in England and has become a classy operator in both halves of the field. While Evra provides an attacking threat down the left, Glen Johnson will fulfill a similar role on the opposite flank. The Portsmouth defender has rediscovered his confidence, and form, since moving to Fratton Park and his consistent displays have been rewarded with a recall to the international set-up.


The final member of the backline, and the fourth Englishman, is Everton's free-scoring centre-half Joleon Lescott. The former Wolves star has adjusted well to life in the Premier League since his step up in 2006 and has become an integral part of the Toffees starting XI, as well as a regular member of the national squad.


Moving into midfield, there was only ever one man who could fill the number 7 jersey. Cristiano Ronaldo has been a revelation, again, and could now rightfully claim to be the best player on the planet. Virtually unplayable at times, no team would be complete without the Manchester United winger. The Portuguese superstar would then be ably supported in tearing open opposition defences by Everton's Mikel Arteta. The Spanish playmaker has become the heartbeat of the Toffees' attacking unit and is often at the centre of much of the Blues' best work.
With bags of tricks on the wings, the centre contains the steel. Liverpool's inspirational captain Steven Gerrard appears to churn out outstanding performances year on year and has led by example once again, while Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas has fulfilled his considerable potential sooner than anyone could have imagined.


As if the goal threat provided from midfield is not enough, my two strikers have also found the target with unerring regularity this season. Fernando Torres has proven to be the deadly hit man the Anfield faithful have been crying out for, and the Spaniard will only get better while Emmanuel Adebayor has stepped out of Thierry Henry's considerable shadow at Arsenal to lead the young Gunners' forward line.


Player - Cristiano Ronaldo
Scoring over 30 goals in a season would be a remarkable achievement for any striker, but to do it from the wing is simply sensational. The Portuguese trickster is already destined to go down in Old Trafford folklore, but every football supporter in the country must be hoping that he continues to ignore the overtures of Real Madrid.


Rising star - Joe Hart
After seeing Kasper Schmeichel handed the No. 1 jersey by Sven Goran Eriksson at the start of the season, Hart must have thought that he was destined for a bit-part role this season. However, he quickly staked a claim for a starting berth of his own and has been a virtual ever present since. He is also the first choice for England's U21 side at present and is already being discussed as the long-term solution to this country's goalkeeping crisis.


Best buy - Fernando Torres
Much was made of the Spaniard's failure to score 20 league goals in a season for former club Atletico Madrid when he arrived on these shores, but the Liverpool striker has silenced those critics in spectacular fashion. Quick, good in the air and a lethal finisher, Torres has all the attributes to become a star on the world stage for years to come.


Biggest flop - Claudio Pizarro
Following in the footsteps of Mateja Kezman and Andriy Shevchenko, Pizarro is the latest high-profile striker to flop at Stamford Bridge. The Peruvian arrived with a good pedigree having enjoyed considerable success with Bayern Munich, but has looked woefully short of match fitness and could find himself on the move again this summer. I understand that he arrived at the Blues on a free transfer and that the club had nothing to lose by signing him but for an international forward, who earns a reported £2.5million a year, he has been a big disappointment.


Best match - Liverpool 4 Arsenal 2
The final installment of a highly anticipated trilogy between the two sides provided more entertainment in 90 minutes than the previous two games had combined. With a place in the last four of the UEFA Champions League up for the grabs, the match swung from end to end, with the result not made certain until the dying seconds. Emmanuel Adebayor had appeared to have booked the Gunners a semi-final date when he levelled the game up at 2-2 with only six minutes remaining, but just 60 seconds later Steven Gerrard rifled home a penalty to break Arsenal hearts, and Ryan Babel rubbed salt into their wounds with a fourth deep into stoppage time.


Season lowpoint - England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008
This summer's European Championships will not feel the same without England in attendance, but ultimately there can be no complaints. We were simply not good enough, and Steve McLaren's dismal tenure as national coach must now act as the wake up call the country needs to ensure that such failings are not allowed to happen again. On a more positive note, at least there will be no penalty shoot-out heartache to spoil our summer this year!


Best goal - Luke Young v Tottenham
A drab affair at the Riverside in November was brought screaming to life when the England international unleashed an absolute thunderbolt seven minutes into the second-half. After squandering numerous opportunities to clear their lines, Spurs were eventually made to pay when Boro midfielder Gary O'Neill laid the ball off for Young to bury an unstoppable 30-yard drive past a stranded Paul Robinson.


Ronaldo pride at recognition
United winger insists the best is yet to come


Cristiano Ronaldo admits that he is honoured to be named PFA Player of the Year for a second time.
The Manchester United winger has now been voted the best player in the country by his peers for the past two seasons, the first player to claim back-to-back titles since Thierry Henry managed the feat back in 2003 and 2004.
The Portuguese superstar has enjoyed a fantastic season in front of goal, netting 38 times, and could yet fire the Red Devils to a domestic and European double.
He scooped the prize ahead of Liverpool's Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas and Portsmouth's David James.
Fantastic
He revealed that he feels privileged to have seen his talents recognised once again, and hopes that he will get the opportunity to claim the award again in the future.
"It's obviously a very important award for me," he told Sky Sports.
"I have played in England for five years and I have won two times, so it's a fantastic moment for me.
"I feel very proud to win this ward again and I want to carry on and win more."
Improve
Worryingly for the opposition defences which he has terrorised on a regular basis this season, Ronaldo insists that he is still learning and feels that he is yet to reach his full potential.
"I try and improve every year," he said.
"Not just this year and last season, every year I think I learn something and I want to keep going like that, I want to learn more.
"I think I am at the right club, with the right people, with the right players to learn more and improve myself, and I want to carry on."


Cesc dedicates award to fans
Gunners star proud to be named best youngster


Cecs Fabregas feels that his PFA Young Player of the Year award is recognition of a team effort.
The Arsenal midfielder was honoured as the best youngster in the country by his peers at the awards ceremony in London on Sunday night, but insists that his fine season has been down to being surrounded by talented team-mates.
The Spanish international scooped the award ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Micah Ricards, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fernando Torres.
He admits that he is flattered to have been handed such a prestigious title, and hopes that his personal success will help to east the pain of a trophyless season for the Gunners.
Satisfying
"I am very proud because it is always satisfying for yourself, but all the team worked really hard this season and it's been disappointing at the end," he Fabregas told Sky Sports.
"But at least someone can get something.
"But this is for all the team, and all the fans, because all together we have had good season even though we haven't won anything at the end.
"This is thanks to them as well."


Source - SkySports, Author - Chris Burton

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chelsea Latest News And Mourinho On Ronaldo




Chelsea manager Avram Grant seemed quietly confident and extremely proud following his side's 2-1 win over Manchester United.





The win has reignited the league title race, with Michael Ballack's opening goal being proceeded by a heartfelt celebration, where the players unveiled a Pat Lampard shirt - in memory of Chelsea star Frank's late mother - and hoisted it in the air.Indeed the Blues were much the better side playing a somewhat under-strength Manchester United, missing both Ronaldo and Tevez, who were on the bench.After a somewhat improved performance at the start of the second half, Ricardo Carvalho put an equaliser on a plate for Wayne Rooney, as the home fans sat stunned.However, there was one final twist yet, as a Michael Carrick handball allowed Michael Ballack to win the game from the spot with his second of the game.Grant of course has been under-fire despite his consistent output as Chelsea boss, that sees them now have momentum in both the league and the Champions League.The Israeli started by sending out his best wishes to Frank Lampard and his family, before going on to air his thoughts on the game itself. He was full of praise for the team's mental and technical qualities, and is confident as we approach the end of the season."We won the game here against Man United, I think that we put them under pressure," he began, speaking to Sky Sports 1."We needed to win the game - but it was a mistake of one out best players [Carvalho] - but at the end of the day, we won."I'm very proud of what we're doing, this year especially. The first time we did it against Arsenal and again today.






"This game has a lot of courage; this team has a lot of character."Also, we played good football today. [Manchester United goalkeeper, Edwin] van der Sar was good today, he saved two goals."What can we say? We did what we have to do, and I hope we are happy at the end of the season."When asked if he believes Manchester United will crack - and thus allow his side a way back into the title race - he put it down to faith, insisting he believes it will happen."I need to believe it," he laughed. "If I'm in football, I need to believe it."However, he does not believe today's game will affect their fortunes midweek as they host Liverpool in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final, holding the advantage after a 1-1 draw at Anfield last Tuesday."No, it's something else," he replied. "It was a big game for us last Tuesday, it was a big game today, and of course it will be a big game on Wednesday. "We have more confidence now. I think we've showed that even when we're in bad times we also show character."




Milan Won’t Pay For Sheva
Andriy Shevchenko will only return to AC Milan if no fee is involved in the transfer, according to the Ukrainian’s agent.




Shevchenko had a glorious seven years at Milan from 1999 to 2006, scoring 127 goals in just 208 games, before leaving to join Chelsea following the last World Cup in Germany. His time at Stamford Bridge has been nothing short of disastrous, and he is desperate to return to San Siro this summer. Milan are also keen to arrange a deal to sign Shevchenko, however, according to the striker’s agent, they are not prepared to pay a fee for him. "[Milan vice-president] Adriano Galliani has always been very clear when stating that the deal can only be done if Chelsea allow Milan to have the player as a free loan,” said Fabio Parisi. "If Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will give his okay then I think the deal could be done." Shevchenko has made just 11 Premiership appearances all season, scoring four goals, and it is almost certain that he will be shown the door at Chelsea at the end of the campaign.



Mourinho: Ronaldo Need Medals Before Awards
Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes that Cristiano Ronaldo deserves to be England’s player of the year but that Manchester United must achieve success to vindicate that claim.


Mourinho was speaking to BBC Radio Five Live and clearly feels that Ronaldo’s team needs a trophy before he can regarded as the best player in the country or in Europe.
The Portuguese winger has been in scintillating form this season, scoring 38 goals, and his compatriot thinks that he has hitherto been the best player in the country by a considerable distance.
However, Mourinho, as a manager who always stressed the power of the collective over the individual, feels that in order for Ronaldo to be legitimately the best player, his team must be the best team.
Mourinho has been increasingly vocal of late, commenting on a broad range of topics across the world of football and his opinion on Ronaldo seems to be another such soundbite.
He said: "I think the player of the year must be the best of the year but also a winner of the year. I don't think it can be a player without a big trophy."Clearly, what Ronaldo did this year has been magnificent and by some distance he has been the best player in the Premier League."For me the best is always a winner because football is a collective sport."So, if Manchester United does something important by winning the Premier League or Champions League I, and not just me but the whole football world, would give him the Golden Boot."

United In Bust-Up With Chelsea Ground Staff



















Several of Manchester United's substitutes became embroiled in a tussle with Chelsea ground staff while warming down after their 2-1 defeat to the Blues
The match was settled by Michael Ballack, who headed his side into the lead, then after a Ricardo Carvalho blunder allowed Wayne Rooney to equalise, it was Ballack who scored decisively with less than five minutes of normal time remaining, scoring a penalty after Michael Carrick was penalised for handball.The result blows the title race wide open, and evidently emotions were running high even after the final whistle, as club captain Gary Neville, Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes, Gerard Pique and John O'Shea were involved in a post-match scuffle with the Chelsea ground staff.It is alleged that the argument started when the players, in the process of a warm-down, were asked to move by the ground staff but refused. What was said from there on is not quite clear, but things quickly turned into a wrestling match, and the groups required separating by stewards.After being separated, the peace did not last long. The spat resurfaced soon after, though there was no more physical altercation.
What consequence this will have for the ground staff and the Red Devils remains to be seen, as it is not quite clear who provoked whom and who will be held accountable for the incident.
Rio Issues Apology To Stewardess
Manchester United has apologised to a steward he kicked by accident and has planned to send her flowers.
The defender kicked out toward the end of Manchester United's 2-1 defeat at title rivals Chelsea, a game settled by a late penalty converted by Michael Ballack.
Ferdinand explained that he was kicking the wall out of frustration, and when he realised he had made contact with the steward he apologised and plans to send flowers to her as a token of his appreciation upon her accepting the apology.
A statement from Ferdinand released through the club read: "I kicked the wall in frustration at the result as I have done in the past.
"Unfortunately a lady was stood by and I accidentally brushed her with my foot. I went back to make sure she was okay and apologised profusely.
"Credit to her she laughed it off and was very understanding. She said she wasn't hurt.
"I have arranged for a bouquet of flowers to be sent to her."

Chelsea Vs Man U - Players Ratings

Sir Alex Ferguson surprised many with his team selection. There were six changes from the team which drew with Barcelona in midweek.
Most notably there was no place for either Cristiano Ronaldo or Carlos Tevez.
Wayne Rooney was flanked in attack by Ryan Giggs and Nani.
Nemanja Vidic has recovered from illness and starts.
Avram Grant made three changes from the team which faced Liverpool in the Champions League.
As expected, Frank Lampard was absent due to the recent death of his mother, with the midfielder's place taken by Michael Essien.
John Obi Mikel replaced Claude Makelele, while Salomon Kalou was preferred in attack to Florent Malouda.


Petr Cech - 7 , Edwin van der Sar -7
Paulo Ferreira (Off 66) - 6, Wes Brown - 7
Ricardo Carvalho - 6, Rio Ferdinand - 7.5
John Terry -7, Nemanja Vidic (Off 14) -6
Ashley Cole -7, Mikael Silvestre -6
Michael Essien - 8.5*,Anderson (Off 65) - 7
John Obi Mikel - 7,Michael Carrick - 6
Michael Ballack - 7.5, Darren Fletcher - 5
Joe Cole (Off 87) -7.5,Nani -6.5
Salomon Kalou (Off 81) - 6, Ryan Giggs - 5
Didier Drogba - 7.5, Wayne Rooney (Off 63) - 6.5

Substitutes

John O'Shea (On 65) -6,Claude Makelele (On 87) - 6

Owen Hargreaves (On 14) - 6.5, Andriy Shevchenko (On 81)6.5

Cristiano Ronaldo (On 63) - 7,Nicolas Anelka (On 66) -6.5


Not Used
Henrique Hilario
Tomasz Kuszczak
Juliano Belletti
Carlos Tevez

Terry: We Can Match Anybody On Our Day


Chelsea captain John Terry was in defiant mood following his side's 2-1 victory over Manchester United.


The win sees them go level with the Red Devils at the top of the table, behind only on goal difference. There are two games left to go, with recent form and momentum certainly favouring the Blues at this point."We needed to win. I said in my programme notes that a win was an absolute must today," declared Terry after the game."We've got the win, with two great goals from Bally [Michael Ballack]."The skipper rued the manner in which his side almost conceded the three points, when his defensive partner and arguably Chelsea's player of the season Ricardo Carvalho gifted the ball to Wayne Rooney to net an equaliser late on."We got a free-kick from Didier [Drogba] on the edge of the half-way line. We should have killed the game and put it long as we did most of the game to Didier," said a rueful Terry.


"We rushed the free-kick, which shouldn't be done. We should have killed it off then."He then sent out a statement of intent on behalf of his side, insisting that despite technically still relying on another slip from Manchester United, his side would regain the Premier League crown for the third time in four years."I think you've seen today, clearly, it's in all our minds, we want to win the Premiership and take it away from Man United," he said."We've got the advantage today - we've beaten them at home - we've not lost at home in a long time."We've shown people today. All season long we've had to put up with 'Chelsea can't play as well as Man United or Arsenal', I think we showed people today we can match anybody on our day."

Ballack Plays Down Drogba Row


Ballack Plays Down Drogba Row
Chelsea's two-goal hero and Man of the Match Michael Ballack was in a buoyant mood after his side's 2-1 victory against Manchester United.


It was a huge game for the Blues, and sees them draw level with Sir Alex Ferguson's side and behind only on goal difference.Ballack gave them the lead just before half time, heading home to cap a first half dominated by the Blues.In the second period, the Red Devils looked stronger and determined to get something from the game and effectively end the title race.However, they remained somewhat toothless, and Chelsea's backline was as defiant as ever. Then, in what looked to be a 'name on the trophy' moment, the usually faultless Ricardo Carvalho played a suicide pass straight to Wayne Rooney, who netted an equaliser.That looked to be game, set and match for United, particularly as Chelsea were showing signs of internal unrest, with Ballack and Drogba arguing over who should take a free-kick, the on-field histrionics drawing far more attention to non-footballing matters than manager Avram Grant would have liked.It was soon after when the game was turned on its head. An almost innocuous cross was handballed by a somewhat sloppy Michael Carrick, and the resulting penalty was hammered home by Ballack to seal the three points.


The German international spoke to Sky Sports 1 after the game, and dedicated the win to team-mate Frank Lampard's late mother Pat. The England star missed today's game as he is grieving, and Ballack had great sympathy for his fellow midfielder."The victory is for Frank [Lampard] and his family, we don't forget," said a solemn Ballack. "It's a difficult time for everybody - especially for his family - it's for him today."Our sympathy is with him and the family."Regarding the on-field fracas with Drogba, Ballack was light-hearted and keen to play it down.He answered, somewhat jokingly: "It was a good position, I thought: 'I can take it', but Didier's a strong man!""It was a fantastic free-kick, but I could score after, so it's okay."After the game it's fine. During the game, everyone wants to win. It was a great victory, everybody played very strong today, so that's not important."On the pressures of taking such an important penalty, he said: "For me it's no problem, I can handle the pressure. It's always a good position if you're under pressure like this, and we have a lot of players that can take this situation."

Full Match Report - Chelsea 2 - 1 Manchester United





Chelsea FC 2 - 1 Manchester United


Man of the Match: Michael Ballack 8/10 - Two goals from four shots, 81 per cent pass success
Two goals from Michael Ballack kept alive Chelsea's title hopes as they overcame Manchester United in an enthralling clash at Stamford Bridge


Chelsea's dreams appeared over after a monumental mistake by Ricardo Carvalho gifted United a 55th-minute equaliser to Wayne Rooney.
Ballack had given Chelsea a 45th-minute lead and he sealed the vital win in controversial circumstances by slotting home a penalty five minutes from time to put the hosts level on points with United at the top of the table


Chelsea left Frank Lampard out of their line-up following the death of his mother on Thursday. Manager Avram Grant also omitted veteran Claude Makelele and Florent Malouda, while Mikel John Obi, Michael Essien and Salomon Kalou were recalled.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson chose to leave Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench, although defender Nemanja Vidic was fit enough to resume his partnership with Rio Ferdinand in defence.
Chelsea enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and Essien brought a diving save from Edwin Van der Sar.
United were then rocked in the ninth minute when Vidic was stretchered off with a facial injury. The Serbian defender was caught by Didier Drogba's knee as he stooped to head the ball clear and was subsequently replaced by Owen Hargreaves.


It meant a reshuffle for United with Hargreaves slotting in at right-back and Wes Brown switching to the centre of defence alongside Ferdinand.
United should have done better when Nani broke clear from his own half, but his long run ended with a speculative 25-yard shot that was high and wide.
The tempo, as expected, was fast and furious but goalscoring opportunities were at a premium. Chelsea, however, should have taken the lead in the 20th minute when Joe Cole got clear of the United defence and, after initially losing the ball, he struck it against the crossbar from just inside the penalty area.
Chelsea were leaving plenty of gaps in defence but United, with Rooney operating as a loan striker, were unable to exploit them. In the 23rd minute a neat combination between Drogba and Essien ended with the Ghanaian's cross eluding everyone in the six-yard box.


The goal sparked emotional scenes as all the Chelsea players held up Lampard's No 8 shirt with the message 'Pat Lampard - R.I.P' in a tribute to the midfielder's mother.
United were still struggling to create anything in front of goal despite a better share of possession at the start of the second half.
Brown found himself booked for a foul on Essien in the 52nd minute as, rather ominously for Chelsea, Ronaldo warmed-up on the touchline. But United got themselves back into the game thanks to a monumental error by Carvalho.
The Portuguese defender passed the ball straight to Rooney, who accepted the gift by firing beyond Cech into the net. In shooting, though, Rooney appeared to hurt his hip and Ferguson swiftly replaced him with Ronaldo.


Seconds later, Anderson was substituted for John O'Shea and Chelsea, knowing they had to get themselves back in front, added Nicolas Anelka to the fray in place of Paulo Ferreira.
Chelsea almost regained the lead in the 72nd minute when a free-kick by Drogba was well saved by Van der Sar under the crossbar.
A similar attempt by Ronaldo at the opposite end was well held by Cech as Ferguson appealed for United's fans to increase their celebrations.
Controversy then reigned when Wiley awarded a penalty after the assistant on the near side flagged for a handball when Michael Carrick charged down Essien's cross.


After the protests had been calmed down Ballack kept his nerve to convert the penalty and keep the title race open.
United twice had late efforts cleared off the line by Ashley Cole and substitute Andriy Shevchenko in the final few minutes, and tempers flared enough for Wiley to hand out bookings to Hargreaves and Ferdinand, as the match ended in Chelsea's favour.
At the end of the match, Chelsea's groundstaff were involved in a post-match bust-up with United players during a warm-down session.
United's Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes, John O'Shea, Gerard Pique and Gary Neville were taking part in the warm-down on the pitch when they were asked to move by Chelsea groundstaff.

The row erupted when the players refused to come off the pitch and an altercation broke out between Chelsea stewards, groundstaff and the players.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tribute To Pat Lampard

From - http://www.chelseafc.com

Thu, 24th Apr 2008

Everybody at Chelsea Football Club is absolutely devastated to hear the tragic news of the passing away of Pat Lampard, Frank's mother.
Our sincerest and deepest condolences go out to Frank, his father Frank Snr, sisters Natalie and Claire and to their immediate family and friends.
Pat was a very familiar face to many people at Chelsea FC. Her unswerving support for her son's career was evident at virtually every game that Frank participated in regardless of where it was being played, she would always be there to watch him with Frank's dad. Pat will be deeply missed by everyone at Chelsea.

The club will be offering all the support it can to Frank and his family at this time.

From - http://www.liverpoolfc.tv


Liverpool Football Club sends its condolences to Frank Lampard after the death of his mother Pat.

The Chelsea star missed Premier League games against Wigan and Everton to be at his mother's bedside. But, when her condition improved, he returned for Tuesday night's Champions League semi-final first leg 1-1 draw at Anfield. He returned to be at her bedside after the match but her health suddenly worsened and she passed away after a battle with pneumonia.

Player Ratings: Barcelona 0-0 Manchester United

It was not what we expected, to say the least.Barcelona more or less dominated the entire game, but lacked sharpness and could not carve out the killer pass to produce a goal.United had a penalty in the opening moments, but were otherwise on the back foot for much of the game and could not string any good play together, with a very curious formation and team selection clearly responsible for their unconvincing display.



Barcelona



Valdés - 6: Untested and looked relatively calm.



Zambrotta - 6: A little nervy at times, and conceded a few fouls. Grew in confidence in the second period.



Márquez - 5: A strong presence in defence, lucky to get away with a foul on Ronaldo in the area. Largely untested.



Milito - 5: A shakier presence in defence, but a touch unfortunate to concede the early penalty. Thankfully for him, it was put wide by Ronaldo. Like his defensive partner, did much of nothing for most of the game.



Abidal - 6: Looked fairly strong up and down his flank, very athletic and a good outlet.



Xavi - 7: Rarely gave the ball away, kept things ticking in midfield, but didn't bring his expansive game to the table and could not produce a decisive final ball.



Yaya Touré - 8: Dominant. Won the ball consistently in midfield and distributed well. Also made some good forward runs.



Deco - 7: Surprisingly energetic. Bossed Paul Scholes with great workrate we have not seen from the Portuguese in a long time. His passing was not quite as incisive as Barça would have hoped, though.



Messi - 7.5: The outstanding player in the first half. Every time he got on the ball he looked to charge straight through United's defenses and, more often than not, he did a good job of it. Lit up an already exciting encounter and all he lacked was end product.



Eto'o - 5: Was well marked by Rio Ferdinand for most of the game, wasn't sharp enough with the few chances that came his way.



Iniesta - 6: Full of energy. Uninvolved in the first half, but in the second he showed off his touch and dribbling from time to time. Lacking an end product.



Substitutes



Bojan - 5: Did not get in the game as much as he would have liked. Unable to put any mazy runs together.



Henry - 6: Lashed a shot at Van der Sar soon after coming on but was otherwise uninvolved.



Manchester United



Van der Sar - 6: Quite nervy in the first half despite being largely untested; some stray kicks put his defence under undue pressure. In the second half he made a few good stops and will be happy with the clean sheet.



Hargreaves - 6: Looked competent in an unfavoured position at right-back. Is good defensively and a hard worker, but was missed in midfield.



Ferdinand - 8: Strong in defence and never looked like being beaten. Matched Samuel Eto'o very well and almost kept United in the game single-handledly times.



Brown - 5: Started a little slow, but grew in confidence and was solid on the cover for most of the first half. Lucky not to concede a penalty at the beginning of the second half.



Evra - 7: A bundle of energy and was a little erratic to start with, but kept the ball better from then on. A good outlet on the left and strong defensively when left one-on-one with whoever was put infront of him.



Rooney - 5: Curiously played in right wing and as good as anonymous for most of the game. Shadowed well by Abidal and just not able to get in the game at all. Quite unlucky to be substituted before being given more time up front.



Carrick - 6: Bypassed quite frequently, but fairly strong in the challenge on occasion. Made a great saving tackle at the beginning of the second half and had a better end to the game.



Scholes - 4: A somewhat humiliating outing for the veteran. Deco has not played in several weeks, having been out with an injury, and in recent times, has not been known as the most industrious player. With that considered, the Portuguese bossed Scholes from minute one, as the United playmaker was continually beaten off the ball and had little to no impact on proceedings.



Park - 4: Energetic but ultimately of little use going forward. Could perhaps have been deployed in a defensive capacity to make up for Scholes' deficiencies in midfield, but he wasn't. Fairly useless.



Tévez - 5: Made some sloppy challenges when dropping deep and again, was not able to impose himself in an offensive capacity due to a strange choice of formation. Ineffective.



Ronaldo - 5: Won a free-kick, won a corner, won a penalty and missed the penalty - all within the first two minutes! Cristiano Ronaldo in a nutshell. Looked lively and his movement kept Barcelona busy, but ultimately, he missed the only clear-cut opportunity of the whole game, for either side. Could have had another penalty later in the first half, but the referee probably felt he was evening things out by denying the Devils.



Substitutes



Nani - n/a.



Giggs - n/a.



Sulmaan Ahmad

Chelsea Offer Inter Drogba For Balotelli

Chelsea are prepared to sell Didier Drogba to Inter, providing that teenage sensation Mario Balotelli is included in part exchange.


Chelsea striker Drogba has been strongly linked with a transfer away from Stamford Bridge for several months now, and he is widely expected to move on to pastures new in the summer. Inter are believed to be extremely interested in signing the Ivorian, particularly if his former boss at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho, takes over the reigns at San Siro from Roberto Mancini. According to Tuttosport Chelsea are prepared to sell the 30-year-old to the Nerazzuri, but only if wonderkid Mario Balotelli is included in an exchange deal.

Balotelli is widely regarded as one of Italy’s most promising young talents, and the 17-year-old has burst onto the scene this season, recently scoring in consecutive games in Serie A against Atalanta and Fiorentina. Two Chelsea scouts travelled to Italy several weeks ago to watch him in action for Inter’s youth team, and were left very impressed. Inter are unlikely to consider releasing Balotelli, however this viewpoint could change if he refuses a new contract offer until 2013. Balotelli’s life story is a very interesting one. He was born in Palermo to Ghanaian immigrants, but at the age of just three a court ruling entrusted him to the Balotelli family who lived in Brescia. Luca Capofranco

UEFA Champions League Preview : Barcelona VS Manchester United

TEAM NEWS

Barcelona

Striker Thierry Henry was unable to take part in training on Monday morning because of a fever. He had been an unused substitute in Saturday's goalless Liga draw against Espanyol. Ronaldinho, Lilian Thuram, Jose Edmilson and deputy goalkeeper Albert Jorquera also missed training.Mexican defender Rafael Marquez has been suffering from bruising and inflammation in his right foot but is expected to be able partner Gabriel Milito in the heart of the Barca defence.Skipper Carles Puyol must sit out the first leg through suspension, having collected his third yellow card in this season's competition in the second leg with Schalke. Rafael Márquez, Gabriel Milito, Yaya Touré and Messi are all within a booking of a suspension.

Squad: Valdés, Jorquera, Milito, Márquez, Zambrotta, Edmílson, Sylvinho, Thuram, Abidal, Oleguer, Xavi, Iniesta, Deco, Yaya Touré, Gudjohnsen, Eto'o, Henry, Giovani, Messi, Bojan.

Manchester United

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is fit after a groin strain and is in line to play, while Wayne Rooney seems to have overcome the hip injury he sustained against Blackburn on Saturday. Owen Hargreaves and Anderson have both recovered from minor injuries, and Gary Neville and Darren Fletcher have also been named in the squad.Ferguson was in positive mood when he said of Rooney: "Sometimes you get these knocks right on the bone but I'm sure Wayne will be OK for Wednesday. Edwin van der Sar, Owen Hargreaves and Anderson should also be fit."

Squad: Van der Sar, Neville, Evra, Hargreaves, Ferdinand, Brown, Ronaldo, Anderson, Rooney, Giggs, Park, Vidic, Carrick, Nani, Scholes, Pique, O'Shea, Fletcher, Silvestre, Kuszczak, Tevez, Heaton, Welbeck.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Barcelona

Thierry Henry spent eight years with United's Premier League rivals Arsenal, and scored nine goals in 18 appearances against the Red Devils. The last of those was a 90th-minute winner when the Gunners came from behind to beat United 2-1 at the Emirates in London in January 2007. Henry was also in the AS Monaco team that beat United on away goals in the Champions League quarter-finals in 1997-98.Henry said of Wednesday's opponents: "At the moment, they're flying, but you never know in football. Hopefully, they will have a bad day when we play them. You know how it is in the Champions League - one bad day and you're gone.''Should Henry's recent illness restrict his involvement, there is always Samuel Eto'o - who scored both Barca's goals in the 2-2 draw against Recreativo on 12th April, his 13th and 14th League goals on only his 14th appearance this season.

Manchester United

Between them Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tévez and Wayne Rooney have scored 73 of United's 101 goals in all competitions this season, and 52 of their 73 in the Premier League. Ronaldo's goal against Roma in the quarter-final first leg was his seventh in the Champions League this season, making him the competition's top scorer. Before the Blackburn game, Ronaldo had scored in his last seven United games in all competitions. And he is also the Premier League's leading scorer this season with 28 goals. His goal against Arsenal on 13th April was his 38th of the season in all competitions and keeps him in contention to break Denis Law's club record of 46goals (1963-64). Ronaldo has also been nominated for the PFA Players' Player of the Year award, along with Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, David James, Cesc Fabregas and Adebayor. And for good measure, the United winger has also been short-listed for the Young Player of the Year award - having collected both accolades last season.

PREDICTION

Barcelona really need victory - and a clean sheet - to take to Old Trafford. But although United have never won at Barcelona, and have the pressure of being the favorites to reach the final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, they are widely expected to have the quality to get past Barca at the moment. However, Barcelona boast attacking riches that can upset he best defence if they click, and although Ronaldinho is injured, Messi, Henry and Eto'o represent a pretty formidable trio.For United there is everything to play for, and they also have experience running through h team now, which has given them the capacity to grind out results when things are not quite going for them. And while Barca also have outstanding talent in their ranks, they are not impregnable defensively. United might just have the pace and panache to damage them at Camp Nou with a couple of away goals.

Barcelona 2-2 Manchester United

Graham Lister