Bayern Munich vs Barcelona

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Bayern Munich 4 – 0 Barcalona

Bayern Munich took a huge step towards the final with a dominant display in Germany. Two goals from Thomas Muller, and further goals from Gomez and Robben gave them a huge advantage that their dominant display deserved. Two of their goals were definitely questionable, but Barca didn’t deserve to take anything away from this match, as they mustered only one decent chance in the entire match.

On a heavily watered pitch, that saw players struggle all day to keep their footing, Barcelona started with their own inimitable passing. But the first chance they got, Bayern pounced and Robben had a good chance after good work down the right flank. His shot though, was straight at keeper Valdes.

It was clear though that Bayern had a plan to combat Barca’s inevitable possession. They sat back when Barca had the ball in their own half, but as soon as the Spaniards stepped into the Bayern half, they pressed very hard to win it back. Perhaps this strategy came from the advice of soon to be Bayern, and former Barca boss Pep Guardiola, but it seemed to be working. It took 22 minutes for the first questionable theatrics of the night. This was something prevalent whenever either of these teams play. Inevitably it was from Busquets, going down in his own box holding his head, after receiving no contact from any other player.

After a fairly drab opening quarter, Bayern created the first real chance, and subsequently the first goal of the leg. A rather poor cross from Franck Ribery wasn’t dealt with, and the ball fell to Robben who produced a much better cross. Defender Danté towered above the diminutive Dani Alves, headed the ball across the box, where no one picked up Muller, who powered a header through the scrambling Valdes for 1 – 0. Valdes seemed disappointed with his effort, but in truth the Barca defence was ball watching, and should have done better.

Barca tried to make amends for this and created their first decent chance, a cross from Pedro aimed for Messi across goal, was turned behind by Dante. At first it looked like some superb defending, on closer inspection, you see Danté completely miskicks the ball. This was fortunate, as if he’d got clean contact, he would have clearly scored an own goal.

This prompted Bayern to retaliate, looking for another goal, put Barca under some sustained pressure. During this time they had a big shout for a penalty, after Sanchez appeared to handball following Danté’s flick on from a corner. Despite seeing penalties for less, it would’ve been very harsh, as Sanchez had no time to move after the flick on.
The rest of the half passed on without incident, and although this was a hugely competitive match, the entertainment value was lacking thus far.

Early on in the second half, Bayern struck again, and again it was a set piece with sloppy Barca defending. A corner swung in to the back post to Muller, half committed Valdes to attempt the catch. He couldn’t get there however, and the ball was put across the box for Gomez to tap in, after the Barca defenders was caught ball watching again. Replays suggested that Gomez was offside, but with Arjen Robben slightly obscuring his view, the linesman allowed the goal to stand. Barca now faced a tough ask to salvage something in this tie.

Bayern started to dominate again, and created several very good chance in quick succession. First Muller slightly dragged his shot from outside the box wide. Then after some more good work from Robben, Franck Ribery probably should have done better with his shot from an angle, but hooked it wide of the far post. Arjen Robben himself had a headed chance from a free kick, but didn’t get a good enough connection and it went wide.

After about 15 minutes of constant possession, Barca finally created some openings, unfortunately the ball fell to rookie defender Bartra in the 18 yard box, and his scuffed shot was straight at Neuer. A cross then found its way across the Bayern box, but eluded every one and was picked up by Ribery. The Frenchman ran halfway across the pitch before the ball ended up with Robben on the edge of the box. He kicked the ball past Alba, and went to run past him. Thomas Muller then stepped in, completely blocking off the Spaniard, allowing Robben to slot home from an angle to make it 3 – 0. Barca clearly felt that Alba was fouled, and they had a very good case for it.

Trying to make amends, the away side fashioned their best chance of the night, after a good free kick caught Bayern trying to play offside. Bartra found himself with the ball, unmarked, in the 6 yard box. Unfortunately he lost his bearings somewhat, and completely skied his effort high and wide. Of all the players for that chance to fall to, he’d have been last on the list. It was soon immediately punished, as a sloppy back pass from Alba, allowed Muller to run in on goal, but he never really got it under control and Valdes made the save.

They were punished soon after though, brilliant counter attacking by Bayern, with Ribery putting Alaba through on the left, to fizz a ball across the box. Thomas Muller made no mistake to make it 4 – 0 to the newly crowned German champions. Barcelona looked shell shocked, they hadn’t been outplayed this conclusively for a very long time. Barca, would also then lost Alba for the return game in Spain after he petulantly threw the ball in Robben’s face following a throw in.

The final whistle then sounded to finish a remarkable contest. Bayern countered Barca’s passing style perfectly, and although the Spanish side boasted 65% possession, they created very few chances. This could have been partly due to a clearly unfit Messi, who was largely anonymous throughout the game. It would be silly, even after this game, to completely write them off. But it’s hard to see a way back, Bayern just did everything right, and could have won by even more goals. Barca could rightly be aggrieved by two of Bayern’s goals, but cannot argue with the result.

Man of the Match – Arjen Robben:- Not exactly a fan favourite after his time in England. But didn’t put a foot wrong, attacked like Ronaldo, defended like Roy Keane, a complete performance.

Champions League Round Up.

Galatasaray 3 – 2 Real Madrid (3-5 agg)

A spirited performance from the Turkish champions was not enough to over haul the deficit, as Madrid stutter through to the semis.
Few would’ve given Galatasaray a chance before the match. Things weren’t helped by Ronaldo’s opening goal, smashed home from close range after a Khedira cross. They now needed a seemingly impossible five goals to qualify. Chances for them were hard to come by in the first half, with familiar faces, Eboue, Sneijder and Drogba failing to impress.
The second half saw a complete turn around though, with the aforementioned familiar faces all scoring. Eboue first with a Carlos Alberto style, driven, powerful finish into the top corner. All this moments after Ronaldo missed an absolute sitter to kill the match. Sneijder bagged the second after nutmegging Varane and slotting past the keeper. Drogba scored the third a minute later with a cute flick from a cross into the bottom corner. Madrid were shell shocked, and Galatasaray only needed two more in twenty minutes to achieve the impossible. They thought they’d got one of them shortly after but Drogba’s effort was ruled out for offside. Despite pressing heavily, the Turkish team couldn’t muster another chance. To compound their misery, Ronaldo smashed in another goal to completely kill off the tie in stoppage time after Benzema’s cutback to make it 3-2 on the night. This all occurred shortly after Madrid defender Arbeloa managed to get himself sent off, after receiving two bookings in 30 seconds, after a poor tackle and dissent afterward.

Questions will be asked no doubt as to whether Mardid can go all the way now, we all expected them to win at a canter, but they definitely made it hard work for themselves. You’d expect them to be more focused in the semi final, and with the likes of Ramos and Alonso returning to the squad, they’ll be a tough opponent for anyone they face.

Borussia Dortmund 3 – 2 Malaga (3-2 agg)

The German champions produced a frankly ridiculous stoppage time comeback, one that we’d associate with the English, not the Germans.

After a goalless draw in Spain, that Dortmund should’ve won, the onus was on them again to perform at their own ground. After dominating early proceedings it was Malaga who took an advantage in the tie, with the experienced Joaquin slotting home after Isco’s pass. Dortmund responded well, and equalised soon after after a superb team goal, culminating in Lewandowski chipping the keeper after Reus’s crafty flick. Malaga then dominated proceedings, and repeatedly tested the German keeper. They eventually got their reward and seemingly winning goal after 82 minutes, when after some neat build up play, substitute Eliseu prodded home to make it 2-1. The Germans were incensed by the goal, as it appeared Eliseu was offside when he scored, they now needed two goals to qualify. Time had all but run out for them, but the fat lady hadn’t sung yet. The ball being punted into the box, and after being set up by make shift center forward Santana, Marco Reus prodded home, to give his side some hope. Malaga were still ahead on away goals, so another was still needed. With seconds remaining, the ball again punted into the box. Julian Schieber mis hit a shot, but it fell on the line to that man Santana again to prod home on the line to seal a dramatic victory. To make it even sweeter for Dortmund, the winner appeared to be offside, a fitting pay back it would seem for them after Malaga’s second goal.

Borussia Dortmund, probably the neutrals favourite to win this competition, and the bookies least favourite. After their astonishing comeback, their spirits will be sky high going into the semi finals. The big question being, can their inexperienced squad deal with the pressure of playing in such a big game?

Barcelona 1 – 1 PSG (3-3 agg Barcelona through on away goals)

Barcelona progressed narrowly against the French league leaders, but faced a tremendous scare along the way. PSG took the lead in the game, and therefore the tie. Before the introduction of the absent Lionel Messi, saw Barcelona regain the advantage through Pedro’s goal and cling on for victory.

PSG knew realistically that they had to win this game to qualify, and showed their attacking intent from the off. Barcelona were playing with only one recognised center back, with Mascherano and Puyol injured, as well as missing some other forward called Messi. Without Messi, in the first half, Barcelona’s attacks lacked conviction, with nearly all of their shots being way off target, with only Xavi going close to troubling Sirigu. PSG were having similar difficulties though, also being restricted to long shots. The visitors however did look the more likely to score, with Lucas Moura being particularly impressive. The second half saw more of the same from the home side, with Fabregas looking fairly wasteful in his newly adopted “Messi” role. It was early in this half that PSG took a deserved lead, some neat link up play on the break saw Pastore released on goal down the left. despite being pushed out wide by the covering defender he still managed to angle a shot over Valdes to take his team into the lead in the tie for the first time. This quickly prompted the introduction of Messi, still nursing an injury and not 100% fit, Barcelona naturally dominated possession in their own inevitable way after this. Messi had a good chance to reply soon after coming on, but he miscontrolled after Villa’s initial shot was saved. Pastore had a great chance to double his side’s advantage but scuffed his shot wide, before Barcelona got their goal. Neat play by Messi around the area, ended up with the ball being laid off to Pedro, to blast it into the corner from 16 yards to put his side back in the lead in the tie. The introduction of Messi really galvanized Barca, and their passing and general play dramatically improved. PSG threw almost everybody they had forward, but never carved out another chance for the goal that would’ve seen them through. Barcelona clung on then, for a very very narrow victory.

Well, not many people would’ve predicted how close PSG would come to knocking out the tournament favourites. Barcelona showed in this tie, that with Messi not on the pitch, they can be easily outplayed. With their defence stretched thin, they always looked vulnerable on the counter attack, and PSG can count themselves unlucky not to have beaten them. This game could well have just made Bayern Munich the new favourites for the trophy now.

Juventus 0 – 2 Bayern Munich (0-4 agg)

Bayern came into this match, freshly crowned German champions in early April full of confidence. Juventus had a tall ask from the ofset, but never looked likely to overturn their first leg defeat. Bayern casually waltzing into the semi finals.

Juventus knew they had to attack from the offset, the main trouble for them being, containing Bayern on the counter attack, with all the pace they possess. One goal for Bayern would efectively kill the tie, so the Italians had to be careful. Juventus enjoyed the majority of possession throughout the first half, but only had one real chance to show for it, a Pirlo free kick being well saved by Neuer. Come half time, Bayern seemed very comfortable, and Juventus’s chances of qualification seemed very slim. Quagliarella hit the post with a long range effort, and Robben did soon after before we saw the opening goal. Mario Mandzukic scoring with a header after Javi Martinez forced a good save from Buffon. The win was well and truly out of Juventus’ sails after this. After the goal, Bayern had chance after chance to put the Italians out of their misery, which they finally did, after former Chelsea reject Claudio Pizarro scored after some brilliant work from Schwenisteiger in midfield. A clinical performance from Bayern in a tie they never showed any sign of losing.

A comfortable victory in the end then for Bayern, they have obviously learnt from their exploits with Arsenal how to defend a lead in Europe now. Juventus huffed and puffed, but over the coarse of the two games, were outplayed. Out of all the semi finalists, Bayern were the only team to go through easily. With their combination of experience, pace and skill, they could well now be the team to beat.

PSG vs Barcelona

PSG 2 – 2 Barcelona

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PSG scored a last gasp equalizer to keep themselves in the tie in a very entertaining match against the tournament favourites. Messi opened the scoring for the Catalonians, before being injured shortly after. Ibrahimovic controversially equalized in the second half, but Xavi put Barca back in the lead after Sanchez was fouled. It was not to be the last action as Matuidi scored a deflected equalizer with the last kick of the match to set up an interesting second leg in Spain in a couple of weeks.

PSG knew exactly how Barcelona would play, and they didn’t disappoint. It took PSG three minutes to even touch the ball. They did however, create the first clear opening, after some neat passing put Lavezzi in the box. The Argentine twisted and turned before Busquets got back to tackle him. The tackle though, was dreadful, the ball being kicked past Valdes in the Barca goal and cannoning off the foot of the post. Barca responded form the early scare like they always do, by keeping the ball. Unfortunately for them, PSG were defending stoutly, and restricted them predominantly to long shots, namely from Xavi and Iniesta.

PSG were always going to threaten on the counter attack. Lucas and Lavezzi, two of the fastest players in Europe, against Alba and Alves, two of the most advanced wing backs in Europe was always going to be a good battle. David Beckham also began to show people why he was in the starting line up, almost acting like a quarter back, hitting accurate long balls throughout the half. Lucas, PSG’s best player in the half, repeatedly going past Alba, and causing problems, won a free kick right outside the box in Beckham territory. Ibrahimovic had other ideas, and blasted the set piece through the wall, producing a rare sight, Victor Valdes pulling off a good save. The big Swede was presented with a better chance courtesy of Lucas moments later, after the latter ran seventy yards past two players. He crossed the ball to Zlatan, who scuffed his shot wide, when you’d expect him to hit the target.

After a lull in play you could almost be mistaken from forgetting Messi was even on the pitch. That changed, after a Barca corner wasn’t dealt with, and the ball found its was to Alves. The Brazilian the curled an exquisite ball over the PSG defence for Messi to run onto unmarked. The La Liga top scorer gave the pass what it deserved and stroked it into the bottom corner. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for PSG, as they didn’t deserve it. Barcelona however, always pose a significant threat, no matter how badly they seem to be playing. Messi nearly compounded their misery by narrowly curling an effort over just before half time. Their fortunes changed significantly however, as after his missed effort, Messi tweaked his hamstring, and had to be substituted.

Fabregas replaced the Ballon D’or winner at half time, as Barca resumed where they left off, controlling the ball without creating clear chances. PSG continued to look threatening on the break, with Beckham continuing to play well in his quarter back role. Zlatan Ibrahimovic also became a lot more involved early on in the second half, miscontrolling a good cross from Jallet. Before playing a delightful ball through the defence for Matuidi, that Pique snuffed out.

Barca should have doubled their lead midway through the half, but Sanchez dallied too long when found in the box. He had an almost identical chance minutes later, this time opting to hit it first time, he scuffed it however and it didn’t trouble anyone. PSG were finding themselves a little stretched, maybe starting to show signs of tiredness., and running out of ideas. The team from Paris started conceding silly fouls, Barca in kind however, started doing something else they were famous for, trying to get players booked.  First Iniesta, Villa and then inevitably Alves, claiming injuries after the slightest of touches.

PSG made some changes, including taking off the tiring Beckham, and started to build some pressure. A couple of contentious decisions occurred soon after, resulting in a deserved equalizer for PSG. Firstly a cross in the Barca box resulted in Mascherano and Alba clattering into eachother. While they were both laying down injured, the ball made its way to Ibrahimovic, who was played onside by the stricken pair. Again the Swede scuffed it shot and it was saved, this resulted in frankly ridiculous appeals from Barcalona. They claimed that their two players, who injured each other mere seconds later, warranted having the ball put out for them, even though they turned out to be fine. From the resulting corner, followed a free kick for PSG in a dangerous position after a foul from Villa. From the set piece Silva thumped a header against the inside of the post, Ibrahimovic from a clear offside position bundled the ball home to make it 1 – 1, resulting in much Barca protesting again.

Tempers started to flare after this, wtih both teams making fouls, receiving bookings, and generally complaining about everything they could. The match was seemingly decided soon after, when Sanchez was put through by Xavi. Sirigu came too meet him, biut couldn’t get there quick enough, and even though the Chilean’s touch was taking him very wide, the referee had no choice but to give a Penalty. Up stepped Xavi to slot it home for 2-1 to the visitors, and seemingly no way back the French team. 

The match was not finished though, into the final seconds of the match, Jallet lobbed a hopeful ball into the box, which was expertly nodded down by Ibrahimovic for Matuidi to shoot. Although he didn’t catch it as cleanly as he would’ve wanted, it went through two players and wrong footed Valdes, who looked distraught  to see it trickle in. This turned out to be the last action of a thoroughly enjoyable match.

PSG will still have some hope going into the second leg, but needless to say, Barcalona will be heavy favourites. The odds have improved for the them though, with the possible absence of Messi. As well as the definite absence of Mascherano to an already weakened defence, could give them a decent chance.

Man of the match : Thiago Silva – was absolutely dominant in all aspects of his game, and deserved to be on the winning side. The sort of player Barcelona desperately need.

Montenegro vs England

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Montenegro 1 – 1 England

This match really turned out to be a game of two halves. England dominate the first half and took the lead through Rooney’s fifth England goal in as many games. But Montenegro respond by dominating the second half, equalising through Damjanovic, and deservedly secure the draw. This result isn’t too horrific for England, as they’re still only two points behind the group leaders. However, looking at the group, and considering the teams that are in it England should really be winning this group. And with Poland and Ukraine, now breathing down their necks, they really have to start winning big games.

England started the match very brightly, and could have scored within the first few minutes. A long ball to Rooney convinced the home keeper Bozovic to rush off his line, only to reconsider and slip on his way back. Rooney attempted an audacious chip from thirty yards, that looked destined for the net, only to clip the post and go out. England didn’t have to wait too long for the goal they deserved. Glen Johnson tried his luck from 30 yards, and his swerving, dipping effort was turned over the bar. From the resulting Gerrard corner, Rooney effortlessly peeled away from his marker at the back post, to put a simple header past the hapless Bozovic.

After the goal, Montenegro had a bit more possession , but failed to create any decent chances throughout the half. England however, looked very threatening on the counter attack, with Danny Welbeck impressing with his dribbling and strength. If anything can be said about England, their final ball could’ve been better on occasion, the slippery pitch didn’t help this. England didn’t creat too many clear cut chances in the first 45 minutes, being generally restricted to long shots. There was a moment of controversy at the end of the half though, when Welbeck was booked for allegedly diving in the box. Savic did appear on replay to clip his heel in the box, but the referee saw it otherwise. 

In the second half, we saw two completely different teams. Montenegro shot out of the blocks, akin to England in the first half, and created a flurry of decent opportunities. While most of these were fairly easily dealt with, Vucinic really should have done better when the ball arrived at his feet from a corner, but he sliced wildly over. England really struggled to find the fluidity and composure they had in the second half, and couldn’t muster any chances of note early in the half. It was the home team who then began to dominate. Vucinic curled one wide, when substitute Damjanovic was much better placed. Jovetic’s volley then produced a decent save from Hart. The Fiorentina striker had another long range effort, that Hart very nearly embarrassingly fumbled into the net. Montenegro got the goal their pressure deserved. A corner bouncing around the box firstly deflected off of Gerrard onto the post and out for another corner. The next one again bobbled around the box following a good save from Hart. England couldn’t clear the ball, and Damjanovic swept the ball into the net for a well deserved equaliser.

England then finally started to threaten again, using the pace of the substitute Ashley Young to produce a chance, but Steven Gerrard shot wide from long range. After another flurry of Montenegro corners, Gerrard had two good chances to snatch victory, the first after a slick move fell to him to see his powerful shot deflected. The second after some scrappy play outside the box again fell to him, only for his shot to be straight at Bozovic. Gerrard had one more chance at the very end, but his 25 yard free kick was very unconvincingly tipped over. The resulting corner came to nothing, and Montenegro celebrated a draw, which at half time looked very unlikely.

England Ratings. Hart – 5, Johnson – 6, Cole – 6, Smalling – 7, Lescott – 6, Cleverly – 6(Young – 6), Carrick – 6, Milner – 6, Gerrard – 7, Welbeck – 8, Rooney – 7.

Barcelona 4 – 0 AC Milan (4-2 agg)

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Barcelona became the first team to overturn a two goal first leg deficit to progress 4-2 on Aggregate against AC Milan. The Catalan giant’s had just too much quality for a Milan side that couldn’t repeat their heroics from the first leg. Two sublime first half goals from Lionel Messi, plus second half strikes from Villa and Alba were enough to see Barca through in a match they dominated.

Coming into the game from a poor run of form, by their standards, Barca were under a lot of pressure to perform. AC Milan, needed two things to happen for them to progress to the next round. They needed to defend as well as they did two weeks ago, and they needed Barca to play as poorly as they did. It took 5 minutes for both of these thing to go wrong. 

A typical Barca move around the Milan area, culminated in a slick one two between Xavi and Messi. With the latter, surrounded by Milan players on the edge of the box, finding space to deftly curl the ball into the top corner. It was the start they desperately needed, and the one Milan feared. Milan looked as though they could crumble soon after, with Iniesta forcing Abbiati to save onto the bar, and Messi again going close soon after. The Milan full back Abate could have considered himself lucky when he bundled over Pedro in the box. The ref waved play on, but could easily have given a penalty and a red card.

Milan’s plan it seemed was to try and get El shaarawy into the game, but the forward at time, lacked pace and composure to trouble the Barca defence. Their other tactic it seemed was to lump the ball toward the 18 burly striker Niang to feed of off; but the young forward struggled at times to do this, even against the diminutive Mascherano. MIlan were certainly missing a few key players, namely the forward Pazzini, who caused Barca so many problems in the first game.

However, the tactic for Niang did prove successful for once, as a long ball forward was missed by Mascherano, putting the French striker clean through. Unfortunately for the away side, the pressure seemed to get the best of him, and he ended up striking the post. It proved to be an incredibly costly mistake, one that could haunt him for some time. Barca ran straight up the field, and with Ambrosini failing to control and interception, Iniesta found Messi on the edge of the box. With one touch he gave himself a yard against Mexes, and whipped the ball through his legs and into the corner of Abbiati’s net to put the sides level on aggregate. The officials and perhaps Milan seemed to be so concerned by Messi’s skill that they failed to realise the striker was offside. A very cruel way for Milan to finished the second half, but it was the scoreline the teams’ performances merited.

In the second half we saw a lot more intent from Milan. It seemed their coach Massimiliano Allegri knew they;d have no chance winning the tie, by just trying to contain Barca, they had to score. Suddenly there was more accuracy in the midfield passing, more urgency whilst trying to win the ball back, and their full backs were joining in the attack. This worked for a while, but the problem Milan had, was that one of their fullbacks, Abate was much faster and more composed then their other, Constant. 

In fact it was Constant’s error that led to Barca’s third goal. A cross came in that wasn’t dealt with, Xavi played a through ball toward Villa, that Constant gambled on and missed. Villa duly punished the Italians by stroking the ball into the corner to put Barca in front on aggregate for the first time. 

After this Milan seemed to panic, and forget what they were obviously sent out in the second half to do. They resorted to the sloppy way they were playing in the first half, with Barca dominating possession around their box, without creating too many opurtunities, but more importantly, not allowing Milan to attack. After a flurry of substitutions with saw the introduction of former Man City flop Robinho, as well as surprise Barca omission Puyol, Milan began to threaten again. Former Barca player Bojan’s low crossed very nearly found its way to Robinho, but Alba got back in time to clear his lines, this was in fact to be Milan’s last decent chance. As they entered the last few minutes, knowing that one goal would still see them through, they started to play their best football of the night. Barca, knowing the job was far from done, were starting to look nearvous, a rare sight for most football fans. Milan peppered the box with crosses, but alas the chances just wouldn’t fall to them. 

A free kick in the middle of the park in injury time, resulted in a last chance to put the ball in the box for Milan. For some reason Robinho decided to play it short, subsequently losing it. Barca quickly counter attacked, Substitute Sanchez played a simple cross to on rushing wing back Alba, who put the ball through Abbiati’s legs to complete the amazing, but hardly surprising comeback. In finished off what must have been a miserable night for Milan, after the brilliant performance of a fortnight before, they couldn’t produce the goods a second time. This wasn’t helped by Barcelona playing the football we’d come to expect from them over the years. Still, with their poor performance in the first leg, you’d have to say that Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were probably bookies favourites at the stage. Needless to say, Barcelona will be looking to avoid either of them as they head into the quarter final.

Steau Bucharest vs Chelsea

Chelsea Pay the Penalty

Chelsea’s progression in Europe suffered a dent today after a disappointing 1 – 0 defeat at the hands of Romanian league leaders Steau Bucharest where a somewhat soft penalty was scored by talismanic striker Rusescu. Chelsea fans will probably still expect to over turn the deficit when the teams meet again at Stamford bridge in a weeks time.  However they should have done better, especially with their passing against stubborn opposition.

Both teams it can be said didn’t create much in the way of chances, but it was Steau who dominated early possession. They started the game off far more energetically, and with 12 victories out of their last 14 games, that can be hardly surprising. For all their early possession, Steau failed to create chances, except for a long range Chipciu effort that went wide. Chelsea on the other hand were very sloppy on the ball, often losing it in midfield, with Mikel and Lampard the main culprits. Whenever they found a way to get the ball to Torres, he struggled to make anything of it; partly due to his isolation up front, and partly due to poor touches.  He has shown signs of a lack of confidence, something Chelsea fans have become all too familiar with over the last 2 years.

Steau’s home crowd were in great voice throughout the game, trying to help their team.  However a lot would argue they were trying too hard, by appearing to shine laser pens into the eyes of Chelsea players during dead ball situations.  Torres, David Luiz and Lampard were the main recipients. Although it didn’t appear to affect the players, it still went unnoticed by the officials.  Time will tell if the club should face any repercussions.

Chelsea and Steau were both probing without creating any real chances.  In fact we had to wait until the 34th minute for the first half chance, which in turn produced a goal. After a quick counter attacking move down the left, partly due to some poor tracking back by Eden Hazard, the ball found its way to the adventurous Steau left back Latovlevici.  He produce a magnificent cross to the back post looking to find Rusescu, who was subsequently bundled over by Ryan Bertrand.  This resulted in a penalty. Bertrand certainly had his arm over the Romanian domestic top scorer, but it was hardly a stone wall penalty. Bertrand was issued with a yellow card, although could consider himself lucky, as one could argue he denied the striker a goal scoring opportunity. Needless to say, Rusescu picked himself up to confidently smash the penalty past Cech, who guessed the right way, but couldn’t get close enough to it.

Steau seemed value for their lead as they’d been bossing the midfield in the early stages. However, Chelsea fought back with some pressure of their own, and just before half time, should have been level. Yossi Benayoun exchanged a neat one-two with Hazard to make himself some room in the area before slightly scuffing his shot.  This was heading for the bottom corner until it was turned away by Tatarusanu. The Steau shot stopper was called into action again on the stroke of half time, as he parried Torres’s decent snap shot on the turn away for a corner.

The second half was more of the same from Chelsea, as they continuously gave the ball away in midfield, resulting in them struggling to create any decent chances or pressure. In fact it was Steau who created the next opportunity. The impressive Latovlevici crossed again, causing confusion in the Chelsea box, before Tanase fired wide. Chelsea responded by introducing Juan Mata for Benayoun, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to replicate his impressive league form this season, remaining largely anonymous for the remainder of the game. Eden Hazard had Chelsea’s first decent chance of the half; remarkably for the reigning European champions in the 75th minute.  However he saw his powerful shot from an acute angle sail over. It was to be Hazard’s last contribution to a relatively poor performance by his standards, as he was replaced by Marin. Marin almost instantly made an impact by forcing Tatarusanu into a smart save at his near post, after a jinking run in the box.

David Luiz saw a long range free kick fly narrowly over, very late on, as Chelsea looked for an equalizer.  They resorted however to simply pumping long balls in the box for Torres to no avail. Steau had a chance to double their lead in stoppage time but substitute Gardos failed to trouble the keeper after breaking through two Chelsea challenges. Steau comfortably hung on for the victory, which leaves Chelsea with a difficult, but by no means impossible task, in a weeks time.  Their performance will have to drastically improve if they want to compete well against Manchester United, who they face in the FA cup at Old Trafford on Sunday.  They also face Steau in the return fixture next week.

 

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