The stage is set. May 28, 2022, in the Stade de France in Paris. Liverpool vs. Real Madrid, La Liga vs. The Premier League, Klopp vs. Ancelotti, Benzema vs. Salah, we are in for possibly one of the greatest UEFA Champions League (UCL) finals in history. How did both teams conquer an array of European oppositions to make it to the pinnacle of cup competitions? Let’s take a look.
Liverpool began the campaign in group B of the 32-team competition, going up against the likes of Atletico Madrid (Spain), Porto (Portugal), and AC Milan (Italy). Historically, the names of the teams would make it seem to be the group of death, but this was far from the case. Liverpool made light work of the oppositions, winning all six of the games with an aggregate score of 17-6.
When the knockout stages began, Madrid drew Paris Saint-German (France) in the round of 16, while Liverpool got Inter Milan. It was a PSG vs Madrid clash in France for the 1st leg, with the Parisians coming out on top by 1-0, scored by future Real forward, Kylian Mbappe. They were dominated. Marco Verratti ran the show, stifling Madrid from starting/continuing attacking build-ups, but it was all to play for at the Bernabeu.
What happened to Madrid after being outplayed in the previous encounter? Karim Benzema. After going behind again in the game to another Kylian Mbappe goal, things got tense. After an inspired substitution by Carlo Ancelotti to replace Toni Kroos with Eduardo Camavinga, everything clicked. Karim Benzema scored a 15-minute hat-trick to turn the tie on its head. The final whistle blew to the delight of the Spaniards winning the match 3-1, and 3-2 overall.
In the game at Anfield, Benfica scored 5 goals. Unfortunately for them, two were offside which meant they were disallowed. Liverpool never gave up and scored three of their own to give an end to an enthralling game. Next up: the semifinals. Liverpool vs. Villarreal in one and the other consists of English champions Manchester City against the newly crowned Spanish champions Real Madrid.
Villarreal, or as they are commonly known as, the Yellow Submarine, was a pushover losing 2-0 to Liverpool for them to have one foot in the final. In the other semi, it was end-to-end, leaving fans, pundits, and commentators breathless alike. City ended up with the advantage of 4-3, but as previously shown in the competition, Real Madrid is never out.
As expected Liverpool put both feet in the final with a come from behind 3-2 win. A bright start to the game was not capitalized on by the Yellow Submarine as they crumbled in the 2nd half and conceded three goals in 12 minutes, crashing out of the final four.
When it was looking like the comeback was not possible this time, that man Karim Benzema had his say. In the 90th and final minute, a deep cross from Camavinga was diverted by Benzema into the path of the onrushing Brazilian Rodrygo to give some hope for Ancelotti’s side.
A quickfire 91 SECONDS later the Brazilian got his second to level the tie and send it to extra-time. At the start of the additional period, a mistimed challenge by Ruben Dias gave Real a penalty. Karim face-to-face with shot-stopper Ederson coolly dispatched the penalty into the bottom corner to give his team the lead and the eventual win.
Karim Benzema ©
Virgil Van Dijk
Jordan Henderson ©
August 14, 2021, when United thrashed arch-rivals Leeds United at Old Trafford by five goals to one looked like the start of something special. The unveiling of one of the most decorated defenders in the world Raphael Varane, the debut of English wonderkid Jadon Sancho, world cup winner Paul Pogba providing an assist to four of the five goals, and Bruno Fernandes scoring a hattrick. These were special times. Things got even more exciting when it was reported that Cristiano Ronaldo would be making a sensational return from the Italian side Juventus.
However, all these things somehow got awful. Many different reasons could be eluded to, whether it was the non-continuity of the team, inept playing style without an identity, or even a lack of effort but one thing was for certain; it could not continue.
With the godfather of “gegenpressing” now in charge, fans were positive hoping to see similar playing styles to the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, both of whose coaches were mentors of Rangnick. That was far from the case. Only a select few got to grips with it without issues and even though those players weren’t the best, they gave 110% on the pitch. The other “talented” players couldn’t give a damn and just made the dressing room even more toxic.
Rangnick spoke in press conferences about how a revolution is needed at the football club, stating that United doesn’t have the quality footballing department as compared to the current top three (Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea) and even said for any new permanent manager, this job would be like “open-heart surgery.”
This will be a really difficult job to find a new identity at Manchester United and it could take time. The club is going through another season without a trophy, last lifting one in 2017 so frustration could creep in after the first year but patience is key. In all fairness, Ten Hag, Rangnick, and the newly revamped recruitment team have a lot of issues to work out.
The team has around six players who are out of contract this offseason. They are Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Lee Grant, Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani, and Juan Mata, with players such as Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Dean Henderson looking for moves to get regular game time. With an exodus like that, the club must be looking to sign about four or five players in the summer transfer window. This season was a nightmare for United fans all around the world but there were some positives.
The Red Devils haven’t had a recognized holding midfielder that can play twice a week since Michael Carrick retired in 2018. That position has been neglected for years and cannot be avoided in this window. With the upcoming arrival of James Garner from his loan spell at Nottingham Forest, the team has a ready-made gem to look forward to.
If United feels James is not ready for Premier League football, alternative options could be Wolverhampton’s Ruben Neves, Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni, and Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips. A scout was sent to Wolverhampton’s latest game to gather more info on Neves as a transfer gradually looks increasingly doable. As reported by Jonathan Shrager, Phillips would prefer to sign a new deal at Leeds and would find it hard to join Manchester United because of the rivalry between the clubs. When it comes to Tchouameni, he looks to be bound for Real Madrid even though he is “tempted” by a PL move.
As stated earlier Ten Hag will have a mammoth job to make this team the force it once was, being the winningest team in PL history. A style of play and philosophy will need to be implemented during the preseason tour and a group of players that can be trusted to execute and give 110%. It will be an interesting summer for this group, especially since this is sports and anything can happen.
Kevin Durant made his shots tonight I won’t lie, but he proved he does not have the clutch gene. Missing a key free throw to bring the game within 2 points, which led to Al Horford’s putback, put him in a worse light than I thought. KD’s fanboys making noise after he hit a running shot over Marcus Smart, they were all over Twitter. I have to laugh. Vegas had the Nets as the favorites for the chip this year. Whoever decides those stats for the gambling market should resign immediately.
After beating an inexperienced Cavs team in the play-in tournament, mouths were running in the city of Brooklyn. BRUCE BROWN! This man ran his mouth and have to give him respect, if he did not put up 26 points in game 3 then it would’ve been ugly. However, making a staggering 2 points in the entire win-or-go-home scenario means you need to be traded to a team with no belief or future; Detroit or something like that.
Even though the Nets got swept, there was a record in their favor. Nic Claxton broke Shaquille O’Neal’s playoff record for most consecutive misses from the free-throw line. Shaq was 0-8 from the line in 2006, while Claxton went 0-10, until going 1-11 on the night.
Grant went off for 14 points including 3 three-point daggers. Payton Pritchard gave crucial minutes in game 2 for that clincher, and the Time Lord’s presence was evident, albeit in his limited game time.
Brooklyn messed up the trade earlier in the season when they traded for BUM Ben Simmons paying him $20 million to sit on the bench and cry for every pinch in his back. For someone who has crucial back injuries myself, I get up and ball on the street which is way rougher than this soft league nowadays, but he’s all about his money. A pay-to-play format in upcoming contracts could be implemented in the future all because of Simmons.
The Nets have a long offseason ahead including what to do with their coach, Kyrie Irving’s contract situation, and what to do with players like Dragic, Claxton, Brown, and Andre Drummond who played a total of FOUR MINUTES as a starter.
Don’t even get me started on KD and Kyrie. Without LeBron James and Steph Curry those two would be ringless; FACT! They are not Jordans or Kobes or Birds, they are more of Pippens and Kidds of the world. Their 2nd string and not the main men. Never have, never will be.
Again, who saw this coming for the Nets, apart from me obviously who thought they wouldn’t even make the play-in tournament. The Nets got the broom out and did not know they were cleaning their own mess.
Photo By – USA TODAY Sports
The whole game was neck and neck and even tied 61-61 by halftime; however, it never went in the Net’s favor. Both KD and Kyrie struggled for a bit, but Kyrie eventually gained his rhythm while KD still struggled but managed to end the game with 23 points. Not only that, the Net’s largest lead was 5 which wasn’t achieved till the fourth quarter.
Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant (7) gestures after making a three-point shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 6, 2022, in New York. The Nets won 110-98. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)
There’s still a lot more to see and analyze with this series and I can’t wait to watch more.
(@Grady from Twitter)
Bruce Brown of all people in the post-match press conference talked about Boston and how they are short-handed because Robert Williams III is injured and to just basically shut down Jayson Tatum to win the series. I still cannot believe he was serious. Bruce Brown, not Kevin Durant, not Steve Nash, but Bruce Brown who has one good game every hundred attempts running his mouth.
The man got what he deserved though. In the first quarter of the game at the TD Garden, the jumbotron showed the quote he made about not having the “Time Lord” available. The Celtics made light work of the Nets in the first half even though the game was tied at 61, they rendered KD useless with only two made shots.
In the second half, particularly the 3rd quarter, Boston took even further control extending their lead up to eleven points. What else do you expect when you constantly leave Marcus Smart open on the perimeter? SPLASH! The Celtics then got a bit sloppy on defense leaving Kyrie Irving open to get the hot hand.
He is like that kid at school that has all the trash talk but is absolutely like his comments; trash. The Celtics nearly let the game get away from them, but when an intense double team made its way to Irving with the shot-clock running down, and Tatum with an aggressive close-out to KD on the perimeter to throw up a wild shot, it was now or never.
What an end to a game that was and first blood to the Celtics. Brooklyn is gonna come out all guns blazing on Wednesday for game 2 if they have any ammo left anyway. Durant and Irving are gonna do what they do best then too, score every point and just watch their team suffer when they need to take a breath. My prediction; Celtics in 4, five is Brooklyn win game 3.