Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Champions League: Cluj Shocks Roma;
Sporting Stutters at Barcelona

So shoot me! I picked the wrong minnow.

I put all my eggs in Sporting's basket, and the boys from Lisbon cracked every single shell with a performance in which they were intimidated, overmatched and underwhelming. UEFA Cup here we come? Probably.

No, I should have bet on the Romanians; they never disappoint. CFR Cluj are the darlings of the Champions League now after yesterday's tremendous performance in Rome. This is how you go into the home of a giant and take them down--injuries notwithstanding for Roma.

Cluj walked into the Stadio Olympico and walked out with a 2-1 win, putting them second in Group A behind Chelsea, which destroyed Bordeau, 4-0.

Cluj owned the second half and the result probably should have been more lopsided than a one-goal victory. Not that anyone in the town of Transylvania is complaining (too cliche?).

The critics today are talking more about Roma's problems, especially on defense where Roma has conceded eight goals in four matches. They're talking about injuries to the Roma back line and their talking about the death of Roma owner and the possibility of a takeover.

A column today isn't buying all the excuses:
This poor attitude and lack of accountability will only continue to hurt the club. The attitude existing towards these smaller clubs must be changed. That Roma have gone ahead three games in a row and then failed to win them all against inferior opposition is unacceptable, but of course it ‘cannot be explained’ and ‘things will turn around soon’.
It may be a short ride for Cluj, which takes on Chelsea next, but for a day these guys are kings of Europe and deservedly so.

As for Sporting, the other minnow playing yesterday with a chance to escape the group stage for the first time, well they were sad in the first half, and not much better in the second. Sporting stacked 9, 10, 11 men behind the ball, and still inexplicably allowed Lionel Messi space to abuse them on the right side, and Thierry Henry openings on the left to get off quality chances. Rafa Marquez's goal in the first half was an abomination of poor defense, yet Sporting was down only 1-0 at the half.

In the final 45, things perked up a bit, but Samuel Eto'o earned and convered a penalty kick for a 2-0 edge before Tonel booted home a Miguel Veloso free kick; why did Veloso and Helder Postiga begin the game on the bench? This team had not played since Sept. 1. Xavi's goal late put the game away and made the 3-1 final.

It was a topnotch performance for Barca and a cliched, pitiful showing for Sporting. Intimidated from the start, they played as if they were intruding on hallowed ground and certainly did not play for any sort of result.

Oh You Beauty has the goods on Liverpool's 2-1 win over Marseille.
Chelsea FC Blog recaps, well, you can figure it out...
Mcalcio takes you inside Inter's road win at Panathinaikos.
Soccer By Ives has the whole deal.

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