Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Mr Chelsea enjoys a glory night but might not stay for long

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Roberto Di Matteo can now claim the title of “Mr Chelsea” with as much justification as any of the club’s great players of the past or indeed some of the players who on Saturday helped Chelsea become European champions for the first time.

The 41-year-old interim manager has transformed their season which ended with the most glorious success in their 107-year history as Chelsea became the first London club ever to lift the European Cup following their 4-3 penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich.

The issue now is whether his reign as interim manager ends with his departure from the club because billionaire owner Roman Abramovich wants a more glitzy big name manager, or whether this triumph, two weeks after Chelsea won the FA Cup, will persuade Abramovich that Di Matteo is the man for the job longterm.

Beaten Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes was in no doubt what Abramovich should do: “If I was the club owner I would give him a three year deal today,” he said after his side’s shattering defeat in their own stadium.

Champions League final live blog – Bayern Munich v Chelsea

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We will bring you all the latest buildup, goals, news and photos from Saturday’s showpiece European soccer match. Just click on the link below to join in.

http://live.reuters.com/Event/Champions_League_final_-__Bayern_Munich_v_Chelsea

from Photographers' Blog:

Saving the Canon 400mm f2.8

By Murad Sezer

All photographers make plans to deal with possible clashes. They are ready to protect themselves and their equipment when covering a potential riot (or a May Day demonstration as I did a few days earlier). But you don’t expect to be doing that before a soccer match, or any other sports events.

While covering the May Day protests I don't carry a camera bag or a laptop. I head out with my two camera bodies, spare memory cards, a gas mask and a wireless lan transmitter attached to the camera body to file my pictures - that’s all.. It's more comfortable and easy to cover if any riots break out. But to cover a soccer match is a different story. If it's a cup final or a decisive match like last Saturday's Fenerbahce - Galatasaray Turkish Super League Super Final, we bring along much more equipment. I pack a hardcase with a laptop, 3 camera bodies, four lenses including a 400 mm f2.8 super telephoto, remote control devices to set up a camera behind the goal, network cables, a mini tripod etc. And usually we don't even think about the safety of ourselves or our equipment. Normally during half time or at the end of the game we set our cameras down and rush to file pictures from the field or in the photographers’ working room.

from Photographers' Blog:

“The Cruncher”

By Tim Shaffer

On paper it would be any Philadelphia area sports fans dream, The Bernard Hopkins/Chad Dawson boxing re-match sandwiched between the Phillies versus the Cubs and a Flyers versus Devils NHL playoff game.

In my mind I knew that this could very well be the final fight for the aging Bernard Hopkins. The Philadelphia native was dropped to the canvas and injured his shoulder in the first meeting in Los Angeles, which was declared a no-contest. After my arrival at historic Boardwalk Hall I found my spot, set up my laptop and my cameras and waited for the show to begin. Upon inspection of the undercard I noted a few of the fights and decided to do a little warm up for the main event.

Has Alex Ferguson lost his edge?

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- Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said in the run-up to his team’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester City that playing for a draw in the derby with so much at stake would be inviting trouble and he did exactly that with a cagey and defensive 4-5-1 formation lacking any sort of guile, creativity and bite.

If it was a last-gasp attempt by the wily and trophy-laden 70-year old Scot to outfox his Italian counterpart Roberto Mancini, it backfired spectacularly as United were second best throughout the contest and were lucky not to have lost by a bigger margin.

Still refusing to accept that his team are in the driving seat to win the title after overhauling an eight-point deficit to go top on goal difference with two games left, Mancini appears to have unnerved Ferguson with his pre-game rhetoric just as he emphatically won their tactical battle on the pitch.

Barca end a terrible week on a high as Pep tutors Tito

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By Phil O’Connor

Barcelona rounded off a rollercoaster week with a 7-0 drubbing of Rayo Vallecano – out of Europe and with the league already conceded by Pep Guardiola, the pressure lifted and Barcelona were able to enjoy themselves once again. The Copa Del Rey final on May 25 will mark Guardiola’s final competitive game in charge at the Camp Nou, bringing down the curtain on a four-year reign that has yielded a ton of trophies. Announcing his decision not to extend his contract at an emotional press conference, Guardiola weariness with football was apparent, but almost immediately speculation began as to when he would comeback – and possibly more importantly, where. If his career as a coach continues to mirror his time as a player, there are some rocky times ahead. This is the second time Guardiola has left Barcelona; after a glittering career as part of Johan Cruyff’s “dream team”, when he departed as club captain in 2001 he did so empty-handed, as Barca failed to win a trophy in his final season. In what seemed an odd move at the time, he moved to Brescia in Italy before stints in Qatar and Mexico, but the twilight years of his club career never came close to echoing the success he enjoyed at the Catalan club that raised him. Six years after his departure as a player, he returned to the Camp Nou to coach the reserve team and he became a winner once again, winning promotion with the Barcelona B team before taking over from Frank Rijkaard. Guardiola has already been linked with London club Chelsea, and no doubt he will be linked to every top job that becomes vacant this coming summer. But the 41-year-old will need to be very careful about the next job he takes on – despite all he has achieved to date, his methods are not guaranteed to succeed elsewhere. Everything he has achieved as both a player and a coach has been done surrounded by Barcelona players, and has been steeped in the traditions of the club. Many of those who won promotion with him with the Barca reserves went on to become loyal servants in the first team. Others, like Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas, were schooled at Barcelona before leaving for England and then returning – despite their Barca heritage, both players had to work hard to adjust to Guardiola’s game plan. And if players raised at the club have these difficulties, what chance does a whole new dressing room adapting to his methods? Immensely intelligent with an obsessive attention to detail, Guardiola’s basic tactics have remained true to Barcelona’s heritage, and his tactical tinkering has amounted to moving players around within the system, rather than trying to change it. It is hard to imagine him suddenly sending out a team to play 4-4-2, or ordering his side to start playing long balls in desperation. It might also be difficult for him to inherit players who simply don’t understand his way of seeing the game, or those who cannot adapt to it. There are few other clubs in the world who can offer the embarrassment of playing riches that he had at Barcelona. A decent outside bet might be for Guardiola to take over from Vicente del Bosque as manager of the Spanish national side. Taking on that job would give him breathing room at the same time as keeping him involved in football. He would be out of the pressure-cooker atmosphere the Camp Nou but still operating at the highest level. Added to that, he would still have contact with players and a tactical structure that will be familiar to him from his time at Barcelona. As Barcelona’s performance at Vallecano this weekend showed, the shackles are now off and the possibilities are many. Probably the only one that can be ruled out at this stage is him taking over from Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid – other than that, anything can happen. PHOTO: Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola (R) and his assistant coach Tito Vilanova talk before their Spanish first division soccer match against Rayo Vallecano at Vallecas stadium in Madrid April 29, 2012. Guardiola will leave Spanish soccer giants at the end of this season and will be replaced by Vilanova. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

City v United is fitting climax to Premier League title race

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Three weeks ago it seemed the Manchester derby would be little more than a dead rubber after City’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal left champions United eight points clear at the top, in a commanding position to clinch their 20th league title and their fifth in the last six seasons.

But a rollercoaster Premier League title race produced yet another twist after United’s 1-0 loss at lowly Wigan, followed by a rip-roaring 4-4 home draw with Everton in which they threw away a two-goal lead late in the game, let City back into the title race after they had squandered a seven-point lead over United with their own dip in form.

Inspirational Guardiola leaves powerful legacy

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The inspiration for a team widely considered one of the best to grace the game, a thorn in the side of bitter rivals Real Madrid and a symbol of Catalan nationalism, Pep Guardiola has been all these things and more as a player and coach for Barcelona.

The spectacularly successful 41-year-old, who announced on Friday he was quitting at the end of the season, led Barca to a club-record 13 trophies in his four seasons in charge including two Champions League crowns and three straight La Liga titles.

from India Insight:

Sachin Tendulkar: from Wankhede to parliament

So it's just a matter of time, according to media reports, before Sachin Tendulkar swaps his India jersey for starched white and walks into the Rajya Sabha.

While the clamour was growing to honour him with the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award, few expected him to be nominated to the upper house.

Barcelona and Real’s poetry lacked motion

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By Phil O’Connor

On two nights when every football cliché went out the window, one remained true – in the end the only statistic that matters is the scoreline.

On Tuesday It didn’t matter that Barcelona owned the ball, or that they completed hundreds of passes over the two legs. When Chelsea got hold of it, they used it effectively – if we are to look at one stat other than the score, Chelsea’s four shots on goal and three goals in the tie tell their own story.

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