Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Poland, Champions League final and Ireland

From east Poland to Berlin for the Champions League final followed by the England game in Ireland.

5th June 2015  Gornik Leczna 1 GKS Belchatow 0  Ekstraklasa  4,269 (c. 80 away)

I flew from Luton to Lublin then on by bus to the small town of Leczna for this relegation round final game.

It was a game of few goalmouth incidents that was decided by a single goal forced in by Kosovan striker Shpetim Hasani after 23 minutes.
Otherwise we had a number of bookings but little quality play.

GKS were effectively relegated and though they exerted some late pressure that was easily resisted by the home side who will continue to participate in the top level.

What we did get was some impressive ultras pyro, both from the group from Belchatow and the home fans in the left hand end.

Conveniently for the trip back there is a bus stop opposite the small stadium for the return service to Lublin.
Where the evening was winding down in the pleasant old town area.

6th June Barcelona 3 Juventus 1  Champions League final Berlin  70,442

Early the next morning I took the train via Warsaw to the German capital, arriving at around 3pm.

Even with some time to go before kickoff it was evidently the day of a big game.
Lots of fans of both sides were trying to find their way around Berlin.

For your correspondent - a small hotel to the south of the city fairly close to a S-bahn station.
And then back towards the centre and on to the historic Olympiastadion.

Where the masses congregated - 70,000 with tickets and maybe another 30,000 hanging around.

Some looking for tickets -  genuine fans but many looking to sell on.
Some just wanting to be there and sample the atmosphere.
And others with dodgy tickets (rumoured later to be forged by the Naples mafia)

The latter were likely to be Juventus fans and that was why there seemed a lot more Italian supporters than would normally be expected.
That situation was not so much in evidence when you entered the stadium.

Where the Barca contingent was larger.

Beforehand we had the regulation singing and dancing and then the choreo at either end (predictably - ‘more than a club’ from the Catalans)

I thought it was certainly a very good, but not great, final.
It had a lull during part of the first half but a better second period.

When Juve went close to upsetting the odds and threatening the very confident Barcelona team.

Barca had started very casually, almost suicidally so.
But Juventus failed to capitalise and they then went behind to a goal initially crafted by a superb Messi crossfield pass, followed by a great run by Iniesta and finished by the Croatian Rakitic.

Some would then predict a comfortable Barca win especially if they got a second.
However while it remained a single goal Juve could stay in contention.

And, as the second half progressed, they started to trouble the Catalan defence with Evra more adventurous and Pogba showing his potential.
This period culminated in a Tevez shot being parried by ter Stegen to ex-Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata who converted for the equaliser.

For a while it then looked like Juve might pull off a shock but when you have the best player in the world in your side it only takes a moment and the pattern of the match has changed.
Messi’s strong shot on 68 minutes was only partially saved by Buffon and Luis Suarez was ready to pounce to make it 2-1.

At the death, with Juventus pressing for another leveller, Barca broke away and Brazilian Neymar joyously drove in the clincher.

It was Barcelona’s 5th title and their evident confidence was ultimately justified although the Italians gave a spirited account of themselves.
In the end the ‘trident’ of Messi, Suarez and Neymar surpassed their counterparts Tevez and Morata.

I couldn’t endure the long wait for the presentations and battled my way out of the stadium, past the hundreds still trying to get in and was back at my hotel by midnight.

7th June Ireland 0 England 0  International  Dublin  43,480 (c. 3,000 away)

Another early start to get the 7am flight to London and a connection on to Dublin for this friendly.

The logistics worked fine - I arrived in Dublin airport at 11am and was lucky enough to get a lift to the Arriva in good time for the 1pm start.
In comparison with the previous night the game was lamentable.
With little flow and few moments of quality.

Ireland, who threatened from set plays as expected, could take more out of their runout having not lost to a superior team and presumably not incurred any significant injuries ahead of their important encounter with the Scots.

For England it seemed many players were already mentally ‘on the beach’.
Jack Wilshere was one who did shine a times, as did Joe Hart and Jamie Vardy could relish his debut but for many it was a match to forget.

If one moment summed up the contrast with the Champions League final it was when Rooney badly miscontrolled a through ball - if that had been Suarez or Messi the outcome would no doubt have been different.

And so from early on a goalless draw was predictable.

On the plus side there were no apparent incidents and little untoward chanting.
Naturally the banter about Blatter was humorously received.

1966 World Cup winner and ex-Ireland coach Jack Charlton probably enjoyed his lunch and then quickly looked forward to the fishing.

Meanwhile I negotiated the walk around the Aviva and enjoyed a meal (Rogan Josh) with a friend before getting the flight back to London.

more pictures at  http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/3468745639

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