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SUPRIYA BAKHT
SPORTING CHIC

Supriya Bakht is an incessant talker with a shoe addiction. She's usually found ranting and raving about politics, football and Arsenal; but mostly about Arsenal.

Mourinho shows true colours in Real loss

fter last week's Copa del Rey final, Madrid wrangled the all-important bragging rights by virtue of defeating their fiercest rivals, Barcelona. The sides faced each other three times in under two weeks, the Cup final coming a mere four days after the two sides met in the La Liga, and a week before they were to face each other in the Champions League edition of the El Clasico. The first ended a 1-1 draw and the Copa del Rey final 1-0 to Madrid in extra time. In what is now viewed as the most acrimonious meeting of the sides in recent history, the Champions League semifinal on Wednesday went 2-0 to Barcelona with the help of two goals from Lionel Messi, all but ending Mourinho and Madrid's chances of a spot in the final. Mourinho has had a player sent off in all four meetings with the Catalan side this season with Madrid, and in two meetings last season with Internazionale; another Madrid red card during this week's semifinal came as little surprise. Two red cards were awarded during the match, one to Madrid's Pepe and one to Barca's reserve goalkeeper Pinto for his involvement in a fracas in the tunnel.

Spain's football fraternity will wish in hindsight that it had stopped there but after Madrid's rarely soft-spoken coach was ejected to the stands during the course of the match, there was no silencing the Special One. Perhaps what was most embarrassing for his team and league (the Special One himself is never embarrassed or repentant) were his claims that the red card against his team was part of a wider pro-Barcelona nexus amongst referees in Europe, looking to other Champions League meetings between Barcelona and clubs like Chelsea and Inter as evidence. Mourinho pointed out that more often then not they were played as ten men against a Barca eleven. It can easily be argued that Pepe's dismissal was a harsh decision and tipped the balance the Catalans way, but Mourinho's antics during and after the match remain inexcusable. In the post-match press conference, he was equally vociferous. If Mourinho is to be believed, the beautiful game that is football has been corrupted. He claims there are plots afoot at UEFA to ensure Barcelona made it to the final – even pointing to their five year long association with UNICEF to support his conspiracy theory. A strange take, but an El Clasico with Mourinho involved is bound to throw up some saucy stories. In any case, in the aftermath of the game, UEFA charged both Real Madrid and Barcelona for their roles.

In the midst of conspiracies theories and bickering, the first leg of the Schalke–Manchester United semifinal was completely overshadowed. As expected, United won at Schalke, earning the all-important away goals and all but knocking the German side out of the tournament. Schalke still have much to be proud of, a semifinal spot in the Champions League after two comprehensive victories over defending champions, Internazionale. The tie should've ended 7-0 to the visitors but for the spectacular saves from the Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer. As captain and goalkeeper, he demonstrated remarkable calm and skill under pressure against an attacking side like United. Neuer leaves his hometown club this summer after announcing he will not be extending his contract with Schalke. After watching him in action on Tuesday, it is clear that he will be a hot favourite this transfer season and that he will be closely tracked by coaches, pundits and football fans everywhere. I couldn't tell if the United fans were more excited by their win over Schalke or the fact that Ferguson and Neuer shook hands (seeing that as an indication that Van de Saar's replacement had been found and acquired even before the transfer window starts). I hear rumours of a move to Bayern Munich this summer. My favourite piece of trivia about Neueur is that his childhood idol was Schalke and Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann, who has just returned to the Gunners. Is it fate or convenient timing, I wonder? Arsene Wenger, are you watching? Or even better, are you buying?

 
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