Playing through the pain barrier

Chelsea captain John Terry has revealed that he played last night’s Champions League tie against Benfica with two cracked ribs.

Few players in the history of the sport have craved the epithet, Captain Marvel, more vigourously than Terry, so last night was a reminder of why he became a footballer in the first place. It was the kind of moment Terry will have dreamt of since he was a child watching a bandaged and bloodstained Terry Butcher achieve heroic status during an England World Cup qualifier.

Almost a century to the day since Captain Scott died, has England finally found a worthy successor to the Antarctic explorer? With Andre Villas-Boas playing the role of Captain Oates?

Listening to Terry, you could be forgiven for thinking so.

“I couldn’t breathe and my chest was closing up,” said Terry. “I was having a difficult time out there, especially in the first half. Hopefully, I’ll be OK.

Unfortunately, his inability to breathe did not prevent him from talking…about himself and the pain he was in.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be out. I will have a scan in the morning (Thursday) and we will see where we go from there. It’s just horrible,” he complained.

“When you get one in the ribs, you can’t do anything about it, you can’t treat it, you just have let it heal, but I can get through games definitely.

“I thought it was OK but, later in the second half, it just seemed to be getting worse and I was struggling to breathe to be honest.

“It was difficult. I have never felt anything like that before.”

The horror, the horror…

Who’s going to meet Barcelona in the final

While Terry nurses his wounds and looks ahead to a semi-final encounter with holders Barcelona, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has already written off the chances of facing his former side in the final.

Real Madrid, as expected, made light work of Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia, defeating the Cypriot side 5-2 for an 8-2 aggregate win, to earn a tricky semi-final encounter against Bayern Munich. The winners of that game will face the victors of the Chelsea-Barcelona tie. Although, according to Mourinho, Barcelona’s progress to the final is more or less a formality.

Quizzed about the prospect of meeting his former side, Mourinho replied: “Let me be honest, I don’t think the final will be a Real Madrid/Chelsea final. It could be Bayern or Barcelona, I just don’t think it will be Real Madrid vs. Chelsea and we know why.”

Journalists leaned in, pens hovering, in the hope that Mourinho might provided them with a quotable nugget alluding to a pro-Barcelona conspiracy. But the Madrid coach, sensing their heightened sense of expectation, opted played it straight.

“Because they are very good,” he continued. “Barcelona aren’t the favourites, they are super-favourites.”

Quote of the day

“Benfica with the Federation (Portugal) will do something. Although I do not know if the Federation has the power to achieve something. It is so obvious that this is a business today and (they) do not want the Benfica to pass.”

Benfica president senses a stitch up after his side are knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea. The concept of losing with dignity has taken a bit of hammering this week.

One for the history books

While Benfica moan about the unfairness of it all, the other team vanquished in last night’s semi-final, APOEL Nicosia, can look back on a memorable, historic campaign, with a huge amount of pride.

“We’re the only team at this stage in the competition to have started on 12 July [2011],” said APOEL’S Serbian coach Ivan Jovanović.

“This was our 16th game, we don’t have a big squad but we have worked very hard to reach the position we have. This is the end of this wonderful journey but I and the whole of Cyprus are proud of this team.

“Real Madrid won fairly and it is a fair result, but to score two goals is no small feat. We knew after the result in Nicosia we wouldn’t advance, but we wanted to give our best against such a rival in such a stadium.”

Even Mourinho, never a man to play down his own achievements, sensed this was the time to be magnanimous in victory.

“I think in a few years people in Cyprus will realise what Apoel have done, it is the biggest achievement in the Champions League this season,” the Portuguese said. “If Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich win it’s not the same achievement as for Apoel to reach the quarter-final.”

Goal of the day

Frequently overshadowed by his team-mate, Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s Kaka showed that he still has what it takes: curling in a lovely strike in Wednesday’s Champions League win over APOEL Nicosia.

Miss of the day

Ramires’ could have calmed Chelsea nerves had he converted from close range against Benfica.

Galatasaray concern

Galatasaray fear being expelled from next season’s Champions League by UEFA if Turkey’s football authorities fail to deal with match-fixing allegations implicating other clubs.

Galatasaray director Sedat Dogan told The Associated Press that his club should not be punished just because Turkish officials failed to act.

“We must not be held responsible for an omission or neglect of the Turkish Football Federation body,” said Dogan, who is concerned that the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) is dragging its heels on the issue.

Verdicts are not expected for many months – long after UEFA’s June 1 deadline for national federations to enter clubs for next season’s Champions League and Europa League competitions.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said last month in Istanbul that it would intervene if the TFF’s disciplinary body fails to take any action by the registration deadline.

“The end of May to decide is too late. There must be some decision. We must have enough time to protect ourselves,” Dogan said. “They have all kinds of evidence, they have all the authority, they have to decide.”

Galatasaray’s anxiety is pronounced as they are well-placed to reach the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in six seasons. The league leaders will take a lead into a four-team play-off system which was devised this season to guard against match fixing.

Gold standard

Gold Coast United have officially been thrown out of the A-League after Football Federation Australia (FFA)confirmed the club will not take part in the 2012-13 season.

The news comes just 24 hours after the announcement that a new team from Western Sydney will play in the A-League next season.

“FFA is bitterly disappointed that Gold Coast United Pty Ltd failed to develop a market for football on the Gold Coast over the past three seasons,” FFA CEO Ben Buckleysaid. “Today’s decision to exit can be directly attributed to Gold Coast United Pty Ltd’s lack of community engagement and its inability to build a football culture around the club.”

True, but it also has something to do with the ongoing feud between FFA and Gold Coast owner Clive Palmer, which culminated in Palmer setting up a rival football authority after the FFA revoked his A-League licence.

“We acknowledge the hard work and commitment over the past six weeks by Football Queensland, Gold Coast Football Association, the Gold Coast players and coach Mike Mulvey,” Buckley said. “The team showed great professionalism and pride in performance in the way they completed the season.”

Match abandoned

Ethnic tensions in Bosnia obviously extend way beyond the parameters of the sporting arena, but sadly, in recent weeks, it has been on the football pitch that the enmity has manifested itself.

The latest unsavoury incident occurred in a cup game between Borac and Zeljeznicar, two clubs who share an unpleasant and intense rivalry. The victim this time though, was the linesman who was left bloodied by an object thrown by the Borac fans. The episode left the referee with little choice but to abandon the match.


Players from Russian side Terek Grozny have recorded a ‘get well soon’ video for Aston Villa’s Stiliyan Petrov. The Bulgarian midfielder is currently undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with acute Leukemia.

I’m not sure what connection there is between Petrov and the Chechen outfit, but the sentiment is admirable, even if the execution is a little downbeat. In fact, if I were Petrov, looking at the demeanour of the participants, I’d wonder whether whether this was intended to raise my spirits, or make me feel even worse about my situation.