Wednesday, May 14, 2008

UEFA Cup Final Live Blog

This afternoon I'll be taking a first crack at live blogging during the UEFA Cup Final between Glasgow Rangers and Zenit St. Petersburg. An estimated 120,000 Rangers fans have descended on Manchester, so the atmosphere inside the City of Manchester Stadium will no doubt be electric. Enjoy.

Final: 2-0 to Zenit. A well-deserved victory for the Russians, as they were the more attractive side on the evening. Rangers defended bravely, but it was clear that one goal was going to be enough for Zenit. It's the first European title for Zenit St. Petersburg. There will be a lot of sad fans in Manchester; hopefully they'll make a peaceful return to Glasgow.

93rd minute: Ball game. The Rangers defense breaks down and Zyrianov slots home on the final play of the game for a 2-0 Zenit St. Petersburg win.

90th minute: Brief moment of possession in the box for Darcheville, but he fails to get off a decent attempt. Moments later the ball lands on Novo's foot 15 yards out, but he severely overhits what may be Rangers' last chance.

88th minute: Zenit continuing to dominate possession late and with all the offensive subs Rangers have brought on, their defense looks less composed, surrendering another corner.

87th minute: Last Rangers sub is Boyd coming on for Whiattaker. It's go for broke time for Rangers.

80th minute: Rangers second sub is McCulloch coming on for Hemdani. Rangers have shown nothing since the goal and an equalizer is looking like a long shot.

77th minute: Offense for defense as Nacho Novo comes on for Papac for Rangers. Just before the sub, Zurianov missed a chance to put the game away, firing off the left post.

76th minute: Rangers will have to push forward in the final 15 minutes, and that may lead to counter opportunities for Zenit. The crowd in Manchester are understandably quiet at this stage, save for a few faint cheers from the Zenit fans.

72nd minute: Zenit finally break the Rangers defense on a fabulous give and go from Denisov to Arshavin and then back to Denisov, who cooly slots it home for a 1-0 lead for Zenit St. Petersburg.

63rd minute: Alexander comes way out of net to play a long clearing pass, and Arshavin moves right around him to break in on goal. Two Rangers defenders recover and Papac heads clear Arshavin's shot which, had it come sooner, probably would have been a goal.

62nd minute: Consecutive corners for Zenit (they lead in corners 6-1), but both times the well-organized Rangers defense hold their ground.

54th minute: Wild scramble in the Zenit box, as both Darcheville and Ferguson are denied from in close, and then Zenit get away with an obvious hand ball. Zenit eventually clear off the post and Rangers first corner is harmless. Nice to see the Scots offense finally coming to life.

50th minute: More of the same to start the second half; possession but without any real threats from Zenit, although the Russians do seem to be picking up the pace.

Half: We head to the half. Typical Rangers game; stingy defense with only a couple counter opportunities. Zenit will need to be more creative offensively in the second half, but definitely seem more likely to break the deadlock.

45th minute: Rangers get away with a hand ball, as Arshavin's cross hits Broadfoot in the hand. Instead, it results in the fourth corner for Zenit, which again fails to produce a quality scoring opportunity.

44th minute: First set piece from Rangers is a free kick from 20 yards out. Thomson's blast strikes the wall and is cleared by Zenit. The shots of the nervous Rangers fans prior to the kick indicate they don't expect too many more opportunities like this.

42nd minute: Rangers are doing a nice job cutting off the shooting lanes. Tekke looked like he had a great chance at the top of the box, but Rangers stopped him from teeing up a shot.

41st minute: While the crowd is extremely pro-Rangers, the pace of the game and Zenit's dominance in possession have definitely quieted the masses.

37th minute: A rare offensive challenge from Rangers leads to a cross to Whittaker, but his header is well over the bar.

36th minute: Zenit with another good free kick opportunity, just outside the box on the right. Curious cross from Arshavin fails to generate a quality chance.

32nd minute: As much as this game has been played in Rangers own end, Zenit have had few quality chances. This is Rangers style; frustrate the opponent and wait for the counter attack.

24th minute: Rangers Kevin Thomson has been whistled for two hard challenges. Neither earned a yellow, which would indicate the Swedish referee, the same official who manned the Liverpool-Arsenal Champions League quarterfinal second leg, will be letting a lot go tonight.

23rd minute: First shot on the bench of Rangers boss Walter Smith, who kinda looks like the dad from Frasier.

22nd minute: First corner for Zenit. They play the short ball and Rangers are able to clear.

19th minute: Depending on who you ask, possession right now is 50-50 (Soccernet) or 63-47 to Zenit (FSC). I'd say the FSC stat is more accurate.

17th minute: More pressure from Zenit and a nice cross finds the head of Faitzulin, but sails over the bar.

14th minute: The broadcasters are discussing Rangers' quest for the quadruple, including their upcoming Scottish Cup Final against Queen of the South, which sounds like it should be a riverboat on the Mississippi.

12th minute: Zenit have the first set piece opportunity, but Sirl's effort from about 40 yards out is harmless.

7th minute: First offensive pressure from Rangers results in a nice run by Darcheville, but his cross for Ferguson is broken up by the recovering Zenit defense.

4th minute: Terrible giveaway from Rangers captain Barry Ferguson leads to a breakaway for Arshavin, but his strike is off the side netting.

2nd minute: Zenit dominating the early possession; an offsides negates a long ball opportunity.

Pre-Kick: Starting line-up for Rangers includes Neil Alexander in goal, Broadfoot, Weir, Cuellar, Papac and Whittaker on defense, Hemdani, Davis, Thomson and Ferguson in the midfield and Darcheville as the lone striker. Unfortunately, this means my favorite Rangers player, Nacho Novo, is on the bench.

Starters for Zenit are Malafeev in goal, Krizanac and Aniukov along the back, Sirl, Shirokov, Zyryanov, Faitzulin, Denisov and Tymoschuk in the middle, and Tekke and Arshavin up front.

Rangers are in their traditional all blue and Zenit in all white as we get started.

No comments: