Champignon (Mushroom) League

Is this the Champions League or the Champignons League, because the mushrooms seem more interesting than some of the results and matches being played.

What’s wrong with the Champions League? Does no one actually want to win this? Because I’m confused and so are other fans.

Everyone’s playing so badly. Or are they tired of trying?

Manchester United 0 – Barcelona 1

This match confused me to say the least. I believe that the teams in the quarter-final should be top ones and yet, many play such uninteresting football with a lack of determination.

Manchester United went in as the obvious underdogs but had the so-called ‘home advantage’. Barcelona, rulers of La Liga, were favourites to win, with #MessiinManchester trending for about a week now.

So why, pray tell, was the match so flat?

Barcelona played ‘less worse’ than United and that was the main reason they shone. Their stats were high because the Red Devils didn’t even try. A number of times, the ball rolled past players with no one moving to catch it. Passes were sloppy and both teams did not play like they had any objectives.

Ten minutes after kick off, Barcelona began a two minute play which consisted of forty-eight passes led to a header by Luis Suarez and a deflection off Luke Shaw and the only goal of the match.

Barcelona players celebrate their goal, with Luke Shaw in the foreground. Credit: Evening Standard
Barcelona players celebrate their goal, with Luke Shaw in the foreground. Credit: Evening Standard

The ball looked liked it had been pushed by the Uruguayan’s shoulder not his head, but through VAR, the goal was awarded anyway. (Such great software.)

Luke Shaw then went on to get himself booked, ruling him out of the next leg. As did Sergio Busquets for a foul on Paul Pogba.

The goal seemed to awaken something in the hosts, as Chris Smalling’s aggressiveness led to a rearrangement of Lionel Messi’s face and a bloody nose which kept him subdued for the rest of the match.

Lionel Messi receives treatment for his bloody nose. Credit: Evening Standard
Lionel Messi receives treatment for his bloody nose. Credit: Evening Standard

Apart from the chance missed by Diogo Dalot and Philippe Coutinho’s shot blocked by De Gea’s boot, the match remained uneventful, as Barcelona stayed on their side of the pitch for most of the rest of the second half.

Manchester United missed their chance to get one up on a sub-par Barcelona and at home which was a wasted gift, if you ask me. That definitely won’t be the case in the next leg and it would take some magic greater than the PSG miracle from the round of 16 for United to progress.

Ajax 1 – Juventus 1

‘The Old Lady’ definitely brought game to Amsterdam last night, as the great CR7 made his presence known after fumbling for most of the first half, mostly through no fault of his own, but Ajax really brought the heat with rapid fire attacks.

The hosts played beautiful football and had many attempts at goal, with a dangerous one from duo Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech but Juventus keeper, Wojciech Szczensy, stopped the wonderful effort from being a ‘goal of the season’ contender.

A few minutes to half-time, however the match tipped in favour of the visitors when Ronaldo ran about 40 yards to catch a cross from fellow Portuguese Joao Cancelo and headed it home blazing past Andre Onana.

This marked Ronaldo’s eighth goal against Ajax and his twenty-fourth Champions League goal in twenty appearances. Just shows that he is the GOAT.

Cristiano Ronaldo heads the ball in for Juventus. Credit: Evening Standard
Cristiano Ronaldo heads the ball in for Juventus. Credit: Evening Standard

But this goal, if anything, just intensified the determination of the Sons of God, with Matthijs de Ligt running all over the pitch, terrorising the Italian club.

And so thirty seconds after return from half-time, Ajax’s David Neres took advantage of a cheap mistake by Cancelo and weaved through the defense before curling a sweet shot in the right corner of the net, leaving Szczensy with no chance. (That’s a hard name to type.)

David Neres (right) celebrates his solo goal. Credit: Evening Standard
David Neres (right) celebrates his solo goal. Credit: Evening Standard

Ajax piled on pressure with two other attempts and Juventus were denied a penalty based on VAR. (Again, such great software.)

Nineteen year old Ajax substitute, Jürgen Ekkelenkamp (these names though) took a shot at goal which was stopped by Juve’s keeper. Douglas Costa who came on for Mario Mandzukic wriggled past two Ajax players, only to hit the bar.

This leaves the score even, giving Juventus a slight edge, as the next leg will be played in Turin.


Champions League Quarter-Finals Update

The first matches of the UEFA Champions League final were played last night.

Tottenham 1 – Manchester City 0

Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son celebrates the only goal of the match

Manchester City went to Tottenham last night and the performance they put on was very unlike them and below standard. Tottenham on the other hand, encouraged by the new stadium and feeding off the excitement of their fans and the ‘home advantage’ did not disappoint.

Tottenham’s goalie, Hugo Lloris had suffered a bad run in their last Premier League match by letting in a cheap Liverpool goal but he redeemed himself by blocking a potentially dangerous penalty from Sergio Agüero.

However, the goalkeeper was not the only reason City was unable to score yesterday. Tottenham really held City all over the pitch, with Harry Winks showing extreme maturity with his defending and attacking.

Tottenham overcame Agüero’s penalty scare and Harry Kane’s injury which resulted from a struggle with Fabian Delph.

Harry Kane receives treatment for his ankle injury which could rule him out of action for a while

Son’s goal in the later parts of the match was well-deserved and it sealed the deal for Tottenham.

Were Manchester City looking at this match as a walk over? Did they all have Kevin De Bruyne’s sentiment about there being no relation between a new stadium, loud, energetic supporters and match success?

Well whatever they felt, Man City only have themselves to blame and cannot complain. They should have remembered last year’s incident with fellow English club, Liverpool. Only gratitude is expected as Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son scored only one goal.

Liverpool 2 – Porto 0

The match’s two goal scorers celebrate together

Liverpool and Porto faced off at Anfield for the first leg of the quarter-final.

Manager Jürgen Klopp said he was left ‘satisfied’ by the performance of his team and of the final result.

Maybe it was underestimation, or maybe it was the bitter cold, but Liverpool’s performance was quite average, even below average at times. Many times, Porto had the upper hand and had a try at goal in the second minute, when Moussa Marega made a shot that went a little too wide.

But three minutes later, Guinean footballer Naby Keïta scored his second goal in two games. His shot was deflected of Porto midfielder, Oliver Torres and could not be stopped by keeper Iker Casillas.

After this Mohamed Salah attempted two shots on goal (one which was as the result of a sloppy Porto pass) and then, in the twenty-fifth minute, Jordan Henderson cut up the visitors’ defense and sent a superb pass to Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The youngster passed to Roberto Firmino who tapped in the ball from close range.

Firmino had another chance to score but kicked the ball from Henderson over the bar.

Sadio Mané had a chance but the goal was ruled as offside. And besides this and Marega’s two other dangerous attempts which were saved by Liverpool’s Allison Becker, there were not really any other attempts in the scrappy second half.

Liverpool might regret their sloppy play in the second leg, because a two goal deficit is easy to overcome, should Porto bring this same fighting spirit.

Today’s matches are between

Manchester United and Barcelona

Ajax and Juventus

Both at 8:00 pm

Champions League: Quarter-Finals

Today marks the first day of the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Who are you supporting?

Tottenham and Manchester City meet today outside the English Premier League at the Spurs newly constructed stadium. The Premier League rivalry will probably be carried into today’s game and both teams have the understandable desire to get to the finals, as Tottenham’s furthest in the Champions League is the quarter-finals (2010/11) and Manchester City reached the semis last season, only to be beaten by Liverpool.

Liverpool have enjoyed good Champions League form recently, making it to the finals last year. But fears are, they might not see Porto as a big issue. In football, however, every team is a potential problem and Liverpool will want to give their best.

On Wednesday, Manchester United and Barcelona meet at Old Trafford. This is definitely not the first time they are meeting and it probably won’t be the last. However, unlike recent years when they met in the final, there is still a ‘forward’ where only one team can go from here. Although Barcelona are favourites to win, the return of Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sánchez instills the Red Devil’s with new hope.

The great CR7 may be fit enough for Amsterdam as they take on Ajax. His influence has certainly been missed during his time off because of an injury picked up on international duty. But will Moise Kean feature?

All matches for today and tomorrow will be played at 8:00 pm.

The Dancing Kean

Moise Kean. You’ve got to love his thick skin in the face of discrimination.

This extraordinary teenager came off the bench for Juventus on Saturday against AC Milan, scored a goal with a legendary low-finish (with an assist from Miralem Pjanic) and then proceeded to dance in celebration.

And which player came to join in the celebration first? Leo Bonnuci, the same person who less than a week ago said Kean was partly to blame for the racist abuse against him by Cagliari fans. He also was a factor in opposing side Milan’s goal on Saturday.

Bonucci (middle) celebrates with Moise Kean after he scored the winning goal in the 84th minute
Bonucci (middle) celebrates with Moise Kean after he scored the winning goal in the 84th minute

Moise Kean has now scored 5 goals in 6 appearances for Juve since the beginning of March and he’s really not leaving room for the fans of the ‘Old Lady’ to miss their fairly new main man Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s down with an injury picked up on international duty.

Many people are telling Moise Kean to dance on and are hoping that he continues to play even after Ronaldo returns.

His skills have secured Juventus their seventh straight Scudetto and denied AC Milan another win in the Derby d’Italia.

Juventus players celebrate their win over AC Milan in the Derby d'Italia
Juventus players celebrate their win over AC Milan in the Derby d’Italia

Who is Moise Kean?

Although he just turned 19, the Italian-born Ivorian has been on everyone’s lips, and not just for his game-changing style of play.

On Tuesday, a week after England’s star players were racially abused during an international match in Montenegro, Moise Kean, a rising star in Italian football was subject to racist abuse during a Serie A match between Juventus and Cagliari.

The teenager had to endure monkey chants and a rude Italian gesture known as a ‘buu’ (which sounds exactly like it looks) from a section of Cagliari fans during a game Juventus won away 2-0.

After scoring his team’s second goal late in the match, the 19-year-old held his arms aloft in front of the home fans, which intensified the abuse.

“The best way to respond to racism,” he wrote on Instagram afterwards aside a picture of himself with arms outstretched.

Instead of receiving support from his teammates, however, Kean was reprimanded, and even told the incident was partly his fault.

Leonardo Bonucci was one of the players that came over to Kean, pulling him away as he stood and celebrated in front of the Cagliari fans with his arms outstretched.

Left: Bonucci celebrates his goalRight: Bonucci leads Kean away form the Cagliari fans Left: Bonucci celebrates his goal

Right: Bonucci leads Kean away form the Cagliari fansIn his post-match interview with SkySport Italia, the Juventus centre-back, who scored the first goal in the match was critical of his teammate's actions:Left: Bonucci celebrates his goal; Right: Bonucci leads Kean away from jeering fans[/caption]

Speaking to Sky Sport Italia after the match, Bonucci said:

“There were racist jeers after the goal, Blaise (Matuidi) heard it and was angered. I think the blame is 50-50, because Moise shouldn’t have done that and the Curva should not have reacted that way.”We are professionals, we have to set the example and not provoke anyone.”

Of course since he made those controversial remarks, many have supported the fact that Kean stood up to racist supporters, including fellow ‘black’ footballers Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli who have also been victims of racist abuse.

And many more have slammed Bonucci’s post-match comments.

England and Manchester City star Raheem Sterling led the criticism of the defender’s remarks, posting on Instagram: “All you can do now is laugh,” while English rapper Stormzy has also gone against Bonucci on the same social media platform.

Much traveled striker Mario Balotelli, while speaking to ESPN in February said that racism in Italy was much worse than in any other country he had played in, commented on Kean’s Instagram post:

“Bravo. Bonucci is lucky that I wasn’t there. Instead of defending you he does this? I am shocked,” he wrote.

Bonucci, 31, has since posted an Instagram story which said: “Regardless of everything, in any case … No to racism.”

But that did little to calm the storm caused by his initial reaction.

Netherlands and Lyon Memphis Depay directly addressed Bonucci on Twitter, posting: “I am disappointed in your reaction … We will not be quiet!”

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba reposted Kean’s picture, with the caption: “I support every fight against racism, we’re all equal.”

Among those also supporting Kean was former Juventus and Manchester United defender Patrice Evra tweeted: “This is not acceptable in football or anywhere in the world. Well done to @MoiseKean for standing up to them and showing them who is boss.”

Former Barcelona and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has described Leonardo Bonucci and Massimiliano Allegri’s criticism of Moise Kean after suffering racist abuse as ‘unbelievable’ and ‘a disgrace’.

During a UEFA’s Equal Game conference on Wednesday, Toure who has been advocating for severe punishment for culprits found guilty of racism called out the Juventus manager, Massimiliano Allegri and the experienced centre-back for their initial responses and he awaits the decision of the Italian FA regarding the issue.

“For me, it’s a disgrace. You can’t do that,” Toure was quoted as saying by ESPN.

“It was unbelievable. A teammate, a manager saying: ‘You shouldn’t have done that’ to one of your own players.

“I want to know if the Italian FA is here today?

“I want to see what the Italian FA is going to do about that. It’s really important because this is what we’re fighting for. I want to see what the response is.

“I have been in football for many years now and to be honest I haven’t seen progress. It’s always the same things. We are in 2019 now and look at what happened yesterday?”

Meanwhile, Nigeria international and Brighton defender Leon Balogun has expressed his support for Kean but is still stunned by Bonucci’s comments.

“We’re standing united behind you brother, Moise Kean,” Balogun tweeted. “Wondering how Leonardo Bonucci would react if you do the same thing in front of him after scoring your next goal.”

24 hours after his outburst, the Italian defender has now issued a statement seeking to clarify his interview about the racial abuse the 19-year-old received:

“After 24 hours I want to clarify my feelings,” he said on his official Instagram.

“Yesterday I was interviewed right at the end of the game, and my words have been clearly misunderstood, probably because I was too hasty in the way I expressed my thoughts.”

Hours and years wouldn’t be enough to talk about this topic. I firmly condemn all forms of racism and discrimination.

“The abuses are not acceptable at all and this must not be misunderstood.”

In the aftermath of the game, Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri said that there should be a lifetime ban handed down to the fans chanting racist abuse:

“He scored another goal and did better in the second half, whereas he got more or less everything wrong in the first half,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“I didn’t hear anything from the stands, as I was focused on the game. You need great intelligence to deal with these situations and should not go to provoke people. That, of course, does not mean the idiots in the crowd and the way they reacted should be justified.

“As always in life, there are idiots who do stupid things and ruin it for everyone else. I don’t think talking about it all the time helps. I don’t think halting play helps, because not everyone in the stadium did that.”

“I Can’t Wait to See the Back of Football”

England's Danny Rose walks past jeering Montenegro fans
England’s Danny Rose walks past jeering Montenegro fans

These are the words of England International, Danny Rose in response to the recent racist incidents in football.

I can’t wait to see the back of football.

When countries get fined what I probably spend on a night out in London, what do you expect?

How I programme myself is that I think I have five or six more years left in football. There is so much politics.

I can’t wait to see the back of it.

– Danny Rose

The game has become greatly hampered by people who seem to just now see the skin colour of their favourite players.

Euro 2020 Qualifiers

Some of England’s star players who played during the international break against Montenegro were racially abused, causing Raheem Sterling to speak out yet again.

Sterling has become a voice of reason and a sort of ambassador of equality in football.

Racists chants were reportedly directed at a number of England players, with defender Danny Rose subjected to monkey chants towards the end of the match, when the Tottenham player was being shown a yellow card.

Speaking to Sky Sports in the mixed zone after the match, Sterling said:
“All of us know what skin color we are so they’re not saying anything new.

“It’s 2019, I keep saying it, and it’s a shame to see this keeps going on.

“We can only bring awareness and light to the situation. It’s now time for the people in charge to put a real stamp on it. You’ve got to punish people a bit harder, you’ve gotta do something that makes them think twice.
“If you can’t play in front of fans then that’s going to make them think harder. Me and the FA can only do so much, we’ve got to leave it to the people in charge to make a proper stance on it.”

Raheem Sterling celebrates and puts his hands to his ears during England's 5-0 win over Montenegro
Raheem Sterling celebrates and puts his hands to his ears during England’s 5-0 win over Montenegro

On Monday, England manager Gareth Southgate described the incidents as “unacceptable” and “very sad,” especially as Callum Hudson-Odoi who had an amazing international debut was not asked about the experience, but rather about the racist comments of fans.

Callum Hudson-Odoi
Callum Hudson-Odoi
On Monday, England manager Gareth Southgate described the incidents as “unacceptable” and “very sad.”

He told reporters: “We had an excellent performance and have an 18-year-old [Callum Hudson-Odoi] being interviewed after the game having to respond to what’s happened when his evening should be about the joy of his full debut.

“It’s 2019, I keep saying it, and it’s a shame to see this keeps going on.”

What’s Going On Ole?

Manchester United suffered yet another embarrassing defeat yesterday at the Molineux, the home of the Wolverhampton Wanderers.

This is the second game played away at Wolves this season and United still managed to be beaten by two goals to one.

It’s Ole’s first defeat as official manager of Manchester United, and it seemed that the Reds did not want the three points as much as Wolves did.

With Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard both missing clear headers from close range and captain Ashley Young sent off after a messy tackle on the Wolves goal scorer, Scott McTominay’s early efforts to score a goal were effectively cancelled out.

United played about an hour with only ten men and against a very good opposing No.1, Rui Patricio, in Wolverhampton’s team who blocked McTominay’s two other attempts.

A strike from Diogo Jota and an own goal from Chris Smalling handed Wolves the three points on a silver platter.

Understandably, the United gaffer was confused and disappointed that his side could not convert their chances.

“They scored with their first chance after the sending off, about 20-25 minutes after the sending off. So, the boys have done exactly what they’re meant to but we conceded goals from sloppy mistakes and we didn’t score ourselves.

He continued, “Of course, it’s three points [dropped] and we knew that we’d have to have 15 points probably to get that position [fourth]. We’ve still got 6 games to get them 15 points. So we’ve just got to look forward and dust ourselves down, because [it was a] disappointing result, but a very good performance.”

Had United won this match, they would have moved straight to third place on the Premier League table with 64 points, however, it was not to be.

Now they’re out of the Champions League group of top four teams, will they be able to struggle their way into fourth?

Liverpool at the Top of The Table

Yesterday’s match between Liverpool and Tottenham had fans rooting for rival teams.

Manchester United fans desperately wanted long time enemies Liverpool FC to win the match to keep third placed Tottenham Hotspur level with 61 points. And win they did.

With a long hard battle of blood, sweat and tears, an own goal by Christian Eriksen was what sealed the fate of the Spurs. Liverpool’s Egyptian king, Mohamed Salah scored again for the first time in seven games, leading to a dramatic finish at home for the Reds.

They now sit firmly on the top of the table with 2 points clear of Manchester City. At least for now. Manchester City plays Huddersfield this week and as the League title holders they definitely will not give up without a fight.

During post match interviews with Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner, the two defenders said they believed they won the match because “they wanted it more.”

Well, with less than 10 games till the end of the season, it seems likely that Liverpool will get to lift the Premier League trophy. Then again, as we know, this is the English Premier League and anything can happen.

Huddersfield Relegated

In yesterday’s “Goal Rush” Saturday, Huddersfield Town sealed their relegation fate as they lost 2-0 to Crystal Palace.If the other low placed teams had not won their matches yesterday, their relegation would have still been up for debate. ( Yesterday’s scores: Leicester City 2- Bournemouth 0; Brighton 0- Southampton 1; Burnley 2 – Wolves 0; West Ham 0 – Everton 2; Manchester City 2 – Fulham 0)

However, with only 3 wins and a goal difference number in the negative 40s, it seemed quite unlikely that Huddersfield would play in the Premier League next season. With 6 games still left for them to play in the English Premier League, they matched the record of Derby County who also sealed their relegation fate in the 2006/07 season with 6 games to spare.

After two years in the Premier League the players certainly feel disappointed but the only way to move forward is to build on the past failings.

In other Premier League news, Ole Gunnar Solskjær showed the board of his former club made a good decision by appointing him long term manager. He continued the club’s winning legacy with a 2-1 victory over Watford.

Although Manchester United’s display was definitely less motivated and impressive than their visitors, two main strikers Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial found the net, giving them their 3 points, and goalkeeper David De Gea kept the Watford goals to a minimum, placing the team in 4th place with 61 points, the same as 3rd placed Tottenham.

However, the table will soon change with today’s games, especially the game between Liverpool and Tottenham.