European Competitions

An amazing week for Spanish football in Europe, with all three clubs qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions League. On Tuesday Barcelona turned around a 3-1 first leg result against Chelsea to run out winners 5-1 in the return match after extra time. They now play Valencia in the first semi-final after the Che's held on to the 5-2 advantage from the first leg. The first leg of the semi-final will be in Valencia on 2nd May. On Wednesday Real Madrid joined Barcelona and Valencia with a convincing win over last year's champions Manchester United after drawing 0-0 in Madrid a fortnight ago. The 2-3 result wins Madrid a semi-final tie against Bayern Munich, with the mouth-watering prospect of a Barcelona vs Real Madrid final a real possibility.

Champions League quarter-final, second leg

Barcelona (1) 5 - Chelsea (3) 1

Barcelona: Hesp; Puyol (Abelardo 85'), Frank De Boer, Reiziger (Sergi 105'); Gabri, Guardiola, Cocu; Rivaldo; Figo, Kluivert, Zenden (Dani 70'). 3-3-1-3.
Chelsea: De Goey; Ferrer (Lambourde 46'), Desailly, Leboeuf, Babayaro; Morris, Wise, Deschamps (Petrescu 100'), Di Matteo; Zola (Poyet 105'), Flo. 4-4-2.

A young Barcelona fan summed it up: "My grandfather told me their would be nights like this. I just didn't think I would need so many pairs of underpants'. It was not a night for the weak hearted (or the weak bowelled) at Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium as Barcelona turned around a 3-1 result in the first leg to eliminate Chelsea and go through to a semi-final tie with Valencia. The match swung from side to side, with the aggregate lead changing hands three times during the game. Barcelona manager Louis Van Gaal came up with an attacking line up, for once changing his 2-3-2-3 formation to allow Rivaldo to play in the position he has been demanding all season, in the hole between the midfield and the forward line. The change gave the team an extra man in midfield, something fans have been asking for all season. With Bogarde and Luis Enrique still injured (Luis Enrique is still on crutches and will miss the Euro 2000 competition), youngsters Puyol and Gabri kept their places, with Abelardo and Litmanen on the bench. Kluivert returned at centre forward after making up once again with the manager. Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli brought back Leboeuf for Thome in defence, with Di Matteo replacing Petrescu in midfield. The atmosphere was electric, with the 98,000 capacity crowd hoping for another 'noche mágica' (magic night), remembering famous come backs such as Bakero's late goal at Kaiserslauten the year they won the European cup. As the teams lined up fans held up a giant mosaic, sponsored by one of the local sports papers, with '2-0' emblazoned on the cards, the score needed to go through. By half time they were already there, with Rivaldo opening the scoring halfway through the half with a free kick which took a deflection off Babayaro in the defensive wall, and then Figo shooting past De Goey just before the break after Kluivert's shot rebounded off the post and fell at his feet. At half time Vialli was forced to take off the injured Barcelona born right back Chapi Ferrer, Chapi receiving a warm reception from fans who remembered his time at the club. A quarter of an hour into the second half a defensive error by Barcelona keeper Hesp let Chelsea back in, his failed clearance going straight to Flo who gratefully stuck it back in to the net. Chelsea were back in front, and Van Gaal brought on Dani for Zenden as the home side came forward looking for the equaliser. Dani went close with two headers before he finally beat De Goey with a third seven minutes from time. Three minutes later it looked as if Barcelona would sew it up as Swedish referee Anders Frisk awarded a penalty for a foul on Figo, but Rivaldo put his shot wide. The game went into extra time, and ten minutes in Frisk awarded a second penalty, this time for a foul on Figo, Babayaro getting a red card for the tackle. Rivaldo stepped up again, and with 98,000 people hiding their eyes he hit it low and hard into the corner of the net. Just before the change of ends Kluivert finished off Chelsea's chances when he headed in Dani's cross, and Gabri should have made it six just afterwards but he shot wide. Barcelona go through to play Valencia in two weeks time in an all Spanish semi-final, with the possibility of a Barcelona versus Real Madrid final in Paris on 24th May. Shares in underwear retail chain Knickerbox rose 50% overnight.

Lazio (2) 1 - Valencia (5) 0

Lazio: Marchegiani; Negro, Nesta, Mihajlovic, Pancaro (Mancini 75'); Conceiçao, Almeyda (Simeone 88'), Nedved (Inzaghi 46'), Verón; Boksic, Salas. 4-4-2.
Valencia: Cañizares; Angloma, Djukic, Pellegrino, Björklund; Farinós, Gerard, Mendieta (Albelda 63'), Kily González; Angulo (Oscar 85'), Claudio 'Piojo' López. 4-4-1-1.

Valencia hung on against Lazio in the Olympic stadium in Rome to go through to play Barcelona in a historic semi-final. With a 5-2 lead from the first leg they only had to avoid a disastrous defeat, although Lazio have been known to score goals in front of their passionate crowd, as evidenced by their last Champions League match, when they beat Olympique Marseille 5-1. Several key players were missing, including Carboni, Ilie and Milla, although captain Mendieta returned to the starting line up for the first time after injuring himself two months ago against Bordeaux. With Pellegrino passing a late fitness test, Héctor Cúper opted to use Björklund at left back rather than Fagiani, with the versatile Angulo playing in front of the midfield and Piojo López alone up front. Lazio manager Sven Eriksson decided on what for Lazio was an attacking 4-4-2 line up, with top scorer Inzaghi surprisingly on the bench alongside Simeone as Salas and Boksic shared attacking duties. The first moments of the match were for Valencia, with Piojo crossing for Mendieta to head wide. However after that they disappeared from the map as Lazio launched their attack, with their strikers at first not finding target, but gradually getting their sights adjusted as the game progressed. Cañizares made the first of what was to be a string of great saves just after the half hour from Salas and then from Conceiçao and Boksic. At half time Eriksson brought on Inzaghi for Nedved, and the striker was unlucky to slip with the goal at his mercy just minutes after coming on, and then saw a shot saved by the Valencia keeper. It was a matter of time before Lazio made the break through, and it finally came in the 52nd minute when Verón unleashed a wicked shot from outside of the area which curled away from Cañizares and in to the net. That was the only one that got past him however, as the Spanish international keeper kept out one and all throughout the rest of the game. Valencia could even have got an equalizer, Dutch referee Dick Jol ruling out Gerard's goal in the 65th minute for a dubious offside, and then the under 21 international missing a couple of chances later in the game. Once again the crowd was swelled by the number of club scouts watching Gerard and the rest of Valencia's young midfield, and they will be lucky to hold on to them all for next season. Piojo will definitely be playing in a Lazio shirt next season, although the crowd gave him a hard time whilst still wearing his old one. Valencia go on to play Barcelona in the next round, and tickets for the first leg home match sold out within hours of going on sale the day after the Lazio game. Valencia have knocked Barcelona out of European competitions on the two occasions they have met, firstly beating them in the Inter-City Fairs cup final in 1962, and then eliminating them from the cup winners cup in 1980, and in recent years they have been their bête noir. Barcelona are still favourites, but this Valencia side can beat anyone on their day. Whatever happens, there will be at least one Spanish team in the final in Paris this year.

Manchester United 2 - Real Madrid 3

Manchester United: Van der Gouw; Gary Neville, Stam, Berg (Sheringham 62'), Irwin (Silvestre 46'); Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs; Yorke, Cole (Solksjaer 62'). 4-4-2.
Real Madrid: Casillas; Salgado, Karanka, Iván Campo, Roberto Carlos; McManaman (Julio César 88'), Iván Helguera, Redondo, Savio (Geremi 65'); Morientes (Anelka 71'), Raúl. 4-4-2.

Real Madrid produced an epic performance against Manchester United to make it three out of three for Spanish teams in the Champions League quarter-finals. After drawing 0-0 in the Bernabeu stadium, Madrid had to score in Manchester and at least get a score draw to go through. There was a lot of speculation before the match as to whether manager Vicente Del Bosque would risk Anelka in attack, the controversial French striker having scored four times in six matches against the Red Devils when playing for Arsenal. However Del Bosque played it safe, keeping his twin strike force of Morientes and Raúl in the starting line up. Hierro had still not recovered from his injury, and he missed the match, as did Sanchis and Guti (out for the rest of the season). Roberto Carlos however was fit, and he took his place on the left of defence. Manchester United had to make one late change, keeper Bosnich not recovering in time, and Van der Gouw stepped in. The goal Madrid were looking for came early, Roy Keane putting through his own net while trying to clear Salgado's cross from the right in the twentieth minute. It was a cruel blow for the home side, and meant they had to score two in the remaining seventy minutes. Helguera dropped back to create a five men defence as United came forward, and Casillas saved from Yorke, Beckham and Keane in quick succession. The floodtide died down however as Madrid started to get a grip on the match, and Raúl could have extended the lead just before the interval after a mistake by Stam. Manchester did not heed the warning, and they paid the price early in the second half, when Raúl picked up a crossed pass from McManaman and ran on 15 metres before bending the ball past Van der Gouw and in to the net. Before the reigning champions had time to get their breath back Madrid attacked again, with Redondo leaving Berg for dead on the left with a clever backheel. The Argentinian midfielder took the ball to the goal line before squaring past the despairing Van der Gouw into the path of the unmarked Raúl, who had the easiest of tasks of scoring his second. The 70,000 crowd were temporarily stunned, not having seen their team lose at Old Trafford since December 1998, although they picked up when Beckham pulled one back in the 65th minute, beating two defenders before striking the ball hard and high past Casillas. With Sheringham and Solksjaer now on the park United came looking for the miracle, another three goals in twenty-five minutes. Del Bosque replaced Savio with the more defensive Geremi, and then brought on Anelka for Morientes. The crowd, who had been whistling at ex Liverpool player McManaman all match, now had another target to jeer at, although some of the boos appeared to be coming from the small but noisy contingent of Madrid fans as well. There was never any danger at this late stage however that the home side could get back in the game, although Scholes did get one from the penalty spot two minutes from time after McMamaman was ruled by Italian referee Pierluigi Collina to have fouled Keane. Del Bosque used up a bit more time by replacing McMamaman with Julio César, the Brazilian defender making his first appearance since injuring himself in the world club championship in January. Madrid now go on to play Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, with the first match in Spain on 3rd May and the return a week later. Bayern put eight goals past them in two matches during the league stage earlier on, but this is a different Madrid and they won't have it so easy this time. If Real win that, it will be an all Spanish final, with their opponents coming from the fratricidal duel between Barcelona and Valencia. "Y viva España".

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