Sunday, 31 May 2015

Lionel Messi double gives Barcelona Cup final win over Athletic Bilbao!

Lionel Messi scored an outrageous solo goal as La Liga champions Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao to win the Copa del Rey and edge closer to the treble.

The four-time world player of the year lit up the Nou Camp when he evaded numerous challenges on the right wing and then surged into the area before firing home a firm, low shot.
Neymar tapped in his 38th goal this campaign, before Messi scored his 58th with the outside of his boot.

Inaki Williams headed in late on. That effort in the 79th minute was a small blip in an otherwise superb performance by Luis Enrique's side at their home, the Nou Camp.

A repeat display against Juventus in next week's Champions League final will almost certainly see them complete their second ever continental treble, having become the first La Liga side to do so in 2009.

On Saturday there were many fantastic moments of Barca interplay, but the highlight of the match, and maybe the Spanish season, involved just one player - Messi.

The 27-year-old Argentina forward started on the right and surrounded by Athletic players in the lead up to the opening goal, but managed to squeeze through a gap, sprint into the box, shift the ball past one more defender before striking a shot low past goalkeeper Iago Herrerin.

"Leo is spectacular, he is a star," said Neymar. "For me he is the best in the world and it is an honour to be part of this team with players of such quality."

If that was an individual goal of the highest standard, then Neymar's was a team goal of equal quality.
Quick passing around the area between Messi and Ivan Rakitic ended with Luis Suarez squaring the ball to Neymar to slot in. It was another goal for the Brazilian in what has been a superb debut season at Barcelona.

Messi scored his second of the night and his 58th this season with a stunning close-range finish after the break which meant he, Suarez and Neymar have now scored 120 goals in all competitions for the Catalan club this campaign.

Barca took a more relaxed approach in the last 15 minutes, and Athletic - 23-time winners of the competition - made the most of their opportunity when Williams headed in from six yards out.
Xavi came on as a late substitute in his final appearance for Barcelona at the Nou Camp. And the Spaniard, who will be ending a 17-year association, almost scored a fourth when his brilliant free-kick struck the post.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Blatter wins fifth FIFA term as challenger concedes!

Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA for a fifth term on Friday after his only challenger conceded defeat in an election overshadowed by allegations of rampant corruption in world soccer.

Blatter won despite demands that he quit in the face of a major bribery scandal being investigated by U.S., Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged soccer's governing body into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

Yet his mandate, which was far from convincing, raises fresh questions over his leadership with the possibility of civil war in international football, unhappy sponsors demanding reform and prosecutors looking to widen their investigations.

Neither Blatter nor Jordanian opponent Prince Ali bin Al Hussein received the necessary two thirds of votes in the first round, with Blatter securing 133 votes against 73 for Prince Ali. However, Prince Ali swiftly conceded.

"I congratulate you if you voted for Prince Ali, he was a good candidate, but I am the president now, the president of everybody," the 79-year-old Blatter said in his victory speech, knowing he faces a barrage of criticism and countless problems.

UEFA, the powerful European confederation, has been staunchly opposed to another term for the Swiss official and UEFA president Michel Platini has even raised the possibility, albeit unlikely, of Europe boycotting the World Cup.

There has also been talk of UEFA breaking away from FIFA, which is also unlikely, but nothing can be ruled out.

Blatter's future could yet depend on the reaction of FIFA's major sponsors and stakeholders who have been deeply dismayed by the dawn arrests in Zurich on Wednesday of several FIFA officials and U.S. prosecutors announcing indictments of officials and companies.

A senior U.S. Internal Revenue Service official said on Friday he thought there would be further indictments, the New York Times reported.

"I'm fairly confident that we will have another round of indictments," Richard Weber, the chief of the IRS unit in charge of criminal investigations, was quoted as saying by the Times, but he would not identify the remaining targets of the investigation.

One top sponsor, Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser beer, said after Blatter's win that: “We expect the next FIFA presidency to resolve internal issues, install positive change and adhere to strong ethical standards and transparency."

FIFA, ruled over by Blatter since 1998 and long subject to suspicions of corruption and internal probes, has had a traumatic week with law enforcement stepping in with allegations of financial wrongdoing stretching back 24 years.

Blatter has batted away the controversy, relying on his network of friends to hold on to power at FIFA, (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).

Prince Ali, in his pitch for votes, had pledged an open, more democratic FIFA, saying: "We have heard in recent days, voices which described our FIFA as an avaricious body which feeds on the game that the world loves.

"There are no easy answers. And no blame that can be cast that will wash away the stain that marks us all," he said.


Blatter told FIFA TV that he knows how to create a better image for the organization and promises to unveil surprising plans on the first working day of his new term.

"It was a very difficult Congress due to the circumstances of these events," Blatter said. "I would say also kind of tragic events, Wednesday and Thursday in Zurich and all with the media in the world, what they said about FIFA."

While Asian, African and Latin American states had been expected to rally around Blatter, Europe, which accounts for all but three of the countries that have ever made it to the final of the World Cup, had been keen for him to step aside.

European soccer chiefs said after the vote that FIFA had to embrace reform. "Change in my opinion is crucial if this organisation is to regain its credibility," said Platini.

In federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday, one of the people accused, the American head of a Brazilian sports marketing company, pleaded not guilty to bribery-related charges.

Aaron Davidson, 44, head of Traffic Group's U.S. unit in Miami, is accused by prosecutors of securing contracts worth more than $35 million for the unit he ran and of arranging bribes for Jeffrey Webb, a FIFA vice president. A judge granted Davidson bail but ordered him to be put under house arrest in Miami and to wear an electronic monitoring device.

The United States, which last hosted the World Cup in 1994, is interested in hosting the 2026 edition but has not yet formally applied. U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement after Blatter's re-election that it would "continue to push for meaningful change within FIFA."

Monday, 25 May 2015

Magnificent Mumbai slay Super Kings, clinch IPL!

Mumbai Indians came up with a scintillating performance to win the 2015 IPL as they beat Chennai Super Kings by 41 runs in the final at the Eden Gardens on Sunday.

MS Dhoni's decision to field first backfired as Mumbai posted a daunting total of 202 to tighten their grip on the title.

Chasing 203, Chennai needed a flying start but openers Dwayne Smith and Mike Hussey were tied down by the Chennai bowlers.

Although Smith scored a half-century, the likes of Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo and Faf du Plessis failed to fire as the men in blue were crowned champions for the second time. 

On a night where Chennai had to do everything right, they faltered as their skipper although having won the toss was left to rue.

Earlier, displaying an awesome batting performance, Mumbai Indians posted a daunting 202/5 against Chennai Super Kings.  

Put in to bat, the Mumbai Indians built their innings around two partnerships, as they set an asking rate of 10.15 for Chennai on a flat strip.

A rollicking 119-run second-wicket stand between opener Lendl Simmons (68; 45b, 8x4, 3x6) and skipper Rohit Sharma (50; 26b, 4x6, 6x2) took the team to a position of solidity after the loss of opener Parthiv Patel in the opening over itself.

Kieron Pollard (36; 18b, 2x4, 3x6) and Ambati Rayudu (36; 24b, 3x6) then forged a 71-run partnership for the fourth wicket off only 40 balls to pile on the Chennai Super Kings bowlers' misery.

Caribbean Simmons, who has batted with his characteristic flamboyance through the tournament, opened up in the fourth over, picking up a four and six off Ravichandran Ashwin. A dozen came off the over.

Next he took on Ravindra Jadeja in the sixth over, plundering 14 runs.

Simmons reached his half century with a somewhat lucky shot, an edge, as Pawan Negi only managed to get his hands to the leather before it slipped out. The batsmen ran two, and Mumbai were 98/1 at the halfway stage.

The hundred came in 10.1 overs with Simmons disdainfully dispatching Jadeja to the boundary.

Rohit, who has always found Eden a happy hunting ground, went on the offensive from the word go, smacking Mohit Sharma for 16 runs in the second over, before unleashing some exquisite strokes during his stay in the middle.

Dwayne Bravo finally broke the partnership by foxing Rohit with a slower ball. Mumbai were 120/3 in 12 overs.

Simmons returned in the very next delivery, yorked by Dwayne Smith.

Trinidadian Pollard and Rayudu then came together and beat the bowlers to pulp on the foundation laid by Simmons and Rohit.

Pollard belted Nehra for 23 runs in the 17th over, that included three sixes and one boundary.

The match saw action in the very first over sent down by Ashish Nehra. Jolting the Mumbai Indians, diminutive open Parthiv Patel went back without bothering the scorer, victim of an outlandish fielding by Faf du Plessis.

The batsman went for a flick, but failed to execute it properly, and set off for a run as Plessis closed in on the ball at mid on. However, the South African displayed razor-sharp reflexes, as he dived, lost his balance, but still in one action managed to unsettle the bails.