Feb 27, 2008

The Wednesday Wrap: River Rules In Day Of Draws

Even though there were no Champions League or UEFA Cup matches today was a busy day in the world of soccer/football--and not just in Europe either. In fact, the biggest games outside of the San Siro were probably played in South America, where the Copa Libertadores group stages have begun to take shape. Interestingly enough, of all the important games that were played today, only one--River Plate's 2-1 victory over Club America--had a winner. The rest were draws. Look at these scores:

Inter Milan 1, AS Roma 1
Barcelona 1, Valencia 1
AC Milan 1, Catania 1
Atletico Nacional Medellin 1, Sao Paulo 1

Actually there were two more games that ended tied after 90 minutes but as these were the German cup quarterfinals and only played over one leg, they went to overtime. Wolfsburg beat Hamburg 2-1 after extra time while Bayern beat cross-town rivals 1860 Munich (who are a second division side these days) 1-0 on a Franck Ribery penalty in the 122nd (and I imagine last) minute of the game. This means Borussia Dortmund and Carl Zeiss Jena--who won yesterday--join Bayern and Wolfsburg in the semis. I don't think those matches have been drawn yet.

In the Libertadores. Group Five, with River, America, Universidad Catolica and Universidad San Martin, is living up to its Group of Death billing, as all four clubs are now tied with three points each after two games. The River-America match was obviously the main event so far--probably among all Copa Lib matches. What a great game. I invite anybody who thinks the only good club soccer is in Europe to check out a tape of this game. Highly entertaining stuff. In the end River probably deserved to win, but America played well also. I can't wait for the return leg in Mexico City, on April 2.

Back in Europe, Serie A clubs put in a full midweek matchday. Inter got an 88th minute goal from Javier Zanetti to escape with a point--and perhaps the league title--from their game with second-placed AS Roma. Inter's lead remains at nine points. There are still 13 games to play but the two teams won't face each other again. You can pretty much rule out the third- through fifth-placed teams (that would be Juventus, Fiorentina and AC Milan) of the title equation. Juve is 13 points in arrears and yesterday only managed a scoreless draw against their cross-town rivals. Fiorentina and Milan are 17 and 19 points behind Inter, respectively.

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