A goal for the ages from the mercurial Argentinian Lionel Messi at Camp Nou last night. His 600th for Barca. An awesome free kick from 30 yards out, timed at 61 mph.
The last time I was at Camp Nou he scored four goals in one half, into the goal that I sat behind that afternoon. Former Red Louis Suarez opened the scoring in the 26th minute and celebrated wildly, as former players don't usually do. For the next 50 minutes last years beaten finalists held out with a hope of a big reverse next Wednesday at Anfield. As we all saw, it was not to be. Suarez hit the bar and the ball fell to Messi who had a simple tap in for goal No. 599.
However it was his 600th that broke the hearts of the Liverpool faithful, who have only a slight chance, with no away goals, despite coming back from 3-0 in Istanbul's Ataturk Olympic Stadium against AC Milan in 2005 in the Champions League Final.
The other first leg semi-final the evening before will be remembered for a very different reason at Tottenham's brand new stadium. Belgian defender Jan Vertongan clashed heads with fello player Toby Alderwwirwld and went down with a bloody nose. As per UEFA regulations he was assessed by his own medical staff and the referee as fit to continue, but collapsed moments later and final left the pitch.
Former USA international and 7 year veteran of MLS Taylor Twelman, suffered from a similar case and retired. On CNN he was scathing of the decision and called for urgent decisions from FIFA, UEFA, the EPL and other bodies. Evidently the NFL in USA now requires an independent doctor, not on the staff of a players club, to make the side line assessment. The 2nd leg will be next Tuesday at the newly renamed Johann Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam.
This is the awards season for English football and Liverpool's Virgil Van Dijk took the PFA (Professional Footballers Association) award for Footballer of the Year at the Grovesnor House Hotel. He was voted on by his fellow professionals, whilst Raheem Sterling was voted Young Footballer of the Year. Women's Player of the Year went to Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema after her 22 goals helped the Gunners win their first title since 2012. Georgia Stanway of Manchester City won the Young Players of the Year.
It marked the 20th anniverseray of a High Court decision that ruled against the PFA after Gordon Taylor, still the CEO on a salary of over £2,2 million a year plus lavish expenses, over a decision to ban women from its awards banquet.
Football Agent Rachel Roberts, who had been invited by one of her clients Julian Dicks, was prevented from entering the room by Taylor's then deputy Brendon Batson. That year Michael Owen was awarded Young Footballer of the Year but his mother, who had followed his career and drove him to practices in all weather, was also told that she was not welcome.
Thankfully times have changed.