Monday, September 26, 2011

Your friendly neighborhood UEFA NextGen report

One of the intimate idiosyncrasies of watching Europe's elite youth compete is the intimate grounds on which they play. The iconic clash of today's greatest club and the youngsters who hope to complement the best that money can buy in overtaking that title is the most outstanding of examples. From the storied ground that is Hyde FC's Ewen Field s, Manchester City vs. Barcelona ...

The Baby Baby Blues put up a respectable showing in front of Roberto Mancini as they confidently ran at the Catalans from the outset. No matter how small, Barcelona are Barcelona and the undefeated favorite's class was evident in the buildup to Miguel Angel's go-ahead goal.

City did equalize shortly before the half, but their failure to clear their lines left them punished by Angel's perfect second. From that point on Barcelona lent as little hope to the home crowd of just over 2,000 as Manchester City had of the ball as they left this fixture with yet another three points in Group 1.

Many American fans - myself included - will shamelessly follow the individual efforts of their beloved Americans Abroad with the success of their respective clubs coming as a secondary consideration. The NextGen Series offers yet another medium for such obsessive patriotic indulgences. Unfortunately for Molde and fanatics alike, American defender Sean Cunningham suffered through a yellow card and six goals allowed in his 90 minutes of action.

Sporting CP and Molde kicked off at the illuminating Estadio Jose Avalade. That's not to say there was anything resembling a rapturous atmosphere, just that the players probably felt a little cooler than usual pre-game in the big kids dressing room. The ensuing encounter certainly played out as a men versus boys story as Sporting dominated throughout.

The enjoyment of the following highlights at Molde's expense is somewhat morbid, but Sporting do put on one hell of a show.

In other Group 2 action Liverpool traveled to Wolfsburg to defend their status as chief chasers of Sporting. They did not.

A week ago, the two sides had met at Anfield where Wolfsburg would have walked out winners if not for a late Kleihs own-goal. The return leg turned out to be slightly more fortuitous for the Germans.

For all the gusto with which Liverpool had brought the game to Molde a fortnight ago, Wolfsburg's goalmouth was never penetrated. Despite having dominated the opening period, the Reds found themselves down two just ten minutes into the second half. Try as they might, Liverpool could not find their way back into the game. There is some consolation for Liverpool: no less than four age-elgible players were involved in the full squad's Carling Cup clash at Brighton and they play Molde next week at home.

Group 4 provided another cozy venue as two traditional powers in Inter Milan and PSV Eindenhoven sought to escape the Group 4 cellar at Stadio Citta di Meda in Milan.

A severe lack of defending allowed Daniel Bessa to put the host's ahead mere moments into the match. After the early foray however, the Catenaccio came out as Inter successfully played for the counter as Robert Guerain's through ball put Samuele Longo clear in on goal for Inter's second. It was hardly a surprise that Guerain was then subbed off at halftime considering he plays for PSV.

Oussama Tanane then tore open the proverbial door with his 56th minute free kick goal. PSV appeared to have earned a point when some English goalkeeping gifted Elvio Van Overbeek the equalizer. It was within the nature of the game that some more sloppy defending gave the ever-dramatic Italians their third and final goal with the game's last touch for their first points of the competition.

Check in again in two weeks as Barca host Marseille, Liverpool look to recover at Anfield, and Tottenham-PSV promises goals galore.

- Jacob Klinger

No comments: