Monday, May 30, 2016

AFC Wimbledon: League One, Here They Come!

Unstoppable Dons march into League 1

 A superb strike from Lyle Taylor and a late penalty from Bayo Akinfenwa earned promotion for AFC Wimbledon on a fantastic day for the club.
Taylor’s brilliant goal after a great ball in from Callum Kennedy put the Dons in charge against Plymouth and Akinfenwa's cool spot-kick capped a magnificent season for Neal Ardley’s men. Over 21,000 Dons fans celebrated the 2-0 win in style at the famous stadium and it was a fully deserved victory on the day.
With an 11-day gap since Wimbledon booked their place at Wembley by beating Accrington Stanley, it had seemed like a long build-up to the big day, but now it was finally here. Both sets of supporters created a brilliant atmosphere at Wembley as we approached kick-off.
There was just one change to Neal Ardley’s starting line-up with Connor Smith thrown straight back in after injury in place of Sean Rigg. Wimbledon settled into the game well and there was a half chance early on when a Callum Kennedy free-kick fell for Lyle Taylor, but he was unable to get a proper connection and Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick gathered comfortably.
In the first half hour, Wimbledon were looking for the height of Tom Elliott at every opportunity and the towering striker was causing problems galore. It was his smart flick-on that sent Taylor racing clear on the right for another sight of goal, but his shot was deflected into the side netting. Another half chance followed when the subsequent corner was only half cleared and Jake Reeves volleyed just wide.
With Wimbledon’s back four producing a solid start, Plymouth barely had a sight of goal in the first half an hour. All of Wimbledon’s best moments came through Elliott and it was another of his headers that so nearly created a chance for Paul Robinson, but Plymouth defender Kelvin Mellor just got there first. With Dannie Bulman and Jake Reeves controlling matters in midfield, Wimbledon had plenty of possession in the first half an hour. Plymouth did threaten in the 32nd minute though when Jake Jervis found space in the box, but his shot was blocked.
As the first-half wore on, Plymouth gradually started to come into it and Darius Charles showed what he is all about with great defending to stop Jake Jervis getting in at the far post after a lovely ball in from Gregg Wylde. These two teams had been so closely matched in previous meetings during the regular season and the 0-0 score line at half-time suggested it was going to be tough to separate them again.
Plymouth came out the traps fast at the start of the second-half, but Wimbledon remained resolute at the back. At the other end, there was relief for Plymouth when Carl McHugh got a defensive clearance all wrong and his lob flashed just past the post. At this stage, the Dons were really piling forward as they played towards the end containing Wimbledon’s great support.

Though Wimbledon were forced to defend deep as Plymouth started to gain more possession, gaps started to open up for Wimbledon to exploit. A great chance so nearly materialised for Wimbledon when Barry Fuller’s pass picked out Bulman in space down the right, but he was just unable to slide a pass through for Barcham, who was waiting on his own in the middle.
Derek Adams’ side had their best spell of the game midway through the second-half and twice in a matter of minutes Wimbledon needed Kelle Roos to be alert. First, the Dutch goalkeeper got down well to save a long-range free-kick from Graham Carey and then he held on well to a header from Peter Hartley.
With 68 minutes on the clock, Neal Ardley made a change with Jon Meades earning deserved reward for his excellent season and comeback from injury. Meades replaced Smith and there was another change shortly afterwards with Bayo Akinfenwa entering the fray for Tom Elliott.
The changes seemed to reinvigorate Wimbledon and the all-important opener followed 12 minutes from the end of normal time. The ball was only half cleared to Callum Kennedy and his wonderful ball in was met with a superb low finish from Lyle Taylor. It was typical of the form that Taylor had shown all season and the celebrations were not bad too as he wheeled away to give his manager a hug on the touchline.
The goal had sparked ecstatic scenes among the Wimbledon support and they were so nearly celebrating a second when Barry Fuller was sent racing through, but he was just foiled by McCormick. Akinfenwa was also denied by the Plymouth goalkeeper in a frantic finale, but he scored from the spot to seal a fantastic promotion after Ade Azeez had been brought down in the box . What an achievement and what a way to do it for Neal Ardley’s men.    
AFC Wimbledon: Kelle Roos, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Andy Barcham, Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott (Bayo Akinfenwa), Lyle Taylor (Ade Azeez), Connor Smith (Jon Meades).

Relive the action!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Real Madrid: 2015-16 UEFA Champions League Winners

  • Real Madrid win the European Cup for the 11th time and second in three seasons
  •  Cristiano Ronaldo converts the winning spot kick in the shoot-out
  •  Half-time substitute Yannick Carrasco equalises for Atlético Madrid
  •  Sergio Ramos, who levelled in the 2014 decider against Atlético, puts Madrid ahead
  • Antoine Griezmann rattles the crossbar with a 47th-minute penalty

Real Madrid prevailed on penalties as they eventually got the better of Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final for the second time in three seasons.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who had a quiet match by his high standards, scored the decisive spot kick after Juanfran had hit the base of the post with the eighth attempt of the shoot-out. Substitute Yannick Carrasco's 79th-minute equaliser cancelled out a first-half strike by Sergio Ramos, whose own – last-gasp – leveller against the Rojiblancos had forced extra time in Lisbon two years ago.

The contest was at odds with Diego Simeone's prediction that "the game will be very tense" as both sides went at it before fatigue took its toll, Casemiro forcing a fine reaction save out of Jan Oblak after getting on the end of Gareth Bale's inswinging free-kick from the right.

On the quarter-hour mark it was a Toni Kroos set piece from the opposite flank that proved Atlético's undoing. Bale, having lost his marker, flicked it on and Ramos manoeuvred around Stefan Savić to prod the ball under Oblak.

Atlético's purposeful start to the second period bore fruit when Pepe fouled Fernando Torres in the area. Opting for power rather than placement, Antoine Griezmann blasted his penalty against the crossbar.

Madrid might have doubled their lead inside the last 20 minutes through Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale, whose shot was blocked in front of goal by Savić. Moments later, Juanfran exchanged passes with Gabi and crossed for half-time substitute Carrasco to turn in his first UEFA Champions League goal of the campaign.

Key player: Sergio Ramos
How Atlético must be sick of the sight of the Madrid captain. The defender does not get many goals – just two this season before tonight – and had not found the net in the UEFA Champions League in two years. His last European goal denied Atlético in the 2014 final, though, and he was at it again here, becoming the fifth player to score in two UEFA Champions League finals, and the first defender.

Atlético's final heartbreak
No side had ever lost their first three European Cup finals, with Juventus and Barcelona the only other clubs to have suffered two initial final defeats. Both landed the trophy at the third time of asking, in 1985 and 1992 respectively, and Atlético must have fancied emulating them – but Madrid had not lost a European Cup final since 1981 and that pedigree proved too strong again.

Griezmann loses out to Navas again
Griezmann missed a penalty against Madrid in the Liga in October and failed again from the spot this evening. Keylor Navas had saved that spot kick eight months ago and played a crucial role here, psyching out the French international – who had converted his other two penalties in open play this term. Griezmann had better luck in the shoot-out, yet to no avail.

Atlético spirit shines through
Simeone's team had lost just one of their ten meetings with Real Madrid since the Lisbon final – albeit that came in last season's UEFA Champions League quarter-final – and they kept their heads superbly to work their way back into this.

Carrasco's Belgian first
Carrasco has regularly been used as an impact player by Simeone during this campaign but can scarcely have had such a significant contribution to make as here. Not only was his balance and willingness to run with the ball crucial in steadily pushing Madrid back, but he hammered in the equaliser – making him the first Belgian to score in a European Cup final. Nice celebration with his partner too.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Olympique Lyonnais: 2016 UEFA Women's Champions League Winners

Lyon clinched a third UEFA Women's Champions League title as they avenged their 1-0 defeat by Wolfsburg in the 2013 final on penalties in Reggio Emilia.

In 2013, Wolfsburg held Lyon off in the first half, but 12 minutes in this time around the French champions struck, their German winger Pauline Bremer setting off on a mazy dribble down the right and squaring for competition top scorer Ada Hegerberg to turn in. Lyon, with Bremer and Amel Majri wide in a 4-3-3 formation, dominated the first half and early in the second period Wolfsburg's Élise Bussaglia had to clear off the line from ex-OL club-mate Wendie Renard.

Louisa Necib, on her final Lyon appearance, let fly from distance and her shot so nearly crept in, and despite bringing on Ramona Bachmann and Tessa Wullaert, Wolfsburg seldom looked like conjuring up the sort of comeback that won them their second final in 2014. That, though, was before Alex Popp rose to head in Isabel Kerschowski's high cross.

Eventually penalties were needed to separate the sides; Almuth Schult denied Hegerberg, but Sarah Bouhaddi saved from Nilla Fischer and former OL colleague Bussaglia before Kumagai stepped up to win it.

Player of the match: Saki Kumagai (Lyon)
Solid in midfield, the Japanese international wrote herself into the competition's history with her stutttering run-up and calm finish from the penalty spot.

Lyon brain, Wolfsburg spirit
Lyon's 4-3-3 formation enabled them Bremer and Amel Majri to outflank Wolfsburg but Popp's utter determination to win her header forced extra time when it seemed very unlikely. OL made it in the end but the beautiful thing about football is, if you do not turn chances into goals, you can come unstuck. Another classic final, after the tension of 2013, the breathless drama of 2014 and the twists of 2015.

A great generation deserved third title
 Lotta Schelin, Necib and Amandine Henry played crucial roles in Lyon's ten straight French titles and now three European crowns. It says much for how this squad is built that not only that trio but also Sarah Bouhaddi, Renard, Camille Abily and Eugénie Le Sommer have played in three final wins and five deciders overall since 2010 for Lyon.

College Football Gameday Archives: 2010-15

I had promised somebody on Twitter that was inquiring that I would provide the full archives of my College Footbsall Gameday Wallpapers from 2010 all the way to 2016. Here are six seasons full of college football/anime crossovers. They are free for personal use only. If you want to use it for a site, sound off on the comments.. Note that some may have my letter B trademark from my DeviantART days, if you want one without the mark, it's by request only.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hibernian: 2015-16 Scottish Cup Champions

Rangers finds it incomprehensible that no one, either from within the Scottish FA or Hibernian Football Club, has condemned Hibernian’s supporters following the violent scenes at the end of yesterday’s Scottish Cup final when Rangers players and members of our backroom staff were physically and verbally assaulted. We have not even had the courtesy of any contact whatsoever from Hibernian to ask after the wellbeing of those who were attacked by their club’s supporters.

There must be a full independent investigation into the shameful scenes at Hampden. Rangers is also at a complete loss to understand why certain individuals have hastily attempted to gloss over the appalling events which unfolded at the end of Saturday’s final.

No matter how many times Hibernian’s chairman and Scottish FA vice-chairman, Rod Petrie, and certain other biased commentators wish to play down Saturday’s mayhem and violence, the truth must not be distorted. What unfolded on Saturday cannot and must not be put down to exuberance. That is a complete insult to Rangers, our supporters, and those individuals who were intimidated and attacked.

It was clear to most of those who watched in horror that the Scottish FA’s security procedures failed when Hibernian’s fans went over the top in their thousands.  It is to be hoped that all of Scottish football will share Rangers’ disgust and any attempts to attach blame to our supporters for the disgraceful and violent behaviour, which led to our players and fans fearing for their safety, will not be accepted or tolerated by this Club.

We acknowledge that a tiny minority of Rangers fans also encroached on the pitch but only after having been faced with prolonged and severe provocation and in order to protect our players and officials who were being visibly attacked in front of them. Any club’s supporters would have done the same. This distressing and deeply disturbing episode would never have happened had Hibs fans behaved properly but as they swarmed across the pitch it became immediately obvious that the security procedures were inadequate and had failed.

These fans were allowed to rush, unchecked, towards Rangers supporters at the opposite end of the stadium – all the while goading and threatening them. This makes it preposterous to suggest Rangers fans were somehow to blame as some commentators appear anxious to do. This thuggish behaviour must be investigated and as many culprits as possible brought to book and formally charged. This is the second time in a year that Rangers fans have had to endure attacks by another club’s supporters.

It must also be said that it was not at all helpful to see leading members of the Scottish Government, including the First Minister whose parish is Govan, passing comment on social media without any attempt to condemn the behaviour of Hibernian’s fans. These failures are unbecoming of our elected representatives.

Certain media outlets have also attempted to distort reality.  In the case of the BBC this is, of course, not news. BBC employees, in particular Stuart Cosgrove, believe Rod Petrie’s comments to be ‘balanced’ and others speak of a ‘minority’ of Hibernian supporters. Another, Tom English, who was not even at the match, would prefer the authorities to focus on Rangers fans’ reaction. We will not endure this insult.

So, let everyone be clear on one thing – Rangers demands that players, staff and fans be protected from the violence and hatred of supporters of other clubs. Rangers fully expects the Scottish FA and Police Scotland to take action to provide our people with a safe environment. When players are unable to accept medals at the end of a final because of fears for their safety and our supporters are alarmed and extremely concerned for the women and children among them, then surely every step must be taken to ensure that this is never repeated.

FC Barcelona: 2015-16 Copa Del Rey Champions

Jordi Alba’s goal in the seventh minute of extra time capped a stunning turnaround of events and handed FC Barcelona a well-deserved 2–0 victory over Sevilla in the 2016 Copa del Rey final on Sunday night at the Vicente Calderón Stadium in Madrid.

Neymar tacked on a goal just instants before the final whistle. Lionel Messi had both assists.

Overall, the title is Barça’s fourth of the season. The Catalans beat Sevilla in an extra-time thriller in the UEFA Super Cup final to start the season before winning the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

With the La Liga championship already in the bag, Sunday’s Copa del Rey win — the 28th in Club history — means Barça have emerged on top in both of this season’s national competitions, giving them the coveted domestic double and ensuring the 2015/16 season will be hailed as a success for years to come.

An hour before Alba’s scored the eventual game-winner, though, the outlook was not as bright.

After dominating possession through the first 30 minutes of the final, FC Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano were slapped with straight red card in the 36th minute for getting tangled up with Sevilla’s Kevin Gameiro as he raced in on goal.

Later, not long after the second half had gotten underway, Barça received a second shock, as Luis Suárez had to leave the game with an injury after stretching just a bit too far to haul in a pass.

As Suárez sauntered off gingerly, Luis Enrique conferred with his assistants in the face of what was looking more and more like a chess match.

With Sevilla getting ever deeper into Barça territory and threatening to take the lead, midfielder Éver Banega was shown a red card after tackling Neymar from behind just outside the box. Just like Mascherano, Banega was also judged to be the last man.

Tasked with a 22-metre free kick to essentially win the game, Messi somewhat awkwardly lobbed the ball over the wall before it was slapped over the bar by Sergio Rico.

Nevertheless, when the whistle came signalling the end of regulation, Barça, no longer down a man, were visibly relieved and used the hiatus to regroup both physically and mentally.

The Barça XI came out of the huddle looking as confident as they had all evening. If they were going to win this one they would have to do it like they did in last summer’s Super Cup — in extra time.

And that’s just what happened.

Retaking control of the game, Messi picked out Alba with a long pass and the speedy full-back hauled it in before flicking it past Sergio Rico for the game’s first score in the 97th minute.

Celebrations erupted on the Barça bench and among the throngs of supporters who had made the trip to Madrid.

There were still 20 minutes left of extra time. As the clock plodded on into triple digits, players from both sides appeared to be on the verge of physical exhaustion.

With Sevilla now fighting for their lives, defender Daniel Carriço was booked twice in the 120th minute after a hard tackle on Messi followed by a surplus of vociferous protest.

On the ensuing play, and with the game, and the tournament, all but over, Messi found Neymar in the Sevilla area and the Brazilian slotted past Rico, touching off FC Barcelona’s second title celebration in the last eight days.

Juventus: 2015-16 Coppa Italia Champions

Juventus created more history on Saturday evening by beating Milan 1-0 in a tense Coppa Italia final to become the first ever Italian side to win domestic league and cup doubles in consecutive seasons.

The win was sealed in especially dramatic fashion courtesy of substitute Alvaro Morata’s strike in extra-time within three minutes of entering the field.

After a first half in which Milan enjoyed the upper hand in proceedings, Juve stepped up their game marginally in the second period, but were unable to create a truly clear-cut opportunity as the encounter required a further 30 minutes of extra-time to determine the winner.

The game, in truth, was in need of a spark from somewhere when Morata was brought on by Massimiliano Allegri in the 109th minute and the Spaniard repaid the manager’s decision in the most emphatic of fashions, helping the Bianconeri to win their 11th Coppa Italia with the same level of extra-time drama with which they had claimed La Decima last season.

In a pulsating opening period, Cristian Brocchi’s men had the better of the early chances, as Giacomo Bonaventura fired over the crossbar from range before prodding whiskers wide of Neto’s near post.

Mattia De Sciglio would be next to try his luck for the Rossoneri, hitting over from outside the box, and after 24 minutes, the lively Bonaventura forced Neto into an extremely smart save after the Milan midfielder’s low shot took a wicked deflection towards the bottom corner.

The Bianconeri demonstrated that they too posed danger going forwards courtesy of a strong run down the right by Stephan Lichtsteiner, whose menacing cross was ultimately dealt with by Alessio Romagnoli.

But it was Milan who continued to threaten more in the final third, Andrea Poli taking Keisuke Honda’s pass into his stride before shooting wide of the mark from the edge of the area.

The Bianconeri knew they had to improve after the break and began the second period with renewed purpose as Mario Lemina’s centre almost located Mario Mandzukic, who would have had a simple tap-in were it not for Gianluigi Donnarumma’s interception at the crucial moment.

The Rossoneri would dust themselves down from that scare and reassert the attacking intent of the first half, as Honda flicked Davide Calabria’s cross just inches beyond the reach of an onrushing Carlos Bacca.

In the 69th minute, Juve very nearly found the breakthrough, when Paul Pogba’s attempted cross spun off Calabria’s leg and was heading inside the near post before Donnarumma got down low to avert the danger.

Just four minutes later, Milan’s towering keeper had to palm away Lichtsteiner’s powerful header from Lemina’s cross, as Massimiliano Allegri’s men began to step up a gear or two into the final stretch of regulation time.

The Tuscan tactician’s introductions of Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado had indeed injected greater life into the Bianconeri’s legs, the latest sign of which culminated in a fierce long-range attempt from Pogba that was too central, however, to trouble Donnarumma.

A quiet ten minutes would follow before Romagnoli nodded wide from a promising position, paving the way to extra-time.

Both sides cancelled themselves out after the second restart of the night until Pogba warmed Donnarumma’s gloves with a venomous right-footed drive in the 102nd minute.

Milan too would have a good chance of their own to open the scores only moments later when Alex Sandro’s clearance fell to Bacca and the Colombian’s acrobatic kick ended up just the wrong side of the crossbar.

Shortly after extra-time’s midway stage, Allegri made the decision to bring on Morata and within just three minutes the change paid dividends with the Spaniard showing exceptional composure to turn home Cuadrado’s cross from the right.

Three minutes of added time spurred the Rossoneri on to encamp Juve’s half as they eagerly pursued an equaliser, but the Bianconeri were in no mood to let history slip from their hands as they held firm until the final whistle, sparking scenes of jubilation from all in black and white half on a truly unforgettable night in the capital.

Neto, Rugani, Barzagli, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner (Cuadrado 75), Lemina, Hernanes (Morata 109), Pogba, Evra (Alex Sandro 62), Dybala, Mandzukic
Unused substitutes: Buffon, Rubinho, Padoin, Sturaro, Asamoah, Pereyra, Zaza
Coach: Allegri

Donnarumma, Calabria, Zapata, Romagnoli, De Sciglio, Poli (Niang 84), Montolivo (J. Mauri 109), Kucka (Balotelli 111), Honda, Bonaventura, Bacca
Unused substitutes: D. Lopez, Abbiati, Mexes, Alex, Boateng, Locatelli, Bertolacci, Menez, L. Adriano
Coach: Brocchi

Paris Saint-Germain: 2015-16 Coupe de France Champions

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice on his final appearance for Paris Saint-Germain as the capital club completed a second successive domestic treble with a 4-2 defeat of Olympique de Marseille in Saturday's Coupe de France final.

 Olympique de Marseille 2 - 4 Paris Saint-Germain

Given the gaping 48-point gulf between the pair in the 2015/16 Ligue 1 table, few expected the encounter at the Stade de France to be close, but Abdelaziz Barrada's first-minute shot that fizzed just wide of Salvatore Sirigu's goal suggested OM would not be the lambs to the slaughter many neutrals had predicted they would be.

Those neutrals would have been somewhat more smug less than 60 seconds later, however, as PSG went in front. When picked out wide on the right-hand side, Angel Di Maria flicked a cross into the box - the ball fell perfectly into the stride of the onrushing Blaise Matuidi, whose touch at close range meant Steve Mandanda had next to no chance of saving his side.

Despite their travails in league competition this season, OM gave PSG two keenly-contested Ligue 1 games, and they showed their abliity to match the champions with an equaliser just ten minutes later (12'). When the ball arrived at the feet of Florian Thauvin, he turned beyond Maxwell and fired low into Sirigu's bottom left-hand corner. The Italy international goalkeeper appeared to think the shot was going wide before realising too late it would find the net instead.

Brave block

Sirigu did get everything behind Steven Fletcher's goalbound touch to a Thauvn cross just after the half-hour mark (32') as OM continued to provide a counter-riposte to PSG's promptings at the opposite end where Di Maria, in particular, was proving a handful. It was one of the Argentina international's free-kicks that led to the scramble that afforded Edinson Cavani a sight of goal, but a brave block sent the Uruguay international's shot spinning to safety.

'Safety' was only a relative term, however, as the subsequent corner was not cleared by the OM defence, and Ibrahimovic saw the ball drop kindly - from a tight angle, PSG's all-time leading scorer fired goalwards, but his shot found a phalanx of OM defenders in its path. The Sweden captain then found a diving Mandanda denying him as the OM goalkeeper flew to his right to snare a low drive (37').

Given their start to the game, OM interim boss Franck Passi no doubt told his side to remain alert at the restart. He would have been all the more frustrated, then, to see Nicolas Nkoulou send Matuidi tumbling inside the box with a handful of seconds on the clock - Ibrahimovic stepped up to gleefully send his spot-kick to Mandanda's left as the OM captain dived right (47').


Fletcher sent an effort narrowly wide at the opposite end, and a cleaner contact from the on-loan Sunderland AFC forward might have reaped greater reward. PSG showed OM how to be clinical on 56 minutes, capitalising on possession lost cheaply by their opponents with Ibrahimovic slipping the ideal ball into Cavani's path - the striker fired low beyond Mandanda to give the holders breathing space.

An opportune Nkoulou leg prevented Ibrahimovic from finding Di Maria with a ball that surely would have seen the former Real Madrid CF and Manchester United FC man add a fourth. Instead, it was Ibrahimovic himself who capped a convincing triumph. With OM tiring, Matuidi was able to play the ball into space behind the Marseille back four - Ibrahimovic sprinted goalwards before effortlessly beating Mandanda (82').

To their credit, OM continued pushing, and Michy Batshuayi pulled one back (87'), but the only significant action of the closing minutes was the substitution of Ibrahimovic, who was given a deserved ovation.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bayern Munich: 2015-16 DFB Pokal Champions

Bayern are the 2015/16 DFB Cup winners! The German champions completed their 11th domestic double on Saturday thanks to a dramatic 4-3 penalty shootout victory over arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund after Saturday’s tense and hotly-contested final ended goalless following 120 minutes of normal and extra time.
The 74,322 full house at Berlin’s venerable Olympiastadion saw a closely-fought first half between two tactically disciplined and initially cautious sides, with the best of the scarce chances falling to Thomas Müller. The game sprang to life after the break but for all Bayern’s dominance there was still no score at the end of normal or extra time, with the Reds showing nerves of steel to prevail in the ensuing shootout, the honour of tucking away the winning penalty falling to Douglas Costa.
The victory, a record 18th cup triumph for the Bavarians from 21 appearances in the final, means the Pep Guardiola era at FCB ends with yet another trophy. The Reds will sign off for the summer on a high by parading the glittering golden cup to their fans in Munich on Sunday.

Joshua starts, Alonso on the bench

For his final match as FCB coach, boss Guardiola made three changes to the team that saw off Hannover on the last day of the Bundesliga season. Costa, Joshua Kimmich and Müller came into the line-up for Mario Götze (broken ribs), Mehdi Benatia and Kingsley Coman, with Xabi Alonso back in the squad after injury and joining the Moroccan and the Frenchman on the bench.
It meant Munich began with Manuel Neuer in goal, David Alaba, Kimmich, Jerome Boateng and skipper Philipp Lahm in the back four, Arturo Vidal and Thiago in central midfield, Douglas Costa and Franck Ribery out wide, and Müller alongside Robert Lewandowski up front.
BVB’s Thomas Tuchel was without injured playmaker Ilkay Gündogan but the Bundesliga’s best-ever runners-up still oozed quality with the likes of Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and FCB-bound captain Mats Hummels.

Intense tactical battle

After referee Marco Fritz whistled play underway on a warm evening in the German capital, Müller gave early notice of intent with a 25-yard drive that whistled just inches over Dortmund keeper Roman Bürki’s crossbar, but otherwise the early exchanges were characterised by an intense tactical skirmish so typical of recent encounters between the teams.
Guardiola’s troops upped the pressure midway through the half as Müller bulleted a header narrowly wide from Costa’s corner, and although Kimmich made an important tackle to halt Aubameyang the action was mainly at the other end with Costa letting fly from distance and then drawing a scrambled save from Bürki with his next effort.
Neuer made a first save of the evening in the 35th minute from Henrikh Mkhitaryan although Reus had already been called offside earlier in the BVB move, before centre-back Sokratis cleared Ribery’s dangerous cut-back for a corner. The Frenchman miscued from a decent position in the last minute of what proved a goalless first period.

FCB on top after half-time

Hummels headed the first chance of the second half over Neuer’s bar, but the Reds were soon on the attack and Lewandowski only just failed to convert Ribery’s cross at the far post, with Müller and the Pole also both coming close from a scramble shortly afterwards.
The game had come to life now with Aubameyang firing over the bar, but at the Dortmund end Lewandowski got underneath his shot following good work by Müller, Bürki intercepted Lahm’s chip, and the FCB captain’s drive was deflected wide by his own man.
The men in red kept probing with Bürki saving from Ribery, but despite losing Hummels to injury the BVB defence held firm. The black and yellows even fashioned a chance on the break but Aubameyang miscued his finish, and for all FCB’s dominance normal time ended goalless.

Drama of penalties

Lewandowski so nearly broke the deadlock four minutes into extra-time but BVB sub Erik Durm made a saving tackle. The Poland hitman then volleyed a difficult chance over the bar as Munich tightened their grip against their tiring opponents, although there was still danger when Borussia broke with Mkhitaryan dragging a shot across the face of Neuer’s goal.
Guardiola sent on Coman for Ribery early in the second period of extra-time, before Bürki tipped Costa’s deflected chip over the bar and then saved from Alaba as the champions’ superior fitness began to tell. But there were no goals and the match went to the drama of penalties with Bayern showing the stronger nerves in the shootout, Neuer saving from Sven Bender and Costa firing the winning spot-kick to seal a 4-3 win.
Live match report for by Chris Hamley
FC BAYERN - BORUSSIA DORTMUND PSO 4-3 (0-0 AET)FC BayernNeuer - Lahm, Kimmich, Boateng, Alaba - Vidal, Thiago - Costa, Müller, Ribéry (Coman 108) – Lewandowski
SubstituteUlreich, Benatia, Rafinha, Alonso, Bernat, Rode
Borussia DortmundBürki - Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels (Ginter 78), Bender, Schmelzer (Durm 70) - Weigl – Castro (Kagawa 106), Mkhitaryan, Reus – Aubameyang
SubstituteWeidenfeller, Pulisic, Sahin, Ramos
RefereeMarco Fritz (Korb)
Viewers74,322 (capacity)
GoalsPenalty shootout: 0-1 Kagawa, 1-1 Vidal, Bender missed (Neuer save), 2-1 Lewandowski, Sokratis missed, Kimmich missed, 2-2 Aubameyang, 3-2 Müller, 3-3 Reus, 4-3 Costa
Yellow cardRibéry, Kimmich, Vidal, Müller / Castro, Hummels, Sokratis

Manchester United: 2015-16 FA Cup Champions

Substitute Jesse Lingard thundered in an extra-time winner as 10-man Manchester United lifted the FA Cup for the record-equalling 12th time in their history.

Crystal Palace led for three minutes but Juan Mata cancelled out Jason Puncheon’s 78th-minute opener.

When Chris Smalling was sent off for a second bookable offence at the end of the first period of extra-time it looked as though it might be Palace’s day for the first time in their history.

But Lingard, who joined the Manchester United academy at the age of seven and lifted the FA Youth Cup in 2011, had his crowning moment in the 110th minute to earn the club a first trophy under manager Louis van Gaal.

Though United are no strangers to Cup Final day – only Arsenal had lifted the trophy more often – their players certainly are, with the last of their traditional open-top bus victory parades in 2004.

The magnitude of the occasion was certainly not lost on the Crystal Palace players either. Midfielder Wilfried Zaha was reduced to tears when he walked around the Wembley Stadium pitch pre-match.

With noise levels cranked up to maximum level it was Van Gaal’s side who settled quickest.

Marouane Fellaini went closest to opening the scoring after 10 minutes, but headed wide after climbing above Mile Jedinak.

Wayne Rooney, playing in a central midfield role, saw a deflected strike from 25 yards well held by Wayne Hennessey.

With Rooney soon on the rampage again Yohan Cabaye tracked back to break up play and Palace were able to break on the left flank with Connor Wickham running shoulder-to-shoulder with Smalling, for which the United man was cautioned.

Wickham won a free-kick on the edge of the box which Cabaye whipped goalwards. It was met with a deft header at the near post from Yannick Bolaise, but David de Gea opted to push over the the crossbar.

In an end-to-end start Mata was next to go close. The only player in the United team with a Cup-winner’s medal profited when a poor clearance from Pape Soure fell his way, but the former Chelsea man’s low shot across goal was parried away by Hennessey.

Next the handling of De Gea was tested, Bolasie with a low effort from 20 yards bounced awkwardly in front of the Spain No1, though he held onto it with little fuss.

Marcus Rashford had the United fans out of their seats with a lung-busting run down the right flank, then crossed to Anthony Martial at the far post, but the Frenchman’s fierce, first-time effort was blocked by Joel Ward.

Just as in the first half, United came out of the traps quickest in the second and eight minutes after the restart the woodwork came to Palace’s aid.

Rashford, United’s most potent attacking weapon thus far, flicked an Antonio Valencia pass into the path of Fellaini, whose first-time effort from 12 yards cannoned back of the near post.

Jedinak found himself in space at the far post when a free-kick fell his way, but the Australia midfielder lashed high and wide.

The Palace goal was living a charmed life though and on 61 minutes Martial met Valencia’s clipped cross with a powerful header that bounced off the post and away to safety.

With 20 minutes remaining Rashford, when embarking on a typically penetrative run, slipped on the edge of the box and was inadvertently trodden on by Cabaye.

Despite treatment he limped off the field to be replaced by Ashley Young, who was immediately thrown into a central role, keeping Martial wide on the left.

United had controlled proceedings for much of the second period, dominating possession while Palace were forced to sit deep inside their own half, leaving Wickham with a challenging task at the top of the pitch.

But the introduction of substitute Puncheon gave the Eagles the spark they required and with 12 minutes remaining they took the lead.

A punt forwards from Ward fell to Puncheon on the left-hand side of the box and he thrashed a half-volley beyond De Gea to break the deadlock.

The goal was met with a jig of delight from Alan Pardew, but within three minutes his mood had changed as United levelled.

Rooney carried the ball purposely from left to right, crossed to the far post where Fellaini brought the ball down on his chest and Mata’s volley was too powerful for Ward to block on the line.

Deep into second-half stoppage time Zaha got the better of Smalling, but his right-footed drive swerved wide and into the side-netting.

In extra-time Rooney and Lingard shot harmlessly off target. But De Gea had to be sharp at the other end to push a well-struck volley from Bolasie round the post.

With the first period of extra time drawing toward a conclusion Smalling unceremoniously dragged Bolasie to the ground to half his momentum and was shown a second yellow card by referee Mark Clattenburg.

Palace, with a man advantage, were determined to take the game to United. Substitute Dwight Gayle nipped in between the Red Devils centre-backs to latch on to Bolasie’s pass, but his stab at goal was blocked by De Gea’s legs.

It was another substitute who has to have the final say though.

Moments after Lingard had crossed for Michael Carrick, who could only head wide, the 23-year-old took matters into his own hands.

Valencia’s low cross from the right was blocked by Damien Delaney but the loose ball sat up perfectly for Lingard to unleash a stunning volley that gave Hennessey no chance.

Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): 13 Wayne Hennessey; 2 Joel Ward, 6 Scott Dann, 27 Damien Delaney, 23 Pape Soure; 15 Mile Jedinak (captain) 18 James McArthur; 11 Wilfried Zaha, 7 Yohan Cabaye, 10 Yannick Bolasie; 21 Connor Wickham.

Substitutes: 42 Jason Puncheon for Cabaye 72, 16 Dwight Gayle for Wickham 86, 3 Adrian Mariappa for Dann 90.

Substitutes not used: 1 Julian Speroni, 25 Emmanuel Adebayor, 26 Bakary Sako, 34 Martin Kelly.

Manager: Alan Pardew

Goal: Puncheon 78.

Bookings: Dann 47, Delaney 62, McArthur 108.

Manchester United (4-1-4-1): 1 David de Gea; 25 Antonio Valencia, 12 Chris Smalling, 17 Daley Blind, 5 Marcos Rojo; 16 Michael Carrick; 8 Juan Mata, 27 Marouane Fellaini, 10 Wayne Rooney (captain), 9 Anthony Martial; 39 Marcus Rashford.

Substitutes: 36 Matteo Darmian for Rojo 66, 18 Ashley Young for Rashford 72, 35 Jesse Lingard for Mata 90.

Substitutes not used: 20 Sergio Romero, 4 Phil Jones, 21 Ander Herrera, 28 Morgan Schneiderlin.

Manager: Louis Van Gaal

Goals: Mata 81, Lingard 110

Bookings: Smalling 19, Rojo 41, Mata 45, Rooney 87, Fellaini 101, Lingard 110.

Red card: Smalling 106.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Attendance: 88,619

ISML 2016: The Bedlam on Baltic Avenue's List.

Character Name
Series Title
1.Kaname MadokaPuella Magi Madoka Magica
2.Tomoe MamiPuella Magi Madoka Magica
3.YuudachiKantai Collection
4.ShimakazeKantai Collection
5.KongouKantai Collection
6.Ichijo HaruhikoMusaigen no Phantom World
7.Kawakami MaiMusaigen no Phantom World
8.Izumi ReinaMusaigen no Phantom World
9.Kousaka ReinaHibike! Euphonium
10.Oumae KumikoHibike! Euphonium
11.Tsukamoto ShuuichiHibike! Euphonium
12.Otosaka YuuCharlotte
13.Tomori NaoCharlotte
14.Nishimori YusaCharlotte
15.Akeno MisakiHigh School Fleet
16.China MoekaHigh School Fleet
17.Munetani MashiroHigh School Fleet
18.Suzunoki RinBakuon!!

Monday, May 09, 2016

Adelaide United: 2015-16 A-League Champions

ADELAIDE United has lost its third high-profile player less than a week after its thrilling grand final win over the Wanderers at Adelaide Oval.

The club yesterday announced it had parted ways with Pablo Sanchez — the Spanish super-sub who scored the final goal in the 3-1 win.

He joins club champion Craig Goodwin — who has already flown out to join Dutch club Sparta Rotterdam — and Bruce Kamau who also scored in the grand final and who has signed with Melbourne City.

The 33-year-old Sanchez, who played 25 games this year but only started in eight, said he will always treasure his time at United.

“Scoring in the grand final was the icing on the cake for me and I will always remember this moment,” Sanchez said.

“I will never forget Adelaide and I want to come back one day, to enjoy the club and the people here, that I love.”

It is believed that Adelaide’s desire to maximise the output from their allotted five imports was the reason he wasn’t offered a new contract.

Adelaide will take part in the Asian Champions League next season — where only three non-Asian imports can play — putting more pressure on imported players.

United now must rebuild its squad with an eye on playing in three competitions next season — the A-League, Champions League and FFA Cup.

Reds’ general manager of football Ante Kovacevic said the club needed to increase its depth.

“We do have to plan for that and we need a bigger squad size than we had during the season,” Kovacevic said.

Stopper Dylan McGowan is in discussions to be re-signed, while striker Eli Babalj has been sent back to his parent club AZ for ongoing rehabilitation on a debilitating knee injury. With Mate Dugandzic also off-contract, Kovacevic does have to make some key decisions before the start of the new season.

It’s understood former Birkalla and ex-Newcastle Jet Ryan Kitto could return home while contracted pair Central Coast’s Mitch Austin and Melbourne City’s Ben Garuccio are candidates for Reds contracts.

City’s young striker Marc Marino is also a possibility for Adelaide.

And there is talk of former Reds midfielder Jacob Melling also returning from the Melbourne millionaires.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Leicester City 3-1 Everton

Jamie Vardy scored twice, and missed a penalty for his hat-trick, as Leicester City celebrated their Barclays Premier League title triumph with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Everton.

Tottenham Hotspur's 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Monday ensured Claudio Ranieri's side would be crowned champions and they ended a week of partying across the city with another exemplary performance in front of a jubilant crowd at the King Power Stadium.

Having been serenaded before kick-off by opera star Andrea Bocelli, who sang Nessun Dorma and Por Ti Volare while sporting a personalised Leicester shirt, the home fans were sent into raptures when Vardy - back from suspension - opened the scoring after only five minutes from Andy King's cross.

And King, who has been with the club throughout their rise through the divisions, capped a memorable day when he swept in the second after good work by Riyad Mahrez.

Everton enjoyed plenty of possession but could only muster two half-chances for Romelu Lukaku before Leicester netted their third, with Vardy firing home from the penalty spot after being fouled by Matthew Pennington.

Vardy missed a second penalty but the mood inside a sodden King Power Stadium could not be dampened, even by Kevin Mirallas's late consolation, as Ranieri's team were crowned with three more points and the Barclays Premier League trophy in their final home match of an unforgettable season.

The noise inside the King Power Stadium hit deafening levels as Everton gave the champions a guard of honour on their entrance from the tunnel and the home fans were on their feet again soon afterwards as Vardy marked his return in style.

King, starting in place of the suspended Danny Drinkwater, curled a cross in from the right and Vardy raced in behind the static John Stones to divert the ball beyond Joel Robles and into the far corner.

Leicester were comfortably in control against an Everton side without a win in their last four away matches and could have doubled their lead when King headed into Joel's hands from close range after a fine Mahrez cross, before Christian Fuchs just failed to connect with Marc Albrighton's pass on the edge of the area.

Everton struggled to fashion any clear sights of goal despite dominating possession and they found themselves 2-0 down before the break. Mahrez skipped into the area and Leighton Baines' challenge only diverted the ball into the path of King, who swept the ball low past Joel.

Oumar Niasse saw an attempted chip headed away by Kasper Schmeichel just outside the Leicester area, before the Danish goalkeeper made a good low stop to deny Lukaku's close-range back-heel.

But Leicester did not have to wait long for their third. Youngster Pennington - perhaps fortunate to escape a red card for bringing down Mahrez in the first half - clumsily tripped Vardy in the area and the England striker drilled in low from the spot for his 24th league goal of the season.

Vardy then spurned the chance for a hat-trick by wildly blazing a second spot-kick over the bar after Wes Morgan was felled by Darron Gibson.

And the visitors grabbed a consolation through substitute Mirallas, who turned past the challenge of Marcin Wasilewski before slotting beneath Schmeichel, but the goal did nothing to spoil Leicester's party.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

And Then I Shot, Shot, Shot A Hole Through Everything I Loved...

In a season like no other, it's been a day like no other: The first as the reigning champions of England. The reigning champions of England.
How's it been for you? Here's our composite version of an extraordinary day in the life of a Leicester City fan.

Wake up, late, with half a crisp cob stuck to the side of your face.

Wonder why you went to bed draped in a small kimono. You don't even own a kimono.

Struggle through a moment or two of Paul Merson-levels of thick-headed confusion.

Realise it's not a kimono, but a flag.

Hang on ... A flag you bought outside the ground late last night. The one that says Champions.

See daylight, like an express train racing from a tunnel. It happened. It actually happened.

Reach for your phone. Tweet: "So, it wasn't a dream #lcfc".

Scroll through hundreds of other tweets saying "so, it wasn't a dream #lcfc".

Sit up. Slump down again, knocked back by the sweetest hangover you will ever endure.

Get up and have breakfast. A fry-up, for both celebration and necessity.

Have a shower. Idly wonder, while stripping, if the Miracle of Leicester might also have worked its magic on your body, making you thinner/more muscley/bigger-breasted/hung-like-a-porn-star-whale ...

... Oh well.

Turn on breakfast TV. Watch a breathless report that features the words "fairytale" and "5000-1" plus an interview with a dishevelled, wild-haired passer-by, conducted to a symphony of car horns.

Switch over. Watch the exact same thing, with the same words, but in a slightly different order.

Switch over again. Ditto, but with Piers Morgan. Find, to your lasting surprise, that for once he doesn't make you want to punch a cushion.

Switch over. Repeat.

Catch a bus to town. Fight strange impulse to climb on the roof.

Open the gallery on your phone. Find several chaotic videos of pogoing feet in the pub, and a photo of you hugging a grinning stranger who looks like he might have chased you through the Haymarket when you were both 14.

Flick through your call log. Recall with a small burst of shame that you rang several London numbers at midnight, asking to be put though to Chas and/or Dave.

Open Twitter. Favourite every tweet made by a Leicester City player in the last 24 hours. Retweet a random oaf who'd predicted at the start of the season that we'd be relegated. Watch a compilation video of Claudio Ranieri's press conferences. Have a little sob.

Walk through the city, glowing like the Ready Brek kids, but with pride. Use your advanced chugger-avoiding skills, honed on countless dinner breaks in the city, to dodge roving packs of TV reporters who want to know if anyone can quite believe it.

Think: "I don't believe it".

Think: "I wonder if I've thought 'I don't believe it' more times in the last 12 hours than Richard Wilson has ever said it in his lifetime?'"

Think: "I may still be a bit drunk."

Roll up late to work, braced for middle-managerial peevishness. Find everyone is beaming like drunken chimps. Even the office misery. Notice your boss, who supported Manchester United earlier this season, has a Leicester City scarf draped over their computer. Sense you are immune.

Make tea, and a small shrine to Claudio Ranieri and Richard III.

Swap war stories from last night with your workmates.

Spend a full 25 minutes humming "we're all going on a European tour".

Answer the phone with the greeting "dilly ding, dilly dong?" Repeatedly.

Have a pointless work meeting. Don't listen to a single word, as you are otherwise engaged deciding precisely where Eden Hazard's equaliser would rank in the list of Leicester City's all-time greatest goals.

Go back to your desk. Google '+car +horn +knackered +repair +Leicester'.

Feel a fleeting urge to go on the Forest forum, but shrug it off. Realise for the first time ever, they mean as little to you as they insist we do to them.

Read this, even though you've read it before. Have a Ranieri-style trembly lip.

Be gripped by a fear you're going to wake up and find yourself in the double decker at Filbert Street, after nodding off during a dreary David Pleat-era goalless draw, having dreamed the entire last quarter of a century of Leicester's history.

Or that you've died.

Watch this.

Remind anyone who'll listen of that day you saw Andy King in Tesco.

Buy a subscription to The Fox.

Stare out of the window. Think of Vardy's volley against Liverpool. Of Schmeichel playing like a man possessed at Old Trafford. Of Mahrez dumping three Villa players on the ground with a single, dazzling turn. Of Okazaki's overhead kick against Newcastle. Of Huth's ballistic header against Spurs. Of Ulloa's last-gasp equaliser against West Ham. Of Kante's Mini. Of the Union FS tifos. Of the free booze from the owners. Of Ranieri's trembly lower lip...

...Have another little sob.

I Want To Hold The Line. I'll Bring The Cheese And Wine.

A few hundred privileged City fans glimpsed their heroes drop into an Italian restaurant for a slap-up meal this afternoon.

The 2016 Premier League champions made time for a visit to San Carlo in Granby Street, in the city centre shortly after 1.30pm.

A coach dropped off the players outside the restaurant and into a throng of delirious and chanting supporters.

They were whisked inside and the windows blocked out to afford them some privacy.

Rumours that something special was on the cards began to circulate around 1pm when a small team of police officers arrived in the street.

The crowd swelled to the hundreds as more and more people cottoned on.

David May, 64, was one of the first to arrive – complete with a City flag.

Mr May, whose company May's Electrical has a long association with the Foxes, said: "I'd booked at San Carlo for today but they rang me and apologised that they would have to cancel because there was a special party coming in.

"I put two and two together and came down from Knighton to see if I was right – and I was.

"I've been waiting all my life for this, it's been an amazing season.

"I went to the Man United game at the weekend and, although we didn't win it there, it was amazing.

"The United fans applauded City of the pitch.

"I watched the Spurs v Chelsea game in the pub and people were saying at 2-0 that we were going to have to wait for the next game, but I always believed it would finish 2-2 and that we'd be champions.

"The whole thing is crazy. We've had some successes over the years and some trips to Wembley, but this is on another plane."

Sally Frazer, of Market Bosworth, chanced on the impromptu street party as she and her family walked through the city centre.

She said: "We walked into town from the King Power Stadium – where the atmosphere was amazing.

"We saw people standing around outside the restaurant and wondered what was going on.

"Someone said they'd heard that the players were coming for a meal, so we had to stay to find out if it was true – and it was.

"The atmosphere is wonderful, everyone is so happy.

"What the team have achieved is a one-off and we won't see anything like it again."

Construction worker Jay Harbin, 44, of Ashby, was also one of the first people at the happy scene.

He said: "We saw a police car pull up and made a joke about them getting a ticket if they parked there.

"It was our break so we came out and there must have 10 or so people waiting around.

"Then it just grew and grew as the word went around that the players were going to be coming. It was brilliant."

I Long For Brighter Days Like In The Month Of May...

It is completely mad that Leicester City have become only the sixth team to win the Premier League title, midfielder Danny Drinkwater has said.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Blackburn are the only other clubs to have ever lifted the title, and Drinkwater admitted it was an astonishing feat to join that select band of clubs.

Drinkwater and his City team-mates were watching on from Jamie Vardy's house as Tottenham threw away a 2-0 lead against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to confirm the title was heading to Leicester.

Drinkwater said it was unbelievable to think they had become champions.

However, he said the City players now wanted more success.

"It is mad isn't it," he said. "It doesn't sound right but we have done it.

"We are here to stay, we are not going to drop off there from now.

"We are going to push on. But when you think of the players who have not won it, it is mad, it is crazy.

"I will be looking back at this for years, it will be something I can tell my kids about. I am happy my family have got to feel this as well.

"It is a special moment, it is so hard to put into words what it is going to do for people at this club. I think they deserve it, so well done."

Drinkwater said it was an amazing time to be a City player and to share the amazing experience of becoming champions together, watching the Tottenham-Chelsea game at Vardy's house.

"I think the rest of the lads would answer the question the same, it is a brilliant time to be involved with the club," he said. "It is a special moment for us lot.

"When the final whistle went it was like four hours of madness. It was brilliant, it was good, all the lads were together and it sums us up as a group of lads."

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill has hailed the success of City as "truly remarkable".

Having been involved with a Tigers set-up that has won the English league title on 10 occasions, Cockerill knows a thing or two about winning championships.

And he was full of praise for their cross-city counterparts.

"I am trying to think of a better achievement," he said.

"I am delighted for the city and the club. It's great news for all concerned. I probably won't have to explain where Leicester is any more because it puts Leicester on the map once and for all."

Leicester City: The Real-Life Harchester United

As Leicester City fans awoke yesterday with throbbing heads, but joyous hearts, they must have been asking themselves one question – was that all just a dream?

Even as they rubbed their bleary eyes and turned on the TV to endless news reports about how City, the club that had been bottom of the Premier League for more than 140 days of the previous season and were 5,000-1 to become champions, had defied the odds to claim the title, they must have thought they were either still asleep or in some bizarre parallel universe.

When they saw the empty champagne bottle on the kitchen table, flashbacks of the huge party the night before, sparked by Eden Hazard's amazing late equaliser against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge, may have followed, but it was still too surreal to be true.

But it is. It is all true. Leicester City are Premier League champions. Even now, as you read these words, you are probably shaking your heads in wonderment. You and the rest of the world.
How has a team of players who have all been rejected or passed over by other clubs been able to come together to defy the odds and pull off the greatest sporting shock in history?

How has a manager who was sacked after just four games in charge of Greece been able to pull together the same set of players who had faced what seemed to be certain relegation the season before and turned them into champions?

How has a club that has won just three League Cups in its 132-year history been able to break the dominance of English football's elite, to claim the ultimate prize and become only the sixth team to lift the Premier League trophy?

It is an astonishing achievement which has left everyone scratching their heads in bewilderment and clapping their hands in admiration at the same time.

The scenes outside the King Power Stadium on Monday night and yesterday were amazing. City fans descended on their stadium to worship their club and celebrate what many would admit was the greatest moment of their lives. The party is set to continue for quite some time.

People from all walks of life, from different faiths and cultural backgrounds have all been brought together by one amazing achievement.

The people of Leicester have puffed up chests and heads held high because their football team has put the city on the map.

The world's media has camped out for weeks in the city waiting for the moment when the fairytale would come true. The Leicester City story has captured the imagination because it is the greatest rags to riches underdog story in sporting history.

Less than 15 years ago, City were a club on its knees. The very future of the club was in doubt. The thought of challenging for a Premier League title in future years seemed ridiculous. There was the danger of there not being a future.

Then there was relegation to League One for the first time in the club's history in 2008, another dark time. It is fair to say there have been more downs than ups.

That is why the rest of the football community will not begrudge City this incredible moment. City fans, who wear their shirts with pride, have been applauded as they walk down the street. The travelling fans and Ranieri's incredible team have been given standing ovations by rival fans at grounds around the country, including at Old Trafford last Sunday.

Football supporters have cast aside the usual tribalism because they recognise that what City have achieved is extraordinary.

It can potentially change the landscape of the Premier League. The elite clubs must now reflect on their approach and raise their game, while the clubs of City's ilk now have belief that they can aspire to follow their lead.

They can dream as well.

When the Thai owners came to the club in 2010 there was some scepticism.

Previous foreign ownerships at English clubs had gone spectacularly wrong. They had been disasters.

The Srivaddhanaprabha family have been astonishing. Not only have they committed their substantial wealth, writing off £103million of loans into equity, they have cherished the history and traditions of the club.

They may not come from an English football culture but they have shown great respect to the supporters.

Even when their judgement was being questioned last summer as they replaced Nigel Pearson – who deserves an immense amount of credit for turning the club around – with Ranieri, they have been proven right. They are shrewd operators.

As for Ranieri, finally the bridesmaid has become the bride and on Saturday, when the Premier League trophy is presented to captain Wes Morgan he will have his big day.

Four times he has been in a title race and four times he has finished second, in Italy, France and England. Finally, Ranieri, the man who has entertained everyone this season with his genial, lovable antics, colourful turn of phrase and warmth, is a champion.

After the departure of Esteban Cambiasso, City's player of the year last season, Ranieri sat before the media and tried to raise spirits. "Cambiasso is a great champion and now we have to find another," he said. He had 24 of them right under his Roman nose.

To a man they have been magnificent. From Kasper Schmeichel in goal to Jamie Vardy scoring 22 goals and leading the attack, from the skipper Wes Morgan to the longest-serving player Andy King, who has been with City through their League One, Championship and now Premier League title triumphs, from the mercurial winger Riyad Mahrez, the greatest £400,000 signing in the modern game, to the veracious predator that is N'Golo Kante. Every single one of them has played a huge part.

They have all shown a burning desire, a hunger that has been the driving force behind their success. They have all faced disappointment and rejection but have had the character to keep going. That is why they didn't buckle during the season.

Those dark moments provided an inner strength that has proved so crucial. While their rivals seemed to wilt under pressure, City were able to stay strong.

Around the stadium there are now poster pictures of each player hanging from the lampposts, but the memory of what these players have achieved will live on long after those flags are pulled down. As Gary Lineker has said, they will now be immortals.

Finally, the supporters. The Blue Army. They have played their role. When City have been behind in games they have roared even more.

When the players have needed their help, they have been there. The sight of them remaining in the away ends singing long after their rivals have gone will live long in the memory.

The secret to Leicester City's success is easy. It has just been one glorious team effort by everyone.