‘Champions League’

Analysis: Back to drawing board for limping Liverpool

“With Sturridge and Balotelli both injured, the powerful but limited Rickie Lambert — a close-season recruit from Southampton — started up front, but lasted only 45 minutes. Both he and Balotelli were signed to provide alternatives to the mobility and guile of Sturridge, but in the former Chelsea striker’s absence, Liverpool look bereft of pace and inventiveness at centre-forward. Last season, when Liverpool narrowly missed out on a first league title in 24 years, their dominance of possession enabled them to push and pull teams out of position before either Suarez or Sturridge would pounce. With neither Suarez nor Sturridge in the team, there is an aimlessness to their ball circulation, and against Basel that was only exacerbated by the nerves of the Anfield crowd.”

My take on the reasons behind Liverpool’s recent struggles following their Champions League elimination at Basel’s hands can be read here.

CNN World Sport: Champions League review

I made a fleeting appearance on CNN’s World Sport programme on Wednesday to look back at Tuesday’s Champions League matches – you can watch it here. Fans of unkempt beards and wild hand gestures are in for a treat.

Match reports and reaction 2014-15

A collection of my match reports and reaction pieces for AFP from the 2014-15 season:

Report: Bloodied Skrtel earns Liverpool a point (Premier League)
Reaction: In-form United ‘forcing luck’, says Van Gaal (Premier League)
Report: De Gea stars as United deepen Liverpool gloom (Premier League)
Reaction: Liverpool will ‘fight’ for return – Rodgers (Champions League)
Report: Basel thwart Liverpool to reach last 16 (Champions League)
Reaction: Van Persie rescued United, admits Van Gaal (Premier League)
Report: Van Persie sends lacklustre Man United third (Premier League)
Report: Agüero undoes Southampton as Man City go second (Premier League)
Report: Stunning Agüero treble gives Man City hope (Champions League)
Reaction: Hodgson dismayed by England fan chants (friendly)
Report: Rooney at the double as England silence Scots (friendly)
Report: Rooney, Welbeck inspire England fightback (Euro 2016 qualifying)
Report: Tevez returns as Argentina overcome Croatia (friendly)
Reaction: Man City have ‘crisis of confidence’ – Pellegrini (Champions League)
Report: Nine-man Man City left on brink by CSKA Moscow (Champions League)
Reaction: Van Gaal says beaten Man United getting closer (Premier League)
Report: Agüero gives City spoils against 10-man United (Premier League)
Reaction: Shocks are warning for England, says Hodgson (Euro 2016 qualifying)
Report: Rooney on mark as England school San Marino (Euro 2016 qualifying)
Reaction: Mourinho urges Chelsea to stay grounded (Premier League)
Reaction: Wenger plays down Mourinho touchline spat (Premier League)
Report: Hazard, Costa sink Arsenal in stormy derby (Premier League)
Reaction: Pellegrini rues carelessness after Roma hold City (Champions League)
Report: Totti makes history as Roma thwart Man City (Champions League)
Reaction: Rodgers heartened by Liverpool resilience (Champions League)
Reaction: Van Gaal wants more from match-winner Di María (Premier League)
Report: Falcao debuts as Man United crush QPR (Premier League)
Reaction: Hodgson hails Welbeck for biding his time (Euro 2016 qualifying)
Report: Welbeck gives improved England winning start (Euro 2016 qualifying)
Reaction: Angry Hodgson dismisses England statistics (friendly)
Report: Rooney rescues England in turgid Norway win (friendly)
Reaction: Wenger backs Sánchez to fill Giroud’s shoes (Champions League)
Reaction: Pellegrini gladdened by Jovetić display (Premier League)
Report: Jovetić at the double as Man City sink Liverpool (Premier League)
Reaction: Ancelotti predicts ‘new cycle’ for Madrid (UEFA Super Cup)
Report: Ronaldo still the boss as Madrid win Super Cup (UEFA Super Cup)
Reaction: Wembley win sets tone for Arsenal – Wenger
(Community Shield)
Report: Vibrant Arsenal down Man City in Community Shield (Community Shield)
Reaction: ‘Lethargic’ Arsenal not ready yet – Wenger (Emirates Cup)
Report: Falcao scores comeback goal to sink Arsenal (Emirates Cup)
Reaction: Wenger enthused by Sanogo-Campbell double act (Emirates Cup)
Report: Sanogo upstages Sánchez in Arsenal romp (Emirates Cup)

Report: Atlético sink Chelsea to set up all-Madrid final

“London (AFP) – Atlético Madrid set up a Champions League final against city rivals Real Madrid after coming from behind to win 3-1 at Chelsea in their semi-final second leg on Wednesday.”

My AFP report on how José Mourinho was denied a Champions League final reunion with Real Madrid can be read here.

Reaction: Mourinho rues Courtois friendly fire
Reaction: Simeone ‘excited’ by all-Madrid final
Analysis: European exit exposes Chelsea’s limitations

Report: Ba breaks PSG hearts as Chelsea scrape through

“London (AFP) – Demba Ba scored in the 87th minute to give Chelsea a last-gasp 2-0 win at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday that swept them into the Champions League semi-finals.”

My AFP report on a night of knife-edge tension at Stamford Bridge can be read here.

Reaction: Spirited Chelsea leave Mourinho aiming high

Report: Bayern held by resurgent Man United

“Manchester (United Kingdom) — Under-performing Manchester United produced a vastly improved display to hold  defending champions Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw in the home leg of their  Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.”

My AFP report on an evening that stirred old passions at Old Trafford can be read here.

Reaction: Guardiola ruffled as Man United frustrate Bayern

Compulsive risk-taker Verratti relegates Cabaye to sideshow

Marco VERRATTINewcastle United fans, look away now. If losing Yohan Cabaye was painful, it probably won’t help to learn that he’s not even getting in the Paris Saint-Germain team at the moment.

As one of the stars of Lille’s 2010-11 double-winning team and a core member of the France side that engineered November’s famous comeback against Ukraine in World Cup qualifying, Cabaye is not short of admirers in his home country, but he is not playing for PSG for the simple reason that he is not Marco Verratti.

Since swapping the Bigg Market for the Champs Elysées in January, Cabaye has made only four starts. Instead, he is becoming the player that Laurent Blanc turns to when Verratti needs a breather, starting in the second leg of the Champions League last 16 encounter with Bayer Leverkusen (after PSG had put the tie to bed with a 4-0 victory in the first leg) and coming into the team for Friday’s 1-0 win at Nice, when Verratti was rested ahead of this week’s meeting with Chelsea.

French pundits believe that PSG’s neatly balanced midfield trio of Verratti, Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi will give them the edge in their quarter-final against Chelsea, and if Motta supplies the brains and Matuidi the lungs in that triumvirate, Verratti is the wildly and erratically pumping heart.

Continue reading »

Report: Van Persie rescues Man United in Champions League

“Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick as Manchester United kept their season alive by storming back to beat Olympiakos 3-0 and reach the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.”

My AFP report on a stirring European comeback at Old Trafford can be read here.

Reaction: Moyes defiant after Man United fightback
Analysis: Giggs and Van Persie buy Moyes time

Report: Olympiakos bring listless United to their knees

“PIRAEUS, Greece (AFP) – Manchester United were shunted towards an unscheduled exit in the Champions League after crashing to a shock 2-0 defeat at Olympiakos in their last 16  first-leg match on Tuesday.”

My AFP match report on yet another bleak night for David Moyes and his team can be read here.

Reaction: Moyes mystified by Man United’s Greek tragedy
Analysis: Spirit of resolve deserts flatlining Man United

Report: Messi, Alves give Barca edge over 10-man City

“MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) — Goals by Lionel Messi and Dani Alves saw Barcelona take control of their  Champions League last 16 tie against Manchester City with a 2-0 win in Tuesday’s  first leg.”

My AFP report on a night of regrets for Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium can be read here.

Reaction: Pellegrini turns on referee as Man City lose to Barcelona

Analysis: Mourinho still searching for winning formula

“Upon returning to Chelsea, Mourinho pledged that he would introduce a more proactive, passing style, but he is struggling to find an alternative to the counter-attacking approach that is his trademark. Chelsea have averaged a healthy 56.9 percent of possession in their 12 league games to date this season, but they seem happier when they have taken an early lead and can pick off their opponents on the break. Of their 12 victories in all competitions, 10 have come after they went ahead inside the first 33 minutes and on the five occasions when they have conceded the opening goal, they have come back to win only once, in last month’s 4-1 win at home to Cardiff City.”

I’ve written a piece for AFP on José Mourinho’s search for a winning formula at Chelsea, and you can read it here.

Report: Early bird Wilshere takes Arsenal to brink

“London (AFP) – Jack Wilshere scored two goals, the first after only 27 seconds, as Arsenal beat Marseille 2-0 on Tuesday to move to within touching distance of the Champions League last 16.”

My AFP match report on a straightforward night’s work for Arsenal, and another steep learning curve for Marseille, can be read here.

Report: Hildebrand blunder leaves Chelsea in command

“London — Chelsea shook an unexpected loss to Newcastle United out of their system by overcoming Schalke 3-0 on Wednesday to close on a place in the Champions League knockout phase.”

My AFP match report on a night to forget for Timo Hildebrand at Stamford Bridge can be read here.

Related link: Agüero, Negredo fire Man City into last 16 

Report: Man City outclassed by brilliant Bayern

“Manchester (United Kingdom) — Defending champions Bayern Munich proved they remain the team to beat in the Champions League with a classy 3-1 win at Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.”

My AFP report on Bayern Munich’s breath-taking performance against Manchester City can be read here.

Reaction: Dazzling Bayern Munich can improve, warns Guardiola

Report: Double-ton Rooney gives Moyes winning start

“MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Wayne Rooney reached 200 Manchester United goals with a brace to give David Moyes a 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen in his first Champions League group game on Tuesday.”

My AFP match report on Wayne Rooney’s milestone moment for Manchester United can be read here.

Reaction: Moyes salutes ‘world-class’ Rooney

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