Portsmouth have finally won a piece of silverware thanks to the inspiration of their two Nigerians, Kanu and Utaka. A full 69 years after their first FA Cup the team coached by Harry Redknapp fulfilled the dreams of their fans by defeating Qq Online Cardiff City at Wembley 1-0. The only goal was scored by Nwankwo Kanu, who took advantage of keeper Enckelman’s blunder after John Utaka’s cross.
Pompey hardly showed their Premiership class against their Championship League rivals, but the result is what finally counts in Portsmouth and in…Croatia!
The Croatian media devoted the FA Cup finals the same amount of space as to their own cup, which saw Dinamo Zagreb smash Hajduk Split by 3-0.
The reason? Niko Kranjcar, of course. The 24-old midfielder has become the first Croat with the most prestigious national cup in the world, a distinction which is certain to increase his appeal among his compatriots.
Inter “threepeat” the scudetto in high drama
Internazionale have defended their Italian League title warding off a dangerous Roma assault in the last half hour of the competition. A 2-0 win at Parma guaranteed Inter’s win regardless of what Roma did at Catania, at the same time condemning Parma to the Second Division. Both goals came from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 62nd and 78th minutes, snatching the title from Roma, who had laid their hands on the trophy when Mirko Vucinic brought them ahead after just eight minutes.
In the end, after Zlatan’s goals a demoralised Roma conceded the equaliser and the celebrations of Inter’s fans in Parma, Milan and elsewhere could begin.
The nerazzurri’s joy after a third title in a row was doubled by the fact that their city rivals from AC Milan did not even make the Champions’ League! The Italian representatives in the top club competition will be Inter, Roma, Juventus and Fiorentina, while Milan will take part in the UEFA Cup.
The relegation of Parma, alongside Empoli and Livorno, on the other hand signalled the end of a famous 18-year spell of the former Parmalat’s team in the top flight, during which period they won four European trophies and three Italian Cups. The bankruptcy of the gigantic dairy industry company finally ended up condemning a once glorious side to Serie B.
Lyon’s magnificent seven
No team in the top European leagues can boast more than five consecutive League titles. Juventus and AC Torino have that in Italy, Real Madrid did the same, on two occasions, in Spain. Olympique Lyon on the other hand now have as many as seven French championships. Olympique Marseille also won the Championnat five times in a row, but their 1993 title was declared void by the FA for having fixed the match against Valenciennes.
Lyon stretched their already record-breaking run on Saturday thanks to a 3-1 win at Auxerre, which was more than enough to keep them ahead of Bordeaux, who could only draw at struggling Lens. The 2-2 result saddened both teams, because it meant that the 1998 champions will have to play in the Second division exactly ten years after winning the League.
They will be joined by Metz and Strasbourg, while Paris SG reached salvation owing to a good 2-1 win at Sochaux. Nantes on the other hand return to the top flight after just one season. Lens will certainly want to emulate them in the forthcoming campaign.
Barcelona: 65 million for another trophyless season
The era of rational business operations at Barcelona did not last for long. The disastrously extravagant era of the chairman Joan Gaspart, who spent hundreds of millions of euros on signings between 2000 and 2003 for zero titles, was interrupted by the first three years of Joan Laporta’s mandate. Still, after the Champions League victory in 2006, the good old ways returned to Barcelona, which allowed Real Madrid to regain the pole position in Spanish soccer.
Last summer Laporta’s club signed players to the tune of 65 million euros and in return the team finished third, 18 points behind Madrid, while in the FA Cup and the Champions League the semifinals turned out to be an unsurmountable obstacle. Thierry Henry was brought from Arsenal for 24 million euros in order to be deployed in the wrong position on the left wing. Defenders Gaby Milito and Eric Abidal cost a mere 17 and 15 million euros respectively, while midfielder Touré Yayá’s signing required nine million.
On the other hand, this spring Barcelona saved 35 million euros in unpaid bonuses promised for the trophies the expensive players failed to win.
The savings will no doubt be used in the next transfer window. How cleverly is another question.
Dinamo Zagreb – a club that eats the coaches
Incredible but true: Dinamo Zagreb have sacked or forced the resignation of no less than nine different trophy-winning coaches since 1996. Two of them were laid off twice, which means that there has been eleven departures of coaches immediately or soon after they led the team to one or more trophies!
This must be the world record, but the fans are not at all amused. The last coach to go has been Zvonimir Soldo, who resigned minutes after his boys added the FA Cup to their 10th Croatian League title. Soldo, who had a supremely distinguished 10-year long spell at Stuttgart, refused to explain his reasons, but he did not need to. The fans and the media know that Soldo could not stand the attempts of the club’s officials to interfere with his work, neither could he condone the continuous transfers of the club’s best players. Midfielder Luka Modric’s move to Tottenham for 21 million euros will soon be followed by Ognjen Vukojevic’s transfer to Celtic and others.
Since 1996, no amount of domestic success was able to keep a coach on the bench for more than 18 months. Among those who won stuff and then left were Zlatko Kranjcar (Niko’s father) twice, Otto Baric, Ilija Loncarevic (twice), Marijan Vlak, Miroslav Blazevic, Nikola Jurcevic, Josip Kuze and Branko Ivankovic.
Kranjcar and Baric, like Soldo, even won the double, while Ivankovic collected all three prizes – League, FA Cup and Supercup, winning 28 championship games in a row.
He quit last January, fed up by insults directed at him by the club’s power broker, Zdravko Mamic, over losing an utterly irrelevant indoor soccer game to Hajduk. However, Ivankovic is tipped to succeed Soldo as the quarrel with Mamic seems to be forgiven, if not forgotten.