Category Archives: UEFA Champions League

Major League Cup

Virgil van Dijk: Liverpool will be back at their best against Roma

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Virgil van Dijk has admitted Liverpool let their standards slip against West Bromwich Albion but insisted that their home game against Roma will prove a welcome and contrasting proposition.

Liverpool squandered a two-goal lead on their visit to West Brom after struggling to cope with set pieces late on but Van Dijk is confident they will rise to the occasion in the semi-final first leg.

“We need to do better,” he said. “You have to tell each other the truth you cannot be nice and happy when we want to achieve so much as a team and a club. A draw is not good enough but there is no reason to panic. There is no need to stress.”

“I don’t worry at all. They [West Brom] are fighting for their lives so in the end they are very direct, balls into the channel, work hard, trying to get fouls and free-kicks and we didn’t cope with that how we should have. To concede two goals from set pieces as well where we have always the same roles to do and we didn’t do that. So it is disappointing but I am not worried at all.”

After witnessing Roma’s extraordinary comeback against FC Barcelona to advance from the quarter-finals on away goals, Liverpool, who will hold their pre-match team meeting on Monday, will not be taking anything for granted against the Serie A side.

“It will be hard work and we need to be ready for anything and then obviously the tough game in Rome,” Van Dijk added. “That will be a hard one as well, but we need to enjoy that because not many players, teams come to this stage and have the chance of getting to a final. We will prepare as well as we can and see what happens.”

“I have not played against Dzeko before but everyone knows the result against Barcelona. They are a very good team and we have to be ready. I don’t fear anyone. We play a different style to Roma. It will be a different game to this one. The system we played at the end today won’t be the same.”

“I am Gigi Buffon.” — Juve keeper stands by Michael Oliver comments

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Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon says that he stands by the comments he made about referee Michael Oliver after their dramatic Champions League quarter-final exit to Real Madrid.

The 40-year old was sent off for dissent after Oliver awarded Real an injury-time penalty, and later said the official had “a trash can for a heart” after Juve had come back from losing 3-0 at home to lead 3-0 at the Bernabeu in the second leg of the last-eight tie on Wednesday.

However, Oliver awarded the Spanish side a 93rd-minute penalty for Mehdi Benatia’s foul on Lucas Vazquez, which Cristiano Ronaldo scored to send Real through 4-3 on aggregate.

Buffon said after the game that it was a “dubious incident” and, speaking again on Saturday, he said he had been defending “my teammates and fans, even in a not very composed fashion”.

“The content remains and I stand by all of it,” the keeper said. “I’d say them all again – maybe with a different type of language.”

“You find a way to speak, right or wrong, that at times can seem excessive – but this is me, I am Gigi Buffon.”

He added that he still believed 33-year-old Oliver lacked experience.

“I’m sure Oliver will have a great career in future, but he’s too young to officiate a match like that. A referee with more experience would not have blown his whistle and decided not to become the protagonist of the match. He would have left it running, turned around and let the two teams fight it out in extra time. Let the pitch do the talking.”

Police are currently investigating threatening text messages sent to Oliver’s wife, Lucy, after she was abused on fans on social media.

Roma president James Pallotta has no regrets over jump into fountain

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Roma owner James Pallotta was in his hotel room early on Wednesday morning amd reflecting on his team’s sensational Champions League victory over Barcelona and the celebrations that followed.

But two hours later, the phone duly rang and the 60-year-old American was told to pay 450 euros for jumping in the Piazza del Popolo fountain.

He agreed, apologised to the Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, and donated 230,000 euros towards the restoration of the famous fountain outside the Pantheon.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to jump in the fountains any more,” he mused to himself. “I’ll probably get a phone call and a fine.”

It’s most certainly one way to celebrate beating the likes of FC Barcelona 3-0 at home to reach the Champions League semi-finals, But does Pallotta regret it?

“There was no point where I thought I shouldn’t have done it,” he said. “I have a history of going one step too far, going all the way back to college, so it didn’t faze me at all.”

“I thought, ‘why not start a thing called fix a fountain?” If you jump in one you have to buy or fix one.”

Last minute Ronaldo penalty sends Real Madrid to semi-finals

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-minute penalty sends defending Real Madrid through to the Champions League semi-finals after his vital goal held off a stunning Juventus comeback (3-1, 4-3 on aggregate).

The Portuguese’s coolly taken 97th-minute spot-kick into the top corner came after Medhi Benatia brought down Lucas Vazquez in the box, meaning that he has now scored 10 Champions League goals against Juventus — the most by one player against a one opponent in the competition.

Juventus captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, in what might be his last Champions League appearance, was sent off for dissent by referee Michael Oliver after the spot-kick.

His first Champions League red card was also Juventus’ sixth in the competition against Real Madrid — more than any team has had against another opponent in the competition.

It was possibly the veteran’s last game in Europe, which drew comparisons with Real boss Zinedine Zidane when his France playing career ended with a sending off at the 2006 World Cup final for a headbutt on Italy defender Marco Materazzi.

Real, Champions League winners in three of the past four seasons, came into the second leg leading 3-0, helped by Ronaldo’s stunning bicycle kick.

However, Serie A leaders got off to a perfect start when Mario Mandzukic headed in from Sami Khedira’s cross after just seventy-six seconds and did it again eight-minutes before half-time.

Already one-goal away from equalling Real’s lead, Blaise Matuidi pounced to capitalise on Keylor Navas’ fumble to level the tie on aggregate before the dramatic ending.

Real Madrid will now join Liverpool, Roma and Bayern Munich in the last-four draw, which takes place in Nyon on Friday.