Monday, 6 May 2013

Sportzine - Volume 3



As expected, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich reached the Champions League Final.  Dortmund had a brief scare after two late Madrid goals but they managed to hang on to win 4-3 on aggregate.  Bayern managed to avoid any scares and ran out 3-0 winners in the Camp Nou, winning 7-0 on aggregate.  Barcelona have been an amazing side in recent years but Bayern Munich taught them a real lesson and Barcelona will have to look at how they can improve for next season. 

Borussia Dortmund have been a revelation in the last few years in Germany but never really brought their domestic form into Europe.  Dortmund's biggest problem is going to be holding onto their star players and manager.  They have already lost Mario Gotze to Bayern Munich for next season and there are strong rumours linking Mats Hummels, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski with moves away from the club.  If the club sell all their main players then I would think Jurgen Klopp may follow them out and if he does leave Dortmund there looks to be plenty of big job openings across Europe.  Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City could all be looking for new managers and any of those would be a natural progression for Klopp who has worked wonders in his managerial career so far. 

Many people are calling Bayern Munich the perfect team.  I don't buy into that to be honest but they are certainly a very good team, in excellent form at the moment.  Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund have both used pressing in recent seasons to win trophies and Bayern Munich have taken that a step further with their own version of gegenpressing.  As good as they are off the ball, they are equally as good on it and can retain possession as well as anyone.  Barcelona and Bayern Munich play the game in a similar way but the big difference is that Bayern are using athletes.  Barcelona are all quite small and while it doesn't often affect them, Bayern Munich are doing the same things with six footers and the vast majority can move around quickly too.

The Final looks like being a great occasion with two fully deserving teams taking part in one of the best, most modern stadiums in Europe.  Bayern Munich look to be favourites on paper but many a favourite has lost a cup final.  All we can hope for is a good game and that they both come to London to try to win the game rather than the cautious approach we see so often in big games.

I should also mention Chelsea and Benfica who successfully made it through to this seasons Europa League Final in Amsterdam.  It's good to see two sides who started the season in the Champions League reach the Final as while many don't agree with the loop hole that sees teams enter the Europa League after elimination from the Champions League, I think it gives the competition credibility.  In recent seasons we have saw teams play second string sides in the Europa League which has devalued the competition but Chelsea and Benfica have put out solid sides and they have been rewarded with an appearance in the Final.


Hull City secured promotion back to the Premier League after drawing 2-2 with already promoted Cardiff City on the final day of the season.  Hull needed to match Watford's result and as the games were ending, a Watford goal would have sent them to the Premier League but it wasn't to be and Ross McCormack finished them off with a late winner to send them into the playoffs. 

The Championship playoffs will now see Watford take on Leicester and Crystal Palace take on Brighton.  I usually think the team coming into the playoffs with momentum has a fair chance and for me that's Brighton.  Four wins in their last five and nine games unbeaten is exactly the way you want to finish the season if you are heading towards the playoffs.  It doesn't seem that long ago that Brighton were one game away from exiting the Football League and it would be some what fitting if they could finish off the season with promotion to the Premier League. 

Finally, as much as it pains me to say it, Glentoran also deserve a lot of credit for a fine victory in Saturday's Marie Curie Irish Cup Final.  I was at the game in the Cliftonville end and despite Cliftonville taking a 1-0 lead at half-time, Glentoran weren't to be denied and ran out 3-1 winners after extra time.  Cliftonville hadn't already secured the league title and the League Cup but they were denied their treble by a hungry, hard working Glentoran side.  The Glens were excellent after half-time and were first to every ball and Cliftonville just couldn't live with them.  Cliftonville had a great season but Glentoran had the last laugh but hopefully the players and staff will learn from it and Cliftonville can bounce back and enjoy another successful season next year.   



The first round of the playoffs have been completed and there were a few upsets.  Of the eight first round ties, only five were won by the higher seed.  In the Eastern Conference the top three seeds made it through safely with only the fifth seed, Chicago Bulls overcoming a higher seed.  The Bulls managed to win game seven in Brooklyn to set up a repeat of the 2011 Eastern Finals against the Miami Heat.  It will be a big ask for the Bulls as the Heat are overwhelming favourites to defend their title but if they set themselves small targets, and avoid getting swept then you just never know what could happen if they reach game six or seven. 

In the East's other game, the third seeded Indiana Pacers made the perfect start with a fine win in New York over the Knicks to go 1-0 up in the series.  Before the playoffs started I was looking at this game as a New York win in five or six games.  However, things have gone badly wrong for New York in the last week or so.  After they took a 3-0 series lead over the Celtics they lost momentum and had to win game 6 in Boston to avoid the possibility of becoming the first NBA team to lose a series after leading 3-0.  The Knicks will be pleased to have avoided that unwanted piece of history but unless they can sort themselves out fairly quickly it will be Indiana who reach the Eastern Finals.

Out West the top two seeds both made the next round but the third and fourth seeds both dropped out.  San Antonio were the most impressive victors, sweeping the LA Lakers.  Oklahoma are the number one seed but it took them six games to dispose of the Houston Rockets.  In the other games, the Memphis Grizzlies overcame the LA Clippers in six games and Golden State also beat Denver in six. 

In the second round Oklahoma managed to edge out the Grizzlies in Game one of the series.  The Thunder have been rocked by Russell Westbrook's injury and this series looks like being far from easy for them.  In the other game San Antonio and Golden State get things under way tonight.  San Antonio look like favourites to represent the West in the NBA Finals and I expect this series could be theirs in five.



The NHL playoffs are now under way and the majority of the ties are tight but going the way they are expected too.  In the East, Pittsburgh lead the New York Islanders 2-1, Washington lead the New York Rangers 2-0 and Boston and Toronto are tied at 1-1.  The only potential shock at the moment is the seventh seed Ottawa Senators are currently leading the second seeded, Montreal Canadiens 2-1.  There's still a long way to go though and nobody is really out of it as things stand.

In the Western Conference the story is similar.  Chicago, Anaheim and St Louis are all 2-1 up against lower seeded teams.  The biggest shock so far is the San Jose Sharks being 3-0 up on the third seeded, Vancouver Canucks.  Vancouver face an extremely tough task to stay alive but the other three ties are still very much alive.  They are all as they would be if the home team had won each game so every team will be considering themselves very much in with a chance. 

Just a word on my Detroit Red Wings.  We started off losing game one in Anaheim but bounced back well to win game two and take the series back to Detroit at 1-1.  Unfortunately, we were well beaten in game three at the Joe and now need to win tonight to give ourselves a chance of progressing.  It won't be easy as Anaheim are a good side but now that the streak has been kept alive we may as well do what we can to go as far as we can in the playoffs.


Here's another chance to answer last weeks football quiz.  Send answers to @gjsportsblog on Twitter or alternatively answer them in the comments section.

1. The last Final to take place at Wembley was between Barcelona and Manchester United but who were the beaten semi-finalists?

2. Who are the top three goalscorers in Champions League/European Cup history?

3. Lionel Messi has finished as top goal scorer in the Champions League/European four times. Which other striker has won the title four times?

4. Five different English clubs have won the Champions League/European Cup but how many titles do they have between them?

5. Which European city has the most combined wins?

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