Rooney the unstoppable came off the bench to score his 28th goal of the season.
February 2010 Archives
Rooney the unstoppable came off the bench to score his 28th goal of the season.
Everyone is focusing on the outrage. Arseblog has a particularly emotional response and I don't blame him. But it borders on Tea Bagger conspiracy.
We can debate whether it was a malicious tackle and I have seen it and there is no conclusive proof that it was one. Shawcross did not come flying in with studs up and extended leg. Was there a pattern of chopping down players prior to that? I saw Darren Fletcher do a lot dirtier in the Man Utd match at OT.
There are a lot more factors in operation than simple malice.
Three players in four years is an eye catching statistic but it is also true that 2004 and after, Wenger went younger and built his teams around speed. A rapidly mobilizing team that has buried the George Graham days for good.
With that came a certain diminution in size and physicality. We have grown quite a bit smaller. The average height for the 2004 starters was a little over 6' with only Ashley Cole and Freddie Ljungberg below that threshold. It is a bit startling to realize that Bergkamp, Edu, and Pires at 6' would have stood out in the present Arsenal midfield. The fast and free flowing game comes at the feet of a group of undersized midfield players.
All these horrific injuries have come during tackles with slower and heavier defenders. Ramsey is listed at 5'10" (the present Arsenal average) and 67 kgs while Shawcross is 6'3" and about 80 kgs. Lets apply the law of inertia. When you come at momentum and collide, it is easier for relatively larger and slower players to influence the course of motion or bring to a complete halt. In cricket, one can hit a pace bowler for a four with little force.
We are also an injury prone side - there were 5 starting players missing in the Porto game, none could be attributed to the rough conduct of opposition players. Add Walcott and RVP to the growing list of chronic absentees. There is an undoubted physical fragility to this side.
We can become part of an eternal paranoia machine or we can choose to do what Arsenal did after the injury. What should not be debated is their response.
Arsenal released a statement on Aaron Ramsey's condition. He underwent surgery for a broken tibia and fibula.
"The operation successfully reduced the fractures and whilst it is too soon to state an exact timescale for recovery, Aaron will certainly miss the remainder of this season."
This being Arsenal there are no shortage of examples of how players have made it back to the field after potential career ending injuries. Ramsey can look to Eduardo and Abou Diaby for inspiration.
We don't know if this was an open fracture which means if it broke the skin or whether it was a clean break without a wound. Open fractures are surgical emergencies that require management of infection to the wound site through regular irrigation, debridement and antibiotics. Once that danger is averted then surgical options can be considered depending on the instability of the fracture.
After surgery there will be arduous months spent undegoing rehabilitation with gradual weight bearing, mobilization, and strengthening exercises as part of the regime. If there are no complications he should be back for the start of next season. Speedy recovery to you, Aaron!
Petr Cech may have a question or two with his goalkeeping but after today's goalkeeping display, Hilario is the 20 questions version. Starting with - is he for real?
He flopped like a fish trying to stop Tevez's weak shot. For the second goal Craig Bellamy streaked across the field blowing past John Obi Mikel and from wide cut the ball towards goal. Hilario toppled over like a majestic sequoia. The ball had already found net. Till then Chelsea had a chance. But Juliano Belletti filling in for Ashley Cole also had a forgettable match.
He got beaten all ends up by Gareth Barry and reacted by pushing him down. Tevez converted the penalty. Belletti was given his marching orders. Six minutes later Ballack received his second yellow for mugging Tevez and was ejected. The Blues were reduced to nine men in the 80th minute. The Stamford Bridge debacle got worse as City gang busted its way for Bellamy's second goal against the thinned Chelsea defense.
It was hard to remember that Chelsea actually scored two goals. They might have been enough for a draw. But Cech's absence was keenly felt. With him out for a month and Cole gone for the season, Chelsea looks vulnerable.
A ghastly injury made all that more worse by the fact that Aaron is just 19 years old and his career now hangs in the balance.
One really feels terrible for Arsene Wenger at the loss of Aaron Ramsey. He gave the Welshman his second start because of Arshavin's injury and just as against Sunderland, Ramsey and Cesc again combined well to keep the midfield purring smoothly. I think we were beginning to see Cesc's load being lightened by an able and talented deputy. Arshavin has been playing out of position. Nasri is still too hit and miss. Rosicky is unable to play all 90 minutes. Would Ramsey continue on Arshavin's return? One would have liked him to. Well, we don't have that choice now.
More on the other players. I think Arsenal succeeded because players who were getting pilloried turned in some fine performances.
Nicklas Bendtner for one. We rarely get headers from any player other than our defenders. Which makes Bendtner's goal all the more special. It was perfectly executed. His touch on the ball was far more deft than I have seen all season. And towards the end he should have gotten a penalty when he was bumped off by Danny Collins who made no attempt to play the ball. Actually, this could have been the third such call as earlier in the second half, Faye pushed down Ramsey for a clear foul.
Gael Clichy showed more zip in his policing and he seemed less wasteful with his passes. Manuel Almunia looked a bit nervy with the Rory Delap throw ins but Pugh's goal is not his fault, the Arsenal defense should have protected the far post. On another occasion he bungled a throw in but fortunately, Sidibe fouled him.
Sol Campbell played really well combining with Vermaelen to not allow Ricardo Fuller, always a slippery customer too much latitude.
The hustle that Arsenal showed was heartening especially with the third goal. Great bit of work by Cesc to cut the cross back but equally important was Vermaelen having the wits to come forward to finish of the chance. It was his 7th goal and he is on top of the list with most goals scored by a defender.
Our thoughts are with Aaron Ramsey. We hope that the extraordinarily gifted Welshman will be able to resume his playing career after making a full recovery. It is a sombre time for an Arsenal fan once again. We have seen this before.
Two years almost to the day, a similar tackle by Martin Taylor snapped Eduardo's leg. The Croatian spent almost a year and a half out of the game and his return has been marred by niggling injuries undoubtedly a sequelae of the original injury. Then there was Abou Diaby in 2006 against Sunderland lost for the season.
It took intestinal fortitude to go on playing this match after Aaron Ramsey's leg lay horribly broken by a Ryan Shawcross tackle. You could see the life go out of the match as players turned away sickened at the spectacle.
This is football. It could have happened to any one of them. Unlike Martin Taylor's tackle which seemed to be more clearly driven with a malicious intent, Shawcross is more in line with one that went horribly wrong. Clearly it was mistimed but I don't think Shawcross advertently set out to cause harm to Ramsey. He was extremely distraught after the incident and his contrite statement was very different to Martin Taylor's more callous stance.
In doing that, Shawcross redeemed himself. He gets a four match ban and when weighed against the serious prospect of a player never playing again, it appears lightweight. But Shawcross's emotional state might be his real punishment. He is a talented young lad and on the cusp of a international career. Much like Ramsey.
What transpired on the field was completely different from how the Birmingham match ended. The match was heading to a depressing stalemate and yet one more of those missed moments with City having beaten Chelsea when Ramsey's horrific injury happened. The Gunners had to gather themselves and exorcize that distressing image.
Rosicky coming in for Ramsey helped with his industry and gradually the free flowing game returned. Eduardo substituting for Nasri must have had a nightmarish flashback to his own injury but he put that aside and came close to putting Arsenal ahead. It seemed a matter of time that Stoke would be breeched with Fabregas really elevating his game. And after the game Fabregas and the Gunners got together for a post match. A team drawn together in tragedy, united in purpose. Fabregas in his comments:
"We learned from when it happened to Eduardo, we lost a lead that day," said the Spaniard.
Speaking about the result at the Britannia Stadium he added: "It's very difficult to stand up but we showed character and knew if we won we still had a lot to say [in the title race]."
An inkling perhaps that the boys had finally turned to men. It took great resolve and character to come back in this match. Now they are in the midst of the title race and with a more favourable match schedule compared to Man Utd and Chelsea, they have every reason to believe they could become the champions. Lets play for Ramsey. He would want it.
What's the connection you may well ask.
The money is all in a new 4 year sponsorship contract worth 24 million Euro.The highest paid football player on the planet is going to get paid more.
The plastic bottles bit is about Nike saying that they are doing their bit to try and save the planet.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho and many others will take to the field in this summer's World Cup in South Africa wearing shirts made of recycled plastic bottles.
The change comes after Nike said yesterday that it would make its biggest commitment to sustainability by producing the shirts worn by nine teams in football's biggest competition from 100 per cent recycled polyester, with each shirt using up to eight plastic bottles. Making the shirts this way is expected to cut the amount of energy used in production by 30 per cent and save 13 million plastic bottles going to landfill sites this year alone.
More details on the sponsorship story here and on the plastic bottle story here..
Arsenal is now officially the best run top English club.
Pre- tax profits surged to £35.2 million pounds for the six month period between June to November 2009.
Debts were reduced almost 40% from £332.8m to £203.6m as Arsenal continued to reap the benefits of moving to the Emirates stadium.
The earnings have been boosted by the increased sale of apartments developed on the old Highbury property. 261 units were sold for a £96.6m capping a remarkable turnaround in the depressed real estate market.
Peter Hill Wood has reason to cheer:
"There has been remarkable progress at Highbury Square over the last 12 months and it is clear that the next couple of years will see our property activities delivering surplus cash," Hill-Wood said.
This comes on a day when Portsmouth went into administration and club supporters in Man Utd and Liverpool are organizing people revolts at the way their clubs are being run plunging further into unsustainable debt.
As an Arsenal supporter there are often times that I have ground my teeth about not getting this or that high priced player or the frustrating lack of titles. But I am thankful that we still have a shot. There is always tomorrow. For many other fans, their club is a house of cards. Tomorrow is too late.
The League of Extra-ordinarily Badly Behaved Ex- Arsenal Players just added four more banned matches to their kitty.
Eleven so far this season between Emmanuel Adebayor, a repeat offender and Patrick Vieira. Are we looking at a hat trick?
Congratulations to Roy Hodgson and the Cottagers. Shakhtar Donetsk the UEFA Cup holders were stopped in their tracks as they were held by Fulham, 1-1. The London club went ahead 3-2 on aggregate for a memorable win.
Mark Schwarzer was kept very busy by Shakhtar's Brazilian mob with Fernandinho and Willian letting fly some belters. But it was Brede Hangelend who put Fulham ahead diverting a Damien Duff free kick into the far left corner of goal.
Shakhtar came back after Douglas Costa, the next Ronaldinho took on the Fulham defense, cutting the ball back from the right for Jadson to slam home the equalizer. Fulham then held on for more than 20 minutes. In the dying seconds Danny Murphy was sent off but it did not matter.
One way traffic at the Jose Alvalade Stadium as Miguel Veloso, Paolo Mendes, and Matias Fernandez pummel Everton. Check out Fernandez's nutmeg on Phil Jagielka as he skips past Tim Howard to score the final injury time goal.
Everton crash out of the Europa Cup in disappointing fashion. What is it with these Portugese clubs and Everton?
Feeling a bit bad for the bloke. Wayne Bridge should never have had to retire under such a cloud. He cites his position in the English squad as "untenable and potentially divisive".
On a pragmatic level, it may not be such a big loss. He looked a bit laboured in the Liverpool match but he was just coming back from an injury layoff. Bridge's best days are obviously behind him. Which might be be the real reason for his retirement. Then again, his retirement does create a bit of a quandary and one wonders about the timing.
Leighton Baines is the obvious choice. But Fabio Capello might be a bit averse using him. He is a bit too attack minded for the very disciplined Italian coach who has soured on Glen Johnson for the same reasons. Plus, he is plain untested. So I will go against the grain and say that in the absence of Ashley Cole, Bridge would have been his first choice.
It was Sven Goran Ericksson who gave Bridge his international start and his most productive years were between 2002- 2004. Most of these were in friendlies but there were quite a few consequential appearances. He played two matches in the 2002 World Cup finals, four in the 2004 European Cup qualifiers, and another two in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers. However, he was not used for the 2004 Euro and the 2006 World Cup finals.
Under Steve McLaren's disastrous tenure Bridge saw just two appearance in the 2008 Euro qualifiers with Ashley Cole having locked the left back position.
With Capello's arrival, Bridge seems to have again picked up his international profile enough to keep his feet wet. It was the Italian manager that gave him his first start in 11 months against Belarus in the 2010 WC qualifier after Cole picked up his hamstring injury. He was again used in the Andorra shootout and the inconsequential Belarus return match.
He might have been the mistake free insurance that Capello was looking for in the absence of Cole. A good foot soldier who would stick to his defensive duties and eschew the spectacular.
AC Milan CEO, Adriano Galliani had to leave Stadio Artemio Franchi under protection of bodyguards as Viola fans booed him and hurled insults. They were reacting to referee Roberto Rosetti's decision to overlook Thiago Silva's foul on midfielder Riccardo Montolivo as he entered the Milan penalty area. (at 1:13 of the video).
I have not been able to get a better/ closer angle of the foul. But even Leonardo is saying that Montolivo should have got the call. Rosetti might have applied the advantage rule but Keirrison's shot was stopped by Abiatti.
It was a significant non- call. Milan won the match on Pato's injury time goal, 2-1. Both the goals were engineered by Ronaldinho who is leaving Dunga with no choice other than a recall.
A furious Diego Della Valle, Fiorentina's owner boycotted the press conference after the match.
"There were so many egregious things that do not need stirring up emotion. We deserved victory. Now we should win on Saturday. We need to steady our nerves, to transform anger into determination, even the fans who are bitter must remain calm."
It has been a tough two weeks for the Violas. There is reason for feeling victimized.
Only last week, Tom Hennings Ovrebo and his linesman failed to call a horribly obvious off side goal by Miroslav Klose in the 89th minute as Bayern went onto beat Fiorentina in their CL first leg after it looked like the Violas would achieve a creditable away draw.
Financial administration looms large for the club if they do not find a buyer by tomorrow. It's getting closer to D- Day as the EPL has refused to step in and help the stricken club.
This excellent article gives a blow by blow account of what administration entails. It is by no means the end of this proud club but if done right a carefully structured way of getting out of this hole. Call it the 12 step recovery process for the financially insolvent.
In footballing terms, administration carries a 9 point deduction which leaves Pompey with barely a pulse in the Premiership. The restructuring will likely begin away from the klieg lights of the top league, in the far less intrusive Championship.
The financial recession has also forced the British tax authorities into a more aggressive stance in recovering money owed. Pompey's tax bill has hastened the process into financial ruin as the HMRC is joining the queue for reimbursement. First senior debt will have to be retired, in this case banks like Barclays that loaned money, clubs that are owed transfer fees, and player wages. Balram Chainrai and HMRC will have to wait to get their dues.
Portsmouth will be allowed to sell players outside of the transfer period, get an advance on the TV receipts, restructure loans, and more importantly for the club and the appointed court administrator look for a buyer.
Meanwhile we can examine the factors behind club's rack and ruin, be it living beyond its means, a lack of suitable infrastructure, and a coterie of empty handed owners. However, in Pompey's case the league's fit and proper test failed miserably. The EPL should stop wiggling its hips furiously (courtesy Arundhati Roy for that line) at every available investor who then turns out to be nothing more than a snake oil salesman.
A smidgen of good news with regards to RVP.
The Arsenal striker is making rapid progress in his rehab as per Bert van Marwijk, the Netherlands coach. If he keeps this up he should be back in the Emirates early April.
A few things.
The first priority for RVP is to heal completely. Incomplete healing can lead to niggling little injuries that can eat away into your playing career. So its perfectly fine to sit out this season. Getting back RVP should not stop us from looking for another productive striker. We will take goals anyway they come but enough of looking to Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas to bail us out.
For the first 45 minutes the US laboured mightily to string a few passes together underscoring the domestic second and third stringers lack of match practice.
The second half was an improvement when Brian Ching came onto the pitch in place of Conor Casey. Most of the activity emanated from the left flank where I thought Robbie Rogers and Heath Pearce combined well with pace and understanding. Rogers had some decent looks at goal and was distinctly unlucky when his shot cannoned off the upright.
It was through Pearce's cross that Ching was able to flick the ball past Miguel Montes for the equalizer. The El Salvador goalkeeper was till then having the time of his life stopping anything and everything that came his way. The winner came in injury time when Sacha Kljestan stole the ball away from a lackadaisical El Salvador defender and in a neat one two with Ching, slotted the ball past Montes. There were about another half a dozen clear chances to score but Montes came up big and the US finishing left much to be desired.
Ching was a distinct improvement from both Casey and Robbie Findley with his aerial ability and ball retrieving skills. Findley was especially disappointing having an awkward time getting involved at all. He also seemed to have a tough time staying on his feet. Casey was no better demonstrating a very heavy touch.
Before that though the US had to play an El Salvador team that looked quite sharp when they got the ball. On one of their forays, Manuel Salazar booted the ball upfield which found a racing Brad Evans trying to head the ball back to Nick Rimando only to put it right across the path of Rudis Corrales who finished of the easy chance.
I think one should be reasonably pleased with the performance of Brian Ching, Heath Pearce, Sacha Kljestan, and Robbie Rogers. They did no damage to their World Cup claims. On the other hand even accounting for the rust, the performance gap between the US foreign exports and its domestic players remains immense.
A familiar name to Liverpool fans announces his CL arrival with a jaw dropping ripper that leaves Andres Palop rooted to the ground to give CSKA its equalizer.
Yes, the scorer was none other than Mark Gonzalez who left Anfield in 2007 after two seasons which were mostly spent recuperating from various injuries and struggling with the more physical English game. He came to Liverpool amidst great expectations as a hugely talented winger.
However, it is Sevilla leaving with a distinct advantage as some horrible defending by Vassili Berezutsky and Sergei Ignasevich gifted Alvaro Negredo an easy goal.
John Terry anticipation of Milito cutting to the left turns out wrong as the Argentinian instead moves to the right, creating space, and squeezes a shot past Cech. Inter 1-0.
Julio Cesar makes a hash of Solomon Kalou's speculative shot and the teams draw level,1-1. The status quo proves short lived as Cambiasso's shot crashes of Terry and rolled backs to him. This time the Argentinian makes no mistake. Inter go up 2-1.
Petr Cech's injury poses a serious concern. Indications are that it might be at worst an ACL. Or he could have escaped with a more minor calf strain. The match had one big controversial moment when Kalou was brought down by Walter Samuel in the box but the referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez was nowhere near the incident and waved play on.
Say it isn't so! Wasn't it Arsenal playing Chelsea a few weeks ago as they swamped a defense that relied on a great bag of tricks and experience to keep the Gunners at bay? Today, Chelsea was forced to play Arsenal in passing futility as they tried their darndest to breech a dour and doughty Inter defense.
Walter Samuel and Lucio did a number on Drogba and Lampard. Watching Samuel crowd out Drogba and then with a few nifty and subtle body grabs throw him off position during corners and crosses was to watch a clinic in smart football tactics.
Meanwhile Lucio pushed himself to the limits keeping the Chelsea attack which predictably came down the middle. Ancelotti did not even bother introducing Joe Cole, probably his single biggest mistake. The wily midfielder would have widened the game while the brain trust of Lampard and Ballack did their utmost to spurn those pretensions while Malouda was on the field. He was mostly an afterthought in the first half.
Instead it was Inter operating on the Chelsea precept of attacking efficiency getting far fewer chances but making it count. Diego Milito's quickfire 3" minute strike came from an attack sweeping to the left with Terry being caught the wrong way as the Argentinian striker turned to his stronger right side and fired the ball centimeters away from the outstretched fingers of Petr Cech.
Chelsea's response was very strong and Drogba was distinctly unlucky as his free kick caught the underside of the crossbar after beating Julio Cesar. A cracking shot by Ballack was just about fended away. Chelsea dominated possession with Inter snatching a few moments. Samuel Eto'o had a golden chance of putting Inter two up but he made a hash of a fine pass with just Cech to beat.
Chelsea tested Julio Cesar with a few long rangers hoping to catch the Brazilian recovering from a car crash suffered this Monday, off guard. Mourinho took a gamble with his start and it became a topic of debate when he completely fluffed Solomon Kalou's testing shot for the equalizer soon after the resumption of the second half.
However Inter proved resilient and went ahead from Esteban Cambiasso's fiercely angled half volley which beat Petr Cech all ends up. That was in the 55th minute. For the next 35 minutes or more Chelsea virtually camped in the Inter half to no avail except for a moment when Lampard slid in with the ball but an alert Cesar atoned for his earlier mistake, scrambling the ball out.
Still as they say, Chelsea got that all important away goal. Ancelotti can hold that as a morsel of good cheer to take back home. However in the coaching department Mourinho came out tops. In looking more like Chelsea than Chelsea he continues to perfect his legacy. Except it is at the San Siro.
UEFA Champions League
Internazionale Milan vs Chelsea
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza
For most part of the last weekend match against Wolves, the Chelsea team looked pedestrian, bereft of energy and ideas in the midfield. In fact, Wolves looked good in attack too with Doyle and They got two chances, just two, which was enough for Drogba and Chelsea. Frank Lampard is back too. There lies Inter's challenge. They are likely to concede a goal or two but they need to match Chelsea.
Enter Wesley Sneijder, Inter's creative hub, whose ballistic missiles are a perfect deception. But when he is not fooling the opposition with his small stature, he is finding gaps, stroking pinpoint passes, and taking prodigiously curving free kicks. Sneijder's form is the big reason that Inter have not slipped behind in the Serie and after many years in CL doldrums, other teams are taking them seriously. Finally, they have the midfield connectivity that was lacking in other Inter teams when the striker's individual efforts would be enough to see them through.
He has settled behind Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito and his combination with the duo have yielded a rich harvest of goals. Against Chelsea, Mourinho is likely to introduce more physicality in the form of Thiago Motta, Esteban Cambiasso, and Sulley Muntari against a much narrower Chelsea game. Lucio and Walter Samuel bottle up the center.
And who does not fancy Maicon running against a less than match fit Juliano Belletti coming in place of Ashley Cole and Yuri Zhirkov? With the speedier Diego Milito on the right and there could be quite a few problem areas for Inter to exploit in that Chelsea left flank. And they have Mario Balotelli who if he applies his considerable skills can be the game changer.
Lauren Cheney: A different kind of Cheney
The USA got off to a great start in the Algarve Cup beating Iceland 2-0 through Lauren Cheney and an own goal.
Next up the tough Norwegians, a long time nemesis of the USA but now find themselves falling of the pace since the mid 1990s with Germany, Brazil, and China taking over.
The next two matches have a decidedly strong Scandinavian theme given the coaching connections.
US assistant coach Hege Riise will face her old team on February 26th. Continuing in the same vein, Pia Sundhage, the US coach, till recently the Swedish top goal scorer will take on her former national team on March 1st. The US under Sundhage lost the last Algarve Cup final to Sweden on penalties. The US will be looking to reverse that setback.
U.S. Men vs. El Salvador
Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla.
Feb. 24, 2010 @ 7 p.m. ET
ESPN Classic and Galavision
It was a bit of an eye opener but the second and third stringers did not fare very well against Honduras in their friendly earlier this year. The domestic league players get another chance against El Salvador who should prove easier opponents. Bob Bradley is still looking for Altidore's strike partner and as yet there are no front runners.
I hope Bradley sticks with Robbie Findley giving him another start against El Salvador or if not then substantial minutes off the bench. He is fast and elusive, likes to work wide, creates chances for others, and scores enough goals to be considered a serious possibility as second striker behind Jozy Altidore. On defense he likes to track back to help out.
He is a very different player from the more direct Brian Ching and Conor Casey. They create a certain amount of redundancy when paired with Altidore. That is why Fabio Capello likes pairing Wayne Rooney with Emile Heskey or Peter Crouch.
The other reason why I would like Findley to get a chance is the fact with him in the team, the USA can exploit his speed and versatility to make inroads into the somewhat suspect and unsettled England defense at least in its present state at the World Cup. This should be part of Bradley's future calculations.
To beat England in the opener might might be entirely wishful thinking and not entirely necessary in qualifying for the group of sixteen. But a win will be ever bit as memorable as the one against Spain at the Confederations Cup. More importantly, it will instill a sense of self belief and confidence to go further than they have done since the 2002 World Cup.
Part of the Confederations Cup success was built around Charlie Davies giving Landon Donovan a choice in attacking options. With Findley, Donovan can launch a fast counterattack, linking up with him to go wide or find Altidore in a more direct route.
"In England it is never easy, you can lose any game, but when a team is always strong, strong, strong,' he repeated for emphasis, 'then it doesn't lose many matches or so many points."
A fairly pointed reference to Chelsea's four away defeats this season under Ancelotti. In Mourinho's time it was confined to one loss on his way to the Premiership title when he was at Stamford Bridge. His home form continues to amaze. Mourinho has never lost a game since 2002 going back to his Porto days.
He added two more to his already impressive tally taking the goal count to 27 goals this season.If he keeps this up much longer Sir Alex is going to run out of superlatives to describe Rooney's phenomenal form...
The two managers meet tomorrow at the San Siro. And Carlo Ancelotti remembers those bitter days of Zero Tituli very well before he left for Chelsea. After all it began when Jose Mourinho joined Inter four years ago. Here is a taste.
"We are not friends," Ancelotti said recently. Yesterday he batted away questions about Mourinho with the put down: "I am not interested in Mourinho. I am only interested in preparing my team well to play against Inter. Only this."
"If Ancelotti said the whole of Italy is against me, maybe because he knows, or because someone told you that, or perhaps because he is part of a clan."
Mourinho is referring to a clan of Italian managers who seem to have banded together in a common grudge against the abrasive and successful Portugese who shut the door to their title aspirations. Apart from Ancelotti, the others include Luciano Spaletti who left Roma and Claudio Rainieri now at Roma after leaving Juventus.
England's defense with a spate of injuries, off pitch scandals, and questionable skills wears a fragile and unsettled look.
Rio Ferdinand has aggravated a back injury that will keep him out of Saturday's Carling Cup final against Aston Villa as well as the upcoming Egypt friendly. Captain Crocked's armband will be worn by Steven Gerrard.
Ashley Cole is under a moral cloud and little recuperative time before the World Cup. The Terry equation with Wayne Bridge could prove problematic. Joleon Lescott is relatively untested.
The right back spot too looks unsettled. Glen Johnson and Adam Johnson love the cavalry charge but demonstrate defensive issues with their reluctance to track back and tackle. Wes Brown is solid if unspectacular but his injury track record is not too inspiring.
The same can be said of Matthew Upson filling in at center back with a long history of knee ailments. Gary Cahill is out with a blood clot that needs extended treatment.
There is no consensus on the goalkeeper. Robert Green? Joe Hart? Ben Foster? None of them have had a stand out season.
Fabio Capello's juggling skills will be severely tested.
Michael Ciani's 45th minute header of a swerving free kick by midfield maestro Yoann Gourcuff was the difference. It was a tough away win against Greek champions Olympiakos and it makes them firm favourites to advance to the quarterfinals.
However, the home side was not done. Matt Derbyshire's CL debut brought a sharpness to the attack and Bordeaux were pressed hard as Lomana Lua Lua, Enzo Maresca, and Ieroklis Stoltidis all came close to scoring an equalizer and more.
Derbyshire became a legend in Olympiakos history as he scored two goals in the 2009 Greek Cup final as they tied AEK Athens before a marathon 15-14 penalty shootout settled the title in their favour. The ex Blackburn striker has since then been sidelined by a groin injury that has kept him out for almost 7 months.
Bordeaux look the complete package and I for one will not be surprised if they get to the CL semi- finals or even the finals.
Arsenal connections: Olympiakos striker Diogo Los Santo was a firm Arsenal target about two years ago when he was a wonder kid at Portugesa. Wenger was looking to bolster his attack after Eduardo's devastating ankle injury and amidst Adebayor's almost certain exit to AC Milan.
Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh has been linked with Arsenal so many times, I am surprised to see him still wear a Les Girondins jersey. Yoann Gouffran has also been mentioned as a Wenger prospect. David Bellion, widely considered as one of Sir Alex's biggest busts was an Arsenal target before Man Utd prevailed.
Timo Gebhart's beautifully placed cross had Cacau leaping over Carlos Puyol for Stuttgart's 25th minute strike. For most part of the first half Stuttgart was clearly the ascendant team as Barca's normally free flowing game disappeared.
But they were able to get the all important equalizer in the 51st minute as the Stuttgart defense was caught napping when Gerard Pique headed the ball down to Zlatan Ibrahimovic whose first shot was parried by Jens Lehmann. Fortunately for Ibrahimovic and Barca, he was able to tap the ball past the Stuttgart goalie off the rebound.
Arsenal connections: Aleksiandr Hleb supplied the ball to Gebhart for his goal scoring cross. Jens Lehmann kept goal for Stuttgart and did quite well till he almost gifted Barca with a late win when he misjudged a cross completely. Errant goalkeepers seems to be an Arsenal legacy. Thierry Henry came on in the 53d minute amidst the swirl of transfer rumours and created some energy in the attack as Barca pressed for the winner.
Barca head back to Camp Nou in good position to win the second leg and enter the semi-finals.
Ronaldo draws attention to the disaster in his birthplace Madiera after scoring that blazing free kick against Villarreal.
"Nobody can be indifferent to such a tragedy, especially me," Ronaldo said on the Real Madrid website."I was born and raised on the island. It's given me so much. This is why I want to make myself available to help in whatever possible way..
One of the things he plans to do is play a charity match to raise funds for the victims of the disaster.
Contrast the difference with how Chelsea is handling Ashley Cole's misdemeanours and that of John Terry.
With Terry, the fans came through, magnificently full throated in their appreciation for the Blues skipper. Partly due to their reaction, the club closed ranks offering the defender unqualified support. It was left to Fabio Capello to mete out punishment and he did so stripping Terry of England's captaincy. A purely symbolic gesture.
Ancelotti gave Terry compassionate leave to patch up differences with his wife. Which he took full advantage of leaving to meet up Toni Terry in Dubai during the FA Cup fixture against Cardiff. Considering the caddish aspect of Terry's infraction: sleeping with his team mate's ex- girlfriend and it seems to have worked out quite well for him. The only signs of dissidence are at opposition venues where the crowd's barracking are built around him committing a defensive mistake more than anything else.
Cole's is a different story. The club has come down harshly on the ex- Arsenal left back. He was summoned by Ron Gourlay, the club's CEO and given a dressing down. Amongst the punishment options, a hefty fine and getting transfer listed. Adding insult to his injury. The club feels that these incidents off the field have become too distracting at this delicate stage during the push to the Premiership and that all elusive CL title. But there are maybe other factors.
Cole's underhand way of doing things seems to have caught up with him.
These episodes of extra marital "tapping" and then lying about it seems to be a perfect segue for the way he got into Chelsea. This time he got caught and has reacted badly. Very badly.
At that time the independent commission found Cole guilty of approaching Chelsea without the prior consent of his present club, that being Arsenal. Although he was censured, no real penalties were involved. Jose Mourinho, his co-conspirator was also found guilty. In a twist, the Special One comes calling at Stamford Bridge with Inter's CL fixture and may find his protege in the foulest of moods.
These sleight of hand circumstances brought him to Stamford Bridge earning him the universal sobriquet of Cashley Cole. As a player he has flowered at Chelsea, arguably now the best left back in the world but his shifty and gold digging personality created a wait and watch quality amongst club supporters.
One wonders what would have happened if it was Cole's misdemeanours that came to light ahead of Terry's. Would the club have gone easy? In Terry's case there was a fall back. Stripping him of captaincy but still giving him a berth in the England squad. In Cole's case, there is not even that recourse to symbolic reproach. However, this is for certain, in Terry's case the primordial quality of fan support made a difference. He is closer to Chelsea's heart than Cole.
"I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings -
I know why the caged bird sings"
From Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Jose Mourinho was hit with a three match ban for insulting officials and making a "handcuffs' gesture during the match with Sampdoria.
His punishment was for "having repeatedly contested the referee's decisions during the course of the game with dramatic behaviour including ... the handcuffs gesture ... (and) for having insulted the referee and his assistants during the interval."
The above picture is evocative of a man signifying by his gesture, a system that has prejudged him. He has already decided he will not get a fair hearing. The corollary, is a man in chains. Jose Mourinho is by his looks and behaviour, sick of Italy and football there. He longs to get out. The Premiership beckons!
The image rights of footballers nets them a hefty sum of money. Wayne Rooney receives £760,000 a year from Man Utd.
Usually these footballers form a corporation to bring the tax rates down to 21% or 28% rather than declare it as individual income which would entail paying rates as high as 50%.
British tax authorities are now claiming that this money obtained through the sale of image rights construes personal remuneration. If proven this could mean footballers and their clubs can be slapped with a huge bill in back taxes to the extent of £100m. Accordingly, many top players have been sent letters asking for their club contracts and invoices. Man Utd is already contesting a £5.3m tax bill.
The other part is that foreign players like Fernando Torres can offshore their company and escape paying even more tax. Such won't be the case if the image rights payment is considered personal income.
Not that these footballers are living a hand to mouth existence. Much of their more irksome off the field behaviour is due to their making entirely too much money. But I think they should be given a break. Let them pay the new rates if their contracts are found in contravention but don't make it retrospective. This I think is fair.
As for the naysayers gloomily forecasting these socialist programs will kill the Premier League and lead to an influx of top talent to the lower tax Liga, Serie, and Bundesliga. Relax. The Premier League with its global reach and its lucrative TV and merchandising money cannot be touched. India and China offer vast and as yet untapped potential to swell the Premiership coffers. An advantage they enjoy over every other league. Spain's economic doldrums is also forcing it to consider raising tax rates on players.
The Sun and Daily Mail will carry on with the business of filling us with juicy twaddle about the excesses of the footballers. We will still enjoy the presence of the WAGs. And Premiership clubs will be the target of takeovers. All for the minor inconvenience of Ashley Cole waiting a day more for his Bugatti. But by the looks of it might not be the tax authorities that he should be worried about.
"He still doesn't know what day it is, nor where he is and he hasn't asked why he is in hospital," says his doctor. But yet he intends to play in South Africa this summer - with the bullet still lodged in his head.
Even if he cannot play, his presence in SA would provide an inspirational lift to the Paraguayan team. It will add to the myth of the World Cup.
From a 'Birmingham Mail' interview with Craig Gardner, then of Aston Villa, in 2007: "I'm a Villa fan. I've come through the ranks and nothing can be better. I used to go on the Holte End. When I was watching Villa as a kid there were people like Garry Parker, Dalian Atkinson and Paul McGrath. I used to sing their names and now I look at the crowd and they're chanting my name, so it's great."
From a 'Birmingham Mail' interview with Craig Gardner, now of Birmingham City: "Having played for them, everyone thinks I'm a Villa fan, but I'm a Bluenose. I have been all my life. I was a mascot at John Frain's testimonial. But I don't have to prove anything to anyone. People who know me, my friends and family, all know I'm a Blues fan. As they say, 'Once a Blue, Always a Blue'."
Its called brown nosing, Craig.
Against Everton in a losing effort, Sir Alex chose to replace Dimitar Berbatov with Paul Scholes and brought on Michael Owen for Antonio Valencia. This perhaps more than anything underscores the changed configuration of the bench from last season.
Almost a year ago Kiko Macheda was being touted as channeling Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's soul, a big time killer of the bench. His stunning 93rd minute strike against Villa stopped a two game skid, providing a huge psychological boost towards their winning streak as they overtook Liverpool in the race for the Premiership.
The hype was tremendous but Macheda repeated the feat against Sunderland the next week as the match was heading towards a stalemate.
Macheda was not alone. He joined Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson in the super sub category. The opposition found themselves at the wrong end of some sparkling play and timely goals by the trio of youngsters. Welbeck announced his arrival with a thumping 30 yard pile driver which beat Thomas Sorenson in a 5-0 win over Stoke. Adding to Man Utd's aura of invincibility and the despair of other clubs.
After the Aston Villa match:
"I was always going to gamble," Ferguson said. "Winning is the name of the game at this club. We deserved the result as we gambled and tried to win the game. We take terrible risks and don't defend properly, but there's always more goals in this team."
Against Villa, injuries and suspensions depleting his starters, and facing an adverse score, Sir Alex chose to bring in Macheda and Welbeck as substitutes. He found goalscoring sources other than Ronaldo, Rooney, and Tevez.
This year, Sir Alex has not been as venturesome relying on older hands. Welbeck has moved onto Preston North End on loan. Macheda has not made one appearance. Gabriel Obertan has been used sparingly. Gibson is the only one with a modicum of appearances. The bench's impact has been decidedly subdued.
Everton seems to have found its Kiko Macheda and Daniel Welbeck in Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell. Their arrival could bode well for a strong Everton finish. The top four? Don't count them out.
For two teams with a chance to put some distance between themselves for fourth place this match turned out as wooden as that of Tiger Woods confessional. Peter Walton's performance as referee generated more animation than anything else on the field.
Martin Skrtel made the save of the day as his timely tackle denied Adebayor and at the other end Pablo Zabaleta kept the Liverpool attack quiescent. Adebayor had a couple of good looks at goal. The other highlight was Vincent Kompany losing his shoe.
Roberto Mancini's choice of three holding midfielders reflects his ultra cautious approach which of late is not paying dividends. His introduction of Abdisalam Ibrahim to counter Fernando Torres was a risk averse move. As it turned out the month long rust showed on the Spaniard. But for Mancini, the substitution came at the expense of another attacking player. Roque Santa Cruz could have made a difference. The hot start has stagnated into a series of colourless draws and a loss to Hull. Reports of squad unrest with Micah Richards and Kolo Toure sitting out the match have not helped.
With Steven Ireland on the wane the ball took forever to get out of the backfield with a frustrated Adebayor isolated without any clear cut supply. All that firepower touted at the beginning of the season and it is only Carlos Tevez who seems to be delivering. But who knows when the Argentinian is getting back from baby duty? Even his manager does not know where he is.
On the other end, Babel, Mascherano, Lucas, and Gerrard just could not string two passes together giving City the ball regularly. But all that gifted possession made no difference to both clubs. Fernando Torres came back for about 20 minutes late in the second half showing the month long rust. For City, Adam Johnson provided some sparkle. The wing back showed pace and neat ball skills but his delivery let him down.
Marca commissioned a poll which found almost 7 out of 10 Madridistas refute Pellegrini's statement that this is the best Real Madrid team in the last 15 years.
Seriously, the Madrid tabloids have nothing better to do other than come up with these self serving polls. Amongst other results, Vicente Del Bosque and Fabio Capello's teams were ranked in the top. But these were the same coaches being slagged by Marca when they were in charge.
And true to form, the Mourinho and Wenger rumours once again resurface after the Lyon defeat.
'It is the area of biggest improvement and with him doing that you have to put him in the same bracket as all the best players. The evidence is there."
"[Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer and Andy Cole and [Ruud] van Nistelrooy. If he got to that level, he'd be the best in the world".
A definite climb down. A super sub? RVN as a role model? From what I remember Sir Alex insinuated the Dutchman's departure as improving the United locker room mood and attributed team effort in winning his first title after Chelsea's interruption.
If Rooney's predatory instincts need honing, it is as Sir Alex stated, his fault for playing the striker out of position. Rooney's fault is that he does too much. Give it one more season as he learns to become less of an omnipresent presence on the pitch and concentrates on goalscoring.
Only the most biased or uneducated observer will fail to acknowledge a better and more complete player in comparison to Sir Alex's choices. Rooney is on his way to becoming a Man Utd legend.
Or is it just Sir Alex playing his usual mind games to exhort the player carrying his team's attack on his back all season to reach his target of 30 or more goals?
Bendtner is as frontline as we get in our injury depleted striker corps.
But clinical finishing is clearly not his forte. A heavy first touch and John Arne Riise type stratospheric hoofs and it is no wonder he scores such few goals. Unless it is off the sort of assist provided by Emmanuel Eboue.
One would hardly call him brilliant.
Now, Kevin Doyle who I saw in Wolves loss to Chelsea showed some real goalscoring chops. For a striker of slight build, he played a lot with his back turned towards goal, very successful in fending away the brawny Chelsea defense, quick on the turn and not afraid of letting loose a snapshot. He will be a transfer target after this season and if Wolves fail to remain promoted, could leave for a bigger club.
Doyle has scored six goals without a creative midfield. A club like Arsenal that creates chances a plenty could net him a dozen more. He might be a perfect pick up for a budget conscious manager like Wenger.
Some of George Best's greatest moves are going to be rendered in music and contemporary dance by Belfast-based Maiden Voyage - a multinational dance troupe.
The performance is slated to depict Best in his early days on Belfast's Cregagh estate to his move to Manchester, and then go on the European Cup final against Benfica and finally his to his time in Los Angeles.
'Best' opens at the Tower Street Theatre in Belfast Metropolitan College on February 18 and will then visit Armagh, Derry, Lisburn, Omagh and Downpatrick.So get your tickets now.
Ricky Broadley has the dubious honour of having picked up 4 red cards in a single game.He got his first red for stamping on an opponent,the second for arguing with referee John Owen, the third for throwing water on the official with water and the fourth for abusing the referee in the clubhouse later.This incredible record has been soundly eclipsed by one Paul Cooper, 39,who plays for Hawick United in the Border Amateur League.He picked up 6 red cards in one game.
As expected. Vieira did not contest charges which would have meant an additional one game if he had been found guilty.
City seems to have disciplinary issues with its ex- Arsenal players running amok.
One of sport's most hallowed shrines turns a hundred today.
As the The Sporting Chronicle stated on Saturday 19th February 1910 after the inaugural match between Man Utd and Liverpool.
"The most handsomest, the most spacious and the most remarkable arena I have ever seen. As a football ground it is unrivalled in the world, it is an honour to Manchester and the home of a team who can do wonders when they are so disposed.
The correspondent from The Umpire was bowled over by the pristine playing surface and wrote: "I know groundsmen who would weep at the mere thought of using such a perfect pitch for so reckless a game, but football knows no sentiment."
United's first-ever line-up at Old Trafford was as follows - Harry Moger; George Stacey, Vince Hayes; Dick Duckworth, Charlie Roberts, Sam Blott; Billy Meredith, Harold Halse, Tom Homer, Sandy Turnbull, George Wall.
It was a losing start as Man Utd fell to Liverpool but over the years Old Trafford proved rightly to be "The Theatre of Dreams" as it was called by Bobby Charlton.
The new venue was built for the then princely sum of £60,000 ($92,290) with a standing capacity of 80,000. The most recent expansion plans if they materialize will increase the seating capacity to 95,000 and could cost an estimated £100 million or more, in comparison.
Perhaps it was Archibald Leitch, the Glasgow born architect of Old Trafford who began the inextricable link between the neigbours to the north and shaping the fame and fortune of this historic club. Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson are fellow Scottish travellers who have found success in Leitch's creation.
Old Trafford was not the only stadium to have Leitch's imprimatur. His hand can be found at the Ibrox, Villa Park, and Craven Cottage. He also designed stands at Stanley Park, Goodison, and White Hart Lane. He also helped in Arsenal's move to Highbury. Thus, the sobriquet of father of football stadia is richly deserved. His contribution is richly captured in Simon Inglis "Engineering Archie."
Soccerblog joins in paying tribute to the Mecca of English football.
Martin Hansson has Blatter rooting for him.Blatter's response to the criticism over the offside goal was "This is a never-ending story. It is not terrible. It is what can happen in football."
Blatter is also promising to run for re- election in June next year.This despite the fact that he will be turning 75."I am still here and I hope I am still there in 2011 -- I have not yet finished my mission," is the bizarre reason he gives for prolonging the agony.
I suppose the only reasonable explanation for him not wanting to hang up his boots is that he can't get the boots off because his feet are in his mouth the whole time.
Sol Campbell is not the only one complaining about referees.
The FIGC (Italian FA) have questioned UEFA on the standard of referees in the Champions League after Fiorentina lost to Bayern Munich to what was clearly an offside goal.
FIGC president Giancarlo Abete had the following to say about the ref's error factor as recorded in the metric system."The error is a bad one because we are talking about meters, not centimeters,"
"There's no two ways about it, it was one of the most calamitous, disastrous goalkeeping performances I have ever seen."
The rest of the article is much more optimistic. And Fabianski gets some encouraging words. So the above quote should be kept in context.
"Hopefully, Fabianski will outgrow this phase and deliver on his promise, for he has the makings of an excellent goalkeeper."
Kind words. We should counsel patience. But the only way he can fulfill his true potential is through regular appearances. His mistakes have proved costly. Does Wenger gamble and bring him on again? A possible loan move?
"It is true that goalkeeping in general this season hasn't been great, but I really think our lack of a top class one has cost us this season, which is a great shame."
A bit darker but in keeping with the realization that once again we have been found wanting. An emotion that most Arsenal fans share.
" Arsene Wenger's protestations rang a little hollow for all who remember Thierry Henry exploiting quickly taken free-kicks to our advantage, although it is fair to say I don't recall any referees actually body-checking defenders to ensure we took full advantage of the ploy."
A bit of history when Arsenal had some opportunists in their midst. But the rest of the post implicates Fabianski and the collective daze of the Arsenal players.
" On the precipice of first-team pre-eminence, he stumbled and fell. It is now a long way back. At many other clubs, he wouldn't be forgiven. Ben Foster has made less high profile mistakes at United and finds himself third in the pecking order and close to the exit door."
Fabianski might be technically as proficient but decisiveness and presence of mind are equally important. In a far less forgiving environment he may have already been escorted out.
As you can see the blog reactions are mixed but Fabianski is getting support from his captain.
Fabregas offering encouragement to the beleaguered no 2 goalkeeper.
"He is strong and we have to be there for him," said Fabregas after the game.
"We haven't seen him because he is doing doping [tests] but we have to be next to him. Sometimes when you are young in a big game, these things happen to you. You can be a little bit down but the team will be 100 per cent behind him and help him in the next game to come back to his best.
"He is a very good keeper. He had his chance today and sometimes it doesn't go your way. It didn't go his way but we will stand up and support him until the end because he is a good character and I am sure he will be back.
"Whenever he has to play, I am sure he will do well."
"If the obsession with Wags represents one thing, it's surely a means of putting women firmly back in their place."
Reading this piece on WAGS, one would think that women's suffrage never happened. Is it the fault of the footballers, the enabling media, or the women themselves? Maybe all of them. But which 9 to 5 job pays that well?
The ex-Arsenal and now Man City enforcer lost no time in stamping his imprint on the Stoke City match or rather Glenn Whelan, whose private parts were probed hard.
Whelan was a bit tongue in cheek after the incident.
"Maybe if I was a bit bigger, then maybe it would have hurt more!"
Vieira meets with the FA's disciplinary committee on Friday and indications are that a three match ban will be imposed.
Welcome back, Patrick!
One can fully sympathize with Fiorentina's frustration at the clearly offside goal that gave Bayern their win. A draw had cruelly been snatched away by ignorant and obtuse officials. It would appear that Tom Hennings Ovrebo wants to remain controversial.
But what to do when a team shoots itself in the foot time and time again? Arsenal is the football equivalent of a Prince Phillip. A gaffe machine that gives endlessly. When do we call an intervention? It has been all season.
An own goal gift by Abou Diaby secures Man Utd a barely deserved win at home. Almunia and Clichy's horror show results in a shameful drubbing at the Emirates in the return encounter. Drogba's Arsenal killer reputation is kept alive by regular attacks of defensive dementia. Against Liverpool we clung on for15 minutes giving the ball away regularly with Steven Gerrard coming dangerously close to an equalizing PK.
This continued against Porto. By now Fabianski's horrific howlers have been discussed and dissected ad nauseum. Wenger's clueless choices in goalkeepers continues. But did you see how Sebastian Varela cut through Gael Clichy as if cheese, the soft creamy sort en route to that cross.
A premonition of sorts occurred before the bizarre sequences of events leading to the second goal as Sagna and Fabianski jawed about a mix up. There was just an absolute breakdown of communication at the back culminating in Sol Campbell and Fabianski's thoughtlessness. This is going to be a comedy classic that will be replayed through the years.
We have had street smart players in the past. Thierry Henry, Roberto Pires, Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira come to mind. Players of undoubted talent but bringing to the pitch a certain level of opportunism. Remember Ryan Giggs quick thinking against Lille while their defenders were organizing the wall. Man Utd and Chelsea still have those players. We just don't have that with this team.
It has been a long series of lapses in concentration, defensive breakdowns, communication failures, and very little forward thinking that surface at inopportune moments. We have mixed the sublime and the ridiculous. And ridiculous reigns right now. We could have won at Porto but it proved to hard to let go of our Keystone Kops shtick. All the opportunities came in the first half as the second half degenerated into a dreary affair.
Having said all that, Arsenal did get an away goal and can return to the Emirates reasonably satisfied. The Porto outing makes Almunia look positively stellar in comparison and we should have him back for the second leg. William Gallas and Andriy Arshavin should return. A 1-0 scoreline in our favour should suffice. But this is Arsenal. We have a way of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Here is a link to Prince Phillip's gems. Politically incorrect and appallingly funny at the same time >>
Lukasz Fabianski produced an abysmal performance between the posts.The second goal Arsenal conceded was a ghastly parody.Fabianski caught a ball passed back to him by Sol Campbell.Porto earned an indirect free-kick for that bit of lunacy.Ruben Micael passed the ball to Falcao who put the ball past Fabianski while he was getting back to to his goal line.The rest of the Arsenal defence didn't get time to get back.Fabregas summed it up as a "schoolboy performance"
Guus Hiddink is moving again.
"The Turkish Football Federation chairman and vice chairman met Mr Hiddink in Amsterdam (Tuesday) and agreed on a deal of four years, of which two years will be optional," read a federation statement.
After June 30th, Hiddink will step down as Russia's national coach to take up his new job as Turkey's new coach. His immediate goal will be that country's qualification to Euro 2012.
Strike his name of Nigeria and Liverpool's wish list.
Milan wasted a huge opportunity last evening.
Maybe it was profligate Milan failing to put away a number of chances in the first 20 minutes, Paul Scholes lucky equalizer, Clarence Seedorf pulling one back, and a Michael Carrick that will not be around to bolster the midfield.
Whatever it is, Leonardo has not given up. A San Siro reversal of sorts at Old Trafford. They have to score 2-0 to win on aggregate. Every other combination below that minimum remains adverse. It's a tall order.
Can this Milan team do it? They went to the Bernabeu and contrary to expectations, recorded a famous victory against Real Madrid in the group stages. Man Utd is on a 25 unbeaten streak at Old Trafford in CL competition. The last team to win was Milan in 2004-2005 when the visitors won, 1-0. So there are some past and present wins on the road that should provide inspiration.
Against Man Utd, Ronaldinho had his way with Rafael and the Milan midfield enjoyed a greater amount of possession in the first half. The inability to finish their chances proved costly otherwise they might have been up by a couple or more goals.
The presence of in form Marco Boriello might have made the difference as Milan's recent lull in scoring coincides with his injury. The former Napoli striker has been the beneficiary of some typical on the money crosses by Beckham. The difference is that he has been very good at finishing off chances. Daniele Bonera and Thiago Silva kept Rooney and Park Ji Sung relatively quiet but for two occasions, Rooney's predatory instincts bested those efforts.
I remember two seasons ago, a superlative Patrice Evra cross headed by Rooney against Arsenal to go one up. The commentators were agog at the striker's newly found aerial ability. He has added that weapon nicely to his arsenal.
Milan's main problem is how to keep up with United's undoubted speed and superior counterattacking abilities and to keep a fading midfield fresh in the second half. It is clear that Pirlo, Beckham, and Ambrosini have difficulties keeping up for a full 90 minutes. Leonardo has to find a creative way of rotating his midfield and finding the conduit to Ronaldinho. Mathieu Flamini should be considered. But thus far he has not found favour with Leonardo.
Sir Alex Ferguson's insistence that Rafael will continue to start in place of the more defensive minded Wes Brown gives an inkling of hope opening up opportunities for Ronaldinho.
But even if everything goes to plan and Ronaldinho's guile and vision finds Pato for a lovely brace and the defense keeps the Man Utd attack on a tight leash what bets that an own goal sinks Milan? Fatalistic yes, but it has been that kind of season for the Red Devils. It adds to their fearsome reputation of never being counted out even when on the ropes.
.... are all out with injuries against Porto. Given that and Arsenal's poor away record in CL matches and this match is ripe for limiting damage. There is no dishonour in doing what Chelsea did against Barca last season in their semi-final first leg. It might be downright pedestrian and even abhorrent given our inclination to attack but in such exigencies, it is the smart thing to do.
Lukacz Fabianski gets his start. Sol Campbell partners Thomas Vermaelen. It is not an enviable situation when you think that they will have to contend with a Porto attack headed by Raul Meirelles and the physical duo of Falcao and Hulk up front. Denilson and Bendtner should find themselves in the line up.
To lift what must be a somewhat demoralized squad, Wenger invoked the 2006 CL run.
"Yes we need to revive that spirit," he admitted. "We need to dig deep and we know that. You do not go to Porto, who have played 10 consecutive years in the Champions League, and get away with an easy game. We need to be special. We cannot turn up in the last 16 with an average game."
A draw would be a fantastic result. Return to the Emirates in three weeks with Gallas, Song, and Arshavin healed for a better chance at a win.
Here is Arseblog's take on the Porto affair >>
Champions League last 16 first leg
Venue: Estadio do Dragao Date: Wednesday 17 February Kick-off: 1945 GMT
As the Marca editorial (In Spanish) makes it clear, Real's goal is nothing less than the CL final.
Their assessment of Manuel Pellegrini is scathing. He is pulled up for not letting Real impose their own terms but playing according to the pace dictated by the opposition. The introduction of Lassana Diarra was also controversial, as it threw the attack off rhythm.
"Both assumptions lead to the conclusion that, six months later, the manager has no plans for Madrid."
It is one thing for the media to jump at Pellegrini faulting him for not delivering, it is another when Fiorentino Perez right hand man, Jorge Valdano minces no words, ""We leave with a bad result and a bad feeling."
Pelligrini needs to devise his own exit strategy. He was skating on thin ice when the club lost to Alcorcon. To be fair, the club was never kind to even winning mangers and in Perez's second era, the weight of the financial millstone would sink even the most accomplished of them.
As Real suffered the ignominy of losing at the Stade de Gerland , there was Kaka spurring on his former club after learning that Milan lost to Man Utd. Did he not get the memo from Fiorentino Perez that their CL title was writ in stone?
"I'm sorry for my teammates, for the fans, but it is not over for Leonardo. The Champions League qualification is decided in two stages. The first one is finished, now they must go to Manchester to play the second half at Old Trafford, even if it is difficult. "
The level of nostalgia that Real players have had for their former clubs is quite astonishing but when you think of how the lag between performance and the talent assembled at the Bernabeu it is not all that surprising. A reminder perhaps that they are just part and parcel of a group of high watted stars assembled for the sole purpose of providing instant gratification. Eons removed from those formative and heady years spent in clubs where they grew to eminence.
It is not just Kaka following his club vicariously but Cristiano Ronaldo looking back with fondness on the days when he wore a Red Devil jersey. Perhaps hinting at more.
"I played there for six years and that's a long time. I am still interested in watching Manchester United and, you never know, maybe in the future I could return to play there. It's always possible."
Karem Benzema's homecoming was spoiled but not before Lyon owner Jean Michael Aulas expressed his concern that the French striker was being marginalized under Manuel Pellegrini.
"He's a bit isolated in the galaxy of Madrid," he said. "He needs a more personal touch from the coach and with his team-mates to gain confidence."
Benzema began his career in OL's youth ranks on his way to becoming the Ligue's most potent striker, helping the club secure five national titles.
With so many players looking back, can Real expect to go forward?
The rumour swirling around is that a famous Premier club is interested in buying a stake in one of the Indian Premier League (IPL) expansion teams.
Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, was quoted in the Times as saying: "There is a football club, a very famous football club in the UK, very interested in bidding.
"[They are] probably one of the most famous football clubs - that's all I can say. Probably top three. They are interested in taking a stake."
When Lalit Modi says one of the most famous clubs, it is not City he is referring to. Top three?
They might have the money but the characterization of the club is all wrong. Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal are all in the top clubs but off them Arsenal with its investment wary board might be reluctant to park money in an IPL franchise. Besides they see China as a more acceptable destination for increasing club exposure. Chelsea is a one owner club whose goal now seems to be recouping the millions of dollars loaned in investment by converting into club equity. He has yet to turn a profit.
Manchester United has a huge following in India and have been very proactive in increasing their India profile but the Glazer's ownership of Man Utd itself is quite an adventure for a low key business family that has taken on more debt and is struggling with an under performing bond issue. Opening a restaurant and earning millions in brand naming without taking on risk is a different story from direct ownership of a club in a sport even more unfamiliar to US businessmen.
Tom Hicks, the more reviled of the two Liverpool owners has long sought an out from his ownership share. With Liverpool proving to be a tough sell in recessionary times, the Texan who has proven to be restless when it comes to buying sporting franchises might be eying the Indian market. The IPL affords all his signature moves.
The IPL in its two years of existence has almost overnight become one of the top brands in sports with a valuation of $1.6 billion. It ranks sixth in the top ten just below the World Cup. The IPL is now the world's hotbed of 20Twenty cricket with investors attracted to its vast potential as a lucrative money spinner.
A nascent sporting brand, high rate of return, a huge fan following of millions, unlimited media exposure and Bollywood star power, and a booming economy. All at very affordable investment levels with little risk. Hicks has been purportedly interested in getting into the Indian cricket business since the explosion in the popularity of the Twenty20 version.
The interest has been reciprocated with Indian companies who own IPL teams or have sponsorship deals linked with a Liverpool buyout. GMR Holdings, the owners of IPL team Delhi Daredevils was in the news reportedly interested in a Liverpool takeover worth £500m last season. More recently Mukesh Ambani, the owner of Mumbai Indians and the 6th wealthiest man in the world, was linked with buying out a 51% stake in Liverpool along with Subrata Roy, owner of Sahara India, a former sponsor of the Indian cricket team.
Hicks is infamous for investing very little money of his own into Liverpool, putting the debt on the club's books and securing loans on its assets. The IPL foray looks like a perfect get rich quick opportunity for an investor not steeped in sporting tradition looking to boost his own personal income. Liverpool ownership is an attractive and recognizable resume builder.
Venue: San Siro Date: Tuesday 16 February Kick-off: 1945 GMT
This is being billed grandiosely as the David Beckham meets his old club and mentor. The former Man Utd midfielder has been lavish in his praise of the present crop of Utd players comparing them to the treble winning 1999 class.
"I think they are as talented as the team back then," said Beckham.
Can Man Utd overcome Milan at home? The short answer, yes.
This is not the same Milan that stunned Man Utd almost three years ago with Kaka in full flow and Ancelotti at the helm. They crushed Man Utd, 3-0 in the second leg to overcome an adverse goal differential to progress to the 2007 CL finals and eventual champions.
The problem with Milan is that they have yet to define their season which has been punctuated by spells of indifference mixed with accomplished wins. They presently ride into the Man Utd after a lull in the Serie just beating Udinese 3-2 after a couple of lackluster draws. The form of Dida like that of Almunia for the Gunners, is of much concern to Milanese fans.
Stopping Wayne Rooney and a very strong counterattacking Man Utd team might prove to be tough task to handle for the veteran Milan defense. The Red Devils will be looking to break their scoreless drought at the San Siro while coach Leonardo will be fighting to preserve that record.
Yey! Score one more for forgiving WAGS.
England can breathe a bit more freely because given their defensive woes piling up at an alarming rate, the last thing they needed was a John Terry playing under a cloud.
Fans give a big hand to Toni Terry, she took one for the team and her country. I am sure we will now see a transformed Terry, a role model off the pitch too.
Not a valentine's day to remember...
Tired of the same old teams making it to the Champions League every year? Long for a bit more competition? Do you want to see Wenger and Benitez sweat a bit more?
The EPL's proposal to introduce playoffs with the fourth to the seventh placed team fighting for the fourth and final spot to the CL has far more merit than the ill conceived 39th match. Not just in match revenue for the smaller clubs but to break the logjam at the top. Its no wonder the big four are crying foul.
The Premiership has been particularly closed to the smaller club representation in the CL. Since the European Cup changed to its present avatar in 1992, the Premiership representation has been restricted to eight clubs.The big four have been joined by Blackburn, Newcastle, Everton, and Leeds. In comparison, the Liga and Bundesliga have been more egalitarian with 12 and 10 clubs respectively, making it to the big dance.
It has been particularly hard for clubs like Aston Villa which won the European championship in 1982. In the 1992 inaugural season of the Premiership, they were runners up to Man Utd. In the present format that would have guaranteed them a spot in the CL but then the pool of English teams allowed were much smaller with only the winner going through. The runners up went to the UEFA Cup, the precursor to the Europa League. Villa again missed out in 1995 when they finished fourth in the standings. Since then their CL challenge and those of others have been virtually snuffed out.
By 2003-2004 the familiar nucleus of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool established their choke hold on the increased CL spots with only Everton breaking up the monotony in 2004-2005. This year, the race for the fourth place is wide open with Liverpool, Spurs, Man City, and Aston Villa all clamoring for the fourth spot. As big clubs continue to stumble against the smaller ones it has led to the widest open Premiership in years. With the additional impetus of playoffs, this can only foster even more intense competition amongst the upper echelons of the Premiership. Would Wenger dare to lower the bar for the Gunners with his recent statements which border on complacence?
We get to see the Didier Drogba's, Wayne Rooney's and Cesc Fabregas's but it seems a travesty that players like Ashley Young, Jermain Defoe, and the recent reincarnation of Louis Saha, in great form against Chelsea could be missed in Europe's top competition as they make do with lower tier opposition. Surely they would love to test their mettle as the Premiership spoilers.
...by scoring two goals against Xerez Real Madrid won the game 3 - 0 and Ronaldo is thinking about going back to Man U already.
Unfortunately it's the Hockey World Cup 2010.The governing body and the hockey equivalent of our own Blatter have taken this eminently sensible decision.
The International Hockey Federation have said that "umpires may refer decisions to the video umpire when they are not convinced that they have taken, or are able to take, the correct decision relating to the awarding or disallowing goals."
And there's little hope for any such evolution in football as long as we have Blatter living in his state of prehistoric happy denial.
The latest batch of 400,000 tickets for the World Cup is now on sale and they are not selling too well apparently.Blatter expressed his worries about ticket sales by saying things like....
"Every year 11 million tourists go to South Africa and nobody says they should not go there," he said. "It's a kind of anti-Africa prejudice. I think there is still in the so-called Old World a feeling that 'why the hell should Africa organise a World Cup'. Colonialists over the past 100 years have gone to Africa and taken out all the best things -- and now they are taking all the best footballers. There's no respect."
Further mind bogglingly profound observations on security for the World Cup and about how wrong it is to imagine that anything like what happened to the Togolese team in Angola could happen in SA can be found here..
The "bad" Nani showed up and was sent off for a mindless two footed tackle on Stiliyan Petrov. He got no support from Sir Alex.
"It was a red card. It was a naive tackle. He is not a malicious player but he has gone in with his foot raised off the ground and we cannot complain about it."
Aston Villa dominated the early phase with Fabian Delph and Ashley Young splitting open the game with their pace down the flanks. They drew first blood when Carlos Cuellar scored through a long, looping header over the 6'5" Van Der Saar.
Man Utd drew level when James Collins deflected Ryan Giggs fierce volley past Friedel for an own goal. After Wayne Rooney, 10 own goals are the highest contributor to Man Utd's scoring.
Nani was sent of soon thereafter and for the next hour or so, United played a man down and came closest to scoring again as Villa failed to capitalize on their numerical advantage. It was left to Brad Friedel to come up with some stunning saves particularly against Michael Carrick and Rooney.
Add David Moyes to the club of managers who have won 300 Premiership matches. It was also his very first win over Chelsea. Landon Donovan continues to impress with his form at Everton. The US will be happy with their chief playmaker getting such invaluable experience which should stand them in good against England in the World Cup. And Moyes will also be particularly pleased with his decision to bring Donovan to Goodison Park.
John Terry looked unfocused and was partially responsible for both of Saha's goals. First failing to stop Saha's nicely timed run to the near post to head the ball home from a Donovan's corner. The winner came when a slack Terry missed the flight of Sylvan Distin's lofted long ball completely with Saha coming up with it and slamming the ball past Petr Cech.
Saha could have had a hattrick but he failed to put away a penalty awarded when Ricardo Carvalho brought down Landon Donovan.
If the last ten minutes of the Liverpool Arsenal match were an IQ test, the Gunners would have scored brain dead.
Did Wenger never teach them how to protect the ball? The classic example was Walcott chasing the ball to the sidelines deep into Pool territory and instead of holding the ball and trying to bang it off a defender for an out, turns and feeds it tamely to Pepe Reina with no Gunner in sight. As it turns out Gerrard gets a last ditch chance to save the match with a free kick that smacked off Fabregas hand, tantalizingly close to being a penalty. You could see Howard Webb mull over that one with the Reds milling around him in protest after the whistle brought the match to a controversial end.
The Gunners needed that bit of luck and Almunia's fingetip save that pushed Babel's rasping shot onto the crossbar to give Wenger his 300th Premiership win and more importantly keep their slim title hopes alive. Abou Diaby scored the winner as he came flying unmarked to head the ball off Rosicky's superbly drilled cross. Bendtner can take some satisfaction in creating that chance as he had the presence of mind to find the Czech midfielder after his shot was blocked by a defender.
The first half saw both teams struggle to establish any rhythm with Arsenal's lack of urgency particularly glaring. Nasri was lost early after receiving a knock which left him looking dazed, Wenger replacing him with Rosicky. Chances were few and far in between, with Bendtner's touch letting him down and Fabregas ending a nice one two with Arshavin with an angled grounder that Reina easily gathered. You were left with a growing unease wondering where the goals were going to come from, if at all. Wenger's looked as frustrated as he has all season.
The second half began with Arsenal finally showing some alacrity and cohesion. The Gunners beginning to threaten the Liverpool goal regularly with Fabregas and Bendtner coming close. The match enjoying some scintillating end to end action. However it was Rosicky flubbing the best chance as his touch deserted him terribly. Minutes later, his shot flashed over a leaping Reina and just above the crossbar before finally making amends with that superb assist.
Gallas stopped Ngog in the tackle of the day, Clichy looked solid, and Song proved adept at disrupting Liverpol's flow with his tackling. Arshavin except for a few flashes, did little to enhance his reputation as Liverpool's tormentor in chief. He looked weary and dispirited. Walcott subbed him but again contributed little. Eboue came off for Sagna to consolidate the defense. Fabregas had an unmemorable game but Diaby came up big on both ends. Almunia who was torn to shreds,against Utd and Chelsea, preserved the win.with that magical save.
With Chelsea losing to Everton and Man Utd forcing a draw against Villa through another lucky own goal the Gunners close the gap. They now need to have an almost perfect record with their remaining matches and Chelsea and Man Utd to lose some to remain in title contention. This win did not just advance their hopes but it lifted their spirits. Catharsis.is very welcome.
11 points. That's how far Arsenal and Manchester United were from Chelsea after the London team beat Arsenal 2-0 in the recent London derby, after tonight's loss to Everton, the gap between Chelsea and Man Utd/Arsenal is 7 points.
Certainly we have seen a pattern - Chelsea struggle against disciplined teams away from home, their 1-0 victory over Man Utd was extremely hard-fought and their loss to Wigan early on the season came when the Wigan side were surprisingly disciplined very well - Everton play rigid football, something Chelsea do; the long balls might destroy free-flowing sides like Arsenal, but against Everton, it is a tactic that Moyes himself knows all to well, thus he can counter it by using an efficient defending system.
Against Arsenal, Chelsea let Arsenal have possession and felt free to soak up the pressure and hit on the counter - this was the opposite in the second half, it was Chelsea doing all the pressure against a team who are very well disciplined, and as Chelsea don't have the creativity of a team such as Barcelona or Arsenal, they failed to break Everton down.
Why did Chelsea lose? A certain amount of factors - Chelsea like to play against teams who are open - Everton are a closed team, Everton have had good form recently and Chelsea do have problems with their ageing defenders at times who are occasion to blunder - Ricardo Carvalho's foul on Saha tonight was an example.
From this we can see that away from home, just like most teams, Chelsea can be beaten. The title race could be wide open if Ancelotti does not address this issue.
Arsene Wenger might have been well served if he had imposed a gag order on himself during this disastrous spell of matches. It has been painful to see the gaffer tying himself into knots in his post match interviews issuing statements high on petulance and self denial. Le Professuer's witty and urbane demeanour has gone down le pissoir.
We now face a Liverpool team which has regained more than a pulse. They may not have Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun but they are carving out wins.
So dear team can we give Wenger his 300th Premiership win so that we can return to the good old days of banter and light heartedness?
Dirk Kuyt seems to have come good with four goals in the last four matches. His industry has always been unquestionable and it now includes a potent finishing touch. Arsenal will have to mark him well. Yes, we've heard that before with Drogba and Rooney to no avail.
Update: We might actually get a real centerforward to start the match. Nicklas Bendtner seems to be working hard on it.
Liverpool will look to target Gael Clichy who seems to provide ocean wide gaps in coverage. And what bets Steven Gerrard will test Manuel Almunia whose confidence hangs by a thread with some long range bombs and set pieces.
The Estádio Milton Corrêa, usually known as Zerão, is a multi-purpose stadium located in Macapá, Brazil. It is used mostly for soccer matches and hosts the home matches of Amapá Clube, Esporte Clube Macapá, Trem Desportivo Clube and Ypiranga Clube.
The more interesting thing about it however is that a player can take the ball all the way from the northern to the southern hemisphere (and vice versa) while playing on the ground.This is because the halfline of the ground coincides with the equator.
If you are planning a quick trip to the ground to see if you can get your name into the Guinness book of records for kicking a ball from one hemisphere to the other the standard advice to all football kicking tourists is to wear a very large hat to keep the vertical rays of the sun off your head.
David Conn provides a nice chronology of events that lead up to Pompey's financial peril.
It all unravelled when Harry Redknapp decided to go on a huge spending spree and assemble a cast of high maintenance players with money through loans made by Sacha Gaydmak, the then owner and various banks. Some of these players like Glen Johnson and Lassana Diarra came from clubs on an IOU. They won the FA Cup in 2008 but the victory turned out to be pyrrhic as the clubs and banks soon came asking for money.
Like CDOs that ruined the financial market, the question now is who picks up Pompey's tab?
Sacha Gaydamak, Pompey's owner who when he decided to sell the club, was unaware that the subsequent owners would all turn out insolvent. The path has grown even more thorny as the fourth owner Balram Chainrai wants nothing more to do with the club other than recoup the £17m that he has loaned the club to cover operational expenses and player wages. Gaydamak is himself owed £33.5m. It is a sordid tale which could have been nipped in the bud if the FA had done its homework well.
Pompey has been granted a nine day stay by the high court in a temporary halt to the winding up proceedins initiated by the British tax authorities.
Barca issues a statement:
"Given the exceptional repercussions created by the stories that have appeared in different media with respect to an agreement with Arsenal FC player Cesc Fabregas, Barca flatly deny that there have been any negotiations or agreements with the player. "
The bigger question is why is this even being debated. At this point Fabregas as good as he is has little chance of displacing Xavi or Iniesta. As a product of Barca's vaunted youth system, I understand the emotional draw but leaving him on the bench does not make too much sense either.
Europe's top clubs owe $6 billion as they fall deeper and deeper in debt. The future promises more pain. The Premiersip carries the lion share of this debt with $4.3 billion.
Portsmouth is close to administration having failed to reach an agreement with the British tax authorities over $11.76 million owed. West Ham's new owners David Gold and David Sullivan face debts of more than $160 million.
Even deep pocketed Man City has lost $150 million since its takeover by Abu Dhabi oil billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan who has invested the staggering sum of $630 million.
It is not just Premiership clubs who face financial hardship. Bayern Munich, respected in the football world as a tightly run ship is planning player wage cuts.and are looking to selling Franck Ribery.
One wonders if Issa Hayatou, the CAF president would have acted in the same arbitrary and high handed manner as he did with Togo if god forbid, the same horrific attack took place against the Cameroonian team during the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations.
There is enough circumstantial evidence that he would not have sanctioned the Cameroonian team. They would have been allowed to withdraw without penalty because of political considerations.
Issa Hayatou comes from a politically well connected Fulani family from the northern region of Cameroon. His brother Seydou Hayatou was a former prime minister of Cameroon under the present president Paul Biya, a Beti.
The Betis from the south have long been mired in a struggle for control of Cameroon with the Fulanis since the 1960s. Both tribes co-existed in an uneasy alliance till 1984 when Biya became the target of a coup attempt attempted by the Northerners backed by the predominantly northern Republican guards in charge of Biya's security. The coup was widely seen as a result of a fallout between Biya and his predecessor, Cameroon's first president Ahmadou Ahidjo, a Fulani. Ahidjo was forced to go into exile The failed coup saw a ethnic cleansing of the north in a gruesome backlash as the Betis consolidated power till the end of the decade.
Only recently since the turn of the millenium, have the Betis reached out to the Fulanis with Biya appointing several ministers from the Fulanis into lower level cabinet positions. Seydou Hayatou is still a powerful politician, most recently stepping down as Director of the Bank of Central African States. He reportedly harbours presidential aspirations.
Given that country's sensitive geo-political situation, an attack on the Cameroonian team would have destabilized the fragile nature of the Beti- Fulani axis with serious repercussions to the Hayatous political ambitions with futher marginalization of the Fulanis. It is a safe bet that Issa Hayatou would have had no words to say to the Biya government if they had decided to withdraw the team.
Michael Ballack says stuff which is hard to dispute.
I think it behooves Wenger to be a bit more respectful of teams who have made beating Arsenal a regular feature. Yes, he was complimentary of Chelsea but what sticks is the "we didn't get a demonstration of football". The media is never going to put a fine point on that. For that matter, no one should.
Mukesh Ambani is sticking to cricket, thank you very much.
The rumours were Reliance and Sahara India were interested in buying out 51% of the stake in Liverpool which would take the heat of the unpopular Tom Hicks and George Gilett, the present owners.
95% of the population in Africa live without any access to electricity or use polluting kerosene lamps. One of the most pressing needs in developing countries is to come up with cheap, clean sources of electricity that are readily available.
Four enterprising Harvard University graduates get together to come up with sOccket.
sOccket is an energy source in the form of a soccer ball that stores and generates ready to use electricity. Every time the ball gets kicked, dribbled or thrown, the energy of the impact is stored in the ball and it can then be used to power light sources or charge a cell phone. The best part is that it uses the energy of millions of children who love soccer. Talk about an activity that builds community and self sufficiency.
In fact, organizations which are trying to turn Somalian children towards soccer as a way of stopping the warlords from recruiting them as soldiers in their internecine conflicts might consider using sOccket as a way of making their cause even more feasible. Add building peace to sOccket's attractive resume.
sOccket's partners in this worthy cause are WhizzKids United, a SA based NGO whose mission is "to deliver effective HIV prevention, care, education, and support to youth worldwide trough the medium of football."
The project is in the prototype stage with constant improvements made to the weight, feel, and movement of the ball. The team just finished a pilot program in the Durban area and are now exploring Nairobi.
More on sOccket >>
Update: Looks like Anish and I are suitably impressed by sOccket to post twice. Hope it gets all the publicity and investments needed to make it a success.
Leo Messi shows why he is a better player than Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and their composite.
Messi's first goal was a classic example of the Magnus effect wickedly bending the ball around a thicket of players. The astounding part was he did it in a split second without vision of the goal. The second goal scored by Xavi was actually all Messi using his left foot exclusively to control the ball as both raced down the field. The symphony of breath taking movements unleashed by Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, and Keita was a pleasure to watch..They remain 5 points ahead of Real in the Liga race..
"You have to congratulate Chelsea. We didn't get a demonstration of football but they were efficient and, at the end of the day, that is what has made the difference."
In Wenger's world efficiency has a dirty connotation. It seems to equate not playing football. But anybody with half a brain could tell you that was Arsenal needed. A bit of efficiency after all that possession. This is not a mythical gold standard. You can be Barcelona who play beautifully and are every bit efficient.
Teams counterattack, win through set pieces, play physical- these are different hallmarks of the game. If they add up to a successful system then that system has to be respected. Chelsea played their strengths and we played ours. In the end they got what they wanted. That is still football, like it or not.
"They have fantastic defenders and I believe many times they were out of position and managed to get back, especially one situation with Nasri in the second half and another with Bendtner."
I remember Nasri managing to steal the ball away with Arsenal in great position to launch a counterattack. Strangely and yet predictably, it devolved into a lateral passing game as no one raced forward giving enough time to Chelsea to fall back in numbers to defend. The moment was lost. With Arshavin a distant dot on the horizon, Walcott in decline, Eduardo injured, Clichy missing a step - that demonstration of glorious counterattacking against Liverpool last season is a distant memory. This was one occasion amongst many in the match when we made their defense look "fantastic." .
What has Hull City got that Arsenal does not?
It took just two strikes by you know who - Didier Drogba to sink Arsenal early in the match. And as was their wont the Arsenal defense went to sleep on both occasions. Song failing to box out Drogba for the first goal after Terry headed the ball down from a Malouda corner.
The defense was then caught in a footrace as Lampard booted the ball downfield which Drogba latched onto muscling his way through Diaby and Clichy and with a clinical finish secured his second goal. It came just as the Gunners were enjoying a fair bit of possession with Arsenal coming close to equalizing through Arshavin.
Drogba has scored 12 goals in 10 matches against the Gunners. It was game, set, and match.
Arsenal are now 9 points behind with 13 games to go. They meet a resurgent Liverpool this Wednesday in a match that might decide the also rans. Winning the Premiership just got beyond reach. And if the Champions League loss to Man Utd is what affected our performance last weekend then there is every reason to presume that in reciprocal fashion, these losses will have a detrimental bearing on our European pretensions too.
Lest I become the nattering nabob of complete negativity, the Gunners did not throw in the towel to their credit. In the second half there was a spell of about 25 minutes where the ball did not leave the Chelsea half as an increasingly assertive Arsenal moved the ball with ease. And the defense stood up to the task of stopping any counterattacks. Critics might interject and say that all that possession led to no result. However when a club goes through a crisis in scoring such as Arsenal in these last four games, it is good to focus on what they did right as a sort of psychological salve.
Unlike against Man Utd, Arsenal looked assured in possession and created a number of chances. At some point it looked like a rope a dope with Chelsea soaking up the pressure and relying on Cech to make some good saves. It was quite enjoyable watching the Chelsea defense looking wobbly but their experience and Arsenal's prediliction of walking the ball into goal made their task easier.
This being Arsenal it seemed no one wanted to take the responsibility of pulling the trigger. Arshavin had the clearest chance after Fabregas floated a beautiful ball but with only Cech to beat the little Russian shot it straight at the Chelsea goalkeeper. It might have been a different story with that equalizer. Diaby and Nasri also came close but their touch and moments of hesitation cost them.
In a tactical move, Wenger decided to start Theo Walcott to back up Sagna in neutralizing Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda. His defensive duties came at the cost of his attacking instincts which meant that the right flank looked inert. Nicklas Bendtner replaced Walcott bringing a bit more variety. He was brought down by Ricardo Carvalho a few feet from the box. Fabregas free kick through a crowd was denied by Petr Cech at the very last moment. Wenger trotted out Emmanuel Eboue and Tomas Rosicky as the final throw of the dice but it amounted to little.
It was left to the woodwork to deny Drogba his hattrick.
The match was also an occasion for the Stamford Bridge faithful to thumb their nose at Fabio Capello's decision to strip John Terry of England's captaincy. Signs proclaiming their support for him were everywhere. For his part, Terry conducted himself as a leader showing no signs of distraction. A big cheer went up when Terry hobbled with a second half injury and with his thigh heavily strapped went about his job manfully. Somehow all this contrived to make Capello look peevish.
As for Wenger, these matches are hopefully telling him something is wrong. We as fans can berate and tantrum all we want. Some of it is throw the baby out with the bathwater stuff which is counter productive but surely by now there must be some sort of self realization.
Manuel Almunia is a giant bundle of nerves. Loss of confidence is contagious. Especially when it comes to an opportunistic club like Chelsea with its veterans who can smell the reek of low self esteem and see muscles turned to jelly a mile away. Wenger has indicated that Fabianski is not yet ready. Not that this really matters since both keepers don't really inspire confidence. Arsenal has to be every bit as vigilant and not give up cheap and easy goals.
1. Limit damage: Get behind the ball, protect the goalkeeper. Give up little space, tackle hard, cut off the passing lanes, disrupt the flow, and deal with set pieces and free kicks by sticking to defensive assignments. That goes for every Arsenal player on every inch of the field.
2. Do without the adventure: A fast and powerful counterattacking team like Chelsea exploits giveaways. The last thing Gallas and Co. want to do is to chase a Didier Drogba who has killed the Gunners. Cut out the attacking junkets addicting every Arsenal defender at present. Leave that to Fabregas and Arshavin.
3. Beware the crosses: Last time around it was Ashley Cole with his devastating crosses that panicked the Arsenal defence. Sagna and Song have to be physical in their marking and disrupt the overlapping Cole and Malouda on Chelsea's active left flank.
4. A 4-4-1-1: I think Wenger needs to give Bendtner a start. He may not be fully fit but if you are to loft long balls and crosses a 6'2" striker has a better chance of getting to them than Andriy Arshavin who should be moved to the slot. Denilson was awful against Man Utd. Time to give Aaron Ramsey a start.
5. Open field shots: Lets not walk the ball into goal. The Chelsea defenders expect it and they will just clog up the middle. Cech has been susceptible to the sudden long range bomb. It might be a good idea to test him.
6. Winning the Premiership: Forget the third place finish happy talk. Wenger might have said other things too in his interview but these are the headlines. Very few go beyond it. He promised in the beginning of the season that Arsenal would win a big trophy. The Premiership is as big as they come. Play the lights out.
In rehearsal at least. The countries await the final verdict on the Euro qualifiers. But Michel Platini thinks that it will be fantastic if it does happen and France decides to play football.
Ever wonder which Premiership clubs are guided by motives other than self interest? Have a long term vision? Show clarity of purpose? Remain engaged with fans and the community? Have ownership that are committed to good stewardship and transparency for their club and football in general?
Forceforgood has developed an index akin to good corporate governance based on these above five areas. Aston Villa, Arsenal, and Wigan are the top three clubs.
Randy Lerner's taekover of Villa has proved to be the best thing for the club and the index gives high scores to his stewardship.
Arsenal gets high marks for its long term vision and clarity of purpose.
" As percentage of turnover the lowest wage bill in Premiership! Prudently refusing to enter the transfer merry-go-round. Invested in youth and stadium, and keep faith with their management. Potential bidding war among new shareholders. Older shareholders had until all recently maintained stewardship with "lock-down" agreement. Debt two thirds of Chelsea or Man Utd but aggravated by property slump."
Wigan gets the same marks as a club that gives "best value for money" to the fans.
Man Utd ranks 13 obtaining poor marks in putting club first, engagement with fans, and passion and commitment. The Glazers high levels of debt are an issue and so is their lackluster engagement with fans.
They are better than their derby counterparts City who rank a place below Sheikh Mansour Al Nahyan's passion and commitment to good stewardship especially in question.
Chelsea come in 15th getting the worst marks out of all the Premier League teams in clarity of purpose with Roman Abramovich's single minded obsession leading to the highest level of debt and a culture of undermining managers.
Liverpool is 19th just one place above bottom of the barrel West Ham which became a victim of Iceland's economic meltdown. The Reds get the worst score in putting club first because the American owners have shown that they are nothing more than carpetbaggers. Surprisingly, Portsmouth which I think has the poorest stewardship or more realistically, none at all is ranked 17th. They rank above Spurs who get poor marks for Daniel Levy's high handedness and inflated transfers.
Martin Hansson,the swedish ref who failed to spot Henry's double handball in France's World Cup qualifier against Ireland will no doubt be watching his hands like a hawk if they come together in any game during the finals.Here's a new trick that Henry can learn from David Villa to fool him again - scoring from behind the goalline.
Seen here chatting with buddy Blatter - no doubt taking tips from him on how to make moronic decisions.More than 10,000 protested in Togo calling Issa "a shame to Africa"
I am really glad to see Jozy Altidore get regular minutes and so must Bob Bradley.
He seems to have worked his way back into Phil Brown's good books after being benched for tardiness.
This comes in the wake of the terrible devastation and loss of life inflicted on Haiti by the earthquake. Altidore was especially affected as his parents come from that country. He still has relatives who proved difficult to locate because communications were cut off. Phil Brown, showing a softer side to his hard nosed image granted him leave on compassionate grounds if Altidore decided to go back and aid in the search.
Altidore maintained his connection with the island nation even before this tragedy, traveling back with singer Wyclef Jean in 2006 on a charity mission with Jean's organization Yele Haiti.
"Without Haiti, I wouldn't even be here and I'm very grateful," Altidore said. "I remember going and seeing the youngest children roaming the streets with nothing to eat, but they still had smiles on their faces, running after footballs, dancing to music.
"To see what I see on TV of devastation is very heartbreaking."
So it is heart warming to see Altidore dedicate his goal to the people of Haiti. He wears an armband that has the flag of Haiti and the USA every time he steps on the pitch.
"I wear it [the wristband] every game, it has the Haitian flag on it and the American flag," he told BBC Sport. "It was really emotional for me because of what's going on in Haiti."
"I dedicate the goal to them and hope they can smile to see one of their own doing well."
if you have not yet contributed and would like to contribute for the first time or like to contribute further- here is Soccerblog's link to the organizations that are helping in the Haitian relief work. They still need help on a massive scale.
Sweet goal from Altidore, his first in 18 appearances for Hull City. The Tigers have proved tough opponents these last two weekends forcing a draw from Chelsea and now a win against Man City. Hull added another from George Boateng before Emmanuel Adebayor closed the gap. Wayne Bridge returned to duty for City and played reasonably well while Patrick Vieira's debut failed to make an impact.
COSATU - Congress of SA Trade Unions have the following objection to Blatter's World Cup strategy...
"The Western Cape is losing jobs as a result of FIFA's actions. It seems that whilst in the rest of the country Fifa and the World Cup related activities are growing the economy, the Western Cape is being prejudiced," the union federation's provincial secretary, Tony Ehrenreich said in a statement.
"The clothes and mascots are being made in sweat shops in China. Traders were excluded from the soccer stadium precinct and the city centre. The companies trying to manufacture local soccer-related merchandise are being taken to court. The beer deals are leading to all beer being foreign and imported, and buses used for the World Cup are being imported, when we could be manufacturing them," he charged.
They have threatened to disrupt the World Cup if steps are not taken .
"When you are fighting with Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa you cannot say that because you finished third it is a disaster."
Wenger's words smack of defeatism. This does not augur well on the eve of the Chelsea encounter. For words like these can be internalized by a young team to mean that matches now have little consequence. We have moved the goalposts from winning the title to now preserving third place. But these are the sort of words that carry over to subsequent seasons - used by players who are being courted by other clubs to inform their decisions.
The sight of Man Utd without their talismanic striker after four seasons, a patchwork defense decimated by injuries with Rio and Nemanja Vidic pairing up barely four times, players flirting with retirement like Giggs and Scholes, and an attack which has seen its share of gold diggers like Berbatov, Owen, and Valencia. Sir Alex might have been forgiven if he spoke those words. But Man Utd even in their darkest moments have managed to pull through by fighting hard and sometimes winning ugly. That is because their coach never gave them any other choice.
The pursuit of trophies might be the least of the worries. What Wenger is doing with these words is discount his own legacy. If he truly believes that the system that he set up at Arsenal with its premium on supremely talented youth was the wave of the future then he is admitting that he has failed. And youngsters are attracted to shiny, new objects like trophies - so why take away their most important motivating factor?
Thierry Henry can hope that Martin Hansson officiates one of France's matches. This time he might be able to get away with a volleyball spike.
Shaibu Amodu has been sacked as expected. The Super Eagles were suffering a crisis of confidence in Amodu and even with their third placed finish in the CAN, looked far from self assured.
Jay Jay Okocha reflects a growing consensus that a foreign coach needs to replace Amodu. To this end Ronnie Shehata with his successful tenure as Pharoahs coach was sounded out about taking over. But the problem may not be Amodu as much as a dysfunctional NFF that interferes with every facet of football including player selection.
Be that as it may, Guus Hiddink has proven exemplary in providing short term shock therapy. So it is natural that he is on top of Nigeria's list to replace Amodu.He is also being courted by Turkey but unlike that country, Nigeria is going to the World Cup. The Super Eagles also have extremely talented players but not neccesarily the work ethic and the defensive intensity. Hiddink has an established reputation in these areas. After Russian complacency cost them a World Cup spot, he might be looking to burnish these credentials elsewhere.
An option is yet another Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof, who coached Nigeria to their 1994 Africa Cup of Nations title and to the second round that year in the World Cup. He now works as a administrator of a Nigerian football academy. Most Nigerians see him as their best coach. But Westerhof seems to have grown wary of the corrupt and sectarian nature of Nigerian football and has refused such calls.
Another candidate is Ghana's former coach Ratomir Dujakovic who took that country to the 2006 World Cup and the second round. Others mentioned are Bruno Metsu who coached Senegal to the 2002 World Cup, former England U-21 manager Peter Taylor, and Bayern Munich's Louis Van Gaal.
The rush to foreign coaches is not unanimous as there are others in the Nigeria camp like Lawrence Orairo who believe that Amodu should have been strengthened by adding assistants like Samson Siaisia and Stephen Keshi.
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By the sheer dint of longevity, Jesse Marsch proves to be an inspiration. Marsch joined the MLS at inception and is one of only two players to have played all 14 seasons. The other is Jaime Moreno, who when he takes the field for DC United this year will be playing in his 15th season.
Marsch announced his retirement yesterday from the MLS to take on his new role assisting Bob Bradley in preparing for this summer's World Cup. In all, Marsch appeared in 321 regular season matches plus 27 playoff appearances winning three league championships and four U.S. Open Cups. He scored 34 goals and had 43 assists and holds the Fire record of most appearances for the club.
The two have a long association, dating back to Marsch's freshman days at Princeton where Bradley was the Tigers coach. He reunited with Bradley who was DC United's assistanct coach when the fledgling MLS came into existence in 1996. He was also Bradley's pick in the Chicago Fire's first season as an expansion team in 1998. Their paths crossed once again when Marsch was traded to Chivas in 2005, the year Bradley took over the club. In all, Marsch
It is safe to say that Bradley's decision to bring Marsch on board stems from those long years in which he got to see his qualities firsthand.
"I have had the opportunity to work with Jesse for many years, and I believe the knowledge and experience he brings will be a great benefit to both the players and the coaching staff," said Bradley
Marsch's reputation as a tough, uncompromising holding midfielder will also be appreciated in a department that the US could do well to improve. Both Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley stand to benefit from his tutelage. Marsch hints that he might be take an active role in training and talking tactics.
"He [Bradley] feels I have certain qualities and can help with the group," Marsch said. "I've already been studying a lot of videotape and going through some different things with the team. There'll be a little of everything, but in the end I think my most important role will just be working with the guys and the staff and continuing to create a good environment every day."
As the iconic picture shows above, there is a chance that Marsch and Beckham might reacquaint themselves this World Cup.
This would take a miracle but there is a slim chance that it might happen.
Ex-Arsenal player Jose Antonio Reyes was amongst the goal scorers. Simao Sabroso got the ball rolling, Reyes followed suit, and Diego Forlan added two penalties to crush Racing Santander in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey semi-final. With such a huge margin to surmount, their entry into the final is almost certain. .
The oldest surviving player of the 1930 World Cup final celebrates his 100th birthday. Happy birthday, Francisco Varallo! The Argentinian
goalkeeper striker still remembers vividly the day Argentina lost to Uruguay in the inaugural World Cup.
"I achieved a lot of nice things in my career: I represented the national team and was Boca's record goalscorer," said the man of the moment. "However, in my whole life I've never felt such a bitter pain as losing that World Cup Final against Uruguay in 1930."
Arshavin is a winger who incidentally happens to score goals. To call him a centerforward is a travesty. And he knows it.
The Arsenal attack demonstrated poor football IQ against Man Utd lobbying long balls Arshavin's direction in a futile endeavour only to see them gobbled up by the taller Carrick, Evans, and Wes Brown. It was one of the more painful sights to behold in that exceedingly painful match.
In context, it also makes clear why Arshavin seems to be under pressure to try and score on his own. If he was part of a 4-3-3, then handing off to Nasri and Fabregas in better scoring positions might have been natural. He seems to be at his scoring best in this formation.
Arsenal's attack is so left - center loaded with Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri, and Fabregas operating this route. There is nothing meaningful down the right. Coupled with an undersized makeshift centerforward, and you virtually telegraph the attack. It makes Wenger's lassitude in the recently concluded transfer period harder to fathom. Hearing a plaer, even one as free spirited and versatile such as Arshavin second guess his manager must be galling. But it is true. Every word of it.
Fidelity 1 Infidelity 0 (on this one occasion)
On the eve of Wayne Bridge's return to Man City, Capello strips Terry from his captaincy.
"After much thought I have made the decision that it will be best for me to take the captaincy away from John Terry," said Capello in a statement.
Rio is set to take the reins. Not an inspirational choice by any stretch of the imagination.
Terry's removal is a bad decision. But I stand by my observation that the squad will turn to him to provide a leadership role no matter what.
Spain came into the UEFA European Futsal Championship after getting through a historic semi final which was historic because it was the first ever goal less knockout game in the history of the tournament.They went on to beat Russia in the inevitable penalty shootout (no body has come up with a better idea of deciding tied games yet so they too had to resort to this historically tried and tested and not wholly satisfactory method).The other finalists Portugal overcame their opponents,Serbia by 5 goals to 1.
Spain went on then to retain their title with a 4 -2 win which incidentally made it a hat trick of futsal titles.
Oye! A moralebooster before the Arsenal match. The CAS is anti Arsenal as we know.
One can't help but wonder if Tiger Woods has helped out John Terry. One has not seen the sort of saturation press coverage in the case of Terry that followed Woods with his serial infidelity. Except for a few voices there has also been a lack of moral outrage in footballing circles. Much of it centers around betraying a team mate, not the extra marital affairs. It's not cool but at the same time not enough to get your knickers in a twist. The reaction following Woods within the hitherto tight lipped golfing community was quite unprecedented.
Partly this might be due to Terry never pretending to be a player with a squeaky clean image whereas Woods was this scholar athlete from Stanford University, a role model revered not just for his golf exploits but for his clean living. His sexploits provides some basis for Revenge of the Nerds sort of comeuppance. Even now there is a sense of disbelief that Woods would be capable of such behaviour.
With Terry we harbour no such illusions. In football, we have always had our George Bests and Fillipo Inzhagis, the lovable rapscallions who play on and off the field. There is also the nature of the sport itself which gives rise to the sexist term WAG, creatures dismissed as little else but consorts, deriving their importance from the men, hiding behind huge sunglasses, unsure of their shelf life, and the target of endless rotating lists which begin "The Hottest Fifty WAGS This Week". Footballers and 86 year old governors who bed multiple women at the same time are worthy of our admiration. Woods was in the wrong profession.
Then there is the big debate as to how important is a captaincy in itself. Terry being stripped of the captaincy does not really prove a message. The armband is purely symbolic. Players will gravitate to Terry even as Capello might nominate someone else captain. In football one can easily find a core of players who provide leadership. It is more important that Terry plays well. Meanwhil, the outrage meter has ticked over and gone back. For that we have to thank Tiger Woods. It also may mean that Terry remains captain.
The Togo government has filed a complaint in a French court against the organizers of the Africa Cup of Nations and the Federation of the Forces for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda-Military Position (FLEC-MP), whose leader Rodrigues Mingas lives in France and is a citizen.
Mingas claimed responsibility for the attack on the Togo squad which killed two their team members and their Angolan bus driver. The attack had unintended consequences. "We did not target Togo, but the Angolan army," he told FRANCE 24 on Monday. "We are fighting for the complete liberation of Cabinda, against Angola's illegal occupation."
The Togo squad pulled out of the competition on the advice of the government and in a cruel and thoughtless decision, CAF banned the team for the next two Cups on the grounds of "political interference". Angola too has launched a protest on the grounds that the French government failed to curtail Mingas activities. The Paris prosecutor's office will conduct a terrorism inquiry examining Mingas role in inciting "acts of terrorism." .
Pompey's revolving door ownership continues to make a mockery of English football's "fit and proper" test.
The new owner has bought out Pompey in order to recover his loans to the club and is looking to get new investors to take over by the beginning of next season. Otherwise he stands to lose £15m to £20m should the club go into administration.
If I was Balram Chainrai, I would approach some of the Indian moneybags like Vijay Mallya or Anil Ambani who have done exceedingly well in this financial downturn. India Inc is humming along very well and the EPL is a top brand sport in India. Well, if Pompey somehow escapes relegation. A huge if.
Jermain Defoe did what he does best. Score goals. It took a third hat trick this season to sink an outstanding Casper Ankergren in goal and a Leeds side that fought back magnificently on a pitch that looked ready for mud wrestling. Spurs move to the 5th round where they face Bolton. But this Leeds squad will look back at their 2009-10 FA Cup campaign with pride having provided the biggest shock in years knocking out Man Utd at home in Sir Alex's quickest exit since his takeover 23 years ago. It was Leeds first win at Old Trafford since 1981.
Akon and Keri Hilson,Torres and Drogba star in a brand new 2010 World Cup anthem called "Oh Africa," The proceeds of the track will be donated to help raise money for underprivileged African youth.
It is gratifying to see Mohamed Zidan who I have always thought highly of as a player mature before your eyes. His pass to Gedo set up Egypt's winning goal against Ghana in the CAN final. Gone it seems are the days of a player who arrogantly refused a national call to play for his country focusing instead on his club career. After which Ronnie Shehata vowed never to play him again.
"Zidan refused to join the team when we needed him most, before the Nations Cup. You can never count on these kind of players."
Here is an interview which shows how much Zidan has changed for the better. He points to the lack of stars in the Pharoah's squad as a reason for their success.
What is the secret behind the success of this Pharaohs team?
A lot of people tend to ask that question, but honestly, there is no secret. I think the most important thing is that we don't really have any big stars in our team. By that, I don't mean we don't have good players, but in our team, we see each other as equal. Everyone is there to work for the team. We have one objective and that is to make Egypt the best. We try and develop ourselves every match and improve.
Something tells me that Balotelli will be next season's biggest signing. Hello, Arsene are you listening?
"He is not doing what I ask of him. In my tactics, players must always defend, even though they have a problem or got injured or even lost their contact lens."
Egypt's fantastic CAN campaign vaulted them from 24th position in December 2009 to the 10th position in FIFA's latest rankings. They earned 237 points in this period.
The recently concluded CAN saw some strong gains for the top African countries. Nigeria was also a big mover skating 7 places from 22nd to 15th position bagging 108 points. Ghana defeated by Egypt in the CAN final earned 76 points to move to 27th position and Gabon moved to 44th position. Cameroon dropped 9 positions to 20th position. Cote D"Ivoire's disappointing campaign saw them fall six places to 22nd position. The banned Togo team moved one spot to 70th position.
The biggest mover upwards was Yemen moving 25 places to 105th position. In the opposite direction, Nicaragua slipped 29 positions to 162nd position. The conflict zones Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan lay in 86th, 172nd and 194th position.
The USA remained in 14th position unchanged from last time. Its World Cup group rivals England retained its 9th spot while Algeria and Slovenia slipped to 31st and 33rd position respectively. Mexico was in the 17th position. Australia ranked 24th, the top Asian zone entry with Japan in 40th position, the second ranked country from that zone.
San Marino, Europe's favourite whipping post registered no points remaining on 203rd position along with Anguilla, Monserrat, American Samoa, and Papua New Guniea.
Spain continued on the top followed by Brazil and Netherlands.
The Top Ten:
Ranking Team Pts +/- Ranking +/- Pts
1 Spain 1627 0 Equal 0
2 Brazil 1568 0 Equal 0
3 Netherlands 1288 0 Equal 0
4 Italy 1209 0 Equal 0
5 Portugal 1176 0 Equal 0
6 Germany 1173 0 Equal 0
7 France 1117 0 Equal 0
8 Argentina 1082 0 Equal -3
9 England 1076 0 Equal 0
10 Egypt 1069 14 Up 237
For the complete FIFA table >>
Danny Butterfield became a Palace legend with a hat trick against Wolves. For a magical moment the club's financial woes lifted as they marched to the 5th round of the FA Cup. Palace is in administration and this win is for all the small clubs who have struggled mightily in these tough times. They earn £400,000 very welcome ones. Congratulations Palace!
Not good. This is the second time that Beasley has had to deal with property being vandalized. Beasley's team mates Allan McGregor, Kevin Thomson, and Kenny Miller have also had their cars damaged or defaced.
Property crime is fairly common in Scotland and although there has been a dip, the first in 30 years the rates are still higher than other developed countries. This might be a simple case of vandalism. But this is Scotland. Beasley is also part of the Rangers, which means the crime committed might have a sectarian tinge. He is also black and his team mate Maurice Edu was racially abused last year by Ranger fans, so there could be that angle too.
From the Financial Times:
The club's first bond issue, launched barely two weeks ago, has become one of the market's worst performers this year.
The bid prices on the sterling denominated bonds (£250m) have plummeted to 93% of face value. The situation is not much better with the dollar denominated part ($425m) which now sits at 94.5% of face value. Analysts are blaming the high prices at launch and the absence of a credit rating for the poor showing.
However Wayne Rooney may not have to give up the killing that he made on financing Avatar yet because the club has managed to secure the £500m ($798m) funding needed to refinance its bank debt.
I have a feeling Fabio Capello is in close consultation with Carlo Ancelotti regarding John Terry. If so, this is a refreshing change from the history of bad blood which began when Ancelotti was a player in Capello's Milan squad.
Terry is being given enough slack by his manager to straighten out his personal life. If he and his wife Toni Poole can attain some closure then the moral recriminations will fade. There appears to be a consensus in the England camp that Terry is just too invaluable as a leader to be thrown under the bus. I think Capello will monitor those developments with input from Ancelotti to gauge Terry's level of imvolvement in the club. Friday is when Terry meets with Capello to decide whether he gets to keep the captaincy. .
Celtic failed to get the expected lift from Robbie Keane's induction as they fall to Kilmarnock. Their £68,000 a week signing failed in three attempts to score. It was Chris Maguire signed yesterday from Aberdeen having a dream debut and scoring the winner for Kilmarnock in the 53rd minute. For Tony Mowbray, the gap between the club and the league leading Rangers widened to 10 points. .
Chelsea springs a leak in its hull. The smaller clubs have made this year's title race a fascinating one to watch. So much so that Arsenal blown out of the water against Man Utd this weekend still has a pulse.
Wenger should be running tape on Stephen Hunt's battling qualities as Notts County beat Wigan in the FA Cup today to enter the 5th round as preparation for the Gunners trip to Stamford Bridge. We will post up the video of that amazing win as soon as we can get it. .. .
From the Independent (via Goal.com):
The broadsheet claims that the Turin side's president Jean-Claude Blanc is keen to reach an agreement and has: "...already fixed everything with [Rafael] Benitez and has in his drawer a detailed agreement of his terms and length of contract."
Note the contradiction. "Is keen to reach an agreement" is different from "already fixed everything with Benitez". The first one is a wish, the second one a done and dusted statement. Which is it? Does Rafa keep a copy of that agreement in his drawer?
Lets face it - who takes his spot? Ciro Ferrara? This is not facetious. There is a dearth of quality managers. Rafa has already signed a five year contract with Liverpool last year and to all purposes has shot down the Juve move.
I think the larger question is does Rafa get the funds for player transfers at Liverpool? The club is negotiating with outside investors to raise £100m to pay down the debt. If that happens, then RBS will issue a long term loan which could see the club steady its precarious financial situation. It might mean more funds secured towards players that the club will need next season.
However as this article shows, there is a feeling amongst most supporters that it might not be the debt that is the sticking point but the ownership itself. As long as Messrs Tom Hicks and George Gillett remain the owners, the chances of RBS acceding to new terms are slim. If that is the case, then the transfer money is predicated on whether the club changes hands because the owners have stopped putting any meaningful amounts of money themselves. I think if that does happen, then Rafa will get his wish list. At this stage a month ago, Liverpool were given up for dead but they have fought back to striking distance of a CL spot and the Rafa bashing has largely stopped. .
Egypt beat Ghana, 1-0 as Mohamed Nagy Ismail Afash aka Gedo scored the winning goal to claim their 7th CAN title.
The Pharaohs dominated the individual player category as Ahmed Hassan was selected the player of the 2010 CAN, Essam Al Ahdary was selected as top goalkeeper, and Gedo claimed the top scorer title. There were five Egyptians in the Africa XI. Congratulations Egypt! .
Egypt's success as the most decorated African team comes amidst their generally poor World Cup track record. A bit of a head scratcher.
Richard Williams floats the idea of Wayne Rooney taking over as captain of the England squad should John Terry's sleazy shenanigans cost him the job.
Perhaps Sir Alex might have more of an insight into this matter. He did after all make Patrice Evra captain in Man Utd's moedown of Arsenal. Rooney was virtually unstoppable in the match.
So would you want to burden your best player with responsibilities like decorum?
As for Terry, he has been a bad boy. These off field indescretions might lead to an initial loss of trust amongst team mates. But there is no escaping, on the field he has proven to be a good captain and a natural leader. I think players will coalesce around him. Fabio Capello might want to keep the moral issue separate from the professional equation. His only criterion then becomes if Terry can play distraction free. As for Wayne Bridge, maybe a beer summit can be arranged where the two can talk about testerone, momentary lapses of reason, and forgiveness.
In fact, if examined closely, decorum might be in short supply in most English players. Steven Gerrard would also be a bad choice since he has a penchant for engaging in drunken fisticuffs with bar patrons. Rio Ferdinand also seems to be suffering from a recent impulse control disorder. Terry is the best of the lot.
Robbie Keane capped a day of frenetic transfers as clubs scrambled to sign players to bolster their squads.
He goes to Celtic on loan from Spurs till the end of the season after falling in the depth chart with Harry Redknapp preferring Peter Crouch to partner Jermain Defoe. With Roman Pavlyuchenko and Eidur Gudjohnsen also vying for appearances, Keane would have struggled to find meaningful playing minutes.
For Keane who grew up in Dublin worshipping Celtics, this is a homecoming 29 years in the making.
"It's absolutely fantastic to be here," said Keane, who will wear the Celtic No.7 shirt made famous by legends like Jimmy Johnstone and Henrik Larsson.
"This is a dream for me. It's no secret that I'm a Celtic fan and I always wanted to play for them. I'm coming at a good age. I didn't want to come at 34 when I'm struggling. I feel I can really help the club."
Tony Mowbray is hoping that his presence will electrify their squad. It won't be an easy task as they are 10 points behind Rangers with Hibs and Dundee close behind. Celtics also managed to bag Diomansy Kamara from Fulham. Fans will get to see Keane on the pitch Tuesday against Kilmarnock. He will partner his Republic of Ireland team mate Aiden McGeady.