Inter Milan vs. Chelsea
Inter started out strong with a marvelous goal from Argentine Diego Milito in the third minute. After that, however, Chelsea seemed to control the ball for the rest of the half and got quite a few good chances, culminating in what appeared to have been a penalty against Solomon Kalou in the 45th minute. But the referee didn’t call it and Chelsea went in to the second half behind by one goal. They made up for it in the 51st minute with an outside-the-box stunner from Kalou. Inter was quick to respond, though, and in only four minutes they managed to get themselves back on top with a goal by Cambiasso. Inter played well defensively for the rest of the game and kept the score at 2-1.
Stuttgart vs. FC Barcelona
I had the pleasure of watching this game on ESPN2 (I usually have to watch them on the computer). It was a pretty good football game but it was far from what we’ve come to expect from the stars at Barcelona. Stuttgart did an excellent job of stopping Barcelona’s play up to their forwards. As a result, Messi, Ibrahimovic and Henry only saw limited time with the ball and were allowed very few opportunities. Stuttgart was also very impressive at making opportunities in the first half and managed to slip in a goal in the 25th minute. Barcelona came back and started the second half ambitiously with a 52nd minute draw from Ibrahimovic. But they continued to be shut down in the attack.
What really angered me was a blatant foul on Leonel Messi in the last few minutes of play. He received the ball and was running for a counter attack — most likely Barcelona’s last opportunity of the night. But he was knocked over by Sami Khedira, who then feigned an injury and rolled around on the ground for three minutes in order to run out the clock. Then, in the last few seconds of the game, he magically healed! It’s players like that who bring a bad name to the sport. I really wish teams and refs would start punishing players for this kind of unsportsmanlike behavior.
This week, CSKA Moscow and Sevilla tied 1-1 while French leaders Bordeaux defeated Greek champions Olympiakos 1-0.
Each pair will play again in the other team’s stadium in a few weeks. After that, the team with the most goals of the two will move on to the quarterfinals. This was an especially interesting first half of the round of 16 because not a single team won by more than one goal. This means that every single team in the tournament still has a decent chance of moving on to the quarterfinals. The team best off is probably Manchester United after beating AC Milan 3-2 in Milan. The common rule in tournament soccer is that if the teams are tied on goals after the two games, the team with the most away goals wins (if those are the same, the teams go off to extra-time and eventually to a penalty shoot-out). What this means is that Milan has to either win 3-4 or higher or win by two goals in Manchester. This is a difficult feat because Manchester’s fans are at times a famously raucous bunch and will probably be heaping pressure on Milan from kick-off. This is not to say, however, that it is impossible, and the match will definitely be one to watch.