Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The road to Munich continues!
Basel’s dream campaign comes to an abrupt and cruel end as Mario Gomez hits four past the Swiss side in Bayern Munich’s 7-0 demolition of the knockout stage newcomers. The Bavarians were able to turn the tables after a 1-0 defeat in the first leg, cruising into the quarter finals on a high and keeping their hopes of featuring in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final at the Allianz Arena alive. While 2010 finalists Bayern Munich kept their campaign alive, 2010 winners Inter Milan crashed out of the competition against underdogs Olimpique Marseille who paid a visit to the San Siro from South of France, losing 2-1 on the night but going through on a dramatic away goal in stoppage time. Real Madrid follows in the footsteps of fellow Spanish side Barcelona and progress at the expense of Russians CSKA Moscow, who had managed to hold them to a 1-1 draw in Russia after a dramatic late goal in stoppage time. Chelsea were the last team to progress on to the quarter finals as they go through after added time thanks to a goal from Ivanovic in the 105th minute.

Toni Kroos and Bayern Munich were too much for
the young Swiss side to handle
FC Bayern Munich 7-0 FC Basel (7-1 agg): That one surely stung for FC Basel players and fans alike, some of whom made the short trip across the border to watch their beloved side play at the Allianz Arena, the venue set to host the competition’s final this season. FC Basel came into the leg with a 1-0 advantage over the Germans and possibly favored their side too much as they spoke confidently ahead of the match. “We have no fear- even ahead of Bayern.” said 19-year-old prodigal midfielder, Granit Xhaka yesterday after his team’s arrival in Munich. Within the first five minutes of the match, Basel looked as though they could actually pull off a huge victory in Munich and move on to the quarter finals at the expense of the German side, but too much was on the line for Bayern Munich. Within ten minutes, Bayern began chipping away at the Basel defense and after just ten minutes, they began to crumble. Robben capitalized on an extremely unlucky deflection off of the Basel defense to slip the first goal past Yann Sommer. Basel were able to hold on until the 42nd minute when Thomas Muller broke through to score Bayern’s second and just minutes later Mario Gomez netted his first one a minute from halftime. Bayern Munich had dominated the first half, but after Basel’s comeback against Manchester United at Old Trafford back in September, a second half revival wasn’t out of the question. Unfortunately for the Swiss side, they lacked the strength and stamina to come back against a team of Munich’s caliber in this level of competition. Mario Gomez kicked off the second half annihilation in the 50th minute and netted his third and fourth in the 61st and 67th. Basel’s hapless defense struggled to contain Munich’s attacking wings, conceding countless crosses from Lahm, Ribery, Alaba and Kroos. Muller was sacrificed in the 70th minute for the return of Bastian Schweinsteiger, who also drilled into the Basel defense and defensive midfielders. Arjen Robben put the final nail in Basel’s coffin in the 81st minute with the 7th goal. Alex Frei’s goal off of Valentin Stocker’s smooth pass from deep in the Bayern penalty area was wrongfully disallowed, but it wouldn’t have mattered as Basel were already down 6-1. Bayern Munich successfully asserted their dominance in European football while Basel were forced to head home empty handed, but they shouldn’t be ashamed. The Swiss side have already made history by making it to the knockout stages in this competition for the first time in the team’s history and can fondly look back on a dramatic defeat of giants Manchester United in the group stage. They have surely made a name for themselves this season in European football and will not be underestimated next season.
Internazionale 2-1 Olympique Marseille (2-2 agg, Marseille go through on away goals): Didier Deschamps side prevail over the Italian giants thanks to the away goal aggregate rule, denying the 2010 champions of a spot on the bandwagon to Munich. Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda would see red in stoppage time and will be unable to take part in the next fixture for his side, but his second yellow and sending off didn’t cost his side their spot in the quarter finals. All of the action came after Diego Milito’s goal in the 75th minute. Leading up to the dramatic finish, the keepers and defensive players of both sides had been tied up trying to handle the multiple quick attacks, but it almost seemed as though the 1-0 home victory would be enough to ultimately put the French side through. Milito’s breakthrough made it seem almost certain that the match would follow in the footsteps of the dramatic shootout in Cyprus last week between APOEL and French side Lyon but Brandao, in the 92nd minute, would find the back of the net after somehow settling a long ball from deep in his own half and putting it past Julio Cesar in the Milan goal. Pazzini was able to convert the penalty awarded to Inter after Mandanda’s sending off, but it was too late for the Italian side. Marseille are still on the road to Munich. Despite their inexperienced squad, Didier Deschamps has travelled the road before and will hope to guide his team to another dramatic victory in the next knockout stage.
Real Madrid 4-1 CSKA Moscow (5-2 agg): After a cool finish from Gonzalo Higuain in the opening half hour of the match, Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid went cruising into the quarter finals over CSKA Moscow after an unexpected 1-1 draw from the first leg. Real Madrid dominated, as expected on their home turf at the Santiago Bernabeu, this time around the Spanish side held 61% of possession, contrary to the nearly equal possession they saw in Russia. Cristiano Ronaldo’s strike from long range in the 55th minute and Karim Benzema’s goal in the 70th, which was slightly lucky considering his initial shot was stopped by CSKA keeper Surgei Chepchugov. Ronaldo got his second goal and added to his overwhelming season tally in the 94th minute in stoppage time, finishing off CSKA and putting the icing on the cake for the home fans. CSKA’s Zoran Tosic was able to head home to Russia with something to be proud of after he netted a truly stunning goal against Iker Casillas and the Real defense in the 77th minute, but it wouldn’t be enough as the Russian side came up three goals short and their UEFA Champions League campaign came to a close. Real Madrid were favorites to go through and now that they have done it we still face a very real possibility of an all Spanish final in Munich come may as both Barcelona and Real Madrid had strong second legs in the round of sixteen.
JT celebrates his goal at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 4-1 Napoli (4-3 agg): Napoli were painstakingly close to being the second Italian side to move on to the next stage after AC Milan denied Arsenal a spot in the quarter finals last week. However, many would argue that it would not be a Champions League quarter final without an English team taking part, so Chelsea had a job to do. After the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, who will take over until the end of this season, was desperate to revive the London side after their struggle to produce the enticing wins that they were once known for. Chelsea were able to welcome back veteran John Terry, who missed out on the first leg after he underwent knee surgery. The home side were on the attack within the first five minutes, pushing for the opening goal at the cost of some defensive openings. Napoli were denied by Petr Cech but only after De Sanctis had to a save to make early on at the other end. Chelsea continued to push and were easily able to dominate Napoli in the air, continuously winning header after header inside the box. Napoli pressed the English side’s defense, which seemed slightly discombobulated due to miscommunications between Cahill and David Luiz. The two center backs were eventually able to find a rhythm, and David Luiz was soon involved in Chelsea’s relentless attack. After 90 minutes, the two sides were tied, Chelsea managing to come back from a 3-1 score line that was not in their favor, and the teams headed into stoppage time. A phenomenal opening goal from Didier Drogba in the 29th minute kicked off Chelsea’s comeback and after goals from John Terry and a penalty kick from Frank Lampard, the home side found themselves level with the Italian visitors. Napoli had managed to pull ahead again after a spectacular strike from Swiss midfielder Inler on the half volley. The bombardment of the two defenses continued in added time as both teams attacked and counterattacked to try and score the winning goal. Russian defender Ivanovic would be the player to find the breakthrough for his side. Just before the conclusion of the first half of extra time, Didier Drogba was able to turn on the Napoli defense and find an unmarked Ivanovic who fired a hard shot past De Sanctis and into the roof of the net. Di Matteo was hardly able to contain his excitement after the match, and who can blame him? Chelsea were able to come back against all odds, earning the opposite scoreline of city rivals Arsenal and progressing down the road to Munich. Napoli were surely favorites after their trouncing of the London side in Naples in the first leg, but anything can happen in the UEFA Champions League.

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