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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Smile Thierry!

My girlfriend is studying abroad in Barcelona and has become a Barca fan while living with a host family that firmly support Barca’s in-town rivals Espanyol. Guess who she saw while out the other day…? Right on queue, I got this picture right after hearing about the sighting…

thierry-henry.jpg

Maybe he should have been out practicing before their eventual 2-1 loss to Villareal today.

Thank you Emily.

LA LIGA: Outsider´s Perspective of Camp Nou

Quick hello from Barcelona – and the slow computers of free-internet IES Barcelona. Attended Barcelona-Racing Santander last night. A 1-0 win for Barça thanks to a Thierry Henry knock-in. Couple observations and then the next time you´ll hear from me specifically is Wednesday.

Thierry Henry is simply a beast to watch in person. His grace is just as intimidating as his strength on and off the ball. Playing mostly on the left – but switching into the center when smart to do so – Henry handled the inexperience on the front line with him. Giovanni Dos Santos lined up on the right side, with Bojan Krkic in the center. Only Krkic had a great game as Gio made too many stupid passes to warrant praise (in fact all of Camp Nou jeered the little guy at one point)

We had a birds eye view of the field (meaning last row in the whole frickin´place), but it was great in terms of taking everything in.

Walking in, we were given Barça newsletters, which once inside, were promptly used by the masses to create paper airplanes. Many failed to reach their target – the pitch – instead, gliding down the three tiers and plunking an unsuspecting spectator in the head. Good for a few laughs, but it really summed up the atmosphere. Could be due to the opponent – one they´ve beaten 10 out of the last 10 times, but this stadium was somewhat quiet. Almost peaceful, to be exact. No real supporter group presence and my girlfriend at one point – one who has taken in many a-Red Bull games – added that the Red Bull´s supporter groups were simply much louder and dare I say it, more in numbers.

Regardless, the flow of play was slow, with quick stretches of brilliance. Combination passes, give and gos, feints, Maradonas, we got the whole lot, but Racing Santander was tough and frankly, Barça kept them in the game. Andres Iniesta is damn good – he caused most of the disturbances, while Deco was kept quiet the whole game and looked rather unfit. On top of that, Gio´s inconsistent play on the right caused for the crowd to ask for the return of their injured star Leo Messi. And it came, with about 15 minutes to go amidst a standing ovation from the Nou Camp crowd.

One other quick word, that stadium is OLD. Tradition or not…a 50 year old stadium, housing over 100,000 every weekend or so is interesting to say the least. No alcohol either. We couldn´t believe, but the grandeur of the place certainly made its mark. Just walking into the stadium, you could feel how important this club was to its city.  Poor Espanyol…

Danny Szetela dressed for the visitors, mainly due to injuries. Never saw time. He did get up to stretch out at one point though. Apparently, there is word of a loan move for him…don´t know much more than that right now.

Back with a big EPL post on Wednesday.