Sunday, 23 May 2010

Leaving The Grand Old Lady...

55th European Cup Final, Santiago Bernabeu – Madrid: Bayern Munich 0 Internazionale 2

Jose Mourinho last night took Inter Milan to their first Champions League win in 45 years, and then announced that he is likely to be coaching at the scene of his latest triumph next season, an announcement which overshadowed Inter’s win.

Inter were well worth their win, when they attacked they had penetration, and defended solidly.  They were aided in this respect by the one dimensional attacks from Bayern.  Shorn of Franck Ribbery through suspension, the attacking onus fell on Arjen Robben, one of Real Madrid’s rejects during Last summer’s transfer window.  This job though looked beyond him, as Bayern looked rather static up front.  Olic, Altentop and Robben had chances in the first half hour to score, but these were long range shots.  Bayern should also have had a penalty as English referee Howard Webb failed to spot a handball by Maicon.  The opener from Inter came rather against the run of play.  Julio Cesar’s long kick was knocked down by Diego Milito to his team mate Wesley Schneider, another of Real Madrid’s rejects, who passed back to Milito, now in space, who clipped the ball past Bayern keeper Hans-Jorg Butt.  In the remainder of the first half Bayern pressed forward, without creating a clear-cut chance, though Inter could have doubled their lead as, hitting on the break, Milito passed the ball to Schneider who shot straight and weakly at Butt.

Bayern got their chance right at the start of the second half, a good move found Thomas Muller right in front of the Inter goal, and he shot right at Cesar.  Within seconds Inter were up at the far end, Milito’s cut back found Goran Pandev, who’s shot was put past the post.  The match settled into the pattern of the first half, lots of Bayern possession but no clear chances created. In the 70th minute, Inter sealed the deal.  a surprisingly anonymous Samuel Eto’o passed down the Inter left to Milito who turned Van Buyten and then side-footed his shot past Butt.  It was noticable that both Inter’s goals came at points when Bayer’s defence were caught out of position.  Inter were now in the pound seat, and could have had a third, but for Bayern’s scrambling defence.

It was a historic night for Inter Milan.  Not only was it their first European Cup since the back to back triumphs under Helenio Herrera, but Inter became the first Italian side to win the treble of European Cup, Lo Scuddetto and Italian Cup.  Yet all of this was overshadowed by his hints that he would be managing Real Madrid next season.  If he did go to Real for next season, i think that it will be something of a mistake to go this summer.  For one thing, in Spain it is the club presidents who buy the players.  In amongst the spending spree Real unleashed last season, almost the last person that was put into place was the current Real manager Manuel Pelegrini.  He was installed as manager after Kaka, Ronaldo, Diarra and Benzema had been signed. Secondly i suspect that Mourinho’s pragmatic tactical approach will not go down well with sections of the Real Madrid support who believe that they should be the best and play like the best. 

Personally I don’t like Real’s constant “chase” for the next it thing in football, their constant courtships of certain players always smacks of being a tad vulgar.  At least this time we have been spared the tabloid tit for tat so far…  Whatever happens, Mourinho’s hints have left a sour taste after what should have been a wonderful achievement for his team.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

A Gulf In Class…

125th Scottish Cup Final, Hampden: Dundee United 3, Ross County 0

Dundee United won the 125th Scottish Cup by, in the end, emphasising the gap between the middle of the 1st Division and 3rd in the Scottish Premier League.  The first half was a sterile affair, with Dundee United finally shacking off their nerves towards the end of that half.  Dundee United survived a spirited fightback at the start of the second half, only to score 3 goals through Goodwillie and Conway.

The game started with both sides still struggling to overcome their nerves.  Dundee United were going for their second Scottish Cup win in their first Scottish Cup final since 2005.  They were overwhelming favourites against a Ross County side making their first Scottish Cup final appearance.  However, as Dundee United legends will tell you, they were favourites in 1987 (against St Mirren) and in 1991 (against Motherwell).  Ironically, United’s goalscorer when United won their only Scottish Cup (against Rangers in 1994), Craig Brewster, was on the coaching staff of Ross County.

Truth be told, this final didn’t really get going until pretty late on in the first half when United started to press Ross County back.  County were pressed into a 4-5-1 shape during this game, unable to get either of their wide men forward.  The fact that there were 3 men in the middle of the County midfield made it more difficult for United to break through in the first half.  Danny Swanson should have scored with a break from midfield, but was caught in two minds.  United did have a flurry of set pieces just before half time, before David Goodwillie broke from deep only being stopped by a county defender.

The second half started with United in a much more determined mood.  Conway had a shot at goal, and Swanson had a difficult header.  United took the lead with a catastrophic error from County goalkeeper McGovern.  He raced out to clear a cross into his box, and headed it straight to David Goodwillie.  From about 30 yards, he lobbed the ball over McGovern and 3 County defenders and into the back of the net.  Dundee United now took control of the game, pushing forward for a second.  Twenty minutes later United got that goal.  A throw-in by United was not picked up by Country, and the ball was picked up by Conway, who sped past the County defence putting the ball under McGovern from an angle.

United at this point were well worth their lead, they had hit their stride, while County who had stopped United playing in the first half now looked drained.  The first goal in particular inflicted psychological damage on County.  When United got the second, County looked as if they might seriously loose by 3 or 4.  United did get a third, a Gomis cross from the left found Conway, who turned to his left and scored his second of the game. Within 5 minutes, United had won.

For United, it proved to be a good end for a turbulent season, losing Craig Levin to the Scotland job and seeing his assistant Peter Houston struggle in the first couple of games after Levin’s departure.  United have come a long way since the heavy 7-0 loss at Ibrox, even knocking Rangers out of the Cup four days after their own League Cup win.  While a new contract for Houston might well be in the offing now, all of a sudden some of their players will be on the radar of certain clubs.  For Ross County, it won’t just be their players who will be on clubs wish list. For example, their manager Derek Adams is already touted as a possible replacement for Gus MacPherson.

This has been something of an Anis Horriblis for Scottish football, hopefully we can put this poor season behind us and move on.