Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Your friendly neighborhood UEFA NextGen report

The best keep getting better, or so the saying goes. Unilaterally applying that logic to Europe's premier youth club competition tells us that the worst, in theory, keep getting worse. Nothing supports such a conviction more than the latest events in the world of NextGen.

In 1702 a tasteful farmhouse was built in the Catalan countryside. Its inhabitants, in all likelihood called it 'home' or 'casa,' but today it is known as La Masia or The Greatest Soccer Factory Presently Known to Man. Although Barcelona recently moved their youth housing headquarters elsewhere, some fondly educational childhood memories of the academy were undoubtedly flowing through the minds and bodies of the Catalans' latest litter as they gracefully sucked the life out of Marseille .

It took all of three minutes for the hosts to take the lead that seems their birthright. Despite customarily posessing the ball for the vast majority of the first half, the opening 45 served as the calm before the inevitable storm of goals struck at the Mini Estadi .

Dongoo would double the lead in the first minute of the second half before Guram Enukidze put one in his own net to make it 3-0 Barca. The game then lost its intensity, allowing Baptiste to put Marseille on the board, but Dongoo completed his brace two minutes from time to keep the Catalans perfect so far in Group 1.

The French side were much more comfortable hosting - in front of Didier Deschamps no less - Andy Welsh's Manchester City . The final score mirrored the gulf in class between the playing careers of the the French World Cup winning captain and the journeyman midfielder who played for Toronto FC in their maiden MLS season.

As for the game that unfolded before them, it was a game of two halves with Marseille dominating the first half and City resurgent in the second. Unfortunately for the visitors all three goals on the evening were fired into Angus Gunn's net. The good news for the Baby Blues: said keeper is 15 and they're still the biggest spending club on the planet. The bad news: they have the second worst record in the NextGen competition.

The worst record belongs to Fenerbaçhe who were recently thrashed at Villa Park. Recent senior side debutant Gary Gardner's lofted through ball found the outstretched foot of Samir Carruthers before trickling in for the game's opening goal. Ersu, the Fenerbache goalkeeper, was called upon frequently and was spectacularly up to the task on numerous occasions. His efforts kept all but four of Aston Villa's goalward attempts out, but his side only rarely threatened and never finished. Needless to say the fortunes of the pregame cellar-dwellars only got worse on their visit to England's second city.

Ajax , the class of Group 3, were certainly keen to extend their gap at the top as they visited rain-soaked Rosenborg. Ajax very nearly capitalized on some slopy backpassing at the outset, but the hosts were not nearly as fortunate when Captain Klaassen happily buried Hovdevik's spill from close range.

Mushaga Bakenga equalized for the Norwegian squad, but Klaassen again proved why he wears the armband when he finished the move he started to put Ajax up for good. Truth be told, both sides created their fair share of chances, but the Amsterdam outfit finished to join Sporting and Barcelona as the competition's only remaining perfectionists.

The tournaments other Dutch participants, PSV Eindhoven were still searching for their first points when they welcomed Tottenham. Spurs were hardly gracious company however as their superiority in athleticism overpowered PSV in the first half. Souleymane Coulibaly's sliding volley in the 43rd minute that the North Londoners finally inked the scoresheet.

PSV were much more relevant in the second half as Raghi's free kick found the goal after his teammate's use of the age-old dummy-header fooled Tottenham's Jonathan Miles. After the previous week's heartbreak at Inter, PSV again seemed to have earned a point, but Jack Munns was not so considerate as his rebound putaway kept the hosts nailed to the Group 4 floor.

Inter Milan then faced Basel in a fight for Group supremacy that the Italians won by a typical 1-0 scoreline. The game itself however, was pleasingly open with Inter having the better of the game's chances. Inter's #10, Bessa, blew plenty of his own chances, but his role in what proved to be the winning move was only overshadowed by its finish from Slovakian Jakub Vojtus just before halftime.

While Basel's salmon jerseys resembled those of Barcelona, they lacked such scoring prolifics as a whole half later, they were still scoreless and Inter were sitting second in the group just a point behind Spurs.

Since starting their campaign with a defeat of Wolfsburg, Molde have lost to Liverpool 4-0 and Sporting 6-1. They traveled to Anfield to try and improve their luck this time around. And so they did as they lost by three rather than four or five.

Halftime substitute Adam Morgan - no known relation to America's sweetheart - finally put Liverpool on the board with his 67th minute Kopside finish after Team Scouse had bludgeoned all parts of the goalframe. Playing as a left back - don't get excited - young American Abroad Sean Cunningham was repeatedly abused by Liverpool's class attackers. In the 90th minute, he was kind enough to assist on Morgan's second before Toni Silva gave Liverpool their third.

Some distant day in the future, Sean Cunningham can leave out the details and tell his grandkids he tallied an assist at Anfield. Hopefully, they won't bother to look it up on YouTube.

- Jacob Klinger


MLSDraftScout said...

That looked like more of a poor reaction from that Center Back than a giveaway from Cunningham. That is not a hard ball to deal with and it was not that far in front of him. I think it's more a case of being mentally and physically tired in the 90th minute than an "assist" from Cunningham.

Jacob Klinger said...

Yeah, I mean it's not the greatest idea for a pass at that stage, but the CB definitely shoulders a good deal of the blame there. He didn't even touch the ball... second viewing shows a lot.