Another all-England Euro battle?
Three English teams clinched the semifinals of the European Champions League this week, representing the Premier League's finest hour since ... well, since last season, when three English teams achieved the same feat. As they did the season before that. Indeed, only a much-fancied Barcelona side can prevent a second all-England final. With Team Limey all cock-a-hoop with jingoistic cockiness, we look back at those quarterfinal second legs, starting with the thriller at Stamford Bridge.
Thanks to Chelsea's 3-1 first-leg win at Liverpool, the second leg was seemingly a foregone conclusion for the in-form London giants. Pre-match references to the "spirit of Istanbul" -- that miracle Liverpool comeback from three goals down to win the 2005 Champions League final -- seemed to be clutching at the thinnest of drought-hit straws, ones that disintegrated when injury forced Liverpool captain
And still, the drama of the night rivaled even that famous Istanbul final. Epic, classic, thriller and sensational were a few of the superlatives used to describe the game. U.K. tabloid
Liverpool made two remarkable comebacks, first in scoring two first-half goals to level the match 3-3 on aggregate by halftime. Despite needing to score again due to the away-goals rule, Liverpool was firmly in the driver's seat.
The game turned on its head after halftime -- a rollicking from
Amazingly, Liverpool wasn't finished, and came back again. Goals in the 81st and 82nd minutes from
Chelsea's prize is a semifinal against European superpower Barcelona, the tournament favorite. Despite the bookies' assessment, a resurgent Chelsea, with Hiddink's tactical know-how, should fancy its chances against a Barça side that is stuttering (by its own high standards) in La Liga. That said, the suspension of left back
Following its 2-2 first-leg draw at Old Trafford, FC Porto's progress to the semifinals hinged on Manchester United being the first English club to win in Porto and being the first team to beat the Portuguese-league leaders since Nov. 2. Still, Man. United's own Portugal international, winger
Shaken by the result at Old Trafford,
Offensively, United was neat and controlled. Never at full flow, it didn't need to be. The Red Devils' off-the-ball movement ensured a consistent threat on Porto.
When Porto dispatched United in '04, it went on to lift the European Cup. United, at 5-to-2 odds, looks like good value to reverse the feat. On top of the EPL, and now through to the semifinals of both the FA Cup and the Champions League, with the Carling Cup already lifted, an unprecedented quadruple (quintuple if we count the Club World Cup trophy) is still possible. If achieved, Ferguson would be the first manager since the legendary
Arsenal is the first stumbling block in the way of Ferguson's European feat. The Gunners were favorites going into their second leg against Spanish side Villarreal, thanks to
Thankfully for Arsenal, the Yellow Submarine rarely threatened to sonar Arsenal's goal -- let alone unleash any torpedoes -- largely as a result of the Gunners' attacking dominance. England youngster
Arsenal continued to dominate the game, and Adebayor's clever finish in the 60th minute put the tie beyond lackluster Villarreal, and even moved usually reserved Wenger to do a rather awkward looking celebratory jig. Later, a penalty awarded to Arsenal riled
Deliver any other lighthearted ideas for the English dominance of the Champions League to