Sunday, May 31, 2009

CSKA Moskva wins Russian Cup

Despite playing much of the match a man-down, CSKA Moskva defeated Rubin Kazan to win their second consecutive Russian Cup.

The match was a cagey affair with the Army-Men painted into a tactical corner when Pavel Mamaev was sent off with a straight red-card at the thirteenth minute when he pulled down Alejandro Domínguez. Playing a man down, CSKA showed great patience, controlling the final third and rarely allowing Rubin a solid opportunity to strike at Igor Akinfeev. However in a shocking conclusion, with the match seemingly headed towards extra-time Evgeni Aldonin found the winning mark a minute into added-time. Accepting a simple pass by Daniel Carvalho, the Russian international took advantage of Rubin defenders asleep at the wheel, pushing the ball forward before lashing it to the bottom left corner of the net for the incredible victory.

Фото: ЦСКА Профессиональный футбольный клуб Photo: PFC CSKA Moskva

Porto wins Taça de Portugal

Os Dragões season came to a conclusion as they defeated Paços de Ferreira 1-0 to win the Taça de Portugal at the Estádio Nacional in Lisbon.

With a large following of azuis e brancos supporters in the stands, Porto took the lead six minutes in as Raul Meireles lobbed the ball over the opposition defenders to Lisandro López, who made no mistake with the opportunity. For the balance of the match the majority of plan was a box to box affair with a number of golden opportunities missed, including those by Lisandro López and Hulk that were missed. However Paços de Ferreira could not find a way past veteran 'keeper and the match ended with Porto victorious 1-0.

Following the match a jubliant Jesualdo Ferreira was respectful of Paços de Ferreira, noting them a side with "great dignity" and "quality".

Diego Milito's final day with Genoa

On the surface, Genoa's 4-1 victory over Lecce was a typical year-end affair with little at stake. However this was far a typical day at the office, as in-truth the purpose of the match was to bid farewell to Diego Milito, a Spring celebration of a love that will never die between the young Argentine and the people of Genova.

For the most part the match was a well constructed encounter with relegation threatened Lecce showing well early on. However little by by little, Genoa ate away at their visitors lines and begin to pry them open. Midway of the opening half Sokratis Papastathopoulos created space on the right and sent a perfect cross into the box from the right byline that Crvena Zvezda product Boško Janković flicked artistically into the back of the net giving the Rossoblu. Down by one, Lecce showed tremendous pride and a few minutes past the half hour mark Simone Tiribocchi drove the ball to the opposite corner from the top of the box bringing the match even. Still all eyes were on Il Principe and with touch of the ball, the faithful rose to their feet, hoping and wishing that their hero would give them one last memory to cling to. That would come in time and oh how would it but first seven minutes into the new half, Diego drove into the area and from the left side of the area he laid the ball back to Domenico Criscito to pound into the opposite corner of the net. Now with a 2-1 lead, the stage was sent for the final Act to be played out. Four minutes shy of the hour, from the right Giuseppe Sculli fed the ball to the man of the day and after a touch for control he deftly chipped the ball in. The crowd roared its approval with ounce of strength it could muster but still there was so much more to come. With twenty-three minutes remaining Anthony Vanden Borre split the Lecce defenders providing Diego the perfect opportunity for this second of the day and he naturally obliged to make it 4-1, sending the faithful into rapturous delight. Despite a number of fine opportunities thereafter the match concluded without further mark but that of-course was only the opening Act for the day.

The real story of the day was not of the match or even Diego Milito's "storybook" two goals but the tearful goodbye shared by fans and the player alike. There are annual "goodbyes" and even chances when teams thank their supporters but this was no typical encounter. Reaching to every corner of the grounds, his personal relationship with the fans was earnest and something rarely seen in the sport today. This wasn't merely respectful or even of a man accepting of being the idol of many but a deep love and care for the area.

The "how's" and "why" the deal to see him off to Inter Milan is one to speculate and I very much doubt I will ever believe I will ever believe this is a deal Diego Milito wished to see happen. However one thing I am positive of after witnessing this outpouring today, Il Principe will forever be at home in Genova.

Rangers win double

The Rangers trophy case continues to expand as they collected the Scottish Cup after defeating Falkirk 1-0 at Hampden Park. Along with the Scottish Premier League title, the season wrought with so many troubles has turned quickly for the Gers.

The winning mark came from Nacho Novo a minute after the break as he collected a throw-in from Saša Papac and sent a dipping effort to the far right corner from outside the box. The goal seemed to have caught Falkirk 'keeper Dani Mallo off the line and shocked by the turn and half-volley strike. The lead would certainly leave Falkirk supporters feel hard done by as they were the debatably the dominant side in the opening forty-five minutes. However after the break, Walter Smith ushered in Nacho Novo for Kris Boyd and the result was immediate. For the balance of the match fortune fall the Rangers way as Falkirk threatened on numerous occasions, even having a goal called by with a debatable offside call. However it was not be for the Falkirk side and Walter Smith and company completed the miraculous double.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

je ne regrette rien

Paris Saint-Germain's remarkable campaign came to a conclusion as the played Monaco to a scoreless draw at Parc des Princes. While it is true the fortunes of the club turned downward late in the season, it is year void of regrettable moments and one to celebrate. Pride has returned to wearing the beautiful colours of les Rouge et Bleu.

The match was of-course the final curtain call for Monsieur Paul Le Guen and as they situations often are, he is deserving of utmost respect. I cannot help forget the sorrow of last year, when the Parisians walked the razors edge of relegation only to be saved in the last gasps of the season. From survival came a new breath of air and with confidence, hope and pride in the worlds most beautiful city and despite managements horrendous decision to not extend the managers contract, his work is at the root of the clubs re-birth.

Of the match, it was a solemn affair and I suspect for PSG, the lack of venom was a carryover from the moment it was announced Paul Le Guen would not be back. Realistic scoring chances were a rare find as defending was the order of the day. However as the match wound down, the Parisians stirred with late efforts by Guillaume Hoarau, Jérémy Clément and Clément Chantôme whispering that the winning goal was near. Finally two minutes into added time Sylvain Armand struck the crossbar but that was as close as it would get.

Sadly the result leaves Paris Saint-Germain out of the Europa League and while disappointing, this is a year to celebrate. Whether it the emergence of Guillaume Hoarau, Clément Chantôme and Mamadou Sakho, the extraordinary attacking vision of Stéphane Sessegnon and of course the leadership of Claude Makélélé and Ludovic Giuly, PSG was packed full of remarkable highlights.

Werder wins DFB Pokal

The Green Whites salvaged their season by claiming the DFB Pokal with a 1-0 victory over Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The victory provides the club the added benefit of claiming a spot in the Europa League set to begin this summer.

With captain Frank Baumann playing in his final match for Werder before a sold-out Olympiastadion, fans of Bundesliga action were treated to a high flying encounter. The Green-Whites had ample opportunity to score early but efforts by Austria's Sebastian Prödl and Naldo fell short. Space was starting to close down but two minutes before the hour Werder would score the lone goal as Mesut Özil accepted Juventus-bound Diego's provision and drove the ball in, via a opportunistic deflection of Manuel Friedrich. Remarkably a few minutes after the goal Frank Baumann was forced out of the match due to an injury but after ten years of service the great leader waved in appreciation to the adoring fans one final time. Down by one the Leverkusen side poured forward in the final half hour and despite being a continuous threat they could not find a way past Tim Wiese.

The victory sits well for Werder as it provides great solace in a difficult season. Under the leadership of Klaus Allofs and Thomas Schaaf will rebuild and return to the heights of the Bundesliga. Their leadership and insight as Werder men is irreplaceable and should provide true supporters of the club confidence of the future.

Everton's FA Cup dream ends in defeat

Everton's dream of hoisting the FA Cup came to an end as they lost 2-1 to Chelsea at Wembley.

The match started perfectly of David Moyes' side as they grabbed the 1-0 lead less than thirty seconds as Marouane Fellaini provided the ball to Louis Saha for a close range finish. However down a goal, Guus Hiddink took care in providing his side a patient vision and they squared the match up twenty minutes in by Florent Malouda's cross was headed in with power by Didier Drogba. Everton was clearly on their heels now as Chelsea was in a attacking mode. At the half Lars Jacobsen was summoned in for Tony Hibbert to try and shore up the problems at the back but Chelsea was driving forward relentlessly. After a Saha header screamed just wide of the post Frank Lampard got on the end of Michael Ballack's pass and pounded the ball in with eighteen minutes left. With the goal Chelsea's confidence grew and the Toffees barely threatened as the match ended with a 2-1 loss.

Following the match David Moyes echoed his support of this side to BBC Sport:

"It's disappointing not to finish with a trophy but I'm very proud of the players. I can't fault them, they have been excellent and I've told them that," he said.

"I've got to give them credit. Last year we reached a semi-final in the League Cup, this year a final.

"Whether or not we won, it was progress for us. Hopefully the next bit, winning a cup, will come next year."

Werkself's DFB Pokal efforts fall short

Werkself’s DFB Pokal run came to end as they lost 1-0 to Bremen via a second half deflected shot from Mesut Özil. The result brings Bayer 04's difficult season to an end with the club once again missing out on European competition.

With a large band of traveling supporters from the Rhineland Werkself had good support in the capital. In the early stages of the match they had a lot to cheer about as Bruno Labbadia's side had the momentum. However play in the final third was insufficient and despite the advantage with ball possession, they were unable to make something of it. Bremen slowly started to get its footing with Diego being the cause of many of Werkself’s problem. The deadlock was broken just before the hour when Mesut Özil's shot struck Manuel Friedrich and squeezed past René Adler for the 1-0 lead. Looking for the right touch Bruno Labbadia brought in Toni Kroos for Arturo Vidal and Angelos Charisteas late but they were unable to break through as the match ending in a 1-0 loss.

Diego Milito issues public statement

Diego Milito expresses his care for the people of Genova in a heartfelt open letter to the public, published on the club web-site.

Quite obviously troubled by his departure to Inter Milan, the Argentine striker stressed his care for the fans and that "we will see each other again and that this isn't a goodbye." Throughout the honest letter, Il Principe expresses his love for the club and people and the values of the genoanità, which he will carry forward in his own family.

I hasten to call this a "well crafted" letter and only make note of this as I believe this is far from a "public relations" move. In an era where athletes move to the next club the moment the fund transfer is complete, this speaks volumes of Il Principe.

Genoa v Lecce match preview

As the campaign comes to a conclusion Sunday afternoon with Lecce visiting Stadio Luigi Ferraris this match will without question be a "farewell match" for Diego Milito. Il Principe is off to Inter Milan yet a day before his final appearance for the Rossoblu he issued one of the most heartfelt statements to the public this writer has seen in the sport for quite some time. In a sport that barely resembles its past at time for the vast riches bestowed on players, Mr Milito effectively cast his image in bronze of Genova with his undying love for the people of the area. Rarely in today's game do you see someone rise above it, to express the principles of the area as something he wishes to pass onto his family but Il Principe has done precisely that and will forever be the Genova's chosen son.

It has been an extraordinary year, possibly incomprehensible at times as the club that fought back from Serie B will now ply its trade in the Europa League. As #22 walks off the pitch one final time, no doubt it will be a difficult one for the faithful to accept but as they look back upon the year it will be hailed as one of the clubs finest moments.

The match is of-course of little statistical consequence. The table as already been set for both sides with Lecce unable to escape relegation. The only absences for Gian Piero Gasperini's side will be without Rubén Olivera and Ivan Jurić, both suspended for last weekends shenanigans as well as Raffaele Palladino who are injured. Giuseppe Sculli and Boško Janković will have the honour of forming the attacking trident with Diego Milito this one final time.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wales defeats Estonia 1-0

Without the services of skipper Craig Bellamy, James Collins, Jason Koumas and Simon Davies a youthful Wales side did well in a friendly Friday evening defeating Estonia 1-0 in Llanelli.

Quite obviously with chances of qualifying for the World Cup cast aside it is time for John Toshack to lay the foundation for the future. As the score would suggest finishing was below par but in-truth much of the match this was more of a "under" side getting its feet wet before next weeks visit of Azerbaijan. That said, Wales did create the majority of scoring chances and just need to find their "shooting boots" as early efforts by Nottingham Forest's Robert Earnshaw and Tottenham's Chris Gunter were dreadful. More dreadful than the finish was a horrendous handball call on Estonia's Alo Bärengrub with the spot being pointed to five minutes shy of the half hour. This time Robert Earnshaw as he plunked the ball to the back of the net giving Wales the 1-0 lead. Efforts came and went and as the score suggests, neither side was able to find the needed touch as the match concluded without further incident.

Following the match, John Toshack noted his satisfaction with the performance:

"We needed this run-out ahead of the World Cup game, it was important."

Of the upcoming Azerbaijan he echoed the learning curve of his young side:

"It will be interesting to see how they cope because it will be a hostile place and very hot.

"I have never fielded such a young side as that, certainly not at club level. I would have gone out and bought half a dozen players by now.

"We will find a match that will be a good character builder for them all."

Paris Saint-Germain hands reigns to Antoine Kombouaré

Ligue 1's worst kept secret was finally announced as Paris Saint-Germain announced that Valenciennes manager Antoine Kombouaré will take over this summer, signing a three-year contract.

Once it was announced that Paul Le Guen's contract would not be renewed there was little doubt who the new man would be. For fans of les Rouge et Bleu, it will be interesting to note if he will change his tactical styling given the heightened talent base or if he will continue with a more battened down defensive plan.

Newcastle slices 120 jobs

As Newcastle continues to deal with relegation fallout, an entire new round of cutbacks have come to volition in day six, that is a great deal more sobering. While management and pundits mull over a list of players salaries amassing £887k per week, the club eliminated 120 administrative positions today.

There isn't a single player anywhere that can ease the sorrow of a family when a member loses their job. I care little of the little darlings who make a annual salary and more each week, regardless of their ability on the pitch, when men and women lose their jobs. The economic downturn in the area has been a painful one but this cuts like a razor and should any player, one single player debate why he shouldn't take a massive pay cut, I suggest they visit the families who will have difficulty putting food before their loved ones.

Whilst management and fans review the salary list, including players they want to keep on the squad, remember the families who know face a more challenging financial future.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Claude Makélélé to return to PSG

In a surprise decision, Claude Makélélé has decided to return to the les Rouge et Bleu next years. Whilst many considered the captain likely to announce his retirement he is eager to continue leading the Parisians, saying:

"I'm staying because the president assured me that the next coach of the club would want me here. That was my first condition. I'll stay on the pitch for another season, because Sébastien Bazin wants me to play until 2010.

"I want to work for the club - be available for the president, the coach and the sporting director.

"I'm very interested in recruitment. My overseas network, my charisma and my standing in the game can help the club."

Stephen Ireland commits to Man City

With the campaign behind us, City supporters are ready to boil over with possible additions. The rumours run wild with a countless grouping of mega-stars linked the possible offers from club. However in one the best possible early moves the club could make, it has signed Stephen Ireland to a five year deal.

The twenty-two year-old stole the show this year and has been rewarding with a deal that escalates to £80k per week in the final stages of the contract for a total value of £18m.

Pledging his undying loyalty to Man City, he said:

"I never had any doubts about staying. Regardless, I was going to be here, and hopefully for the remainder of my career. I don't see why not. I really want to become a hero here, to hopefully achieve things.

"I'm settled here - I love the club, I love the fans, and I don't see what's going to make me leave this club.

"These are very exciting times. It's going to be interesting just to see what the line-up will be at the start of next season and how far we can push on. Hopefully we can compete for the title and get back into Europe.

"I've always trusted my ability, but it's only this season I've come out of my shell. I worked hard last summer to try and reach the targets I set myself. I reached some, the others are something to aim at next season.

"But I never take my place for granted. I don't think I ever would, I don't like to take my foot off the gas."

Japan defeats Chile 4-0

The Blue Samurai's opening match in the Kirin Cup Wednesday evening at Nagai Stadium in Osaka ended with a solid 4-0 trouncing of Chile.

Chile's Jean Beausejour, who plays his for Club América of the Primera División de México was a menace for Japan early. However at twentieth minute Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu S-Pulse) capitalized on a rebound of Keisuke Honda (VVV-Venlo) to send the ball in from ten metres. Only four minutes later Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama F. Marinos) accepted a long ball and then provided Okazaki a perfect set-up to notch his second of the night from just inside the area, giving the Blue Samurai a 2-0 lead. Seven minutes after the break Japan extended its lead as Yasuhito Endo's (Gamba Osaka) corner from the right was headed-in to the near post by Yuki Abe (Urawa Red Diamonds). Now up by three Chile was the more controlling of the sides through much of the match but were unable to break onto the score-sheet and deep into added-time Kisho Yano (Albirex Niigata) and Naoki Yamada (Urawa Red Diamonds) linked up to provide Keisuke Honda for the fourth and final goal.

The match marked the debut of Urawa Red Diamonds eighteen year-old midfielder Naoki Yamada in his first international appearance. Pleased with the performance Blue Samurai coach Takeshi Okada said following the match:

“Our players played as we intended them to, so I’m very happy about that.”

Japan faces Belgium on Sunday at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Newcastle's chopping block

The dawn of Day 5 of the post-relegation world is still a few short hours away, yet a greater nightmare is on the horizon for Newcastle. The first course of action is trimming the fat from the bloated payroll whilst bringing in some needed funds.

That is easier said then done and will not simply require a stern series hatchet man decisions but a number of concessions. Looking quickly at the salary budget, with asterisks marking free-agents the following list represents a stunning £875k per week salary line item:

Michael Owen, £115k*
Mark Viduka, £80k*
Joey Barton, £65k
Oba Martin, £65k
Fabricio Coloccini, £60k
Geremi, £60k*
Alan Smith, £60k
Habib Beye, £50k
Nicky Butt, £50k
Damien Duff, £50*
José Enrique, £50k
Jonás Gutiérrez, £50k
Xisco, £40k
Ignacio González, £40k
Kevin Nolan £40k

There is no bailout in this business world and with owner Mike Ashley's fortune plummeting the liklihood of a further capital investment seems to be a trying decision. While it is entirely possible that he may choose to make a limited investment, partially financed by his recent £4.7m sale JJB Sports shares, the bigger problem is off-loading many of these. Excluding Kevin Nolan, Nicky Butt and Damien Duff, the balance will be shopped for the best price possible or in the worst case scenario loaned-out. This of-course assumes that other clubs are willing to accepts over-paid players into their squad and undoubtedly Newcastle will need to make a series of concessions. Naturally standing out in the group is Oba Martins who was by far the most dependable striker during the campaign and the club will consider whether it can retain him outright in the promotion fight, need to sell off to bring in funds or loan out.

All this leaves a devilish mix because even assuming they can cleanup wage expenses and that is a very big assumption, they still haven't raised sufficient funds and made need to sell talented younger players such as Sébastien Bassong to finance purchases.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oleg Romantsev and Yuri Semin meet againg

The old adage of the "more things change, the more they stay the same" is never more apropos as this weekend Oleg Romantsev and Yuri Semin will match wits as their sides, Lokomotiv Moskva and Spartak Moskva will battle.

For fans of Russian Football the early spring as brought a welcomed return of some old familiar faces. Oleg Romantsev's work with Valery Karpin's Spartak Moskva has been nothing short of genius as мясо is playing brilliant attacking football, reminding fans of when he lead the club during the 1990's.

However to cap the return of great leaders to the Russian game, as rumoured, Yuri Semin has agreed to join Lokomotiv Moskva after leading Dynamo Kyiv to the Ukrainian Premier League championship. The return of Mr. Semin to Lokomotiv, where he managed from 1986 to 2005, will have many expecting their return to form imminent.

While there is much work to be done with both sides, the return of their great derby, with both at the heights of the sport is assured. In a remarkable turn of fate, this two great leaders go face to face this weekend as Spartak visits Lokomotiv

Genoa accepts Inter Milan's want-away players

As the transfer season begins to mull over in Serie A, rumours are starting to fly with possible additions to the Genoa. While Atalanta's talented striker Sergio Floccari has been added, both Ricardo Quaresma and Hernán Crespo have equally to said to be making their way to Genova from Inter Milan. It is important to recall that this comes a short-time after Genoa agreed to sell both Diego Milito and Thiago Motto to Inter Milan.

While neither transfer of the transfers from Inter to Genoa has been formerly confirmed, Ricardo Quaresma has told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he wished to return to José Mourinho's side. The former Porto man who spent much of the campaign at Chelsea said:

“I’m going back to Inter to stay.

“I know that my first stint did not go well, much because I did not take part in the pre-season training. My agent has offered me to other clubs, some in Italy, but I rejected them.

While the addition of either of the Inter players is questionable to Gian Piero Gasperini's tactical styling, there is equally an odd tone to the co mingling of deals that sent Diego Milito and Thiago Motta to Milan with Ricardo Quaresma and Hernán Crespo. I very much doubt Genoa president Enrico Preziosi will address the issue but why are the Rossoblu accepting Inter Milan's "want-away" players? Without a doubt Ricardo Quaresma is a talented player but he adjusted very poorly to Serie A and if José Mourinho can't get the most out of him few will. With complete respect to Hernán Crespo, it pains me to say the best days of the former River Plate-man are well behind him and it is debatable that he can effective on a week to week basis. While I have a great deal of hope, the club should be investing in players that can immediately assist in their new-found European efforts but always with a long-term vision.

One player who will have an solid impact in-time is Nenad Tomović. A highly versatile defender / midfielder who hails from Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) has been capped for Serbia and while early in his development he is quite capable of being a shining star with Genoa. The club has come to agreement with the legendary Belgrade side but it very likely he will be loaned back and the sale was negotiated to ease the massive financial burden the club is going through. It would be extremely wise for Genoa to consider similar arrangements with some of young Mr. Tomović's teammates such as Vladimir Bogdanović and Nemanja Pejčinović as well as Nenad Milijaš for immediate impact.

CSKA Moskva's Pavel Mamayev capped for Russia

Ahead of Russia's World Cup qualifying match against Finland on 10 June Guus Hiddink has named his twenty man squad. Of his list, which is dominated by CSKA Moskva and Zenit Saint Petersburg entrants, only Andrei Arshavin (Arsenal)and Roman Pavlyuchenko (Tottenham) play their club ball outside of Russia. Pavel Mamayev of the Army-Men received his first cap with Evgeny Aldonin, Alexandr Kerzhakov and Vladimir Bystrov all returning to the squad.

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moskva), Vladimir Gabulov (Dinamo Moskva), Vyacheslav Malafeev (Zenit Saint Petersburg)

Defenders: Alexey Berezutsky (CSKA Moskva), Vasily Berezutsky (CSKA Moskva), Sergey Ignashevich (CSKA Moskva), Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA Moskva), Denis Kolodin (Dinamo Moskva), Renat Yanbaev (Lokomotiv Moskva);

Midfielders: Evgeny Aldonin (CSKA Moskva), Pavel Mamaev (CSKA Moskva), Vladimir Bystrov (Spartak Moskva), Igor Denisov (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Konstantin Zyryanov (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Igor Semshov (Zenit Saint Petersburg) Sergey Semak (Rubin Kazan);

Strikers: Andrei Arshavin (Arsenal), Alexandr Kerzhakov (Dinamo Moskva), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Tottenham), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Zenit Saint Petersburg)

Everton's quest for the FA Cup

With the deck stacked against them, Everton faces Chelsea at Wembley late Saturday afternoon with the FA Cup on the line. Few would have imagined the Toffees at this stage but throughout the Cup run, just as the Premier League race the team that "couldn't", did. It has been a miraculous year for David Moyes' side, no telling why many consider him the one of the finest managers in England today. Lacking the budget that many boast and despite a torrid series of injuries his side consistently over-achieved.

Now they face one final test, to pull off an upset of Chelsea while lacking the services of Yakubu, Mikel Arteta, Jô and possibly their man of the year, Phil Jagielka. While that seems daunting, Everton has consistently eschewed to the edict of overcoming adversity. Behind Timmy Cahill, called the club's "new Alan Ball" by chairman Bill Kenwright, the Toffees once again play David against Goliath.

There are no great mysteries of this match as both clubs know each other quite well. However once again, against all odds Everton is gunning for a upset but this time for the FA Cup.

Newcastle's first days of relegation

It is only a few days since Newcastle went down the dark and lonely streets of relegation. While much of the public sat oblivious to repercussions during the campaign and for that matter sat on their collective hands in protest during a number of engagements at St James' Park, only now is the impact being discussed openly.

A victim of massive mismanagement and gross under capitalization, Newcastle's tumble to the Championship is not a simple open and shout case where rebound promotion is guaranteed. This is something far beyond recent situations such as Charlton Athletic and Leeds and within an entirely different economic climate. Far beyond a moment on the pitch, Newcastle first needs to desperately pare down what is one highest salaries budgets in the Premier to Championship revenue streams. This means putting more than a dozen players on the chopping block in an effort to sever upwards of £40m from annual budget while targeting £30m plus in transfer revenue. Unfortunately given the worlds financial situation, it is a "buyers market" and whomever is leading Newcastle must deal with highly treacherous terrain.

Regardless if there is a well financed "white knight" waiting in the horizon to make an offer on the club, one of the first steps is cleansing the roster and getting it in-line with the new cash flow.

Appropriate discipline handed down after fight between Genoa and Torino

The aftermath of the raucous fight in Genoa's recent match against Torino has been swift and to the point. Sporting Judge Gianpaolo Tosel has acted accordingly and made it known that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.

Torino was particularly hard hit with Marco Pisano and Angelo Ogbonna off for four matches with Aimo Diana, and Francesco Pratali and their brilliant striker Rolando Bianchi receiving two-match bans. This will naturally have a massive impact upon their last gasp effort to avoid relegation. For Genoa Rubén Olivera will miss the next three match-day whilst Ivan Jurić is out for two.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jermaine Beckford to move from Leeds

Following the playoff loss to Millwall, the hearty cheer of Leeds storming towards automatic promotion next year was echoed throughout the Elland Road set. Unfortunately, as foretold in the earliest stages of the previous campaign, should Leeds not win promotion the task would be far more complicated in the upcoming season as a number of players would move on. While that comment was likely far too quiet for anyone to hear, the warning shot across the bow is now loud and clear as the days of Jermaine Beckford playing for the Whites is numbered.

Choosing to not extend his contract which expires at the end of next season, the striker has effectively secured his fate and will be shopped around for the best price. Despite Ken Bates waiving Leeds colours in the twenty-five year-old strikers direction, this is not a matter of loyalty and certainly not the fault of Mr. Beckford. He has effectively done all that he can do in League One and if he is to play at a higher level he cannot afford to wait any longer. It is a sad fact but Leeds had its opportunity, he served the club well but they were unable to "move up" with him and it is simply the a course of competitive sport.

At this stage, Leeds should be shuffling its negotiating cards and try to attract the best possible offer as soon as possible. As of this date, they've done "well" by using the media to announce that they are willing to keep him for the upcoming campaign and receive nothing for him in next years signing rather than sell him cheaply now. While such a tactical plan if truthful would be pure madness, the general sentiment is that newly relegated sides Middlesbrough and Newcastle are top contenders for his services along with Coventry City and Queens Park Rangers who are desperate need of attacking prowess.

Summarily while this issue is a hotbed for Leeds supporters, it is one that should have been expected. The club did not press winning automatic promotion enough last year and could pay for it dearly with personnel changes. The club will be facing a series of other losses and it will be tested on retaining a number of players including Fabian Delph, Robert Snodgrass, Ben Parker, Aidan White, Tom Elliott and Luciano Becchio.

Feyenoord Europa League efforts destroyed

Feyenoord's Europa League efforts came to a crashing halt and they lost 4-0 the second leg of their playoffs against NAC Breda at de Kuip.

The loss was particularly difficult to take given Feyenoord's extraordinary comeback to earn a playoff berth and early on, things looked very positive. The all changed just past the half hour when Tyrone Loran flicked on a free kick from the left to Rob Penders, who sent the ball into the net. At the half Michael Mols came in for Karim El Ahmadi in what is final appearance for the club but the thirty-eight year-old striker showed he was still very capable. However any thought of a comeback came to a crashing end five minutes after the restart as Anthony Lurling's surged across the pitch only to provide veteran Martijn Reuser a close range goal. Forced to play forward now, Feyenoord fought with all it could muster but they could not break through with Kees Kwakman and Joonas Kolkka adding goals in the final five minutes for NAC.

The match concluded in a loss but as always Het Legioen showed its appreciation as the players walked off to applause. For Michael Mols and Henk Timmer it was their final appearance for Feyenoord and the moment, despite it defeat, was noticeably emotional. It was difficult year for Feyenoord but still there is much promise with a core of exciting young players leading the club forward.

Louis Van Gaal gets new striker Mario Gómez

New Bayern coach Louis Van Gaal started his days off right as Mario Gómez has left VfB for München. With a fee of rumoured to be €30m Bayern apparently met VfB's heavy demands and there was no other choice the club could make

VfB sport director Horst Heldt said of the deal "We managed to hold onto Mario twice. Now he has decided to make a move. That is a real shame! Mario has served VfB fantastically and once again this season had a massive part to play in the success of the team."

J-League recap

The first twelve weeks of the J-League has brought a number of surprises. It certainly isn't that the Kashima Antlers are running away from the league with Urawa Red Diamonds are in pursuit but instead the collapse of Ōita and rise of Albirex Niigata.

Turning the table on its end, injuries have played a major part Ōita Trinita's complete collapse. The defensive powerhouse has given up one goal shy of their entire total last year, have only a single win to speak for and are nearing panic mode to avoid relegation. While there is time to climb safety, the injuries to Yasuhito Morishima, Daiki Takamatsu, Tatsuya Ikeda, Roberto, Edimilson and Ueslei, just to name a few have left them a shell of their former self.

J2 could be quite interesting next year with Ōita possibly headed there but one team who won't is Albirex Niigata who are nestled third in the table and only three points behind the Reds. A last day victory over Gamba Osaka gave them a bit of a cushion from relegation but few would have expected the club to a emerge with well-disciplined style that oozes fundamentals and patience.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Yuri Semin to return to Lokomotiv Moskva

With rumours rampant that Yuri Semin is set to return to Russian football, Dynamo Kyiv announced that Valery Gazzayev will take the reigns as manager this 20 June. The former CSKA Moskva and Russian national manager resigned at the end of last season after leading his side to a brilliant finish. He will inherit a side guaranteed of winning the Ukrainian Premier League championship

This clears the way for Yuri Semin's much rumoured return to Lokomotiv Moskva. It is equally becoming obvious that Oleg Romantsev's consulting with Valery Karpin of Spartak, that is at the root of much of their stunning play, will be expanded to a full managerial position.

Armin Veh to lead Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg wasted no time in replacing Felix Magath as the club announced that Armin Veh, most recently of VfB Stuttgart, will lead the charge to defend their Bundesliga crown. The experienced coach lead Stuttgart to the title in 2007 but in an odd twist-of-fate, was let go in November 2008 after being dismantled by Wolsburg.

Inheriting the Bundesliga Champions, the new leader said:

“I’m delighted to be taking over this team, which just two days ago became German champions. It’s a wonderful and appealing, if at the same time difficult, task - but I know how to deal with that! I believe that this team has a lot of potential. It’s a young side that will have a lot of success in the future too."

Diego heads to Juventus

With still the DFB Pokal final to play on Saturday, Werder has confirmed that the deal to send Diego to Juventus is complete. The twenty-four year old former Santos-man will be sadly missed by the Green-Whites who will now weigh using some of their transfer money bounty for a more established replacement or look towards Mesut Özil.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Werder drops final match of year 5-1 to Wolfsburg

Whether it was fatigue from the UEFA Cup final loss on Wednesday, the emotional drop or just focus on upcoming DFB Pokal final, the Green-Whites rolled over losing 5-1 to Wolfsburg in the final match day of the Bundesliga.

Many had wondered if Werder could pull off the ultimate of upsets on the final day and upend Wolfsburg's title hopes but that came to an end quickly as the hosts showed why they were on the road to their first championship. In rapid fire succession Wolfsburg had a three goal lead by the hour and despite a slick goal by Diego, the match was never in doubt. Starting first with Zvjezdan Misimović's goal from a close range rebound at the six minute mark, Wolfsburg doubled the mark at the quarter-hour and Grafite flicked in Christian Gentner's cross from a acute angle. Four minutes prior to the half-hour Sebastian Prödl was the unfortunate victim of a own goal as her redirected Grafite’s low cross. The lone highlight of the match came just past the half-hour when Diego linked nicely with Claudio Pizzaro however beyond that the day was a celebration for Wolfsburg. After the break Grafite and Edin Džeko added goals while Wolfsburg supporters readied for the trophy presentation.

Rangers win SPL

The sweet taste of winning the championship can be claimed by the Rangers following their resounding 3-0 victory over Dundee United. With the victory the Rangers end their three year drought of the title via a stunning turnaround during their campaign.

If champions are born through adversity, the Rangers answered that call loud and clear. Through a year of much torment and surrounding with a heavy weight of financial problems lingering, the Gers fought back to enter the final weekend with tight lead over Celtic. Still there was the final match day, a nerve racking test against Dundee United in which only a victory is acceptable.

Any questions were answered without haste as the Rangers came out with blood-thirsty intent. However five-minutes in the Rangers had their lead as Steven Davis linked the ball to Kris Boyd, whose misfire was turned in by Kyle Lafferty from close range. Further changes came and went unfullfilled but just before the break the margin was doubled as Pedro Mendes pounded the ball in from twenty metres after Saša Papac free-kick was blocked by the wall. If there was any doubt to the outcome, seven minutes after the re-start Steven Whittaker crossed to Kris Boyd for a close range finish. As time ticked down, the Rangers incredible comeback to the campaign was dotted with the SPL championship.

Reaching the pinnacle of the SPL cannot be debated however for the Rangers it could very well have a massive positive impact upon their financial situation. That of-course is for another time as celebration has begun as Walter Smith's men can hold their heads high as Scottish Premier League champions.

Genoa defeat Torino 3-2 with late goal by Diego Milito

In a highly feisty match, Genoa beat relegation threatened Torino 3-2 via a late goal by Diego Milito.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, assured of a Europa League berth, went on the attack from the start but after an early series of positive advances momentum evened up. For much of the opening half-hour, both sides had promising opportunities snuffed out just before the final strike. However two minutes past the hour, Genoa was awarded a penalty after Marco Pisano was adjudged to fouling Marco Pisano in the area, resulting in Diego Milito's straight-forward conversion. The lead did not last long as the host drew the match level eight minutes later as Torino capitalized on lax defending at the back as a long pass into the box was headed-on by Angelo Obinze Ogbonna to Ivan Franceschini for an efficient volley from the centre of the box. The back and forth pacing continued and three minutes after the hour Rubén Olivera struck a free kick from twenty-metres into the back of the net. Only a minute later the match squared as Torino's brilliant striker Rolando Bianchi deftly chipped the ball over 'keeper Rubinho from left side of the box to the opposite corner. For much of the remaining match Torino controlled the majority of notable scoring chances, with both Alessandro Rosina and Nicola Ventola denied at the last moment. Finally with a minute remaining Ivan Jurić's long cross into the box was sent in by Il Principe for a stunning late victory. The final moments of the match broke down into a full scale fight between both sides which will certainly draw suspension.

Dinamo Moskva defeat Zenit Saint Petersburg 1-0

Zenit Saint Petersburg lost its second successive match, losing 1-0 to Dinamo Moskva with Dmitri Khokhlov scoring late. The victory sees Andrey Kobelev's Dinamo side catapult above Zenit and are now in sixth position in the table.

Confident before the match, Andrey Kobelev's tactical plan was letter perfect as the free-flowing Zenit attack slowed to a grind. With a tight, compact formation, Dinamo was able to dictate much of the run of play. Additionally, Viktor Svezhov, barely eighteen years of age, debuted for Dinamo and was near perfect in the midfield. Finally with six minutes remaining the match was decided as Kirill Kombarov cut down the right flank and turned back from the byline to fire a cross to the back post which Dmitri Khokhlov volleyed in for the winning strike.

Man City ends campaign with 1-0 victory over Bolton

Man City ended their up and down campaign with a narrow 1-0 victory over Bolton. Without a Europa League effort to plan, City now readies for the "season" many have waited for; the transfer season where they look to stockpile talent. That aside a ten-place finish, weighted-down with many sub-par performance is hardly an inspiring one and Mark Hughes can expect a not-so forgiving Eastlands if they do not turn things around quickly. Matches such as these, with virtually nothing on the line expect a feel-good wave to the fans at the end of the day are a peculiar mix.

In the matches lone goal the Citizen's took the lead eight minutes in as Stephen Ireland lifted the ball over the Bolton defenders to Micah Richards, who showed fine style providing the ball for Felipe Caicedo to close out. Opportunities came and went for both sides but with City dominating the run of play but unable the add to the score, the match concluded with a 1-0 victory.

In a highly positive addendum and a point that all true City supporters need to embrace both Vladimir Weiss and Glauber Berti were introduced in the final twenty minutes. To which I'd like to add, while City goes on its shopping spree, it must remember the sanctity of the Academy and never forget the rich talent that is developed regionally.

Newcastle relegated

The pain of the 2008 / 2009 campaign for Newcastle supporters ended with the hellish drop the Championship following their 1-0 loss to Aston Villa. Decided with a unfortunate own goal by Damien Duff, the Magpies lacked the fire and venom need to succeed and will look back on the sad date in history with the knowledge that a draw would have saved them.

To review the match is a pointless stroll in the dark of night. Newcastle had few noteworthy opportunities to score and for the most part seemed not to understand the repercussions of lost. However the dye is now cast and Newcastle must now face a very difficult and murky road back up to the Premier League.

The challenges that they will face is a lengthy one, starting with plunging cash flows and asset value, coupled with salaries that need a mass overhaul. The solutions are not-so-simple as Newcastle has the mark as the first major club derailed by the worlds financial meltdown. In the coming days there will be much speculation on the value of "Newcastle, the Championship side" and while there will be public glaze in the positive from management, the financial issues the club will now face places them on the shakiest of ground. Despite well intended commentary from management regarding player changes and fire and brimstone speeches, the day-to-day grind of Football management, will now have to marry between the Premier League budget and a Championship revenue stream, while being under-capitalized. This adds up to a series of difficult choices as Newcastle must now balance its budget within significantly tighter constraints and equally plan the quickest route possible to the Premier League or suffer the same fate as Charlton Athletic and Leeds.

Now more than ever Newcastle, the Toon Army must grow together and support the club with passion.

tetra campeão

With their fourth successive Championship already decided Porto's season came to a conclusion in a 1-1 draw at Estádio do Dragão. The match most certainly was played within a celebratory setting of 50,000 azuis e brancos supporters.

Os Dragões took the lead in the matches first threatening assault as Ernesto Farías found the mark three minutes before the half. Set-up by Lisandro López who fought off Braga's Alberto Rodríguez and Nuno Frechaut before crossing from the left byline, the ball was inadvertently played back by another defender before falling to former Estudiantes-man to slam in. Braga brought the match even four minutes before the hour as Alan played a brilliant back heel to Edimar to the left of the area. Cutting back to his right, he opened up a lane and sent the ball to the far corner of the net. Porto had a glorious chance for the winner with eight minutes remaining as a rebound of Tomás Costa's drive came straight to Rolando but he was unable to convert from point blank range. Jesualdo Ferreira's side continued to press for the winning mark but the night ended as a noteworthy draw.

Porto now turns its attention to the Taça de Portugal final against FC Paços de Ferreira next Sunday.

Wolfsburg crowned champions!

Wolfsburg etched its name in history with its first Bundesliga title in style with a resounding 5-1 thumping of Werder Bremen.

If there was any doubt of Wolfsburg's focus, that ended within minutes of the opening whistle. Die Wölfe are rich with hero's this year and none better than Zvjezdan Misimović to start the scoring only six minutes in as he poached on a rebound from Makoto Hasebe's and sent the ball in from nine metres. Nine minutes later the margin was doubled as Christian Gentner outworked the opposition to the left and after creating space near the byline he crossed to Grafite to the near post, who turned the ball in deftly. Still pressing Wolfsburg's day was near complete at the twenty-fifth minute as Grafite's cross from the right was turned in by Bremen's Sebastian Prödl for an own-goal making it 3-0. Six minutes later Diego gave Bremen hope, scoring from the right via a brilliant provision by Claudio Pizzaro but that was as close as it would get as Wolfsburg added second-half goals by Grafite and Edin Džeko. Four minutes before the hour Zvjezdan Misimović's long diagonal free-kick from the right was sent in by Grafite and to cap the day off perfectly the e Bosnia and Herzegovina international team chipped a perfect cross that his compatriot volleyed in to bring the match to the final 5-1 mark.

The celebration has only started but the impact of Wolfsburg winning the Bundesliga title is profound. While their are undoubtedly many changes to the club coming, starting first with Felix Magath's departure to Schalke, it is a time for rejoicing for all Wolfsburg fans and for that matter, all Bundesliga supporters for a glorious campaign.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Die Geißböcke finish year with 1-1 draw to Bochum

Die Geißböcke moved to the planning stage of next year following a season ending 1-1 draw against Bochum at RheinEnergie Stadion. With thirty-nine points, Köln finished only a point behind Christoph Daum's goal and can not look forward to Lukas Podolski's return home.

Köln was once again without Milivoje Novakovič and Faryd Mondragón in the starting eleven with Adil Chihi and Thomas Kessler standing-in for the veterans. The visitors took the lead eighteen minutes in as Matias Concha sent a long diagonal cross from the right into the box that Diego Klimowicz got between Mišo Brečko and Pedro Geromel to head in. Köln was gifted the equalizing goal as Chihi's corner from the right skipped into the box and was inadvertently headed into his own goal by Antar Yahia. Throughout the remainder of the match, Christoph Daum's side had the majority of the scoring chances although the intensity level was definitely low and the match ended as a draw.

With the season complete, the countdown has went into high gear as our captain is coming home!

Spartak Moskva defeats Amkar Perm 5-1

The Valery Karpin era for Spartak Moskva continued its outstanding start with a picturesque 5-1 victory over Amkar Perm at Luzhniki Stadium. With the victory Спартак is now fifth in the table on only four points behind league-leader Rubin Kazan.

Working like a fine twelve-cylinder engine, Spartak opened the scoring ten minutes in as Vladimir Bystrov drove down the right flank, turning at the byline before outmaneuvering the Amkar defender and softly chipped into the box for Wellington to head in. The margin was doubled eight minutes after the break via Vladimir Bystrov's creativity once again as he work for the edge of box to the right, sending a cross near the spot that former Internacional-man Alex headed in with power. Nikita Bazhenov, who had just entered the match a few minutes earlier, made it 3-0 with twenty-one minutes left as he was played through on the right channel before driving the ball in from ten metres. Still on the hunt for goals, Alex added his second of the day with four minutes left as he sent a clever chip over the 'keeper who had strayed to far off his line from the edge of the area. Wellington made it 5-0 a few minutes later as he circumvented Amkar 'keeper Sergei Narubin after be played through and pounded the ball in. Ivan Starkov added a late consolation goal for Amkar to bring the match to a 5-1 conclusion but there is no disputing that under Mr. Karpin's leadership, Spartak is a club to be reckoned with.

Everton finishes season off with 2-0 defeat of Fulham

Waiting for the FA Cup final, Everton defeated Fulham in the final day of the season 2-0 to make claim for fifth in the table. Already secure in their spot of the Europa League, the match was a perfect confidence builder for next Saturday's trip to Wembley.

With young Jack Rodwell back in the starting eleven, Everton pushed Fulham back early with a series of testing advances. However Fulham, led through miracle-worker Roy Hodgson quickly got its footing and the match became a box to box encounter. Just before the break Everton broke the deadlock as Steven Pienaar played through Leon Osman, with Toffee product making his way past the 'keeper before sending the ball in. After the restart both sides had considerable chances to add to the score-sheet, with Fulham sending a few agonizingly wide. The day was Everton's though as Osman added his second with two minutes remaining, hammering the ball in from twenty metres.

Schalke losses 3-2 to Hoffenheim

Schalke supporters will be please to see this season finally come to an end. "Fittingly" the terrible season, the lowest place finish of the decade, ended with a disappointing 3-2 loss to Hoffenheim in Gelsenkirchen.

Die Königsblauen fell behind 1-0 four minutes perform the hour as Demba Ba turned in Carlos Eduardo's cross. The goal came after Hoffenheim 'keeper Timo Hildebrand had denied Schalke twice in the early stages of the day. However at the strike of the half hour there was no stopping Mladen Krstajić as he headed-in Ivan Rakitić’s corner from the right. Only four minutes later Benedikt Höwedes surged into the box before crossing to Jefferson Farfán for a close range finish. Despite controlling the majority of possession, Hoffenheim brought the match level again as Carlos Eduardo dipped a free-kick over the wall in. However Schalke's hope for finishing off outside of the loss column ended as Rafinha was adjudged to bringing down Fabrício in the area and Eduardo converted from the spot.

VfB heads to Champions League despite loss to Bayern

Fortune smiled on VfB in the final day of the season as despite a 2-1 loss to Bayern München they advance to the qualifying round the Champions League thanks to a KSC's 4-0 upset of the Hertha Berlin.

With the day being played out at top speed, the hosts took that lead sixteen minutes in as Franck Ribéry's cross was turned in as a own-goal by Khalid Boulahrouz. Die Schwaben turned up the heat but each chance came up empty and the match went to the break with Bayern maintaining its one goal lead. Just before the hour Ribéry was the architect of the second goal as he fed Mark van Bommel a perfect through ball which he sent past Jens. VfB quickly launched forward and only four minutes later Mario Gómez gave his side hope with a brilliant one man effort, maneuvering between the statuesque Bayern defenders to score from inside the area. Markus Babbel's side continued to pour forward but the day would end on the wrong side of the score.

It has been a remarkable year or better-said, two seasons. The pre-Babbel era and then under the leadership of the thirty-six year old coach. As VfB is now securely in the Champions League it can plan its road to the height of Football with one of the sports most promising young coaches.

1899 finishes year with style

1899 looks ahead to next season with great hope as the finished the year with a 3-2 victory over Schalke 04. With the victory, Ralf Rangnick's side extend their unbeaten string to four and finish seventh in the table. While there is naturally some sadness over the falling fortunes in the Rückrunde, overall the long term growth of the club looks highly promising.

Of particular importance was the inclusion of Boris Vukčević,Isaac Vorsah and Pascal Groß in Herr Rangnick's starting eleven. At the ages of 19, 20 and 17, each showed very well and promise to be a part of the clubs future. 1899 opened the scoring twenty-six minutes in as Carlos Eduardo flew down the left channel before crossing to Demba Ba to redirect in from the six-yard box. The match was evened only four minutes later as Ivan Rakitić's corner from the right was headed in by Mladen Krstajić at the near post. Schalke took the lead at the thirty-fourth minute as Benedikt Höwedes came right side of the box and just before Isaac Vorsah could reach him he crossed to Jefferson Farfán to finish from five metres. After the break nineteen year-old Fabrício entered the match for Groß and did well for his claim for the club to seek out his contract from Flamengo. Four minutes into the half Carlos Eduardo evened up the match with a perfect free-kick over the wall and into the top left corner from (hmm) around twenty metres. With only a minute remaining Coritiba product Rafinha brought down his countryman Fabrício in the area with the spot pointed to. Carlos Eduardo stepped up and capped the end of the season perfectly driving the ball into the net.

Energie Cottbus defeats Leverkusen 3-0

Werkself ended the Bundesliga season falling 3-0 to Cottbus. Bojan Prašnikar's Lausitz side managed to score all three goals after the break for the win, which pushed them out of automatic relegation and now face Nuremberg in the playoff battle starting on Thursday.

After a scoreless opening half which ended with Arturo Vidal being sent off with his second yellow-card, Energie poured forward looking for the go ahead goal. Five minutes after the break Ervin Skela sent a long ball down the left channel that Emil Jula out muscled Karim Haggui before scoring. Four minutes past the hour Energie doubled its margin as Skela chased down a ball on the right flank beating Haggui and sent the ball to Stiven Rivić who scored from the edge of the six-yard box. The embarrassing defending countinued as five minutes later another long ball to Skela resulted in him maneuvering around Michal Kadlec with Karim Haggui in pursuit. As he stopped Haggui ran over René Adler just as Skela crossed the ball to Emil Jula for a close range finish.

96's season ends with draw

Hannover 96's season came to conclusion with a 2-2 draw against Bielefeld.

Fighting to avoid relegation the schwarz-weiß-blauen took the lead two minutes in as Oliver Kirch's off-course drive hit Mario Eggimann and into the net. Eight minutes prior the break Florian Fromlowitz was forced to enter the match for Robert Enke who ripped open a wound to his head from Eggimann's boot. Despite the loss of the captain, Jiří Štajner squared the match three minutes before the hour as he re-directed Vinícius' free-kick from the left to the bottom of the net. Forced to play for the win in an effort to avoid automatic relegation, Bielefeld was completely exposed at the back and allowed 96 free reign in the counter. Finally with six minutes left Jan Schlaudraff and Sergio Pinto played one-two with the latter sending the ball in from the edge of the area to make it 2-1. Polish international Artur Wichniarek drew one back for the home side as the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

With all things consider, Dieter Hecking should be satisfied with the forty-point tally. 96 were challenged throughout the year with troublesome injuries but were able to collect points were needed and never be truly threatened with relegation. Next year will be very different as 96 will climb to the top!

Paris Saint-Germain loses 2-1 to Valenciennes

The "late season sputter" of les Rouge et Bleu has turned into a full scale free-fall as they fell 2-1 to Valenciennes. With three loses in the most recent four matches, the Parisians have fallen out of a Europa League spot. If not more obvious managements decision to not renew Paul Le Guen's contract has shaken the underpinnings of the club.

Paris Saint-Germain took the lead as Mateja Kežman efficiently turned-in Ludovic Giuly's cross for the 1-0 lead. For the Serbian striker, who has finally got his footing in Paris, his recent play has shown promise and validating his need for more play to maintain his touch. That aside, his future of the club is murky at best as Paris Saint-Germain is attempting to squeeze-out of a €4m purchase that is automatically triggered with the club avoiding relegation. Antoine Kombouaré, who is highly likely to lead PSG next year, adjusted tactically at the half and the northern side leveled the match a minute past the hour as Gaël Danic's free-kick was headed-in by Johan Audel. The Côte d'Azur native, Audel, turned provider as he sent the ball to Grégory Pujol to close out giving les Valenciennois the 2-1 lead. The Parisians came close to evening the match as time wound down but it was not to be and match ended with a difficult 2-1 loss.

Eintracht losses 3-2 to Hamburg

In Friedhelm Funkel's final match day in-charge, Eintracht lost 3-2 to Hamburg at Waldstadion.

Die Adler gave up a two goal lead before storming back. The first came midway of the opening half as a long cross from the right into the box was deflected to Jonathan Pitroipa who then eased the ball back to David Jarolim who drove it in from the edge of the area. It was a difficult goal to digest because Eintracht had controlled the run of play and it was the first true defending flaw. Two minutes before the hour HSV grabbed a two goal lead as Guy Demel's cross was nodded in by Ivica Olić to make it 2-0. However this set the stage for a fast turnaround as only three minutes minutes later Alexander Meier played a fast one-two on the left side of the box with the before pounding the ball in from twelve metres to bring Eintracht to within one. A few minutes later Martin Fenin sent Caio in clear with the Brazilian surging into the box before driving the ball to the right side of the net. The comeback ending was derailed as a minute into added-time Pitroipa sent the ball to Piotr Trochowski on the left side of the box, who scored from a tight angle.

a great start to the centennial

The Dortmunders incredible push came up one step short as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach. In an incredible turn of events, it looked like that would be enough to see them through as Hamburg was deadlocked against Frankfurt before Piotr Trochowski added a injury-time goal to send his side to the Europa League.

The hosts strategy was clear, to nullify BVB's attack first and go forward with safer countering measures. With veteran Tomáš Galásek controlling the defensive line they bent to BVB's pressure but could only be broken once. Die Schwarzgelben had a number early chances to score, most falling to Nelson Valdez but each was off course. Opportunities slowed to a more cautious tone in the later stages of the opening half with the exception of Dante registering Gladbach's lone chance as he headed soon-to-be Bayern man Alexander Baumjohann's corner off the post. The hosts grabbed a shock lead three minutes before the hour as Dortmund, playing a man down temporarily as Felipe Santana was receiving medical treatment, allowed Dante to crash into the box and headed-in Baumjohann's corner. BVB pressed to level and did so four minutes after the hour as Sebastian Kehl sent a long ball that got past Paul Stalteri to Jakub Błaszczykowski with Kuba executing the final touch to perfection near the spot. With nineteen minutes left the Polish international was substituted for Mohamed Zidan but that seemed to have a detrimental impact on BVB's flanking assaults. Despite the continued efforts the match ended even and the Dortmunders Europa League dream ended.

Although the disappointment of not earning a spot in European football "stings", this was a incredible start to the centennial celebration. Die Schwarzgelben waved with pride in the Rückrunde, the fourth best result in the Bundesliga and one that provides great promise for the future.

a dream ending

Just before Hans Meyer was appointed to many the thought of Borussia Mönchengladbach avoiding relegation was a foolish vision of a club entranced with its past. While the history of Borussia can and should never be forgotten, the mountain to climb was great.

Flash forward the final match-day of the season and the task is now complete as die Fohlen played Dortmund to the 1-1 draw, securing the spot in next years Bundesliga. Behind the voices of Borussia-Park, Hans Meyer's man defended with grit and when problems rose, Logan Bailly was near perfect.

After a scoreless opening half Borussia three minutes shy of the hour Alexander Baumjohann's corner from the right was headed-in by Dante as he surged into the box. Borussia had the one goal lead and with the Park singing out, it was now a thirty minute match for survival. Dortmund fighting for a chance in the Europa League, leveled the match seven minutes later as Sebastian Kehl sent Jakub Błaszczykowski a long pass, with the speedy Polish international driving the ball past Bailly from eleven metres.

Twenty minutes to go, Hans Meyer calls to the veteran Oliver Neuville to steady the forces and along with Tomáš Galásek, they held Dortmund off. As the match ticked down, the dream became a reality. Borussia-Park rang out in unison as Hans Meyer and the many great hero's too their final bow.

Genoa's trip to Torino

With Genoa's Europa League berth settled, the Rossoblu travel to face troubled Torino.

This is unquestionably what they would call a match of pride. For Gian Piero Gasperini's side their fate is already set and if the time is used properly, it will mean younger players are given the opportunity to play in a higher pressure environment. Whether this proves out remains to be seen but with Torino scrapping to avoid relegation, it will be a tough fight.

Genoa's absences are unchanged with Raffaele Palladino and Giuseppe Biava out. Diego Milito, fresh on the heels of the announecement that he is headed to Inter Milan, will lead the attacking trident of Giuseppe Sculli and Boško Janković. Torino has come alive at the end of the campaign with Rolando Bianchi showing the confidence deserving of his vast potential.

Rangers SPL title hope

The final weekend of each campaign is often the judge of a teams claret. Do they possess the mettle to press on against the stresses and strains of a full year, to close-out an opportunity for greatness or will they wilt under pressure. This is surely the road the Rangers go down on Sunday as a victory over Dundee United will guarantee they win the SPL crown.

Two points about Celtic, the Rangers can end their rivals three reign of the SPL with a victory. Fortune has certainly fallen the Gers way as their tumultuous season, starting with the fallout from the loss to FBK Kaunas in Champions League qualifying to the endless financial rumours. However a late season swoon by Celtic opened the door for the Rangers and they have rarely faltered.

However the task will be great for the Rangers as Dundee Utd can book a date to the Europa League with a point. In the end this comes down the the classic test, two sides with much on the line going toe-to-toe. It is a well-worn story-line but in matches such as these but the victor will be the side who "out-wants" the other.

Newcastle's last fight

Newcastle, long since past the crossroads, has its back against the wall it the ultimate of last gasp opportunities. A point behind Hull City, Newcastle travels to face Aston Villa with no room for error in the final match of the campaign as they try to avoid relegation.

Defeat will end any chance of Alan Shearer's side being cast into the Championship, possibly the first great victim of the economic woes that have befallen many. Despite the brave front, since the fall of 2008 Newcastle has been unable to effectively maneuver in the transfer market and quickly spiraled downward.

While the great hero Allan Shearer rode in to save the day, Newcastle needs one more miracle from the number 9. Newcastle is far from a full side as Sébastien Bassong and Habib Beye are not available. Oba Martins, who awaits a date with the scalpel after the campaign, is likely to gut it once more.

However this is not the time or the place to discuss tactics or player availability. Newcastle is fighting for its life and now must rise up for a performance beyond their recent play with fire, venom and the spirit to defend the crest.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Die Schwarzgelben final push for Europa League

Jürgen Klopp's message is loud and clear and for any Footballer, you've heard it before. Everything is on the line and yesterday is forgotten, it is your chance to rise to the top.

Die Schwarzgelben visit Gladbach tomorrow in a death battle to the finish. For the home-side it could mean survival and BVB is fighting for the improbably charge that has lead them to foot of European football. Push beyond the tactics, forget the place in the table, this will be the ultimate of matches with everything on the line.

Tensions will run high and given Gladbach's style of man marking and veteran players lead by Tomáš Galásek, this is likely to be very physical match. Alexander Frei and Tamás Hajnal had problems during the week with injuries but they are expected to be able to go.

Another of those famous final scene's

As the curtain falls on the Bundesliga campaign, Wolfsburg sits on the cusp of a historic first title. While the clubs coach Felix Magath has drawn much criticism for his exodus to Schalke, there is absolutely no debate on his masterful work. With one final hurdle to cross, that being Werder Bremen's visits Volkswagen Arena on Saturday afternoon, Wolfsburg can etch its name in the few who have graced to top of the Bundesliga with a single point.

For Bremen it is the most peculiar of matches. A brilliant side that has fallen unceremoniously in the depths of the middle, threatening the positions of long-term men Thomas Schaaf and Klaus Allof. Heading into the final week, after the painful added-time loss to Shakhtar Donetsk in Istanbul, Bremen has a chance to deal the ultimate hand of the "spoiler" prior to next weeks DFB Pokal final against Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Whether they are capable of a concerted effort that could deal Wolfsburg its first loss of the year at home remains to be seen but that are without a doubt capable. The showdown waits as Bremen playmaker Diego, in his Bundesliga swansong before heading to Juventus, will hold the cards to the visitors success.

The home side with its randy bunch of goalscoring phenoms, Edin Džeko, Grafite and Zvjezdan Misimović, must go beyond showing a morsel of ice-water in their veins but instead a champions cunning ability to close out the competition. It is the most complex of all skills, the killer instinct to finish the competition off and rise to the top. Many are great competitors but one only can be called champion.

And so this campaign ends with a brilliant finish, the rare chance to see a side climb to the top of the league with only one step remaining. In its way, a storied club, nay institution waits to steal away their dreams only to let Bayern or Stuttgart to pull off the ultimate of jobs. Regardless of the outcome it is the grandest of days to be a fan of as the final scene plays out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Diego Milito sold to Inter Milan

Such a telling time of year, Aprill with his shoures soote has now passed and the Footballing world as begun its panoramic fade to black as the tale concludes. Hero's have risen that will forever be remembered with a glint eyed vision in time.

The people of Genova will forever remember the year of 2009 as the time their little
Rossoblu climbed to the top of the Footballing world. In only a blink of an eye, their story went from the rapturous delight of returning to Serie A to going toe to toe with titans of the sport with Il Principe leading the charge. A simple story really, the hero rides in and plays out the hopes of dreams of the townspeople that only a youthful heart could have painted with such rich colours. Yet in the final act, when the moment is about to take the step towards lore that will be remembered through time, fate jumps in and washes the canvass to black as Diego Milito has been be sold to Inter Milan for gold, trinkets and everything else that means nothing to those that bleed for this club.

Across the press-wire it was announced in straight, efficient and unsuspecting fashion that Genoa president Enrico Preziosi has agreed to sell Diego Milito and Thiago Motta to Inter Milan, adding that Sergio Floccari would be jettisoned in from Atalanta. Rumours continued that Robert Acquafresca would be making his way to the Genoa after being on loan to Sardinia’s Cagliari. Straight, efficient and to the point as well as lacking a morsel of journalistic review, questioning and anything else you would hope for by the modern media.

To some, this deal will make "sense" as the rumoured replacements are certainly quite capable and the cash flow will certainly provide the club the ability to bolster its depth. However there is a stench to it that doesn't sit right when the league champion sweeps in before the curtain has dropped to purchase your best player. There are no remedies, the game has bought and sold itself many a time now and backroom deals are not simply maddening to the fans but equally raises an suspecting eyebrow in how these are orchestrated.

Said in many a way, vivere senza rimpianti or if you will Non, je ne regrette rien, the club will regret taking its hero from the people.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Werder loses UEFA Cup final to Shakhtar Donetsk

The Green-Whites hopes for UEFA Cup ended with a 2-1 added-time loss to Shakhtar Donetsk in Istanbul. For Werder, the night will be remembered for missed opportunities and deeply hampered with the loss of Diego and Hugo Almeida. As difficult as it sounds for Thomas Schaaf's side it could be a "shape of things to come" with Diego apparently off to Juventus but without the Brazilian playmaker the Werder attack rarely materialized. The highly promising Mesut Özil will in-time be a superb attacking leader but that time is still a few years off, if he can ever match Diego's expertise. That aside, Werder must pick it self off the ground and ready for the main target of next weeks DFB Pokal final.

Shakhtar took the lead via a counter five minutes before the half hour as Răzvan Raţ sent a long ball to Luiz Adriano, who flicked over Werder keeper Tim Wiese. Only ten minute later the match was level on a soft goal as Naldo's free kick from thirty metres bounced of Shakhtar keeper Andriy Pyatov and in. For the balance of regulation time Tim Wiese was the hero of Werder's day saving a few notable attempts but otherwise the Shahktar keeper had an easier night. The Ukrainian side claimed the trophy via a goal seven minutes into added time as Darijo Srna sent a perfect cross from the right corner to Jadson, who fired the ball in off Tim Wiese's mitts from twelve metres. Despite efforts to level it wasn't to be be and the match ended in defeat.

There was naturally the faces of dejection all around. The disappointment of defeat is of-course, natural yet through it all it was a brilliant run in which Werder can be proud of their effort.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

SC Heerenveen wins KNVB Beker defeating Twente

Led by Trond Sollied in his debut season in-charge, de Friezen have claimed the KNVB Beker as they defeated Twente in hard fought battle that came down the penalties. The victory caps a remarkable season for the well traveled Norwegian manager, who left Belgian side Gent after Gertjan Verbeek moved on to Feyenoord and despite for many calls for his job prior to the holiday season, emerged with his side celebrating a historic win.

Looking more like an emergency ward that a pitch, Twente lost both Marko Arnautović and Peter Wisgerhof within the first quarter hour. Four minutes before the half hour a free kick was awarded far right of the box and with Christian Grindheim's resulting effort came through the box that Macedonia Goran Popov volleyed in from close-range. The tightly played match continued without further incident until nine minutes after the restart when a long diagonal ball was poorly played by Heerenveen keeper Hans Vonk and Kristian Bak Nielsen with Blaise Nkufo out-racing them to the byline. The Swiss international quickly gathered the ball and supplied the ball to Eljero Elia to his left, who then moved into box beating Michel Breuer before sending over Vonk to the back of the net. Both sides had ample effort to go ahead in regulation time but somehow the match went to added-time. With eight minutes remaining, Bonaventure Kalou sent a simple effort from the edge of the area that took a hefty deflection off Douglas and past Sander Boschker into the net. With Heerenveen closing in the victory a long cross from the left was headed in by Youssouf Hersi from six metres out to square the match again. Seconds ticked down with Twente pouring on the pressure with a late effort pushed off the line sending the match to penalties. After Theo Janssen, Viktor Elm, Blaise Kufo and Michael Dingsdag canceled out each others successful effort, Youssouf Hersi sent his drive over the bar giving Heerenveen the advantage. Michel Breuer and Bonaventure Kalou efforts were equally matched by Twente, setting the stage for Gerald Sibon.

Thirty five years of age, with the hopes of dreams riding on his effort, he did not disappoint as Heerenveen can now claim the KNVB Beker.

Genoa secures it spot in Europe

Genoa's stunning achievement from Serie B side to European football was etched in stone as the Rossoblu played Chievo to a 2-2 draw at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Sunday afternoon. With the result Genoa is firmly locked fifth in the table with a five margin above Roma, with remaining matches against Torino and Lecce.

After a resounding start for the home-side that came out short, it was Chievo that took the shocking lead ten minutes prior to the break as Luciano's provision from the byline to the right was volleyed in by Giampiero Pinzi from a few metres out. The goal came after a series of brilliant advances from Giuseppe Sculli and Boško Janković, each ending in frustration. A goal down now Genoa raced back with the Crvena Zvezda product Janković proving why he is mentioned as a target by a number of squads, creating a number of chances. Genoa was fortunate not to trail by two at the break as a late surging run ending with a goal by Sergio Pellissier was erased due to a handball. However without further mark the match went to the break with the side from beautiful Verona holding a one goal lead. Eight minutes after the restart Genoa had its chance as the spot was pointed to as Mario Yepes was adjudged a penalty. Diego Milito quickly strode up and confidently drove the ball into the net bringing the faithful to their feet realizing European football nears. With nineteen minutes left, Rubén Olivera struck a free-kick to the upper right corner to give Genoa the 2-1 lead. Thoughts of the victory ended with five minutes left as Sergio Pellissier headed-in Simone Bentivoglio's corner to square the match at two but that certainly did not hold back the celebration as Genoa has secured its spot in Europe.

Monterrey falls out of Ligulla at hands of Puebla

Monterrey's Liguilla efforts came to an end as they played Puebla to a 2-2 draw in the second leg of the quarter finals at the Tecnológico.

Despite Monterrey showing strong attacking vision, Alejandro Acosta gave the visitors the lead fourteen minutes in as he headed-in Daniel Osorno free kick. Any chance of coming back ended ten minutes after the restart as Orlando Javier Rincón drove the ball in from the edge of the area after receiving Ramón Núñez' provision to make it 2-0, with the aggregate now 5-1. The Rayados fought back and a few minutes before the hour William Paredes to within one as he sent a powerful drive in from thirty metres. Finally with thirteen minutes remaining Abraham Darío Carreño nodded in Walter Ayoví's corner to level the match but Monterrey could not make up lost ground and their campaign came to an unsatisfying end.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Porto defeats Trofense 4-1

With the championship assured Porto's victory lap in the final two weeks of the campaign continued with a 4-1 victory over Trofense.

Os Dragões took the lead twenty-nine minutes in with an artistic build up playing, culminating with Mariano González' cross from the right into the box being volleyed in by Ernesto Farías. After the hosts exhibited a reasonable amount of pressure, Porto extended its lead two minutes before the break via a defending error. A deep long ball was headed accidentally backwards by Trofense midfielder Zamorano, allowing Mariano González to control the ball on the right. After circumventing the midfielder trying to recover he crossed to Lisandro López in the six yard box to finish for the 2-0 lead. Lisandro López, grabbed his second of the day two minutes past the hour in another stunning buildup of play. Surging down the left flank Mariano González supplied the ball to Hulk at the top of the box. Creating space the ex-Tokyo Verdy man who then passed to Ernesto Farías who then provided the Argentine international the ball, to which he deftly chipped the ball in to the far corner. With eleven minutes remaining Hulk chased down a deep through ball down the left, sending a cross into the box from the byline that Ernesto Farías headed in to make it 4-0. Hugo Leal added a consolation goal for the home side with eight minutes remaining as he drilled a powerful shot in from twenty-five metres but without further incident the match concluded with a 4-1 victory for the Liga champions.

The azuis e brancos conclude their Liga season against Braga next Sunday at Estádio do Dragão.

missed chances for Paris Saint-Germain as they lose to l'AJA

Paris Saint-Germain's late season swoon continued with a pithy performance in-route to a 2-1 loss to Auxerre. With the outcome, their second consecutive at Parc des Princes, les Rouge et Bleu will need to wait on Sunday's match between Marseille and l’OL to see if they remain a point behind the defending champions.

With Guillaume Hoarau absent, the attacking vision of the Parisians was in the hands of Péguy Luyindula and Mateja Kežman but sadly both were out of sorts and could not connect despite a number of top-shelf chances. After a quiet start going forward l'AJA were gifted the lead as Thomas Kahlenberg sent a long lobbing ball down the right channel. At first Zoumana Camara showed the level of intensity best served for a walk along the Seine before Ireneusz Jeleń forced him to speed up and at the last moment the Parisian defender struck the ball high over Mickaël Landreau into the net. As whistles echoed throughout Parc des Princes in response to the truly dreadful own-goal, l'AJA extended its lead just before the break on a further shocking goal if not impossible to describe. Getting on the end of Benoît Pedretti's provision, Polish international Ireneusz Jeleń struck a shot from dead on the byline, as he was falling, past Mickaël Landreau with the ball curling to the far post in. With the match seemingly decided PSG were thrown a lifeline as Stéphane Sessegnon effort from inside the box deflected off Jean-Pascal Mignot into the net. Immediately the Parisians pushed forward and had a perfect chance to level as a late corner made it to the back post to Mateja Kežman but his touch was off and the match concluded without further mark.

Newcastle falls closer to relegation losing to Fulham

Newcastle's hopes to avoid relegation took a dastardly turn as they fell 1-0 to Fulham at St James' Park. The loss, in conjunction with Hull City's draw to Aston Villa casts the Magpies into the relegation zone a point behind Phil Brown's side. With this in-mind the Magpies are now forced to venture into next weeks encounter at Villa Park needing points and hopeful that Manchester United do not slip up in the final week of the campaign.

While the match was decided with Diomansy Kamara's winning strike and Fulham 'keeper Mark Schwarzer consistently thwarted the many Magpie efforts as if to give his former side Middlesbrough another chance to avoid the drop it will be remembered in a long line of Howard Webb's dreadful calls. Additionally beyond the run of play, in-which Newcastle was not shy of intent or work-rate was the shockingly quiet grounds. In complete contrast to Monday evenings congregation, St James' Park was far from "cauldron" and should Newcastle be dropped, those who attended need to ask why they sat on their hands and kept their voices quiet. With the clubs Premier League life on a razors edge, the lack of support was simply shameful.

As the match commenced, Newcastle showed strong initiative and at the quarter-hour came close and Kevin Nolan played Oba Martins through only to see his close range shop from the six-yard box careen off the post. Disaster struck for Newcastle six minutes prior the break as Danny Murphy played in Erik Nevland, who then squared to Kamara for a professional finish, although many he certainly appeared in an offside position. Opportunities flourished as Newcastle came pouring back but still the match went to break with Fulham maintaining its lead. However five minutes after the break the match the match appeared to be level as Mark Viduka powerfully headed in a corner before referee Howard Webb pulled the goal back citing Kevin Nolan for a foul on Mark Schwarzer. The call was simply dreadful and further questions the referee's ability to operate at this level and in this case it very well might play a part in Newcastle's drop. On the hour Sébastien Bassong was shown a straight red for upending Kamara and Newcastle was forced to play a man down. Still they went forward but as the skies grew dark in a torrential downpour late attempts by Oba Martins and Nicky Butt were denied by Mark Schwarzer and the elusive goal could not be found.

There are many questions related to this match which naturally include Howard Webb's refereeing decisions but more than all, where was the home support when needed the most?

Werder walks through match against KSC

With total focus on Wednesday's UEFA Cup final against Shakhtar Donetsk, the Green Whites went through the motions losing 3-1 to Karlsruher SC at Weserstadion. The match offered little insight in Wedesday's finale and certainly it was looked at to be good practice run but put nothing at risk.

With Sebastian Boenisch, Clemens Fritz, Mesut Özil and Claudio Pizarro out of Thomas Schaaf’s starting eleven KSC went on the attack immediately. Needing a win to have any chance to avoid relegation, the visitors had a chance to take the lead three minutes in as Sebastian Prödl adjudged a penalty on his foul of Lars Stindl. However Marco Engelhardt's effort was held back by Tim Wiese and match remained scoreless. The reprieve aside Lars Stindl rounded out a double before the break to give KSC the 2-0 lead. Two minutes before the half hour Stefano Celozzi's from the right was headed in by the striker to the left corner and nine minutes later he drilled the ball in from just outside the area. Prior to a late consolation goal for Werder, KSC extended its lead ten minutes after the break as Sebastian Freis' pulled the ball back from the byline to Alexander Iashvili who scored from the edge of the six-yard box. With seventeen minutes Mesut Özil's split KSC's defenders putting through Hugo Almeida, who first attempt was saved but was able to turn the rebound in quickly. While Werder missed a late attempt, the match was without any intensity as all all eyes are turned towards Wednesday.

NAC defeats Feyenoord in opening leg of Europa League playoffs

Feyenoord lost 3-2 defeat to NAC Breda in the opening match of the Europa League playoff semi-final Saturday night. After a scoreless opening half NAC jumped to a two goal lead near the hour mark before Roy Makaay pulled one back for the Rotterdammers. That was a close as it got as both sides added late goals to bring the match to its final score. The second leg head to de Kuip on Thursday with Feyenoord needing a win to advance.

In the early stages of the match Feyenoord owned momentum but slowly the home side grew in strength. Donny Gorter's free-kick beat 'keeper Henk Timmer midway of the first half but luckily for Leon Vlemmings men, went off the post. Despite evenly played at the half, NAC came out of the change rooms in a mood to dominate and added two goals before the hour. Eleven minutes after the restart Donny Gorter's free-kick was headed back by Patrick Zwaanswijk with Rob Penders sending the ball in from a close range. Only four minutes later Kelvin Leerdam was adjudged a penalty for a handball and in Gorter converted from the spot. Nine minutes later Feyenoord were gifted a route back into the match as Tom van der Leegte was cited for a debatable handball and without fail, Roy Makaay sent the ball in to make it 2-1. NAC restored its two goal lead with seven minutes left as Matthew Amoah played through Anthony Lurling only to head in a resulting cross. With time ticking down Jon Dahl Tomasson was brought down in the area by Tom van der Leegte and with the spot pointed to, the Danish international made it 3-2.

96 devastated in Niedersachsenderby

On the heels of last weeks come from behind victory over KSC, Hannover 96 final home match of the year, the Niedersachsenderby against Wolfsburg ended in a 5-0 defeat. Difficult to watch at times, die Roten were never really in the match as the Wolfsburg plowed on the pressure throughout in order to add to their goal total given the title race could come down to tie-breakers.

Despite the sunny afternoon and the vocal capacity crowd, Wolfsburg's striking tandem of Edin Džeko and Grafite cut through weaknesses in 96's defending problems that have been compromised by injuries for all five goals. Dieter Hecking adjusted last weeks starting eleven to include Michael Tarnat and Frank Fahrenhorst, with the later making his final home appearance before joining MSV Duisburg this summer. After a confident opening ten minutes by 96, the day turned sour as Wolfsburg began to dominate. Unable to control Džeko, the Bosnian opened the scoring near the quarter-hour as he chested down Makoto Hasebe’s chip pass and sent the ball in from near the edge of the area. At the thirty-third minute Grafite out maneuvered Mario Eggimann to receive the ball from Džeko before firing in from the six yard box. That approach was duplicated a few minutes later as Grafite beat Vinícius before firing in Christian Gentner's cross. Mikael Forssell had a perfect chance to draw a goal back for 96 before the break as he broke free in on Diego Benaglio but the Wolfsburg goalkeeper could not be duped. Knowing the Bundesliga title could be decided on goal differential Wolfsburg poured gasoline on the fire and added two more goals after the break. First, six minutes before the hour Zvjezdan Misimović sent up a long cross that Džeko headed in and the Bosnian added his third at the seventy-ninth minute, flicking in Makoto Hasebe’s cross.

Not to be deterred 96's season is nearing conclusion as they travel to Bielefeld next week with great promise of next season when health issues are eliminated.

Citizens hopes for Europe end with loss to Tottenham

The Citizens hopes for the Europa League ended with a 2-1 loss to Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Saturday afternoon. With Man City targeting a number of top shelf players, the impact of not winning a Europa League berth could greatly reduce the lure of signing with the club.

With so much on the line for both sides, Man City's performance was a hearty slice shy of being sufficient and if wasn't for Shay Given the score line could have been significantly worse. After a number of top quality chances, Tottenham found the mark just past the half hour as Jermaine Jenas linked to Tom Huddlestone before his cross was half-volleyed in by Jermaine Defoe past the City 'keeper. Losing Elano to injury Pablo Zabaleta was ushered in and despite a few respectable efforts City was unable to level the match until five minutes past the hour when Valeri Bojinov found the mark. Just on the outskirts of the box, Stephen Ireland one-touched a perfect chip to Benjani who brought the ball down to the Bulgarian international who then sent it in the far side of the net. With the match already dotted with a peculiar incident at the half between Jermaine Defoe and a assistant referee, at the seventy-fifth minute Roman Pavlyuchenko stormed off the pitch as he was pulled for Fraizer Campbell. Not to be outdone with four minutes remaining referee Mark Halsey adjudged Micah Richards to bringing down Fraizer Campbell in a highly questionable call with Robbie Keane converting to make it 2-1. Despite having a quality chance to level the match late with Benjani's point-blank chance the match ended without further mark.

Despite considerable commentary from City's management that failure to qualify for European football, this will definitely complicate their efforts and will rule out a number of top shelf players

Wolfsburg edges closer to historic first Bundesliga title

Wolfsburg edged closer to its historic first Bundesliga title with a empowering 5-0 defeat of Hannover 96 in the Niedersachsenderby. Led by Edin Džeko three goals, Wolfsburg stands atop the Bundesliga, ahead of both Bayern München and VfB Stuttgart by two points with a next weeks crucial match against Werder Bremen being the decider.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina international, Edin Džeko, who started his professional career in his native Sarajevo for Željezničar opened the scoring fourteen minutes in as he controlled Makoto Hasebe provision before driving the ball past Robert Enke from just outside the box. Three minutes past the half hour Marcel Schäfer sent a low cross into the box the young Bosnian redirected to Grafite who sent it to the back of the net. Only three minutes later, from nearly the same spot Christian Gentner crossed to Grafite, who after out-dueling Mario Eggimann, made it 3-0 from close range. After the break Zvjezdan Misimović set up his countryman Džeko who escaped Sergio Pinto as he escaped his mark before heading the ball in. With eleven minutes remaining, Wolfsburg took a 5-0 lead as Makoto Hasebe's cross from the lead was nodded in by Edin Džeko for his third of the day.

On Saturday Wolfsburg faces Werder Bremen to seal the title in the final match day of the Bundesliga campaign.

Schalke frustrates Hertha BSC

Die Königsblauen put forth a brilliant effort Saturday afternoon as they stymied Hertha BSC in route to a nil draw at the Olympiastadion. With chances for European football long since forgotten the match was effectively for pride and with the Berliners still fighting for the Bundesliga title, it was an extraordinary performance.

With Heiko Westermann and Halil Altintop back in the lineup, Schalke was resolute in returning from their journey to the capital with a point. Complete ball possession dominated the proceeding as Schalke greatly limited the Berliners efforts. However that isn't to say they didn't have their chances, most notably with Crvena Zvezda product Marko Pantelić consistently denied by "man of the match", Schalke 'keeper Manuel Neuer. On the opposite end, Schalke's efforts were pinned back most notably with Pál Dárdai and Serbian international Gojko Kačar keeping advances in-check. Just before the hour mark Andriy Voronin came in for Hertha but there was no way through as the match ended without a score.

Schalke's season comes to a close next Saturday against Hoffenheim at home in Gelsenkirchen.

1899 spoils Bayern title hopes

Despite not having a lot to play for 1899 played Bayern München to a 2-2 draw. While the single point has little impact for Ralf Rangnick's side, it is a moral victory to build upon and additionally ends Bayern's hopes for winning the Bundesliga title.

A capacity crowd at Rhein-Neckar-Arena witnessed a end-to-end match in which the visitors took the lead sixteen minutes in with Franck Ribéry netting Lukas Podolski's provision. However only seven minutes later Demba Ba squared the match with a drive that took a strong deflection into the back of the net. The fast pace continued with Carlos Eduardo putting 1899 ahead two minutes before the half hour. Bayern raced back and after a number of close efforts Luca Toni leveled the match just before the whistle. After the restart Bayern was desperate to find the winning goal, given the draw would end their chances at the title but that is precisely what happened as 1899 held them back.

After the difficult slide in the Rückrunde, 1899 has quietly slipped into a three match unbeaten streak. Perfect to build on for next year as 1899 finishes the year next Saturday against Schalke.

Die Geißböcke play spoiler, defeating Hamburg 1-0

Die Geißböcke took a step closer to Cheftrainer Christoph Daum's goals of forty points with a 1-0 defeat of Hamburg at Volksparkstadion. The victory simultaneously brings the two match slide to an end but also stakes Köln's claim as the "spoiler" as result casts HSV's once brilliant season on the verge of disaster as they have now slipped from a spot in European football.

Once again Thomas Kessler was handled the goalkeeping duties with Faryd Mondragon out but Köln was further challenged without top-scorer Milivoje Novakovič, Pierre Wome and Youssef Mohamad. Surprising because of the poor quality defending Köln scored the only goal of the day nine minutes in as Kessler's long ball down the middle was left unchallenged and after bouncing Fabrice Ehret held off Collin Benjamin for the ball and fired the ball in from twelve metres. How this evaded attention of both Guy Demel and Joris Mathijsen was surprising however the key fundamental error of proved to be the catalyst of Köln's goal. For the balance of the match HSV were unable to press into the final third and picture perfect defending of Köln didn't allow a single notable attempt challenge Thomas Kessler's day.

Next Saturday RheinEnergieStadion will be the setting for the final match of the year as Köln welcomes Bochum.

Bochum defeats Eintracht 2-0

Secure of their spot in the Bundesliga next season, Eintracht dropped Saturday's match 2-0 to Bochum. A strong group of traveling die Adler supporters, never to be held back in their efforts made the short trip to the Bochumer Stadion. The streets were packed and the always notable presence of Germany's best fans could not be slowed. Efforts to inspire our team who will never surrender, were highly vocal and definitely were well received by the team.

Needing to shuffle the lineup Chris, Michael Fink and Sebastian Jung came in for Habib Bellaid, Nikos Liberopoulos and Patrick Ochs. After Eintracht came up empty with a few good scoring chances, notably Alexander Meier's effort cleared off the line, Bochum took a 1-0 lead as Joël Epalle's cross from the left was headed in by Vahid Hashemian. After the break Nikos Liberopoulos was brought-in but the striking tandem still couldn't break through. Finally with eighteen minutes left Diego Klimowicz sent in a loss ball after a series of efforts by Hashemian and Epalle were saved by Markus Pröll. Eintracht came close late with Markus Steinhöfer and Alexander Meier driving to the last minutes but the match ended 2-0.

Eintracht's farewell performance of the year features HSV at Waldstadion and as always support will imposing.

Bayer Leverkusen trample Borussia Mönchengladbach 5-0

If Bruno Labbadia was looking for a reaction from Tuesday's loss to Bayern München he got it as Werkself, in their final match in Düsseldorf, pounded Gladbach into submission 5-0. However far beyond the victory the match was highlighted by the glorious return of veteran Bernd Schneider.

The derby against the Gladbachern started with the visitors looking strong but after a failed attempt, a packed LTU Arena was on its feet as Stefan Kießling gave Bayer 04 the lead just past the half-hour. Accepting a ball on the right with a great deal of space, he stormed into the area and without a challenge from Roel Brouwers we sent the ball in off the far post. Knowing full-well that Borussia's Tomáš Galásek and Dante create formidable defending interior, Werkself continued to try and create space with flanking assaults and just before the break it was 2-0 as Tony Kross absorbed collapsing Gladbach defenders before supplying Gonzalo Castro the ball on the wide open right flank. Moving into the area he sent a low cross that Patrick Helmes edged into the near post. As Gladbach's efforts to get back to match started to slow, Werkself went into overdrive as Gonzalo Castro made it 3-0 eight minutes past the hour when he sent the ball in from a acute angle on the right. Entering for Toni Kross six minutes before Bernd Schneider created the fourth goal as his chip from the right was headed in by Michal Kadlec a few metres out. For the fifth goal, once again coming from the right Gonzalo Castro's cross was sent in by Dante in a awkward own goal as he was under no pressure.

With the victory, Werkself has one remaining week in the Bundesliga season before the all-important DFB Pokal final and a chance for the Europa League