Saturday, 31 December 2011

'In this room, he's the f***ing boss' - the best quotes of 2011 in Spain

Spanish football in 2011 wasn't just all about the spectacle on the pitch, or those pesky Barcelona-Real Madrid games. Off the field, away from all the glow of the floodlights, there's the glare of the cameras and the microphones from the media.

With colourful characters such as Jose Maria del Nido and Enrique Cerezo to the ever-outspoken Jose Mourinho, there was no shortage of tiki-taka outside the football pitches. We look back at some of the best and most memorable quotes of 2011 from Spain.

"The more you know about football the more you realise it is all about money, that it is rotten and this takes away your enthusiasm. What point is there in earning €800 or €1,000 if you know you are obtaining it through the suffering of many people? There is only money and corruption in football."
- Javi Poves

n a year where civilian uprising and the global Occupy movement dominated the news headlines, one player, Javi Poves, has taken the same stance in football, cancelling his contract with Sporting Gijon and quitting the game after admitting he had become disillusioned with the greed and corruption in the sport and in politics.

The 24-year-old Poves has expressed his desire to go back to university to study and help others socially, while also calling on football's big names such as Pele, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi to do "much more" to help the less fortunate.

"At Real Madrid, if you think differently from the president, the one who has to leave is the coach."
- Manuel Pellegrini

The Malaga coach, prior to his team's clash against Los Blancos, reminisced about his time spent at the Santiago Bernabeu. Having previously made several digs at Madrid's president Florentino Perez, the Chilean continued to criticise his former employer.

"I loved seeing the Sevilla players on the field, I enjoyed it like a pig in a puddle."
- Jose Maria del Nido

Sevilla's charismatic president and Al Capone look-alike was beaming after his side's 0-0 draw with Barcelona earlier this season. Two months later, he was thrown in jail. Not for the quote, though.

In what was the Awkward Moment of the Year in Spanish football, Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo was seated in the same table as Cristiano Ronaldo at an awards ceremony organised by AS, just three days after the derby between Real Madrid and Atleti.

As Cerezo took his seat, Ronaldo - who, along with his team-mates, had to endure a barrage of tackles against Atletico and sustained an injury - trained an evil, fiery glare on the supremo, before sarcastically asking:

"Will there be an award for kicking?"

Cerezo duly replied...

"You do the same. Pepe, [Ricardo] Carvalho, [Sergio] Ramos and that little guy with a lot of hair ... ah yes, Marcelo."

"The thing about him being good looking is debatable. I like Scarlett Johansson more than Cristiano Ronaldo."
- Pepe Mel

Real Betis coach Pepe Mel made it abundantly clear that Ronaldo's winking has no effect on him, and that he prefers the Hollywood actress. The comments came on the eve of Real Madrid's clash against Betis, after CR7 had responded to the heckling he received in the 1-0 Champions League win over Dinamo Zagreb with this Cristiano classic...

"I think that because I am rich, good looking and a great player people are envious of me. I don't have any other explanation."

"The truth is I live a very normal life. I'd rather live quietly at home, and when I have to go shopping, I get it done without any problems. I got tired of the Playstation and play very little now. I have to meet many expectations of myself."
- Lionel Messi

Barcelona's Argentine superstar has had another hectic year in 2011, where he has
hogged the headlines more often than most players do in their entire careers. But Leo gave a glimpse of his private life, and how he has kicked out his Playstation addiction.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said in 2010 that Messi "is like a Playstation". You just have to wonder if Playstation Messi is as good as the real Messi.

"Sometimes, it's disgusting to live in this world, but this is apparently our world. Once again, we see that you don't stand a chance against Barcelona. Uefa doesn't allow any team to really do something against them. I really don't know what's behind all this. Maybe it's their ties with Unicef or maybe it's because they just find Barcelona a sympathetic club. I've been wondering about this all my life and I'll get an answer one day."
- Jose Mourinho

How do you pick just one quote from the Jose Vault of Soundbites?

Mourinho added more controversial and amusing quotes to his catalogue of hits in 2011, thanks largely to the tempestuous series of Clasico clashes with Barcelona. But his lengthy rant after the 2-0 home defeat to Barca in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final quickly became the stuff of legends.

"In this room he (Jose Mourinho) is the f***ing chief, the f***king boss, and I can never compete with that. If Barcelona want someone who competes in that way, then they should look for another manager. But we, as people and an institution, don't do that."
- Pep Guardiola

Not many people can upstage Jose Mourinho when it comes to the press room, as Pep himself rightly pointed out. But Guardiola did exactly just that on the eve of Barcelona's first leg Champions League semi-final showdown at Real Madrid, as he finally retorted to his counter-part's constant mind games.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

FAM Rasa Dia Orang 'gentleman'

MESKIPUN Persatuan Bola Sepak Singapura (FAS) masih belum mengemukakan sebarang maklumat rasmi berhubung saingan Liga Singapura (Liga-S) termasuk jadual dan gelanggang rasmi skuad Harimau Muda, Persatuan Bola Sepak Malaysia (FAM) tetap bersikap ’gentleman’.

Setiausaha Agung FAM, Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad (gambar) berkata, masih terlalu awal untuk mendesak FAS supaya segera mengeluarkan jadual dan gelanggang rasmi buat skuad kendalian Ong Kim Swee itu kerana saingan hanya bermula 9 Februari tahun depan.

Menurut beliau, pihaknya sentiasa menghormati etika kerja FAS berhubung perkara itu dan yakin ia dapat dikendalikan dengan cukup profesional.

“Kurang manis jika kita terus mendesak FAS. Kami hormati kerja mereka dan yakin ia akan dapat dikendalikan dengan baik.

“Begitupun, sekiranya FAS masih bersikap ‘membisu’ ketika saingan Liga-S bakal bermula, barulah kita akan mengambil tindakan selanjutnya,” katanya kepada pemberita di Wisma FAM, Kelana Jaya semalam.

Kosmo! semalam melaporkan kerisauan Kim Swee mengenai sikap ‘membisu’ FAS berhubung jadual perlawanan dan stadium rasmi Harimau Muda sepanjang mengharungi saingan Liga- S musim depan.

Antara kebimbangan Kim Swee termasuk sekiranya berlaku sebarang pertindihan jadual perlawanan yang membabitkan Harimau Muda. Ini kerana, skuad negara bakal beraksi pada pusingan kelayakan Piala AFC dan baki kelayakan temasya Sukan Olimpik 2012.

Mereka bakal bersaing di sana selama empat musim sehingga 2015 dan sebagai ‘pertukaran’ skuad Singapura yang dikenali sebagai Lion XII akan beraksi dalam Liga Super bagi tempoh yang sama.

Dalam pada itu, Naib Presiden FAM, Datuk Hamidin Mohd. Amin berkata, Kim Swee tidak perlu risau mengenai sebarang isu berbangkit termasuk sekiranya berlaku pertindihan jadual kerana segala maklumat berkaitan itu telah disalurkan FAM kepada FAS sebelum ini.

Menurut beliau, satu taklimat khas oleh FAS yang melibatkan Kim Swee dan Datuk Affandi Hamzah (pengurus pasukan) akan diadakan di Singapura antara 5 dan 9 Januari depan bagi membincangkan pelbagai perkara berbangkit, termasuk pemeriksaan keselamatan stadium.

“Saya juga menasihatkan segelintir pihak supaya tidak mensensasikan isu tiket membabitkan aksi pasukan Lion XII kerana sudah termaktub dalam perjanjian sebelum ini.

Setiap tiket yang dijual perlu bernilai minimum RM10 dan mana-mana pasukan, termasuk Lion XII berhak menaikkan harga tiket masing-masing.

Why Torres & Drogba should never play together for Chelsea again

The Portuguese boss once again saw the striking duo fail to combine, while selection conundrums regarding Lampard, Sturridge and Mata need to be solved sooner rather than later

After his side laboured to a 1-1 draw with Fulham on Monday, Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas now has the worst record in his first four London derby matches than any other manager who has worked at the club in the Roman Abramovich era.

The Blues started well against the Cottagers, creating a number of chances in the first half that went begging before finally going a goal up through Juan Mata. However, immediately after taking the lead the hosts seemed to go off the boil, allowing the visitors a route back into the game, which they duly took courtesy of Clint Dempsey.

But the most worrying thing for Villas-Boas will be the fact that when Fulham equalised on 56 minutes, his side had no answer, or indeed he could not find the answer. While Chelsea’s Premier League form has been solid of late – currently undefeated in their last six – it is clear that in games against sides such as Fulham, Wigan and, arguably Tottenham, they should have taken all three points.

What is clearer still, is that Villas-Boas does not seem to have found any particular tactical formula to engineer a win, with players such as Frank Lampard being instrumental in one game but dropped for the next and the return of the infamous pairing of Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba in attack. So what lessons should Andre Villas-Boas have taken from Monday’s result?

Firstly, the Ivorian and the Spaniard cannot play up front together. Since Torres’ arrival at Stamford Bridge last January, this 'partnership' has never failed to disappoint. Furthermore, neither has scored a goal this season while the other has been on the pitch, which is surely the clearest indication of their incompatibility with one another.

There is an obvious desire to play a man who has cost the club £50 million, as nobody wants to see that kind of money going to waste, particularly Mr. Abramovich. But if Torres is selected to start, then Monday’s performance, along with a whole host of other matches, is evidence that Drogba must therefore be left out.

Another conundrum which has become apparent at Stamford Bridge is Lampard's starting plight, with the 33-year-old often amongst the substitutes this season. It is clear from Raul Meireles’ first-half performance that he does not play well with the England star alongside him in midfield. But Lampard has proven his worth to his side on numerous occasions, not least showcased by his position as the club’s second highest goal-scorer this season.

Furthermore, the England man has scored on five previous Boxing Days and has bagged seven league goals against Fulham. To substitute a player with a proven scoring history when you’re trying to get back into a game is tactical suicide.

And speaking of goal-scorers, this brings us onto Daniel Sturridge. All credit to Villas-Boas for sticking with the former Manchester City man on the right wing, as opposed to moving him to a more central role, as it has clearly brought out the best in him. But the decision on Monday to replace the club’s top scorer when trying to win a match is even more perplexing than the withdrawal of Lampard.

Another tactical decision made by Villas-Boas to try and get his side back into the match was the positioning of Juan Mata out on the left wing, while Florent Malouda featured in a more central role. While this allows the Spaniard a little more space to run at defenders, he has proven his effectiveness running straight at the heart of the defence as opposed to being pushed out wide. Swapping his position with that of the Frenchman may prove more fruitful in future matches.

However, his side’s failings in attack will not be Villas-Boas’ only worry. Petr Cech again showed his (somewhat understandable) fear of low crosses, allowing Clint Dempsey to bundle the ball in low, not dissimilar from Emmanuel Adebayor’s goal against the Blues on Thursday. It is a clear weakness for the Chelsea stopper, and Villas-Boas needs to find a way to eradicate it before it is exploited further.

In the midst of all of this negativity, there is one shining positive to be taken from the Boxing Day draw and that is the performance of Oriol Romeu. Since Claude Makelele left the club in 2008, the Blues have never really found a player who can hold the defensive midfield position as well as him. But in recent performances, Romeu has been absolutely outstanding, covering every blade of grass in the centre of the park and making a number of crucial tackles in key areas of the pitch. Even more encouraging is his distribution of the ball when in possession.

If the studious and astute Andres Villas-Boas is searching for answers on how to bounce back from this underwhelming Boxing Day match, he need only look at the form book or even remember the old adage, 'If it aint broke don't try to fix it'.

If Didier Drogba, Daniel Sturridge and Frank Lampard are scoring goals, keep them in the side. If you want to get back into a game, don’t take off your two top scorers... Oh, and never play Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres together up front again!

Fabio Capello calls for end to 'stealing' of young stars

The Italian talks about some German players' association with Turkey and insists he has spoken to Uefa president Michel Platini over the apparent 'theft' of players at club level

England manager Fabio Capello has hit out at an apparent theft of talent in national sides and has called on governing bodies to put a stop to the "stealing" of players at club level.

The Italian has questioned Germany's use of footballers with Turkish origin, especially at last year's World Cup in South Africa, suggesting that players shouldn't be able to acquire new passports to pick and choose which country they can play for.

He told The National: "A line needs to be drawn. Richer clubs are talent-scouting and stealing players by bidding higher and not thinking about the consequences for those countries.

"These players are acquiring new passports. Germany had five of Turkish origin who opted to represent them and we all know what happened.

"Problems need to be addressed. Decisions need to be made. Players can be bought, especially when they come from poorer backgrounds, where their families need the financial resources.

"I do not accept that, having trained as a player, a different team can pop by and steal the player from me. Uefa should pass new rules allowing people to reap the seed that's been sown instead of having talents leave when they receive a major offer.

"I've spoken to Michel Platini and he's resolute. In future, clubs will be forbidden to steal players from abroad at a very young age."

Capello is worried about the development of younger players and is adamant that he made an ethically correct decision in picking Danny Welbeck for England, despite his links to Ghana.
He continued: "Ghanaian journalists have asked me why I selected Danny Welbeck to play for England because now he cannot represent Ghana.

"But this isn't true. He was already at Manchester United. Before the selection I called his father and asked if I could select the boy.

"The father took time before agreeing to the selection.

"It was a personal decision, I spoke to the family and they were fine with their son playing for England. He was born and brought up in England.

"The rest of the German national team players were born in Germany or have never played for the national team of their origin.

"But with those other five players Turkey could have performed much better."

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Peluang Untuk Pemain Negara ke Liga-A

BEKAS pemain import yang pernah mencipta nama bersama Sabah, Scott Ollerenshaw bersedia membantu mana-mana pemain Malaysia yang ingin mencuba nasib bersama kelab Liga Australia (Liga A).

Katanya, pemain tempatan perlu berani melebarkan sayap ke peringkat lebih tinggi dan bukan hanya menunggu tawaran datang terhidang.

“Saya bukanlah ejen pemain tapi saya bersedia membantu pemain Malaysia yang mempunyai kesungguhan mencari tempat bermain di Liga A. Saya mempunyai hubungan baik dengan pihak pengurusan beberapa kelab di Australia, jadi bukan menjadi masalah untuk saya membantu pemain Malaysia menjalani ujian percubaan.

“Saya cuma boleh membantu bukannya menjamin tempat mereka bersama kelab, selebihnya terpulang kepada pemain sendiri membuktikan kemampuan mereka,” katanya yang ditemui Arena Metro ketika siri jelajah skuad Olimpik negara di Sydney, baru-baru ini.

“Ketika ini saya lihat, pemain Malaysia hanya cenderung menjalani ujian percubaan dengan kelab mempunyai kepentingan rakyat Malaysia, kenapa tidak berusaha untuk pergi ke kelab lain seperti yang dilakukan pemain import yang datang bermain di Malaysia.” Ketika beraksi dalam kancah Liga Malaysia, kelibat Ollerenshaw, 43, cukup digeruni di depan gawang sehingga berjaya meraih trofi kasut emas sebanyak dua kali sewaktu bersama Sabah pada 1994-1998.

Beliau juga pernah bersama Negeri Sembilan sebelum kembali ke negara kelahirannya Australia dan pernah mewakili skuad Socceroos sebanyak 18 kali.

Ollerenshaw yang kini menetap di Kota Kinabalu, Sabah mengendalikan perniagaan sukan pelancongan yang bertanggung jawab menguruskan perlawanan persahabatan skuad Olimpik kendalian Ong Kim Swee dengan kelab handalan Liga A, Central Coast Mariners dan Sydney FC.

Katanya, Liga A adalah liga yang kompetitif namun itu tidak bermakna pemain Malaysia tidak berkemampuan.

“Liga A memang mencabar khususnya dari aspek fizikal dan teknikal tapi pemain Malaysia sudah mempamerkan peningkatan selepas menjuarai Piala Suzuki AFF dan Sukan Sea. Mungkin FAM (Persatuan Bola Sepak Malaysia) boleh mengenal pasti pemain terbaik dan saya bersedia membantu,” katanya yang bersara ketika berusia 31 tahun akibat kecederaan.

Sebelum ini, dua pemain Harimau Malaya, Mohd Safee Sali dan Safiq Rahim sudah menjalani ujian bersama kelab Inggeris dalam Liga Kejuaraan, Cardiff City. Penyerang sensasi negara, Safee yang kini beraksi dengan kelab Indonesia, Pelita Jaya FC tidak menyembunyikan hasratnya untuk mencari peluang beraksi di Liga A.

Kim Swee Hangin Dengan FAS

SIKAP ‘membisu’ Persatuan Bola Sepak Singapura (FAS) berhubung jadual perlawanan dan juga gelanggang rasmi skuad Harimau Muda menjelang saingan Liga Singapura (Liga-S) musim depan menimbulkan tanda tanya jurulatih, Ong Kim Swee.

Menurut Kim Swee, setakat ini beliau masih belum menerima sebarang maklumat rasmi daripada FAS berhubung perkara itu walaupun difahamkan, saingan Liga-S bakal bermula pada 9 Februari depan.

Meskipun mengakui persiapan anak-anak buahnya tidak terjejas dengan situasi berkenaan, Kim Swee benar-benar berharap supaya FAS dapat menyalurkan maklumat itu kepadanya ataupun menerusi Persatuan Bola Sepak Malaysia (FAM) dengan kadar segera.

“FAS masih tidak beritahu saya mengenai perkara itu, dengan FAM pun belum lagi.

“Saya harap semua urusan ini boleh diketahui dalam tempoh terdekat bagi memudahkan kami menyusun jadual memandangkan pemain Harimau Muda A akan beraksi pada Kejohanan Piala Konfederasi Bola Sepak Asia (AFC) Bawah 22 tahun pada Jun tahun depan, selain menempuh baki kelayakan Olimpik Februari nanti.

“Bukan apa, saya tidak mahu ada sebarang pertindihan jadual nanti.

“Mungkin FAS sudah dimaklumkan mengenai jadual kita dalam pusingan kelayakan Olimpik, cuma saya bimbang mereka terlepas pandang mengenai kejohanan Piala AFC,” katanya kepada Kosmo! semalam.

Skuad Harimau Muda A bakal bersaing dalam Liga-S selama empat musim hasil perjanjian persefahaman selama empat tahun di antara FAS dan FAM sebelum ini. Skuad itu akan dibarisi 28 pemain yang berusia bawah 22 tahun.

‘Sistem barter’ itu juga menyaksikan penyertaan pasukan Singapura yang dikenali sebagai Lions XII FC pada Liga Malaysia (Liga-M) musim depan yang begitupun menimbulkan rasa ‘kurang senang’ pemerhati bola sepak kerana menyenaraikan 10 pemain berusia lebih 23 tahun.

Bagi baki aksi kelayakan Kumpulan C temasya Olimpik Zon Asia nanti, skuad muda negara bakal berkunjung ke Bahrain pada 5 Februari tahun depan sebelum melayan kunjungan Jepun pada 22 Februari. Perlawanan terakhir berdepan Syria pada 14 Mac pula bakal diadakan di gelanggang berkecuali.

Ketika ditanya sama ada Stadium Yishun, Singapura yang berkapasiti 3,400 penonton mungkin menjadi gelanggang rasmi buat skuad Harimau Muda A nanti, Kim Swee juga enggan mengulas lanjut kerana masih belum dimaklumkan FAS.

“Tidak kisahlah beraksi di mana-mana stadium sekalipun, asalkan penyokong negara kita yang bekerja di sana hadir beramai-ramai memberikan sokongan kepada kami,” kata Kim Swee yang akan memanggil semula barisan pemainnya untuk berkumpul semula di Majlis Sukan Negara (MSN) pada 3 Januari depan.

Dalam pada itu, Naib Presiden FAM, Datuk Hamidin Mohd. Amin enggan mengulas lanjut mengenai perkara tersebut, sambil memberitahu, sebarang keputusan berhubung perkara itu akan diketahui hari ini.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Fabregas Wants To Go Back To Arsenal

The former Gunners star admits that he nearly cried the day he left the Emirates Stadium for the final time this summer, and says he has never met anyone as loyal as Arsene Wenger

Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas has spoken of his desire to one day play for Arsenal again.

The Spanish international left the Emirates Stadium in the summer after a protracted transfer saga involving the Gunners and the club where he first began his career.

The 24-year-old eventually joined the European champions for an initial fee of €30 million, but says that leaving north London was a deeply emotional time for him.

"If I have to leave Barcelona, I will go back to Arsenal - I would like to," Fabregas told Sky Sports News. "I am not embarrassed to say that the day I left I could only say 'Thank you very much', I couldn't say more.

"I'm not embarrassed to say that I nearly cried. Arsene Wenger, I have never met someone that loyal. He is one of the best, I really believe that."

Saturday, 24 December 2011

JOKES: WHAT La Liga clubs want for Christmas

There may not be any football on in Spain at this time of year, but every team in La Liga will be hoping for some festive cheer this Christmas. Be it winning the title, Champions League qualification, mid-table safety or merely avoiding relegation, all of the teams in the Primera Division can sit back and assess their season so far over a glass of sherry and a big dinner

As they do so, they will analysing their needs for a prosperous 2012 in La Liga. And perhaps Father Christmas can help them. So, with Mariah Carey's classic song playing in the background, TALKBOLA looks at what Spain's 20 clubs will be hoping to receive from Santa this year:

All ATHLETIC BILBAO want for Christmas is: Basque passports for several of the world's top players

All ATLETICO MADRID want for Christmas is: a new karma - and new owners, too ...

All BARCELONA want for Christmas is: a few extra Clasicos to be added to the fixture list (Pep has won six, drawn one and lost none in the seven Liga meetings with Real Madrid so far)

All BETIS want for Christmas is: the luck they enjoyed in their first five games of the season

All ESPANYOL want for Christmas is: another Pablo Daniel Osvaldo

All GETAFE want for Christmas is: a DVD of their win over Barca to be included in their sperm-bank 'zombie caliente' promotional video - that will get the fans really excited

All GRANADA want for Christmas is: more players on loan from Udinese

All LEVANTE want for Christmas is: for the last two seasons to repeat themselves, so the fourth-placed side at Christmas (in this case them) qualifies for the Champions League

All MALAGA want for Christmas is: some glue to mould together their expensively-assembled playing squad

All MALLORCA want for Christmas is: Anzhi Makhachkala to take them over, relocate to the island and bring back local hero Samuel Eto'o, who still has a house there

All OSASUNA want for Christmas is: a new contract for coach Jose Luis Mendilibar, who has propelled the northerners to fifth place in La Liga on a shoestring budget

All RACING want for Christmas is: the money promised by Indian businessman Ali Syed

All RAYO want for Christmas is: to get paid properly and on time in the coming year

All REAL MADRID want for Christmas is: Catalan independence - so Barcelona go and play in their own league

All REAL SOCIEDAD want for Christmas is: is a machine to clone Inigo Martinez and his goals from the halfway line

All SEVILLA want for Christmas is: a Monopoly-style Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card for their president Jose Maria del Nido, who was sent down for seven-and-a-half years earlier this week

All SPORTING GIJON want for Christmas is: Barcelona to buy back defender Alberto Botia for €2.5m but let him stay at El Molinon until the end of the campaign

All VALENCIA want for Christmas is: a book on magical realism - it would nice to dream of breaking the top two, but it ain't happening any time soon ...

All VILLARREAL want for Christmas is: a time machine so that they can travel back to early last season when they were challenging the best teams at home and in Europe

All ZARAGOZA want for Christmas is: a Messiah

JOKES : What Seria A clubs want for Christmas

Christmas is a big deal for Italians. Nativity scenes, La Befana, Babbo Natale, pesce, panettone and spumante, midnight mass, the Pope's Christmas Day address - it's the biggest family occasion of the year.

For a few days, football talk on the peninsula will grind to a halt. But that doesn't mean that every Serie A president, player, staff member and supporter won't be hoping that Father Christmas can help them moving into 2012.

So with Mariah Carey's classic song playing in the background, here are what Italy's 20 clubs are wishing for from Santa:

All ATALANTA want for Christmas is: Cristiano Doni ... minus the handcuffs

All BOLOGNA want for Christmas is: a time-machine back to the 1930s when they won three Scudetti and Marco Di Vaio was banging in the goals

All CAGLIARI want for Christmas is: Radja Nainggolan to turn down Manchester City's offer of £300,000 a day

All CATANIA want for Christmas is: another 22 fixtures against Palermo

All CESENA want for Christmas is: Italian editor & Claudio Marchisio hater Kris Voakes to say that Marco Parolo is overrated ... the last time he did, 30 seconds later Parolo smashed home a 30-yard screamer

All CHIEVO want for Christmas is: someone to buy Davide Moscardelli a razor ... and a few goals too

All FIORENTINA & GENOA want for Christmas is: Artur Boruc, Juan Vargas and Sebastien Frey to lay off the mince pies

All INTER want for Christmas is: Youth

All JUVENTUS want for Christmas is: not Marco Borriello

All LAZIO want for Christmas is: some shooting/crossing/passing/barber lessons for Djibril Cisse

All LECCE want for Christmas is: a whole new team ... maybe Juan Cuadrado and Luis Muriel can stay

All MILAN want for Christmas is: Paolo Maldini to lend Luca Antonini, Taye Taiwo and Daniele Bonera his best-selling book: Playing Left Back for Dummies

All NAPOLI want for Christmas is: local thieves not to steal Edinson Cavani's shooting boots ... or anyone else's presents

All NOVARA want for Christmas is: a real football pitch

All PALERMO want for Christmas is: new medication for Maurizio Zamparini. Five coaches sacked in 2011 – if Bortolo Mutti makes it to January 1 - the present pills clearly aren't working

All PARMA want for Christmas is: Pelle to predict that their six-game winless streak will continue until the end of the season

All ROMA want for Christmas is: someone to injure Marco Cassetti ... maybe Pablo Osvaldo?

All SIENA want for Christmas is: Andrea Agnelli to lose his mind, sack Antonio Conte and send him back to the Franchi.

All UDINESE want for Christmas is: Nothing ... they already have Christmas all year round thanks to the aptly-named Di Natale

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Malaysian Football 2011

2011 was a year filled with drama and emotion as Malaysian football continued its path towards the great revival mission. So much had been said and revealed about the nation supposedly living in the shadow of its predecessors. But with their emphatic victory in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, there was a new-found belief among local fans.


Staying undefeated throughout their five friendly matches from January to June, The Malayan Tigers could not march into the third round of World Cup qualifiers after losing a tightly contested affair against rivals Singapore over two legs.

Nevertheless, their Under-23 team stole the limelight as far as 2011 was concerned. Despite being regarded as minnows prior to the South East Asian (SEA) Games, Ong Kim Swee’s charges responded in style by retaining their gold medal. Better still, they managed to book a spot in the final round of the Olympic qualifiers, although successive defeats to Japan, Syria and Bahrain have left their qualification hopes hanging in the balance.


The Malaysian Super League enthralled, with Kelantan FA emerging champions under the guidance of experienced coach Dato’ M. Karathu. Terengganu came in close behind but the Turtles finished three points adrift in second place with Selangor claiming third.

While the Turtles finished second in the Super League, their superiority shone in the FA Cup final as they outclassed Kelantan 2-1 after extra time in dramatic fashion. It was a revenge mission accomplished for Irfan Bakti’s men after seeing Kelantan pip them to the league title.

After the league and FA Cup wound down, it was all about the Malaysia Cup. Terengganu progressed into the final to cap a superb year for them, but facing Negri Sembilan was a whole different story. Despite dispatching heavyweights Kelantan and Selangor during the quarter and semi-finals, Irfan Bakti’s men could not replicate their terrific form as Negri denied them of a famous double with a 2-1 win on the day.


2011 was a prosperous year for Malaysian players who attempted to scale bigger heights in football. Safee Sali, whose goals were deciding factors in their AFF Suzuki Cup triumph, was signed by Indonesian side Pelita Jaya. He scored a total of seven goals in 13 appearances in his first season and has been named as team captain in the ongoing Indonesian Super League season.

The Malaysian trio of Fadhli Shas, Wan Zack Wan Haikal and Irfan Fazail were also snapped up on loan by Slovakian club FC ViOn Moravce for three months. However, the trio barely featured with only three appearances shared among them.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR | Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (Kelantan FA, U-23)

The Malaysian shot-stopper was in excellent form throughout the year, playing an integral part in Kelantan’s league triumph as well as the Under-23 team’s victory in the SEA Games. He is not the tallest of individuals but his flexibility between the sticks has propelled him to greater heights. His performances for both club and country did nothing but indicate that Khairul Fahmi is now the nation’s No. 1 goalkeeper by more than a mile.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR | SEA Games victory for U-23

They were largely unrecognised prior to the South East Asian Games, but under the guidance of Ong Kim Swee and skipper Baddrol Bakthiar, the Young Tigers shone admirably as they outclassed the resilient Indonesians on penalties in the final. Not only did they beat the Young Garudas twice during the tournament, but the emergence of Nazmi Faiz and Syahrul Azwari instilled faith in the fans as well.

Although Olympic qualification appears complicated at the moment, there is still a small chance for Malaysia to make an almost-impossible comeback. Three victories against Japan, Syria and Bahrain in their last three qualifiers could indeed book them a spot in London 2012, which would be a historic venture for the nation. Besides that, the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup is also on the agenda with Malaysia co-hosting alongside Thailand.

As far as domestic football action is concerned, the re-introduction of foreign players is likely to generate lots of interest and the quality of football will rise. Nostalgic rivalries will also be renewed with Singapore returning to the league after a long hiatus. For now, it appears that Malaysian football is on its way for some real treats in 2012.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Ngauman Amaran Dari Harimau Muda Menjelang Liga S

TIGA perlawanan pada siri jelajah Australia yang boleh dirangkumkan cukup cemerlang oleh skuad Olimpik negara baru-baru ini seolah-olah memberi amaran kepada lawan mereka pada saingan Liga Singapura (Liga S), bahawa penampilan pertama kali anak buah Ong Kim Swee di negara jiran itu tidak boleh dipandang remeh.

Bermula dengan kemenangan 3-0 ke atas Sydney FC, anak buah Ong Kim Swee kecundang tipis 0-1 kepada Central Coast Marines FC sebelum melakar kemenangan besar 4-1 ke atas lawan sama kelmarin.

Mungkin bagi pihak yang kerap mengkritik, ia bukanlah pencapaian yang boleh dibanggakan, lebih-lebih lagi hanya bertemu lawan berstatus kelab di Liga Australia, namun bagi pengurus pasukan Harimau Muda A, Datuk Afandi Hamzah, apa yang dicapai skuad negara itu amat membanggakan dan cukup penting dalam persiapan bagi mengharungi saingan Liga S, awal tahun depan.

“Pengalaman yang diraih di Australia sebenarnya cukup memberi banyak manfaat kepada skuad negara kita, lebih-lebih lagi untuk menghadapi saingan Liga Singapura tahun depan.

“Di sana nanti (Liga S), saya akui selain pasukan tempatan, banyak pasukan jemputan yang hebat akan bertanding, terutama daripada Perancis (Etoile FC) dan Jepun (Albirex Niigata FC).

“Jadi bagi saya, melalui tiga perlawanan di Australia ini, pemain dapat mempelajari sesuatu yang pastinya diharap dapat dimanfaatkan apabila bersaing di Liga Singapura,” katanya

Harimau Muda A akan beraksi buat kali pertama dalam Liga S musim depan menerusi kerjasama Persatuan Bola Sepak Malaysia (FAM) dan Persatuan Bola Sepak Singapura (FAS) yang menyaksikan skuad Young Lions yang dipanggil LionsXII bersaing dalam Liga Malaysia sebagai pertukaran.

Sementara itu, Afandi yang juga Naib Presiden FAM ketika diajukan sasaran skuad negara pada penampilan pertama di Kota Singa itu, berkata tiada sasaran spesifik diletakkan untuk skuad negara.

“Bagi saya, eloklah mereka memfokuskan kepada menimba pengalaman di sana, ini yang penting. Kali pertama bertanding (di Liga S), kita tidak mahu meletakkan sasaran tertentu.

“Saya juga berharap mereka dapat menjadikan saingan ini untuk meningkatkan mutu permainan untuk menghadapi saingan lebih penting pada masa akan datang,” katanya.

Ngauman Amaran Buat Harimau Muda Menjelang Liga S

TIGA perlawanan pada siri jelajah Australia yang boleh dirangkumkan cukup cemerlang oleh skuad Olimpik negara baru-baru ini seolah-olah memberi amaran kepada lawan mereka pada saingan Liga Singapura (Liga S), bahawa penampilan pertama kali anak buah Ong Kim Swee di negara jiran itu tidak boleh dipandang remeh.

Bermula dengan kemenangan 3-0 ke atas Sydney FC, anak buah Ong Kim Swee kecundang tipis 0-1 kepada Central Coast Marines FC sebelum melakar kemenangan besar 4-1 ke atas lawan sama kelmarin.

Mungkin bagi pihak yang kerap mengkritik, ia bukanlah pencapaian yang boleh dibanggakan, lebih-lebih lagi hanya bertemu lawan berstatus kelab di Liga Australia, namun bagi pengurus pasukan Harimau Muda A, Datuk Afandi Hamzah, apa yang dicapai skuad negara itu amat membanggakan dan cukup penting dalam persiapan bagi mengharungi saingan Liga S, awal tahun depan.

“Pengalaman yang diraih di Australia sebenarnya cukup memberi banyak manfaat kepada skuad negara kita, lebih-lebih lagi untuk menghadapi saingan Liga Singapura tahun depan.

“Di sana nanti (Liga S), saya akui selain pasukan tempatan, banyak pasukan jemputan yang hebat akan bertanding, terutama daripada Perancis (Etoile FC) dan Jepun (Albirex Niigata FC).

“Jadi bagi saya, melalui tiga perlawanan di Australia ini, pemain dapat mempelajari sesuatu yang pastinya diharap dapat dimanfaatkan apabila bersaing di Liga Singapura,” katanya

Harimau Muda A akan beraksi buat kali pertama dalam Liga S musim depan menerusi kerjasama Persatuan Bola Sepak Malaysia (FAM) dan Persatuan Bola Sepak Singapura (FAS) yang menyaksikan skuad Young Lions yang dipanggil LionsXII bersaing dalam Liga Malaysia sebagai pertukaran.

Sementara itu, Afandi yang juga Naib Presiden FAM ketika diajukan sasaran skuad negara pada penampilan pertama di Kota Singa itu, berkata tiada sasaran spesifik diletakkan untuk skuad negara.

“Bagi saya, eloklah mereka memfokuskan kepada menimba pengalaman di sana, ini yang penting. Kali pertama bertanding (di Liga S), kita tidak mahu meletakkan sasaran tertentu.

“Saya juga berharap mereka dapat menjadikan saingan ini untuk meningkatkan mutu permainan untuk menghadapi saingan lebih penting pada masa akan datang,” katanya.

Perlawanan Pada Boxing Day Terjejas Akibat Drebar Mogok

Kedua-dua perlawanan Liga Perdana Inggeris di London pada Boxing Day terancam berikutan rancangan mogok oleh pemandu kereta api bawah tanah.

Arsenal sudah menjual semua 60,000 tiket bagi perlawanan mereka di gelanggang sendiri menentang Wolverhampton Wanderers pada 26 Disember namun perjalanan ke Stadium Emirates buat penyokong dan 1,000 kakitangan perlawanan kelab itu mungkin terjejas jika mogok 24 jam ahli ASLEF, kesatuan pemandu, diteruskan.

“Kelab ini amat menyedari mengenai rancangan tindakan industri di London Underground pada Isnin, 26 Disember,” kata satu kenyataan dalam laman web rasmi Arsenal, kelmarin.

“Kami memantau dengan rapi situasi ini, bersama semua agensi berkaitan... Kebimbangan besar kepada Arsenal FC adalah tanggungjawab kami terhadap penyokong Arsenal, penyokong Wolverhampton Wanderers, petugas hari perlawanan dan setiap orang yang berhasrat menonton perlawanan ini.

“Perkembangan perlawanan ini akan kami maklumkan segera dalam”

Resilient Manchester City overcome improving Arsenal but tight clash shows both sides approach 2012 on the up

Roberto Mancini's side secured three points against the Gunners at the Etihad Stadium as both teams impressed during a magnificent Premier League heavyweight clash

As Manchester City beat Arsenal to move back to the top of the Premier League, it looked like a case of both sides starting their New Year's resolutions a little early.

The two teams may now be separated by 12 points in the league but it was only David Silva's 53rd minute winner that was to prove the difference at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, in a game from which both managers can take plenty.

For Roberto Mancini to see his players cast aside the disappointment of having their unbeaten start collapse at Stamford Bridge six days ago will provide the Italian evidence that his side have progressed to a level where their title credentials can no longer be questioned.

Indeed, to knock another side out of what has threatened to become a crowded race for the Premier League crown is a valuable bonus to those in Manchester, but to do so on the back of a turbulent fortnight after having slipped from the top of the table earlier in the afternoon is an even greater boost for a group of 11 players from which only one, Kolo Toure, has previously picked up a winner's medal in the division.

Performances from Mario Balotelli and goalscorer Silva were standout but it was perhaps Samir Nasri who best exemplified what made City so impressive at the Etihad. Against the club whom he left on less than cordial terms with in the summer, the Frenchman, like his new team-mates, stepped up to the limelight and delivered with so many willing him to fluff his lines.

As was the case with the Arsenal defenders briefed to mark him, the taunts and boos of the travelling Gunners support simply bounced off the 24-year-old. Pantomime season it may be, but Nasri was too busy dazzling to play the villain.

The importance of the win was not lost on Mancini, whose behaviour in the technical area was probably at its most erratic since its fist-pumping zenith at the Etihad during City's win over Villarreal in October. His praise for his players was unequivocal in the post-match press conference - no mean feat for a man who called for more from his squad after their 6-1 win at Old Trafford. That win set the tone for City's title charge; the victory over Arsenal has simply reaffirmed it.

Arsenal's New Year pledge will almost certainly focus on securing a top four spot from now, with even Wenger himself all but confirming that his side were too far behind their hosts at the end of the game to involve themselves in the title race. “Unfortunately for us it was a game we couldn’t afford to lose," said the Frenchman. That they did was not a reflection of their efforts in the blue half of Manchester.

It was at times quite difficult to believe that this was the same Gunners outfit who imploded so spectacularly only six miles away at Old Trafford at the end of August, with discipline and durability providing Wenger's side a backbone that it has suffered without for far too long.

The north Londoners' performance against City was in complete contrast to the devil may care showings that contributed to their worst league start in 58 years and despite having lost more games to any of the other Champions League chasers, the Emirates club look better placed to push for a spot in the competition now than they have all season, sat fifth, above Liverpool, and only three points behind Chelsea.

The nature of Arsenal's perennial transition under Wenger is always likely to frustrate the club's fans, but to see members of the squad other than Robin van Persie shine, albeit in defeat, belittles talk of a one-man team and bolsters top four talk. Wojciech Szczesny, Laurent Koscielny and Gervinho all proved themselves equal to many of City's players for long periods and deserved more than a gallant defeat.

If both sides maintain the level at which they played against each other over the festive period then both will enjoy a very merry Christmas. More importantly, an even happier new year awaits.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Pass Eksperimen

SKUAD Olimpik negara menamatkan siri jelajah di Sydney, Australia dengan cemerlang apabila menewaskan kelab Liga Australia (Liga-A), Central Coast Mariners FC 4-1 pada aksi persahabatan, semalam.

Pada perlawanan di padang Akademi Central Coast Mariners, Mingara itu, skuad kendalian Ong Kim Swee membuka tirai jaringan menerusi gol penyerang Ahmad Fakri Saarani di minit ke-13 selepas menolak masuk hantaran lintang Mohd Fandi Othman.

Bersambung babak kedua, Kim Swee membuat beberapa pertukaran dengan memasukkan penyerang Ahmad Hazwan Bakri dan A Thamil Arasu.

Ternyata percaturan itu membuahkan hasil dengan pemain Kuala Lumpur, Hazwan meledak dua gol pada minit ke-48 dan 60 manakala Thamil menjadikan kedudukan 4-0 menerusi jaringan di minit ke-71.

Pendahulu Liga-A, Mariners yang menurunkan enam pemain dari skuad utama dalam perlawanan itu berjaya meraih gol sagu hati selepas percubaan Ben Jerman di minit ke-85 menewaskan penjaga gol negara, Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.

Bagi Kim Swee, beliau berpuas hati dengan persembahan pemain kali ini selepas mereka mencatat kemenangan 3-0 ke atas Sydney FC pada aksi pertama sebelum tumpas 1-0 kepada Mariners dalam aksi terdahulu.

“Pemain bermain lebih baik berbanding ketika kita tewas 1-0 sebelum ini, banyak aspek positif kita dapat lihat terutama jentera serangan apabila penyerang Hazwan, Fakri dan Thamil berjaya menjaringkan gol,” katanya.

Sementara itu, jurulatih Mariners, Graham Arnold memuji permainan yang ditunjukkan pemain skuad bawah 22 negara.

“Mereka mempamerkan permainan yang mengagumkan. Mereka masih muda dan jika terus dikekalkan dalam skuad ini dan terus diberikan pendedahan saya percaya mereka mempunyai masa depan yang baik,” katanya.

Harimau Muda Mengamuk Di Australia

BAGAIKAN harimau yang kelaparan.Itu perumpamaan paling tepat bagi menggambarkan prestasi skuad Harimau Muda kendalian Ong Kim Swee yang tampil garang untuk membelasah Central South Mariner 4-1 pada perlawanan persahabatan terakhir mereka di bumi Australia semalam.

Tewas pada aksi kedua kepada pasukan yang sama di Sydney pada 14 Disember lalu nyata tidak mematahkan semangat skuad remaja negara itu, malah mereka tampil dengan rentak yang lebih bertenaga dan terancang.

Dua gol daripada Ahmad Hazwan Bakri dan satu gol masing-masingnya dijaringkan oleh Ahmad Fakri Saarani dan A. Thamil Arasu sudah cukup untuk membuktikan betapa mereka inginkan kemenangan sebelum kembali ke tanah air hari ini.

Kehadiran Mohd. Muslim Ahmad yang baru pulih daripada kecederaan betis turut memberikan impak kepada benteng pertahanan negara dalam mengekang asakan pasukan tuan rumah.

Bagi Kim Swee, dia merupakan individu paling gembira dengan kemenangan tersebut kerana ia dicapai dengan gaya yang sungguh memberangsangkan.

Menurutnya, semua pemain beraksi cemerlang dan mereka betul-betul mempergunakan kelebihan yang ada pada diri masing-masing.

“Saya amat berpuas hati dengan prestasi semua pemain. Barisan serangan pada hari ini (semalam) amat berjaya terutama Hazwan yang telah menjaringkan dua gol. Fakri dan Thamil juga tidak mengecewakan saya.

“Sebenarnya kami memiliki banyak peluang untuk menambah jaringan ketika menentang Central South Mariner pada babak kedua perlawanan namun nasib tidak menyebelahi kami.

“Saya sangat gembira dengan prestasi yang dipamerkan oleh skuad ini. Ini menunjukkan satu keputusan sangat positif yang dilihat sebagai persiapan terbaik untuk menghadapi Liga Singapura dan kejohanan Piala Konfederasi Bola Sepak Asia (AFC) bawah 22 tahun pada tahun hadapan,” katanya ketika dihubungi Kosmo! di Sydney semalam.

Selain dua kejohanan penting itu, Kim Swee juga menegaskan beliau mahu membina satu pasukan yang lebih mantap untuk jangka masa panjang dalam menghadapi saingan temasya Sukan SEA 2013 Myanmar kelak.

“Sudah tentu kami kini sedang berusaha untuk meningkatkan tahap prestasi pemain muda ini untuk terus membina satu pasukan yang lebih kuat bagi menghadapi kejohanan-kejohanan akan datang.

“Dengan pendedahan perlawanan bermutu tinggi seperti ini, saya amat mengharapkan pemain dapat memanfaatkan segala pengalaman dan peluang untuk terus tampil dengan aksi terbaik dalam aksi kelayakan Olimpik 2012 Zon Asia menentang Bahrain pada tahun depan.

“Paling mustahak, mereka harus mengekalkan konsistensi dalam corak dan rentak permainan masing-masing,” katanya.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Barca Juara Piala Kelab Dunia

YOKOHAMA, Jepun – Juara kelab Eropah, Barcelona memenangi gelaran juara Piala Kelab Dunia selepas menewaskan Santos dari Brazil 4-0 pada final semalam.

Pemain Terbaik Dunia, Lionel Messi meledakkan dua gol untuk kelab Liga Sepanyol itu, manakala Xavi Hernandez dan Cesc Fabregas masing-masing menyumbat satu gol.

Penyerang Argentina itu meletakkan Barcelona di depan menerusi satu gerakan cantik pada minit ke-17 sebelum Xavi menambah gol kedua tujuh minit kemudian.

Bekas pemain Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas mengukuhkan kedudukan pada minit-minit akhir babak pertama sebelum Messi mengesahkan kemenangan mutlak Barcelona minit ke-82.

Ia adalah trofi yang ke-13 buat Barcelona di bawah bimbingan jurulatih Pep Guardiola.

Sementara itu, pada perlawanan terdahulu, kelab Qatar, Al Sadd menewaskan juara Jepun, Kashiwa Reysol 5-3 menerusi penentuan sepakan penalti untuk menduduki tempat ketiga pada kejohanan ini.

Barcelona membuktikan mereka kini adalah kelab bola sepak terhebat di dunia selepas mudah membelasah Santos dari Brazil 4-0 untuk muncul juara Piala Kelab Dunia semalam.

Ironinya, kejayaan kelab dari Sepanyol itu turut ditunjangi kelibat pemain terhebat dunia, Lionel Messi yang menjaringkan dua gol pada perlawanan akhir tersebut.

Dua lagi gol Barcelona dijaringkan oleh Xavi Hernandez dan Cesc Fabregas.

Ternyata pertemuan juara kelab Eropah dan juara kelab Amerika Selatan itu tidak berlangsung seperti yang diharapkan apabila Barcelona mudah meratah gawang Santos.

Malah, pertembungan sengit yang dijangka antara Messi dan Neymar juga tidak menjadi kenyataan apabila penye- rang Santos itu tenggelam dalam seba- hagian besar permainan.

Ini menyaksikan Barcelona mudah meraih kejuaraan Piala Kelab Dunia kedua mereka dalam tempoh tiga tahun. Kali pertama ialah pada 2009 ketika mereka menewaskan Estudiantes 2-1 selepas masa tambahan.

Bagi jurulatih Barcelona, Pep Guardiola, ini merupakan trofi ke-13 berjaya dimenanginya sejak mula membimbing kelab itu pada 5 Jun, 2008.

Sementara itu, juara kelab Asia, Al Sadd dari Qatar berjaya menduduki tempat ketiga selepas menewas- kan juara kelab Jepun, Kashiwa Reysol menerusi pe- nentuan sepakan penalti 5-3 selepas kedudukan terikat tanpa jaringan dalam 90 minit permainan dan masa tambahan.

Raul Buktikan Dia Masih Berbisa

Pemain veteran Sepanyol, Raul, membuktikan bakat hebat dimilikinya ketika membantu Schalke membelasah Werder Bremen 5-0 sekali gus menguatkan harapannya untuk mengikat kontrak baru bersama pasukan itu.

Kontrak bintang bola sepak berusia 34 tahun itu tamat Jun depan dan Schalke dijangka membincangkan hala tujunya di Bundesliga ketika cuti musim sejuk ini, yang bermula semalam.

Royal Blues sudah mengatakan mereka berminat untuk mengambil khidmat penyerang Cologne, Lukas Podolski dari Jerman sebagai pengganti. Namun, Raul berjaya mematahkan pertahanan Bremen dengan penuh bergaya.

Kejayaan itu meletakkan Schalke di tangga ketiga dan seiring dengan juara bertahan, Dortmund, menerusi catatan 34 mata. Kedua-dua pasukan berada tiga mata di belakang pendahulu, Bayern Munich.

“Saya mahu terus bermain bersama kelab, tapi semua itu hanya akan ditentukan bulan depan. Buat masa ini, saya perlu kekal fokus kerana perlu berdepan perlawanan penting menentang Borussia Moenchengladbach dalam tiga hari lagi pada Piala Jerman,” katanya.

Schalke bermula cemerlang di Veltins Arena dengan Raul menjaringkan dua gol dalam tempoh empat minit untuk meletakkan tuan rumah di depan 2-0 selepas hanya 20 minit
Dia meraih hatrik pada minit ke-63 dengan tandukan ke gawang menerusi hantaran jauh pemain pertahanan, Christian Fuchs.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Tom Cruise Nak Bekcham Berlakon Bersamanya

IA kelihatan seperti ‘Mission: Impossible’ tetapi Tom Cruise nampaknya mahu David Beckham menjadi seorang bintang filem.

Cruise, 49 berkata dia terdesak mencari skrip sesuai berkata: “Saya ingin berlakon filem aksi bersama Beckham. Ia pasti hebat, dia mampu melakukan tendangan.” Tidak syak lagi pemain bola sepak itu mampu melakukan tendangan.

Malah dia juga mempunyai pengalaman berlakon menerusi filem Goal! dan Goal! II.

Ketika tayangan perdana Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol di London, Cruise berkata: “David mungkin perlu mengajar saya bermain bola sepak terlebih dahulu.” Kedua-duanya bersahabat sejak sekian lama, malah isteri mereka Katie Holmes dan Victoria Beckham turut berkawan baik.

Persahabatan mereka bermula apabila Cruise memberikan jaket baldu yang dipakainya dalam filem Jerry Maguire kepada Beckham selepas mengetahui pemain itu dan Victoria menonton filem 1996 itu pada janji temu pertama mereka, Rakan atau tidak, Cruise masih mahu menjadi hero.

Sebelum ini dia pernah berkata: “Beckham sesuai memegang watak jahat.”

Mancini Laungkan Keyakinan

MANCHESTER - Pengurus Manchester City, Roberto Mancini percaya pasukannya mampu menjuarai Liga Perdana England sekiranya mereka terus mengekalkan kedudukan pasukan ketika ketiadaan beberapa pemain utamanya yang akan beraksi pada Piala Negara-Negara Afrika.

Rekod tanpa kalah City dileburkan oleh Chelsea minggu lalu dan hari ini, mereka sekali lagi berdepan tugas sukar apabila menghadapi ancaman Arsenal di Eastland.

Meskipun bakal kehilangan beberapa tonggak utama, Mancini belum mahu panik sebaiknya terus memandang ke hadapan dengan harapan pemainnya terus mempertahankan kedudukan sebagai pendahulu liga.

Yaya Toure dan Kolo Toure akan terlepas beberapa perlawanan penting City kerana mereka akan beraksi pada Piala Negara-Negara Afrika yang akan bermula pada 21 Januari hingga 12 Februari tahun depan.

Mancini bagaimanapun akan memastikan dua tonggak utamanya itu akan kekal bersama kelab sehingga 16 Januari sebelum memulakan tugasan mereka bersama Ivory Coast di Piala Negara-Negara Afrika iaitu enam hari sebelum perlawanan pertama skuad kebangsaan mereka di peringkat kumpulan menentang Sudan.

Mancini mengharapkan Yaya akan kekal sehingga perlawanan menentang Wigan iaitu seminggu sebelum bermulanya Piala Negara-negara Afrika.

"Saya berharap dia akan kekal bersama pasukan sehingga perlawanan menentang Wigan. Sekiranya Ivory Coast sampai ke akhir, dia dan Kolo tidak akan kembali sehingga 12 Februari.

"Bagi kami, ia mungkin akan menjadi masalah. Tetapi sekiranya mereka kembali daripada kejohanan itu dan kami masih kekal mendahului carta liga, saya yakin kami mampu memenangi gelaran itu musim ini," katanya.

Tambahnya, pada masa ini, United atau Tottenham mungkin mampu mengatasi mereka seterusnya memenangi gelaran tersebut.

"Tetapi musim masih panjang walaupun United dan Spurs antara pasukan yang paling rapat mengekori kami tetapi Chelsea, Arsenal atau Liverpool juga mampu merampas kejuaraan tersebut dan mereka tidak boleh dipandang mudah."

the stats that show why history favours Chelsea and Arsenal over Napoli & AC Milan in the Champions League

Arsenal face AC Milan and Chelsea will take on Napoli when Europe's elite competition resumes in February, and they will be hoping to continue a trend of Premier League dominance

Friday's Champions League draw threw up two clashes that deserve top billing as in-form Arsenal were handed a test of their mettle against Serie A holders AC Milan, while Chelsea were paired with Manchester City conquerors Napoli.

Anglo-Italian clashes always whip up a deep-rooted English fear of conniving Catenaccio and elegant attackers gliding through defences, but it is the Premier League clubs that have bullied their Serie A rivals ever since Uefa changed the European Cup into the Champions League in 1992.

Indeed, the stats in Champions League matches between clubs of the two nations make for grim reading for Calcio aficionados as they show how vastly superior, in raw results at the business end of the competition, English football has become over the illustrious Italian game...
1.23 – As easy as A, B, C... English clubs have racked up on average more than a goal a game (47 in 38 matches) when playing on Italian soil.

2 – In nine attempts, only twice have Italian sides defeated English teams over two legs in the round of 16 (when AC Milan beat Manchester United 1-0 home and away in 2005 and when Jose Mourinho's Inter defeated Chelsea in 2010).

2 – Number of games that have gone to penalties. On both occasions English teams were victorious: Liverpool in the 2005 final against Milan and Arsenal in the last 16 at Roma in 2009.

3 – Number of goals AC Milan put past Liverpool without reply by half-time in the 2005 Champions League final before they fell apart.

3 – On only three occasions (AC Milan over Manchester United in 2005 and 2007, and Inter over Chelsea in 2010) aside from finals has an Italian club knocked out a Premier League team in 16 two-legged face-offs – a success ratio of just 18.75 per cent for Serie A's finest.

4 – Most number of goals scored by an Italian team against an English side in a single game (Inter's 4-1 win over Newcastle at St James' Park in 2002).

5 – Greatest number of goals scored by an away side in a single game. This occurred when Thierry Henry inspired Arsenal to an incredible 5-1 victory over Inter at San Siro in the second group stage of the 2003-04 edition. The Gunners were without then first-team regulars Lauren, Patrick Vieira, Sylvain Wiltord and Martin Keown for the fixture and had to win to keep their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals alive.

5 – Juventus (from 18 games) and Inter (from 14) are Italy's most successful clubs against English opposition in the Champions League having both beaten them five times, nine wins fewer than Manchester United have over Serie A teams.

7 – Number of minutes it took Liverpool to go from 3-0 down to level in the 2005 final after Steven Gerrard pulled one back nine minutes after the restart – marking one of the lowest nights in the history of Calcio as AC Milan allowed Rafael Benitez's underdogs to mount the most famous comeback (and most spectacular collapse) in Champions League history.

7 – Manchester United hit a magnificent seven, the most goals scored by one team in an Anglo-Italian clash, past Roma in the second leg of their 2007 quarter-final before they were knocked out by AC Milan in the semis.

9 – Number of times English and Italian teams have been paired together in the round of 16 before Friday's draw pitted Chelsea against Napoli and Arsenal versus AC Milan. In 2009, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United were all given Italian jobs and all succeeded as they respectively dispatched Roma, Juventus and Inter.

13 – Serie A sides have been dumped out of the Champions League in the knockout stages more than a dozen times by English opposition. The last contest between the two nations beyond the group stage saw a Premier League side triumphant yet again as Tottenham beat AC Milan in an ill-tempered first leg at San Siro before they held firm for a goalless draw at White Hart Lane in the return fixture.

14 – Manchester United are the most successful English team against Italian opponents, having won 17 and drawn five of their 35 games against Serie A sides in all competitions. Since the inception of the Champions League, they have won 14 of their 26 Anglo-Italian clashes and scored 43 goals.

21 – Number of drawn games, one of them being the 2005 Champions League final, between English and Italian clubs at all stages of the competition.

23 – Number of times Italian sides have beaten Premier League opponents in the Champions League – a paltry 29.4% win ratio.

30 – Clean sheets kept by English teams, which is seven more than the stereotypically stingy Italian defences have managed.

34 – Times English teams have beaten Serie A opposition at all stages – a 50% win ratio.

78 – Anglo-Italian matches since the first meeting – when Juventus played Manchester United – in the competition in 1996.

79 – Number of goals scored home and away by Italian teams.

108 – Total number of goals scored home and away by English teams against Italian clubs – an average of 1.38 a match.

Five things to expect from the Champions League last 16


When Napoli were paired with Chelsea and AC Milan with Arsenal, a Serie A v English Premier League thread was immediately sewn through the Champions League last 16 seam. The reality is that there is no longer scope for a league versus league debate.

Elite clubs' finances are so far out of sync with the normal operating costs within their own domestic sectors that the debate of which league is stronger can no longer be answered through the Champions League. Ferrari and McLaren, in F1, are not the ultimate indication of how well Italy and England's motor industry is doing, and the standard of the top three or four clubs operating in a domestic league is no longer a useful yardstick to measure depth and quality all the way down the listings.

If Arsenal beat AC Milan it doesn't mean that the English Premier League is stronger than Italy's Serie A. It means that Arsenal are stronger than AC Milan and nothing more. Barcelona and Real Madrid's imperiousness in the Champions League should not mean that la Liga as a whole is regarded as stronger as a result of the Clasico rivals' performance levels.

The definition of a 'good' or 'bad' league is entirely subjective and the true test of a division's strength can best be determined through internal competition - that is the relative strength of the league's participants in relation to one another. But Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Zenit St Petersburg and the rest of the ultra-rich teams in the Champions League did not choose in which domestic championship they compete.

Clubs in that financial stratosphere operate like city states of old; it is a matter of irrelevance who the neighbours are. Teams at this stage of the competition are not immediately preoccupied with the addition of Uefa co-efficient points; that is an incidental factor which will be countenanced at the end of the season.

But perhaps Uefa should stop cutting club allocation along national lines. Why not do it as a matter of wealth? The European Union, with the Schengen Area and the Euro, has already obfuscated national borders, perhaps Uefa should do the same. One thing is certain. There are no strong leagues, only strong teams.


Switzerland's performance at the Uefa Under-21 Championships in Denmark last summer gave international observers a tantalising first glimpse of a new generation of players on show. FC Basel have made key men of four of the squad from that tournament, in which the Swiss reached the final, and the quartet has matured through the group stages of this season's Champions League.

Yann Sommer, the goalkeeper Sir Alex Ferguson should have signed for Manchester United instead of David de Gea, Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabian Frei helped lead their club to the last 16 and, in the process, have set themselves on the path to becoming household names around the continent.

Despite Basel's success this season in continental competition, big moves will come for those four outstanding young talents. And that is one of the crowning glories of the Champions League. Fans in Portugal or Romania may not be well acquainted with Swiss football, but, having seen Basel play against Benfica and Otelul Galati, they are a little wiser as to some of the continent's supreme young talent.

Seydou Doumbia, Nicolas Gaitan, Daniel Sturridge and Isaac Cuenca have also made significant personal progress this season as CSKA Moscow, Benfica, Chelsea and Barcelona moved through to the knockout stages.

In an age of unparalleled scrutiny, opinion and knowledge it is refreshing that the most prestigious competition in Europe can make stars of previously unheralded talent. By the time the quarter-finals commence, the football community will be ready to usher in new stars.


A hallmark of a good percentage of the teams which have made it to the last 16 stage of the competition has been a reliance on a designated 'goalscorer' to finish moves and make sure tallies are increased. Bayern Munich have Mario Gomez, Barcelona have Lionel Messi and Real Madrid count on Cristiano Ronaldo. With all due respect, all three teams will expect to partake in the quarter-finals.

Further down the pecking order of the competing teams, Lyon's Bafetimbi Gomis, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan and Edinson Cavani of Napoli will all relish the opportunity of adding to their individual strike-rates. Also, it can't be long until Arsenal's Robin van Persie gets his eye in.

This season is a golden moment for strikers around the continent; gunslingers whose currency is only goals. There has been a recent trend for strikers to act as a frontline reference point for the midfielders and support players behind them. Goalscoring is not always a forward's primary function in today's game, but it is good to see a return of the marksman. Long may it continue.


Manchester United had a kind draw in the group stages, but a porous backline and inconsistency in selection cost last season's beaten finalists a place in the knockout rounds. They were humbled by Basel, well-matched by Benfica.

This season, as pointed out previously, the gulf between the seeded teams and lesser-ranked teams has closed. Average goal difference among knockout round participants is lower this season as is the gap, points-wise, between the first and third-ranked teams in the groups. A tie against a pot three or pot four team is no longer a gimme.

In many of the last 16 ties, it is not easy to pick a favourite. Only Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid would be reasonably optimistic of edging out their opponents to take their places in the last eight. Chelsea, Arsenal, Benfica and Inter are all less certain of their fate. APOEL are the anomaly. Despite being 'seeded', they remain the underdogs.

There is significant talent in the ranks of the group runners-up. The champions of Italy and Russia, AC Milan and Zenit, are there, as are the vanquishers of Manchester City, Napoli, as well as the redoubtable French duo of Lyon and Marseille. You could barely slip a cigarette paper between the sides in the draw.

The distance between the favoured teams and the outsiders has never been more slender. It is inevitable that a leading contender will tumble.


Uefa faces an unprecedented challenge to the hegemony it enjoys in utilising Europe's elite clubs in Champions League and Europa League competition.

The European Club Association, which comprises 201 members, currently has a memorandum of understanding with Uefa which facilitates the participation of its member clubs in Uefa competition. The current memorandum expires in 2014, and there are currently few signs that the ECA and Uefa will reach an agreement on a new deal.

The ECA demands that Uefa and Fifa become more transparent, that the international match calendar is truncated, and that clubs receive fair compensation and insurance payments for players featuring and becoming injured on international duty.

The president of the ECA, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, claims in World Soccer this month that he is "not especially optimistic" of reaching a new deal with Uefa as a deadline for an accord looms closer. He suggests that the failure of Uefa to cede to ECA demands would see its members initiate a rival competition.

"If we don't settle a new memorandum with Fifa and Uefa by Christmas of 2011, I will have to ask our board and general assembly whether they are ready to go their own way, to organise our own competition," he says.

"I feel Fifa and Uefa are underestimating the clubs. They need us more than we need them. Without the players - our employees - the governing bodies could do nothing. We could run the Champions League without them [Uefa]."

The ECA threatens to destabilise the infrastructure of European football competition unless its demands are assuaged. Before the last 16 stage of the 2011-12 competition a timeline could well have been set for the demise of the Champions League.

The year of the Occupy Movement ends with the ECA camped on Uefa territory.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Keputusan Undian Peringkat 16 Pasukan Terakhir Liga Juara Juara Eropah ( CL)

Lyon v APOEL Nicosia
Napoli v Chelsea
AC Milan v Arsenal
Basel v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica
Marseille v Inter

Perlawanan pertama akan bermula pada 14/15 Februari dan 21/22 Februari manakala perlawanan kedua akan berlangsung pada 6/7 dan 13/14 March

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Liga M Tarik Perhatian Kemboja

KELAB Kemboja, Preah Khan Reach antara pasukan dari rantau ASEAN yang berminat beraksi dalami Liga Malaysia.

KEHADIRAN semula pasukan negara jiran, Singapura yang kembali mewarnai saingan Liga Malaysia (Liga M) pada musim depan dilihat bukan sahaja mengujakan peminat bola sepak tempatan tetapi juga warga republik itu sendiri.

Kembali dengan nama Lion XII FC, sebahagian besar peminat bola sepak tempatan begitupun pastinya masih belum lupa dengan tindakan Persatuan Bola Sepak Singapura (FAS) yang 'berpatah arang berkerat rotan' dengan Persatuan Bola Sepak Malaysia (FAM) serta bertindak keluar daripada saingan Liga M sebelum ini.

Ia gara-gara FAS dikhabarkan tidak berpuas hati dengan peraturan levi tiket sebelum membentuk Liga Singapura (Liga S) kira-kira 17 tahun lepas.

Biarpun ada yang 'kurang senang' dengan 'kepulangan' Singapura kali ini termasuk sikap 'manja' mereka yang membariskan 10 pemain melebihi usia 23 tahun, sudah pasti kehadiran mereka bakal menghangatkan lagi saingan bola sepak tempatan serta mengundang gerun pasukan lawan.

Tidak mustahil akan ada lebih banyak pasukan atau kelab dari negara serantau bakal mengikuti jejak langkah Singapura selepas ini, sekali gus membantu meningkatkan lagi tahap kompetitif Liga M, dan ia turut diakui Naib Presiden FAM, Datuk Hamidin Mohd. Amin.

Menurut beliau, selain kelab Preah Khan Reach dari Kemboja yang pernah membuat permohonan bagi menyertai aksi Piala FA sebelum ini, pihaknya juga telah menerima beberapa permohonan daripada beberapa kelab terkemuka dari Thailand dan Indonesia yang turut melahirkan hasrat sama.

"Begitupun, segala-galanya masih di peringkat perbincangan dan tidak mungkin dapat dilaksanakan dalam masa terdekat setelah meneliti pelbagai aspek.

"Namun, saya juga tidak menolak kemungkinan mengenai penyertaan mereka pada masa depan yang dilihat dapat mengeratkan lagi rangkaian perhubungan antara negara terlibat demi kemajuan bola sepak serantau," katanya ketika ditemui pemberita baru-baru ini.

Untuk rekod, selain Singapura, Brunei juga pernah beraksi dalam saingan bola sepak tempatan apabila pernah muncul juara Piala Malaysia 1999, selain pasukan kelab dari negara itu, Brunei DPMM FC yang juga pernah mewarnai saingan Liga M sejak 2005 sebelum berhijrah ke Liga S pada musim 2009.

Meskipun keputusan FAM mengalu-alukan penyertaan pasukan dari luar bagi mewarnai kancah Liga M selepas ini, mungkin ia bakal mengundang persepsi negatif segelintir pemerhati bola sepak yang menganggapnya kurang sesuai, termasuk seolah-olah menjadikan Liga M sebagai 'liga rojak'.

Kesungguhan FAM yang tidak pernah jemu memikirkan formula terbaik bagi meningkatkan kualiti dan tahap kompetitif Liga M supaya muncul sebagai antara liga yang sempurna dan disegani di rantau Asia Tenggara selama ini sememangnya harus dipuji.

Walaupun Tercorot Lion XII Tetap Kebal

TERCOROT pun tetap kekal dalam saingan Liga Super.Demikian ‘kekebalan’ pasukan negara jiran, Lion XII FC dari Singapura yang tetap kekal beraksi dalam saingan Liga Super bagi musim 2013 meskipun menduduki tangga tercorot liga yang membabitkan 14 pasukan itu pada aksi Liga Malaysia (Liga M) musim 2012.

Keistimewaan itu tidak dimiliki mana-mana baki pasukan lain kerana dalam liga walaupun menamatkan aksi di tangga ke-13 Liga Super di depan Lion XII FC sekalipun, mereka bakal ‘terhumban’ ke Liga Perdana bagi musim 2013.

Malah, lain pula ceritanya dengan Harimau Muda B yang terpaksa melupakan aksi Liga Super 2013 walaupun skuad kendalian Ismail Ibrahim itu berjaya muncul juara Liga Perdana pada musim depan, tetapi mereka tetap bersaing dalam Liga Perdana. Penyertaan mereka hanyalah sebagai pendedahan.

Naib Presiden Persatuan Bola Sepak Malaysia (FAM), Datuk Hamidin Mohd. Amin begitupun tidak mahu perkara itu disensasikan mana-mana pihak memandangkan penampilan pasukan negara jiran dalam saingan Liga Super itu sudah termaktub dalam memorandum persefahaman (MoU) antara FAM dan Persatuan Bola Sepak Singapura (FAS) sebelum ini.

“Selain tidak dibenarkan menggunakan khidmat pemain import seperti mana pasukan lain, pasukan Lion XII FC juga hanya akan menerima ganjaran wang tunai sebanyak RM750,000 sekiranya muncul juara Liga Super.

“Mereka juga tidak akan menerima sebarang insentif lain seperti mana pasukan lain dalam saingan musim depan, jadi cukup-cukuplah mensensasikan isu ini,” katanya semalam.

Kehadiran Lion XII FC yang kembali mewarnai saingan bola sepak tempatan selepas 17 tahun lalu, kali ini jelas ‘kurang disenangi’ segelintir pemerhati bola sepak tempatan, terutamanya tindakan skuad tersebut menyenaraikan 10 pemain berusia lebih 23 tahun.

Berdasarkan MoU itu, Lion XII FC yang dikendalikan V. Sundramoorthy bakal beraksi dalam saingan Liga M selama empat musim sehingga 2015 sebagai pertukaran dengan skuad Harimau Muda yang akan beraksi dalam Liga Singapura (Liga S) bermula Februari tahun depan.

Dalam pada itu, Hamidin berkata, hanya 12 pasukan sahaja yang akan kekal beraksi dalam saingan Liga Super 2013 berbanding 14 pasukan pada musim depan.

Selain Lion XII FC katanya, sembilan pasukan terbaik akan kekal dalam aksi Liga Super sementara dua lagi pasukan diisi oleh juara Liga Perdana serta pemenang perlawanan playoff.

“Untuk perlawanan playoff (Liga Super bagi musim 2013), ia akan membabitkan naib juara Liga Perdana 2012 serta tiga pasukan yang menghuni tangga ke-10, 11 dan 12 Liga Super 2012.

“Sementara pasukan tercorot Liga Super musim depan (selain Lion XII FC) pula akan terus diturunkan ke Liga Perdana bagi musim 2013,” katanya.

Greatest Champions League last-16 ties ever

Ahead of the draw for this season's round of 16 in Europe's top club tournament, TALKBOLA looks back at the most memorable encounters from this stage of the competition

Champions League logo

For European Cup traditionalists and those who relish the high stakes of sudden-death football, the knockout stages of the Champions League are what it's all about, and Friday's draw for the last 16 is once again likely to throw up some potentially epic contests.

Uefa only introduced the round of 16 in 2003-04. Prior to that there was either an initial round of 32 to determine the composition of the group stage, then quarter-finals, semis and final; or a second group stage leading straight into the quarter-finals.

But in the eight seasons it's been contested, the first of the knockout rounds have generated some classic encounters. TALKBOLA recalls the best of them...


Jose Mourinho memorably impinged upon the consciousness of England’s football-following public, scampering up the Old Trafford touchline in uninhibited jubilation as his team dumped Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League champions out of Europe in dramatic fashion.

Porto may have been Uefa Cup holders and Portugal’s double champions, but they were underdogs against United. After all, they’d finished three points behind Real Madrid in Group F, while United had won Group E with three to spare.

When Quinton Fortune fired the visitors ahead after 14 minutes at the Estadio do Dragao, United seemed on course for the quarter-finals. But with a volley and a header, Benni McCarthy scored spectacularly in each half; and when captain Roy Keane was sent off late on, things suddenly looked complicated for the Red Devils.

Nevertheless, with Keane banned, United went ahead in Manchester when John O’Shea’s cross was headed in at the near post by Paul Scholes. Sir Alex’s side now led the tie on away goals. Scholes had an effort controversially disallowed for offside, but Porto refused to buckle, and in the closing stages put the home defence under sustained pressure. It finally told when, with 30 seconds remaining, Tim Howard could only parry McCarthy’s free-kick, leavingCostinha – suspended for the first leg – to plant the rebound into the net.

4. INTER 3-3 BAYERN MUNICH (0-1; 3-2)
2010-11 (Inter won on away goals)

Jose Mourinho’s Inter had defeated Bayern 2-0 to become European champions the previous May; defending their crown under Leonardo they met the Bavarians in the round of 16 with Louis van Gaal seeking to avenge that final defeat. It certainly started well for Bayern. Both sides had created but failed to convert a host of chances in a stirring contest at the San Siro before the Germans clinched a priceless away win in the final minute. Julio Cesar spilled Arjen Robben’s shot, and Mario Gomez buried the loose ball.

Bayern's 1-0 first-leg lead lasted just four minutes at the Allianz Arena, though, Samuel Eto'omaking the most of Goran Pandev’s astute pass. Yet on 21 minutes Gomez equalised with a piece of virtuosity when Julio Cesar again failed to hold a Robben shot. And 10 minutes later Bayern led 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate, Thomas Muller finding the bottom corner when the ball came to him off Thiago Motta.

Andrea Rannochia had to clear via a post and Julio Cesar saved a goal-bound Gomez volley before Wesley Sneijder beat Thomas Kraft with a low shot to haul Inter back into contention. Then two minutes from time Eto’o deftly laid the ball off for Pandev to finish coolly and send Inter through on the away goals rule.

3. WERDER BREMEN 4-4 JUVENTUS (3-2; 1-2)
2005-06 (Juve won on away goals)

Werder Bremen, third in the Bundesliga in 2004-05, had to beat Basel in a qualifier to take their place in the group stage, where they finished second, a distant nine points behind Barcelona. In contrast, Serie A champions Juventus comfortably won their group. Yet the German side earned a potentially crucial advantage to take to Turin for the second leg.

A dramatic encounter saw four goals scored in the final 20 minutes after Christian Schulzhad put Bremen ahead in the first-half. Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet struck late to turn things Juve’s way, only for resilient Bremen to hit back. Tim Borowski equalised three minutes from time before Johan Micoud headed home from a corner. The final whistle sounded seconds later, leaving the German fans ecstatic.

The return was equally compelling, especially after Weserstadion hero Micoud extended Bremen’s lead on 13 minutes. When Borowski almost added another, the Old Lady was apparently on her knees. But Fabio Capello masterminded a gutsy fight-back. He sent on Alessandro Del Piero and Adrian Mutu, and soon Juve were level, Nedved and Trezeguetcombining sweetly for the Frenchman to beat Tim Wiese. The keeper then defied Juve until the 88th minute, when he gifted the ball to Emerson under little pressure and the midfielder swept it in to take the Bianconeri through on away goals.

2006-07 (Bayern won on away goals)

German champions and Group B winners Bayern met Real Madrid, runners-up to Lyon in Group E, who went into a vibrant first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu having scored just twice in their previous four Primera Division games. Madrid coach Fabio Capello gave Champions League debuts to Argentine pair Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago, but it was Raul who put them ahead on 10 minutes when he latched onto Ruud van Nistelrooy’s incisive through-ball.

Bayern equalised with their first meaningful attack, Lucio heading home Willy Sagnol’s free-kick at the far post. Five minutes later Madrid were back in front, Raul applying the finish to Ivan Helguera’s teasing header. And before half-time Helguera flicked on a David Beckham free-kick for the unmarked Van Nistelrooy to beat Oliver Kahn. Claudio Pizarro headed against the post and was then thwarted by Iker Casillas before Mark van Bommel scored Bayern’s second in the 88th minute to set up an enthralling return.

It began explosively, Roy Makaay netting inside 11 seconds (the fastest Champions League goal up to that point) to wipe out Madrid’s advantage. Lucio doubled Bayern's lead after the break, and although Van Nistelrooy made it 2-1 from the spot after Mahamadou Diarra and Van Bommel had been sent off, Bayern progressed, before losing to eventual champions AC Milan.

1. CHELSEA 5-4 BARCELONA (1-2; 4-2)

The 50th season of Europe’s premier club tournament pitted Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in two passionate and pulsating encounters. At Camp Nou, Barca attacked with verve but were caught out on 33 minutes pressing high up the pitch. Chelsea broke through Frank Lampard, Damien Duff and Joe Cole, whose shot Juliano Belletti could only deflect high into his own net. Didier Drogba should have added another but was then dismissed for a second bookable offence.

His departure infused Barca with confidence, and substitute Maxi Lopez, a Champions League debutant, turned William Gallas and smashed home a stunner on 67 minutes. Six minutes later Samuel Eto'o converted Lopez’s cross-shot, and Chelsea had to defend desperately to hold the score at 2-1.

A sensational Stamford Bridge second leg saw the Blues race into a commanding 3-0 lead within the opening 19 minutes. Goals from Eidur Gudjohnsen, Lampard and Duff had Barca reeling. But the Catalans recovered, and when Belletti’s cross struck Paulo Ferreira’s arm,Ronaldinho beat Petr Cech from the spot. The reigning World Player of the Year then scored a wondrous second with the outside of his boot.

Cole hit the post, Cech saved superbly from Carles Puyol and turned an Andres Iniesta effort against an upright as the game flowed exhilaratingly from end to end. It was finally settled 14 minutes from time when Blues’ skipper John Terry rose to head a Duff corner into the net.