Chelsea and Manchester United in ‘battle of the bridge’ – Get over it!

It was immediately named ‘The Battle of the Bridge’ by the national newspapers. It has sparked a frenzy of people displaying their moral indignation at the ‘hooligan like’ antics of these over paid primma donnas in the Premier League.

What a load of rubbish. Whilst I will never condone bad behaviour or violence of any sort, I think the reaction of people to the incidents during and after the Chelsea against Manchester United game on Sunday vary between the laughable and the downright hypocritical.

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Wed 30 April, 2008
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Brazil books soccer friendlies with Canada, Venezuela on US soil

Five time World Cup champion Brazil announced Tuesday that it will play two football friendlies on US soil later this year.

The Brazilians have booked matches against Canada in Seattle on May 31 and Venezuela on June 6 at Foxboro, Massachusetts, as part of a twin-bill with Major League Soccer's New England Revolution facing FC Dallas.

Brazil first appeared at Foxboro last September when a record crowd of 67,684 watched the South Americans beat Mexico 2-1. Brazil defeated a US all-star squad 2-0 in Seattle in 1976.

It will be the first appearance for the Canadians at Seattle since 2005 when they lost 2-0 to the US team during the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Wed 30 April, 2008
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Torres wants one more Champions League fairytale

Fernando Torres has been living a dream in the Champions League this season but the Liverpool striker wants one more fairytale in his side's semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday.

Torres has made a big impact in his first Champions League campaign and his goals have been instrumental in Liverpool's march to the brink of a third final in four seasons.

For years the Spaniard was consumed by the prospect of starring in Europe's elite club competition. Now all his dreams have come true.

He has already amassed a collection of memories that will stay with him for life, but the ultimate test lies in wait at Stamford Bridge as Liverpool try to inflict more semi-final misery on Chelsea.

After knocking out the Blues at this stage at Anfield in 2005 and 2007, Liverpool find themselves as the underdogs.

John Arne Riise's last-gasp own goal gifted Chelsea a 1-1 draw in the first leg last Tuesday and only a win or a high-scoring draw in west London will send Rafa Benitez's side through to the Moscow final against Manchester United or Barcelona.

It is a daunting proposition considering Liverpool have never scored at the Bridge in eight attempts since Benitez took charge in 2004.

But Torres's presence ensures they have every chance of ending that barren run. The former Atletico Madrid forward missed two good opportunities in the first leg but he is confident of making amends this time.

“I have wanted to play against guys like (Chelsea defenders) John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho for a long time, and they do me an honour by giving me a tough time,” he said.

“Now I'm going to try to respond to them by getting a couple of goals against Chelsea. Everybody dreams about playing in the Champions League and in the space of a few months I have gone from watching it on TV to having a part in it.

“I have already got plenty of memories. My goal at the San Siro when we beat Inter Milan 1-0, the 4-0 win over Marseille, and my goal in the 4-2 win over Arsenal.

“And now it is the turn of Chelsea. I don't ask myself questions. I just tell myself time and again that I have done the right thing to join Liverpool.”

Liverpool had the advantage of being able to rest a host of first-teamers for Saturday's trip to Birmingham, but Chelsea manager Avram Grant had no such luxury against Manchester United.

Not that Grant was complaining after Michael Ballack's penalty sent his side level on points with United. Suddenly, after months of criticism from fans and pundits, Grant is within touching distance of a Premier League and Champions League double.

Yet Grant is far from secure despite his team's fine end to the season and he can't afford to let a Champions League final slip through his fingers.

Chelsea have lost at this stage three times in four years but they have never been in such a favourable position going into the second leg.

To finish the job Grant needs his strongest side, so he will be desperate for Frank Lampard's return after the England midfielder missed the United match to mourn the death of his mother.

Lampard returned to training on Sunday, but will be allowed to decide if he wants to be involved against Liverpool.

If Lampard opts to stay with his family, Ballack will once again be the pivotal figure in Chelsea's midfield.

The German, who has gradually become more influential in the second half of the season, insists his side have the edge on Benitez's team.

“A win gives us confidence, we have it and we have shown that we can play very well but on Wednesday it is a very different game, it is the Champions League,” Ballack said. “So on Wednesday we are expecting a very different fight.

“But I think we look fresh, we look better than all other teams have in the Champions League now, so we will see. We want to get to the final.”

Wed 30 April, 2008
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FC Twente beat NAC in play-off semi’s

FC Twente are practically through to the final of the Dutch play-offs for a Champions League spot, having beaten NAC Breda 3-0 at home.

Rob Wielaert scored for the home side in the 32nd minute, and late goals from Romano Denneboom and Stijn Huysegems meant that NAC face a tough task in the second leg.

It could have been even worse though, as N’Kufo, Wilkshire and Denneboom all hit the woodwork for Twente.

In the other Champions League play-off semi final, Ajax host SC Heerenveen at the Amsterdam Arena on Thursday.

Tue 29 April, 2008
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Scholes launches United march on Moscow

A superb long-range strike from Paul Scholes sent Manchester United into the first all-English final of the Champions League after a nerve-tingling 1-0 win over Barcelona here on Tuesday.

After a goalless first-leg, the midfielder's 14th minute strike was enough to ensure Sir Alex Ferguson's side will face either Chelsea or Liverpool in Moscow on May 21.

“It is marvellous. This club deserves to be in the final,” said a jubilant Ferguson as he celebrated with his players.

Scholes has earned himself the opportunity to make up for the final he missed through suspension when United last lifted European football's biggest prize, in 1999.

“He is one of the great players, he came through the ranks at the club and I am so pleased for him,” said Ferguson.

Scholes deserved to savour the moment, as did the rest of a United side who made light of the absence of Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney with a mature display which made Barcelona pay a high price for their failure to turn long periods of domination in terms of territory and possession into clear chances.

“We had to dig deep at the end because they put us under pressure,” said Rio Ferdinand, who was outstanding in United's back four.

“It was our discipline and a moment of quality from a fantastic player that got us through. We don't care who we play in the final. Whoever comes we will be ready.”

The contrasting domestic fortunes of the two clubs formed a backdrop to the match that was tilted significantly in favour of the visitors.

Having already conceded defeat in the battle for the Spanish title, Frank Rijkaard had been able to rest the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Samuel Eto'o at the weekend and his squad was further bolstered by the return of skipper Carles Puyol, who missed the first leg through suspension, to the centre of defence.

In contrast, and as Ferguson had feared, the hangover from Saturday's Premier League defeat at Chelsea lingered long and painfully enough to deprive him of the services of both Vidic and Rooney.

United fans' disquiet over the absence of two of the cornerstones of the club's success this season would hardly have been allayed by a nervy start in which Scholes tripped Messi dangerously close to the edge of the box and a wildly sliced clearance by goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar presented Eto'o with the chance to power threateningly into the box.

Yet it was United who went ahead after Rio Ferdinand emerged from defence to launch their first serious foray into the visitors' territory.

The England defender found Ronaldo on the outskirts of the Barca box, under close supervision from Xavi. The Spain midfielder's well-timed tackle succeeded in depriving United's top goalscorer of possession but his intervention also presented Scholes with the kind of shooting opportunity he relishes.

From nearly 30 yards, the outside-of-the-boot strike sent the ball spinning beyond the left glove of Victor Valdes and up into the top corner of the net.

Rattled, Barcelona almost conceded again almost immediately when Valdes fumbled Nani's free-kick and Park Ji-Sung was unfortunate to see a side-footed shot slide inches wide after being set up by Ronaldo.

In between those two chances, Messi forced van der Sar into his first save of the evening and his team-mate Deco should have given the goalkeeper further work around the half-hour mark, when the Portuguese playmaker failed to hit the target with a couple of good edge-of-the area opportunities around the half hour mark.

United's chances were not as numerous but of better quality, notably when Nani's glancing header from Park's inswinging cross from the left slipped as narrowly wide as the Korean's earlier shot.

Gaby Milito came agonisingly close to connecting with Xavi's freekick, whipped in at pace from the right just before the break, but United were doing a good job of restricting their opponents to shots from distance while continuing to threaten on the counter-attack.

Nani was prevented, by the close attentions of Puyol, from diverting Ronaldo's cutback goalwards early in the second half and then blasted high into the Stretford End after working his way into the box.

At the other end, United were relieved to see a free-kick from Deco deflect off the top of their wall for a corner.

But Barcelona's cutting edge remained suffiently blunt for both Iniesta and Eto'o to be withdrawn with nearly half an hour to play, allowing Thierry Henry and Bojan Krkic their chance to pierce United's back line.

Henry had his chance with ten minutes left but his back-post header was directed straight into the arms of a relieved van der Sar.

Tue 29 April, 2008
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Quick Report: Manchester United 1-0 FC Barcelona

Manchester United have reached the 2008 Champions League final thanks to a 1-0 victory over FC Barcelona at Old Trafford.

After the scoreless draw in Barcelona last week, Manchester needed to win to advance to the final, or at least draw without goals to go to extra time.

Bad defense from Gianluca Zambrotta allowed Paul Scholes to deliver a powerful shot in the 14th minute, and the short midfielder left Victor Valdes without a chance.

The two sides both kept attacking from there on, but really big chances were never created. Barcelona gave it their all in the second half, and especially in the final phase, but United survived thanks to a calm defense and cool goalkeeping by Edwin van der Sar.

Manchester last reached the final in 1999, when they beat Bayern Munich with two goals in stoppage time.

United’s result against Barcelona, also means that the final in Moscow will be an English matter as the opponents will be either Liverpool or Chelsea.

Tue 29 April, 2008
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Benitez unrepentant over Drogba accusation

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez stoked up the row over Didier Drogba's theatrics after refusing to retract his claims that the Chelsea striker is a diver.

Benitez angered Chelsea boss Avram Grant by revealing he showed his defenders a video dossier of Drogba exaggerating fouls before last week's Champions League semi-final first leg.

Grant hit back by accusing Benitez of making the tape public in an attempt to influence Italian referee Roberto Rosetti, who takes charge of the decisive return at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

But Benitez was unrepentant and repeated his allegation ahead of the second leg.

“I don't agree. I think I was clear from watching a lot of games. Everyone can have the same conclusion and idea. Everybody knows when they see the games,” he said.

“Our centre-backs did a good job against him in the last game. The first thing is Drogba is a fantastic player, that is clear but he falls down too easily.”

Benitez is worried that Rosetti could be influenced by the partisan atmosphere in west London. The Turin-born official has presided over wins for home teams in all but one of his European matches this season, and that solitary victory went to Chelsea at Valencia.

The Liverpool manager has extra cause for concern because Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are one booking away from missing the final, as is Chelsea captain John Terry.

“This referee has had six games in Europe this season, five times the home team has won and the other was when Chelsea won in Valencia. Maybe that is curious,” Benitez said.

“The referee has experience, he is certainly not a bad referee. If he is strong at Stamford Bridge then things will be okay.

“The referee in the first leg was not good in virtually every decision but hopefully it will be different now.

“They have the same problem as well with bookings but our players have enough experience so we will manage.

“I don't think it will be a question for them before the game. They can target Gerrard but if they are not in the final it doesn't matter. They will think first to win the game.”

Liverpool's hopes of reaching a third Champions League final in four years rest on their ability to end an eight-match barren run at the Bridge. The Reds have never scored at Chelsea under Benitez, and only a win or a high-scoring draw will take them through without the need for a penalty shoot-out.

Benitez is confident the likes of Gerrard and Fernando Torres will provide enough of a goal threat.

“Normally in these sort of games the difference is world-class players face to face. In the last game Petr Cech came out on top, maybe this time it will be Torres,” he said.

“But we also have Gerrard, (Peter) Crouch, (Xabi) Alonso and other players who can score. We only need one goal, maybe that will be enough.”

Liverpool's two previous semi-final successes against Chelsea were uninspiring affairs.

Now Chelsea are within a goalless draw of reaching the final it would be no surprise to see Grant's side play cautiously on Wednesday, so Benitez, perhaps realising how hard that would make it for his side, was keen to emphasise the risks of that tactic.

“They need to attack, that is clear, because the supporters will be waiting for some thing special,” he said.

“You cannot defend at home at lose 1-0 because your supporters will not be happy. They have to attack and we have to attack so I think it will be an open game.”

Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa is convinced those wins over the Blues in 2005 and 2007 could have an negative affect on Chelsea's players.

“Maybe we have the psychological edge because Chelsea know that Liverpool are a good team and the last two times we won,” Arbeloa said.

“The key for us is to be strong in defence and take our chances. If we do that there is no reason why we can't beat Chelsea.

“We have confidence in ourselves and we have players with quality who can score against anyone.”

Tue 29 April, 2008
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Ronaldo, Andreia, Andre and the 30,000 dollar bribe

Ronaldo had the shock of his life on Monday night when he discovered three prostitutes he'd picked up were in fact transvestites with one allegedly trying to bribe him out of 30,000 dollars for keeping mum about the incident.

The three time world Footballer of the Year, recovering in Brazil after knee surgery in February, was out and about in Rio to watch his beloved club Flamengo at the city's Maracana stadium.

At dawn, after dropping his girlfriend off at her house, the 31-year-old AC Milan striker picked up a prostitute who suggested bringing along two colleagues charging 300 dollars each, and booked into a nearby motel.

But it then became clear to Ronaldo that the prostitute, Andreia Albertine, was in fact Andre Luiz Ribeiro Albertino, a 21-year-old transvestite.

The other two prostitutes were also transvestites.

When the 2002 World Cup winner realised his mistake he reportedly threatened to hit Andreia who accused him of asking her to buy him drugs, according to local press reports quoting the prostitute.

Andreia videoed the footballer emerging from the motel on her mobile phone's camera.

The video, which appeared later on the internet site YouTube, shows Ronaldo wearing a Flamengo shirt. In the background a non-identified voice can be heard saying: “This is to prove that it's really you”.

In a statement issued by his press office Ronaldo swears to “never have taken drugs and to have been a victim of an extortion attempt”.

Ronaldo, according to Rio police superintendent Carlos Augusto Nogueira, “reported that Andreia had taken his car documents and demanded 30,000 dollars to avoid a scandal”.

Nogueira added: “Ronaldo admits the facts. He said he just wanted to amuse himself, that's not a crime. To pay to have sexual relations isn't illegal.

'There's a strong chance that Ronaldo has been the victim of extortion.”

The police superintendent added that he found Andreia's attitude in running out of the police station before giving her account of the incident “very strange”.

Before she appeared at the police station the prostitute had carried out numerous interviews recounting Ronaldo's nightmare night.

A police inspector told the O Dia newspaper that Ronaldo had “cried” saying this affair could spell the end of his career.

The Brazilian star and the three transvestites have been summoned to make fresh statements to the police in a week's time.

Tue 29 April, 2008
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Werder call truce with Klasnic

Werder Bremen and their striker Ivan Klasnic called a truce Tuesday following an emergency meeting after the Croatia international launched a 1.5 million euros (2.3 million US dollars) lawsuit over the mishandling of his kidney complaint.

Werder’s director of sport Klaus Allofs and coach Thomas Schaaf met with Klasnic and his lawyers for several hours to discuss the legal action as well as recent comments made by Klasnic’s wife, Patricia.

“We could have better reacted in some situations, the matter has been addressed and cleared up,” said the club in an official statement.

And Klasnic’s lawyer said the striker had not criticised the club directly in comments made over the weekend.

The player had said: “The people who have created this shit … will atone for it” in a press report here.

“I state clearly all comments made were directed exclusively against the doctors concerned, not against the club,” Klasnic said in a statement.

The 28-year-old forward became the first professional footballer to return to international competition following a kidney transplant in March 2007.

Klasnic has launched a lawsuit for “gross negligence” against sports doctor Goetz Dimanski and cardiologist Manju Guha, who work on behalf of Werder Bremen, for failing to identify his kidney complaint earlier.

The club then called Tuesday’s meeting with Klasnic after him and his wife appeared on German television channel ARD on Monday night with Patricia particularly strong in criticising Bremen’s treatment of her husband.

“The complete lack of understanding really grated me, I just couldn’t get my head around it,” fumed Mrs Klasnic.

“I missed receiving a phone call, an inquiry, ‘how are you and your husband?’

“Every normal human being would have already asked out of politness.”

Klasnic’s lawyer has collected medical evidence to show the player’s kidney was only 67 percent effective as early as 2001 when he signed for Bremen.

After suffering renal failure, Klasnic had a first kidney transplant in January 2007 after his mother donated an organ, but his body later rejected it.

A second kidney donated by his father was transplanted in March and Klasnic missed most of last year, only making his return for Bremen in late November 2007.

He returned to international football in Croatia’s draw with Scotland in a friendly in March.

Werder Bremen still use the doctors to help with their squads medical problems, but Klasnic has refused to deal with them ever again.

Klasnic is out of contract with Bremen at the end of the season and Bundesliga rivals Hanover 96 have expressed an interest in signing the Croat.

Tue 29 April, 2008
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Minute by Minute: Manchester United – FC Barcelona

The semi final stage of the UEFA Champions League continues with the second leg clash between Manchester United and FC Barcelona. SoccerWay keeps you up to date on the most important events.

Current score: 1-0
More match information: Here.

Feel free to register or log in and start using the ‘discuss’ option below to give your opinion on this match!

Minute 15: GOAL – MANCHESTER (1-0) – PAUL SCHOLES shoots from well outside the penalty area and the ball flies past Victor Valdes to open the score for Manchester United!

Minute 12: Eric Abidal tries his luck and shoots from a distance as Van der Sar stands a bit away from his goal. The ball goes over though.

Minute 11: Messi shakes off two defenders and finds Eto’o, but the latter can’t really shoot as there are too many defenders in the way.

Minute 10: The goalkeepers haven’t been active in the last minutes, as the ball mostly stays in midfield. The teams are testing each other.

Minute 5: Barcelona are the more attacking side in the opening phase. The Catalans clearly want a quick goal, which would force United to score two.

Minute 2: The free kick was caused by a Paul Scholes tackle on Lionel Messi just outside the area. One second later and it would have been a penalty.

Minute 1: A free kick for Barcelona, on the right side just outside the penalty area. Lionel Messi’s effort hits a defender.

Minute 0: The match has started at the Theater of Dreams! Question is whose dreams will be coming true tonight.

Tue 29 April, 2008
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