History at Anfield!

How in the world #Liverpool came back from 1-3 down to a fabulous #BVB side to win 4-3 and make it through to the semi-finals of the #Europa can only be answered by a combination of history (remember Istanbul?), fantastic spirit and skill and a defensive meltdown by Dortmund that is hard to explain.

Regardless, #Klopp and his side looked dead and buried thanks to the clinical finishing of the likes of #Reus #Aubameyang and #Mhiktiriyan but came back with spirit and gumption that is going to hold them in great stead going into next season. The brilliance of #Coutinho, the discovery of #Origi’s real potential and the tenacity and running by the rest of the side, including winning goals by #Sakho and #Lovren were a joy to watch.

For the neutral, this was an epic game to watch. It could have been 8-8 or more. Such was the speed, open-ness and excitement that this massive European night at #Anfield put on show. Thank you, BVB, thank you Liverpool. #YNWA.

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The actual ‘Special One’!

#AtleticoMadrid knocked out favorites #Barcelona and made it to their 2nd #ChampionsLeague semi-final in 3 years with a 2-0 win (3-2 on aggregate) at the #VicenteCalderon and highlighted just why #LuisEnrique admitted to being disappointed to draw the #Rojablancos in the quarters. This team under #Simeone is not just a pesky annoyance to the traditional top 2 of Spain anymore – they are legitimately one of the Europe’s best teams and whoever draws them on Friday in the semi-finals will go in genuinely worried. The 2 goals from the brilliant #AntoineGriesmann today, aren’t their last for this campaign and their opponents in early May will need to be at their very best to just compete with this brilliant team. What this does to Barcelona’s season is yet to be seen. They’ve seen a massive blip in the past 4 games – it’s brought both #Real and Atleti into the #LaLiga title race and now it’s knocked them out of the competition they most wanted/expected to win. They might be able to refocus their energies towards the title and win it from here without CL distraction. Or they lose even more motivation and end with a season of utter disappointment.

#BayernMunich made yet another semi-final with a 2-2 draw in #Benfica with their narrow 1-0 win in Munich last week making the difference against a plucky Benfica side – the difference between the top 4-5 in Europe and the chasing pack has narrowed a lot and can be attributed to that finishing ability that the top players tend to have. Wolfsburg suffered from it yesterday as did the Portuguese today. Bayern’s performance must worry it’s coach and fans. They should have waltzed through this QF and they didn’t. Perhaps they’ll peak when it most matters now. Perhaps it’s their year to win it now that Barcelona have been knocked out. Try saying that to Simeone, #Zidane and the outgoing #Pellegrini and they’ll tell you otherwise.

Over in the #FACup #ManchesterUnited put in their best performance of the season (what little that means in current context) to beat #WestHam 1-2 at #UptonPark’s final game ever and take them to a semi-final against #Everton at #Wembley. #Rashford stole the show again with a brilliantly taken goal for the #RedDevils, while the #Hammers must be kicking themselves for not playing the way they know they can, especially against an opponent lacking the usual gravitas that they’ve historically possessed.

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Love him or hate him, he’s something special…

#CristianoRonaldo hit a typically CR7-eque hattrick as he brought #RealMadrid from 0-2 down at #Wolfsburg last week to a famous 3-0 win at the #Bernabeu to send them through to yet another #ChampionsLeague semi-final. Wolfsburg will have  to blame their profligate finishing for their exit and the unsuccessful attempt at what could have been a huge upset. They had 3-4 chances that a certain Senõr Cristiano would have finished quite easily.

Over in Manchester, #City finally made their way to the semi’s after a 1-0 win against #PSG gave them a 3-2 aggregate victory and they have their goalkeeper to thank for it – #JoeHart saved a #Zlatan penalty last week and followed it up with 2 fantastic saves, again to Zlatan set pieces, 2 free-kicks that only a handful of the top keepers would have saved. PSG were technically far superior to the Citizens but significantly less effective. And when #DeBruyne hit his clinically placed goal near the end of the tie, the dream that the blue half of Manchester has been chasing unsuccessfully for so long, finally came true. They’ll still have to beat 1 of a likely 3 of #Real #Bayern or #Barcelona (unless #Benfica and #Atleti pull off upsets tomorrow) to have a real chance at the title, but I’m sure getting this far is mission accomplished, for now.

Stat fact:
– Here’s an interesting stat that highlights the difference between the #EPL and the other 2 big leagues – City are now the 10th English team to make the semis of the CL. In Spain or Germany it tends to be just the usual 4-5 that do. Quantity over quality, however?
– DeBruyne has 2 shots at goal in the quarters and 2 goals scored.
– Cristiano already has 16 goals in this CL season. Not bad for a poor season!

 

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What does the Fox say?

The impossible dream that is a #Leicester #EPL title continues unabated as the Foxes beat #Sunderland 0-2 thanks to 2 typically #JamieVardy goals (fast, efficient and incredibly clinical). As much as the wonderfully humble #Ranieri talks about simple targets – avoid relegation (done!), make #Europa (done!), make #ChampionsLeague (also done!) the fact is that the Foxes now need just 9 points from 5 games to win the title. That equation seemed even easier until late in the 2nd half of  #Tottenham hosting #ManchesterUnited when a 5 minute burst took a 0-0 game and changed it into a 3-0 win for #Pochettino’s men, bringing them back to 7 points behind the Foxes. The manner in which they took a tight close game and clinically thrashed United is entirely descriptive of just how good this young side has become under the Argentine, while exposing just how brittle United’s sporadic resurgence tends to be when they win a few in a row. The only upside for them was the performance of young right back #Fosu-Mensah, who was the best player on the pitch for both teams by a country mile and had he not left with injury in the 65th minute, it’s not a stretch to claim that this game may not have finished the way he did. The break-away goal for Spurs came from the left, which the young dutchman owned until he was replaced by the ineffective #Darmian. #Liverpool capped off a brilliant week with a big 4-1 thrashing of #Stoke and wins for #ManchesterCity and a 3-3 draw between #WestHam and #Arsenal mean that the #Gunners are once again out of the title run (ho-hum!) and the Citizens have a stronger hold on 4th place.

Over in the #LaLiga, #RealSociedad blew open the title race by handing #Barcelona their 2nd consecutive defeat beating them 1-0 and with both Madrid teams winning their games (#Real won big with a 4-o thrashing of #Eibar; #Atleti went to #Espanyol and won 1-3) the gap at the top is down to 3 points from #AtleticoMadrid and 4 from #RealMadrid. If this doesn’t get the Catalan giants refocussed and alert, nothing will. But expect the trio of #Messi #Suarez and #Neymar to fire again in this final sprint, one which needs to see them finish up Atleti in their 2nd leg of the Champions League and then win their remaining games to the title. A hiccup at best. But one that’s brought life back into atleast 1 of the major European leagues. Because #France is already over, #Bundesliga was over before it began and it got worse this week as #Bayern took all 3 with a 1-3 win at #Stuttgart while #Dortmund drew at #Schalke 2-2 and in #Italy #Juventus remain 6 clear of #Napoli.

 

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A proper Classico!

In today’s context, the #Classico at the #NouCamp ended in #RealMadrid ‘upsetting‘ league leaders #Barcelona 1-2 thanks to 2 come-back goals from #Benzema and #Ronaldo after #Pique gave the Catalan giants the lead. In the general context of Classicos however, this one will go down as one of the more fun games these 2 giants of European Club Football have played. It was a fast, end-to-end game with a fair amount of chances for both teams, with some expected events (heated tempers, fast flowing football, a CR7 goal and a #Ramos red card – one that he should have got a long time earlier in the game) and some unexpected ones (an open goal miss by #Suarez and an anonymous performance by #Neymar). It did showcase though, just how incredible the talent on these 2 sides is and how far ahead they are from the rest of Europe, #Bayern aside, who won 1-0 at home to visiting #Frankfurt, yet again, in the #Bundesliga to remain 5 clear of #BVB, who won 3-2 against a visiting #WerderBremen.

#AtleticoMadrid were the biggest winners of the week, after they destroyed #Betis 5-1 and now trail #Barca by 6 in their unlikely title chase and sets them up nicely for their mid week #ChampionsLeague meeting with them!

The #EPL produced goals galore with #Chelsea thrashing relegation favorite #Villa 0-4; #Arsenal kept their faint title hopes alive with a 4-0 win over #Watford, #ManchesterCity thrashed #Bournemouth 0-4 to create a little space between them and 4th place chasing #WestHam, who could only play out a 2-2 draw to visiting #CrystalPalace, #Norwich won a last minuted 3-2 thriller against visiting #Newcastle (#Benitez might well go down with his new team at this rate) and #Swansea came from 2 down to draw 2-2 at #Stoke. But the highlight of the day had to be the absolutely open, fast and thrilling 1-1 draw at #Anfield between #Liverpool and visiting title contenders #Tottenham. If #Leicester can beat visiting #Southampton tomorrow, this draw might well have cost Spurs their title chance with the gap widening to 7 points. A loss for the Foxes and it is 4 points and everything to play for in the final 6 games. This could well go down to the last game!

Over in the #SerieA, #Juventus beat #Empoli 1-0 to go 6 clear at the top with #Napoli still with a game in hand and in #France, #PSG won 4-1 at home to stay alert for their midweek ChampionsLeague test against #ManCity!

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