Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Andres Iniesta scored one of the most dramatic goals in Champions League history to sink Chelsea and send ten-man Barcelona into a Champions League final showdown with Manchester United.

Three minutes into injury time in a second leg that Chelsea had completely dominated, the Spain midfielder latched on to a pass from Lionel Messi and lashed an unstoppable shot spinning into the top corner of the net.

That was enough to cancel out Michael Essien’s even more stunning ninth-minute strike for Chelsea, level the aggregate score at 1-1 and send the Catalans to Rome on the away goals rule after an encounter that will principally be remembered for the erratic refereeing of Tom Ovrebo.

Out-thought and out-muscled in the goalless first leg in the Nou Camp, Barcelona found themselves out-played in what was, until the cruel final minutes, a one-sided Stamford Bridge encounter.

Ovrebo was wrong to send Barca’s French defender Eric Abidal off with just over 20 minutes left for what he thought was a professional foul on Nicolas Anelka.

But the Norwegian official’s performance hit Chelsea far harder with Guus Hiddink’s side denied what appeared to be at least two stonewall penalties on a night that ended with him being escorted off the pitch under the protection of Chelsea stewards alarmed by Didier Drogba’s attempts to confront him.

Chelsea had made two changes from the side that had prevented Barcelona from scoring at the Nou Camp for the first time this season.

Ashley Cole returned from suspension and John Obi Mikel, one of two defensive midfielders deployed in Barcelona, was sacrificed to accommodate Nicolas Anelka on the right of a front three.

Barca did not have the luxury of tactical fine-tuning. Already deprived, by suspension and injury, of centrebacks Carles Puyol and Rafael Marquez, Josep Guardiola lost Henry to a knee injury suffered in the 6-2 thrashing of Real Madrid at the weekend.

The result was a reshuffle that saw Yaya Toure employed as a stand-in centre-half, Sergio Busquets and Seydou Keita brought into midfield and Iniesta pushed forward to join Messi and Samuel Eto’o in attack.

Pilloried as exponents of “anti-football” after the first leg, Chelsea needed only eight minutes of the return to produce the perfect riposte with a goal that breathtakingly demonstrated that the Catalans do not enjoy a monopoly on technical excellence.

Frank Lampard’s attempted chip was deflected by Toure into Essien’s path and, from just beyond the arc on the edge of the penalty area, the Ghanaian midfielder unleashed a left-foot volley that rattled into the net off the underside of the bar.

Midway through the half Lampard released Drogba but Chelsea’s appeals for Abidal’s robust challenge to be penalised went unheeded.

It was Chelsea who should have killed the match soon after the restart.

Anelka’s surge to the edge of the area allowed him to tee up Drogba, who turned inside Gerard Pique’s desperate lunge only to be denied by the outstretched boot of Valdes.

The home supporters’ frustration with Ovrebo grew when he failed to spot a blatant foul by Toure on Drogba, this time outside the area.

But the Norwegian official more than compensated ten minutes later when he adjudged Abidal to have tripped Anelka from behind as he raced goalwards in pursuit of Drogba’s flick.

Television replays suggested Anelka had contrived to trip himself and Barca had been unfairly condemned to playing for more than 20 minutes with ten men.

Chelsea had further reason for grievance when, with ten minutes left, Anelka’s flick caught the outstretched arm of Gerard Pique deep inside the box.

Again, Ovrebo waved the penalty appeals away and Chelsea paid the price when Petr Cech, who had not had a significant save to make until then, was left with no chance by Iniesta’s lovely strike.

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Perth Glory are this morning set to confirm a second pre-season friendly game against an English Premier League side with Fulham heading to Member’s Equity Stadium.

Newly-promoted Wolves are already booked in for a trip to Perth and now Mark Schwarzer’s Fulham have signed on the dotted line.

Meanwhile Glory coach David Mitchell has revealed how his recruitment plans came unstuck, sometimes for the most bizarre reasons, with one player scuppering a move to WA because of his wife’s aversion to creepy crawlies.

Mitchell, who expects to apply some star trimmings to his squad in the next month, said signing players from overseas was much more complicated than most people imagined, sometimes because of misconceptions about the Australian lifestyle.

“One player decided not to come here because his wife didn’t like the spiders and snakes in Australia,” Mitchell said of the former English Premier League player who he did not want to name. “And she was a bit worried about the sharks, too.

“Some players think it’s too hot all the time and you get some who want to know what the food is like. Some of the reasons that are put forward are ridiculous.”

Mitchell said the distance from Europe and the high tax rate were also factors that could complicate what appeared to be a straight-forward deal. But the coach expected to have all but finalised his squad by early next month.

“By the start of June, we’ll hopefully have all the signings apart from maybe one,” Mitchell said.

Although Glory are yet to announce any new signings for the 2009-10 campaign, Mitchell has re-signed several players from last season and has made inquiries about a number of overseas-based players.

The club announced last week that defender Brent Griffiths, striker Anthony Skorich and midfielder Howard Fondyke have been signed on senior contracts to take to five the number of last season’s National Youth League team to join the A-League set-up. Defender Scott Neville and midfielder Andrija Jukic are the others.

The West Australian understands the club is close to finalising deals with Socceroos midfielder Jacob Burns, who is playing for Romanian club Unirea Voluntari Urziceni, and Derby County defender Andy Todd.

As well as the two high-profile games, Glory’s pre-season campaign is also expected to include a home match against North Queensland Fury, where former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler is the marquee player, while Gold Coast United are also understood to be interested in a friendly in Perth.

Mitchell was disappointed to be playing the first two games of the season away from home — Glory play Adelaide United on August 7 and Wellington Phoenix on August 16 — before returning to Members Equity for a first home match against Newcastle Jets on August 23.
The West Australian Newspaper Johnathon Cook

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