Friday, May 23, 2008

Chelsea v Manchester Utd Champions League Final in Moscow

Close but no cigar for Roman.

The dream scenario - to see his club win the Champions League in his home country.

Perfect. But it was not to be.

The Build Up.........

A dramatic final watched by 70,000 in the stadium, including around 40,000 travelling from the UK , certainly upheld the reputation of the Premier League for excitement.

Due to the numbers travelling it was no wonder the Russian authorities decided to relax the rules and allow match ticket holders into Russia without visas.

Even so this visitor endured a wait of over one and a half hours in passport control at Sheremetevo airport.

Based on a general wander around central Moscow and from acnecdotal evidence it was clear that there were more fans of Man Utd in the city and this was borne out by their larger presence inside the stadium. They generally outshouted the flag waving London based supporters.

By the time the game started , after a short but effective opening presentation , it was the latest kick off (10.45pm) that this correspondent had ever witnessed and somehow it was sure to happen that it would go on and on - finally ending at around 1.30 am.
But Moscow was not too cold although the heavy rain made it a very damp walk back to the metro after the game.

The rainstorms also disrupted flights the following day - in my case by some 5 hours.

The Game...

Manchester Utd led by superstar Ronaldo (at times memerising in possession) generally controlled the first half. He caused numerous problems for Michael Essien playing, out of position, at right back.

To cap his performance the man from Madeira headed home a Scholes cross to give the league champions the advantage.

But the equaliser by Frank Lampard near the end of the half , though fortunate, set up an intriguing battle from then on.

Chelsea bouyed by their equaliser put United under pressure in the 2nd half, hitting the bar (Lampard) and post (Drogba)

So we moved towards extra time , penalties and the dénouement.

Prior to that Didier Drogba raised a hand to Vidic after some difference of opinion and his slap though relatively innocuous gave the referee no choice but to send him off and hence he would not take part in the penalty shoot out. This action may well have had an impact (no pun intended) on the result as he presumably would have been one of the first five penalty takers.

Misster chelsea - hero & zero........

Inevitably for Mr Chelsea such an ending by definition magnifies and focussing so much attention on one person - you step up , as the captain and blast the ball into the net .....perfect for Roman Abramovich - to fulfil his dream and win the Champions League in his home country.

But John Terry, for it is he, slipped whilst shooting and the ball glanced off the post.

So a reprieval for Ronaldo , who had missed first , going from hero to zero and back again.

Somehow Nicolas Anelka missing at the end couldn't divert the focus from John Terry - it was his nightmare moment - no wonder he shed a tear or two.

for more pics see

Ukraine & Germany May 2008

Its a long way to go without seeing a game. An elapsed time of eleven hours from Kiev including a total of nine hours on two trains. Although Donetsk was not so bad especially in the very pleasant weather.
Because of fixture changes and misleading information my timing meant I missed the final league games - made doubly worse as Shakhtar clinched the championship against local rivals Metalurg.

Somehow watching Obolon Kiev in the second league didn't make up for it (though the Champions League Final did)

Obolon Kiev v Volyn Lutsk

Get the metro - find your way through the Soviet era , down at heel, tower blocks and there is a stadium hosting a team that seems likely to gain promotion to the Ukraine top level.

Seemingly free entry allowed around 1300 to see the home team run out 3-0 winners helped by Volyn having two men sent off.

From Ukraine to Russia (see separate blog for the Champions League Final) then on to Germany for two lower level games.

Cloppenburg v Oberneuland in the Oberliga North.

A small town - a small but interesting ground.

Remnants of old terracing and a stand remain from when it hosted speedway/motor sports.

Now it comprises a main stand and not much else.

This was a watchable game with a good finish as Cloppenburg tried to get back from two goals down - they got one back but just came up short.

Rot Weiss Ahlen v Eintracht Braunschweig

Ahlen are top of the Regional Liga North (3rd level) and were in celebratory mood as they had already clinched promotion - the players parading around the pitch before kick off (see picture)

But it was Braunschweig who dominated , cheered on by a decent size group of away fans. The away team secured a 1-0 win.

The homeward journey took me through Dusseldorf where I indulged in a quality Thai meal (I'd had the caipirinhas the night before - a lot more pleasant than it sounds)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Germany & Turkey May 2008

This was my first experience of watching the U-17 European Championships.

Though the surroundings in Antalya were modest, especially in the WOW Sports complex, the impression was of seeing well organised professional players. In the first match Serbia overcame a typically less skilful Scottish side , 2-0 , with potential future star Aleksic scoring from a superb overhead kick.
The second match, played at the newly built and attractive though again somewhat remote Mardan stadium, saw an impressive Turkey team reasonably easily overcome a favoured Dutch side.
Antalya is well served by sunshine,bars and restaurants and it's a popular location for Northern Europeans (mainly Germans)

In their homeland Greuther Furth were underwhelming versus lowly Paderborn much to the annoyance of the locals.
Then I saw Verl, in the Regional Liga North, lose to Babelsberg before a small crowd in a village (where the last bus left at around 5.30 pm) near Gutersloh.
More exciting was Wacker Burghausen winning in Regensburg , a local derby that had significance for both prior to the divisonal split and creation of 3rd Liga.

The following day another village team Hoffenheim powered to victory over Koblenz , led by the skills of Nigerian Obasi partnered by Demba Ba up front. Hoffenheim thus retained a top three position in the 2. Bundesliga. The weather was hot and sunny and the weissbeer (dunkel) in the pleasant nearby town of Sinsheim most conducive.
Back in Turkey I took a tourist trip from Kayseri via Urgup to Cappadocia.
The area is famous for its very unusual rock scenery - from distant volcanic activity.
You see churches (incl some 200 in Goreme alone) , houses and working areas built into the rock. During the tour we even had lunch in a cave-like restaurant.

At thus time of year the region is popular with the locals - particularly on a Sunday.

Somewhat less exciting was Kayserispor vs Ankaragucu.
Kayserispor had won the Turkish cup a few days before and hence most of their regular players were rested and as there was little significance to the game (Kayserispor were settled in 5th and Ankaragucu in 11th) the team from Ankara also included reserve and U-21 players. Ankaragucu won 2-0 and were generally comfortable in doing so.

Later in the year , if all goes to plan, Kayseri will have an impressive new stadium (33,000), currently going up near the edge of town.
There will also be a rail system to take you (near) there - again this is slowly being constructed in the centre of town.

for more pictures see

Thursday, May 01, 2008

France & Germany March 2008

Amiens 1 Arles 1 Amiens won 4-2 on penalties in the French Cup.

Played in the very unusually styled Stade de Licorne in front of 4500 with a small group of away fans.
Eric Sabin (ex-Oxford & Northampton) scores for lower league Arles who lead until 1 minute before the end when Amiens equalise then go on to win on penalties.

Siegen 0 Ingolstadt 1 in the (German) Regional League South.

Cold, some sleet , very uncomfortable for most of the 4000 in a mainly open stadium.

One free kick goal wins it.

Reims 0 Angers 1

Into France again (Ligue 2) to see this half-built stadium host another away win .

Sandhausen 0 FSV Frankfurt 3 in the Regional League South

Back over the border into Germany to see a convincing win for FSV.

And thankfully its almost springlike.

Later the same day (it takes an hour or so to get from Sandhausen to Strasbourg)

Strasbourg 0 Lille 1

In an interesting city - with exceptional architecture & history - it is France but it could be (and obviously was) Germany.

This game represented my 4th away win in a row.

The home team had a man sent off & lacked some punch up front.
Lille were more convincing before a crowd of 16000 or so.

Mainz 1 Hoffenheim 1 in the 2.Bundesliga .

Ok its not Anfield or Celtic Park but 'you'll never walk alone' was impressive enough with all those red scarves.
So a good atmosphere and a good game with a draw being about right.

Alemannia Aachen 1 Bor Moenchengladbach 1

In the cold & sleet & snow again. 'you'll never walk....' appears again but slightly less effectively.

Moenchengladbach are top of the 2. Bundesliga and bring plenty of fans.

But its Aachen who take the lead early on through the excellent Ebbers. However the away team, prompted by the impressive Neuville, do get the equaliser.

Onto Paris for the England game.

Firstly, as a contrast, some culture - museums - of the middle ages and judaism.

France 1 England 0 at the Stade de France

After seeing 7 games without a (proper) home win this had to be it.

The speed of Anelka causes the penalty and Ribery scores easily enough.
Though there was some good passing by England but not too many good chances.
As usual it gets a lot more disjointed as the subs come on in the 2nd half.

Beckham gets his hundreth cap and very good applause when substituted.