Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool: Match Report

UEFA Champions League Semi-Final, Second Leg
Stamford Bridge, London

Extra-time goals from Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba sent Chelsea into a Champions League final showdown against Manchester United in Moscow next month after a 4-3 aggregate defeat of Liverpool.

Lampard, playing his first game since the death of his mother last week, coolly slotted home a 98th-minute penalty and Drogba, who had opened the scoring in the first-half, sent Chelsea to the final with a timely second.

Fernando Torres had given Liverpool hope with a second-half equaliser but they failed to finish the job and Chelsea made them pay in a pulsating extra period which also saw Ryan Babel grab a late consolation goal for the Reds.

Drogba, a man whose penchant for spending more time horizontally on the pitch had incurred the wrath of Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez prior to kick-off, was clearly a man on a mission as he forced Jose Reina to turn his skidding 18-yard effort around the post in the fifth minute.

Four minutes later Liverpool put together their only meaningful move of the opening half when a quick Steven Gerrard pass put Fernando Torres in behind the Chelsea defence.

Unfortunately, the Spaniard's first touch was not deft enough and although he bore down on Petr Cech, the Chelsea goalkeeper had done enough to close down his space and options.

The slippery conditions hampered both sides but it was Chelsea who mastered them quicker.

In the 18th minute Lampard despatched a delightful pass into the path of Drogba but the Ivory Coast international striker was a yard wide with his shot.

But Chelsea were in the ascendancy and their supremacy was underlined by Michael Essien's 25-yard effort which had to be collected by Reina at the foot of his right-hand post.

Liverpool were struggling to keep pace with the home side and their worries increased when Martin Skrtel was forced off with a knee injury in the 21st minute and was replaced by Sami Hyypia.

Reina was forced to punch clear a long-range effort from Ballack but the goal Chelsea had threatened for most of the half arrived in style in the 33rd minute.

The architect, as so often this season, was England midfielder Lampard.

He cleverly split the Liverpool defence to give Salomon Kalou the chance to run on and fire a shot that Reina could only palm into the path of the onrushing Drogba.

The Ivorian does not miss such gifts and he sent a low drive fizzing into the net at the near post to give Liverpool a 2-1 aggregate lead.

The Chelsea striker, clearly hurt by Benitez's criticism of his 'diving', then ran the length of the half to celebrate his goal in front of the Liverpool manager.

Chelsea's domination almost brought them a second four minutes before the interval but Ballack's measured free-kick veered just the wrong side of an upright.

Dirk Kuyt almost hauled Liverpool back into the tie three minutes after the restart but his shot met the outstretched leg of Cech before Ashley Cole cleared.

After Lampard's 53rd-minute volley was well held by Reina, Liverpool finally broke their goalscoring hoodoo when Yossi Benayoun carved out a chance for Torres.

The Spaniard collected the ball in his stride just inside the penalty area before sliding it beyond the exposed Cech to make it 2-2 on aggregate - the 64th-minute effort was Chelsea's first at Stamford Bridge in nine games under Benitez.

Liverpool were now unrecognisable from the insipid team of the first-half.

They were pulling Chelsea apart in midfield and the home side were looking decidedly nervy for the first time in the game.

But Chelsea rallied and a fine run by Essien ended when he found the side-netting.

Both sides sought a winner - but the 90 minutes ended all-square and the contest went into extra-time.

Liverpool almost snatched the lead within minutes of the restart but Hyypia's header fell wide of the post with Cech beaten.

Chelsea then thought they had done enough when Essien sent a 20-yard effort into the net - but it was rightly disallowed for offside.

However, in the 98th minute, Ballack was brought down by Hyypia inside the box and referee Roberto Rosetti pointed to the spot.

Lampard kept his composure to send Reina the wrong way and was in tears as he celebrated with his team-mates.

Worse was to come for Liverpool when substitute Nicolas Anelka got free on the right and pulled the ball back for Drogba to fire under Reina.

An error from Cech gifted Babel a late goal but Chelsea held on to reach their first Champions League final.

Manchester United 1-0 Barcelona: Match Report

UEFA Champions League Semi-Final, Second Leg
Old Trafford, Manchester

Paul Scholes ended nine years of personal torment by blasting Manchester United into the Champions League final with the only goal as they beat Barcelona 1-0.

Scholes' 14th-minute strike ensured Moscow will host an all-English affair on May 21, with championship challengers Chelsea or old rivals Liverpool lying in wait to provide the opposition for United.

But while Sir Alex Ferguson looks for the second European Cup that eluded Sir Matt Busby and, so far, him, for Scholes the Luzhniki Stadium represents a night to savour.

For, when Ferguson is reminded of that spine-tingling victory over Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp, two of his favourite sons are always missing.

One is Roy Keane, who famously spoke of his discomfort at being part of proceedings in his grey suit. The other is Scholes.

Never one to offer three words when one will do, Scholes has always claimed not to be haunted by the fact he was a bystander on such a famous occasion.

But secretly, it must hurt. It certainly hurts Ferguson, who has always regarded the midfield maestro as one of the most influential players of his generation.

So there was something fitting about Scholes being the man who should thrash United in front.

The hosts had barely threatened the Barcelona penalty area, let alone actually get into it when Xavi slid in to tackle Cristiano Ronaldo.

Inexplicably, Xavi tried to force a pass to Yaya Toure, only to find Scholes instead.

His last European goal might have been in October 2006 but the 32-year-old lacks nothing in confidence and from 30 yards magnificently belted the ball beyond Victor Valdes.

Had Wes Brown or Nani found the net with flicked headers or Park Ji-Sung's precise strike not rolled just wide of the Barcelona net, United could have had the contest wrapped up by half-time.

That would have been a supreme injustice on the visitors but on this night, with so much at stake, pity is not an emotion that was felt by any United supporters.

The overwhelming feeling at the interval was probably one of fear.

If Barcelona did not enjoy quite so much possession as they had on home soil last week, they were not far off.

With Samuel Eto'o a formidable battering ram, Lionel Messi weaving his magic on the right wing and Deco a regular threat from deep positions, United spent long periods chasing around the park, attempting to douse fires as they arose.

Just as they were six days ago, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown - an unused substitute in 1999 - paired together at the heart of United's defence with Nemanja Vidic injured, were towers of strength, bonded in a common desire to keep Barcelona at bay.

Yet even they could not prevent Deco unleashing two skimming half-volleys which went narrowly wide.

With Wayne Rooney not even fit enough to be risked on the bench in case of emergency, Ronaldo was pushed up front, with Park out wide, a move which benefited the South Korean, if not the new PFA Player of the Year.

Ronaldo did provide the cross that Nani thought he had prodded goalwards, only for Eric Abidal to touch it wide as United started the second period with an intent, desire and dominance absent from game-and-a-half.

Valdes then produced a fine stop to deny Carlos Tevez as United attempted to turn the screw, knowing full well that, as Thierry Henry took the field, an away goal would send Barcelona through.

It was a position made for attack and counter-attack and finally, the players of whom so much is expected gave free rein to their talents.

Park was inches away from nodding home at one end, Deco's free-kick deflected wide at the other when many in the stadium feared it was on its way in. Messi; toying and teasing, Ronaldo; striking fear into Barca hearts every time he touched the ball.

Henry, so often the scourge of United in his memorable Arsenal days, must have felt he had the equaliser as he met Deco's corner with a firm header, and again when he curled a shot goalwards from the edge of the box but on both occasions Edwin van der Sar saved.

The tension was almost unbearable, made worse due to prolonged treatment for Patrice Evra. But in the end, Herbert Fandel blew his whistle, United were back where Ferguson believes they belong and Scholes had his reward.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Germany 3-2 Turkey: Late heartbreak for Turks

Scoring Summary:

Ugur Boral(22)
Bastian Schweinsteiger(26)
Miroslav Klose(79)
Semih Senturk(86)
Philip Lahm(90)

Philip Lahm struck a 90th-minute winner as Germany claimed the first final berth at Euro 2008 as battling Turkey's fairytale run finally came to an end at St Jakob-Park in Basel.

A much-weakened Turkey side had dominated the first half but were only level at half-time after Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger had cancelled out Ugur Boral's opener.

The second half was a more even contest and looked to be going to extra-time after Germany striker Miroslav Klose and Semih Senturk of Turkey had each scored in the final 11 minutes.

But there was still time for Lahm to smash home the winner as three-times European champions - twice as West Germany in 1972 and 1980 - reached the final, where they will meet either Spain or Russia.

Turkey, playing in their first Euro semi-final, had captured the imaginations of the neutral after staging remarkable comeback victories in their previous three matches, but with a team ravaged by injuries and suspensions a first ever final appearance was always a tough ask.

Despite that though, the makeshift Turkish side were still quicker out of the blocks, with Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann needing to be alert to efforts from Colin Kazim-Richards and Hamit Altintop in the first 10 minutes.

Turkey then struck the woodwork in the 13th minute through London-born Kazim-Richards, whose rising shot crashed against the top of the crossbar from 12 yards out following Ayhan Akman's cut-back.

The Germany defence was all at sea in the opening stages, while there was little to encourage Joachim Low's side going forward either as Turkey bossed proceedings.

It was therefore not unexpected when Turkey took a deserved lead in the 22nd minute through Ugur Boral.

The chance came after Kazim-Richards had hit the Germany crossbar for the second time - this time with an effort which looped up into the air and onto the bar - and Boral slotted home the rebound, despite Lehmann's best efforts on the line.

Turkey's joy was short-lived though, as Germany equalised with their first chance of the match five minutes later through Schweinsteiger.

Lukas Podolski sent over a low cross from the left and Schweinsteiger darted in front of Mehmet Topal and with the outside of his right foot guided the ball across Recber Rustu and into the far corner of the net.

Opportunities were coming thick and fast at both ends with Semih's header saved by Lehmann, who was then almost left red-faced by Altintop's deep free-kick, which the former Arsenal goalkeeper misjudged and needed to dive backwards to tip over.

Podolski then wasted a good chance for Germany when he was put clean through by Thomas Hitzlsperger, only for the Bayern Munich man to blaze over with just Rustu to beat.

Turkey goalscorer Boral stung the knuckles of Lehmann with a free-kick before Sabri Sarioglu fired just over from distance as the underdogs finished the first half just as they started it - in total control.

At the start of the second half Germany might have had a dream start had Swiss referee Massimo Busacca whistled for a blatant foul on Lahm.

There was little doubt it was a foul and the only question was whether it was inside the Turkey area or not - but the official gave nothing.

The match was more even in the second half, with the two defences looking much less charitable than the opening period.

The ever-threatening Boral fired a rare shot at Lehmann in the 71st minute before former Aston Villa midfielder Hitzlsperger saw his left-footed effort go just wide of the top corner.

Germany took the lead through Klose in the 79th minute. Rustu looked favourite to come out and claim Lahm's lofted cross into the area, but Klose beat both the goalkeeper and Topal to the ball to send a glancing header into an unguarded net.

That might have spelt the end of some side's hopes, but Turkey had proven themselves an obstinate opponent in the three previous matches and, astonishingly, they managed to net yet another late goal.

Sabri sent over a low cross and Semih managed to poke the ball past Lehmann at his near post.

That was not the end of the drama though as Germany showed their own determination by netting a last-gasp winner through Bayern Munich full-back Lahm, who raced into the area before being picked out by Hitzlsperger and kept his composure to fire past Rustu into the near top corner.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United: Match Report

The Barclays Premier League
Stamford Bridge, London

Two goals from Michael Ballack kept alive Chelsea's title hopes as they overcame Manchester United 2-1 in a pulsating clash at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's dreams appeared over after a monumental blunder by Ricardo Carvalho gifted United a 55th minute equaliser to Wayne Rooney.

Ballack had given Chelsea a 45th minute lead and he sealed a vital win in controversial circumstances by slotting home a penalty five minutes from time.

Referee Alan Wiley awarded the spot-kick after Michael Carrick handled a cross from Michael Essien.

It was a sensational climax to an afternoon of high drama in west London and the win puts Chelsea level on points with United at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Chelsea set about United in the opening minutes and Michael Essien brought a diving save from Edwin Van der Sar.

United, who left Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez on the substitutes' bench, were rocked in the ninth minute when Nemanja Vidic was carried off on a stretcher with a facial injury.

The United defender was caught by Didier Drogba's knee as he stooped to head the ball clear and he was subsequently replaced by Owen Hargreaves.

The tempo, as expected, was fast and furious, but goalscoring opportunities were at a premium.

Chelsea should have taken the lead in the 20th minute when Joe Cole got clear of the United defence, but after initially losing the ball, he lashed the ball against the crossbar from just inside the penalty area.

Chelsea were leaving plenty of gaps in defence, but United, with Wayne Rooney operating as a lone striker, were unable to exploit them.

In the 23rd minute a neat combination between Drogba and Essien ended with the Ghanaian's cross eluding everyone in the six-yard box.

Rooney's lone role in attack was clearly not working as Ryan Giggs and Nani were often slow in supporting the England international.

Chelsea continued to press for an opening goal and were unlucky when Joe Cole dribbled his way into the penalty area, only for Van der Sar to grab the ball at his feet. The United keeper required treatment for a minor knock as a result of the collision.

On the half-hour Joe Cole shot just wide from the angle of the six-yard box when fed the ball by Essien.

A free-kick from Ashley Cole caused minor panic in the United defence when the giant frame of John Terry rose to meet it, but the Chelsea captain could not direct his effort anywhere near the target.

The home side were well on top and thought they should have been awarded a spot-kick in the 34th minute when Drogba appeared to go down under a robust challenge from Mikael Silvestre.

But the referee emphatically waved away Chelsea's appeals while United's bench accused the Ivorian of taking a dive.

However, Chelsea took the lead in the 45th minute when Drogba's cross was headed home at the far post by the unmarked Ballack.

The goal sparked emotional scenes as all the Chelsea players held up Frank Lampard's number eight shirt with the message 'Pat Lampard - R.I.P'. Ballack who had taken his shirt off, was then booked by Wiley.

It was a tribute to Lampard's mother, who passed away from pneumonia on Thursday.

Ballack's timely opening goal was just the boost Grant's side had been hoping for.

The Blues, needing to win to move level on points with United at the top of the table, were far the better side in the opening 45 minutes.

If there had been any doubts about the spirit within the dressing room at Stamford Bridge, then they had been dispelled emphatically by the emotional celebrations that followed Ballack's goal.

United were still struggling to create anything despite a better share of possession at the start of the second half.

United's Brown found himself booked for a foul on Essien in the 52nd minute as, rather ominously for Chelsea, 38-goal Cristiano Ronaldo warmed up on the touchline.

But United got themselves back into the game thanks to a mistake by Chelsea defender Carvalho.

The Portuguese defender passed the ball straight to Rooney, who accepted the gift by firing beyond Cech into the net, although he appeared to injure himself in the process.

Carvalho's error could have already gifted United the title, but Sir Alex Ferguson, sensing perhaps that his side could finish the job, replaced a struggling Rooney with Ronaldo.

Seconds later Anderson was substituted for John O'Shea and Chelsea, knowing they had to get themselves back in front, added Nicolas Anelka into the mix in place of Paulo Ferreira.

The game continued to enthral, with Ashley Cole getting an ear bashing from Wiley after he had been harshly adjudged to have fouled Ronaldo.

But it erupted into controversy in the 84th minute when Wiley awarded a penalty for handball against Carrick.

The United midfielder got his arm in the way of Essien's cross and Ballack kept his cool to score from the spot and keep the title race on the boil.

In the dying minutes United were twice thwarted by goalline clearances - Ronaldo's left-foot drive being hacked away by Ashley Cole, before substitute Andriy Shevchenko nodded clear Darren Fletcher's diving header following a goalmouth scramble.

Barcelona 0-0 Manchester United: Match Report

UEFA Champions League Semi-Final, First Leg
The Camp Nou, Barcelona

Ronaldo may have been unusually wasteful but Manchester United are in sight of a place in the Champions League final.

The Portugal winger missed a penalty after only three minutes at the Nou Camp and the chance of giving the side a precious away goal.

United were rarely seen as an attacking force after that but they will go into the second leg at Old Trafford next Tuesday with quiet confidence.

Despite the absence of Nemanja Vidic, who was rushed to hospital on Tuesday night with a stomach complaint, they defended resolutely and kept a clean sheet.

Ronaldo with 38 goals to his credit was left frustrated when Gabriel Milito handled inside the penalty area in the second minute of the game.

Swiss referee Massimo Busacca had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, waving away protests from Barcelona.

Ronaldo stepped up to take the penalty kick - only to see his effort hit the stanchion.

He was left holding his head in his hands after missing a golden opportunity of giving United a precious away goal.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side struggled to find their rhythm in the first half, with Barcelona having the majority of possession.

Lionel Messi picked out Samuel Eto'o in the 13th minute only for Paul Scholes - on his 100th Champions League appearance - to make a vital interception.

Ronaldo did not seem to be suffering from a lack of confidence, however, after blundering from the spot - and continued to take players on.

Barcelona pressed forward again in the 21st minute and Rafael Marquez got clear of his marker but his header failed to trouble goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar, who was back in the side following a groin injury.

Then Yaya Toure showed good skill for the home side and sent a good cross into the area which was turned away by Van der Sar.

Ronaldo felt he should have had another penalty in the 30th minute when he was bundled over by Marquez after Xavi had carelessly lost possession.

However referee Busacca would have none of it and allowed play to continue, leaving the United winger frustrated.

Barca were dictating the tempo at this stage and Eto'o rattled in a shot after 34 minutes but Wes Brown made a vital block.

Brown was partnering Rio Ferdinand in the heart of defence in the absence of Vidic with the recalled Owen Hargreaves operating at right back.

Brown was showing little sign of the knock that forced him to train away from the main group last night.

Barcelona were spraying the ball around well, however, and won a free-kick in the 38th minute.

But Deco got little power on his effort and Van der Sar made a comfortable save.

United hit back and Marquez was booked in the 44th minute after tripping Ronaldo as he attempted to surge forward.

Ronaldo dusted himself down but sent his effort from an acute angle wide of the post.

Barcelona were quickly on the offensive at the start of the second half and Messi saw his effort blocked in the 47th minute, before Van der Sar did well to tip over Gianluca Zambrotta's long-range shot.

Eto'o skipped away from Ferdinand and tried to pick out Messi - but Michael Carrick was perfectly positioned and made the clearance.

Eto'o got clear in the 52nd minute but sent his effort into the side-netting, before Deco tested Van der Sar three minutes later with a low drive.

The Dutch goalkeeper was equal to Xavi's effort from 20 yards before Messi - who had only recently returned from injury - was replaced by Bojan Krkic in the 63rd minute.

Bojan was no less a threat than the Argentinian, having scored the winning goal in the quarter-final first leg against Schalke.

United were finding it difficult to set up any attacks, leaving Ronaldo, Rooney and Carlos Tevez fairly isolated up front.

Former Arsenal favourite Thierry Henry was called into the action after 77 minutes with Deco coming off.

Henry quickly picked up the pace of the game and rattled in a shot after 83 minutes that Van der Sar beat away.

The United goalkeeper then got his body behind a Henry free-kick as United held out for a creditable draw.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


All we need is just a little PATIENCE……….so have it and read

A little girl went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet.

She poured the change out on the floor and counted it carefully.

Three times, even. The total had to be exactly perfect. No chance here for mistakes.

Carefully placing the coins back in the jar and twisting on the cap, she slipped out the back door and made her way 6 blocks to Rexall's Drug Store with the big red Indian Chief sign above the door.

She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention, but he was too busy at this moment. Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffing noise. Nothing. She cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound she could muster. No good. Finally she took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter. That did it!

'And what do you want?' the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice. I'm talking to my brother from Chicago whom I haven't seen in ages,' he said without waiting for a reply to his question.

'Well, I want to talk to you about my brother,' Tess answered back in the same annoyed tone. 'He's really, really sick ... and I want to buy a miracle.'

'I beg your pardon?' said the pharmacist.

'His name is Andrew and he has something bad growing inside his head and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle cost?'

'We don't sell miracles here, little girl. I'm sorry but I can't help you,' the pharmacist said, softening a little.

'Listen, I have the money to pay for it. If it isn't enough, I will get the rest. Just tell me how much it costs.'

The pharmacist's brother was a well dressed man. He stooped down and asked the little girl, 'What kind of a miracle does your brother need?'

' I don't know,' Tess replied with her eyes welling up. 'I just know he's really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation. But my Daddy can't pay for it, so I want to use my money.'

'How much do you have?' asked the man from Chicago.

'One dollar and eleven cents,' Tess answered barely audibly.

'And it's all the money I have, but I can get some more if I need to.'

'Well, what a coincidence,' smiled the man. 'A dollar and eleven cents - the exact price of a miracle for little brothers.'

He took her money in one hand and with the other hand he grasped her mitten and said 'Take me to where you live. I want to see your brother and meet your parents. Let's see if I have the miracle you need.'

That well dressed man was Dr. Carlton Armstrong, a surgeon, specializing in neuro-surgery. The operation was completed free of charge and it wasn't long until Andrew was home again and doing well.

Mom and Dad were happily talking about the chain of events that had led them to this place.

'That surgery,' her Mom whispered. 'was a real miracle. I wonder how much it would have cost?'

Tess smiled. She knew exactly how much a miracle cost ... one dollar and eleven cents plus the faith of a little child.

In our lives, we never know how many miracles we will need.

A miracle is not the suspension of natural law, but the operation of a higher law. I know you'll keep the ball moving!

Here it goes. Throw it back to someone who means something to you!

A ball is a circle, no beginning, no end. It keeps us together like our Circle of Friends. But the treasure inside for you to see is the treasure of friendship you've granted to me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea: Match Report

UEFA Champions League Semi-Final, First Leg
Anfield, Liverpool

A own goal in injury time from substitute John Arne Riise left Liverpool stunned and Chelsea dreaming of Moscow as the game ended all square at 1-1.

Liverpool had led from a first-half goal by Dirk Kuyt and looked to be heading to Stamford Bridge next week for the second leg of this Champions League semi-final in pole position.

But although Liverpool had created most of the scoring chances in a captivating match, Chelsea will know that their priceless away goal could be decisive as they aim for the May 21 final.

Beforehand it had all been about the powerbrokers in the directors' box.

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks' presence may well have concerned Merseyside Police, but it was never going to be a low-key visit. The Texan arrived in the city to head straight for the club's Melwood training complex.

He chatted with manager Rafael Benitez and watched training from the restaurant balcony before eventually heading to Anfield, arriving almost three hours before the game. Despite predictions, there was no police escort.

The Dubai International Capital delegation - who had stayed in Chester overnight - of negotiator Amanda Staveley and chief executive Sameer Al Ansari arrived with less fanfare and sat quietly away from the owners.

Chief executive Rick Parry was relegated by the Hicks entourage from his usual front-row seat to way back in the box, where he was able to watch Hicks and son Tom jr waving their scarves and singing along with the fans.

So much for the sideshow. There was a vibrant match in store, and with three England managers watching as well. Fabio Capello, Steve McClaren and Sven-Goran Eriksson were as spellbound as the rest at a packed Anfield.

Liverpool fielded the side that had beaten Arsenal in the previous round, with Chelsea having Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba back.

And they started full of desire and pace, unfazed by the vociferous Kop, who had pointedly ignored the Hicks showboating.

Ballack and Lampard were dominant and Liverpool were instantly forced back, fussy Austrian referee Konrad Plautz doing nothing for the flow.

Liverpool needed to raise their game, and they did when Xabi Alonso's ball sent Kuyt away, Petr Cech half stopping the effort before Ashley Cole belted it away.

But Chelsea were playing the football and Joe Cole should have done better from a Lampard chipped pass.

Steven Gerrard was being smothered by Claude Makelele everywhere he went. But one clipped pass from the Liverpool skipper after 31 minutes sent Fernando Torres clear, only for Cech to produce a vital save.

But Liverpool's steady improvement was to produce a goal after 42 minutes. And it was all about Kuyt, with his seventh goal in 11 European ties this term.

After his run and cross preceded a poor clearance, he won the ball back from Lampard and when it was turned into the box there was Kuyt to force it under Cech's despairing dive.

That gave Liverpool all the incentive they needed to return after the break flying forward looking for another; Ryan Babel tormenting Paulo Ferreira and Gerrard and Alonso at last finding space.

Babel surged into the middle and unleashed a fierce right-footer that curled just wide.

Liverpool then lost Fabio Aurelio after an hour, collapsing with what looked like a recurrence of his groin problems. Riise sprinted into the fray.

Salomon Kalou then came on for Joe Cole, Chelsea searching for a way back into the game. Ballack's header was held by Jose Reina and Jamie Carragher got in the way of Kalou's close-range shot.

The balance was swinging again, Drogba a constant threat. Liverpool sent on Yossi Benayoun for Babel with 15 minutes left, referee Plautz still enraging Liverpool with almost every decision.

Carragher's stunning tackle on Lampard stopped an almost certain goal, Liverpool now living on their nerves as Chelsea surged forward.

Cech made a fine save to stop Gerrard's dipping volley, Nicolas Anelka coming on - eventually - for a very reluctant Ballack.

Torres, who had a tough time against John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, lost control when put clear by Gerrard.

Terry was booked for a body-check on Javier Mascherano in injury-time, and Cech saved superbly again from Torres.

But the sucker punch was to come. In the fifth minute of time added on, Riise dived forward in the six-yard box to head a Kalou cross into the roof of his own net, under pressure from Anelka.

The Kop were stunned, Chelsea delirious, somehow they had achieved the away goal and draw they desperately wanted.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Hospital Window

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room .

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the

fluid from his lungs.
His bed was next to the room's only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes,

their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time

by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be

broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while

children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every

color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side

of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene .

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man couldn't hear the band - he could see it. In his mind's eye as the

gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the

lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was

saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the

window . The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable,

she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real

world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described

such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you ."

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Liverpool v Arsenal: A Preview

The Champions League..!
This is probably the only chance of silverware for Arsenal after such a promising season, that they got no choice but to put all their eggs into this big basket..! But the same goes to liverpool, after a season full of controversy about the clubs ownership, Liverpool have done fairly well to get to this stage..!
A European night at Anfield is always a threatening factor, but if arsenal are to advance in their quest for a trophy, they have to achieve the inevitable which it to score against liverpool, and if possible win it..! anfield has oflate been a fortress and last years semifinal win against chelsea proved just that.. it killed off the concentration on many of the chelsea players..
Thats what anfield is all about, the fan support is terrific, and the atmosphere is just cracking, the perfect catalyst to any home team.. But can wenger's men do it..? well, according to me.. they still stand a chance..!
anfield hasn't been such a bad hunting ground for arsenal over the recent years, keeping in mind the 3-1 win for arsenal in the FA Cup.. and the 6-3 win in the carling cup..! and to add to that.. the fact that Pepe Reina has never kept a clean sheet against Arsenal is a big boost for the Gunners..!
It promises to be an all out attacking game from the start and it is all about taking your chances.. If arsenal can score an early goal, then it will be a huge advantage for the gunners though we have to keep in mind that Arsenal don't have the habit of clinging on to their lead..!
Arsenal have to keep the liverpool danger men quiet for 90 minutes.. if they can do that, then there is a big chance for them.. the words torres and gerrard strike fear be it any defence because such has been their partnership this season..! Toure and Gallas will be having a really tough game tonight and Wenger might play Senderos as well.. after he was rested for the weekend..!
And they also have to depend upon their goal scoring machine Emanuel Adebayor who has not been scoring freely of late compared to his impeccable form earlier in the season..! Walcott who is a genuine threat with is pace may start tonights game..
With some magic from Hleb and some good passing from Fabregas.. and some good holding work from Flamini, Arsenal can really turn the tie around with the talent they possess..! But as i have already said, this tie is Liverpool's to lose..!

Probable Starting XI :

Arsenal :
Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Emmanuel Eboue, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Alexander Hleb, Theo Walcott, Emanuel Adebayor, Robin Van Persie

Liverpool :
Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel, Sami Hyypia, Fabio Aurelio, Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt, Fernando Torres

Friday, April 4, 2008

Arsenal v Liverpool: When lady luck lost her way..!

A splendid week was on the cards for football lovers when arsenal took on liverpool in the first of the trilogy.. all in the space of just seven days.. The emirates was buzzing with expectation after that morale boosting back from the dead victory against bolton a week earlier when arsenal had rallied from 2-0 down.. a man down to beat the trotters 3-2 to renew their premiership hopes.. a season which so very much promised to be the one which would fill their trophy cabinet after 3 long years but now has started going all wrong and at the wrong time..

recent slump in form and 4 back to back draws and a loss against chelsea in the premier league albeit a remarkable result in the champions league against defending champions ac milan.. had sent the gunners to third position after leading for most times of this season..

Champions league glory was still a reality.. and Arsene Wenger put up a strong side to face the liverpool team which had won 7 of their last 8 games in all competitions.. fernando torres in sublime form and gerrard.. no mention..!

the game started off at a decent pace... and here i was watching with great interest listening to the expert commentary from andy gray and rob hawthorne.. arsenal started to press liverpool who looked happy to sit back and defend.. and after a few good moves, the break through finally arrived through adebayor who seems to have lost his form since his haircut..

van persie's short corner to fabregas before putting it in with a delightful ball was met by adebayor who was left quite free in a liverpool penalty box which has been quite used to poor marking..

and just when arsenal were settling in again to go for another.. came the killer blow.. gerrard weaved into the box.. and his wonderfull ball across the box was met by a flurry of sliding bodies but in the end it was the hard runner dirt kuyt with the delightful touch which silenced arsenal.. liverpool had got their crucial away goal..

arsenal never really came back from that blow and were quite ordinary for the remainder of the first half.. though neither did liverpool show any interest of a serious attack..

halftime.. and then the second half.. and on came theo walcott.. replacing van persie who had supposedly strained his thigh..

the substitute cut inside from the left and let one fly like a rocket but it was just outside the far post.. but walcott's pace was threatening as ever..

then came one beautiful chance to equalise.. adebayor ran inside the box.. but he was muscled out by the defenders.. the defenders thought that the ball was going out but in raced walcott from nowhere and flashed it across the goal only for eboue to hit a mistimed shot which was cleared off the line..!

the worst for arsenal was yet to come..!

hleb collected the ball outside the penalty box.. and weaved his way through inside with his amazing speed and skill.. only to be tugged down by kuyt..! penalty?.. i thought so.. so did mr.gray.. but not the referee.. he gave a corner instead..!! it was a clear penalty..!

arsenal really wanted the win because they deserved it..! the ball had been in the liverpool half throughout the second half..! possession 69:31 to arsenal..!

then the villian arrived.. bendtner.. was the next arsenal substitute and he was on to replace eboue..! and immediately adebayor was off into the box and sent a cross.. only to be cleared away by reina.. and in flew fabregas to meet the ball.. and the ball was on target until one mr.bendtner stepped in the way to block his own teammate from scoring..! what on earth was he thinking?!?

now.. everything was going against arsene wenger's team.. the referee was against them.. and now their own substitute was against them..!

it never got any better for the team in red and mr.gray rightly said.. "Advantage Liverpool!"

we will have to wait and see if arsenal can pull another impossible result.. at anfield.. in front of the kop.. the liverpool faithful which is probably the best place to be on an European night..! we have to wait and see if lady luck joins arsenal by then.. at the least..! its now or never for arsenal.. its make or break..!