CCC08: Atlante FC 2-1 Saprissa – Tournament’s Best?

Again outwitted by VCR programming – this time, due to neglect to keep the time current; damn thing started recording at 9:00 p.m.  I’ll spare you the full, profanity-laden story.

The upshot, though, is that I didn’t see this whole match – only enough of it to know Atlante FC was a little better than good for the win.  How good?  I started watching after the half and was able to turn it off around the 80th minute, thoroughly secure in the knowledge that the Costa Rican club (Deportivo Saprissa, for the record) would never equalize.  They created their chances, even made Atlante’s show-boat ‘keeper use all his tricks, but Atlante kept Saprissa on the back-heel with strong tackling and an impressively speedy attack.

Still, cracking goal from Saprissa’s Walter Centano.

Getting back to the Mexicans, how they attack is worth noting: they poured forward in a way you don’t often see, with players running ahead of the ball into gaps that allow short, diagonal forward passes to their feet.  Either it was something they Saprissa allowed through zonal marking, or Atlante is just that proficient at their game.  The won on a pretty goal, one involving this quick little bugger named Bermudez, but it was the vision and precision of the final ball that most impressed me.  They tackled hard in the middle as well, imposing themselves on the game generally.  Tough customers, these guys, perhaps even the class of the tournament.

The Costa Ricans know how to play as well.  Seeign what they can do on the return leg should prove interesting….not Houston v. Municipal interesting, but this quarterfinal seems more evenly matched than the other two.

For the record, though, if it’s a matter of who gets through to the semis, I’m definitely pulling for the Costa Ricans.  Unless, they had a banner day, I’m not liking the Major League Soccer clubs’ chances against these guys.

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CCC08: Two Draws Tonight – MLS Shakes Off the Rust

Some quick thoughts on both of tonight’s CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals come below. I’ll offer more detailed thoughts on the game tomorrow, but figured I’d get something up while the memory is still fresh. I invite anyone who cares to to drop their thoughts in the comments below.

Harbour View FC 1-1 DC United
This one stumbled out of the blocks; more than just the general start-stop, it seemed fair to wonder around the fifteenth minute if DC would lose too many players to complete the game. But they settled down before long and, until their legs ran out late in the second half, the MLS club enjoyed the better of the play. When DC snuck a goal off a slop-scramble at the (very) end of the first half, it was as much as they deserved. Even so, a lot of the game – too much, even – took place in the middle third. For their part, Harbour View worked the ball down the flanks pretty well – and they’ve got some damned speedy players out there – but too many of those moves ended with crosses to the top of the 18, which left all DC’s defenders behind the ball. Harbour View’s equalizer came with another slop-fest, this one at the (very) end of the second half and off a corner in front of DC’s goal. A fitting end, as I see it.

CSD Municipal 0-0 Houston Dynamo
What…a…friggin’…game. True, this one died with Houston’s legs – though, to their credit, the Dynamo managed a super-late rally – but to that point, this game was a pants-in-the-air affair. Municipal started better and, by the end, had the better chances; actually, it’s fair to say they should have won it when Gonzalo Romero broke free on Pat Onstad inside the 6, but – impossiblé! – he pulled a certain goal wide. Municipal ran Houston ragged for much of the second half, launching chance after chance toward goal.  Houston had it’s share of misses going the other way, even in the second half. For what it’s worth, I’d call the first half even, but the second half – that was just about all Municipal. Good game and, better yet, it promises more to come. By that I mean, if you can’t see Municipal stealing this series in Houston, you’re not looking hard enough.

Well, good night overall – though the nightcap definitely had something on the opener. Both MLS clubs control their fate – and that’s a good thing. But there’s 90 minutes of work left to do. All for now.

UCL: Liverpool, Real Madrid through

Group A

Liverpool 4, Marseille 0

The Reds wasted no time in dismantling Djibril Cisse’s squad. The arrow was pointing in their direction and it wasn’t any clearer than when Gerrard missed an early penalty conversion only to follow it up and put Rafa’s boys in the lead. The rest of the game was symmetrical to say the least. Gerrard in the 4th, Torres in the 11th, and then two in the second half from Babel and Dirk Kuijt. On to the knockout round…

FC Porto 2, Besiktas 0

Jose Mourinho’s former team overcame a disallowed goal early on to put two more in on the Turkish giants. Ricardo Quaresma had a particularly enlightening game, supplying the clincher in the 62nd minute. With Porto’s win, Group A was won, putting Liverpool in second heading into the knockout rounds.

Group B

Chelsea 0, Valencia 0

When your coach writes this game off as nothing more than a ‘distraction’, you know it’s going to be a bore. Avram Grant has his mind set on Arsenal later this week, but the Blues still managed to squeak out 20 shots and keep Los Ches backwheeling on occasion. With a spot already in the knockout rounds, one wonders why Lampard, Terry, and Essien weren’t rested for this one.

Schalke 04 3, Rosenborg 1

Not a shocking result by any means as Rosenborg has gotten their ass handed to them quite a bit during group play. Schalke, however, had to deal with a little bit of a scare pre-match as head coach Mirko Slomka dropped Mladen Krstajic and Ivan Rakitic from the first-team for frequenting the nightclubs. No problem, though, as goals from Kevin Kuranyi, Gerald Asamoah, and Rafinha sealed the deal and a spot in the next round.

Group C

Olympiakos 3, Werder Bremen 0

I knew the Greek champions were strong – but ‘beating Bundesliga contenders 3-0’ strong? I certainly didn’t think so. Call it luck, but all in all, Olympiakos had Ieroklis Stoltidis who finished 2 of the 3 chances he had, sparking the Greek giants to the only real upset of the day. Former Portsmouth man Lomano Lua-Lua started for Olympiakos and caused some trouble up front.

Real Madrid 3, Lazio 1

The veterans struck early for Real Madrid to make sure there was little contest when it came to a knockout-round berth. Raul (man, those ice baths and the altitude ‘sleep’ training might really have saved his career) and Julio Baptista struck before the clock turned 20. Robinho added his touch before half-time and Madrid was cruising. Lazio – with a guy as a dangerous as Goran Pandev – were bound to make things interesting. And they didn’t disappoint. With 10 minutes to go, Pandev scored. Then in the waning minutes, Pepe was called for a handball in the box but Tomasso Rocchi couldn’t do his part in converting the penalty.

Those qualified yesterday:

Olympiakos
Real Madrid
Liverpool
FC Porto
Schalke 04
Chelsea

EPL Weekend 9.23: Adebayor earns his trick; Man Utd bests a hurting Chelski squad

Saturday

Arsenal 5, Derby County 0

The Gunners solidified their position as ‘best in show’ at the top of the EPL. Emmanuel Adebayor has dramatically improved since last year and bagged a hat-trick to prove it. It was young’un Vassiriki Diaby who grabbed his first EPL goal though and opened the scoring clinic in the 10th minute. Derby – as you can imagine – just laid down and took it. Eddie Lewis played all 90 while Benny Feilhaber came on and worked the last 35 minutes.

Fulham 3, Manchester City 3

Clint Dempsey took a week off, playing all 90 minutes rather passively in this shootout. Both teams have had recent trouble finding scoring help and today, they found it. The Cottagers started the scoring first as Welshman Simon Davies struck early in the 13th minute. The middle 45 minutes featured 5 goals in a kind of back and forth motion. Martin Petrov had an effective game, scoring twice, while Hamuer Bouazza bagged his first for Fulham (the right-winger who Dempsey had originally replaced after a separated shoulder). Fulham hung in there with this and got the point.

Liverpool 0, Birmingham 0

Sometimes things don’t click, especially when you’re playing a frustratingly scrappy Birmingham side. 16 shots and nothing from it as the Blues’ defensive overload worked – only 4 of Liverpool’s shots were on net. Nothing too serious but Jermaine Pennant left late in the game with a hamstring probably.

Sunderland 2, Middlesbrough 2

The Black Cats have seemingly inherited Roy Keane’s intestinal fortitude as they scrapped it out and came back, thanks to Liam Miller goal, to equalize in the 89th minute. Young Grant Leadbitter had put Keane’s squad up quickly in the 2nd minute, but Julio Arca and Stewart Downing put M’Boro back ahead.  How is Downing still on Middlesbrough?  I’m surprised a Liverpool/Everton hasn’t come calling yet.

Reading 2, Wigan 1

The Royals showed a hint of their former (last year’s surprise squad) selves as they try and work they way slowly back up the standings. Speaking of comebacks, Bobby Convey also seemed to channel his former self as he was the most important part of the Royals’ last 30 minute push. It was James Harper – who rarely ever scores – that finished a Dave Kitson cross and gave the Royals an improbable win. Marcus Hahnemann had one hell of a game yet again.

Sunday

Manchester United 2, Chelsea 0

The hole gets a bit deeper and to add to the unrest at Stamford Bridge, Avram Grant is now formally being discussed in terms of his qualifications and ability to run the star-studded squad. Either way, the Red Devils got their first EPL goal from Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha added a 90th minute PK conversion to win the derby. Nothing to complain about here – oh, except for the 32nd minute ejection of Jon Obi Mikel that forced the Blues to play with 10 for 2/3s of the game. Grant looks to have a long haul this season as within 20 minutes of the game’s start Chelsea fans were chanting ‘Mourinho’.

Newcastle 3, West Ham United 1
Mark Viduka scored a brace to prove that injuries wouldn’t again ruin the Magpies season. Michael Owen made his way off the pitch in the 51st minute after asking to be replaced. Dean Ashton scored for the Hammers and Jonathan Spector played the last 10 minutes for West Ham. It was Charles N’Zogbia – whose stock is rapidly rising – that put the game away in the 76th minute.

Portsmouth 1, Blackburn 0

When it rains it pours. The Rovers’ mid-week UEFA Cup loss to Larissa ended a 15-game unbeaten streak carrying over from last season. The trend – in one game – seemed firmly established as Blackburn didn’t look the team that had originally started this season. Kanu scored the lone goal for Pompey as their play barely improved, but it was enough to overcome a Blackburn side hoping to rebound.

Aston Villa 2, Everton 0

Yup, Tim Howard is THAT important. Gabriel Agbonlahor and John Carew did the damage for the Villans and Wilfred Bouma captained the back to a 2-0 shutout of the Toffees. Agbonlahor has established himself as a Toffee-killer, but just like the Blackburn Rovers, it was Everton’s midweek UEFA Cup loss that really hurt their momentum. Stefan Wessels manned the net again.

Bolton 1, Tottenham 1

Things aren’t getting much better for the Hotspur and somehow, Martin Jol still survives.  Robbie Keane and Ivan Campo traded goals less than 5 minutes apart as the game had a small tint of disinterest in it. I know it’s early, but both these teams are underperforming and neither looked particularly effective.