Manchester United plastics and football fans worldwide tuned into last night’s second semi final of this years Champions League competition between Chelsea and Barcelona to see who would join the Red Devils in Rome.
The match was always going to be a feisty affair after the first leg ended goalless at the Nou Camp. Barca went into the match without the experience of Thierry Henry, Carles Puyol and Rafael Marquez but with the advantage of knowing an away goal would end the Blues hopes of reaching the final for the second year running.
Guus Hiddink’s side couldn’t of asked for a better start when Ghanaian playmaker Michael Essien hit, what surely must be a contender for goal of the competition, a superb strike in the 9th minute to put the blues ahead.
Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo was the man in black with the responsibility of controlling two of Europe’s biggest teams. The Norwegian is an experienced referee with over 17 years experience under his belt and has refereed in both the Norwegian Premier League and Euro 2008, but the high profile of last night’s clash seemed to get the better of the 42 year old.
With penalty appeal after penalty appeal being turned down, you kind of got the impression that it wasn’t going to be the Blues night despite the one goal advantage. Things eventually did turn sour when Iniesta hit the target with a superb finish two minutes into added time to take the visitors through to the final on under the away goal rule.
This effort on goal was Barcelona’s first and last on target shot of the match and what a shot it was. With the Blues feeling hard done by, and to be fair to Hiddink and co have good reason, they proceeded to mob Ovrebo, with security not too far behind.
One player in particular led the verbal assault on Ovrebo, a certain striker who had felt cheated for the 72 minutes he was on the field of play, who else but none other than Didier Drogba. The Ivory Coast international’s outburst was seen by all as television camera’s filmed all of his passionate attack.
As Drogba followed Ovrebo off the pitch he turned to the Sky Sports camera and was heard shouting “It’s a fucking disgrace” on national television. But was the 31 year old right to continue his feud after the 90 minutes which resulted in Drogba receiving a yellow card, not that he seemed to calm down the situation.
What happens now is up to Ufea to decide, but it’s clear that the striker won’t get away with his actions likely.
But was he right to have his say? Chelsea captain John Terry after the match said: “I am fully behind Didier for the way he reacted”. He continued "People are saying we shouldn't have reacted the way we did but the fact is, six decisions went against us in front of 40,000 people. And for the ref to not give one of them is unusual."
It was heard that Ovrebo had to be smuggled out of the country this morning as British police feared his safety and will be watched closely for some time.
What do you think about the striker’s outburst after the match? Or referee Ovrebo’s terrible performance on the highest of occasions, should he ref again? Or maybe football needs a 3rd eye in the form of improved technology?
Having heard that a ticket to this years’ women’s FA Cup Final between the highly acclaimed Arsenal and final virgins Sunderland would cost a mere £5, I cleared my diary and decided to make the 72 mile journey south to Derby.
This years final was held at Pride Park, the home of Nigel Clough’s Derby County. The 33,000 capacity stadium would be the host this year after neighbours Nottingham held the competition last year.
Knowing before hand that the stadium was modern and could hold a reasonable amount of people, my initial thoughts were that everyone would be sat in just one side, due to lack of spectators, but how wrong could I be?
As I made my way up onto the lower tier of the North Stand minutes before kick off I wasn’t prepared for the view I received. The ground had fans on every side, with myself wondering ‘where am I going to sit?’. Only the South Stand lacked a full stand, maybe due to the fact that Sunderland are not in the top flight of the sport.
The pairing of teams was always going to be a David and Goliath contest in the sense that the Gunners had won the competition four times in the past five years, the exception was down to Arsenal’s absence from the 2005 final. Sunderland were making club history by reaching the final of the FA Cup for the first time, with the Black Cats previous best being part of the last eight in 2005.
Two years ago I had witnessed the final between the Gunners (shock) and Charlton Athletic on television and remembered it was one of the most one sided matches I had ever seen, with the likes of Kelly Smith being a dominant force.
This year I was expecting no different and I’d be right in one sense despite the Black Cats best efforts and a goal for it. From the kick off Arsenal showed a different type of class, with goalkeeper Emma Byrne becoming a spectator for most of the game.
As time went on and the match progressed, I began to notice my opinion of the sport changing. I have always supported women’s football but being naive led me to believe that it was a million miles away from the men’s game, maybe not after all.
29 year old Rachel Yankey has one of the best first touches I’ve ever seen and the speed, skill and creativity of a top class Premiership star. Sunderland’s performance was what I had expected of women’s football, I don’t mean that offensive, with speed and strength being the difference, but the Gunners didn’t seem to lack any.
Manager Vic Akers has played a massive role at Arsenal and will step down at the end of the season after he single handily formed the club 22 years ago, this type of personality is what the sport needs more of.
But at the end of the day, despite the 23,291 that turned out to show their support, it will be back to the day jobs come tomorrow. Although Akers’s Arsenal have proven their worth out of 306 teams that entered, reality is clear to see by all as the Gunners will only receive £5,000 for their triumph.
A small percentage compared to what either Chelsea or Everton will walk away with on 30th May. It might not be morally right but it is what it is and it’s going to take something special to change the face of women’s football and take it into the limelight it deserves.
It doesn’t say a lot for the standard of British goalkeepers in the English game, when the prospect of Manuel Almunia becoming a British citizen this summer makes us automatically think he should get the number one jersey.
Almunia was signed in 2004 and therefore is eligible to apply for British citizenship. Despite being born in Pamplona, Spain and having played for a handful of Spanish teams, Almunia still hasn’t been called up for the national side.
Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas and Liverpool’s Jose Manuel Reina have been in excellent form leaving no room for another world class goalkeeper.
Since his arrival at the Gunners, Almunia has slowly worked his way up to a regular first team place after pushing Jens Lehmann out of contention.
Week in, week out Almunia has pulled off magnificent saves to keep Arsene Wenger’s side in European football next season.
A display midweek against rivals Manchester United which can only be described as ‘match saving’ quality (in terms that he kept it to just one goal), will surely put the 31 year old in high regards.
Although if Almunia did become a British Citizen then there is no guarantee that he would gain a place into Fabio Capello’s squad.
David “Calamity” James is currently Capello’s first choice goalkeeper, but the 38 year old has a habit of causing a stir on high profile games, leaving him a reputation and nickname that will never go.
Blackburn’s Paul Robinson is hot on James heel’s, but again lacks the consistency to be a regular international number one.
Very indecisive on crosses and lacks the ability to maintain focus, Robinson has had many a nightmare especially when a poorly palmed clearance gifted Russian striker Roman Pavlvuchenko the winner in the 2008 Euro qualifier.
Chris Kirkland, Robert Green, Scott Carson and Ben Foster are all capable of wearing the England number one jersey, but who can perform match after match at every level of competition?
If Almunia is lucky enough to secure British Citizenship, then surely we might be able to field a consistent goalkeeper…unless Vicente Del Bosque decides his future lies with Spain.