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19.15 – Evening all, and welcome to our minute-by-minute coverage of this evening’s Champions League quarter-finals between Chelsea and Manchester United and FC Barcelona and Shakhtar Donestk.
I don’t know about you but I’m really looking forward to the games tonight. I’ve the team news in front of me, so I’ll get it to you as quickly as my little fingers can type. Back in a sec.
19.17 – First, here are the teams from Stamford Bridge. Goal-machine Fernando Torres gets the nod alongside Drogba for the hosts while Rio Ferdinand returns to the heart of United’s defence. No room for Nani though – he drops to the bench to make room for Antonio Valencia.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Zhirkov, Drogba, Torres. Subs: Turnbull, Benayoun, Mikel, Malouda, Ferreira, Kalou, Anelka.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Rafael Da Silva, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Hernandez, Rooney. Subs: Kuszczak, Berbatov, Smalling, Nani, Scholes, Evans, Gibson.
19.26 – United fans, Chelsea fans – how are we all feeling? The United line-up would suggest that Fergie will be happy enough with a draw to take back to Old Trafford. I know he has a tiny bit more managerial experience than I have, but is that the right way to approach the game?
19.30 – Anybody care to venture a guess as to how long it is since Fernando Torres has scored a goal? Anyone?
I’ll tell you – it’s 696 minutes. Two goals for Liverpool against Wolves on January 22 was the last time the Spaniard hit the net. Five days later, he sold his soul.
19.32 – Time for a few small punts before the game begins, I think. Feel free to send me your tips – I’m feeling very impressionable tonight. Does anybody think that Torres to score in 90 minutes at 15/8 represents any sort of value, or is it just me?
19.37 – Ok, a cursory glance suggests that there is absolutely no value to be found in the betting markets. I’ll save my lunch money for the Masters and the Grand National so. For interest’s sake, this is how I see things panning out.
Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United
FC Barcelona 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
19.39 – We’re just over five minutes away from kick-off in both games. If you’re a Chelsea fan (or John Terry for that matter), now is probably not the time to remind you of this.
19.43 – The United fans are making quite a bit of noise as the teams emerge from the tunnel. They’re singing “Viva John Terry” – how droll.
19.45 – We’re off at Stamford Bridge, United playing from left to right. Not that that matters if you’re not watching on TV.
19.52 – A bit of a miscommunication between Evra and Carrick (who else?) in midfield hands the ball straight to Torres. He takes it on to the edge of the box but hits his shot straight at van der Sar.
19.54 – GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Shakhtar (Iniesta) Hands up, who’s surprised? Messi is the provider, Iniesta finishes calmly. Game over?
19.56 – Chelsea have probably been slightly more comfortable in these opening ten minutes, but both sides are struggling to string any meaningful passages of play together. Still, there’s a lot of football to be played.
19.57 – DrogbaWatch: He’s sitting on the ground looking grumpy after Rio Ferdinand looked at him. In Drogba’s defence, it was a fairly intense stare.
20.02 – Evra outfoxed Bosingwa over on the left and wins a corner for himself. The delivery is only half-cleared by Drogba, but as Park lines one up on the edge of the box, the Ivorian is first to react and deflects it behind for another corner. Which Giggs passes – passes – to Lampard for some reason. Don’t ask …
20.05 – Oooh. Drogba blems (it’s a word, ok?) one from a tight angle about 15 yards out and van der Sar has to be on his toes to tip it over the bar. That’s the first time either keeper has been tested and we’ve 18 minutes on the clock.
20.07 – If the saying about God loving a trier is true, then he’s probably quite fond of Shakhtar at the moment. They’re having a go at the Camp Nou and would be level had Luis Adriano not wasted a one-on-one opportunity against Valdes.
20.17 – I’ve just been introduced to the wonders of www.hastorresscoredforchelsea.com. Thanks Kev.
20.25 – I’m opening a book on how long Torres lasts before he’s hauled off. He’s not having much fun tonight, especially with Rio and Vidic in his ear winding him up at every possible opportunity like the gentlemen that they are. Anybody care to make a guess?
20.28 – A great break by United very nearly brings about goal number two. Valencia sets Rooney free with an inch-perfect cross-field ball and his eventual cross misses Hernandez’s head by a hair’s width. If he was the big pea rather than the little pea, he might just have made it to that.
20.34 – Wow. Close does not do that justice and Chelsea must be wondering how they’re not going into half-time on level terms. The touch which Torres gets six yards out is so slight that it completely deceives van der Sar but the ball bobbles back off the post and into Lampard’s path. He’s not quite expecting it, but he is only four yards out and cleverly plays it into the ground, over van der Sar and seemingly into the net. Evra comes from absolutely nowhere to hook it off the line though and United survive.
20.35 – It wasn’t the best half of football I’ve ever watched but it wasn’t the worst. I’m off to stick the kettle on and generally avoid the “analysis” of Bill and the lads. Get in touch with your thoughts on the opening 45 and I’ll digest them with my cuppa.
20.45 – This one’s a close second.
20.46 – Quick question for you as the team’s come back out for the second half. Did Torres actually get a touch on that chance just before half-time? I’m not 100% sure he did.
20.51 – No changes for either Chelsea or United at half-time I should tell you, which means that Torres is still there. There might be an enforced substitution in a minute though – Rafael is limping badly following a collision with Drogba.
20.52 – That has to go down as a chance for Chelsea. Drogba stuck a pacy ball in from the right and Ramires had a free header eight yards out but couldn’t quite direct it on target.
20.55 – GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Shakhtar (Pique) Looks like my prediction wasn’t a mile off. Hard to see Shakhtar coming back from this one now.
20.59 – Drogba forgets that he’s 33 for a minute and tries a bicycle kick from the edge of the United six-yard box. He gets a decent connection on it, mind you, but it’s always going wide. Chelsea have had much the better of the opening 12 minutes here though.
21.04 – GOALS! Barcelona 4-1 Shakhtar Can’t take your eye of proceedings at the Nou Camp for a second. Rakitskiy pulls one back for the visitors, but seconds later, Keita restores the three-goal advantage.
Meanwhile, the most exciting thing happening at the Bridge is that Ryan Giggs kicked the corner flag rather than the ball. Am I watching the wrong game?
21.10 – Chelsea got away with one there. Cech gets a vital touch on Nani’s ball into the danger zone – Hernandez was waiting at the back post there and, had Cech missed, the Mexican would have nodded into the empty net from two yards. Key.
21.12 – Essien whistles a volley past van der Sar’s upright from the edge of the box. “Didn’t really catch hold of it,” muses Ray Houghton on RTE. If he had, it would’ve been a goal.
21.13 – Double substitution for Chelsea. Malouda is on for Zhirkov, while top goalscorer Nicolas Anelka comes on for Drogba. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but Ancelotti has taken off the wrong striker there.
21.17 – To be fair to Torres, despite all of the stick which he’s taken from everybody (myself included) tonight, he’s still trying – and he’s very nearly equalised for Chelsea. He angles a brilliant header back across the face of the United goal and but for van der Sar using every inch of his six-foot-five frame to get a wonderful touch on it, he would have scored.
21.20 – And there he is. Hernandez makes way – he deserves a lot of credit for his role in the game.
Chelsea make their final change – Mikel on for Bosingwa. Mikel’s an affable chap, isn’t he?
21.22 – That’s a strange decision by our Spanish referee. Van der Sar claims to have picked up a knock and asks Vidic to take a goal-kick for him. They weren’t wasting time – yet – but the ref shows VDS yellow nonetheless.
21.23 – Chelsea have a free in a dangerous position, 25 yards out, with Lampard standing over it … after a few dummy runs, it’s rolled to him but van der Sar gets his body behind the low drive and holds it well.
21.27 – Chelsea still pushing for an equaliser. Ivanovich is the latest to try his luck but, again, it’s straight at van der Sar. Five minutes to go at the Bridge.
21.34 – PENALTY?????? No. Somehow, no. I think the 17 officials on the field may have gotten that one wrong. Evra caught Ramires as he was about to pull the trigger and Chelsea have been hard done by I reckon.
21.36 – Another injury-time penalty shout for Chelsea, but the ref is having none of it again, and this time he’s probably right. Torres tried to buy one with Evra in close attention but he’s booked for his troubles.
21.39 – Patrick’s been in touch to say that the second penalty claim (the Torres “dive”) was actually a penalty because Valencia stood on the Spaniard’s standing foot. Anybody else see that?
21.54 – That’s just about it from me for tonight. Chelsea will feel hard done by after they were denied a clear penalty at the death but United were just about value for their win and will be favourites to progress in two weeks’ time.
After two nights of entertainment, it looks like it might be Real vs Barca and United vs Schalke in this year’s Champions League semis. Anybody care to differ? Spurs fans?
We’ll be back bright and early in the morning for Day One of the Aintree Festival as well as the opening round of the Masters. It’s gonna be a fun few days.
Thanks for reading, commenting, smiling, crying etc etc … see you all soon.