Footy Focus - April 24

Champions League

Both semi-final first legs were tight games. In fact there was only 1 goal scored between them both. First of all Chelsea travelled to Atletico, where they promptly parked the bus. Petr Cech was injured early on, and is now out for the rest of the season, so Aussie Mark Schwarzer came on as goalkeeper, and had probably his best game for the club (he’s only played a handful of times, but has looked nervous before and made mistakes). John Terry was also injured, and will also probably not play again this season. Both of these teams are built on defensive strategies, so the result is hardly a surprise. It was a testy game, with a few yellow cards flying around. Frank Lampard will miss the next leg through suspension. As it is, it will all come down to the second leg at Stamford Bridge, where a Chelsea win will see them through to the final, while a scoring draw or an Atletico win goes in the Spaniards favour.

Then in the second semi between the two tournament favourites, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Ronaldo made his return from a hamstring injury to take the field. Bayern dominated early, despite playing away from home, though it was Karim Benzema who scored the first goal after a nice counter attacking move. Ronaldo was a constant threat, and Bayern had their chances too. In the end, 1-0 was the final score. Advantage to Real Madrid, but both teams have it all to play for in the second leg in Munich.

Transient

England

A lot happened in the Premier League over the last week. First off, the title race: Liverpool held on for a 3-2 win over Norwich, with Luis Suarez scoring his 30th goal of the Premier League season (only Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo have ever scored more in an EPL season). Manchester City won comfortably at West Brom to keep their slim chances alive, but Chelsea fell 2-1 to Sunderland, thanks to a late penalty from Fabio Borini (who is actually on loan from Liverpool). Jose Mourinho and his coaching staff were furious at the decision, but it means that Chelsea’s chances of winning the Premier League are now very slim. If they do not beat Liverpool at Anfield next week, the title will be all but sealed for The Reds.

Transient

The other massive news is that David Moyes has been sacked as manager of Manchester United. The club had offered him support all season, but too many bad results, especially against the top teams, has finally seen them run out of patience. Ryan Giggs will be in charge temporarily for the rest of the season, with the Red Devils eying up Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal or maybe even Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, according to newspaper reports.

Apart from Sunderland, none of the other teams in the relegation zone managed to win, so that race is even closer than last week with only 3-4 games remaining for those teams.

Meanwhile in the next division down, Leicester City have been crowned Championship winners. Amongst their ranks is All Whites striker Chris Wood, who can look forward to a season in the Premier League next year now!

Spain

Real Madrid had the week off after winning the Copa del Rey, so they now have a game in hand on the other two title contenders, who both won. Barcelona had to come from behind, but unlike last week when they struggled to fight back, this time they did it with time to spare, two goals in four minutes from the 70min mark gave them a 2-1. Lionel Messi and Pedro were the scorers. La Liga frontrunners Atletico Madrid are still the team to beat though. They won 2-0 over Elche, with Diego Costa netting the second. Former Barcelona striker David Villa missed a penalty for Atletico earlier in the game. Atletico are still 4 points ahead of Barca with 4 games to play, and 6 ahead of Real Madrid now, though Madrid have played one less.

Italy, France & Germany

Paul Pogba scored the only goal in a 1-0 Juventus win. That keeps Juve well out in front and in line for another Italian league championship. AS Roma are trying to keep pace though, and they won again too in a low scoring game. A four game win streak from AC Milan has only managed to climb them into seventh, keeping them still outside the European places for next year. It has been a poor season for both Milan teams, with Inter only in fifth place themselves.

PSG also had the week off in the league after a domestic cup win. They beat Lyon for that trophy, and remain well in the box seat in Ligue Un. Their closest challengers are Lyon, who won 1-0 thanks to a brilliant and ambitious Dimitar Berbatov lobbed goal (remember him?). PSG are seven points clear in first, and with a game in hand so it’s only a matter of time until they wrap that up.

In Germany, Bayern wrapped up the Bundesliga title ages ago, though they snapped a rare losing streak with a 2-0 win over Braunschweig. Dortmund won a great game 4-2, meaning they are almost guaranteed to finish in second place and head to the Champions League once more next season.

Australia

The playoffs have begun in the A-League! Last weekend saw the elimination finals between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, and Central Coast and Adelaide. The first game was the more highly anticipated, given all of the star players in the respective teams. Archie Thompson scored the first goal for the hosts inside 20 minutes, though Sydney equalised before half time. It looked like the game was headed to extra time before Guilherme Finkler's injury time winner saw Melbourne advance and Sydney crash out. Alessandro Del Piero is expected to retire after the loss ended their season, though he may have emerged as the new coaching favourite for Sydney after Frank Farina was sacked following the loss.

In the other game, Central Coast knocked out Adelaide in another tight game. Bernie Ibini’s sixth goal of the season was the difference on the night. This week sees the semi finals between Western Sydney and Central Coast on Saturday night, then on Sunday night Brisbane hosts Melbourne Victory, with the winners contesting the Grand Final on the 4th of May!