THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Champions League ~ Chelsea kings of Europe but uncertainty reigns
Didier Drogba won the Champions League for Chelsea with what could be the last kick of his career at the club. The 34-year-old from Ivory Coast scored Chelsea's equaliser in normal time with a powerful near-post header and followed it up by converting the final penalty in the shoot-out. The club initially refused to offer Drogba the two-year contract extension he wanted, but renewed talks are set to get underway shortly. The striker's decision may be based on who is appointed manager at Stamford Bridge, with Roberto Di Matteo strengthening his case to get the job permanently. 

Another decision the new manager will have to take early will be on the future of Fernando Torres, who has stated that he suffered the "biggest disappointment" when he was left out of the starting line-up on Saturday night and is "unhappy" at how the club have treated him.

Championship ~ Hammers bounce straight back
West Ham were promoted back to the Premier League after just one season in the Championship with an exciting play-off final win over Blackpool. Both sides had been relegated from the top division last season but Ricardo Vaz-Te scored an 87th-minute winner to ensure the Hammers were celebrating. Sam Allardyce has faced some criticism for the way his side have played this season but he said it was important that they were promoted straight away. "You get critics everywhere," said Allardyce. "A small minority who make themselves heard at every club, but the vast majority have been behind the team. It would have been devastating, according to the owners, who would have had to decimate the wage bill by £10 million, off-load players for little or no fees and still achieve what fans want."

Conference ~ Second Wembley win promotes York City
York City have enjoyed a decent week. Last Saturday they beat Newport County to win the FA Trophy at Wembley, during the week they had planning permission granted for a new stadium and then, on Sunday, they beat Luton Town 2-1 to gain promotion back to the Football League. York were relegated in 2004 with a backdrop of financial chaos but now their future is looking brighter. Their fans, outnumbered almost five to one by Luton's among the near 40,000 in attendance, may have feared the worst when Andre Gray put Luton ahead after two minutes. Goals from Ashley Chambers in the 26th minute and then Matty Blair – from a distinctly offside position just after half-time – won it for York.

Scotland ~ Hearts hammer Hibs in Edinburgh's cup final
Hibernian's wait for a Scottish Cup final win will continue after they were hammered 5-1 by Edinburgh rivals Hearts on Saturday. The match, mainly looked forward to because it was free of the Old Firm, could hardly have been more one-sided in the end. Hibs, who have not won the cup since 1902, will rue the sending off of left-back Pa Kujabi, which resulted in the penalty that put Hearts 3-1 up. Replays showed the foul was committed outside the area. Hearts were as dominant from the outset as their record in this derby would suggest. They have now won all four of the matches between the sides this season and have not lost to Hibs in their last 11 meetings, winning eight of them.

France ~ Montpellier win title amid tennis balls and toilet roll
Montpellier's 2-1 victory at Ligue 1's bottom side, Auxerre, secured the first league title win in the club's history. Although Paris Saint-Germain did all they could by winning 2-1 at Lorient, they were relying on Montpellier to lose to claim the title for their own. Instead, PSG's fans, players and staff suffered a long wait after the game in Auxerre was delayed. With the game level at 1-1, Auxerre fans began protesting against their own club's relegation by hurling tennis balls and toilet roll onto the pitch, forcing the players to return to the dressing room. The match was halted again later in the second half, this time because flares were thrown onto the pitch. It meant that the PSG players, having secured the victory they needed, could only watch on television screens at Lorient as Montpellier secured the win and clinched the title. It rounds off a remarkable season for Montpellier, who finished 14th last year. Tom Hocking

Comments (8)
Comment by eighteen85 2012-05-21 13:00:11

".... from a distinctly offside position ...."

Distinctly as in "by about two yards", you mean?

Still, we Luton fans are used to seeing crap refereeing decisions go against us in play-off finals, indeed, it just wouldn't be a Conference play-off final without it happening. Still waiting for the decisions to even themselves out, as the supporters of those clubs who get the benefit of decisions claim happens.

Comment by kevchenko13 2012-05-21 15:13:13

I'm not one for official bashing but my goodness that was a poor call - he even had the six yard line to help.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-21 18:56:30

I was watching Auxerre v Montpelleier on TV, and what I found sad was that the 'fans' of a small club more or less ruined the greatest day in the history of another small club. Auxerre is a town of 45,000, smaller than many non-league towns in England, and they've had Ligue 1 football for 32 years with a title win in 1996. They should be celebrating this amazing fact, not rioting in protest against a relegation which was surely bound to happen one day. Meanwhile Montpellier, who were founded less than 40 years ago, have brought the title to a city that is, or was, more famous for its handball team than its football team. Or so they tell me.

In Italy Napoli ensured that Juventus did not go the whole season unbeaten by defeating them 2-0 in the final of Coppa Italia at Rome's Stadio Olimpico. Second half goals from Cavani, a penalty, and Hamsik, inflicted on Juventus their only defeat in 43 league and cup games this season. It was Napoli's first Coppa Italia win since 1987 and their first trophy of any kind since 1990.

Torino and Pescars ensured their promotion to Serie A with 90 minutes to spare. For Torino it ends an absence of 3 years, while Pescara were last in Serie A in 1993. Their promotion is a triumph and a vindication for the footballing prophet Zdenek Zeman. How they fare next season will depend on how many of their on-loan 'jewels' they can keep, and whether Zeman's cavalier football will work at a higher level. But for the moment we should just be happy that there is a ray of light among the dark clouds that are hovering over Italian football.

Comment by madmickyf 2012-05-22 00:29:26

Can't agree kevchenko13, I'm all for official bashing. One particular linesman comes to mind at the moment!

Comment by geobra 2012-05-22 14:05:22

I have learnt today that Montpellier is France's 'capital of sport', with one in four of the region enrolled in one sport or another. But until Sunday they were more used to being champions in handball, volleyball, basketball, water polo and baseball, not football.

Whether this is the beginning of something or a flash in the pan only time will tell. But at least since Sunday the fans of Montpellier, like those of Ipswich and Verona among others, can bost that they support a club that has won its country's championship. Fans of much bigger clubs - West Ham, for instance -can't say that, at least not yet.

Comment by Quatrmass 2012-05-22 14:05:25

Three more league championships, and Chelsea's historical record (7 FACs, 1 EC) will be equal to Aston Villa's. Which really puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

Comment by MoeTheBarman 2012-05-22 14:18:23

I'm guessing the linesman, who could see Blair's position quite clearly, had not seen the flick on as Blair was onside when the original ball was played. Not that that is any consolation of course.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-22 15:12:24

No doubt some people will regard Chelsea's Champions League win as 'bad for the game'. They said the same of Greece in Euro 2004, but the game survived. In both cases, if a series of supposedly superior teams failed to translate their superiority into wins, that is surely their fault.

Chelsea were lucky, of course, but their opponents weren't unlucky. Unlucky means being denied a clear penalty (but Barcelona and Bayern weren't and they both missed from the spot), an offside goal given or an onside goal disallowed, a ball over the line but not seen by the officials or a goal given when the ball didn't cross the line, an unjust red card or an opponent allowed to stay on the field who should have gone. None of these things happened to Barcelona or Bayern, so they were not unlucky, though I would be the first to admit that if they had won they would have deserved it.

I am not a Chelsea fan, and I think they are where they are now because Abramovic chose them in 2003 and not, say, West Ham. But every one of their players on Saturday was a credit to his profession. They put on display some of the eternal values of football without which even the most talented set of players would win little. For some it was a boring game. For me it was the sort of gripping theatre that football is so good at delivering, with an extraordinarily dramatic denouement.

Does nobody remember Steaua Bucharest v Barcelona in 1986, or Red Star Belgrade v Marseille 1991? Now they were two mind-numbingly boring games. This was a classic by comparison.

And Drogba's embracing of the stricken Robben and Schweinsteiger at the end was a magnanimous gesture that showed that, on Saturday evening at least, he knew how to win.

Related articles

Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late: My Story by Kieron Dyer
with Oliver Holt Headline, £20Reviewed by Gavin BarberFrom WSC 377, July/August 2018Buy the book Kieron Dyer comes across in these pages as...
Photo of the week ~ Bubbles fill the air at West Ham’s London Stadium
West Ham United 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 3, 20/10/2017, London Stadium, Premier League This photo was taken as part of the Match of the Month...
Photo of the week ~ Chelsea supporters watch a match in the 1990s
Photo by Tony Davis for WSC PhotographyFollow WSC Photos on TwitterSelected images available as prints...