Thursday, April 08, 2010

A random Champions League review

Four-play


Much talk of 1999 and all that in Peter Drury's typically myopic and hysterical commentary on Bayern Munich's win over Manchester United last night.

Speaking of which this is only the second year since 1999 when the four semi finalists have been drawn from four different countries.

Back in 1998/99 the teams were United and Bayern playing Juventus and Dynamo Kiev. In 2003/04 Monaco beat Chelsea and Porto knocked out Deportivo la Coruna.

That Porto v Monaco final was the first time since 1990/91 that neither finalist came from Spain, Italy, England or Germany. Unfortunately there will be no repeat of that in May. The time before that? 1987/88 PSV Eindhoven v Benfica. Before that Ajax v Panathinaikos in 1970/71 which followed Celtic's defeat to Feyenoord the year before.

Only four finals without a team from Europe's big four in the history of the competition. Money's changed the game but dominance is nothing new.

Anyway, four countries in the semi final is a good thing. If only they were all their domestic champions we might have a tournament worthy of the name.

Brilliance


Enough has been written about Barcelona and Lionel Messi. Given some of the dross we suffer week in, week out it is maybe best just to borrow a phrase that Bobby Jones coined when he watched a young Jack Nicklaus hit a golf ball:

At the moment Barca are playing a game with which we are not familiar.

Slipping


There will be teeth a-gnashing and hands a-wringing in the English media at the lack of semi finalists. Is the party over for the best league in the world? Too soon to tell. But Manchester United are an ageing side with a questionable ability to spend big on renewal. Chelsea are an ageing side with an owner who seems not to want to spend big on renewal. Arsenal are an incomplete side with a manager opposed to spending big on finishing the job. Liverpool aren't even at the races.

So it might be a period of uncertain transition. One thing is certain. If England's present period of dominance in the latter stages is coming to an end then two Champion's League trophies since the turn of the century is a poor return.

Cheating


I thought Sir Alex Ferguson was going to mention the bombing of Clydeside in the Spring of 1941 as he ranted about "typical Germans" after the game. One thing's for sure though - whoever on the United staff was aggrieved enough to repeatedly shout "cheats" during the interview could learn a thing or two from this classic moment: