Last week’s UEFA Cup Final between newly-crowned Spanish champions Valencia and Newcastle’s conquerors, Marseilles, in Gothenburg, also marked World No.1 referee Pierluigi Collina’s last competitive club match appearance.
Valencia won 2-0 and Collina, an Italian, seemed to out himself as a Spanish fan after the final whistle, injudiciously congratulating each player from the winning team individually, even going so far as to swap shirts while ignoring the defeated French! The referee also decided the game single-handedly, although goalkeeper Fabien Barthez left him little choice in the matter. Manchester United fans, beginning to regret the Frenchman’s departure from Old Trafford following a string of impressive cup performances, saw Alex Ferguson’s decision to dispense with the goalkeeper’s services vindicated when Barthez panicked just before half-time. Faced with the advancing Miguel Angel Mista, the keeper allowed himself to be rounded, only to then clumsily bring down the goal-bound striker. The subsequent red card, combined with a coolly taken Rodriguez penalty, effectively ended the game as a contest. Mista himself established the final scoreline 12 minutes into the second half, keeping the cup on the Iberian Peninsula following Porto’s success last year.
In England, Manchester United finally gained some consolation for a poor season by winning their record 11th FA Cup in Cardiff. Millwall were blown away in a one-sided game, a Cristiano Ronaldo header opening the scoring. Ruud van Nistelrooy added a further two, including one from the penalty spot, to accentuate the clear difference in class between the two teams.
In Scotland, Henrick Larsson contributed two more farewell goals to Celtic’s 3-1 Cup victory over Dunfermline to establish a personal total of 142 goals in seven years for the Glasgow club. As of yet, it is unknown where he will play next season, although his departure is assured.