Tag Archives: Champions League





Goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Mario Balotelli ensured Serie A giants AC Milan disposed of PSV Eindhoven to reach the Champions League group stages with a 4-1 aggregate win on Wednesday evening.

Philip Cocu’s men had their fair share of chances inside the packed San Siro but the Italian’s goalkeeper Christian Abbiati made a string of good saves before and after Boateng’s opener. Balotelli extended the Rossoneri’s lead early in the second period and any hopes of a comeback disappeared for the young Dutch side, when Boateng added another with only 13 minutes remaining to seal a 3-0 win on the night.

Both sides began the contest with 4-3-3 formations and spaces were hard to find in the early stages of the game. The Eredivisie side created the first opportunity when Slovenian striker Tim Matavž forced Abbiati into an early diving save with a precise header after eight minutes. Just moments later Milan went a goal ahead when Boateng found the bottom corner of Jeroen Zoet’s goal with a powerful right-foot shot from outside the area.

PSV should have been level but another sprawling save by Abbiati denied the Eindhoven side an equaliser, after the goalkeeper palmed away a superb Adam Maher volley which seemed destined to score and steal the show.

The hosts continued to threaten a second goal with Riccardo Montolivo and Stephen El Shaarawy especially going close, with a powerful shot that cannoned off the crossbar.

Milan were saved by the woodwork also after 41 minutes with a cross-cum-shot by left-abck Jetro Willems. PSV had another glorious opening to equalise immediately after the interval as a low cross from the left eluded everybody to reach the unmarked Georginio Wijnaldum at the far post but Abbiati somehow blocked the PSV captain’s close-range effort.

In the 55th minute, Milan made that Abbiati save count as the Italians went further ahead to concrete their victory. French defender Philippe Mexès headed an El Shaarawy’s corner across the goal for Balotelli to volley home.

Abbiati’s night finished with a fine save from a Stijn Schaars’s dangerous shot, and Boateng finalised the result with a precise low shot at the far post following a fine counterattack involving Balotelli and Andrea Poli.

PSV now drop into Friday’s Europa League draw as a consolation, a trophy they must be in a great chance of winning with this young powerful outfit.



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PSV vs. AC MILAN: A rivarly

It’s an unlikely rivalry, that between PSV and AC Milan. It’s born of neither geography, with the seats of Eindhoven and Milan situated nearly six-hundred miles apart, nor of over-familiarity, with the clubs competing on just five occasions all-time. However, when the two stalwarts of European football met last week, it was clear to see that this is no ordinary fixture. In actuality, it was the latest renewal of a footballing epic.

The roots of this contemporary feud can be traced to the Spring of 2005. In a lucrative Champions League semi-final, the two clubs, enjoying relative glory periods, would meet. The first leg, played at a packed San Siro, saw PSV control vast portions of the play but succumb to incisive Rossoneri breaks in the dying embers of each half. A goal from Andriy Shevchenko on the stroke of half-time, and a late strike from Jon-Dahl Tomasson left Guus Hiddink and his side starring up at an undeserved mountain.

In a throbbing second leg encounter, they began to climb. The Phillips Stadion, bedecked with colour and ferocious with noise, experienced a night quite unlike any other in its considerable history. After ten minutes, Ji-Sung Park ran on to a loose ball and opportunistically thumped it high into the net. Liftoff!

When Phillip Cocu, former midfield maestro and current PSV manager, rose to nod home a Lee-Young Pyo cross in the second half, Eindhoven rejoiced. It was a moment, an achievement, which encapsulated an entire era of PSV glory; this team of heroes fighting back to earn parity with one of European football’s defining powerhouses. In a surreal, dreamlike state, PSV had Milan on the ropes.

A cruel, 89th minute twist was the seminal moment in this heartfelt rivalry. As PSV looked for the knockout punch, a crowning moment to cap a performance of raw ambition, it came at the other end. A sluggish Milan kept the ball so as to insure extra-time. However, when Mauro Ambrosini ghosted in to flick a hopeful cross past the despairing dive of Heurelho Gomes, PSV hearts were broken. The pivotal away goal earned Milan a date with Liverpool in Istanbul, and rendered Phillip Cocu’s late acrobatic half-volley a mere consolation. In the gloom of crushing defeat, Eindhoven had a new nemesis.

I remember only select vignettes from that fateful night; it came in the embryonic stages of my PSV fandom. For instance, I vividly recall Cocu’s towering leap to plunge home the equaliser. I also remember Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink flicking a Van Bommel free-kick against the bar. These memories have become bittersweet in recent years. The frenzied atmosphere and the exceptional display from Hiddink’s team are still sources of pride, but the images of Ambrosini collapsed in celebration provide a chilling reminder of the end result. In whatever manner you look at that fixture, it pulls on the heartstrings.

Even though the two clubs would meet again in the 2005/06 group stages, where a sweet 1-0 victory for PSV in Eindhoven was coupled with a credible 0-0 draw in Italy, last Tuesday saw the most meaningful renewal in the conflict. A place in the Champions League Group Stages lay as the reward. In Eindhoven, talk of “revenge” was fresh in the air; fans taking great confidence in this young team and its sensational start to the season. Whilst PSV were seen by many as the “underdogs,” an undercurrent of belief manifested itself in a fantastic atmosphere for the first leg. Eindhoven was ready for another big European night.

The performance of PSV was admirable. In the glare of a large television audience right across the continent, the youngsters represented the club with true pride; a display of explosive excitement rekindling all those memories from eight years ago. A rip-roaring start saw Adam Maher, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Jetro Willems test the reflexes of Milan ‘keeper Abbiati. Cocu’s men were playing lively, attacking football with intricate passing combinations and raw pace. They were dominating.

In these games, it seems obligatory for a brutal twist of fate. Just as you begin to rise from your seat with greater regularity, expecting wave-after-wave of PSV pressure to result in a goal, Milan punch you in the gut. A shrewd breakaway, one of Milan’s very first of the tie, saw full-back Ignazio Abate exploit the defensive naivety of Memphis Depay before crossing for Stephan El Shaarawy to nod home into the far corner. Another Milan away goal in front of the Phillips Stadion Oost Staan.

If anybody thought that this team of energetic youngsters was about to lie down and give-up, they were sorely mistaken. Even after Mario Balotelli crashed a shot against the bar, PSV regained a measure of composure and began pressing for an equaliser. Adam Maher, ubiquitous in a play-making role, again worked Abbiati, before crunching his own shot off the woodwork. In a breathless and thoroughly-entertaining first-half, Cocu’s men did everything except score.

After so much exquisite football, unpicking the Milan defence with deft passing and movement, PSV’s eventual equaliser was drenched in irony. As Milan became more compact in midfield, space was at a premium. Thus, when found open some forty yards from goal, Jeffrey Bruma decided to just thumpn the ball. It swerved in the air, causing Abbiati to fumble. Tim Matavz arrived to prod home a richly-deserved equaliser, sending the PSV masses into delirium. The game trickled to a fairly calm end, with the tie balanced precariously at 1-1 heading to Italy.

At this stage of the season, we continue to learn a lot about this new-look PSV. In matching, and even dominating, Milan for periods during the first leg, a major milestone in the Cocu Revolution was achieved. The manager was using this tie to measure the progress of his developing squad, stating that “it give us a chance to compare ourselves to a great team.” The players came-of-age, a rock-solid bond between Bruma and Karim Rekik emblematic of a maturing PSV rising to a daunting challenge. On PSV’s biggest European night for five years, a sense of pride was restored.

The experts are wrong to dismiss PSV’s chances in the second leg. This is a tie which can change entirely with just one goal, and PSV have scored in thirty-four consecutive games. Furthermore, the Dutch giants dominated the first leg in periods, showcasing football which had Milan hanging by a thread. Nobody should underestimate the potential of this PSV side.

As the excitement builds ahead of Wednesday’s clash, PSV fans are in buoyant mood; they believe in another European fairytale. After all, anything can happen when rivals meet.


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Once again the all-new Phillip Cocu PSV team showed great maturity and went onto record a more than well-deserved draw against Serie A giants AC Milan in the first leg of their Champions League play-off.

The Eredivisie side dominated throughout the first-half, hitting the woodwork and forcing Milan ‘keeper Christian Abbiati into several vital stops. Yet against the run of play, the only goal of the half came courtesy of a Stephan El Shaarawy header. Slovenian striker Tim Matavž restored parity on the hour mark to leave the contest wide open ahead of the second-leg battle at the San Siro next Wednesday.

The Eindhoven side nearly went 1-0 up in the opening minutes when Adam Maher touched Matavž’s shot a fraction wide of the Milan goal. Abbiati was kept busy as the Milan keeper saved from Georginio Wijnaldum before Cristián Zapata deflected young left-back Jetro Willems’ strong on-target drive behind.

Unfortunately for Cocu’s men, Milan took the lead with their first attack. Ignazio Abate overpowered Memphis Depay and crossed for the unmarked El Shaarawy to head home leaving goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet helpless. Moments after, Zoet was called into action again as he tipped Mario Balotelli’s effort onto the bar.

However, it was still Abbiati who was the busier between the sticks, the 36-year-old making two great saves from Maher as Phillip Cocu’s side pressed for an equaliser. The lively PSV playmaker then crashed a shot against the crossbar from just inside the area after outmuscling the bigger frame of Zapata.

The midfielder trio of Stijn Schaars, Park Ji-Sung and Wijnaldum held the AC Milan midfield at bay and the latter getting forward at every opportunity and stringing some tremendous passing around. Linking up well with wingers Depay and Maher and later, Florian Jozefzoon.

PSV - AC Milan

Milan emerged for the second-half looking stronger and only a superb interception by Willems at the back post prevented El Shaarawy from doubling the score. The young lions of PSV responded by giving the Rossoneri a taste of their own medicine and scoring on the counter attack. Abbiati could not hold central defender Jeffrey Bruma’s 35-yard swerving shot and the previously quiet Matavž happily nodded in the rebound.

Milan almost forced a winner in the closing stages, but Zoet made a fine save from substitute Andrea Poli to keep the level. PSV will be the unhappier of the two sides, as the chances missed inside the first period could have seen them home and dry.



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20130807 - PSV

PSV face AC Milan in a Champions League preliminary round match-up to decide who makes it through to the group stages of Europe’s elite competition, and a tight game is expected between two sides that are no stranger to high profile continental clashes.

Both sides have won the Champions League before, PSV winning the trophy in 1988 while AC Milan have lifted the European Cup seven times, most recently in 2007. The sides last met in European competition at the semi-final stage in 2005, when an Massimo Ambrosini goal sent the Rossoneri through to the Champions League final.

Despite losing star players like Kevin Strootman and Dries Mertens, PSV have built their team around a youth philosophy managed by former PSV and Barcelona star Philip Cocu.


Zoet; Arias, Bruma, Rekik, Willems; Wijnaldum, Hiljemark, Maher; Jozefzoon, Locadia, Depay.


Abbiati, Abate, Zapata, Silvestre, Constant, De Jong, Montolivo, Poli, Boateng, El Shaarawy, Balotelli.

Player to watch: Stephan El Shaarawy

While all eyes will be on Mario Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy comes off a sharp pre-season and will look to start the 2013-14 season in the same manner he began the 2012-13 one. Pacy, hard-working with excellent technique and flair, “Il Faraone” could benefit from Balotelli attracting defensive attention and become Milan’s matchwinner on Tuesday.

Prediction: PSV 1-2 AC MILAN

Milan should get a scare from PSV who will be sharper and fitter due to already starting the Eredivisie season three weeks ago, while Massimiliano Allegri’s side may still be a little rusty. However, experience and quality should show through, and Milan are expected to have too much for their largely inexperienced opponents.


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PSV win 5-0 on aggregate

It’s mission accomplished for PSV Eindhoven as they defeated Belguim’s SV Zulte-Waregem 5-0 on aggregate. They now await Friday’s Champions League playoff draw to see who stands in their way of a place in the group stages of the competition. It will be no easy task as the Eindhoven club will have to deal with either Arsenal, Lyon, AC Milan, Schalke or Zenit St. Petersburg if they are to reach groups.

Zulte Waregem - PSV

Throughout the first-half, as excepted, looking to reduce their 2-0 deficit, the Belgians were on the attack but PSV held strong and kept another clean sheet.

In fifteenth minute, Philip Cocu’s side had a glorious chance to take the lead. Slovenian striker Tim Matavz, in a good position, tried to round goalkeeper Sammy Bossut and the ball dropped perfectly for Memphis Depay but he dragged the effort wide with the goal gaping.

Matavz, who had a terrible night in front of goal in the first leg, had his own chance to put PSV in the lead, but like last week, fluffed at the opportunity. With the ball played through by Depay, the Slovenian was through on goal with the onrushing Bossut trying to close him down. With time, the striker blasted the shot straight at the keeper’s chest much to the delight of the home supporters.

The teams went down the tunnel for half-time, goal-less but ten minutes into the second-half the game finally started to come together for the Eindhoven side.

Bossut again did well to thwart Depay early in the second period after he was played through by central midfielder Stijn Schaars, but the keeper was finally beaten on 56 minutes.

A scramble occurred inside the penalty area and Depay fired a shot at goal, and with the Bossut stranded out of the goal, Zulte’s Steve Colpaert saved on the line with his hand. German referee Felix Zwayer pointed to the spot and gave the defender his marching orders with a straight red. Matavz slotted the penalty home to give PSV the lead and with Zulte needing four goals with only ten-men on the pitch, the Belgians were heading out of the tournament. The goal was PSV’s 200th in the Champions Cup and their first goal in Belgium after four previous outings without scoring.

The lead was doubled with a beautiful goal from 17-year-old Zakaria Bakkali. The lively Depay whipped in a cross from the left to the back post where the Belgian winger was arriving and volleyed the ball home giving Bossut no chance of saving. The technique was sublime to keep the ball down with such power to make it 2-0.

The final nail was slammed into the Zulte coffin in the dying seconds, when the Dutch side went three up. Adam Maher broke free from his marker and Bruno Godeau aiming the tackle the attacking midfielder ended up sending the ball past his own keeper.

Five goals to nil on aggregate but it will not be this easy in the next round, the youngsters of Eindhoven will have to work hard to clinch that Champions’ League group spot.



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