Thursday, March 6, 2008

Champs Go Down, Brittania Rules

We're down to 9 teams in the UEFA Champions league, (with the ninth team, Inter Milan, hanging by a thread, trailing 0-2 heading into their second leg against Liverpool) and what we know so far is that we're going to have a new champion, and there's a 50/50 chance that champion is going to come from England.

Three of the so called Big 4 of English Football have already clinched spots in the final 8.

Most notable is Arsenal. The Gunners drew 0-0 at home in the first leg of their matchup with defending European champion AC Milan. In yesterday's second leg in Milan, a goal in the 84th minute from Cesc Fabregas broke a scoreless tie, and Emmanuel Adebayor put the game away minutes later, as Arsenal won 2-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. A crappy night for Kaka and AC Milan.

Also in the final 8 are Arsenal's fellow Londoners, Chelsea. The Greek side Olympiacos fought to a draw at home in the first leg, but they were no match for Chelsea in the second leg at Stamford Bridge. Michael Ballack scored on a header in the 5th minute, and Frank Lampard follwed 20 minutes later on a rebound to make it 2-0. Kalou added one for good measure early in the second half, and Chelsea cruised to an easy 3-0 victory to advance to the quarterfinals.

Manchester United had a more difficult time with French powerhouse Lyon, but advanced nonetheless. Carlos Tevez's goal in the 87th minute of the first leg at Lyon proved to be the most crucial of the series. It provided the Red Devils with a 1-1 aggregate heading into the second leg at Old Trafford, as Cristiano Ronaldo provided an insurance goal to seal it for United.

Finally, Liverpool got a pair of goals in the final 5 minutes of its first leg against Inter Milan, who played most of the game with only 10 men after Marco Materazzi (the same guy Zinedine Zidane famously head butted in the World Cup) got sent off in the 30th minute. The 2-0 win in the first leg sets Liverpool up for what could be a huge upset win over a team that's spent the whole season being perceived as one of the world's top 3 squads. Liverpool, meanwhile has had a subpar season, but if they can hold on in the second leg, they'll have at least one major achievement to speak of from 2007-2008.

So, given that it looks like there are going to be 4 English teams amongst the 8 Champions League semifinalists, the question has to be asked as to whether the rest of Europe's leagues even matter.

Specifically, it was a horrible round for Spain's La Liga. Real Madrid embarrassed La Liga by getting drummed out of the final 16 by Italy's AS Roma on a 4-2 aggregate, while mighty Barcelona got all it could handle from the rinky dink Scottish league's Celtic before advancing. Sevilla, the third team from La Liga in the final 16, got bounced by Fenerbahce, from Turkey.

Germany's Bundesliga has one team, Schalke, in the final 8, but that's largely because the luck of the draw gave them a matchup with Porto from the weak Portugese league.

The English Premiership may not have quite the star power that La Liga has. As of right now though, it's clearly the best league in the world by far. And save for a few spectacular players in Italy and Spain, England's is the only European league worth watching.

1 comment:

Patrick N said...

you > me