Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Champions League final MVP award goes to ...
by Paul Gardner, May 22nd, 2008 7AM

MOST READ
TAGS:  uefa champions league

MOST COMMENTED

As we've more or less given up expecting great finals, Chelsea and Manchester United provided the sort of game we've gotten used to -- a Champions League final that was good, but not great.

Two teams with millions of dollars worth of attacking talent on the field, managed to give us only two goals, but the near misses -- particularly Chelsea's -- and a couple of saves -- from Chelsea again -- provided excitement.

As to the winner -- did Man U deserve their victory? Maybe -- though I can't honestly say that Chelsea deserved to lose. Anyway, we're talking about a win based on the infamous penalty kicks.

After 120 minutes of the real game, the championship was decided in less than 10 minutes of shootout activity. Does anyone really like the shootout? Maybe some people do -- I haven't met any of them -- but almost everyone admits that it is not the way to decide a game. Especially an important one.

Yet, given the fact that finals are likely to be tight, cautious -- and defensive -- games, the blight of a shootout looms large in such games. This was the fourth Champions League final in the last eight to be settled in this way. We also have a world champion, Italy, that claimed the title via a shootout.

I can find but one thing to say in praise of last night's penalty kicks: they were honest. I don't mean the kickers were honest -- they have little choice -- I mean the goalkeepers, Edwin Van der Saar and Petr Cech, managed to obey the rules.

Playing by the rules has not been a prominent feature of past champions' league shootouts. In 2003, the Milan keeper Dida engaged in flagrant cheating against Juventus, coming well off his line to save -- first from Marcelo Zalayeta and then, crucially, from Paolo Montero. Two years later, some sort of delayed justice struck, when Milan was on the receiving end of goalkeeper skulduggery, as Liverpool's Jerzy Dudek almost raced out of his goal to block Andrea Pirlo's kick. In both games, the referee -- not mention the assistants who are specially positioned to watch out for goalkeeper movement -- saw nothing wrong.

But last night, in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, things were different. It all came down to 20 seconds of referee Lubos Michel's time. There he was, with his assistant, talking to both goalkeepers, immediately before the shootout began. Well, true, I don't know what he was saying -- but I'd bet from the gestures he was making -- and from the impeccable behavior of the goalkeepers later, that he was letting them know that illegal movement would be punished.

Petr Cech saved Ronaldo's kick, and then Van der Saar sealed Man U's win with his save from Nicolas Anelka ... and both saves were legitimate, made without cheating.

That save of Van der Saar's inevitably led to yet another of the shootout's unsatisfactory consequences: headlines talking of him as the hero of the win, and his selection as the game's MVP. What nonsense. I counted one genuine save by him during the game; aside from Frank Lampard's goal, he was beaten twice but was lucky that the shots, by Didier Drogba and Lampard hit the woodwork. But he takes the award for a couple of seconds worth of what might well have been sheer guesswork.

The MVP award probably should have gone to one of the hard-working midfielders or defenders. It was that sort of a game, made even more of a grind by torrential game. It could have Michael Carrick or Michael Essien, or Ricardo Carvalho or Nemanja Vidic, all played their hearts out. But ... Van Der Saar?

The award was, strictly speaking, for Man of the Match. As it doesn't mention a player, I think I'd stretch a point and give it to referee Michel who handled difficult and explosive matters with calm authority throughout. In particular, he was not intimidated by Chelsea's repeated complaints, nor by their mobbing tactics, which in the end, cost them dear.

The incident that ended with Lubos ejecting Drogba seemed like an innocuous disagreement between John Terry and Carlos Tevez -- before, suddenly, Ballack and Lampard and, fatally, Drogba muscled their way into the fracas. When Drogba slapped Vidic in the face, that was the sad end of the night for him -- possibly a sad end to his career at Chelsea.

As Manchester United has pipped Chelsea to both the EPL and the Champions League titles, I'd say that makes it the better team. But on this night, I could see nothing to choose between them. The luck of the shootout said Manchester United.

 



0 comments
  1. Heather Scott-molleda
    commented on: May 22, 2008 at 12:10 p.m.
    Essien for MVP? Wasn't he the defender who lost track of Ronaldo and was caught completely flat-footed as Ronaldo soared over him to score a tremendous header? I would vote for Cech based on his brilliant save, including in PKs. But don't discount van der Saar's efforts either, no matter how quickly they happened. Facing the pressure of PKs and still coming up with the big save at the crucial moment goes a long way to earning MVP honors.


Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner
FIFA's Scandalous Snub of Costa Rica     
Should there be any lingering doubts about the total domination that Europe now has over the ...
A Tale of Two Clasicos: From Madrid to Seattle    
It seemed like a good idea -- to compare and contrast Sunday's big games. Two clasicos ...
How I referee Garber vs. Klinsmann    
That MLS Commissioner Don Garber should be upset by Jurgen Klinsmann's thoughtless and really rather peevish ...
To Landon Donovan: Ave atque Vale!     
So Landon Donovan has had his special day ... and I cannot think of anyone involved ...
The Need for a Holistic Approach to Soccer    
One of the stranger things about soccer is that it is rarely, if ever, considered as ...
England -- belatedly and hesitantly -- begins to accept Latin talent     
LONDON -- Change -- important, fundamental change -- seems to be arriving at last in English ...
Tactical fouls and studs-up tackles dangerously overshadowed by diving hysteria    
LONDON -- This fatuous business of turning simulation, or diving, into the worst crime that a ...
Magath's cheese poultice -- maybe not so whacky as it sounds    
LONDON -- There's not much to be said -- well, nothing good -- about the short ...
Coaches, Doctors or Refs: Who to trust with players' health?    
LONDON -- You may have noticed that Jose Mourinho has plenty to say. You may also ...
Mad Dog and Fighting Pig find home in MLS -- in a good way, of course    
Hard on the heels (and that phrase may soon acquire literal meaning) of the arrival of ...
>> SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner Archives