I Really Don’t Want Real Winning It Again & Other Rambles
Say hello to the business end of football as we enter the month of May. Things are starting to wind down domestically with the title races in most leagues, across Europe, quite decided.
Manchester City sealed the deal when their red neighbours dealt them a nice hand by losing to a destined-for-relegation West Brom. Bayern Munich are Bundesliga champions (surprise, surprise). Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain have pretty much bagged their respective titles. However, it’s a bit of a different story in Italy because Juventus and Napoli are fighting tooth and nail for the Scudetto; only one point separates these two teams. Personally, it’d be fantastic to see the Gli Azzuri win it.
On the other hand, continental football is heating up nicely, like my nan’s chicken soup on the stove right now, as the Champions League and Europa League enter their penultimate stages. Today, I attempt to give you my commentary on the CL semi-finals that took place on Tuesday and Wednesday night.
I hope it doesn’t disappoint, just as I’ve disappointed my parents.
Liverpool vs Roma: 5-2
Crown Mo Salah as the king/pharaoh/ruler/prime minister/president of Egypt now. Never mind the title, just bloody do it.
He put in another masterclass to show Roma exactly how things are done at Anfield and to further state his case for the Ballon d’Or. His two goals and two assists, along with a Firmino brace and a Mane goal, were enough to give the Reds a 3-goal cushion against the Italians for the second leg in Rome. The terror of trio lived up to their name, indeed.
The only time I can remember that Salah struggled to find the net and was kept relatively quiet was in the clash with Manchester United. I don’t blame him though, especially with the big red Chevrolet bus trying to roll him over and kill him. Other than that, he has been absolutely brilliant, causing chaos and mayhem EVERYWHERE in the Prem.
It has taken some time, maybe longer than expected, for Jurgen Klopp to really put things in place and get them going for Liverpool but I dare say that this season has been his best to date. Yes, domestic glory might have once again evaded them but look, they are actually on the brink of that elusive European title.
Poor Edin Dzeko and friends. They couldn’t keep up with the intense, relentless pressing that Klopp has so drilled into his boys. Kostas Manolas, Juan Jesus and Federico Fazio had a shocker of a night as the trio of terror left them stranded for the most part, looking like lost kids on the first day of school. 5 goals flowed past them (and Alisson) with so much ease, it seemed as if Liverpool weren’t even trying very hard.
Eusebio Di Francesco decided to field a back three. I repeat, he decided to field a back three consisting of a Spurs reject, a one-game hero and just-another-Brazilian-called-Jesus against one of Europe’s best and most blistering offensive trios. Asking for trouble right there. The fact that Di Francesco also set his team up with a very high defensive line meant there were tonnes of space between the lines for Liverpool to exploit and exploit they did. The disconnect between Roma’s midfield and the defence was so apparent.
I’ve grown to notice the blossoming of Andrew Robertson and you can count me a fan. He is so calm and assured on the ball. His work rate is incredible, as evidenced by his frequent charges up and down the flanks. Obviously, the former Hull City player is still a wee lad in terms of experience and has a bit more to go to hit peak form but he should be a mainstay at Anfield for many years to come. His counterpart on the other side of the pitch Trent Alexander-Arnold stood out on the night too, with slick passing and rather solid defending.
Ah, now we talk about Dejan Lovren. Liverpool fan favourite, I reckon? He had a chance to grab a goal but saw his powerful header crash against the crossbar. For 80 minutes or so, Lovren was alright, hadn’t put a foot wrong. However, as with all things Lovren, he couldn’t resist a bit of drama. Next thing we know, Roma pull a goal back and thanks be given to Dzeko and Mr. Lovren’s failure to deal with Rada Nainggolan’s cross.
Diego Perroti buried a penalty past Karius for Roma’s second and I’m left wondering if the Italians would be able to pull another comeback of historical proportions out of the bag, just as they had done to Barcelona. Twice in a row? Surely not. But, with two precious away goals and home support in the next leg at the Stadio Olimpico, who am I to rule these underdogs out?
Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid: 1-2
I hate the narrative of Real Madrid claiming the European crown season in, season out. I absolutely abhor it.
This semi-final first leg had me all sorts of disappointed. Firstly because Real won and secondly because Real didn’t deserve the win at all. It felt like the football gods decided that Wednesday night was the perfect moment to mess with Bayern’s luck.
Even Toni Kroos admitted his side was “lucky” to beat the Germans at the Allianz Arena. Bayern seemed to be doing everything right yet the goals wouldn’t roll in for them. Their night was the epitome of tough luck.
Mats Hummels did a fantastic job keeping Ronaldo quiet because the Portuguese did not have a shot on target for the first time in a Champions League match since February 2017. Joshua Kimmich, the scorer of Bayern’s lone goal, was outstanding as well, ensuring Isco did not influence the game as much as his potential allows. Also, Rafinha was a load of rubbish. I’d do a better job than him.
Marcelo, though an offensive menace, was floundering defensively. Of late, his performances have been more offensive and less defensive for some reason so Zidane should just name him as the new forward of the team.
Real’s defence looked shaky at times, so did Bayern’s. Everyone was rather generous in possession, giving the ball away quite easily and thus, I expected maybe a five, six-goal thriller. It genuinely felt like there were many more goals waiting to be scored but alas, it ended 1-2. Okay, maybe we were spoilt with seven goals in the Liverpool-Roma game.
I still feel a little emotionally unstable from the game so I better stop my commentary here or it might turn into a full-blown rant about why I have a particular disdain for Real Madrid.
Either way, I shall make an offering to the football gods tomorrow or next week to ask for a Bayern win. I could offer Zidane’s head or Marcelo’s locks or Ronaldo’s abs. Might throw in a whole Karim Benzema with freshly-trimmed stubble too.