Monday, May 23, 2022

Manchester City champions

 Although in the end everything finished as one might have expected (City and Liverpool victories), the end of the Premier League ended with a high level of excitement, with the surprise always looming.

To be champions City needed a win at home against Aston Villa. But with 20 minutes elft Aston Villa were ahead 0-2, and there was a clear fear in the stadium (although Liverpool were at the time not winning). But goals by Rodri and Gundogan (who came in to make two) within a magic period of five minutes, put things straight and the title in Manchester.

Liverpool knew what was happening in Manchester, and that a victory would give them the title. But Wolverhampton were a hard nut to crack, and the Wolves went ahead already in the third minute. Liverpool pressed on an towards the end of the first half Sadio Mane equalized. Knowing the result in Manchester the Reds pressed on, but the goal did not come until the 84th minute by way of Mohammed Salah. But by this time City were already up, and even though Salah scored a third in the last minute, they hardly celebrated it as they knew it was but for nothing but the goal-stats.

Liverpool ends as runner-ups, but they have an FA Cup title, and next week they will be vying for the Champions League title in a clash of Titans against Real Madrid.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Mighty Olympique Lyon

 This season's Champions League final was between the two best women's sides in the world: FC Barcelona had cruised to the final, and after last year's trashing of Chelsea, were probably slight favourites to continue their dominance in women's football. But facing them was Olympique Lyon, the most winning team in the women's CL, and one that had defeated FC Barcelona 4-1 in the 2019 final.

It was not to be a revenge for the Catalonians, who looked completely overwhelmed in the first half. It was only six minutes into the match when Amadine Henry scored a brilliant goal, and Ada Hegerberg and Catarina Macario scored as well to put the French ahead by the 33rd minute. And in particular the great Ada Hegerberg was playing a great match with vision and great technique.

Just before halftime Alexia Putellas scored for Barcelona, giving the many Barcelona fans in Turin hope for the second half. Surely FC Barcelona improved, but Lyon, whose defense is perhaps one of the best in the world, stood its ground, although they also made a lot of time-wasting which was surely frustrating to everyone (and largely unnecessary).

In the end Lyon won a well-deserved 8th title. And the final was a fantastic match with great atmosphere in Turin, continuing the growth of women's football!

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Eintracht Frankfurt Champions

The two teams playing the Europa League final today are not usually considered amongst Europe's best, but both sides were deservedly in the final after a strong campaign.

On the one hand Eintracht Frankfurt may not have had a strong Bundesliga season, but they have shined in the Europa league: they won their group undefeated and went on to defeat Betis (Copa del Rey champions), FC Barcelona and West Ham to make it to the final.

On the other hand Glasgow Rangers had only finished second in their group, but went on to eliminated Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade, Braga and RB Leipzig.

Frankfurt seemed to have the edge at the start of the match, but it was Rangers who went ahead in the second half on a goal by Joe Aribo after some clumsy mistakes in the German defense. But only 10 minutes later Frankfurt deservedly equalised on a goal by the Colombian striker Rafael Santos Borré. The match ended 1-1, and despite chances to both sides, the game went into a nerve-wrecking penalty contest. 

It is often said the stars miss the crucial penalties, and in this case it was Rangers' star Aaron Ramsey who missed the penalty in an extremely poor shot. Rafael Santos Borré scored the final winning penalty, and ended up being the star for Eintracht Frankfurt's first international title since they won the UEFA Cup in 1980!

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Copa del Rey final

Today I watched the Copa del Rey final between Betis and my old darlings of Valencia. Valencia have been a disappointment this season, where European football appears far away and a victory in this final could at least achieve that, as well as winning this prestigious title (which Valencia last had won in 2019).

The match itself was a typical cup final: a passionate but fair fight and with each team having their moments. Borja Iglesias brought Betis ahead, but Hugo Duro equalized with an elegant lob over the goalkeeper. 1-1 was the result of the match, and after extra time it had to go into penalty kicks (the first Copa del Rey Final to do so since 1998), and Yunus Musah's miss for Valencia decided the match as Betis scored on all their kicks.

Another disappointing Valencia day; I had hoped it would be different.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Remembering Freddy Rincon

Just about week ago I heard that the ex-striker from Colombia and Real Madrid had been in a car accident, and was in criticial condition. Just a few days later, having beers with a Venezuelan friend in Miami, he told me that Rincón had passed away at 55. 

A tall and quick striker, he had a long illustrious career that brought him, amongst others, to Palmeiras, Napoli and Real Madrid. But as I spoke with my friend I remembered Freddy Rincon for one very special moment: in 1990 I was a young teenager, sitting in an apartment in southern Spain, watching the World Cup match between West Germany and Colombia. It was the last group match, and the Germans were all but qualified while Colombia could not lose. I supported Colombia wholeheartedly as they attacked and attacked, but could not score. Instead, Germany went ahead, completely undeserved (but specially back then it was considered so “German”). In the last minute Freddy Rincón received the ball from “El Pibe” Valderrama and scored the equalizer that put Colombia through.

When that ball went in I jumped and screamed so much that neighbours and family worried that something had happened, but it was just one of those moments of absolute football joy that I remember having, and a treasured memory.

Thank you Freddy Rincón. RIP.