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Barcelona blanks and scoring romps in Romania

Published: Friday 30 March 2012, 10.02CET
Luca Antonini keeps FC Barcelona at bay, the hot weather brings a home goal drought and a cricket score is racked up in Romania as analyses the action of the last week.
by Dan Ross

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Published: Friday 30 March 2012, 10.02CET

Barcelona blanks and scoring romps in Romania

Luca Antonini keeps FC Barcelona at bay, the hot weather brings a home goal drought and a cricket score is racked up in Romania as analyses the action of the last week.

Player: Luca Antonini (AC Milan)
Rossoneri fans had every reason to be concerned going into their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg. After all, they were facing free-scoring reigning champions FC Barcelona and, what's more, they were doing so without arguably the finest defender in Italy, Thiago Silva.

As it happened, the Milan defence stood up to the challenge, becoming the first team to stop Barcelona from scoring in the UEFA Champions League since 4 November 2009, when FC Rubin Kazan held the Catalans to a 0-0 stalemate in Russia. Antonini was the undoubted star of the show, his man-of-the-match performance punctuated by two terrific goal-saving blocks. The 29-year-old full-back showed lung-busting determination to sprint back and deny Alexis Sánchez, who had raced clean through in the first period, and later hurled himself in the way of Tello's shot in the dying moments.

Team: Chelsea FC
If you had suggested a month ago that Chelsea would be UEFA Champions League semi-finalists, you might have been met with derision. Between 31 January and 3 March, the Londoners managed just one win in a torrid seven-game spell that featured a home FA Cup draw with Birmingham City FC, a defeat at West Bromwich Albion FC, a 3-1 loss at SSC Napoli in the round of 16 first leg, and ultimately the sacking of manager Andre Villas-Boas.

Roberto Di Matteo has since taken the vacant hot seat – temporarily – and in a few weeks the turnaround has been remarkable. The ball started rolling with a rousing 5-4 aggregate victory over Napoli and has subsequently picked up speed, bringing an impressive 1-0 win at SL Benfica this week. It was Chelsea's first away success in the competition this term, and a result that puts them in charge of the tie heading to Stamford Bridge on 4 April.

Goal: Arjen Robben (FC Bayern München) 
Bayern have their flying Dutch international to thank after they sank Olympique de Marseille 2-0 at the Stade Vélodrome to assume a commanding position in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final. Robben already had an assist to his name when, on 69 minutes, he broke OM hearts again. Darting in from the right wing, he fed Thomas Müller on the edge of the area and burst into the box. Müller's clipped return past the defence was perfectly weighted, and Robben killed the dropping ball effortlessly before steadying himself and curling into the bottom left corner.

Number: 0
Curiously, not one of this week's four home teams (APOEL FC, Benfica, Marseille and Milan) managed to get on the scoresheet in the opening legs of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

"Madrid are in the semi-finals, there is no question about that. I even believe they will reach the final and, hopefully, win it."
After a 3-0 home reverse against Real Madrid CF, APOEL coach Ivan Jovanović is either playing mind games or accepting the inevitable. Presumably the latter.

The 12th man:
Having seen their side fail to find the net for five straight matches, supporters of German fourth-tier outfit 1. FC Magdeburg decided their heroes needed help in attack – and dreamed up an unusual solution in the home game against Berliner AK 07. Armed with large cut-out arrows and a banner reading "We will show you where the goal is", 100 or so fans did exactly that – following the ball and showing their team where to aim. The piece de resistance, however, came when the troupe formed one giant arrow behind a goal and pointed squarely down at the target.

The helping hand from the 12th man clearly had a positive effect as Magdeburg managed to score, yet they evidently forgot the other aspect of the game because Berliner ran out 2-1 winners.

Bright idea:
From one unorthodox attempt at team improvement to another – only this one thought up by a coach, not the crowd. Hamburger SV are now deep in relegation trouble in the Bundesliga, lying 16th and with only SC Freiburg (53) having conceded more than HSV's 50 goals in 27 matches.

The dire situation inspired coach Thorsten Fink to come up with an unusual idea to stop the rot: "If we concede from a set piece, the players have to pay into the team cash box. If we score, they get to take money out of it," explained Fink. He clearly has faith in the revolutionary concept, having introduced it when assistant coach at FC Salzburg in the 2007/08 season, a campaign in which Salzburg finished second (look away now, Hamburg fans) albeit with the worst goals-against tally in the top four.

A comedy of errors:
A bizarre game took place in Romania's Liga IV – Brașov division recently when league leaders CSM Făgăraș beat bottom-placed AS Izvorul Hoghiz 33-0. Izvorul's prospects were poor from the outset – they kicked off with only eight players – and they were 9-0 down by the time reinforcements arrived, 25 minutes in. Things went from bad to worse on 71 minutes when Izvorul's goalkeeper Florin Mocanu had to be replaced by an outfield player because the old boots lent him by the opposition broke, and he had no alternative footwear.

"I asked Făgăraș to stop scoring once it went to 20-0, but they didn't want to know," revealed Mocanu afterwards. That his request was ignored is unsurprising, considering the strict attitude of coach Adrian Hârlab: "At half-time, when we led 17-0, I told my players to try to score some fantastic goals. I also warned them to avoid a yellow card, otherwise I would punish them."

Last updated: 05/12/13 9.13CET