• Monday, 28 May 2012

    TW3 #14

    For the second time in quick succession, Athletic were blown away in a cup final, this time by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey at the Vicente Calderon. This was Athletic 63rd game of the season, and it showed. Not that Barcelona haven't also had a lot of games, but their possession-based game doesn't place quite the same physical demands on players as Marcelo Bielsa's high-tempo pressing game. At the end of the first year of the Bielsa project, the players, quite frankly, look knackered. With Messi at his unplayable best and Iniesta pulling the strings, Barcelona took control early with Pedro beating Gorka Iraizoz at his near post. Twenty minutes later, Messi had doubled the lead and Pedro bagged a second - game over. Even the introduction of Euroballs favourite Toquero could get Athletic back into it.
    So Pep Guardiola leaves with 14 trophies - from 19 contested - in his four years as Barcelona manager. Not bad, really. He leaves for a sabbatical and Tito Vilanova has the task of taking the side forward. Tough gig.

    Torino and Pescara are promoted to Serie A, Torino as champions. They drew with AlbinoLeffe while Pescara were beating Nocerina. With the better head-to-head record, Torino finish top. It's Sassuolo against Sampdoria and Hellas Verona v Varese in the play-offs. Deportivo La Coruna are promoted to the Primera Division in Spain, as champions, after coming from behind to beat Huesca. They're four clear of Celta Vigo with a game to go. Celta need a point in the last game to seal second, Valladolid's draw with Alcorcon giving them a bit of breathing space.

    We're previously waxed lyrical about our love of the penalty shoot-out, and this week has seen the venerable institution make headlines again. First, Sepp Blatter wished to find a better way of resolving drawn games and then players on two continents show why that's a misguided notion. Two quarter-finals in the Copa Libertadores went to spot-kicks. Santos matched Vélez Sarsfield's 1-0 thanks to Alan Kardec before prevailing 4-2 on penalties while Universidad de Chile and Libertad drew 1-1 for the second time in the tie. La U won the shoot-out 5-2 to progress. It looked like Boca Juniors and Fluminense would go the same way as Flu led the second leg 1-0 heading into the dying moments, but Santiago Silva grabbed a stoppage time equaliser to send Boca through 2-1. In the final tie, Paulinho's goal was enough for a 1-0 aggregate win. Boca play La U in the semi-finals while the other tie is an all-Brazilian affair with Santos at home in the first leg to Corinthians.

    The League 1 play-off final also went to penalties after a drab 0-0. Sheffield United's well-documented issues with forwards necessitated a change of approach and their flooding of the midfield blunted Huddersfield and the two sides cancelled each other out. Town missed their first three penalties, but in Alex Smithies they have a goalkeeper who is something of a 12-yard specialist. He saved two of United's first three before the players finally found their shooting boots. At 2-2 after five each, it went to sudden death, eventually coming down to the goalkeepers against one another with the 11th penalties. Smithies tucked his away, but Steve Simonsen sent his into the stands and Town are promoted. In League 2, Crewe were comfortable winners against Cheltenham.

    Back in domestic action, three assists from Juan Roman Riquelme helped Boca to a 3-0 win over Godoy Cruz and, combined with Tigre's draw with Atlético Rafaela, opens up a three-point lead at the top with three games to go. Reigning Brazilian champions Corinthians lost their second game of the season and remain without a point. Atlético Mineiro were their conquerors, one of three sides with 2-0 records - Vasco da Gama and Botafogo the others. Colo Colo won their Chilean Apertura quarter-final against Deportes Iquique 5-4. A 3-3 draw on Thursday was followed by a 2-1 win on Saturday, Colo hanging on with ten men for the last ten minutes. Universidad Catolica are out, well beaten by Union Espanola, and O'Higgins progress after two wins over Union La Calera. Universidad de Chile are 2-0 up in their tie against Cobreloa ahead of the return in the small hours of Tuesday morning. Universidad Cesar Vallejo are Peruvian champions. They got the point they needed in a 0-0 draw with Universidad San Martin which rendered Real Atlético's 1-0 over Union Comercio academic. Defensor Sporting are Uruguayan champions with a round of fixtures remaining. A 3-0 win over El Tanque Sisley leaves them four points clear of Liverpool - 3-1 winners against Cerrito - with a game remaining. All done in the Colombian regular season and the top eight are now split into two groups of four, the winners of which will contest the final. Deportes Tolima finished top, seven clear of the field, and they're in group A and red-hot favourites.

    In the international friendlies, an Eren Derdiyok hat-trick helped Switzerland beat Germany 5-3. Without their Bayern players, Germany were not anywhere near their best and this isn't representative of their chances in the Euros. The Dutch were beaten at home by Bulgaria, Joris Mathijsen taken off injured early on as well. The form of both Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has seen Bert van Marwijk try to play them together, going away from the 4-2-3-1 that served them so well previously.

    And that'll do us for now. The Euros are just eleven days away now.

    No comments: