The Semi finalist for this year’s UEFA Champions League are now known; yes there have been controversies, ranging from rescheduling of a match after a terrorist attack to refereeing mistakes across all the Quarter Final ties; it did leave a bitter and sour taste in the mouth. The refereeing issues continues to aid the drive and campaign for the introduction of Video technology as it involves goal situations (penalties and offside decisions) and red cards and/or second bookable offences.
In light of all these; there were salient lessons for all to learn from in the second leg matches:
The Experienced over the highly Spirited
Atletico Madrid have over the last five to seven years joined the league of European heavyweights; for double Europa League victories to two Champions League finals in Three years and a stoppage time equalizer away from winning the ultimate prize. Madrid’s second team have gather enough experience and know-how to navigate their way through European ties; so when they came face to face with the highly spirited Leicester City; they took care of business; managing the tie professionally.
In the First Leg, Leicester were unable to penetrate the resolute defensive set up of the Madrid side; once Atletico took the lead, it was curtains and a great display of game management; Leicester did not have a shot on target all game. Fast forward to the second leg; Atletico got things started early with an early goal from Saul Nunez; but a spirited effort from Leicester City pegged them back for almost the entirety of the second half with chance after chance created and missed. Atletico’s superior experience and know-how saw them through this rather tricky tie.
The Pupil betters the Master
Carlo Ancelotti in delivering Real Madrid’s much sort after La Decima; he had Zinedine Zidane as his right hand man and assistant. On Tuesday; both managers were either side of the dug out urging their teams on. What differentiates Zidane’s Real Madrid and Ancelotti’s Real has to be the injection of youth; Ancelotti isn’t know for trusting young or youthful players in all his career; but Zidane has found comfort in making the likes of Asensio and Lucas Varquez integral members of his team and also making Casemiro the final piece of the Los Blancos puzzle; when previous Real managers preferred to send him out on loan.
Zidane’s triumph helps the French man depart from the past and away from the shadows cast by previous Real Managers; he is a Champions League winner and may likely win La Liga this season. Zidane is his own man and he has made this Real Madrid side his own; showing tactical flexibility in both legs against Bayern and not been afraid to take those tough decisions.
In the high stakes Sport of football; the difference between winners and losers has to be the fine margins. These fine margins may be determined by a refereeing decision either correctly or incorrectly called; a manager making a ”tactical” change at either a perceived right or wrong period in a game.
In terms of the Quarter final ties between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich; we had a clash that was decided by fine margins determined by Refereeing decisions. Arturo Vidal was wrongly dismissed for a second yellow card for a tackle where he won the ball clearly from Asensio. Lewandoski was flagged offside wrongly in the first half and potentially the most pivotal of all the decisions was Real Madrid’s equalizer in extra time; Cristano Ronaldo was clearly in an offside position as he finished calmly to set the eleven time champions on course for another spot in the Semi Finals.
These questionable calls happen regularly in football; what is depressing is the Referees trying to even out their decisions; which for me doesn’t work. If we look at the Real v Bayern tie over two legs; you would see that Bayern too had their share of favorable calls like in the first leg where they got awarded a penalty which poetic justice prevailed or even their penalty at the Bernabeu. Bayern should snap out of it; in totality Real Madrid did more to win the two legged affair.
Monaco’s Youthful Revolution
Paris Saint Germain have spent tonnes of money to be where Monaco are today; yes at some point Monaco under their Russian owner had the same model. Thanks to his world record divorce, a change in strategy occurred and the club from the principality started to focus on the next generation of French youngsters. The likes of Mbappe, Mendy and Thomas Lemar form the core of youngsters that have taken Europe by storm with their fearless approach and smooth attacking play; the likes of Joao Moutinho and Radamel Falcao provide the necessary experience and guidance.
Monaco have scored a 140 goals in all competitions this season; that’s an incredible figure with a month of football still to be played; you write off these youngsters at your own peril. I have said previously that this side reminds me of the Monaco side of 1997 that had Thierry Henry and David Trezequet. The difference between this team and the last Monaco team to get to the final is that side was filled with experienced players all round; the likes of Jerome Rothen, Fernando Morientes with up and comers like Patrice Evra; this could be Monaco’s years.
No Scoring Boots
Big plaudits to Max Allegri for the tactical masterclass his Juventus team put on display at the Nou Camp; Catenaccio was reborn again on the strength of this performance, it was a clinic and Barcelona had no answer.
If there was any punter or Tipster service that predicted a scoreless affair at the Nou Camp; that person or service is worth a follow and I would like to have some of whatever they are smoking. For the first time in 50 European games; the Nou Camp witnessed a nil-nil scoreline. What was wrong with players on both sides; on a good day Messi would have scored a Hat-trick and Neymar a brace; Juan Cuadrado and Higuain would have had a goal a piece; but I guess they all left their scoring boots in their hotel rooms.