Posts Tagged ‘Edwin Van der Sar’

Inter Milan vs. Manchester United: The PLAYERS

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


So remember that great “Serie A vs. EPL” section on La Gazzetta which I promised I’d partially translate?

Here’s the first batch of pink-goodness: a look at ALL THE PLAYERS from tonight’s Inter Milan vs. Manchester United UEFA Champions League match.

Boy I can’t wait for game-time. Meanwhile, feast your eyes on this. (oh, and credit goes where credit is due of course: the original)


Azzurri & Les Bleus: Destinies Intertwined with Oranje… and Biscuits

Monday, June 16th, 2008

For all those of you who understand a bit of Italian (at least enough to scan through headlines of sports websites), the big boot’s topic of conversation these past few days gravitated around a Dutch-Romanian “biscotto”. Huh? Biscotto? Doesn’t that mean “biscuit”? Indeed it does, but in the language of Dante Alighieri it also has a secondary meaning.

The Fantagrumo blog has an excellent explanation, which I’ve translated below:

“Biscotto” is an Italian colloquialism often employed in soccer (or other sports), used to describe a result secretly agreed upon in advance by two athletes or teams. It is practically synonymous with the French word “combine”, which can be translated in English as “trick”, “scheme” or “fiddle”. A “combine” is a close pact made to fix the result of a match before it actually takes place, usually in exchange for money (essentially, we are talking about corruption). “Biscotto” is more specific in the sense there need not be an exchange of money, because the secretly-agreed-upon result is of mutual benefit to the agreeing parties.

Actions taken in result of a “combine” or “biscotto” may vary: from losing a game deliberately, allowing an opponent to tie the game, or intentionally failing to man-mark an opposing striker. The direct result of the secret agreement naturally damages a third party, which is usually a direct opponent of those involved in the scheme.

The word “biscotto” derives from the latin root bis-coctum, which litterally means “cooked twice”: effectively, two teams are gaining an advantage while damaging a third (or a fourth). One could even be using the expression “killing two birds with one stone”.

The Azzurri’s history in the Euro championships already bears witness to a “biscotto”. During Euro 2004, Italy had tied its first two matches against Denmark and Sweden, and was left with the obligation to beat Bulgaria on matchday 3, all the while hoping that Denmark vs. Sweden would not end in a tie (a result which would have sent both Scandinavian teams to the quarter-finals). What do you know? The match ended 2-2.

In the case of Netherlands vs. Romania, the term “biscotto” is being used because both teams would benefit from a Romanian victory: Romania would qualify to the quarter-finals as 2nd-ranked, Netherlands would simultaneously get rid of two title favorites Italy and France (which, in case you didn’t notice, could potentially play Holland again in the Semi-Finals).

That’s for the Italian etymology lesson. With that said, everyone in Italy (and in France I guess) can only hope that Netherlands will be good sports and play their last match to win (despite the fact they will undoubtedly field many reserve players).

Gazzetta tells us more about it:

MOEDLING (Austria), 14 June 2008 – And now it’s France-Italy. Rather, it’s Netherlands-Romania. Just like four years ago in Portugal, the scary shadow of a “biscotto” (an unspoken agreement) hangs over the fate of the Azzurri. And over that of their French neighbours. Michel Platini, UEFA President, will be sitting next to FIGC President Giancarlo Abete in the stands at Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich. It’s a common fate.

MARCO AND FATE – Hitting the nail right on the head… What will Holland do? What will be their starting line-up? Will they give Romania the green light? Those are all valid questions. William Gaillard, UEFA spokesman, stated that “no one can impose a specific line-up on a coach.” Especially when the team has already qualified for the next round. It’s a gargantuan dilemma in other words, but Roberto Donadoni doesn’t have doubts.

I know Marco Van Basten quite well” says the Italian coach. “He is an honest, fair and competent man and these qualities are already a guarantee.” The Don trusts his friend, whom he hasn’t seen in six months except for the sad circumstances on Monday in Bern. The Azzurro coach considers the Oranje’s so-called ‘second team’ to be very interested in proving their value, both to their coach and to the first team. And he gives an example: “In the group round of Euro 2000, we had already qualified but we beat Sweden 2-0 with many ‘reserves’” (indeed, Dino Zoff made eight changes for that game).

DIFFERENCE OF OPINIONS – The opinions run high in the Dutch camp. Giving away the match? “We always play to win“, reassures Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar. This opinion is shared by Arjen Robben, one of the Oranje’s stars against France: “It will be a game where we can have fun, but we are playing to win; I always play to win.” Ruud van Nistelrooy has a different opinion and honestly admits: “These matches are tackled differently when you don’t have to worry about qualifying.”

Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea: Penalty Kicks Crown the Red Devils Kings of Europe (UEFA Champions League FINAL)

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Bravo United. For the third time in their history, the Red Devils are Champions of Europe, thanks to a 7-6 penalty shoot-out victory over a very unfortunate Chelsea side. The cruel executioner of penalty kicks made another victim Wednesday night, a Blues team which over 120 minutes had perhaps played better than their opponents, firing more shots in spite of an inferior ball possession. But perhaps fate had a grand plan in mind, and decided this Manchester United team was destined to win a double this year: after the English Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson will add yet another trophy to his resumé, the second UEFA Champions League of his managerial career.

When it came down to it, Edwin Van der Sar’s save on Nicolas Anelka proved to be the decisive event, after the match had ended 1-1 following extra time (goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard). It was supposed to be great game and it certainly did not disappoint (something not always true with games of this magnitude): there were goals, brilliant pieces of individual play, plenty of near misses, and just the right dose of competitive spirit. The game was a tightly balanced affair, with United playing their best football at the start and end of the game and Chelsea dominating everything in between, hitting a post and the bar.  It is also fair to mention that if the game had to be decided from the penalty spot, it was certainly not because of a defensive mindset on the part of the two sides. Rather, it was much more simply a result of episodes and chance that shaped the game, a refreshing novelty compared to Man Utd’s overly defensive tactics in the playoff round.

UEFA Champions League FINAL - Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea

(From Gazzetta): Effectively, the game only began as a contest 25 minutes after kick-off, as both teams made use of the initial exchanges to study each other’s play. Not that it was the first time these two sides were facing one another mind you, but there just were plenty of fouls and not much play in the initial minutes, making for a broken and unspectacular start to the match.

Then on 26 minutes, the breakthrough: United defender Wes Brown crossed from the right wing, Cristiano Ronaldo rose at the back post to head it in, forgotten by his marker Michael Essien. It was the Portuguese’s 42nd goal of the season, the 8th in the Champions League, making him top scorer of this season’s competition. 1-0 Man Utd.

The goal brought the game into life, which suddenly became an enthralling spectacle. Chelsea’s reply began in the 34th minute, when Didier Drogba crossed in the box and Rio Ferdinand (under pressure from Michael Ballack) almost scored an own goal, with Ewin Van der Sar narrowly tipping the ball out for a corner. United were immediately back at the other end, with Cristiano Ronaldo gliding down the wing and crossing in the box for Carlos Tevez, whose diving header was parried out by Cech. The ball could not be cleared however, and Michael Carrick brought the Czech keeper once again into action and forcing Cech to tip the shot over the bar.

At this stage of the game, the only fans that could be heard singing at the Luzhniki stadium were coloured in red, but this seemed to make no difference whatsoever to their team as Man Utd conspired to miss the easiest chance of the game. Wayne Rooney crossed from the right side, Carlos Tevez slid in from the middle of the box and somehow managed to miss an open goal. And what a costly miss this proved to be, as just before the end of the half a speculative long-range effort from Essien bounced first off Vidic, and then off Ferdinand to fall perfectly at the feet of Frank Lampard. The Blues man found himself in the right place at the right time, and suddenly brought the score level from 10 yards out. 1-1, and a lucky and certainly very timely goal for the Blues, as the referee blew for half time shortly after.

It was now the turn of the Chelsea fans to start singing their hearts out, their side lucky to find themselves in such a position after 45 minutes in which Manchester United, inspired by Ronaldo -who Essien in his makeshift full back position had failed to contain- were the better side.

Both sides began the second half without making any changes as the contest once again turned into a tactical and stuttering affair. Chelsea however were the ones showing the greater belief, heartened perhaps by the fact that they were still in the game despite some close shaves in the first half. Essien and Ballack both had good chances, and United now found themselves under increasing pressure from the Blues. Yet somehow, the Red Devils managed to keep Chelsea out and once again clawed themselves back into the game through Tevez (minute 75). It was Drogba however who blew the most glorious chance, the Ivorian waking from his apparent slumber to strike a stunning right-footed curler that beat Van der Sar but not the post. Chelsea were thus unable to capitalise on a great second half, and with the score tied at 1-1 the game went into extra time.

There were a couple of substitutions at the start of extra time, as Ryan Giggs came on for United to collect his 579th appearance in a red shirt (a new club record), and Solomon Kalou coming on for Chelsea. Chelsea were once again extremely unlucky as Frank Lampard struck a great left-footed shot only to see his effort hit the bar, with everyone in the stadium holding their breath. Chelsea (as expected the stronger of the two sides physically) did not however lose heart and continued to pile on the pressure. United however were not about to give up easily, and like all great sides showed great character and composure. This was almost rewarded when, following some inspirational left-wing play by Evra, Ryan Giggs almost scored from the edge of the box, his shot beating Cech but not John Terry’s head.

At the end of the first period of extra time Sir Alex turned to the fans pleading for all of their support for his players. The last few chances all belonged to United, and there was even a pile up in the box: with tempers flaring, Didier Drogba was the one to pay the highest price receiving his marching orders for a slap on Vidic. Then came the penalties and joy for United. Cristiano Ronaldo missed first putting Chelsea in the driving seat, but Blues captain John Terry blew the chance to clinch the game for his team, slipping and sending shot nº5 off the post. Thus Edwin Van der Sar became the hero of the night, as he saved Nicolas Anelka‘s effort and propelled Manchester to glory.


Manchester United F.C. MAN UTD-CHELSEA
[Match Highlights]
 Chelsea F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 26’ C.Ronaldo (M), 45’ Lampard (C)
MAN UTD (4-3-3): Van der Sar – Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (122’ Anderson) – Hargreaves, Carrick, Scholes (87’ Giggs) – Tevez, Rooney (101’ Nani), C.Ronaldo. (bench: Kuszczak, Silvestre, O’Shea, Fletcher). Coach: Ferguson.
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Cech – Essien, R.Carvalho, Terry, A.Cole – Ballack, Makelele (122’ Belletti), Lampard – J.Cole (99’ Anelka), Drogba, Malouda (92’ Kalou). (bench: Cudicini, Alex, Mikel, Shevchenko). Coach: Grant.