Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
In Spain, you often hear players and coaches talking about “the sort of match that decides title races”. More often that not they’re talking about the tricky away game against awkward opposition rather than a high profile match against direct rivals.
Manchester United’s 2-0 win away to Middlesbrough on Saturday was just that sort of game, and just the sort of performance that will leave their rivals utterly deflated.
It was a match that could easily have re-opened the championship. United were playing less than 72 hours after their Champions League semi-final first leg at home to Arsenal and three days before the return in London.
Middlesbrough are desperate for points, as they scrap it out at the bottom of the table, yet Alex Ferguson was able to rest a bunch of players and yet still see his team win with plenty to spare, thanks to goals from Ryan Giggs and and Park Ji-sung.
Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs was voted Player of the Year for the first time by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) on Sunday.
Giggs has only made 12 Premier League starts this season, scoring a single goal, so I guess we really have to look at this award as recognition for his long years of service at United, for whom he’s made just shy of 800 appearances.
4-4 is the sort of scoreline that delights neutrals, TV companies and marketing executives but it‘s not one that Liverpool fans will remember with any fondness.
A point from Tuesday night’s draw with Arsenal at Anfield was enough to take Liverpool top of the Premier League table on goal difference from Manchester United, but seeing as Alex Ferguson’s side have two games in hand it’s hard to see the title ending up anywhere but at Old Trafford.
There are lots of poignant pieces out there commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
Steve Wilson’s blog on the BBC is very moving. I too had a school friend who was luckily pulled out of the Leppings Lane end.
What a game.
Liverpool, 3-1 down from the first leg in their Champions League quarter-final clash, went 2-0 up at Stamford Bridge only for Chelsea to surge back in the second half and make it 3-2.
Two late goals from the Reds made it an amazing finish but Guus Hiddink’s side scored again and it finished 4-4 (7-5 on aggregate.)
United, who visit Porto, have not looked like European and English champions recently and have a lot to do to reach the last four after last week’s disappointing 2-2 draw with the Portuguese side at Old Trafford.
In Spain, the sports papers refer to the exodus of players during international weeks as the ‘FIFA virus’ and it will be interesting to see if Spanish Liverpool can cope with its effects this weekend.
To recap, Liverpool were in spectacular form before the latest interruption to the domestic season, banging in 13 goals in three games against Real Madrid in the Champions League and Manchester United and Aston Villa in the Premier League.
Quite how far Michael Owen’s career has nosedived was underlined at the weekend when the Newcastle United striker was again overlooked for his country despite the lack of attacking options for coach Fabio Capello.
Capello watched three of his squad strikers hobble off at Wembley on Saturday during the 4-0 friendly victory over Slovakia with Emile Heskey and Carlton Cole both ruled out of Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.
Liverpool reopened the Premier League title race with a 5-0 win over Aston Villa that must have thrilled Anfield, while leaving fans wondering why they haven’t seen similar displays all season.
This was exactly the sort of performance the occasion cried out for. Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat at Fulham, following on from the Old Trafford debacle, had left the door ajar, and Liverpool duly barged it open with another display of absolute self-belief.