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A Game Apart

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A Game Apart


London Evening Standard



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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Like so many other football fans, watching Manchester United makes David Beckham sick. Tonight, he returns to add nauseum

LIKE so many other football fans, David Beckham admits watching Manchester United makes him sick.
And not sick in the way the youth of today use the word. The former England captain, who left Old Trafford in 2003 after 394 games, 85 goals and 10 years, explains: “It made me feel physically sick to even, you know, just turn the Manchester United game on the television.
“Not because I hated the club or hated the fact I’d left. I just missed it that much. I’m sure it will feel like coming home tonight. United is where I grew up and it’s the club I’ve always supported and will continue to support.
“It will be amazing because the relationship I have with the United fans is still important to me.
“I went through some difficult times, but they never stopped supporting me and I wouldn’t have got through everything without them.
“Over the years, it hasn’t felt right coming back. There was something about going back to Old Trafford as an opposition player that just didn’t sit well with me. But now, seven years on, it feels right.
Beckham, 34, returns to his old stamping ground - as a substitute - attempting to extricate Leonardo’s Italians from a 3-2 first leg deficit suffered at the San Siro a fortnight ago.
Then, two headed goals from Wayne Rooney gave United the edge. This time Rooney is recovering from a knee injury and Beckham, who came on as a substitute for Milan over the weekend when Mathieu Flamini was injured, is hoping for something better.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who hates questions about Becks in his press conferences, said: “We’ll try and do it in our normal way, I don’t think we should be confused by the score of 3-2. It’s a very difficult game and one we need to win.
“That’s the way we will approach it. We hope to kill the tie with our own attacking ability. AC Milan have to score, which should make it a really open match.
“We don’t know for certain if David is going to start. He hasn’t started a match for a while. It would be good to score an early goal.”
That was the sum total of Fergie Beckhamisms. And not much was said about United’s record against Italian teams – and Milan in particular.
Four times the sides have met, four times United have crashed out. Last season Becks played 20 times for Milan, scoring two goals. This season? Just 11 games and no goals yet. Boss Leonardo said: “For Beckham it is something very, very special. When he saw the draw, it was unbelievable. Beckham is someone very, very timeless, he is very professional.
“The most important thing is how he will react in this match. It’s not important what happened before.”
Given last night’s incredible Champions League action – Arsenal saw off Porto 5-0 with a Maradona from Samir Nasri while Bayern Munich edged past Fiorentina with a stunning last-gasp effort from Arjen Robben – it would be impolite to expect anything less tonight.
And it’s not just United - 11-time winners Real Madrid are 1-0 down after the first leg of their clash with Lyon. Another former Old Trafford idol, Cristiano Ronaldo, is expected to play at the Bernebeu.
I've got a feeling both Becks and Ron will suffer tonight.

Labels: , cristiano ronaldo, , manchester united versus milan, real madrid, , sir alex ferguson said

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Nasri does a Maradona, Bendtner does the trick, Arsenal sink Porto in a storm. High-fives all round for Gooners

SO what do you want to hear about? The Samir Nasri goal that makes Diego Maradona's 1986 effort look timid? The Emmanuel Eboue dream finish which made it 4-0 and left every Arsenal fan dreaming? Or Nicklas Bendtner's first ever professional hat-trick which made it 5-0?
Oh Porto, this wasn't a good night to come across an Arsenal side seeking their first European win from a first leg deficit for 31 years. In the end it wasn't just a first Champions League comeback, it was an apocalypse wow.
The Portuguese visitors, who relied on two bizarre Arsenal blunders to win 2-1 at the Stadeo da Dragao, were completely outplayed for the first half-hour.
Andrei Arshavin's little legs left them bemused, Alex Song didn't miss a tackle or a pass, Tomas Vermaelen and Sol Campbell were imperious at the back.
And of course there was Nicklas Bendtner, after five glaring misses against Burnley on Saturday, to stick away the first two goals and get Arsenal to half-time on a wonderful high. Bendtner had the goalkeeper stretching as he sought a hat-trick, Arshavin missed a glorious chance of his own. Any Porto in a storm? And all this without the spine of the team: William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie were up with the 60,000 in the stands.
Ruud Gullit said at half-time he was worried Arsene Wenger's wonderboys couldn't sustain the pace. To an extent he was right. But just when Gooners were beginning to worry, Nasri - having saved a Porto header off the line at one end - produced the Mardona goal. He jinked his way through four defenders - clean around the outside of one of them - and stuck the ball in off the far post from the narrowest of angles.
The roars had barely died down when, 150 seconds later, Gael Clichy''s headed clearance reached Arshavin, who ran 50 yards before releasing the ever-popular sub Eboue. One of 13 children from the Ivory Coast, popular in the dressing-room and increasingly talismanic outside it, Eboue took a touch past the keeper and stuck it away with his left foot. Game over. What a night.
By the time sub Theo Walcott, the subject of my delirious preview, emerged, it was all over. Andy Gray was reduced to claiming the Portuguese League is rubbish, neatly overlooking Porto's Champions League success with Jose Mourinho in 2003. As he came off, Nasri took a standing ovation. And when Eboue was felled for the last-minute penalty (wish we had this ref every week) up stepped Nicklas Bendtner for his first-ever hat-trick. Bosh!
Bendtner said afterwards: "Today I put it right. Every time I play a game I put it behind me. The Burnley game was forgotten. It was good for me to score early.
"I haven't seen Andrey win a header before, so it was good for my first ball. I didn't know you get to keep the ball for a hat-trick!
"When we got the penalty, all the guys just wished me luck."
Wenger said: "Bendtner shows how quickly football can change but I hope he doesn't get too confident! I hope it gives him the desire to work even harder.
"Maybe it's good for us to play an English team in the quarter-final. We haven't done well against Chelsea and Manchester United this season, I have a funny feeling it would be a good opportunity we can do it against them."
Graeme Souness chose to inform us that the tackling was poor for Nasri's wondergoal, but he wouldn't last five minutes in the current card-happy climate.
It was a goal to wonder at, a goal which will be watched for years to come. Shut it Souey. Forget it Gray. For one night only, Arsenal are the best team on the planet. End of.

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