why football is a special game (valencia 1×1 schalke)

 

messi might show some of his magic this evening, in london...

after a couple of months, finally the uefa champions league is back – the decisive phase is upon us, and great matchups promise great matches, like the one this evening between barcelona light (arsenal fc) and fc barcelona. be sure to catch that one, and hope for a messi and/or van persie show – or some great action from iniesta, villa, xavi, arshavin,  cesc fabregas chamakh and so many more. fabregas, who wanted to move to barcelona last summer, will be especially motivated!

yesterday, i watched a fascinating match between 500 million euro debt against 250 million euro debt. valencia c.f. played schalke 04 at home, raul played on spanish soil again. it was fascinating not because it was a great game (which it was not, although it wasn’t a bad game either), but it just shows who how this very specific sport is. after around 10 minutes of cautious play, valencia started playing with the confidence of five wins in six matches, this year. high velocity football with technical quality, extremely well organized as a team, not leaving any breathing time for the schalke defenders and midfielders. schalke seemed almost always late, and when the got a ball, it would be a matter of seconds for valencia to get it back. agressive pressing, concentrated passing and positioning – but only one goal by roberto soldado, who sat on real madrid’s bench for a long time because of raul (and, more towards the end, besides raul). 1×0 was not enough for valencia, and they deserved to be two up at least, even if  schalke striker klaas jan huntelaar did miss an incredible opportunity, showing off his horrible form of the past months.

 

raul was the hero in spain, yesterday.

the second half was even more frightening for the german fans in valencia, around 2000. schalke lost the ball even faster, metzelder in central defense and matip in central midfield were having a horrible game, and it seemed a question of time until valencia scored their second goal. and you already felt it in the air, after that it could be a catastrophe for schalke, and glory for valencia, just like their matches against bursaspor earlier this champions league season.

but after 65 minutes, lukas schmitz (young, inexperienced but talented left back who has having a terrible day) succeeded in a fast forward pass to the spaniard jurado (talented but sloppy, also having a bad day), who passed the ball to raul. perfect goal from an experienced attacker, literally beating the keeper and defender navarro at the same time and scoring the incredibly unfair equalizer.

the whole match changed.

in any other sport, a team like schalke would be down so far that this lucky, but still brillant punch could start a momentum leading to a change in the game, but it wouldn’t necessarily. but in football, it was as if the game restarted, with now less than half an hour to go.

valencia had invested a lot, and the 1×1 scoreline didn’t seem to compensate that effort. the legs became heavy and tired. they would not be able o produce any dangerous chances until the end of the match, even with chances being created. the physical force just left them, and the mental went with it. schalke was not strong enough a team to take advantage and actually win the game, which they would have, had they played a football even similar to valencia’s display in the first hour. at the end, 1×1 wasn’t even an unfair result, although no one would dare dispute the fact that valencia played much better than schalke.

that’s this strange game. now, 79,000 people will watch the second leg in gelsenkirchen, and schalke will be the favorite to advance to the quarterfinal – just because of one genius moment in the match.

that’s football, as they say.

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champions league – day 1 roundup

quite a few stories could be told about the first round of matches in the 2010/11 champions league season, which will end in the holy lawn of the wembley stadium in around eight months. for me, the main story is unveiled by a look at the bernabeu stadium.

real madrid dream of the champions league title. they won the first five editions, another one in 1966; and then it took them 32 years to get back on top. in 98, jupp heynckes (today trainer at leverkusen) brought the title back home, after a slim 1×0 final victory over juventus and zidane. in 2000, the “galacticos” didn’t give valencia a chance, and lifted the trophy for the tenth time. and the 2002 triumph had zinedine zidane written all over it, with his beautiful goal deciding a game that was actually more leverkusen’s match. since then, no tenth title. last year, cristiano ronaldo, karim benzema and kaká were supposed to “force” the title to the bernabeu, but the final on their home ground brought winner josé mourinho, who has generally been seen as the main new signing of the madrileños. until sunday.

mesut özil was going to shine in the world cup, basically any german knew that. but that he is shining this bright in such a short period of time is almost dangerous – but it is a tribute to his class and talent. özil has brought more hope to the madrid fans and even sports press in two games than kaká and cristiano ronaldo in a whole season. on sunday and yesterday, josé mourinho took him out of the game minutes from time, just to give him his deserved standing ovations. and standing ovations for a single player in the bernabeu are rare, let again twice in a week. real madrid’s 2×0 had özil show his fast thinking, easy-looking technique and physical endurance showcased, and the public was enchanted. it is too early, but it would be a great beginning for a new era in the club.

here are some other shorter stories of matchday one:

  • scored two goals for milan: zlatan ibrahimovic.

    manchester conceded two goals in over time on the weekend to tie 3×3 with everton, and now not even old trafford could give them  much needed victory over the rangers. scotsman ferguson will be mad.

  • arsenal did what they do best: play on one goal even if the scoreline is 3×0 already. 6×0 sounds harsh, tough luck for newcomers sporting braga.
  • messi is back to being messi, helping barcelona to victory; and ibrahimovic, his ex-colleague, is back o deciding matches, this time for ac milan. is milan back? let’s see.
  • bayern were as dominant as they have been this year, in terms of ball possession. and müller & klose picked up where they left off at the world cup: the first with a beauty of a goal, the second with a goal of pure will and experience. no chance for as roma and a horrible performance by francesco totti.
  • champions internazionale had their problems in holland and did not come home with 3 points in their luggage – a little bit surprising, to say the least, since it wasn’t psv, ajax or feyenoord, but champions twente enschede.
  • wherever there is werder bremen, expect excitement: 0x2 at home to tottenham after 12 minutes, 2×2 already at the beginning of the second half – and a dozen of lost chances to seal the match. bremen’s back, tottenham scored their first goals and first point in their young champions league history.
Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 18:33  Leave a Comment  
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