Friday, 31 May 2013

New Wembley builds a new legend

Keep your eye on the prize!
Believe me, they give off some heat!
It was a momentous week even for Wembley standards. The Venue of Legends staged the world's two biggest club games in three days, then an international.

Nothing, not even the World Cup beats the Champions League Final for quality and now probably, glory as the pride of the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund squared up.
A winner now, contrast to a year ago
Dortmund togetherness in defeat
The other big game, measured by sheer prize money was Crystal Palace against Watford for the keys to the Premier League and a £145m boost to the balance sheet.

The Champions League Final gets bigger every year. The switch from midweek to Saturday night takes it into the cultural mainstream. From Saint and Greavsie to Ant and Dec, if you like.
The moment the new champions were crowned

The opening ceremony starring a fully-fledged medieval battle between the red forces of Munich and yellow of Dortmund complete with bow and arrows, was kicked off with West End star, the War Horse.

Honestly, ITV missed a huge trick not broadcasting it in their Saturday night output.
Live flares from Bayern fall on fans below
Instead, they stuck with the foursome of drony Philistines pontificating on the irrelevant "could happen" points. While Adrian Chiles and Roy Keane swapped soundings, the choreography outside was literally marvellous. 

And the game didn't disappoint either. Bayern took their chances where Dortmund didn't and the master unlocker, Arjen Robben set one up and scored the other in the 2-1 win.

So often, this was a textbook demonstration of how to attack against how to defend.

Medieval warfare: the opening ceremony
But in Bayern's win, we're witnessing a change of guard at the top of European football. To win it a year after the disappointment of losing to Chelsea in their own stadium is a mark of a mighty setup. Follow that Pep Guardiola! 
War Horse from the West End 
Palace's win over Watford was more cagey. No one was going to be responsble for triggering tears in the boardroom. As it was, the headlines made were more romantic than the match.

39-year-old Kevin Phillips came off the bench to score the most valuable of his 280 career goals against the club where he made his name in his last game before retirement.

Wilfried Zaha was so often the difference for Palace, with his clever touches on the floor and even brainier short-passing. But Manchester United will observe he needs to build on his game, just as Cristiano Ronaldo needed to in his first days at Old Trafford. 
The semi-final vanquished were Real & Barca

England v Republic of Ireland rounded off the crowded fixture list as the FA's 150th anniversary game commemorated darker days between the two countries. It was the first fixture between the two since that ill-fated night in Dublin where crowd trouble brought the game to a premature end.
Frank Lampard's goal-trail continued. His 29th international strike puts him just one behind Alan Shearer in the all-time scoring parade. Who says the Chelsea midfielder can't go on and score half a dozen more for his country? 

New Wembley is building its legend slowly but surely. It's just seven years old, but the atmosphere, particularly in the two club games was noisy, excitable and befitting the occasions. 

For a modern building, it has a soul.

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