Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Spain: Mourinho signs on at Madrid until 2016

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 22, 2012
Jose Mourinho

Mourinho has signed a contract extension at Real Madrid

José Mourinho has extended his contract at Spanish champions Real Madrid CF until 2016. The self-proclaimed “Special One”, who had initially signed until 2014, has won both La Liga and the Copa del Rey in his two seasons in charge at Madrid but the prospect of bringing a tenth European Cup to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu must have weighed heavily in his decision to stay at the club. Having won the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto (2004) and FC Internazionale (2010), Mourinho could become the first coach to win the trophy with three different clubs as a coach. This would be a significant achievement along that which he succeeded in doing this year in becoming one of only four coaches to win a league championship in four different countries.

FIFA: Messi tops the FIFA awards yet again in 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by peterbein on January 10, 2012
Homare Sawa and Lionel Messi

Homare Sawa and Lionel Messi won the Women's and Men's Player of the Year awards last night

FIFA’s annual awards ceremony took place in Zurich last night and there weren’t too many surprises as to who would come top of the main awards of the evening.

It was obvious to all of the world and his dog that Lionel Messi would come to win the Player of the Year award in 2011 following yet another truly successful twelve months with his club FC Barcelona. The Ballon D’or award will adorn his mantelpiece for the third year in a row but it could easily have gone to any of his club colleagues Xavi or Andres Iniesta due to their consistency, as well as Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo who was conspicuous by his absence at last night’s ceremony. However Messi topped the poll once more due to his amazing ability to stand out in one of football’s greatest ever club sides. His recent performances in this season’s El Clasico against Real Madrid and FIFA Club World Cup final against Santos FC have put to bed the recent question as to who is the best player in the world with Messi getting the better of Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar respectively in those games.

A repeat of the historic sextuple triumph of 2009 was almost replicated but for the head of Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2010-11 Cope del Rey final which deprived Barcelona of one trophy last year. Nonetheless the 2010-11 league title was won with an astonishing total of 96 points, four ahead of Madrid, and the UEFA Champions League win was the club’s third in five years. Wins in both the Spanish and European Super Cups at the start of the 2011-12 season took Barcelona’s haul of trophies to four for the calendar year before December’s triumph in the FIFA Club World Cup, which culminated in a 4-0 pasting for South American champions Santos FC in the final, meant that five out of six had been achieved and cemented the club’s recent dominance in world football. On a similar theme the Manager of the Year award went to Pep Guardiola who, three years after taking the job at the Camp Nou, shows that he is still as hungry for success as ever and has raised the bar of how football should and can be played. Upon receiving the award Guardiola said that he would like to share the award with his two challengers for the prize, namely Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex Ferguson would admit himself that what is happening at FC Barcelona at the moment means that they should grasp the limelight but, outside of Catalonia, Ferguson is still going strong at Old Trafford and showing no signs of slowing down. His continuing exploits at the top of the English and European game saw him recognized by FIFA last night with a special Lifetime Achievement Award. Last year saw Sir Alex win his twelfth Premier League title with Manchester United, which was the club’s 19th English league title overall and saw them overtake Liverpool FC’s total of 18 which had been an English record for over three decades. Although the 2010-11 season wasn’t the most dominant title win during his reign, Sir Alex has at least set the ball rolling for another potential era of sustained success and his charges currently lie second in the English Premier League table three points behind arch rivals Manchester City who they knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend. In a year in which Ferguson was recognized by all and sundry in the football world for the remarkable contribution he has made to football during his 25 years at Old Trafford his peers at the club invoked the most perfect of tributes by renaming the North Stand in his honour and has now been similarly held in high esteem by world football’s governing body.

Sir Alex’s club Manchester United saw two of their players reach the FIFPro World XI in the shape of Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney. The latter was denied the Ferenc Puskas prize for the goal of the year with the prize going to Santos FC and Brazil wunderkind Neymar (see goal below). Neymar didn’t get into the World XI this time but surely his time will come whilst this year nine out of the eleven players came from either FC Barcelona or Real Madrid. Finally the FIFA Fair Play award went to the country of Japan which having started off the year in tragic circumstances following two natural disasters in the form of an earthquake and subsequent flooding, the country paraded itself on the world stage in the eyes of football fans everywhere with the men’s team winning the 2011 AFC Asian Cup whilst the women’s team became 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup champions from which Homare Sawa stood out to win the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year award.

FIFPro WORLD XI 2011

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) – Daniel Alves, Gerard Pique (both FC Barcelona), Nemaja Vidic (Manchester United), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) – Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Lionel Messi (all FC Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid) – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

NEYMAR’S GOAL OF THE YEAR 2011

FIFA: Kashiwa and Al Sadd through to semis; Barça win El Clásico

FIFA Club World Cup logoKashiwa Reysol and Al Sadd have booked their semi-final places in the FIFA Club World Cup following hard fought victories over Monterrey CF and Esperance Tunis respectively.

Kashiwa, representing the host nation Japan as the 2011 J-League champions, needed a penalty shoot-out to get past North and Central American champions Monterrey after the two teams had played out a 1-1 draw. Leandro Domingues gave Kashiwa the lead in the 53rd minute only to see Humberto Suazo restore parity just five minutes later and the rest of the game proved frustrating for both sides as neither team could kill off their opponents. In the shoot-out Ryohei Hayashi converted the crucial final kick as Kashiwa went through 4-3 and secured themselves a meeting with South American champions Santos FC in the final four.

Controversy reigned in the other semi-final between African champions Esperance Tunis and Asian Champions League holders Al Sadd. Khalfan Ibrahim and Abdullah Koni had given Al Sadd a two goal lead by the 50th minute but Oussama Darragi pulled one back on the hour mark. However the Tunisians had two goals controversially ruled out for offside, decisions which so enraged one supporter who ran on to the pitch. Al Sadd, who are based in Qatar, now look ahead to a semi-final clash with European champions FC Barcelona who will be in fine mood following a 3-1 win against Real Madrid in last night’s El Clásico.

Real Madrid took the lead after just 22 seconds as Karim Benzema took advantage of some uncharacteristic woeful defending by Barcelona only for the visitors to equalize on the half hour mark through Alexis Sanchez. Further goals in the second half from Xavi and Cesc Fabregas helped secure the three points for Barcelona who can go into the FIFA Club World Cup knowing that their arch rivals are not going to be so far ahead when they come back from Japan. Had Real Madrid won last night they would’ve been six points clear with a game in hand. Following last night’s result, however, Barcelona are now on the same points but Madrid, nonetheless, still have the advantage of an extra game to play.

Europe: Real and Benfica seal top spot amid derby triumphs (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 27, 2011
Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice from the penalty spot against Atletico

Real Madrid (Played 13, Points 34) took the initiative in the Spanish league last night as a 4-1 derby success at home to local rivals Atlético de Madrid was sweetened by a defeat to champions FC Barcelona whose 1-0 defeat to Getafe saw them go six points behind los Blancos at the top of the table. Next door in Portugal, SL Benfica (Played 11, Points 27) have provided themselves with a platform to challenge for the title this season by defeating local rivals Sporting by a narrow 1-0 scoreline.

In the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu last night local honours were once again afforded to Real Madrid who haven’t lost a league match against Atlético since 1999. The visitors did shock the home support by taking the lead through Adrián after quarter of an hour but that would be as good as it got for Los Rojiblancos who would see their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois shown the red card for bringing down Karim Benzema in the box allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to equalize from the penalty spot in the 24th minute. The game ended 1-1 at the break but, not surprisingly, Real took advantage of the extra man to stamp their authority on the game in the second half. Goals from Ángel di María, Gonzalo Higuaín and another penalty for Ronaldo, which brought a red card heading in Diego Godín’s direction, capped off a good night for the home side whose 4-1 victory cemented top spot for at least a couple of hours until the result in the neighbouring suburbs of Getafe was known. A good night soon became a great one with the news later on that FC Barcelona had gone down to a 1-0 defeat to FC Getafe and the six point advantage had been preserved. Juan Valera’s goal midway through the second half proved the killer blow for Barcelona who now must look over their shoulder at the oncoming Valencia CF whose 2-1 defeat away to Rayo Vallecano brought los Che to within one point of the champions.

In neighbouring Portugal the Lisbon derby was played out with all the usual tension one would expect from a Benfica v Sporting game. The match was settled by Javi García with a goal just three minutes before half-time but it was far from plain sailing for the Eagles who saw Oscar Cardozo sent off for a second bookable offence in the 63rd minute. The win was Benfica’s sixth on the trot against their local rivals in all competitions and allowed them the opportunity to enjoy sole possession of top spot in the Super Liga for at least 24 hours until defending champions FC Porto play at home to Sporting Braga this evening. Benfica have 27 points from eleven games but FC Porto will draw level should they claim all three points tonight.

Spain: All square in Super Cup classic (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 15, 2011

The first leg of the 2011 Spanish Super Cup took place in the capital city of Madrid last night with those two arch-rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona doing battle once more. After five Clásico meetings last season one would imagine that these two giants of world football would be sick of the sight of each other by now. But where there is a trophy to be played for it is almost inevitable that these clubs will feature and their clash on Sunday night was one of the more enjoyable matches in recent history.

2010-11 La Liga champions FC Barcelona had to travel to 2010-11 Copa del Rey winners Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu and were caught a little off guard in the early stages as Madrid dominated proceedings. The home side’s superior possession and play was rewarded with the game’s first goal after just quarter of an hour when German international Mesut Özil coolly slotted home from close range. But Barcelona would, as they almost always do, come back strong and were 2-1 up at the break after David Villa’s stunning 35th minute equalizer was followed up by Lionel Messi’s strike in first half stoppage time.

But this match, and the tie as a whole, was salvaged by Xabi Alonso who beautifully controlled a low shot past a crowd of players to restore parity for Los Blancos ten minutes after the break. The second leg of this fascinating contest will be played at Barcelona’s Estadi Camp Nou on Wednesday evening with the home side slight favourites to win the trophy for a tenth time. Should Real Madrid defy the odds and win at the home of their arch-rivals then they would equal Barça’s tally of nine in this competition.

Poll: Are FC Barcelona really the greatest?

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 29, 2011

Following their fourth UEFA Champions League triumph on Saturday virtually every superlative has been used to describe Pep Guardiola’s current crop of FC Barcelona stars. The Catalans’ 3-1 triumph over Manchester United meant that Guardiola, in only his third full season in charge at the Camp Nou, has won ten major trophies including the amazing Sextuple triumph from the 2008-09 season. Are they, in your opinion, the best side ever? Or is there really a team that came before who deserve the accolade of the best ever? Decide from the following choices:

Real Madrid 7-3 Eintracht Frankfurt

Alfredo Di Stefano scores for Real Madrid in the 1959-60 European Cup final

REAL MADRID 1956-60

The team who took to the concept of the European Cup more than any other, the great Real Madrid side from the mid 50’s were European champions in the first five years of the competition. As well as winning two La Liga titles at home los Blancos had one of the greatest forward lines in the history of football including the likes of Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás who scored all seven goals between them in the club’s most famous win of the famous five, the 1959-60 European Cup final against Eintracht Frankfurt which they won 7-3 in front of a record 127,000 crowd at Hampden Park, Glasgow. The club also became the first unofficial world champions in 1960 after defeating South American champions Peñarol in the inaugural Intercontinental Cup match.

Internazionale 1964-65

Internazionale were Italian, European and World champions in 1965

INTERNAZIONALE 1964-65

The Italians were never also easy on the eye with their defensive brand of football, widely known as Catenaccio, winning few friends amongst their opponents. However the team known affectionately amongst all Nerazzurri supporters as La Grande Inter won back-to-back European Cups in 1964 and 1965 defeating Real Madrid and Benfica respectively. As well as the 1964-65 Scudetto, Inter also became the first European team to win successive Intercontinental Cups beating Argentinians Independiente on both occasions.

Ajax Amsterdam 1972

Ajax Amsterdam with the 1972 European Cup

AJAX AMSTERDAM 1971-73

Dutch football came to prominence in the early 1970’s with Feyenoord Rotterdam winning the European Cup in 1970 before their arch-rivals Ajax Amsterdam took their brand of Total Football to the international stage and won three successive European Cups. Players such as Johan Cruijff, Johnny Rep and Arie Haan took centre stage with final victories over Panathinaikos (1971), Internazionale (1972) and Juventus FC (1973), the latter as part of an historic treble, helping write the club’s name into the history books. Ajax also won the 1972 Intercontinental Cup against Independiente and were the inaugural UEFA Super Cup winners defeating Cup Winners’ Cup holders AC Milan in 1973.

FC Bayern 1975 European Cup

FC Bayern with the second of their European Cups in 1975

FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN 1974-76

In a manner similar to the Ajax team that preceded them, FC Bayern won the European Cup three times in a row from 1974-76 with a team full of international greats such as Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Uli Hoeneß. Their maiden European Cup win against Atlético de Madrid was achieved in a replay, the first and only such occasion this occurred, before going on to beat Leeds United and Saint-Étienne in the following two years. The Bavarians also won the 1973-74 Bundesliga title and their first world title with a 1976 Intercontinental Cup win over Brazilians Cruzeiro.

Liverpool FC 1977

Liverpool FC won their first European Cup in 1977

LIVERPOOL FC 1977-81

Liverpool, under the astute guidance of Bob Paisley, won the European Cup three times in the space of five years, thus assuring the reluctant successor to Bill Shankly his place in football history as the first, and so far only coach, to have won the trophy on so many occasions. Liverpool were dominant at home during this time with three league championship wins in 1977, 1979 and 1980 complemented by European triumphs over Borussia Mönchengladbach (1977), Club Brugge (1978) and Real Madrid (1981) which were won with a dynamic team including the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Phil Neal.

AC Milan

AC Milan were European champions in 1989-90

AC MILAN 1988-90

Just three years after the acquisition of the club by controversial figure Silvio Berlusconi, AC Milan started to make a mark on the European scene once again with back-to-back European Cup wins over Steaua Bucharest (1989) and Benfica (1990). Having won the 1988 Scudetto the Rossoneri, led by coach Arrigo Sacchi along with his team of superstars including the Dutch trio of Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit as well as Italian legends such as Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, began a spell of domination which also led to successive triumphs in the UEFA Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup.

Manchester United 1999

Manchester United won the UEFA Champions League in 1999

MANCHESTER UNITED 1998-99

It is difficult to pinpoint any team over the last two decades which could stand out for Manchester United, such is the amount of success they’ve come to enjoy under the leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson. However the team which won the Treble in the 1998-99 season deserves special praise for their sheer will-to-win and ability to turn things around when all seemed lost. A team including most of the “Class of 92” such as Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Gary Neville went on to claim the English league and cup double before winning an unlikely UEFA Champions League triumph over FC Bayern München as the Red Devils, who were a goal down as the game went into the 90th minute, somehow scored two goals deep into stoppage time to claim the club’s second European Cup. Six months later Roy Keane scored the winner for United as they claimed the Intercontinental Cup with a 1-0 win over Palmeiras.

FC Barcelona 2011

FC Barcelona with the 2010-11 UEFA Champions League trophy

FC BARCELONA 2008-11

The Catalan giants have enjoyed considerable success at home and abroad over time but the club underachieved in the European Cup for many years. Having only ever been champions of Europe twice before Pep Guardiola took the coaching job in 2008, FC Barcelona have finally started to realize their potential under the current coach who has guided the club to two UEFA Champions League finals and a semi-final in three years as well as winning a host of other trophies including a grand slam of Spanish League, Spanish Cup, Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in 2009. With the likes of FIFA World Cup winners Xavi, Carles Puyol and Andres Iniesta as well as superstar Lionel Messi many predict that their dominance could continue for some time yet.

SO WHO GETS YOUR VOTE AS THE BEST?

UEFA: Thank God that’s the end of that one!

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 4, 2011
Eric Abidal

Eric Abidal is thrown by jubilant Barcelona team mates into the air

Finally we can say good riddance to the soap opera that has been FC Barcelona versus Real Madrid CF. That’s until it comes back about three months from now for the 2011 Spanish Super Cup match which should feature Spain’s La Liga champions (surely FC Barcelona) and Copa del Rey winners (definitely Real Madrid). But, by that time, let’s hope all of the tedious nonsense that has marred this fixture over the last fortnight can, finally, be put to bed.

The only highlight of the five-part epic that has been Real v Barça this season was the first game which took place in late November, an unforgettable league game in which FC Barcelona gave their rivals from the Spanish capital the ultimate masterclass and disposed of them by five goals to nil. Perhaps, then, it was a little unfortunate that the return league fixture took place around the same time as both clubs were due to meet in the Copa del Rey final and UEFA Champions League semi-finals. This had the effect of making the occasion more tense than usual especially as neither of these great rivals can tolerate losing to the other at the best of times. Nonetheless the fact that these games were to take place should’ve allowed coaches José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola the opportunity to show the world that their clubs are the most exciting in world football.

Alas the occasion proved only to frighten both teams into a tactical battle of wills although it has to be said that Mourinho was far more guilty than Guardiola of cynical play. The league game in Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium, played on April 16th, was pretty tame by the standards of El Clásico but this was perhaps bore out by the suspicion that Mourinho had privately conceded the league title to the Catalans and decided to place his priorities towards to the two knockout tournaments. The Copa del Rey final on April 20th did see los Blancos win Spain’s premier domestic knock-out competition for the first time since 1992-93 thanks to a glorious Cristiano Ronaldo header in the midst of extra-time in a game which either team could’ve won in regular time. But even that occasion proved to be overshadowed by the fact that Sergio Ramos dropped the trophy from the top of the team bus which was subsequently run over upon its landing to terra firma (see video below):

But the real sideshow happened in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League which was played in Madrid. Every refereeing decision was hotly contested by both clubs which was a throwback to the Copa del Rey final in which Madrid were the main perpetrators of a tactic in which the end result was to bully the referee into giving a decision their way. FC Barcelona had undoubtedly decided to use the same tactic in Madrid’s backyard and the temperature had already reached boiling point at half-time when the Catalans’ reserve goalkeeper José Pinto was sent off for his part in a touchline mêlée. Pepe was the next player to see red in the second half as the Madrid defender was sent off for a late challenge on Dani Alves who, it must be said, made a bit of a meal of it. This red card, the fourth in four games that Real had ‘earned’ against Barcelona, provoked Mourinho into getting himself sent into the stand following his protestations which, in turn, would lead to his post-match press conference. Following Madrid’s 2-0 defeat the self-styled Special One blamed everyone from the referee, European football’s governing body UEFA and even the children’s charity UNICEF (whose name adourns the Barcelona shirt) and claimed that there was a conspiracy in which FC Barcelona had all the power. The fact that the better team won clearly didn’t cross his mind.

And so we finally had the fifth and final instalment last night and even before a ball was kicked both teams were throwing insults and accusations towards each other. Madrid claimed that Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets had made racist remarks to Marcelo in the first leg whilst FC Barcelona hit back saying that they were true professionals. The fact that last night’s game didn’t generate much ill-temper on the pitch proved to be a surprise and the only highlight of the game was Eric Abidal’s return following his successful surgery to remove a liver tumour. Almost inevitably, however, the controversy still continued following the game which ended in a 1-1 draw following goals from Pedro (Barcelona) and Marcelo (Madrid). No doubt that Mourinho will believe the fact that Gonzalo Higuain’s goal was disallowed due to an innocuous off the ball incident proves his point regarding Barcelona’s power. Also Cristiano Ronaldo has accused Javier Mascherano of cheating saying he “….wasn’t like this when he played for Liverpool. He must’ve learned all these cheating tricks at Barcelona” which is quite comical given the Portuguese superstar’s apparently fondness for falling on the floor. To be fair to Ronaldo, Barcelona may have lost some friends for their histrionics over the last few weeks as more fans would’ve expected them to concentrate on playing the free-flowing football with which they have been synonymous in recent seasons. Nonetheless Barcelona are now in line to become European champions for the fourth time unless Manchester United or Schalke 04 have anything to do with it.

Let’s just hope that “Hell Clásico”, as some writers have dubbed it, reverts back to classic status next season but I, for one, am not holding my breath……

Spain: Ramos drops Copa del Rey in bizarre incident (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 21, 2011

The celebrations were in full swing in the Spanish capital city of Madrid after Wednesday saw los Blancos lift the first domestic trophy of the season and win their first Copa del Rey (Spanish King’s Cup) title since 1993. Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s extra-time winner over arch-rivals FC Barcelona, the parties on the streets were still going on at 4:00am with the players on top of the parade bus taking part in their own celebrations. Madrid’s Sergio Ramos held the cup for all to see above his head but his team-mates’ over exuberant celebrations forced him to drop the cup from the top of the bus down to in front of the wheels below. The cup was run over and damaged but the player said afterwards that the trophy was fine.

Spain: Madrid and Barcelona cement places as top two

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 21, 2010
Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick in Barcelona's 8-0 win over Almeria

Both of Spain’s dominant footballing powers continue to edge their way further ahead in the race for the 2010-11 La Liga championship as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona recorded massive wins over Athletic Bilbao and UD Almeria respectively.

In a league which is becoming something of a more powerful version of the Scottish Premier League, there seems to be a massive gulf between the traditional big two of Spanish football and the rest of the league. With El Clásico on the horizon it was important for both teams to make a statement of intent going into next Monday’s crucial encounter and neither team disappointed.

First up were FC Barcelona and once Lionel Messi opened the scoring for the defending La Liga champions on 17 minutes there was no looking back as the Blaugrana had wave after wave of attack which left their opponents completely overwhelmed. Before they knew it Almeria were five goals down at half-time following strikes from Iniesta (penalty), Pedro, Messi again and an own goal from Santi Acasiente. Barça were in no mood to take their foot off the gas as they hit the back of the net a further three times in the second half. Bojan Krkić’s second half brace sandwiched Lionel Messi’s hat-trick goal and the 8-0 win was the biggest of the season for Pep Guardiola’s team who can now go into their home match against Real Madrid with confidence.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo also scored a hat-trick in Real Madrid's 5-1 win over Bilbao

Things are equally as good at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu where league leaders Real Madrid also hit a multitude of goals in a 5-1 rout over Athletic Bilbao. José Mourinho’s team got the ball rolling when Gonzalo Higuaín opened the scoring after 19 minutes. After that the game turned into the Cristiano Ronaldo show as the Portuguese superstar equalled Messi’s efforts by scoring a hat-trick of his own. A penalty from Sergio Ramos was Madrid’s other effort of the game whilst the hapless Basques at least mustered a consolation strike when Fernando Llorente’s 40th minute strike at least had fans thinking there would be a contest with the game ending 2-1 at the break. However the attacking nature of Madrid under Mourinho is, after a slow(ish) start, beginning to find a more fluent rhythm with Los Blancos scoring seventeen goals in their last five league games.

Villarreal and Valencia CF, the two teams directly behind the top two before this weekend’s games, played out a 1-1 draw at the former’s El Madrigal stadium which further encapsulates the view that La Liga is going to be dominated by Madrid and Barcelona once again. League leaders Real Madrid are still unbeaten with 32 points from 12 games, just one ahead of Barcelona whilst third place Villarreal are already a further seven points back. Considering that the gap between the top two and third place in last season’s championship was a distant 25 points there are already fears that the Spanish League is turning into a glorified Scottish League. Despite this there is a match-up betwen Spain’s version of the Old Firm coming up next Monday night and it looks like being one of the most interesting Clásico games in modern times.

European Leagues Round-Up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 9, 2010
Meisterschale

FC Bayern have won the Bundesliga title for a record-extending 22nd time

FC Bayern and Chelsea were amongst the teams crowned national champions in Europe this weekend whilst Italy’s champions-elect FC Internazionale have been taken to the wire by AS Roma who will complete the Serie A season next weekend. In other leagues Real Madrid and FC Barcelona also will fight it out on the last day in Spain after both teams won their Saturday night matches against Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla CF respectively.

FC Bayern München had pretty much sealed the title after the penultimate round of games after they had beaten VfL Bochum at the same time their only title challengers FC Schalke 04 were going down to home defeat against Werder Bremen. On the last day FC Bayern travelled to the German capital to face a Hertha BSC side who were already facing up to the prospect of Second League football next season. This game proved to be a stroll for the Bavarians with goals from Ivica Olić and a brace from Dutch sensation Arjen Robben sealing a 3-1 win in the Olympiastadion where FC Bayern have the chance to complete a domestic double against Werder Bremen in next weekend’s DFB Pokal (German Cup final). Schalke 04 could only draw 0-0 away at 1.FSV Mainz 05 to put a disappointing end to their campaign whilst Werder Bremen gave themselves a boost before the cup final by gaining a point at home to bitter local northern rivals Hamburger SV and clinch the third UEFA Champions League place. Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and a rejuvenated VfB Stuttgart will take their places in the UEFA Europa League next season. As well as Hertha BSC the 2.Liga will be joined by VfL Bochum next season with the possibility of 1.FC Nürnberg joining them should they lose a promotion/relegation play-off to FC Augsburg.

In England it was a topsy-turvy campaign in the Premier League with the leadership changing hands on no fewer than twenty two occasions during the campaign. Thankfully for the Blues of Chelsea FC it didn’t turn out to be twenty three as the Stamford Bridge side won with considerable ease against Wigan Athletic by eight goals to nil. A hat-trick for Didier Drogba and a brace for Nicolas Anelka was supplemented by solitary strikes by Frank Lampard, Solomon Kalou and Ashley Cole to give Chelsea their fourth English championship, their first since the days of Jose Mourinho in 2006. Present Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti has a real chance to win the Double in his first season in charge should the Blues do, as expected, win next weekend’s FA Cup final against Portsmouth FC at Wembley Stadium. Chelsea’s title rivals Manchester United saw off Stoke City 4-0 at Old Trafford but the Red Devils only have the League Cup to show for their efforts in the 2009-10 campaign. The top two will be joined by Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur in next season’s UEFA Champions League while Manchester City, Aston Villa and a very disappointing Liverpool FC will be playing UEFA Europa League football next term. At the bottom of the table Portsmouth FC’s relegation was confirmed some time ago and they will be joined in the Championship (second tier) by Hull City and Burnley FC who go straight back down after their maiden Premier League appearance.

SL Benfica sealed their 32nd championship title in Portugal’s Liga Sagres thansk to an Oscar Cardozo double which gave the Eagles a 2-1 home win over Rio Ave. At the same time their only title rivals Sporting Braga could only muster a 1-1 draw on the island of Madeira against a determined Nacional side who ensured that the league title would’ve gone to Benfica even had the league leaders had surprisingly lost at home as Braga needed all three points coupled with a Benfica defeat to win the title. In any case Sporting Braga can be very proud of their efforts as they finished second and, thus, qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. Deposed champions FC Porto finished three points further back in third and will only play in UEFA Europa League next season along with Sporting Lisbon and Marítimo. At the bottom last season’s surprise package SC Leixões were relegated along with Os Belenenses, both of whom will play in the Liga de Honra next season.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi was amongst the scorers in FC Barcelona's 3-2 win at Sevilla CF.

Title races in Spain and Italy must be sorted out on the final day of the season as both the main challengers in both countries won their penultimate fixtures this weekend. On Saturday in Spain both defending champions FC Barcelona and arch-rivals Real Madrid won tough fixtures against Sevilla CF (3-2) and Athletic Bilbao (5-1) respectively. Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona side were coasting to a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Messi, Bojan and Pedro before they allowed the Andalucians back into the game with two goals in the space of sixty seconds from Fredi Kanouté and Luis Fabiano to give the Blaugrana a real scare but the visitors held out for three very important points. Real Madrid were being held at one all with a little under twenty minutes to go before Gonzalo Higuaín opened the floodgates for los Blancos who went on to record a 5-1 win and keep up the pressure on the Catalans. Next week sees FC Barcelona at home to Valladolid and Real Madrid away at Malaga FC on what should be an exciting final day’s action.

In Italy FC Internazionale, who won the Coppa Italia final against AS Roma earlier in the week, thought that they were going to celebrate their fifth straight Scudetto as they were beating Chievo 4-1 with goals from Mantovani (own goal), Cambiasso, Milito and Balotelli, giving the Nerazzurri a healthy advantage whilst nearest challengers AS Roma were losing 1-0 at home to Cagliari Calcio. But in the last twenty minutes Chievo pulled two goals back to give Inter a scare and AS Roma’s talismanic captain Francesco Totti scored twice to give the Giallorossi hope of winning the title with one game left. Next Sunday’s action sees Inter away to already relegated Siena and AS Roma away at Chievo and many will fancy the Nerazzurri to do the domestic Double before meeting up with FC Bayern in the UEFA Champions League on Saturday, May 22nd.