Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

European Super Cup: A History

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 24, 2010
FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona are the current holders of the UEFA Super Cup

The 35th official UEFA Super Cup final takes place in its now-traditional home of the Stade Louis II in Monte Carlo on Friday and is guaranteed to crown a first-time winner this year with UEFA Champions League winners Internazionale FC and the inaugural UEFA Europa League champions Atlético Madrid both appearing in their maiden Super Cup match. But the tournament has suffered a fair amount of ups and downs before becoming the showpiece event that it is today. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at the history of this gala footballing event.

The European Super Cup came into being in 1972 and has certainly endured a troubled time in becoming accepted as a creditable football competition due to scheduling difficulties and, on some occasions, political differences. The inaugural event wasn’t even officially recognised by European football’s governing body UEFA on the grounds that the then European Cup Winners’ Cup holders Glasgow Rangers were banned from European club competition for one year after a pitch invasion which took place in their ECWC victory over Dinamo Moscow. Therefore the 1972 event was sponsored by the Dutch newpaper De Telegraaf one of whose writers, Anton Witkamp, came up with the eureka moment which brought this competition about with his idea intended to see if the great Ajax Amsterdam team really was the best in Europe. As it turned out Ajax were to prove both unofficially and officially that they were the crème de la crème of European football. Having beaten Glasgow Rangers 6-3 on aggregate in the 1972 edition they then hammered AC Milan 6-1 on aggregate in the first UEFA endorsed Super Cup meeting twelve months later. The Dutch giants have appeared in two further finals since those halcyon days of Cruijff, Neeskens, Krol et al and have had mixed fortunes losing to FC Porto in 1987 but beating Real Zaragoza in 1995.

But this tournament is not just about Ajax Amsterdam even if they’ve had a significant part in its development. Italian giants AC Milan are the record champions of the event with five titles (1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007) with their first two wins coming back-to-back, the only such example of this occurance in the competition’s history. Italian sides also have the most number of victories having won it on nine occasions (Milan 5, Juventus 2, AC Parma 1, Lazio 1) with Internazionale hoping to make it a perfect ten this year. As well as Italy, teams from Spain and England (7 wins each) are well represented in the list of winners and then comes Belgium for whom RSC Anderlecht (2 times) and KV Mechelen (1 time) won the trophy during a golden period for Belgian football in the 1970’s-80’s. Six different nations have provided one winner each with Scotland’s sole champions coming not from Glasgow but from Aberdeen who won the title in 1983 during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. Pedantically speaking the Soviet Union and Russia are different countries and the cup was won by Dynamo Kyiv (who, of course, are Ukrainian in any case!) and Zenit St Petersburg. Romania, Portugal and Turkey complete the set with Steaua Bucharest (1986), FC Porto (1987) and Galatasaray (2000). The most surprising statistic is that not a single team from Germany has ever lifted the trophy in seven attempts, FC Bayern München losing three times along with Hamburger SV (2 times), Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund. France has also never supplied a winning Super Cup champion but they’ve only ever supplied one finalist in the tournament’s history with Paris Saint Germain losing out to Juventus in 1996.

AC Milan

AC Milan are the record Super Cup winners with five titles

But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for this event with some of the finals having to be postponed or scrapped due to an inability to sort mutually convenient dates for the match. From 1972-1997 the Super Cup was a two-legged fixture played home and away and this didn’t always suit the teams involved in the fixture. The 1974 final between FC Bayern München and FC Magdeburg was never played with scheduling problems being the reason for the fixture’s cancellation but it was arguably the case that in the era of a divided Germany with political tensions between the Federal Republic (West Germany) and the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) it was unrealistic to expect this match to get the green light anyway. The 1981 final between Liverpool and Dinamo Tbilisi was never played due to the former’s complaints about fixture congestion whilst the 1984 contest also involving Liverpool was reduced to a one-off game played in Turin against Cup Winners Cup holders Juventus FC. Twelve months later a ban on English clubs in European competition following the events before the Liverpool v Juventus game at Heysel stadium meant that Everton FC were prevented from participating in the 1985 Super Cup against Juventus FC. In 1986 the game was again reduced to a one-off as both finalists came from eastern Europe with the match played in neutral Stade Louis II for the first time as Steaua Bucharest beat Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 in the final. When English clubs were allowed back into European competition Manchester United won the Cup Winners Cup and were due to play Crvena Zvezda in the 1991 Super Cup but the match could only be played as a one-off fixture at Old Trafford due to political tensions rising in the former Yugoslavia. Finally in 1993 UEFA Champions League winners Olympique Marseille were forced out of the Super Cup due to being found guilty of match-fixing charges and AC Milan, as UCL runners up, replaced them only to be beaten by AC Parma.

But whatever happens in this year’s fixture it will surely add to the growing reputation of a tournament in which both finalists know that they’ve already achieved major success in order to play in this competition. Internazionale FC have ambitions to match FC Barcelona’s “Sextuple” triumph of 2009 with victory in the European Super Cup meaning that the Nerazzurri will have five trophies in the trophy cabinet ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup tournament in December. For Atlético Madrid a victory will cement their place as one of Europe’s great clubs and will allow their fans to enjoy some more bragging rights over their illustrious neighbours Real Madrid CF, something they haven’t enjoyed too much of in recent years.

A fascinating contest awaits……

UEFA: Can Atlético de Madrid carry on from here? (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 13, 2010
Diego Forlan

Diego Forlán proved to be the hero for Atlético Madrid in the first ever UEFA Europa League final

Finally Club Atlético de Madrid savour some silverware. The success starved club from the Spanish capital finally won their second European trophy after defeating a battling Fulham FC side 2-1 after extra-time to add the UEFA Europa League to the European Cup Winners’ Cup that they won in 1961-62. But this may not be the only silver which graces Atlético’s trophy cabinet this season as los Rojiblancos also have the opportunity to win the Copa del Rey (Spanish King’s Cup), the final of which they play in Barcelona on May 19th against Sevilla CF. In a season which could also see more illustrious neighbours Real Madrid complete the season empty-handed this has the potential to be quite some year for all followers of Madrid’s ‘other’ club (a term I use very loosely).

In 1995-96 Atlético completed, for the first time in their history, the domestic double of La Liga and Copa del Rey and good times seemed destined to grace the club for some time. Under the astute leadership of coach Radomir Antić Atlético, graced with names such as Caminero, Kiko and Simeone, finished four points clear of nearest challengers Valencia CF in the league whilst consolidating the success with a cup final victory over FC Barcelona with an extra-time goal from Milinko Pantić proving to be the cherry on the cake of the perfect season at the Vicente Calderón. Sadly the club didn’t capitalize on this despite signing players of the quality of Juninho, Christian Vieri and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and, within four years, the club were playing their football in the second division having been relegated in the 1999-2000 season. Two years later the club were back where they belong but the club, always beset by drama off-field as well as on-field, have had to be patient whilst watching clubs like Valencia CF and Sevilla CF enjoy occasional bouts of success along with the big boys of Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona. It has taken them fourteen years to sample that winning feeling again and one hopes that Atleti will learn the lessons which they failed to do the last time they won a trophy.

If the club can hold on to players such as Diego Forlán, Sergio “Kun” Agüero and Simão then the club will start from a good position. Unfortunately Atlético haven’t qualified for next season’s UEFA Champions League, a competition they’ve graced for the last two seasons, so they may struggle to bring in significant additional quality in the short-term. But as the team has shown in Europe and at home this season there is still sufficient quality already for the club to build on under coach Quique Sánchez Flores who has performed fantastically well given the terrible position the club was in when he arrived. Flores took over the club when they were lying one place above the relegation zone after eight games of the season and he has steadily taken the club up to a more respectable ninth position in the table despite Atleti’s usual bouts with inconsistency in the league. Flores has given the team a more attacking mentality with the star striking duo of Forlán and Agüero looking deadly scoring a combined thirty league goals between them whilst players such as Simão and Reyes, who looks a totally different player from last season, have provided quality from the flanks. The defence is a concern however with Atleti shipping in 58 goals in 37 matches so far this season, the worst record out of those teams in the top half of the table and the joint fifth worst record in the whole league with only Deportivo Xerez, Racing Santander, Tenerife CD and Real Zaragoza having worse records whilst Valladolid have conceded the same number of goals.

The UEFA Europa League won’t go down as a classic but there was still enough moments of drama to merit any showpiece occasion. Diego Forlán gave Atleti the lead in the 32nd minute turning home from an Agüero assist but Fulham FC, whose European adventure under coach Roy Hodgson had already had many a memorable comeback, equalized just five minutes later after a cross from Zoltán Gera took a minor deflection before reaching the foot of Simon Davies who volleyed home at the far post to make it one each. The game saw no further goal action in the ninety minutes which meant extra-time at the end of an already pulsating final. With just four minutes to go in the extra-time period Forlán just managed to poke home from short range when Agüero’s well struck low cross reached the Uruguayan predator on the edge of the six yard box to nudge the ball in the net just before Fulham defender Brede Hangelund could do anything to stop him. It was cruel for the Craven Cottage club to lose so late in the game but one can’t deny the fact that Atlético, ultimately, had the better quality players to decide the match. For fans of the Rojiblancos just winning the UEFA Europa League means a great season but if they can win the Copa del Rey next Wednesday evening then that would be a double triumph which, in the long term, could prove even sweeter than the one they won in 1995-96.

Watch the match goals and trophy ceremony here:

UEFA Europa League – Final Preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 10, 2010
HSH Nordbank Arena

The HSH Nordbank Arena, more commonly known as Volksparkstadion, is the venue for the 2009-10 UEFA Europa League final

The first ever UEFA Europa League final will take place in Hamburg on Wednesday, May 12th and for the two finalists, Fulham FC and Club Atlético de Madrid, it is an exciting climax to what has already been an eventful season. Roy Hodgson’s Fulham side have been the surprise package of the competition in which they’ve knocked out the defending trophy holders Shakhtar Donetsk as well as Italian giants Juventus FC, German champions VfL Wolfsburg and the team expected to play a final in their home stadium Hamburger SV. On the other side Quique Sánchez Flores has seen his Atlético side flourish in Europe’s second competition after their elimination from the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Los Rojiblancos have seen off quality opposition in the form of  Galatasaray, Sporting Lisbon, compatriots Valencia CF and five-time European champions Liverpool FC. Atlético will wish to cap off a wonderful season by winning their first European trophy since their European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph of 1961-62 whilst the Cottagers from West London hope to win their maiden piece of continental silverware in their first European final. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” takes a look back at both teams’ road to Hamburg:

Atletico de Madrid logoCLUB ATLÉTICO de MADRID (Spain)

After defeating 2008-09 Greek League runners-up Panathinaikos in the UEFA Champions League Play-Off round Club Atlético de Madrid played in the group stages of Europe’s elite competition but were well off the pace as Chelsea FC and FC Porto topped the table to leave los Rojiblancos floundering in third place. Atlético finished in third place above APOEL Nicosia by virtue of a better head-to-head record against the Cypriot champions. Following their UEFA Champions League disappointment the Madrid side have found their form in the UEFA Europa League and here is their road to the final:

Round of 32: v Galatasaray 3-2 aggregate (First leg 1:1 Second leg 2:1)

This was always expected to be a tough game played in two notoriously intimidating stadiums with the first leg played in Madrid. José Antonio Reyes gave Atleti the lead after 23 minutes before Keïta equalized for the Turkish side on 77 minutes. The second leg was an thrilling contest which was capped off with some late drama. Simão Sabrosa gave Atlético the lead after 63 minutes only for Keïta to restore parity three minutes later. Just as extra-time was looming up stepped Diego Forlán with a last-gasp winner to take the Spanish side through to the next round.

Round of 16: v Sporting Lisbon 2-2 aggregate (First leg 0:0 Second leg 2:2) Atlético win on away goals

Portuguese giants Sporting were unlucky to leave the Estadio Vicente Calderón goalless as they had the best chance in the game to break the deadlock, Liédson hitting the crossbar just before half-time. Sporting were disadvantaged for the return leg, however, as they had Leandro Grimi and Tonel sent-off during the match in Madrid. In what was a topsy-turvy first half in Lisbon Sergio “Kun” Agüero gave Atleti the lead after just three minutes only for Liédson to equalize sixteen minutes later. Agüero restored Atleti’s lead on 33 minutes but back came Sporting with a first half stoppage time equalizer from Polga. Atlético held out to claim an away goals victory to set up an intriging tie against compatriots Valencia CF in the next round.

Quarter-Finals: v Valencia CF 2-2 aggregate (First leg 2:2 Second leg 0:0) Atlético win on away goals

The first leg in this tie was played at Valencia’s Estadio de Mestalla and proved to be another dramatic away tie for Atlético. After a goalless first half Diego Forlán gave Atleti the lead on the hour mark before a thunderbolt from Manuel Fernandes restored parity for Los Che. A header from defender Antonio López returned the lead back in favour of the visitors but any hope Atlético had of going to the home leg with a precious lead were dashed when David Villa equalized for Valencia with eight minutes to go. In the return leg both sides saw efforts hit the woodwork in a game of few real chances and no goals, a result which saw Atlético reach their first European semi-final for eleven years.

Semi-Finals: v Liverpool 2-2 aggregate (First leg 1:0 Second leg 1:2 AET) Atlético win on away goals

Liverpool were disappointing in the first leg of this tie allowing Atlético most of the possession. With the first leg in Madrid the home side needed to escape without conceding and they had no worries in that department as the Reds created few chances while their arch nemesis Diego Forlán proved to be the difference as he scrambled home from short range to give los Rojiblancos a first leg lead. The second leg at Anfield was a dramatic affair with Alberto Aquilani giving Liverpool the lead just before half-time and with no further goals after ninety minutes extra-time had to be played. After Yossi Benayoun gave Liverpool the advantage with a well struck shot past keeper Sergio Asenjo it was to be the Uruguayan Forlán who would break Scouse hearts yet again with a well-taken shot from inside the box past Pepe Reina. Atlético had ridden their luck but held out to progress once again on away goals and qualify for their first European final since losing to Dynamo Kyiv in the 1985/86 Cup Winners’ Cup.

Fulham FC badgeFULHAM FC (England)

When the Craven Cottage club embarked on the beginning of their European journey only the most optimistic of Fulham supporters would’ve dreamt that they would be playing in the final in Hamburg. After defeating Lithuanian club FK Vėtra 6-0 on aggregate in the third qualifying round Fulham had to embark on another trip to eastern Europe in the Play-Off round, this time to Russian outfit Amkar Perm. Fulham squeezed past the Russians with a 3-1 home win followed by a 1-0 defeat in Russia. Martin Kushev scoring in the 90th minute of the second leg to give the Cottagers a nervy finish to the game, not the first time that this would happen in the tournament. This allowed Fulham to qualify for the group stage:

Group Stage: (AS Roma played 6/13 points; Fulham FC 6/11; FC Basel 6/9; CSKA Sofia 6/1)

Diomansy Kamara got Fulham’s UEFA Europa League group stage campaign off to a good start away at CSKA Sofia capitalising from a defensive mistake to give Fulham the lead on 62 minutes in Bulgaria before a quick reply three minutes later from Brazilian Michel Platini gave CSKA a 1-1 draw and their only point of the tournament. A solo Danny Murphy goal gave Fulham all three points at home to Basel on Matchday 2 before suffered last minute heartbreak against an AS Roma who didn’t know they were beaten and were rewarded when a stoppage time equalizer gave the Giallorossi a share of the points after Brede Hangeland had given Fulham a first half lead. On Matchday 4 Fulham were defeated for the first time when going down 2-1 to AS Roma in the Stadio Olimpico. Diomansy Kamara had given Fulham the lead from the penalty spot but John Arne Riise and Stefano Chuko Okaka scored late in the second half to turn the game on its head. Zoltán Gera scored the only goal on Matchday 5 to keep Fulham’s chances of progression alive when defeating CSKA Sofia by a goal to nil to set up a last match decider with FC Basel. In Switzerland Bobby Zamora gave Fulham a two goal cushion before half-time but Alexander Frei converted from the penalty spot to pull one back in the second half. Gera made it 3-1 late on but Basel came back again to make it a nervous finish for Fulham who held out to reach the Round of 32.

Round of 32: v Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 aggregate (First leg 2:1 Second leg 1:1)

Fulham were the outsiders to go through after they were drawn against the last ever winners of the UEFA Cup Shakhtar Donetsk. Fulham, though, made the most of the first leg at the Cottage as Zoltán Gera and Bobby Zamora were on the scoresheet, sandwiched by a Luiz Adriano effort for Shakhtar, to give Fulham a 2-1 win to take to Ukraine. In a tough encounter in Donetsk Brede Hangeland scored midway through the first half to increase Fulham’s aggregate lead but Shakhtar came back through Jádson to set up a grandstand finish. Fulham held out to progress to the next round where they would meet Italian giants Juventus FC.

Round of 16: v Juventus FC 5-4 aggregate (First leg 1:3 Second leg 4:1)

This is one of the most memorable ties in European football this season. Fulham went down to a first leg away defeat at three-time former UEFA Cup champions Juventus. Nicola Legrottaglie and Jonathan Zebina gave the Old Lady a 2-0 lead before Dickson Etuhu halved the deficit with one of the flukiest deflections anywhere. David Trezeguet scored in first half stoppage time to give Juve a 3-1 lead which was how it remained for the rest of the game. Fulham’s hopes of a comeback seemed shattered after just two minutes of the second leg when Trezeguet gave the Italians the lead. But Fulham were patient and gradually worked their way back into the game. Bobby Zamora and Zoltán Gera gave Fulham a 2-1 half time lead and the latter extended Fulham’s lead on the night to 3-1 from the penalty spot to level the aggregate scores at four all. The next goal would prove to be the most crucial and the most spectacular when Clint Dempsey chipped Juve keeper Antonio Chimenti with eight minutes left to seal the turnaround of turnarounds at the Cottage.

Quarter-Final: v VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 aggregate (First leg 2:1 Second leg 1:0)

After the drama of Juve came another tense finish in the first leg at Craven Cottage against German champions VfL Wolfsburg. After Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff had given Fulham a two goal lead inside four second half minutes the Germans came at the home side with wave after wave of attack to try and force the away goal. After the home side had defended so well for so long the Germans broke through with one minute of regular time to play after Alexander Madlung sent a bullet header past Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer. The late drama at the Cottage was counterbalanced by the early drama in the return leg in Lower Saxony after Bobby Zamora gave Fulham the lead one minute into the game and from there Roy Hodgson’s men never looked back. A famous semi-final against further German opposition awaited the Cottagers in the final four of the competition.

Semi-Final: v Hamburger SV 2-1 aggregate (First Leg 0:0 Second leg 2:1)

After a goalless draw in Hamburg the scene was set for arguably Craven Cottage’s most famous night, and there have been plenty of those this season. The game was a strangely quiet affair for the first twenty minutes but then came the first pivotal moment of the match when Mladen Petrić struck a beautiful free-kick from outside the box to give HSV the lead. With the score remaining 1-0 at half-time Roy Hodgson must’ve given his most inspirational team talk yet to inspire his troops to further glory in this competition. Simon Davies equalized for Fulham on 69 minutes with a beautifully crafted goal which had it have been scored by Messi, Rooney or Ronaldo would’ve had everyone talking for years. Seven minutes later Zoltán Gera tapped in from short range to send the hoardes of home supporters into ecstasy and, of course, set up the traditional nailbiting finish to a Fulham European tie. Try as they might Hamburger SV couldn’t break through to claim that all-important second away goal and when the final whistle blew Fulham fans’ attentions turned to returning to the home of their defeated opponents.

UEFA Europa League: Quarter-Final Preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 31, 2010

Benfica beat Everton FC in the group stage. Now they aim to beat Merseyside's other team Liverpool FC in the quarter-finals

The UEFA Europa League, like its counterpart Champions League, has reached the last eight of the competition and “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” previews the matches ahead:

SL BENFICA (Portugal) v LIVERPOOL FC (England)

Although they are seen as favourites to win this game Liverpool FC had better beware the very real challenge from the Portuguese giants of SL Benfica. After all, the last time these two European heavyweights met on the continental stage saw the Eagles of Lisbon turn over the then defending holders 3-0 in the Round of 16 of the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League. In the last round Liverpool FC came back from a 1-0 first leg deficit to dispose of French outift Lille OSC 3-1 on aggregate. Benfica had it tougher against another French side, 2003-04 UEFA Cup finalists Olympique de Marseille, who they beat 3-2 on aggregate thanks to a last-minute winner from Alan Kardec in the intimidating Stade Vélodrome. Since qualification Benfica have savoured domestic cup success defeating arch-rivals FC Porto in the Portuguese League Cup final and then consolidating their lead in the Liga Sagres by beating nearest challengers Sporting Braga. Liverpool, on the other hand, suffered defeat at the hands of their arch-rivals Manchester United before seeing off the challenge of a weak Sunderland AFC team in their latest outing at Anfield.


All fans of Madrid’s “other” team Atlético are rejoicing in the fact they are the only side from Spain’s capital city who have a real chance of winning two trophies this season whilst their local neighbours Real Madrid CF ‘only’ have to contend with fighting it out with FC Barcelona for the La Liga title. However Valencia CF have a good recent record in European competition including the famous triumph over Olympique de Marseille in the 2003-04 UEFA Cup final and are seven places higher than Atleti in La Liga. Valencia are in third position in the Spanish League but have no chance of winning it as they are a distant 21 points behind the top two and are hoping for the only remaining silverware available to them. Both of these teams won their Round of 16 matches on away goals, Valencia CF were involved in arguably the tie of the round having drawn 4-4 away to German giants Werder Bremen after the first leg in Valencia had ended 1-1. Atlético were perhaps a tad lucky to emerge from the first leg with a 0-0 draw after Sporting Lisbon had the better chances. There was no arguing with Atleti’s second leg performance though as they took the lead twice before holding out for a 2-2 away draw in Portugal. Since qualification both teams have mixed records of a win and a defeat in La Liga.

Uwe Seeler

German football legend Uwe Seeler may have given his beloved HSV a good draw


German football legend Uwe Seeler, known affectionately by the Hamburg locals as “Uns Uwe” (Our Uwe), may have had some luck on his side when he picked the balls out of the draw for the UEFA Europa League in Nyon. Many people feel that HSV have a real chance of reaching the final in their home Volksparkstadion stadium but this would be to underestimate the potential of defending Belgian champions Standard Liège who now only have the Europa League to play for after failing to qualify for the Belgian Jupiler League championship play-offs recently. The fact that Standard have, like HSV, saved some of their better performances for European games doesn’t seem to have registered on many fans’ minds yet and Les Rouches (The Reds) seem more than capable of upsetting the odds on their day. In the Round of 16 they comfortably defeated a Panathinaikos side who had shocked Europe by knocking out Italian heavyweights AS Roma in the previous round. Hamburger SV have also had it tough against Belgian opposition in this tournament scraping through the last round against Belgian Jupiler League leaders RSC Anderlecht by the odd goal in eleven. Since qualification both teams domestic fortunes have not been too good. HSV have lost their last two games against Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach whilst Standard’s Belgian League odyssey now rests with participation in the play-offs for a 2010-11 UEFA Europa League place which is available to those teams that finished from 7th-14th after the regular season.

FULHAM FC (England) v VfL WOLFSBURG (Germany)

Perhaps the biggest surprise in UEFA Europa League this season was Fulham FC’s magnificent fightback in the Round of 16, 2nd leg against Italian giants Juventus FC where they came back from a 4-1 aggregate deficit early in the second leg to defeat the three-time winners of this tournament 5-4 with Clint Dempsey writing himself into Fulham FC folklore with a beautifully chipped goal in the dying minutes of the game. Since then Fulham’s form on the domestic stage has been dreadful having lost back-to-back league games against Manchester City and Hull City as well as suffering FA Cup misery away at Tottenham Hotspur. Defending German champions VfL Wolfsburg have endured a roller coaster ride throughout the season with many an up-and-down feeling as the season has progressed. Die Wölfe (The Wolves) needed extra-time to get past the Russian champions Rubin Kazan in the last round with Christian Gentner scoring a dramatic last-minute winner but this had an immediate effect on their domestic form going down 5-1 at home to Hertha BSC Berlin who have been in last place practically all season. Wolfsburg did recover to win their most recent league match against 1.FSV Mainz by two goals to nil.

UEFA Europa League Quarter-Finals (team on left at home first)

SL Benfica v Liverpool FC

Valencia CF v Atlético de Madrid

Hamburger SV v Standard de Liège

Fulham FC v VfL Wolfsburg

All games to be played on April 1st and April 8th

UEFA: Who will win the UEFA Europa League 2010? (Poll)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 19, 2010

The draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League has been made today in Nyon, Switzerland. There are some very interesting ties to come in the remainder of the competition. Below we have listed all of the ties to come in the rest of the tournament and we have given you a chance to vote on who you think will win the trophy in Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion on Wednesday, May 12:

QUARTER-FINALS (1st leg 01 April; 2nd leg 08 April)

1. FULHAM FC (England) v VfL WOLFSBURG (Germany)

2. HAMBURGER SV (Germany) v STANDARD de LIEGE (Belgium)


4. SL BENFICA (Portugal) v LIVERPOOL FC (England)

SEMI-FINALS (1st leg 22 April; 2nd leg 29 April)

5. Winner Match 2 v Winner Match 1

6. Winner Match 3 v Winner Match 4

FINAL (Wednesday, May 12)

7. Winner Match 6 v Winner Match 5

UEFA Europa League trophy

UEFA Europa League trophy

La Liga – Have Atlético Madrid finally turned the corner?

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 18, 2010

Antonio Lopez scored the winner for Atleti in their 2-1 victory against Sevilla on Matchday 16

Finally there are positive things to say about Club Atlético de Madrid, a club whose consistency comes from their inconsistency both on and off the pitch. Whether it be sacking coaches only weeks after assuring them of their future in the job or beating big teams following defeats from smaller teams, Atlético have always made life difficult for themselves and this season has been no exception. However Quique Sánchez Flores, the latest man at the helm at the Estadio Vicente Calderón following Abel Resino’s dismissal in late October, has gone about his job in understated fashion and has seen his charges finally start to deliver results since the beginning of the new year, winning four out of  five league and cup games.

To say that Atlético were a laughing stock at the beginning of the season is an understatement. Los Rojiblancos (Red and Whites) failed to win any of their first five matches, which included a 5-2 defeat at the Camp Nou against champions FC Barcelona (some optimists claimed that this was progress after Barça hammered them 6-1 the season before). After their first win of the season against Zaragoza in early October the club embarked on a winless streak for another five games, taking just one point from fifteen. That point came against a Mallorca team reduced to nine men who scored the equaliser in the last minute of the game! Back-to-back wins against RCD Espanyol (4-0) and bottom club Xerez (2-0) was temporary respite before ending 2009 on a low note taking one point from the last two games against Villarreal (1-2) and Tenerife (1-1). The club’s poor league form was magnified upon the European stage, the lowest night of the UEFA Champions League campaign coming at Stamford Bridge where a 4-0 defeat against Chelsea FC saw the end of Resino’s reign. Atlético scraped through to the UEFA Europa League on goal difference by virtue of a better head-to-head record against Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia but the very least that can be said for Atleti at this time was that they secured further European participation after the winter break.

On paper it seemed as though the new year would continue in the same vein as their first game of 2010 pitted them against Champions League hopefuls Sevilla. However it was Atleti who finally got some last minute fortune, Antonio Lopez (pictured) scoring at the death to secure a much needed 2-1 win. However the first leg match in the Copa del Rey 1/16 round saw the expected fall for Atleti as they went down 3-0 to second division side Recreativo de Huelva. Despite this setback Atlético resumed league action and went about their business away to Valladolid in splendid fashion winning 4-0 including a “golazo” from much maligned winger José Antonio Reyes, whose first Spanish league goal in two years was an absolute beauty from long range. Following that was the second leg of their Copa del Rey encounter with Recreativo. Atlético Madrid had cancelled out their three goal deficit from the first leg by half-time. They took a 4-0 lead on the night thanks to star man Sergio “Kun” Agüero but then proceeded to give away their advantage when conceding an away goal with just twenty minutes to go. However Atleti found some inner strength which had been lacking throughout the season after Simão scored his second of the night with a well executed free-kick. An exciting match concluded with Atleti clawing through 5-4 on aggregate.

And so to yesterday’s game where Atleti’s opponents Sporting Gijón were starting the match in ninth position, four points ahead of their hosts in the table so a close game was expected. Diego Forlán gave Atleti the lead on 12 minutes after being put through by Kun Agüero but the visitors restored parity on 34 minutes. Goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo brought down Diego Castro who promptly got up to score from twelve yards out (or eleven metres if you prefer). In the second half Atleti played with purpose and were rewarded with two further strikes from Paulo Assunção (52 minutes) and Ibrahima Baldé (65′), both of whom scoring their first goals for the club. Despite a late scare from Luis Morán, who pulled one back for Sporting in the last minute, the Rojiblancos held out for their third successive league victory.

Having occupied the relegation zone for parts of the season Atlético Madrid have now climbed up to 11th in the championship table and now have ambitions of qualifying for Europe next season lying seven points behind sixth-placed Sevilla, who occupy the second UEFA Europa League spot via the league. With a Copa del Rey quarter-final against Celta de Vigo and a Europa League 1/32 round tie against Turkish giants Galatasaray to look forward to, it seems that Atlético’s season is really just beginning. But, such is life, one really has to take things one game at a time especially at a club as unpredictable as Atleti. All Rojiblancos will be hoping that Atlético have finally turned the corner….