Saturday, May 21, 2011
Europa League Final 2011 in Dublin.
Sporting Braga 0 Porto 1.
Played at the redeveloped Lansdowne Road stadium the second Europa League final was contested by two Portuguese teams.
Not the two most people had hoped for as Benfica v Porto would probably been a better encounter and definitely a superior atmosphere.
And not only that as the city was also hosting the first visit of the queen to Ireland it meant getting around the central area was a trial due to the extensive security.
Personally it meant considerable extra walking as the operation of the luas (tram) was suspended on two occasions when I was on it.
Around the ground there were plenty of opportunities to buy tickets and numerous spare seats inside the stadium.
Which looked impressive enough in green except for the very small area behind one of the goals.
The Porto fans outnumbered their fellow countrymen and their team were favourites to win the trophy.
In the end they did with a header from leading scorer Falcao just before half time.
Braga’s best chance, just after the break, fell to substitute Mossoro whose shot was well saved by Helton.
As might have been predicted it was a game of few chances very occasionally enhanced by threats from the talented Hulk.
Despite some late Braga pressure Porto (and especially their young coach) had done enough to secure the win
The event, played in breezy cool conditions, could only really be described as 'OK' and the overall Dublin experience was overshadowed by the monarch’s visit.
Two games in France - the highlight being the visit of Marseille to Lorient.
Pretty good in pink.
Evian Thonon Gaillard 3 Troyes 0.
ETG looked like a more than a decent side as they maintained their leadership of the second division in France.
Their current base in Annecy, in the Rhone-Alps region, is one of the more attractive football locations.
In bright sunny weather the old town, the lake and the mountain backdrop provided a most conducive atmosphere.
The ground itself is an athletics venue with a track, curved terracing at the ends and two similar stands.
With ETG going well there was a large turnout of over 8,000 with many entering late plus a handful from Troyes.
ETG looked dangerous throughout this game, scoring first via the head of the impressive Angoula.
He would cause the Troyes goalie to fumble and allow an easy second.
The visitors also had a bad second period with two red cards, the second for a tackle from behind in the closing minutes.
Prior to that full back Djadjedje had driven in a great 30 yarder.
Late on Lorient.
Lorient 2 Olympique Marseille 2.
This was destined to be an attractive encounter with OM still going for the title, Lorient being strong at home and some excellent striking talent on show.
The town centre ground hosted one of the best attendances of the season, nearly 17,000, to witness a compelling match played a consistently fast pace on the ‘3G’ pitch.
Marseille as usual had good support with around 500 fans in a corner wedge and others dotted around the stadium.
The local manic ‘compere’ had stoked up the atmosphere beforehand and both teams kept the show going.
Loic Remy gave OM the lead on 14 minutes after going past a defender and slotting home right footed.
As the first half wore on the visitors had more possession but couldn’t extend their lead.
After the break Lorient came out with a purpose and equalised early on through Kone’s header.
They pushed hard at OM and got much more play as the match progressed.
Into the final ten minutes and we saw why Kevin Gameiro is causing such interest as he quickly latched onto a right wing cross. He always looked very sharp.
As OM’s championship chances drifted away sub. Gignac did get one back with a nicely taken goal.
And in the final minutes Marseille’s Benoit Cheyrou somehow contrived to miss a short range header from a setup by Abriel.
Perhaps it wouldn’t make any difference as Lille were long odds-on to complete the double but Cheyrou probably won’t forget that miss for a while.
more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/773090298
Thursday, May 12, 2011
A three game trip to Italy including watching the visit of Napoli to Lecce.
Agony in Abruzzo.
Pescara 0 Livorno 1.
All caused by a goalie error in the 14th minute as the Pescara custodian fumbled a shot by the Livorno captain, Danilevicius.
A large crowd of over 18,000 came to see if the local team could get close to the Serie B play-offs, they went home encouraged by their players efforts but dismayed by the outcome.
Livorno wasted time, looked dangerous on the break and tended to stifle Pescara’s play.
They now have more of a chance to make the top six.
Despite it being a fairly cool night near the Adriatic many fans couldn’t resist stopping for an ice cream on the way home. I resisted.
Moderate in Modena.
Modena 1 Grosseto 1.
A stop in Modena on a roundabout route from Pescara to Brindisi.
The stadium is handily close to the railway and bus station.
It comprises a, neat, mostly covered single tier with the away fans (about 50) to the left and the home ultras to the right.
The main interest following Greco’s cross conversion was the annoyance caused by Sforzini the Grosseto top scorer and an ex-Modena player. He had headed the equaliser and generally antagonised the crowd, many of which hurled abuse at him throughout most of the match.
Apart from that the game settled into a stalemate even though there was 6 minutes of added time at the end.
Time enough to make the Bologna airport bus and flight to Brindisi.
Sensation in Salento.
Lecce 2 Napoli 1.
A famous win for Lecce after Uruguayan substitute Chevanton had struck a dramatic winner sparking much local celebration.
His shot, following a terrific move thumped against the bar and came down just about over the line.
For a moment there was some doubt and despite the Napoli protests the goal was given.
Most of the action in this game was in the second half including two red cards, the first seemed a little unlucky for the initial goalscorer, Corvia.
But the other for Napoli top scorer Cavani was clear - a second yellow for a silly tackle.
One of the Napoli substitutes, Mascara, had glanced in an equaliser and it looked like the visitors, well backed by their travelling fans, would at least go home with a point.
That was until the intervention of the popular Chevanton.
The result moved Lecce out of the bottom three and dented Napoli’s chances of finishing as runners-up to newly crowned champions, Milan.
After the match I took the long stroll back, in pleasant sunny weather, to the centre and onto the convenient 6.05 train back to Brindisi.
more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/767565362