Spanish stupified by English semi-finalists

If the bored-witless Spanish viewers are to be tempted back to their TVs for the second Champions League helping of Liverpool vs Chelsea, they'll have to display the same kind of guts, determination and fearsome fortitude required when attempting to watch any kind of advert-infested film on the country's terrestrial television.

Expecting a repeat of the orgasmic footballing gala between Arsenal and Liverpool, more than seven million turned in to watch Tuesday's first leg. About seven will tune in next week, having been stunned into stupor by Avram Grant's footballing stylings.

"They have Ballack, Lampard and Malouda in the midfield. Yet they play like this!" complained Antena 3's lead commentator despairingly, as he watched another ball hoofed up for Drogba to knock onto an imaginary teammate, yet again.

Instead, he and his ball-watching buddies were forced to go back to their default setting whenever the channel gets a game to broadcast - plug all the other dreadful shows on the station's roster and clog the screen with annoying phone-in competitions.

Marca were equally unimpressed with the midweek farce, citing Malouda as the chief culprit for the visiting side's less than dazzling display. "The French footballer was one of the great fiascos of Chelsea," they harrumphed.

Malouda & Co. in action: unimpressive, says Spain in general

However, this ire was nothing compared to the mauling given to Manchester United's half-hearted Wednesday night work-out.

For weeks, the "Red Devils from the Theatre of Dreams" and their "hooligans" - the word used to describe any fan from England - were portrayed as a throat-ripping, virgin-taking, landmine-sh*tting football machine set to blow the Barça players all the way to Sardinia.

But it didn't turn out that way. "Barcelona dedicated themselves to playing football, whilst Manchester United tried not to lose," grumbled Sport's Josep Maria Casanovas - a man who should have been fairly happy with Fergie's conservative approach, considering the shocking state of his team's recent performances.

One Sport columnist prepared to pay Sir Alex his dues was Lluís Mascaro, who wrote that "we have to thank Sir Alex Ferguson for the cowardly line-up he set for the encounter".

On the whole, the paper couldn't be perkier about the result, splashing the headline "The Best Barça" across the front page, although the match reporter did note that "they ran more than ever, but in front of goal, nothing". In an online poll, 67% of readers expressed confidence that Barça will overcome United at Old Trafford, with the fans no longer scared witless by Ronaldo and Rooney: "It will be a difficult mission, but a lot less impossible".

Both Madrid papers, Marca and AS, were also impressed by the culé collective, with the latter declaring "To Moscow via Manchester!" and the former opining that "Barça showed their best version of the year". Which wasn't that hard, really.

Inside the paper, yet more boos and abuse for Manchester United, with Angel Cappa complaining that he was "disappointed with their attitude. They played like any other vulgar mid-table team," said Marca's mustachioed man of tactics. "Playing Rooney as a second full-back is like having García Márquez working on a newspaper and looking after the horoscopes."

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