Agony and Ecstasy: polarized ends of the pendulum, between which swings that fickle thing called “hope”. That powerful glimmer of what could be – or maybe not – as it flirtingly sashays from one emotion to the other. Hope is, according to the old adage, always the last thing to pop its clogs, and it did just that in quite a few stadiums around Europe over the weekend.
With the season over for most European leagues, let’s do a quick wrap-up of some of the results.
Yesterday, we watched one of the greatest finishes, ever seen, to an EPL season. Man U won their game and then had to wait for 2 minutes until City, with an Aguero strike in the final minute, claimed its first Premier League Trophy in 44 years.
As a UK-based City-fan friend wrote to me, “Down to the wire just doesn’t describe what happened – no words can justify the gamut of emotions that we all experienced. The first goal was like riding the most perfect wave; then we were dumped off our surfboards into the maelstrom of undercurrents, struggling for breath and doomed to drown. Suddenly, we popped up; could breathe again; found the sand beneath our feet and all was very right with the world.”
Somehow, Arsenal found its way into 3rd position with Chelsea finishing out of the table’s Champions League places. Tottenham grabbed the last CL position for the 3rd round play-offs. However, if Chelsea wins the 2012 Champions League, then Chelsea will be in next season’s CL and Tottenham will play in the Europa League. (See Champions League 2012/2013 for more details.)
1st: Man City
2nd: Man U
Over in Italia, it was more cut and dried. Juventus (with ex-Barça, and on-loan from Sevilla, player Martín Cáceres) won Serie A and remained unbeaten in all 42 games played (a record 43 counting their last game win from the previous season). It was the farewell game for legendary Alessandro del Piero who has played for the Old Lady for 19 years.
AC Milan says goodbye to Inzaghi, Seedorf, Nesta, Gattuso, Zambrotta and Van Bommel with Galliani stating that it’s the end of an era for the Rossoneri.
Napoli lost out on a Champions League place (will Cavani leave?), finishing 5th behind Udinese and Lazio.
2nd: AC Milan
Bundesliga results were settled a few weeks back. Klopp’s BVB Borussia Dortmund won its 2nd successive league title, beating Bayern Munich who sank, still claiming that they are the greater and better team.
Nails were driven into the Bayern casket when the team was trounced 2-5 by Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal Cup (German league’s Copa del Rey equivalent) on Saturday night for BVB to claim both league and cup trophies. What a game that was – if you haven’t seen it, find a download and watch it. Dortmund played like Barça at the end of Pep’s first season.
Third on the Bundesliga table was Schalke 04 which will be bereft of Raúl’s services next season, as he’s off to join Al Sadd in Qatar.
1st: Borussia Dortmund
2nd: Bayern Munich
3rd: Schalke 04
4th: Borussia Mönchengladbach
Ligue 1 in France will go to the wire in the last round to be played this week. If they win or draw, Montpellier, with wonderboy Moroccan Younès Belhanda, is poised to top the table and keep Paris Saint-Germain in 2nd place.
PSG, (now re-invigorated with Qatari cash, Ancelotti as manager, and after a buying spree which included ex-Barça LB Maxwell), stuttered in the final weeks of the campaign, and Ancelotti has all but conceded the league to Montpellier HSC.
The third and fourth spots are already decided.
1st: Montpellier HSC
2nd: Paris Saint-Germain
3rd: LOSC Lille Métropole
4th Olympique Lyonnais
Despite their board room mutinies, Ajax managed to finish top of the Eredivisie for the season. Twente didn’t have the best of seasons as they finished well out of contention for CL and into the play-offs for Europa League.
With 1st and 2nd positions decided a couple of weeks ago, the interest lay in which teams would finish in the remaining CL spots, as well as those who would qualify for Europa League and who would be relegated.
First to go down was Racing de Santander – a team which not only suffered on the field, but was led astray by their new owner who hasn’t been seen since last season.
Sporting de Gijón was the next to fall, after sacking their beloved coach Preciado earlier in the season, and then not doing any better under Clemente.
At the other end of the table, Valencia claimed the 3rd CL position, while the CL play-offs 4th place depended on the last games of the season for Málaga and Atlético de Madrid. Málaga had to win.
All the remaining La Liga BBVA games were played at the same time last night (Sunday 13th), and the focus was mostly on the games which involved the teams facing relegation. Rayo Vallecano, Villarreal, Granada and Zaragoza were in the danger zone and their games ended, as follows:
Getafe vs. Zaragoza 0-2
Villarreal vs. At. Madrid 0-1
Rayo Vallecano vs. Granada 1-0
~ Zaragoza won against Getafe, so they were safe.
~ In the final minutes of their away game, At. Madrid’s Falcao headed home the winning, and only goal, in the match, giving At. Madrid the win, and the hopes of a CL play-off spot if Málaga lost. Villarreal staying up was now dependent on Rayo Vallecano losing.
~ In the dying minute of their match, Rayo Vallecano scored against Granada. The Granada players sank to the pitch, thinking that their First Division run was over after just one season. Someone let Rayo’s Diego know that Villareal had lost, and he went around telling the other players, and suddenly everything was ok for Granada once more.
When the news of Rayo’s goal against Granada reached El Madrigal, the scenes were heart-rending. I thought that Villareal’s president, Fernando Roig Alfonso, was going to collapse as he made his way down from his seat to the pitch. Fans, players and management were left desolated. They stood or sat in numbness, and no one seemed to have legs strong enough to carry them away from the stadium and the pain.
Málaga won the match against Sporting, and secured a Champions League play-off position for the first time in club history. What a great start for the club in Manuel Pellegrini’s first full season. Dutchman, Ruud van Nistelrooy, announced his retirement and will now leave the club.
Real Madrid won their game against Mallorca, and achieved a record 100 points haul in La Liga.
Levante, after topping the Liga table for a few weeks, also created history by finishing in 6th place, thereby qualifying for Europa League – the first European championship for the club. They needed to win their last game to qualify and did so by beating a struggling, still down-hearted, Athletic Bilbao, 3-0.
Barça’s Victor Valdés created history twice, as he won his 5th Zamora equalling FCB’s Ramaletts’ record of 5. Victor also recorded his 4th consecutive Zamora – a new record.
Lionel Messi won his 2nd Pichichi with a record 50 league goals and, with one game remaining, has a record total of 72 goals for the season. Messi also won Europe’s Golden Shoe, and broke so many other records that he deserves a post of his own.
1st: Real Madrid
2nd: FC Barcelona
5th: Atlético Madrid
10th: Athletic Bilbao
11th: Real Sociedad
12th: Real Betis
15th: Rayo Vallecano
16th: Real Zaragoza
19th: Sporting de Gijón
20th: Racing de Santander
La Liga Adelante (Second Division)
Galician derby rivals, Deportivo de La Coruña and Celta de Vigo will be promoted to La Liga BBVA for the 2012/13 season. Depor is back in the first division after only 1 season, and Celta is back after 5 seasons.
Valladolid, Hércules, Alcorcón and Córdoba will contest each other in play-offs. The winner will also be promoted to the first division.
*Edited to add: silly me didn’t realise that Adelante isn’t over, so the above will only happen if no positions change before June 3rd. Ha!
And that, my friends, is that!