Featured Matches
Previous
Arsenal
Besiktas
6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Athletic Bilbao
Napoli
ESPNDeportes 6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 1
Game Details
Bayer Leverkusen
FC Copenhagen
ESPN3 6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 3 - 2
Game Details
Aston Villa
Leyton Orient
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Birmingham City
Sunderland
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Stoke City
Portsmouth
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Burton Albion
Queens Park Rangers
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Arsenal
Besiktas
6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Athletic Bilbao
Napoli
ESPNDeportes 6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 1
Game Details
Bayer Leverkusen
FC Copenhagen
ESPN3 6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 3 - 2
Game Details
Ludogorets Razgrad
Steaua Bucuresti
ESPN3 6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 1
Game Details
Malmo FF
SV Salzburg
ESPN3 6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
Aston Villa
Leyton Orient
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Birmingham City
Sunderland
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Bradford City
Leeds United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Burton Albion
Queens Park Rangers
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Stoke City
Portsmouth
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Los Angeles Galaxy
DC United
2:30 AM GMT
Game Details
León
Herediano
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Municipal
Pachuca
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Cobresal
General Díaz
9:00 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
Independiente Terán
Trujillanos
9:00 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Libertad
Nacional Potosí
11:30 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 1
Game Details
River Plate
Universidad Católica
11:30 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
Atlético Nacional
Deportivo La Guaira
2:00 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Alianza Lima
Barcelona
2:00 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 3
Game Details
Atletico Rafaela
Newell's Old Boys
8:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Rosario Central
Godoy Cruz de Mendoza
8:00 PM GMT
Game Details
River Plate
Defensa y Justicia
10:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Estudiantes La Plata
Boca Juniors
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Irapuato
U.A.N.L
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Morelia
Celaya
ESPNDeportes 12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Oaxaca
Chiapas
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Atlas
Mineros de Zacatecas
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Correcaminos
Santos
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
UNAM
Mérida
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Zacatepec
Guadalajara
ESPNDeportes 2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
América RN
Atletico Paranaense
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Cruzeiro
Santa Rita
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Botafogo
Ceará
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Bragantino
Corinthians
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Coritiba FBC
Flamengo
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Palmeiras
Atlético MG
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
LDU Quito
Deportivo Quito
12:15 AM GMT
Game Details
FC Seoul
Pohang Steelers
0
0
FT-Pens
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 0FC Seoul win 3-0 on penalties
Game Details
Guangzhou Evergrande
Western Sydney Wanderers
2
1
FT
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 2
Game Details
Amazulu
Bloem Celtic
5:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Mamelodi Sundowns
Orlando Pirates
5:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Pretoria Univ
Free State Stars
5:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Silver Stars
Kaizer Chiefs
5:30 PM GMT
Game Details
SuperSport United
Mpumalanga Black Aces
5:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Saprissa
Santos
Postp
Game Details
Carmelita
Club Sport Uruguay
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Cartagines
Perez Zeledon
Postp
Game Details
Antigua
Marquense
9:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Petapa
Coatepeque
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Vida
Marathon
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Next

Money drove Benatia's move to Bayern Munich

AS Roma about an hour ago
Read
May 19, 2009

Wolfsburg deserve debut success

On 90 minutes and 57 seconds of the Hoffenheim versus Bayern Munich game on Saturday, with the score tied at 2-2, referee Michael Weiner already had the whistle between his lips to end the game. But he didn't blow it yet because Mark van Bommel had run into an inside right position with lots of space and time.

Van Bommel raised his head to look for Luca Toni and noticed that the striker had slipped away from Christoph Janker and Isaac Vorsah and was unmarked a few yards left of the penalty spot.

Van Bommel's cross was precise. As the ball hit Toni's chest, the Italian was ten yards in front of goal, in a slightly angled but otherwise ideal position, with Janker and Vorsah a good three steps to his right and unable to do anything about what would happen next.

It was now solely a matter of technique - and Toni chested down the ball well. Yet not perfectly. The ball dropped to Toni's left and so far in front of his body that he needed to take another step to reach it. That left him with no time at all and a very tight angle from which to dispatch a shot.

As the television commentator said "And here's Toni, is history repeating itself?", the striker raised his right leg to somehow make contact before the onrushing Vorsah and Janker could intervene. "No!", said the commentator emphatically as the ball cleared the crossbar. While Toni raised his arm to appeal for a corner, Weiner blew his whistle.

The line about history repeating itself referred to 2001, when Bayern grabbed the title with the latest of goals. Of course such a scenario is still possible and Wolfsburg's departing coach Felix Magath hinted as much when he warded off all congratulations as premature. "At Bayern", he said, "they know very well that you can win the league four minutes into stoppage time on the last day."

But possible is not the same as probable. For all practical purposes, Wolfsburg won the league the instant Luca Toni missed the target. And in many ways, it was a picture-book moment. A late Toni winner would have made German football suspect this was, after all, yet another Bayern season. But it isn't, wasn't and has never been over the many months since this hugely entertaining campaign kicked off last August.

The first half of the season belonged to Hoffenheim, the second to Wolfsburg. And so it's quite fitting that Hoffenheim both regained their pre-winter break form and were almost back to their first-choice XI just in time to stop Bayern's late rally, while Wolfsburg ... well, what can you say, really?

Perhaps it's enough to point out that they opened the scoring at Hannover when Edin Dzeko not only chested down a ball better than Toni did, but then also had the guts, nerve and the confidence to fire a sensational drop kick into the triangle from sixteen yards.

If you want to see a team on a roll that can do no wrong, get tapes of Wolfsburg's most recent games, against Dortmund and Hannover. In both matches, the opposition wasted one golden opportunity - on Tuesday, Dortmund's Alex Frei missed a sitter after 11 minutes and on Saturday, a deflected Jacek Krzynowek free kick hit the inside of the post on 10 minutes - and were then relentlessly made to pay for even the slightest of errors again and again.

In other words, I just cannot see this team, whose record at home stands at fifteen wins and one draw, lose their final game. And even if we take into account that every run must end one day, I cannot see this team lose to Werder Bremen.

Because those other Greens have clearly stopped competing in earnest as far as league football is concerned. And even though Werder's coach Thomas Schaaf was furious about his side's lack of commitment on Saturday, it's only human for players who have more than 50 competitive games under their belts and two Cup finals coming up to adjust their priorities.

Finally, and I hope I'm not stepping on anyone's toes here, after a lot of soul-searching I have come to the conclusion that I want Wolfsburg to win this thing.

Now, the non-Germans and the Anybody-but-Bayern people among you may wonder why it took me some soul-searching to side with the underdogs. To offer an explanation, let me take you to Dortmund's ground, where I spent Saturday afternoon.

At this late point in a season, goals scored against Bayern are usually cheered loudly when they are flashed across the scoreboard. But in our part of the stand, only about half the people applauded Hoffenheim's go-ahead goal and were then forced into discussions with those who had frowned at the news.

The dissenters' point was that Wolfsburg have no tradition and no support to speak of and are thus unworthy of a Bundesliga title. There is some truth to the premise of this argument. (This is my 183rd column, and Wolfsburg have featured prominently only once, see "The big, green W", September 20, 2004.)

But I can't follow the conclusion. This is, after all, a sporting contest. And in footballing terms, Wolfsburg very simply deserve to win the league. They have been nothing short of amazing these past weeks and months and more often than not it's been a pleasure watching them play.

If you have any palate at all for the aesthetics of this game, the interplay between set-up man Zvjezdan Misimovic and those deadly strikers, Grafite and Dzeko, was as much of a joy to behold as Barcelona's best moves.

Also, I really like the idea that we'll have a novice champion for the first time since 1970, when Gladbach celebrated their debut title. (When Dortmund won the Bundesliga in 1995, it was the club's first league title but not their first national championship.) Come to think of it... I wonder if there were fans in 1970 who said Gladbach were unworthy of the title because they came from a small city, didn't have the kind of support they have now and lacked tradition?

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.