Welcome!, ¡Bienvenido!, Bienvenu!, Benvenuto!, Willkommen!

WELCOME to this blog.

This site is dedicate it to the best football player: Michael Ballack, Germany team's capitain and Chelsea's midfielder, english team.

In this site I will put photos, videos, current news of Ballack. I hope that it like you; comments and suggestions in the same blog, or to my e-mail victorhugoballack@yahoo.com.mx

The news was taken from many sources, the source is indicate. The pics are taken from the respective agency (Viewimages, Getty images, Yahoo Sports, Daylife, Teamtalk, Backpages images, Fotosports…), someone are indicate it with watermark; others are taken from forum http://iloveballack.proboards74.com/, or like reference to search in internet; other source us http://www.ballack13.cn/, even most the pics are from own search. Enyoy them!

I have other space in http://victorhugogazu.spaces.live.com/, and other blog in http://michaelballack-13.blogspot.com/,
both in spanish.

Other blog in http://subsidiospastorales.blogspot.com/, about
catholic subsidy in spanish, you can make use of them.


Víctor Hugo.

Next Chelsea's match

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And the next match is...

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lunes, 5 de mayo de 2008

Match report Chelsea vs Newcastle: Chelsea Take Title Race To The Last Day (05.05.08)

Chelsea vs Newcastle 2-0
Chelsea Take Title Race To The Last Day

The London side headed north in their attempt to keep pace on league leaders Manchester United, and weathered a few scares to do so. Second half strikes from Ballack and Malouda gave them all three points against the Magpies, who lacked that touch of class...

An engaging first half at St James’ Park began slowly with chances at a premium for both sides. Whilst Chelsea had the better of the possession they were unable to carve out any clear openings and were reduced to shooting from range. All of which failed to trouble Newcastle keeper Steve Harper who didn’t have a save to make in the first half.

Newcastle by contrast were playing well in patches but unable to sustain any pressure despite looking the more likely side to score. Whilst the best chances fell to Michael Owen, it was Martins who was looking lively, his pace and trickery on the ball posing problems, even if like Chelsea his shooting wasn’t.

After only five minutes Nicky Butt dinked a lovely ball over the Chelsea defence to Michael Owen but the England striker could only manage to flick it over the bar.
However Owen was to have an even better chance just before the half hour mark. A good move from Newcastle down the left saw the ball played through to Martins in the box. Although neither the Nigerian nor Mark Viduka could convert the chance the ball broke loose to Owen on the edge of the box. With Cech stranded, he hit a well struck shot which was destined for the back of the net until John Terry arrived to clear it off the line and save his side going behind.

A more determined Chelsea side emerged for the second half as if Avram Grant had reminded his players that this was a must win match. The visitors laid seige to the Newcastle goal with John Terry coming the closest from a corner with a thumping header that smashed against the Newcastle bar.

The pressure finally told just on the hour mark when the visitors finally made their dominance count. After Malouda was fouled on the edge of the box by Faye, the referee awarded Chelsea a free kick. Drogba floated the ball into the area and Ballack was on hand to head home and open the scoring for the visitors.

Rather than inspire the visitors the goal sprang Newcastle into life and after having being completely dominated for the first twenty minutes of the second half they began to create their own chances.

Martins flashed a shot just wide after a great through ball from Butt and then seconds later Michael Owen was almost on hand for a tap in after Butt’s shot had been deflected but he just couldn’t reach. Suddenly Chelsea were looking ragged as they realised how slender their lead was.

However with ten minutes to go the visitors scored again to release any nerves and make the game safe. A lovely ball from substitute Lampard put Malouda through and he finished calmly to make it two nil and effectively end the contest.

The win takes Chelsea back level on points with leaders Manchester United with just one game to go. Whilst Chelsea head back to London to play Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge, United are away to Wigan Athletic. It promises to be a thrilling end to the season.

2-0 Chelsea (Malouda, 81)
1-0 Chelsea (Ballack, 60)

Newcastle: Harper, Beye, Taylor, Faye, Jose Enrique (N'Zogbia, 78), Geremi (Duff, 70), Butt, Barton, Viduka (Smith, 46), Owen, Martins.Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho (Alex, 78), Bridge, Essien, Mikel, Ballack, Anelka (Lampard, 65), Drogba (Shevchenko, 86), Malouda.Referee: Steve Bennett
Gill Clark


jueves, 1 de mayo de 2008

The Thursday interview: Michael Ballack

The Thursday interview: Michael Ballack

Hours after helping the side to our first Champions League final, Michael Ballack joined up with chelseafc.com to discuss the achievement, and how desperate he is to claim a winner's medal.

The German midfielder played an important role in last night's 3-2 victory over Liverpool, supporting Didier Drogba with run after run. Significantly, it was he who was fouled by Sami Hyypia that presented us with a penalty to move ahead in the tie.

Rewarded with a day off by manager Avram Grant today, he took time out with us to reflect on last night's extra time victory over Liverpool, and was in high spirits.

'I feel good, it is the next day and I feel good,' he smiled. 'We had a good, difficult win, and I think it is a great victory for the club, for everybody.

'Reaching a Champions League final was a big, big target for us, now we've done it and it is always a good feeling to be in the final, it is fantastic!'

Looking back at the penalty incident, even at the time he was in no doubt as to whether Roberto Rosetti would award a foul.

'I thought it was a foul, and hoped the referee would give a penalty. It happened very quickly, but he kicked my left foot, and it was the right decision,' the midfielder explained.

Lampard has since received much praise for his courage in taking the penalty, but Ballack was not surprised his team-mate took the responsibility.

'It was a high pressure kick, but you know, Frank is a big man and can score penalties,' he said.

Asked whether he would have taken it had Lampard not played, the response was straightforward. 'I can shoot penalties, so it's no problem. We both have a lot of experience, and I think the best players should take responsibility in these situations. He did it very well.'

As the euphoria of semi-final victory begins to wear off, and thoughts move on to Moscow, Ballack believes the final will be contested by the most deserving teams, but he is taking nothing for granted regarding the result, despite Saturday's 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

'With Chelsea we are in good condition, good form, and it is open. The two best teams in Europe at the moment are in the final, and have a head-to-head race in the Premier League.

'It has been a great season for both teams, and we need a good performance on the day, so we will see,' he said.

A runner up with Bayer Leverkusen in the competition in 2002, Ballack is hungry for the silverware that would prove what all Chelsea fans already know - that he is truly one of the greats.

A German player of the year in 2002, 2003 and 2005, Ballack was a Bundesliga winner with Bayern Munich before joining the Blues in the summer of 2006, and he has since added the Carling Cup to his list of honours, but missed out on the FA Cup last season due to injury.

Within a matter of weeks, he may be able to add Premier League and Champions League medals to his collection, and he is fully focused on doing so.

'I think not just for me, it's for everybody who plays, winning titles is a part of your career, you want titles,' he reasoned.

'I have won until now the German league and it is a target for me to win the Champions League. I am 31 now and I want the responsibility to go to a final. I lost the first one and now I want to win! We all want to win.'

The memory of Hampden Park six years ago is still fresh in Ballack's mind. Pipped at the post by Bayern in the league, they were undone in the Champions League final by a Zinedine Zidane volley.

'You can't compare now to then, it is always different. It was six years ago and we were the underdog, but if you get to the final it is always open, it doesn't matter what happened before.

'At Leverkusen we were very good, were in fantastic form, and played a good final, but we lost.'

This time, Ballack, like others in the squad, believes Chelsea have a responsibility to succeed. This is a word that seems particularly relevant to him at the moment, after Saturday's nerveless penalty against United, and the heated discussions with Didier Drogba over who should be on free-kick duty.

'Yeah of course, I feel good, but everybody wants to do something for the team, everybody takes responsibility. It's better when you want to take than things when nobody wants to!

'We shared the free-kicks and I went close with a shot last night, it was no big thing. It is done and we will speak in the next games as well so if we get a free-kick, I am sure somebody will take it!'

Set piece duties are also an important part of Ballack's game for his national side, and the Germany captain may even be able to claim a third piece of silverware in the summer, as Euro 2008 approaches.

For now though, he is content to be concentrating on Chelsea action, and is ignoring the possibility of a personal treble.

'I could do, but there a lot of players that can win each of these, playing for Man United or for Chelsea. I am one of these of course but it is not on my mind,' he confirmed.

'I am focused on the games with Chelsea, and only when the season is done will I concentrate on the European Cup with the national team.

'It is a long, long season and we work very hard in a difficult season with a lot of injuries, me too, and it is not the time to think now on the European Championships.

'We are so close to winning a title and that is much more important now.'


Chelsea vs Liverpool, second leg: Lampard crowns emotional evening

Chelsea vs Liverpool, second leg: Lampard crowns emotional evening

by Michael Harrold from Stamford Bridge

For those in the stands at Stamford Bridge it was draining enough as Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC fought it out for the chance to meet Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League final. So it was hard to imagine what emotions Frank Lampard was going through when, less than a week after his mother's death, he stepped up to fire the penalty that put Chelsea within sight of their first final in the competition.

First final
This game between the two English rivals had it all, even, for once, goals – five of them in fact as the teams slugged out their third semi-final in four seasons. For the first time it was Chelsea who prevailed, winning 3-2 to advance 4-3 on aggregate. The London side were contesting their fourth semi-final in five campaigns and they were not going to let the opportunity slip. Lampard was determined to make sure of that. The England midfielder had sat out the weekend match against Manchester United but with so much at stake he returned to make a telling contribution. Michael Ballack had taken the penalty that defeated United, here Lampard took responsibility, shooting low to Pepe Reina's left eight minutes into extra time to give Chelsea a 2-1 lead before wheeling away and falling to the sodden turf.

Emotionally exhausting
He pointed to the skies and kissed his black armband then picked out his father in the stands. An already emotionally exhausting night had another crescendo moment. Not that the game was over. There was still time for Didier Drogba to rifle in a third and even for Ryan Babel to pull one back late on for Liverpool. Avram Grant's team, though, refused to buckle. There is an unstoppable momentum about Chelsea right now. Just when they seem down, they hit back, keeping the Premier League title race alive and recording this unprecedented achievement.

'Normal guy'
When Grant replaced the 'Special One', José Mourinho, in September he was asked what he considered himself to be. "Just a normal guy," was his response. Seven months on, as his side prepare to take on United in the first all-English UEFA Champions League final he may have to revise that statement. Even Mourinho didn't make it this far. This was an evening his team were determined to make their own, as epitomised by Drogba. Stung by pre-match comments from Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez, he quickly made his presence felt. Before the first half was out, Martin Škrtel had hobbled off after one last-ditch tackle on the 30-year-old and Steven Gerrard was fortunate not to join him on the sidelines after being caught by the striker.

Drogba duel
With a nod perhaps to Benítez, Drogba also won a free-kick in the opening minute, raising a cheer from home supporters angered by accusations that he goes down too easily. Up against Jamie Carragher, it was a heavyweight contest with the Ivorian pulling the punches. Twice inside 20 minutes he got the better of the centre-back only to miss his chance when well-placed. He soon made amends. Lampard's emotional return had given Chelsea a lift before kick-off, but more significant still was his contribution on 33 minutes when he sent Salomon Kalou clear down the left. When Kalou's shot was saved, Drogba was on hand to turn in the rebound, pointedly running along the touchline to celebrate in front of the Liverpool bench.

Old-fashioned feel
Chelsea captain John Terry had talked of the "burning pain" of those preceding semi-finals, although some of that fire must have been doused by the torrential rain. As the two groups of fans raised the temperature and the pitch cut up, it had the feel of an old-style English league battle. Of course it was anything but. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has changed the landscape of English football since buying the Stamford Bridge outfit in June 2003, investing an estimated €350m in players and transforming his team into a powerhouse at home and abroad. The championship twice, the FA Cup once and the League Cup twice have all been won but never the prize he has coveted most. What a time to do it now with his home city of Moscow the venue for the final.

Long wait ends
Even with the scene set so perfectly, and with United manager Sir Alex Ferguson an intrigued observer, Liverpool refused to buckle. When Torres scored to force extra time the visiting supporters, so accustomed under Benítez to seeing their side triumph in this competition with backs against the wall, sang "we shall not be moved". This time, though, Lampard , Drogba and co ensured they were.


Chelsea vs Liverpool, second leg: 'Lamps' lights up famous Chelsea night

Chelsea vs Liverpool, second leg:
'Lamps' lights up famous Chelsea night

by Trevor Haylett from London

At the end he stood apart from the throng of celebrating Chelsea FC players, a man consumed by his own thoughts and whirling emotions. Two days before the funeral of the mother he admits was his guiding light, Frank Lampard scored a vital penalty in extra-time to drive Chelsea towards victory over Liverpool FC in the UEFA Champions League semi-final. It was an act of courage that had team-mates queueing up afterwards to praise him.

Impressive character
Joe Cole said it was remarkable that Lampard was even involved in the game. "I've known Frank a long time, I know the type of fellow he is, and I don't think he gets enough plaudits," said Cole. "He's a great player and a great man. I can't really put into words what I feel about him as a man to even be out there playing and then to give the performance he did and then take that penalty and score. To do that at a time when this has happened to his family, I take my hat off to him."

Fitting gesture
Petr Čech said that scoring the penalty was a fitting way for the midfielder to honour his mother. "Frank took the decision to play the game which was brave," said the goalkeeper. "On the other hand it was the best for him to get the penalty and score the goal, maybe the decisive goal, and then to celebrate as he did. She was great for him and it was good that he could honour her. I am delighted for everyone with this win but especially for Frank because it has been a difficult time for him."

Thrilling performance
There may have been fears among Chelsea fans that the England midfielder was not ready for the ordeal of such a big game but that was immediately dispelled in the way he settled into the contest. Lampard set up an early chance for Didier Drogba and then drilled the pass which put Salomon Kalou away in the 33rd minute, Drogba following up his team-mate's shot to score the opening goal.

Pressure moment
As the recipient of so many assists from him over recent seasons, Drogba appreciates the full range of Lampard's qualities. He said: "To take a penalty like this one, very crucial for this game, only Frank Lampard can do it. Only big, big players like him can do it. But he felt all the club was behind him and that is fantastic.

'Honestly unbelievable'
"To play a Champions League semi-final after something like that is the mark of a big player," Drogba added. "He stayed calm, he took his time and he played a great match. He is one of the greatest midfielders in the world." Chelsea captain John Terry added: "The character he has shown tonight, not only playing but stepping up to take that penalty for his family is honestly unbelievable."


Match report Chelsea vs Liverpool, second leg: Drogba double takes Chelsea to Moscow

Match report Chelsea vs Liverpool, second leg: Drogba double takes Chelsea to Moscow

By Trevor Haylett from Stamford Bridge

Chelsea FC finally achieved their dream of a place in the UEFA Champions League final by overcoming Liverpool FC on a night that resonated with high drama and heartfelt emotion. They were taken to extra time, where Didier Drogba scored his second goal after Frank Lampard, making his return to the side following the untimely death of his mother, had swung the tie back Chelsea's way from the penalty spot.

High drama
It made it all the more sweet that victory came at the expense of a Liverpool team who had proved their nemesis at this stage on two occasions in the previous three seasons and who drew level at 1-1 through Fernando Torres in the 64th minute. Having dispatched one English rival, Avram Grant's men will take on another in Moscow on 21 May where Manchester United FC await. The two clubs are virtually neck-and-neck in the race for the Premier League; now they will dispute superiority on Europe's grandest stage as well.

Chelsea charge
Despite the boost given them by John Arne Riise's last-gasp own goal in the first leg, Chelsea were clearly not interested in sitting on their advantage. After a day of incessant rain the surface proved troublesome, although Chelsea kept their feet better and their passes were more assured – Drogba stepping away from Jamie Carragher to unleash a powerful drive that Pepe Reina pushed away. Liverpool's first foray sparked a counterattack in which Yossi Benayoun found Steven Gerrard to set Torres clear, yet Petr Čech was swiftly out to make a smothering save.

Drogba breakthrough
The hosts continued to control proceedings and Reina was forced to sprint off his line to thwart Drogba, before being left exposed by Lampard's through pass only for the the Ivorian to drag his low shot beyond the far post. Liverpool's cause was scarcely helped when Martin Škrtel hobbled off to be replaced by Sami Hyypiä. The visitors looked vulnerable and it was no surprise when Chelsea went ahead. Salomon Kalou stretched the defence down the left and forced Reina into a flying save; Drogba was first on the scene and rifled an unstoppable drive in at the near post.

Torres response
The balance of the game changed perceptibly at the start of the second period as Liverpool suddenly began to push forward and only Čech's outstretched left leg kept Chelsea's lead intact. From a well-worked free-kick, Gerrard nodded on and Dirk Kuyt's flick was heading in before the goalkeeper intervened. Chelsea prepared for the expected onslaught yet came unstuck four minutes past the hour. Benayoun's driving run took him away from four defenders, resulting in a prodded pass through to Torres whose instant low shot found the bottom corner.

Extra-time excitement
Torres almost worked another scoring opportunity as Liverpool sought to exploit their advantage although Michael Essien came closest to averting extra time, shooting into the side-netting from an acute angle. The additional 30 minutes got under way at breathless pace, Hyypiä heading wide before Essien had a goal ruled out for offside by a team-mate. When Hyypiä's lunge felled Ballack in the 98th minute the referee immediately pointed to the spot and Lampard coolly converted, then broke down in tears amid a huddle of jubilant colleagues. Drogba seemed to have put the issue beyond doubt when he expertly turned in Nicolas Anelka's low centre in the 105th minute and, although Ryan Babel gave Liverpool late hope, the London club held firm to spark wild celebrations.


miércoles, 30 de abril de 2008

Declaration about Chelsea vs Mancherster United 2-1: Ballack: anything is possible

Declaration about Chelsea vs Mancherster United 2-1: Ballack: anything is possible

Michael Ballack believes all pressure is now on Manchester United after Saturday's 2-1 win put us on level points with the league rivals.

The German midfielder can relate to losing a title on the last day of the season after his side Bayer Leverkusen lost out to Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich and feels this could now be the fate bestowed upon Manchester United.

'Last week they had a five-point lead and now we have closed the gap. They still have everything in their hands but the pressure is on them,' said Ballack.

'It looked like they were champions, but now it's getting smaller and tighter.

'In 2000 I was in a similar situation at Leverkusen, but we were the ones leading and Bayern Munich caught us.

'In the last game we were three points in front, but lost the game and the title. It can happen up to the last minute.

'We have the same points now and two games to play so everything is possible,' added the German.

The double goal-scorer said the victory was for more than just equal place at the top of the league, and with one major part of the midfield line-up missing, there was a dedication to be made.

After Ballack headed Chelsea's opener beyond the reach of Edwin van der Sar, the Blues ran to the bench and collected a specially printed shirt for Frank Lampard's late mother Pat, who sadly passed away last week, and dedicated the goal to her memory.

'The victory is for Frank and his family, it is a difficult time for everybody, especially his family, so we do not forget this,' explained Ballack.

'Everybody supported it [the goal celebration], it is a difficult time and it is a little thing, but we do what we can do. Our thoughts and victory are for him.'

With such a fantastic performance in memory of a much-loved Chelsea fan, Saturday's game proved to be the perfect way to silence the critics who believe the Blues may have lost our way.

'We are happy, it was a nice day for us, great weather, great victory and that is what we wanted, a little chance to win the title and we are back now.

'In the first half we played very well, we controlled the game and in the early minutes we had two very good chances and we deserved the 1-0.

'Especially in the first half we played well. Passed the ball with not just long balls, we moved the ball very good and we showed we can play football.

'After that Man United came a little bit better in the game, but after the 1-1, which was a big mistake for us, they didn't really have any chances.

'They had no one shoot on-goal, so we dominated the game.'

It was a Michael Carrick handball that gave Ballack the opportunity to take the lead back for the Blues with a penalty in the 86th minute, but, despite all eyes in Stamford Bridge bearing down on the number 13, he was unaffected by the pressure.

'I am used to it [the pressure]. I think I have taken a lot of important penalties in my career and this was a big situation. But it is no problem for me, I like this situation.

'I can handle the pressure, there is always a good situation if you are under pressure, I like this.'

With all this talk of pressure, anticipation begins to build as the midfielder looks ahead to Wednesday's Champions League clash against Liverpool.

'A win gives us confidence, we have it and we have shown that we can play very well but on Wednesday it is a very different game, it is the Champions League.

'So on Wednesday we are expecting a very different fight.

'But I think we look fresh, we look better than all other teams have in the Champions League now, so we will see. We want to get to the final,' finished Ballack.


Report Chelsea vs Mancherster United 2-1: Ballack keeps Chelsea hopes alive

Report Chelsea vs Mancherster United 2-1: Ballack keeps Chelsea hopes alive

Michael Ballack's 86th-minute penalty kept Chelsea FC in the hunt for the Premier League title as Avram Grant's side defeated leaders Manchester United FC 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Ballack winner
The Germany captain fired to the right of United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to score his second goal of the afternoon and pull the London side level at the top of the Premier League with United on 81 points with two games to play. United's vastly superior goal difference gives them the advantage in the run in, but Chelsea, who were without midfielder Frank Lampard following his mother's death, maintain hopes of a double with Liverpool FC to visit in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

Rooney equaliser
Ballack had given Chelsea the lead in added time at the end of the first half when unmarked he headed in Didier Drogba's cross from the right. The goal came after a strong first-half performance from Chelsea who had come close to taking the lead on 20 minutes when Joe Cole struck the crossbar. United, though, were gifted a way back into the match 12 minutes after the restart. The normally dependable Ricardo Carvalho's poor backpass allowed Wayne Rooney to dart in and fire low under Petr Čech.

Injury concerns
Chelsea's title hopes looked over as the clock wound down but with five minutes to play Michael Carrick handled in the area, allowing Ballack to step up and score from the spot. Still the drama was not over as substitute Andriy Shevchenko cleared Darren Fletcher's attempt off the line at the other end. To compound United's afternoon, Nemanja Vidić, who missed Wednesday's goalless draw against FC Barcelona with a stomach complaint, was forced off after taking a blow to the face early in the first half, while Rooney was substituted in the second complaining of a sore hip.

Birmingham denied
It was a dramatic afternoon at the foot of the Premier League as Liverpool FC came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Birmingham City FC, who had led through Mikael Forsell and Sebastian Larsson only for Peter Crouch and Yossi Benayoun to snatch a draw. Birmingham stay 18th and now have 33 points, a point behind both Reading FC – held 0-0 at Wigan Athletic FC – and Bolton Wanderers FC, who drew 1-1 at Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Stirring comebacks
Fulham FC, in 19th position, kept alive their hopes of avoiding relegation with a rousing fightback at Manchester City FC, who had led 2-0 thanks to early goals from Stephen Ireland and Benjani Mwaruwari. Substitute Diomansy Kamara reduced the deficit with 20 minutes left and, after Danny Murphy had equalised, got the winner in the last seconds with a fine solo strike to take his side on to 30 points. There was also late joy for Sunderland AFC, who beat Middlesbrough FC 3-2 in the Wear-Tees derby thanks to Emanuel Pogatetz's 90th-minute own goal, while Newcastle United FC drew 2-2 at West Ham United FC.


martes, 22 de abril de 2008

Chelsea vs Liverpool (1-1), first leg. Champions League semifinal

Chelsea vs Liverpool (1-1), first leg. Champions League semifinal.
Chelsea profit from Riise intervention

A headed own goal deep into added time by Liverpool FC substitute John Arne Riise rescued a draw for Chelsea FC after Dirk Kuyt's first-half opener had looked like giving the home team a significant advantage in their UEFA Champions League semi-final.

Awkward header
Riise, who has not scored for Liverpool all season, stooped low to try to clear Salomon Kalou's cross from the left, but his awkward header flew past Pepe Reina and into the top of the net – giving Chelsea an away goal they had virtually given up on getting. It could have been so different for Liverpool, had visiting goalkeeper Petr Čech not spectacularly tipped over a late Steven Gerrard drive before denying Fernando Torres seconds before the equaliser.

Cagey opening
Both sides were slow to start and the cagey, tactical match predicted by many appeared likely to materialise. Chelsea seemed to have the upper hand thanks to a slightly more measured passing game, until Rafael Benítez's men created the first real opening of the tie. Xabi Alonso's long and hopeful ball over the top of Chelsea's back line found Kuyt, who beat the offside trap but failed to control properly and a combination of Čech and Ricardo Carvalho cleared the danger.

No rhythm
Still, Liverpool frequently struggled to find their rhythm as the half wore on and possession of the ball looked to be a luxury commodity. Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard almost caught the five-time champions off guard with a dangerous crossfield pass which the well-placed Joe Cole, in two minds, was unable to get a true touch on. Torres was presented with an even better opportunity at the other end on 30 minutes after being released by Gerrard, yet the striker could only fire straight at Čech when clean in on goal.

Kuyt strikes
Liverpool's fears were eased by the first goal of the semi-final in the 43rd minute. Kuyt capitalised on confusion between Claude Makelele and Ashley Cole after Javier Mascherano's miscued shot was skied over their heads, keeping both his eye on the ball and his nerve to drive the ball past Čech at the Kop end. The Dutchman's strike had a huge galvanising effect on the home side and on the match in general as the tempo was markedly increased, especially just after the break when the Reds made several threats to move further in front.

Drogba struggles
Suddenly the likes of Alonso and Ryan Babel could find each other with incisive interchanges that were previously beyond them, and the home crowd turned up the volume again. With Didier Drogba looking an isolated figure up front for Chelsea as he chased in vain a succession of long balls pumped in his direction, a goal for Avram Grant's team seemed more likely to come from midfield. Michael Ballack and Lampard combined to set Florent Malouda free in the box, where Mascherano's last-ditch block kept his effort off target.

Different complexion
The visitors did, however, force the pace as the clock ticked down, although Liverpool might well have doubled their advantage as first Gerrard then Torres tested Čech. Had either of those chances gone in, next Wednesday's second leg would have taken on an altogether different complexion – as it did, to the Londoners' benefit, when Riise beat Reina.


viernes, 11 de abril de 2008

Ballack's final goal

Ballack's final goal

In some respects, Chelsea FC's performance against Fenerbahçe SK on Tuesday was a microcosm of their season. Not always convincing, at times uncertain and even frustrating for their fans. Ultimately, though, they did enough to continue the fight another day. Just as they stuck to their task doggedly against Fenerbahçe SK to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, they have shown a consistency in the Premier League that has kept Manchester United FC looking over their shoulder long after Arsenal FC effectively dropped out of the title race.

Final goal
Having battled so hard to get into this position, the challenge now is to finish the job. After losing three semi-finals in the past four years, and twice against Liverpool FC, there is a determination not to let the UEFA Champions League slip from their grasp again. "I think for the club and for me it would be fantastic if we could win this title, that's why I'm here," said midfielder Michael Ballack, now in his second year in London. The 31-year-old lost the final with Bayer 04 Leverkusen six seasons ago and there is a sense of unfinished business as he discusses Chelsea's chances this time round. "For ten years I think I've been playing in the Champions League and I want to win this competition. People remember just the trophies you win, not getting to the quarter-finals or the semi-finals."

Leverkusen reminder
Ballack needs little reminding of the disappointment of 2001/02. Leverkusen went into the final weeks of the season challenging on three fronts, but ended it empty handed, losing the Bundesliga title, German Cup final and the UEFA Champions League final all in the space of eleven days. With Manchester United FC to visit Stamford Bridge on 26 April in between the semi-final games against Liverpool FC, this campaign could hinge on one critical spell as well. "You work very hard all year to get in this situation and then you have to do the right things," Ballack said. "You have to win these games to win a title."

Grant test
It will be the ultimate test for Chelsea manager Avram Grant. Defeat Liverpool and perhaps he will finally emerge from the shadow of his predecessor José Mourinho, who came up short against the Reds at this stage in both 2005 and 2007. Despite leading Chelsea to second in the Premier League and back to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, Grant has been unable to totally win over supporters and defeat in the League Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur FC added fuel to the doubters' fire. Ballack, though, believes the Israeli deserves credit for getting Chelsea in a such a positive position, especially considering the obstacles in his path. The nasty cut Petr Čech sustained in training on the eve of the Fenerbahçe game was just the latest injury to hit the Chelsea squad, which in February also had to withstand the loss of Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou to the African Cup of Nations.

Difficult season
"We've had a very difficult season with injuries and the African Cup was hard for us but we're still in a good position," Ballack said. "A lot of the players who had injuries are fit now and have had a little bit of rest during the year, so I expect a very strong Chelsea team in the next few weeks. It is always difficult if you work after José Mourinho. It doesn't matter who is the next manager; it will be difficult for him and for Avram Grant as well, but I think he did it well over the last weeks. We have had good results."

For Ballack, the biggest plus is to be playing at all. This time last season he suffered an ankle injury which ruled him out of the semi-final against Liverpool and would ultimately keep him out for eight months. He only returned for Chelsea in December and the game against Fenerbahçe was just his fourth in the UEFA Champions League this season. How Grant must be delighted to have the Germany captain back. His fourth-minute goal put Chelsea in control at Stamford Bridge and he was the driving force behind his side's early pressure.

It was the sort of performance Chelsea fans were expecting when he signed from FC Bayern München at the end of the 2005/06 season. After a difficult first term adapting to the Premier League, it is also the sort of performance Ballack expects to deliver. "That's why I'm here, I did this in Germany and for the national team as well and I want to do the same for Chelsea," he said. "I'm happy to score again but the important thing is that the team wins, that the team performs and we did it. Now we have another two big games [against Liverpool]. It is always close and we expect it to be the same this year, but we have the second game at home and that gives us confidence."


jueves, 10 de abril de 2008

Getting the job done. Chelsea vs Fenerbahce comments. Second leg.

Getting the job done. Chelsea vs Fenerbahce comments. Second leg.

As Chelsea secured our place in the Champions League semi-final, Michael Ballack and Joe Cole admitted they were more pleased by the result than the performance.

The players were in an optimistic mood as they left Stamford Bridge after a tough game that saw us battle through to a 2-0 win thanks to Frank Lampard's late goal.

But it was Ballack, who had spoken about achieving a perfect start in the game on Monday, who put the Blues in the lead three minutes in with a goal reminiscent of his opener against Olympiacos at the Bridge, which also came inside the first five minutes.
'We started very well. In the first 20 minutes we created a lot of pressure but then we stepped back and they came back into the game, even in the second half they had a good 15-20 minutes,' said Ballack.

'So it was not easy, it was hard work today. But in the end when you see both games I think we deserved to come through,' he added.

Cole agreed with his team mate, and understood that, although they had played well, Fenerbahçe didn't have the extra edge to take them through to the semi-final.

'Attacking wise they were very good, there was a lot of movement in the team and we had to defend well,' said Cole.

'We knew it would be a tough game. Any team that has Zico as a manager and includes players like Alex, Deivid, Kezman, players who have played at the top of their game, will concern you.

'They deserved to beat us in Turkey, we didn't play well, but we were a little bit stronger and more powerful last night and we got the job done,' added the number 10.

But the winning celebrations were short and sweet as the mental preparations began straight away for the semi-final.

'Games are always close in the semi-final, mistakes cost you the game and last year we went out with a penalty shoot-out,' said Ballack.

'They [Liverpool] are very strong, but we have the second game at home, which is a little bit different from last year.

'If you know you have the second game at home, with your fans behind you, it can change the outcome,' added the German.


Galería de fotos de Víctor Hugo Ballack

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