Sunday, April 4, 2010

UEFA Champion's League Quarterfinals - II

So, tonight I took my next look at one of the first-leg games from the UEFA Champion’s League Quarterfinals, and it was something else: Manchester United at Bayern Munich.

I haven’t seen all that many soccer games in my life, and I’ve little strong memories of the games I have seen, but those qualifications aside, this was without a doubt one of the better soccer games I’ve come across.

A little summary: Man U takes a very early lead with a goal by Wayne Rooney in the 2nd minute when Bayern defender DiMichaelis makes a couple horrible decisions in the first series of plays, first tackling a Bayern forward on a ball that was headed out of bounds, setting up a free kick from the corner, then slipping and losing Rooney right in front of the goal, allowing Rooney to tap in an easy goal right out of the gates. This would be a them that would be replayed time and again through the first half: Rooney making solid plays, DiMichaelis make poor plays.

For the rest of the first half, and then some, Bayern was on the attack, with Franck Ribery and Hamit Alintop leading their offensive charge. Alintop had a big shot on goal in the 58th minute and Ivan Olic had another shot on the short corner in the 71st minute, but it wasn’t until the 77th minute when Ribery got the equalizer on a freekick (caused by a handball/yellow card) that was deflected off Rooney and found its way into the goal without the keeper (Van der Sar) having any chance.

Just a few minutes later, Man U had a header off of a corner hit the goal bar. Then, in the first minute of extra time, Bayern’s Gomez had a chance on goal, but Van der Sar made an excellent save. However, not a minute later, Gomez again had another chance on some transition offense. Gomez got tackled in the box on a play that likely should have drawn a kick, but the ref swallowed his whistle, and it was a good thing for the Munich squad, as Olic appeared out of nowhere, gained control of the ball in the midst of four Man U defenders and slammed home the game winner in the waning seconds of penalty time.

All in all, a spectacular game: great opening sequence, great closing sequence and amazing flow and pace to the game in between with dozens upon dozens of spectacular athletic plays in between.

I thought a little bit about why I’m interested in soccer during the middle of this game, and decided that the common denominator between the sports that I love (basketball and football) are great athletes making profoundly athletic displays in the midst of games based on teamwork and strategy. Those criteria would define my dislike for baseball and predict my love of soccer. In this game alone, for instance, the type of plays that Olic (to name just one hero) was making down the stretch after having played 90 grueling minutes, were spectacular. Soccer definitely fits right in there on the good side of the equation of teams sports that I love.