UEFA Champions League: Ronaldo and his “big head”, a 17 year old bails out Barca

Manchester United 2, AS Roma 0

It’s called ‘having a team’s number’. Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney made sure of that. The heart of the Red Devils scored the first away goal without the aid of his backheel but instead it was his head and it put one foot for Manchester United into the Champions League semi-finals. Roma was without their usual maestro Francesco Totti and it showed with a lack of definitive finishing – but he will be back next Wednesday for the return leg. A 2-0 defeat at home will mean all things will have to go Roma’s way at Old Trafford. United was not without their inconsistencies, however, as Roma dominated the run of play for the first 15 minutes only to curse themselves over missed opportunities and the superb acrobatics of Edwin Van der Sar. Roma has a knack of scoring away from home, having done so twice this competition so far, and they will be looking to exploit a possible gap in defense left open by an injured Nemanja Vidic. Oh – by the way – it was Ronaldo’s 36th goal of the season. Unreal. It prompted Roma’s midfielder David Pizarro to call Ronaldo a “big head”.

Barcelona 1, Schalke 04 0

17-year old Bojan Krkic grabbed a much-needed away goal early in the match and led Barca to a 1-0 win in Germany. Highlighted by physical play, Rafa Marquez and Puyol organized a stingy defense capable enough of keeping Schalke’s big men Altintop and Kuranyi away from Valdes’ net. Nothing went on target for the Germans, whereas Thierry Henry troubled a weak left side and supplied the winning square pass to Krkic (the first of only 4 chances throughout for Barca). Near the end, things got sloppy, the crowd became weary, and whistles were heard in an attempt to prod Schalke into action. No luck, Barca takes the away goal back to Nou Camp. With Krkic’s goal, he became the youngest player to score in Champions League history.

TODAY’s GAMES: Liverpool vs. Arsenal, Chelsea vs. Fenerbahce

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Champions League Draw: Quarterfinals and Semifinals

I am sure you’ve already seen it but the quarterfinal draw looks like:

Manchester United v. AS Roma – can Roma avenge the 7-0 drubbing of last year? they did in the group stages

Barcelona v. Schalke 04 – as inconsistent as Barca has been as of late, I wouldn’t put a Schalke shocker out of order, Kevin Kuranyi likes clutch games

Chelsea v. Fenerbahce – another possible upset, but Chelsea will probably see the Turks off with no problem – Mateja Kezman might want to give his old club a lot of trouble though

Arsenal v. Liverpool – battle of the on-form strikers, Adebayor vs. Torres, I’d go with El Nino if I had to pick right now

Semifinal Draw

Manchester United/AS Roma vs. Barcelona/Schalke 04
Chelsea/Fenerbahce vs. Liverpool/Arsenal

Well, what do ya think? Will United breeze by Roma? Is Fenerbahce really an easy draw for Barcelona, especially with how they’ve been playing as of late? Who will come out on top in the Battle of Britain???

More UCL Predictions: Chelsea, AS Roma, and FC Porto

FC Porto vs. Schalke 04
(0-1)

Coveted winger Ricardo Quaresma has promised a win at the Dragao, but it is Schalke with the one goal lead. Porto will be heading into this with a bit of momentum as Schalke still in the race for the Bundesliga title has lost three consecutive league games. If Kevin Kuranyi can find an early goal on the counter, Schalke could do what they did in the first leg – defend. The German international’s lone goal in the last encounter was partly due to a Helton handling mistake, but with the way things have been going, Schalke is going to have to take whatever they can get.
Prediction: 2-0 (2-1 on aggregate, Porto)

Real Madrid vs. AS Roma
(1-2)

The biggest advantage Real has today is the fact that they managed an away goal in Rome during the first leg. They are home at the Bernabeu but Real’s time since the first leg 2-1 loss has been frustrating, eeking by a pesky Recreativo side last weekend, 3-2. Injuries have depleted Bernd Schuster’s squad selection prospects hurt him most on the backline with Sergio Ramos suspended, Christoph Metzelder. The midfield and forward corps could miss the Dutch trifecta of Arjen Robben (definitely missing), Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Wesley Sneijder. AS Roma travels to Spain with little to worry about injury-wise, but certainly a lot to play for.
Prediction: 1-1 (2-3 on aggregate, AS Roma)

Chelsea vs. Olympiakos
(0-0)

Chelsea’s 4-0 win over West Ham United this past weekend mixed with media reports of Chelsea players ready to abandon Avram Grant make it a ‘pull-it-together’ kind of match-up at Stamford Bridge. The Blues will have to strike early and often in order to put away that freak, 90+ minute away goal that puts the EPL title chasers away. The Greek champions managed to beat Lazio away from home, 2-1, and it’s likely the Blues know that.
Prediction: 2-0 (2-0 on aggregate Chelsea)

Yesterday’s Results

Arsenal 2, AC Milan 0 – Cesc Fabregas’ long-range take was nice but don’t you think it was a little more the questionable anticipation of Zeljko Kalac?

Barcelona 1, Celtic 0 – Xavi, CHI February Best XI pick (posted tonight), comes through again but their win is overshadowed by an injury to Lionel Messi

Manchester United 1, Lyon 0 – Lyon looked dangerous in the second half, but experience, some dude named Cristiano Ronaldo, and composure seemingly always trumps flashiness and youth in the end

Sevilla 3, Fenerbahce 2 (5-5 on aggregate, 3-2 Fenerbahce in penalties) – a great game for those spectators that were neutral, for a report on this see Ryan’s – a Sevilla faithful – post

The giants are now awake…, Liverpool over Inter 2-0 in CL Home Leg

Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt hit for two late goals – Gerrard’s individual effort being the most spectacular of the two – to surprise the crap out of Serie A leaders Inter Milan.

This also wasn’t an example of finishing what little chances the Reds had – Liverpool dominated Inter – 19 shots to 4, finally breaking through Inter’s 10-man ‘catenaccio’. Yep, 10-men – the Reds got some help from Marco Materazzi when he was sent off for a second yellow card offense in the 30th minute for tugging on El Nino’s jersey. Inter then had to play a whole hour a man dow, at Anfield, after one of the worst losses in Liverpool history (might not be THAT bad).

This will be a huge morale boost for Liverpool and it was led by none other than captain Steven Gerrard (would you expect otherwise?). Rafa also put in timely subs (Crouch, Pennant – assisted Kuijt’s goal) and allowed the fullbacks, Fabio Aurelio and Steve Finnan, the proper room to serve the dangerous ball in. The wings, as a whole, were wide open once Materazzi was out of the picture. Lucas Leiva put in a promising 60 minutes for a young midfielder still learning about European soccer.

It was Liverpool’s 100th European victory at Anfield and – rightly enough – it was Gerrard’s 50th goal at home.

Other scores:

Schalke 04 1, FC Porto 0Schalke uses Kevin Kuranyi’s early goal to head away to Porto a goal up
Olympiakos 0, Chelsea 0Chelsea holds off the Greek champions at home and is ready for a Stamford return
AS Roma 2, Real Madrid 1David Pizarro and Mancini overcome a decent looking Real Madrid side to secure the home win

Danny Szetela to AS Roma!

AS Roma

Milling around Ives Galarcep’s neck of the blogosphere woods, you are always guaranteed to get a little piece of juicy news. This morning was no different.Found this article, Italy in Szetela’s Future for North Jersey Herald News. It basically stipulates that the U-20 World Cup star and Clifton, NJ native has reached a pre-contractual agreement with Serie A powers AS Roma after his MLS contract with the Columbus Crew runs out on December 31st, 2007. The Serie A – great – but is Roma going to guarantee him any playing time whatsoever? He will most likely be loaned out to a Siena, Ascoli, Parma or Palermo (all who were in to snap him up in the first place).

Szetela joins fellow NY/NJ native, Gabe Ferrari in the Serie A – Ferrari plies his trade for Sampdoria. Furthermore, he joins both Sal Zizzo and Freddy Adu in ‘going European’ as Zizzo is at Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga now and Adu went to Benfica of the Portuguese SuperLiga.

 The IMG product also had interest from other world leagues – Everton, Galatasaray, Rangers, and FC Sion all had submitted transfer inquiries to the MLS front office. When it all boils down – you really can’t frown upon this move and his reinvigorated performances with US U-20s made it happen. It’s just a shame that Columbus couldn’t have reaped the benefits in his 4-year stay in Columbus. The deal should be finalized in the next week or two and, as always, things can go awry.

Who’s next from that U-20 squad to go? Chris Seitz? Tony Beltran? Ofori Sarkodie? etc.