March 2010 Archives
The percentage of Fabregas not playing was at 60% yesterday afternoon. He missed practice to continue to receive treatment. I do hope that percentage has dropped considerably as Arsene seems to be leaving it very late to make his decision. Till prematch warm up it appears.
It seems an all or none deal. That is either he will start or he won't even play at all.
"We have 19 players in the squad: That means I have considered the possibility of ruling him out completely."
This would be true except Fabregas is not just a player. He is the player. So I am with the hundreds of thousands of Gunner fans who are willing him on to full fitness before the match.
My take on the match is that there is no dishonour losing to a team like Barca and that thought should help in playing our natural brand of attacking and free flowing football. That and not allowing the ball to get within sniffing distance of Messi. It involves throwing juicy rib eye steaks at appropriate intervals. Or maybe the Pied Piper would like to lead all the footballs down a drain.
On a historical evening, Lyon met Bordeaux at the Stade Gerland.
It was Lyon who won the match but an even bigger winner was the French Ligue showcasing the talent of Yoann Gourcuff, Hugo Lloris, Cedric Carrasco, Marouane Chamakh, Lisandro Lopez, Jaroslav Plaisil, Jeremy Toulalan, Jean Makoun, Aly Cissokho, Mathieu Bodmer, Benoit Tremoulinas, Miralem Pjanic, Cesar Delgado, and Michel Bastos. It was an absorbing encounter.
In the 10th minute Michael Ciani failed to deal adequately with Aly Cissokho's long ball allowing Bodmer to center in a cross. Lisandro Lopez flicked it in a flash to put Lyon ahead. Minutes later Bordeaux equalized as Yoann Gourcuff showing some nifty moves stranded Jeremy Toulalan and crossed the ball into the Lyon box where Marouane Chamakh was able to nod past Lloris.
Bordeaux's poor defending was once again at fault when Benoit Tremoulinas failed to clear Miralem Pjanic's cross and it fell to Michel Bastos who made no mistake.
However it was Hugo Lloris who should be considered Lyon's hero as he kept the more powerful and creative Bordeaux attack at bay with Chamakh coming close on a number of occasions only to be denied by some superlative saves by the Lyon goalkeeper.
Lyon added an insurance goal when Matthie Chalme blocked Cissokho's cross with his arm and a penalty was awarded. Lisandro Lopez stepped up coolly and sent the Carrasco the wrong way for his brace.
Bordeaux head back to Stade Chaban- Delmas to await Lyon in the second leg. They were the more creative team enjoying an advantage in possession but an opportunistic Lyon attack and Hugo Lloris in goal pulled off a historical win for Claude Puel's team. Still, all is not lost for Laurent Blanc - Bordeaux's attack is perfectly capable of scoring a number of goals. But he cannot afford any more defensive lapses. On a more encouraging note for Les Girondins, the return leg will be minus Lisandro Lopez and Sydney Govou both out with suspensions.
Jose Mourinho seems to have suffered an attack of real homesickness after visiting Stamford Bridge.
He has had it with Italian football.
"It is a simple situation," said the 47-year-old, who is in his second season with Inter.
"I am happy at Inter, but unhappy with Italian football."
The feeling is mutual according to Mourinho.
"Because I do not like it (Italian football) and because it doesn't like me."
Can't be more blunt than that. He has already decided to boycott the Italian media before and after matches. So which Premiership team is going to extricate him from his misery? From the looks of it, Mourinho seems to be suffering from separation anxiety ever since he left Chelsea.
There is City, Liverpool, and even Man Utd who might solicit his services. And yes, don't discount Chelsea where a more mellowed Roman Abramovich might be willing to let bygones be bygones and bring in the manager who led the club to their only Premiership titles.
It is significant that Mourinho seems to have issued these words on the eve of Inter's CL semi-final match against CSKA Moscow. With Inter the only Serie team in the last eight, these words are essentially not exactly laudatory of the Italian league's future.
Sir Alex on Rooney's injury:
"We'll just have to wait and see how his ankle is tomorrow (Wednesday). Hopefully it's not too serious. He might be doubtful for Saturday (Chelsea) but we don't know for sure."
Rooney left the Allianz Arena walking on crutches wearing a protective boot.
Ankle and foot injuries are not new to Rooney as a few months before the 2006 World Cup he suffered a fracture to the base of the fourth metatarsal. He was able to recover quite quickly because it was an atypical fracture.
A magical finish. The indefatigable Ivica Olic steals the ball away from Patrice Evra in stoppage time and then outruns Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, looks up, and slots the ball coolly past Van Der Saar. He then takes his shirt of in celebration and is booked by referee De Bleekere. On the other end, a worrying sight for Man Utd as Rooney is hobbles off the pitch with an ankle injury.
A summation of the match. Man Utd went ahead after a series of Martin Demichelis blunders in the first minute of play. The Argentinian made a boneheaded tackle on Nani. On the ensuing free kick Demichelis was unable to challenge a surging Wayne Rooney as he lost his footing, leaving the Man Utd striker in perfect position for a stunning volley past Hans Joerg Butt.
Man Utd had gone ahead before the fans had time to settle down. The Allianz Arena quietens down in a flash.
Bayern responded in heartening fashion as Ribery, Pranjic, and Altintop exerted control over the midfield. Gary Neville looked every bit of his 35 years trying to stop a Ribery who slithered his way around the left testing and probing the Utd defense. Nani and Rooney provided Man Utd with their chances as the first half ended quite evenly contested.
The second half began with the Bayern trio energized in the same fashion. Altintop in particular looked very good with his crosses and mazy runs. He was a surprise choice as Louis Van Gaal so far has started him very occasionally. With their choke hold Butt was rarely tested till Vidic's bullet header fortuitously clanged off the crossbar.
However, for all of their possession and initiative it took a shocking handball from Gary Neville who needs to retire for Bayern to set up their equalizer. Ribery's low slung free kick took a deflection of a jumping Rooney and the ball nestled in the net without Van De Saar moving a muscle. Quite stunning.
But not as stunning as Olic's winner about eight minutes later.
A note about Martin Demichelis. He turned things around quite nicely in the second half and was instrumental in nullifying Rooney and Park Ji Sung.
The teams meet again April 7th on OId Trafford with Man Utd with the all important away goal advantage. However, Bayern will visit at full strength getting back Arjen Robben as well as Bastian Schweinsteiger. From what one saw at the Allianz Arena, Bayern was able to successfully stretch the Utd defense going wide. The fullbacks especially Neville looked quite vulnerable. Sir Alex might want to think about a change.
Here's another twist in the tale of a man who has had his fair share of being dogged by controversy.
He was bitten in the face by his own dog.It is quite likely that the dog bit him because it did not approve of Maradona's coaching strategy for the World Cup.Any sensible dog would have done so ages ago.
The fact that it did not bite the hand (of god) that feeds him and rather bit another portion of Maradona's anatomy clearly shows that it was a dog of unusual discernment.
Maradona had to go off to hospital for first aid and things and is now better.The dog in question is supposedly a Shar Pei - which according to dogbreedinfo.com " are intelligent, playful, and devoted dogs which need careful training .The dog's temperament depends on how the owner treats the dog. Dogs who are allowed to believe they are the boss over humans will develop behaviour issues. Dogs who are not taken for daily pack walks will also begin to display a varying degree of issues."
Maradona's Shar Pei definitely had issues because it bit him 3 times .
Stade de Gerland, Lyon
Tuesday, 30 March 2010, 1545 EST
One of these clubs will enter the semi-final. The French Ligue has announced its arrival after providing cut rate top talent to the other leagues for years.
They have decided to take care of their own. Lyon managed to lure Lisandro Lopez and Bordeaux drew back Yoann Gourcuff from AC Milan.
Lyon are missing Francois Clerc and Jean Alain Boumsong while Bordeaux is without captain and holding midfielder Alou Diarra out with a suspension.
Lyon obviously with its Real Madrid win should ride the momentum on its back but Bordeaux have proved to be devastating with Gourcuff's set pieces. This should be a fascinating preview into the contours of a new Europe being shaped with this match.
Uefa Champions League - Bayern Munich v Manchester United
Venue: Allianz Arena Date: Tuesday, 30 March Kick-off: 1545 EST
At his best, Arjen Robben is enough to strike fear into any opposing defense especially when he latches onto the ball at full tilt and smashes it goal bound from any point on the pitch. Perfectly exemplified in the match against Fiorentina.
However, he is might not start the quarterfinal match against Man Utd at the Allianz Arena because of a calf injury. His midfield partner Franck Ribery also has injury concerns. Bastian Schweinsteiger is out with a suspension.
The question is not just of injury but also of momentum. At this delicate juncture the pre-eminent Bundesliga club has badly stumbled in its domestic endeavour losing to Stuttgart over the weekend and previous to that against Eintracht Frankfurt. They have ceded the top spot to Schalke. In the CL they managed to scrape past Fiorentina in less than convincing fashion.
Meanwhile visiting Man Utd comes injury free with Rooney, Van Der Saar, and Ferdinand back in the squad. They are riding a string of victories in the Premiership ahead of the big Chelsea showdown next week. In the CL, they dispatched AC Milan almost contemptuously. Small wonder Sir Alex is feeling good about its chances.
" Strong in the back and strong as a team, and we look very strong now."
Louis Van Gaal is playing up his team's underdog status hoping to lull Man Utd into a sense of complacency.
"Bayern are not yet a top-level team like Manchester but we can achieve that level for a game."
In a sign of how worrisome Rooney is the Bundesliga giants are planning to ditch their man to man marking and guard zonally. Which of course opens up opportunities for the other Man Utd attackers to score.
Hans Joerg Butt will have to be extremely sharp in goal. Without Robben, Bayern also loses out on much needed counterattacking punch. Bayern's attack skews decidedly to the left with Franck Ribery and Philip Lahm putting their attacking instincts to good use to trouble the Man Utd defense. On set pieces Daniel Van Buyten and Anatoli Tymoschuk could play a vital part.
Didier Drogba's CL frustrations continue.
UEFA today decided that Drogba's stamp on Thiago Motta in the Chelsea vs Inter group of 16 match was not accidental.
They have banned him for two matches prospectively and also extended his probationary period to 15 July 2013.
Power to the people. To the masses belong football clubs. At least a part of it.
Or so sayeth Britain's PM whose party face elections in six weeks. He has come up with the utopian proposal to divest football clubs from owners who run clubs like some esoteric financial instrument loading the books with unsustainable debt. Man Utd and Liverpool provide real time examples. Then there is Portsmouth imploding after living beyond their means.
Yes, Gordon Brown is favoured not do well and this could be just a cynical vote grabber. It will also not go well with the free market EPL that chafes at this sort of interventionist government meddling. But lets step aside from that for a moment. This is exactly the sort of reform that will bring back fans who have long soured on the game as clubs drift away from their community's moorings because of disconnected and self centered ownership.
Louis Van Gaal maybe "jealous" of Man Utd but he coaches in a league where the clubs are 51% owned by fans. Or Barca where each supporter gets a share and a vote to decide who runs the club every four years. The English league is the most widely followed league in the world generating huge amounts of revenue but they carry a majority of the European footballing debt making the situation more dire in their instance.
There is no reason why a mixed ownership model will not work. After all it seems that the recent desperate efforts to turn a football club into a cash cow maybe misplaced as it is actually an unsound investment. Their more traditional role was to generate goodwill and comfort within the community. A shift to a fan owned enterprise will bring back to it its original intentions and purpose.
The line graphs above show a clear picture. As the Premiership season heads to its conclusion, the most worrying sign for the Gunners is a drop off in goal scoring.
Earlier, this was not the case as even as they gave away goals, they scored enough to keep their goal differential on par with Man Utd and Chelsea. In the first 20 matches, Arsenal outscored Chelsea and Man Utd, 51 goals to their 45 goals each.
The next 12 matches reversed this trend as Chelsea netted 37 goals, Man Utd maintained their scoring consistency with 31 goals but it is was Arsenal that slipped precipitously with just 23 goals scored. It meant not only fewer goals but more importantly, a shrinking goal differential compared to the other two.
Now, all this would be moot if Arsenal ekes out wins without using the opposing teams for target practice and the other two teams drop points. Indeed Utd drew Villa and then lost to Everton, Chelsea also suffered similarly at the hands of Everton and Man City. With an easier series of matches this was Arsenal's ticket to sneaking up on the Premiership.
However, Chelsea through Florent Malouda and Frank Lampard, shaking off his somnambulism have turned on the screws while Man Utd maintains its admirable scoring equanimity for the final surge. Goal differential could thus become the deciding factor. Scoring a win with plenty of goals becomes imperative.
The Birmingham match was a capsule of the Gunners scoring frustration as there were a number of chances that went begging till Samir Nasri, a very occasional marksman managed to give them uneasy hope after scoring late. It was cruelly snuffed out minutes later by a Kevin Phillips equalizer.
The march to the finale brings it with it clarity. Simply put, teams rely on their front line strikers to step up and deliver. Arsenal's goal scoring has come through a complex committee of players but who comes up with the goods is still a bit of a mystery. At this stage, the scoring swoon does not bode well.
Carlos Tevez scores a hat trick and should find himself back in contention for an Argentina spot. But more importantly, it gives City a shot at finishing fourth and justifying its record spending spree. All the goals came late in the second half after Gay Caldwell was dubiously sent off for a tackle on Tevez. Till then the match was drifting off into a stalemate with Wigan looking quite enterprising in spells.
The first goal was all his as he lays of a pass to Patrick Vieira whose entry splits the City defense. Vladimir Stojkovic, Chris Kirkland's fill in makes a complete mess of a simple collection as he clumsily tries to block the ball which spins away from him and finds both Adebayor and Tevez. As Stojkovic goes to the ground, the Argentinian gets to it first. The Wigan defense protest as they believe Stojkovic was fouled.
The second goal comes from a corner quickly controlled by Garrido who lays a pass into the box deftly flicked on by Kompany to find Tevez at the far post with Stojkovic hopelessly out of position.
The third goal (Video) was all Tevez who skips past a defender and then spots Stojkovic moving to the near post and just before being challenged sweetly places his shot past the Wigan goalie. A very cool finish. And a very forgetful debut for Stojkovic.
City now lie two points behind Spurs in a dogfight for a fourth place with Liverpool sitting right on their haunches setting up a fascinating race to the top four.
An uplifting bit of news for Arsenal before the huge Barca showdown as it appears that Cesc maybe ruled match fit. He sustained a severe knee bruising from a Craig Gardner tackle in the Birmingham match that saw him hobble around in considerable pain.
His return is crucial and becomes even more so as Andres Iniesta will not make the Emirates trip because of a hamstring injury. Iniesta is one of the heads of the many headed Hydra that is Barca's attack. There is Pedro who could take seamlessly take his place. With Messi peaking so spectacularly it would seemingly make no difference who Pep Guardiola chooses.
A further boost to Arsenal as Andriy Arshavin and Abou Diaby have also been cleared for the match.
William Gallas is on the bubble and could be used by Wenger but his first choices will have to be Thomas Vermaelen and Sol Campbell to anchor central defense. Sol should have good memories of the 2006 final in which he gave the Gunners the lead with his header before Henrik Larsson turned it around for the Blaugrana.
The Indian Premier League players are better paid than English Premier League players.This astounding bit of financial analysis is according to the inaugural Annual Review of Global Sports Salaries to be published later this week by sportingintelligence.com.
The IPL ranks as the second highest-paid league (NBA are first) and the calculations are based on first-team salaries on a pro-rata basis whatever that is.More...
Four goals against a hapless Aston Villa yesterday have taken Lampard to new heights and Villa in the other direction.His goal tally for Chelsea went to 151, which is the third highest in Chelsea's history.Only Kerry Dixon (193) and Bobby Tambling (202) have scored more goals for Chelsea than Lampard and a significant difference is that they were both strikers. Lampard has scored 20 goals this season which is no mean feat in itself for a midfielder.Villa went down by 7 goals eventually yesterday.Video till it lasts...
Chelsea vs Aston Villa Highlights (7 1)
Uploaded by bradoliki. - Basketball, baseball, pro wrestling and more sports videos.
The inaugural episode of this event took place in Durban between the15th and 22nd of March.Hosted by Umthombo Street Children, a South African organisation primarily run by former street children, and Durban University of Technology, in partnership with the Ethekwini Municipality, teams from Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe took part in the Deloitte Street Child World Cup.
The kids from the Indian team called the Youth Football Club (YFC) from Rurka Kalan, a small village in Jalandhar (Punjab - India) won - beating Tanzania 1-0 in the finals.
...at the World Cup.That is part of a Pele quote actually."We cannot say that Messi, for example, is to going to be the most outstanding player. He is a great footballer, he's playing extremely well at Barcelona, but when he plays with Argentina he doesn't show the same performance.Cristiano is a wonderful player and Robinho has improved his form and both have chances of being one of the great figures of the finals."
Well much as I admire Pele and everything here's once I'm hoping Messi proves him wrong.It wouldn't be the first time he was wrong anyway.Here are 10 predictions of his that didn't quite pan out the way he thought they would.
Meanwhile here is C Ron doing a bit of shining.He scored two in Real Madrid's 4 -2 win over Getafe.
The 5 - 0 win over Portsmouth is not really a good indication of the form the Blues are in.Chelsea had more than their fair share of luck and Portsmouth,for most of the game,were merely going through the motions.
And elsewhere Manchester City's fourth place ambitions were left unfulfilled because of goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta for Everton.
And Robinho is also telling Neymar these days to stay away from Man CIty...and Chelsea too while he's at it.
Torres had given Liverpool the lead but Javier Mascherano kind of helped Wayne Rooney to equalise in controversial fashion. He tucked home the rebound from a penalty given for a Mascherano foul on Antonio Valencia which had started outside the area.Park Ji-sung headed home the winner a bit later when he burst through the crowd to kill a super cross from Fletcher.
Blatter's chances of being re-elected unopposed for a fourth term in office were further enhanced by FIFA's financial results for 2009, which showed turnover topping $1bn for the first time, with reserves of a similar level. Fifa's results for 2009 showed revenue was $1.059bn 18% of which is profit.
Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres set about Lille's destruction. Giving Liverpool fans something else to talk about other than Albert Riera's bad hair day.
Meanwhile, ahead of the Liverpool weekend match, Sir Alex has been working the FA calling the disciplinary committee a "dysfunctional unit" following their decision not to punish Gerrard for throwing an elbow against Michael Brown in the Portsmouth match. The old dog is back to his old tricks after being quiet for a bit.
"We respect what Barcelona have done but competition is about what you do tomorrow," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
"I believe what is important is that on the day everyone sees a good game and we win it.
"We are focused on us, not our opponents. In the quarter-finals you are bound to meet a good team and Barca are a good team."
At the Camp Nou end, Gerard Pique, Cesc's La Masia compatriot warned that, "All the attention will be on Cesc, we are friends but on the field there is no friendship, we will each defend our own."
"It will be a great game and I think people will enjoy it because we both have a similar style. For us it is better that they not only defend but also attack and want to score goals."
William Gallas may have a Baker's Cyst.
From Wenger's description, the defender does not appear to have a straightforward calf strain. There is fluid accumulation that is putting pressure on his calf muscles which seems suspiciously like the complication from a Baker's cyst rupturing. These cysts are the possible sequelae to a history of knee ligament and meniscal injuries.
Whatever the cause, It looks like Gallas will be out for the next 4-5 weeks. If that happens then he will not be available for the CL quarterfinals against Barca.
The injury complicates contract talks. Gallas wants a two year deal which is contrary to Wenger's usual offer of a one year contract as a matter of policy to players over 30 years. The only way out for Gallas is to take a hefty wage cut. An injury might be additional leverage but then at this crucial stage why expose Sol Campbell?
The good news is that Cesc and Tomas Rosicky have been declared fit and they will see action in the weekend against the Hammers. Alexander Song is back from his two match suspension. So we have our midfield back.
As a Gunner supporter, one could not have asked for a tougher opponent barring Man Utd. As a lover of football, this sets up one delicious quarterfinal.
The match will see Thierry Henry re-uniting with his old team. Barca, I dare say is probably about twice as potent as the 2006 team that won the CL final against the Gunners. Messi is at the top of his game.
We can expect an encounter full of fluent and attacking football of the highest quality, by practitioners who presently hold the patent to the beautiful game.
Bayern faces Man Utd, Lyon will go up against fellow Ligue rival Bordeaux, and CSKA plays the new Cinderella, Inter.
The Juve tifosi are an unhappy lot who have vented their anger on a frustrating season on a whole host of people like Jean Claude Blanc, Juve's owner and director of football operations Alessio Sacco.
On the pitch, the players made easier targets. Especially the ones with darker skin. Jonathan Zebina and Felipe Melo were subjected to racist taunts by a handful of Juve supporters throughout the match. When Zebina exited the pitch after receiving his red card he showed them the finger.
Afterwards, he apologized for the gesture but he also said that it was to show his displeasure at thirty thugs and racists who he accused of traveling to England "just to chant these things."
"I'm tired of this situation and the fans need to stop."
The incident continues a disturbing trend at Juventus. In April 2009, Juve had to play a closed door match to Lecce after being sanctioned for fans hurling racial abuse at Mario Balotelli. They were further fined €20,000 on two separate occasions for singing:
"If you jump up and down Balotelli will die."
In a match against Catania last December, Juve fans once again targeted Balotelli singing, "There are no black Italians."
After the April sanction, Juve president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli said:
"Together we must all try to promote a sporting culture that puts respect for the adversary at its core and fights against racism."
We have to remind him again. Start with your club.
A touch of absolute brilliance. A moment that ensures Clint Dempsey's place in Fulham's history. It is not enough to say that he kept their Europa dream alive, it is the way he did it.
The awareness that Chimenti had strayed out of position and then the precision of his delicate chip as it drifted lazily over the goalkeeper who just had to watch helplessly as the ball fell into the net.
"Just one of the great Fulham moments."
The Deuce has been accused of sleep walking in many matches but every once in a while, there are these reminders of supreme talent. Can we say that England might feel a bit of trepidation seeing this?
Fulham's magnificent victory capped what must be a schizophrenic week for the Serie clubs.
Just as the dust from Inter's momentous win over Chelsea had settled, the Italians were treated to the sight of one of their most storied clubs come apart at the seams, as Juve capitulated to the Cottagers.
What has happened to Fabio Cannavaro? The four years from the pinnacle of FIFA's world player to the nadir of a red card at Craven Cottage is a histogram of a player's slow decline. Today, it was a free fall.
Cannavaro was brushed aside contemptuously by Bobby Zamora for Fulham's equalizer in the 9th minute. The big forward drove home past Chimenti after controlling Paul Konchesky's cross with his chest. The Italy's captain nightmarish venture ended when he brought down Zoltan Gera in the 27th minute and was sent off by Bjorn Kuipers.
Alberto Zaccheroni might have a case that the punishment far exceeded the crime. But one can argue that Cannavaro could not have dented Fulham's drive had he remained on the pitch.
For Juve, their Europa euphoria is over and they have reached a dead end in the Serie. It has been a frustrating season after they looked the best bet to challenge Inter for the Scudetto.
After the match, Zaccheroni said:
"Unfortunately, this team can not find stability."
Antonio Chimenti, the 39 year old third choice goalkeeper was used adding context to these words of fatalism.
Roy Hodgson on Fulham's 4 - 1 victory over Juventus."We should just do a Rocky Marciano and retire now because it's not going to get any better than this.This must come close to the greatest night of the club's history. On a personal note, I am not sure I can recall such a recovery. I am on top of the world."
Christian's post on the epic poem on Beckham's heel took me on a google search for more football poetry.
Here are some of the things that turned up..
Pretty good huh ?
There's a whole bunch of poems here and here's one for Chelsea fans after the Inter debacle .It's called "Someone called Jose strikes again " ..... here..
Looks like a player strike is imminent barring a last minute deal. Free agency and guaranteed player contracts continue to be the sticking points.
The MLS players are standing firm. Kasey Keller:
"I understand where the league was coming from five, 10 years ago when it was up against the wall if we were going to still have a league," Keller said. "That's now no longer the case and some of the things they were able to get away with just can't happen anymore."
This season's highlights would include the Red Bulls moving to their $200 million new home and the new franchise Philadelphia Union.
Rubbishes Rafa's man management skills.
The Spanish winger nurses World Cup ambitions and his lack of playing time at Liverpool are hurting those chances big time.
Chalk down Riera as another wasted and expensive Rafa transfer. It's quite a list.
"Arsenal are a team to consider because of their fantastic build-up play. They are like us at Barca in so many ways. Rather than being from London, they should be from South America. Andrei Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas are touch-players I love to watch."
He also mentions Man Utd but leaves the glowing description for the Gunners.
The hedge fund is amongst the top ten performers with over $20 billion in assets. It is managed by Jon Aisbitt, an ex Goldman Sachs partner.
The MAN Group was founded by James Man in 1783, a barrel maker who won the contract to supply the Royal Navy with rum. On July 31st, 1970 the Royal Navy abolished the supply of rum which kept its officers and sailors inebriated throughout the Battle of Trafalgar and Jutland. They were saved by an equally sozzled enemy. By then Man's business had diversified into one of the world's largest investment companies.
The hedge fund also sponsors the Man Booker prize which went last year to Hilary Mantel for her novel "Wolf Hall." The year before it went to Arvind Adiga for "The White Tiger", which in my opinion is the definitive account of the two India's that co-exist today.
MAN Manchester United sounds quite acceptable. I look forward to Pusser's being served to the players especially when they play Arsenal.
Carlo Ancelotti gone from Stamford Bridge. 10... 9... 8....7....6 .....
In certain gloomy fan forums David Moyes is being touted. David Moyes? In other more optimistic circles, Fernando Torres is being courted after the striker came out with the statement that his tenure at Liverpool would be conditional, based on who the club decides to buy in the summer.
Whatever the spin, it is clear that Ancelotti is on an endangered species list. Bitchelotti. The yapmeisters are full of it.
What galls the Stamford Bridge faithful is that the manager who led them to unprecedented heights came to their house and kicked them in their posterior. Doing it without ruffling his hair or his panache. Meanwhile, Abramovich has stiffened up, changing his blank cheques into club equity, making profitability a prerequisite.
The heydays are gone when Stamford Bridge could gather around gladiator style to see their latest high powered acquisitions tearing a chunk out from the opposition. And then watch the mortally wounded gyrate in their death throes.
Left in place is a Milan style aged squad who got caught out. Deja vu? Carlo Ancelotti does not even have a Pato as redemption. Meanwhile, Chelsea fans can't get enough of Malouda while Anelka and Lampard seem to be playing on egg shells. And still others could audition for Caligula. Sound Roman enough?
Arsenal target Marouane Chamakh made sure that Bordeaux joined Lyon as the second French league side in the CL last eight.
It was not easy as Bordeaux suffered a Konstantinos Mitroglou equalizer and a horrendous Alou Diarra tackle that saw their captain receiving his marching orders. It sparked off a dominant second half performance by the Greek club as they searched for a second goal to progress to the last eight. But Antonios Nikopolidis whiffed on a Tremoulinas cross and Chamakh was in perfect position to launch himself forward for his winning header.
Earlier, Yoann Gourcuff launched lightning bolts from the left, one which beat Nikolipidis all ends up for the early Bordeaux lead. It was all going to Laurent Blanc's plan as promised with Les Girondins on the attack instead of trying to defend a 1-0 first leg lead.
A note here for Arsenal fans about Chamakh. He is a bit Jekyll and Hyde. He does show a penchant for selfless play (good), a heavy touch (bad), a powerful aerial presence (good). In sum, he is not any better than Bendtner which cannot be comforting. Wenger would be advised to continue to cast his eye around.
Lionel Messi we bow once again! We have lost count of your superlative performances. Following on the heels of his Valencia virtuoso, the Argentinian was at his best as stuttering Stuttgart lost its voice altogether against his onslaught. Stuttgart dared to hope after the first leg. Oh! How appearances deceive.
Christian Gross must be comforted by Karl Heinz Rummenigge to convince the Stuttgart coach that there is life after such utter destruction. Bayern was bludgeoned by Barca in similar fashion last season. Yet here they are wondering with bated breath as with every other club. Who gets Barca in the Friday draw?
But before we conclude that this was the Leo Messi show, lets point to some of Stuttgart's own failings that hastened their doom. Jens Lehmann was just awful. The former Arsenal goalie's decision making was piss poor. He spent most of his time getting caught out of position and making shoddily timed dives.
The first goal saw four defenders collapse around Messi and yet none showed the awareness of a Maicon or a Samuel launching themselves horizontally to actually block shots. Especially with the ball on his shooting foot. Similarly, Lehmann was caught charging Toure after Messi's superb pass isolated the Cote D'Ivoirian and Pedro found an empty goal to finish off. Dani Alves superb flick found Messi and Lehmann once again showed poor timing in his dive. Zlatan Ibrahimovic slipped the ball to a streaking Bojan Krkic and Lehmann's half hearted charge found acres of space to slip the ball into goal.
Barca would have won but lets put it this way, they could not have found a better ally in Lehmann and the Stuttgart defense.
And if he's really sorry as he claimed to be he should play out his days in the League of Ireland..
A big blow for the Blaugrana on the eve of their CL second leg against Stuttgart.
Midfield maestro Xavi injured his calf muscle during training and will be out for 2 weeks.
With the match delicately poised at 1-1 and the Sevilla defeat putting pressure on them as the only flag bearer of La Liga. This CL campaign has seen the demise of four of the five past champions. Xavi's absence could hurt them as he has been their best ball distributor.
Barca has problems of continuity. One day sublime, the next, desultory. They are also in danger of becoming a one trick pony with their fortunes centered around Messi. Guardiola will see hope in Thierry Henry having a breakout performance against Valencia. Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be back providing a big target for Barca's aerial game.
Seydou Keita just received his medical clearance and should be the first choice to pair up with Busquets. Carlos Puyol should be back to bolster the defence.
Barca have to watch out for an old Arsenal hand in Aliksiandr Hleb who set up Cacau's goal. This will be the Stuttgart game plan with criss crossing wing play and a rain of crosses into the box to catch out some of the slower members of the Barca defense.
All in all, a promise of a fascinating match at the Camp Nou with the German team having a good chance as any in this CL season of David upsetting Goliath.
Seems like Andriy Arshavin has been moonlighting as an internet Deepak Chopra. His advise appears as free ranging as his pitch performances.
Here is Arshavin defending John Terry's actions. It is football's equivalent of Emile Zola's eloquent "J' accuse."
I also think Arshavin's Orwellian nightmare of tabloids inserting cameras in the pants of footballers to fulfill a prurient interest was just a step removed from the recent spy-gate. Kind of prophetic.
All this makes Arshavin a fascinating character. Footballers with wide ranging interests? Rio Ferdinand is another.
An 18 year old Ajax prospect from the windy Danish city of Middelfart is on Wenger's radar. Christian Eriksen has been described by coach Martin Jol as the next Wesley Sneijder or Rafael Van Der Vaart. Some early comparisons include Danish great Michael Laudrup.
"I have to be very wrong if this player will not become a good, a very good or a top player," Jol has said.
Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp, now a youth coach at Ajax has provided Wenger the ears on the ground. His scouting reports have been glowing.
A note here. This appears odd because of the potential conflict of interest. An ex- Arsenal player, the serving coach of a team reputed for providing world class talent is dishing out reports to a manager reputed the world over for nurturing said talent. Can we say mole? Anyways, can't complain if it ensures Arsenal a supply of quality talent for aeons.
Eriksen is on a low paid youth team deal and his contract is set to expire next year.
Whatever the situation, the Dutch club has sounded action stations to ward of the threats of poaching and is now offering Eriksen a 5 year contract that should keep him at the club till 2015. That way they can negotiate a good price should Arsenal or Chelsea come knocking. The attacking midfielder debuted for the senior squad in January and has made regular appearances since then.
Here is a clip of Eriksen playing Vitesse. Looks very good.
Chelsea's European ambitions are snuffed out. Inter was the better team over both legs. Afterwards, Mourinho hailed an "almost perfect" Inter.
Inter 1 Chelsea 0 (Inter advances to the CL QFs on a 3-1 aggregate)
Chelsea's composure was rocked by an Inter defense that harried, hustled, and pummeled their way through. And when that did not work, resorted to cold calculated histrionics.
The master was Thiago Motta who was probably given the singular task of destroying Didier Drogba. At least it appeared that way. Two pieces of flawless acting, the first that led to a yellow card put Drogba on notice.
The shackled Cote D'Ivoiran became less of a factor. No doubt the ghosts of CLs past playing a part. In the 86th minute, Motta wrestled Drogba down. While getting up Drogba seemed to stamp on Motta, whether the contact was deliberate or not is debatable. But Motta's reaction was instantaneous, he rolled around like a pole axed steer. Wolfgang Stark seemed to have no hesitation immediately summoning Drogba and pulling out the red. Another CL match ending in ignominy.
In retrospect, Wesley Sneijder's pass leading to a beautifully executed Samuel Eto'o goal was a bonus. The match was won by Lucio, Maicon, Samuel, and Zanetti. The steel trap was complete with the addition of Cambiasso and Motta. I think Chelsea were afforded a maximum of three chances. On the other end, a genuine play maker like Sneijder with his ability to pick out strikers with his precision passes and crosses gave Inter the attacking edge. The Dutchman, a Real reject has added that essential dimension missing in the club's European endeavours.
Samuel Eto'o, the runner up to Drogba, the African footballer of the year must have felt a modicum of vindication after scoring that goal.
Jose Mourinho preserved his perfect record at Stamford Bridge. Only thing it was the wrong team. On this day, the Special One was indeed special.
Achilles (for David Beckham)
by Carol Ann Duffy
Myth's river- where his mother dipped him, fished him, a slippery golden boyflowed on, his name on its lips. Without him, it was prophesised,
they would not take Troy.
Women hid him, concealed him in girls' sarongs; days of sweetmeats, spices, silver songs...
but when Odysseus came,
with an athlete's build, a sword and a shield, he followed him to the battlefield, the crowd's roar,
and it was sport, not war,
his charmed foot on the ball...
but then his heel, his heel, his heel...
Carol Ann Duffy: Why I was inspired to write a special poem to David Beckham
"The public aspect of some lives provides a narrative, a story, for the rest of us to follow. We speak of 'living the dream', a 'fairytale existence' of 'legends' and of 'heroes'.
"Like Greek Myths, such public lives can contain triumph and tragedy and in a way we all learn from them, as we do from Ovid, or the Brothers Grimm, or Shakespeare.
"The narrative of David Beckham's public life is, I'm sure, far from over... but this poem is written in sympathy for this part of his story and to draw a parallel with Achilles, who gave his name to Beckham's injury."
Well, is it time to have a poetry contest on SoccerBlog?
Sevilla meet CSKA Moscow in their second leg. The first leg tied, 1-1.
Alvaro Negredo scored for Sevilla while Mark Gonzalez in an unbelievable blast leveled the score for CSKA.
Jesus Navas continues to position himself for national duty and as a huge transfer target in the off season.
Manolo Jimenez is proud that Sevilla represents Spain. This being Spain, the primary reference becomes the region. In this case Andalusia. It is a historic match for Sevilla and Andalusia. They have a chance to enter the pantheon of Europe's elite.
Real want Rooney, Ribery, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, your wife, and your children. And Kim Jong Il.
Take a look at Marca.
The tormentone refuses to go away.
A continuation of the media fascination with Antonio Cassano. Who is supremely talented but does not fit in with Marcelo Lippi's gruppo. He is too much of a prima donna.
It's the same with Mario Balotelli. Lippi is adamant that the Inter striker needs to mature before he is considered for the national squad. It has nothing to do with race.
So will he, won't he?
In the end, Lippi will leave them both at home.
Champions League last 16 second leg: Chelsea v Inter Milan
Venue: Stamford Bridge Date: Tuesday, 16 March Kick-off: 1945 GMT
Mario Balotelli has been left at home.
But the Inter coach would not talk about the reasons for leaving the striker behind other than cursorily dismissing it as a "tactical choice."
He did however name seven starters: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Javier Zanetti, Wesley Sneijder, and Diego Milito. He could also give Samuel Eto'o a start over Goran Pandev; Ivan Cordoba possibly taking over at left back. In midfield Thiago Motta, an enforcer might be preferred over the more finesse Stankovic.
With Mourinho, the id is never far behind. Which makes him extremely quotable. He regrets not leaving Stamford Bridge on his own terms. The timing was off.
"I would have left the day after the FA Cup final at the end of that third season."
With Avram Grant's appointment as technical director and John Terry's alarm that the gaffer was trying to push him out, Jose Mourinho's relationship with Abramovich and Peter Kenyon had fractured beyond repair in the off season. Abramovich by then had shifted his emphasis to developing youth talent, an area that was neglected by Mourinho.
Since his departure, the club has not won the Premiership whereas Inter has won four Scudettos in a row. A point he referenced in a sly way:
"I keep winning important things. They keep winning something - I think they won the FA Cup," he said.
Even as he insists he has moved on, there appears a nonplussed note when talking of his departure.
"When I watch the Premiership, I see all my old rivals, Ferguson, Wenger, and Benitez, are still there. I had done more than enough to be there."
A bit of hubris crops up.
"At the end of the game I will be 'the Special One' win or lose."
This being Mourinho, he is mercurial and ambitious.
"I have three things to do in my career. One thing is to get back to English football, another thing is to win the Spanish championship, because nobody has won the Italian, English and Spanish championships.
"And another thing, when I'm old, is to coach my national team."
Mourinho never lived under a rock. The sparks used to fly when the big four met up. Now it seems a bit tame.
"When the best player in the world has his day, he is difficult to stop."
A tribute from a player who is not so bad himself. Villa could only look on helplessly as his team Valencia was crushed by Messi.
Rob Smyth tells the media to get a grip. Rightly so.
Beckham would have been a minor player. Even fully fit, he would have been an afterthought in Capello's scheme. But he is now officially the England mascot. It took a tendon rupture to figure that out.
The obsession with Beckham actually borders on the insulting. There are far more serious problems with where Rooney is going to get service. Capello's first choice- Aaron Lennon is two months away from full fitness. The other two candidates have desirable facets to their game but Theo Walcott's delivery remains his weakest link undoing all that monstrous pace and Shaun Wright Phillips could dribble all he wants and not release the ball.
Adam Johnson would have more of a shot. His performance this weekend should put him as a firm contender.
The 22 year old player produced a sublime goal to give Man City a draw against Sunderland after Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz, and Gareth Barry failed in their efforts. Their attack crystallized after he came on as a substitute and the match turned out to be an engrossing affair between two of the brightest talents on display in English football: Sunderland's Craig Gordon in goal and Johnson.
The match burst into animation with these two protagonists. And Johnson proved virtually unstoppable slicing his way past the Sunderland defense as Gordon came away with save after save. It took a quality goal (video) to finally breach the citadel. Few goalkeepers could have kept that out.
"That was thoughtful. He knew what he wanted to do and he did it perfectly. Well done Johnson, you added a bit of quality to a pale blue City side today."
Execution meet Adam Johnson.
If the Rhone Group buys out a controlling interest in Liverpool then expect Nikolas Sarkozy at Anfield. Silvio Berlusconi. Jose Maria Aznar. Rudolph Giuliani. George Bush. The American Enterprise Institute. The who is who of the far right in Europe and the USA. Not exactly a crowd that is friendly with Supporters Direct.
When he is not busy making money, Robert F Agostinelli, the co-founder of the Rhone Group is busy writing letters that rail against Left Bank idealism and Islamo-fascism. He is a big donor to Republican and neo-conservative causes. And he has politically powerful friends like the ones mentioned above.
"Sarko" is a focused, energetic leader, with a strong sense both of himself and of France's destiny. His urgency and forthrightness have struck a deep chord with the French people. He has awakened their long-dormant optimism with a simple recipe for national revival: provide opportunity for all, reward hard work, and reaffirm the rule of law."
Nikolas Sarkozy's trip to the USA in 2006 was paid by Agostinelli, whose former wife Mathilde is a close friend of Sarkozy's ex- wife Cecilia. That friendship endured after the couple divorced and Sarkozy married Carla Bruni. At that time Sarkozy was the Interior Minister. There is an interesting story of how these connections helped extradite a fugitive, a descendant of George Washington. When the case came up in a French court, John Washington accused Agostinelli of leaving him death threats on his answering machine. Washington fled France after assaulting Colin Hall, a Rhone Group associate at a St. Tropez night spot.
Agostinelli further describes himself:
"As a committed classical liberal, I am pleased that, with Sarkozy's rise, the ideas of Schumpeter and Hayek have finally found a place in the evolution of French thought. I never thought I would be able to say it with such confidence, but the answer to Mr. Gurfinkiel's question is, "Yes, of course, France can be saved."
He also wrote to the WSJ praising Silvio Berlusconi as "a leader who will save the country" and further writes that "the left is a cancer that needs to be eradicated."
Agostinelli was a donor to both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. He is a big wheel in conservative circles and last year attended a dinner at the American Enterprise Institute honouring Charles Murray, the political scientist who came up with the controversial "The Bell Curve" which gave IQ a race based tone and put it in the forefront as a predictor of success rather than education or the parents socio-economic status. In attendance were the doyen of the conservative movement.
His political activism and connections have earned him a spot on the board of the Council for Foreign Relations, a bipartisan think tank influential in international realpolitik.
In William D. Cohan's best selling book "The Last Tycoon: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co., Agostinelli is described as:
"A suave, sophisticated, energetic international financier with extravagant tastes and slicked-back jet-black hair, who pretended to speak Italian but could not."
By all accounts he is very good at what he does. Building up Goldman Sachs M&A business in London in the late 80s after which he moved to Lazard's as a partner. He and Steve Langman founded the Rhone Group in 1995. The group is described as a boutique firm that specializes in mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, leveraged buyouts, re-capitalizations, joint partnerships, and business valuation services. It boasts some very big names and has offices in Paris and London while headquartered in NY.
It is quite ironic that Tom Hicks who also made his money though leveraged buyouts and distressed assets is haggling over Liverpool valuations. He seems to have met his match. We shall see who blinks first.
Agostinelli and Langman seem to have skimpy resumes when it comes to love of the game but they have serious money. In this downturn, they probably have the best offer and even better long term prospects with transfer money availability. And I am sure from gauging Agostinelli, he probably knows he won't go down too well with the fans (not his demographic). But then again who knows, he seems to have come up the hardscrabble way and espouses the conservative mantra of self sufficiency and working hard to make a success. Liverpudlians should like that. To become a bit more palatable, he could check his gun at the door and become less pro war.
A potential gamechanger in the MLS vs players negotiations?
The DP clause was originally created for the sole purpose of bringing David Beckham on board. It was extended in the hope that world class players in their prime could be induced to the MLS and in time the league would be able to compete with the world's best.
The clubs could build their franchise through these Brobdignians.
So far with only a few exceptions, the clause has proved a failure while eating away the team's salary cap money. Meanwhile, it has not stopped the outward flow of promising talent.
With Beckham's playing future in jeopardy, the rationale for keeping the clause alive becomes very weak.
If I were Don Garber, the DP would be scrapped. The money freed up should be used to ensure better player contracts and introduction of free agency. These measures remove player restrictions and improve portability.
The world of football misses a true believer and a gentleman.
Keith Alexander's memory will be preserved in a special edition of Wraggs to Riches, the clubs unofficial fanzine. The 44 page spread is a collection of remembrances and stories of supporters who knew Keith, pictures of his playing and managerial career down the years, and contributions from brother Delroy and ex-Lincoln City and Macc striker Simon Yeo.
The fallout from the Jimmy Bullard - Nick Barmby handbags routine and the Arsenal loss convinces Adam Pearson, Hull's CEO that Phil Brown is not the man for the job.
Pearson's immediate concern is to save Hull from relegation.
"Retention of Premier League status is paramount and the board believes a change in managerial direction is the correct option at this time."
He will turn to assistant coach Brian Horton in the interim to guide the team for the Portsmouth away game. However, he is also lining up long term replacements who can take over by the end of the week. Alan Curbishley, Paul Jewell and Gareth Southgate are mentioned as possible candidates.
Say what you will. Phil Brown was a feisty and colourful character. As an Arsenal supporter he gave me enough reason to dislike him but the game needs the Phil Browns and the Neil Warnocks.
Here is The Kinks "Dandy" as tribute >>
This has to be short and brutal. But a ruptured achilles tendon could spell the end of David Beckham's career. His World Cup dream of representing England four times in a row lies in tatters. The midfielder is flying to Finland for surgery.
The Tendo Achilles (TA) is the powerful tendon (heel cord) that connects the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to the heel bone (calcaneus). The Gastrocnemius/ Soleus- TA complex helps in flexing the knee, pointing the foot down, moving your instep. In terms of function, this musculo-tendinous unit virtually allows you to walk, run, and jump.
Elite athletes and cyclists have well defined calf muscles because they need to push down hard every time they sprint or pedal to generate extra-ordinary amounts of force which facilitate those blistering speeds. Depending on the speed, stride, terrain and additional weight being carried or pushed, the TA can be subjected to 10 times the body weight during a sprint or push off.
Tendons are tough, strong bands of inelastic fibrous tissue that connect muscle to bone. They are the body's strongest connective tissue. The TA's "achilles heel" is actually a region called the "watershed area" about 2-6 cms away from the heel insertion that suffers from a relative lack of blood circulation. The poor vascularity makes this area more susceptible to the dangers of repetitive microtrauma with a higher incidence of irritation, degeneration, and eventual rupture. (Here is a link to tendon physiology).
The problem Beckham faces is that the TA is liable to re-rupture (5% to 7% chance) and lose valuable connective strength after surgical reconstruction. There are marked deficits in the strength of push off post surgery of a ruptured TA which improves through rehabilitation but still remains significant six months later.
Leonardo's decision to play Beckham through 90 minutes might have hastened the injury. Instead of introducing him as usual as a substitute to improve the passing game and the team's set piece ability. Such injuries are commonest in athletes with insufficient levels of conditioning. Sudden changes in the level of activity can also cause the TA to rupture. Beckham's history of chronic ankle instability precluded him from extended minutes of playing time.
Perhaps sensing this was one of the rarer opportunities to impress Fabio Capello for an England spot, it was apparent that the AC Milan midfielder also applied himself vigorously. He appeared to get forward more and there was an occasion when Beckham scrambled almost in striker fashion to latch onto a Ronaldinho pass. However, his injury came from no contact as the midfielder suddenly pulled away in pain while standing. This gives credence to his TA rupturing through a cumulative process of repeated stress and not to a single traumatic event.
At 36 years of age, Beckham's recuperative powers are not that of a younger athlete. It could take 6 months to a year for him to come back to elite levels of athleticism. With the concomitant danger of re-rupturing the TA and drop off in functionality, he may never attain that level. Beckham has always pushed himself well beyond his physical capabilities but this time the spectre of his long and storied playing career coming to an end is very real.
We might talk about this in a dry and objective fashion but for someone who obviously loves the game like Beckham, this must be agonizing. So we at Soccerblog wish him full speed on the road to recovery.
Clarence Seedorf showed that he still has legs. He turned out to be Leonardo's secret weapon coming on as a substitute late in the second half. It was turning out to be a frustrating night for the Rossoneri as they came tantalizingly close through Ronaldinho, Beckham, and Pippo Inzaghi.
But Chievo grimly hung on till Seedorf took off in the 91st minute staying on his feet after surviving a challenge from Mantovani, taking the ball wide to the right, swiveled around gathering torque, and absolutely belted the ball which went screaming past an elevating Sorrentino into the left hand corner. Seedorf, Favalli, and Borriello celebrated in a touching man hug.
Inter now has Milan breathing down its neck, Roma close at hand. Suddenly the Serie is an interesting league.
The San Siro was also treated to a rare sight of a Beckham full start and he did well, on one instance coming close to scoring as Ronaldinho laid a pass on a dime. But he hobbled off with what appears to be a serious ankle or foot injury having to be stretchered for medical attention. Earlier, he had to be taken off to receive first aid for a nasty facial cut when Davide Mandelli's boot raked his face.
There is Cristiano Ronaldo, there is Wayne Rooney, but there is only one Leo Messi. That left foot has a brain of its own- the neural representation must be the size of what is devoted to the hand. It is so precise, so deadly, changing the course of the ball with a series of flicks like a snake finding its prey with its tongue. For good measure he scored his third goal with the right foot. Yes, he is bipedal.
His hat trick shattered Valencia, a proud club as Unai Emery and his men looked on in disbelief. And Thierry Henry quietly had one of his best nights. He may not be the marquee player but if he is going out, then Pep Guardiola is losing out on a player still playing well within his born on date. The Barca manager was a spectator serving out a suspension for arguing with the linesman in the Almeria match.
The Liga is now a dogfight between the Blaugrana and the Merengues with the latter ahead on goal difference. They destroyed Valladolid, 4-1 on the strength of Gonzalo Higuain's hat trick. A welcome change from his ineptness against Lyon. And a reprieve for the beleaguered Manuel Pellegrini.
Man Utd went on top of the table with Wayne Rooney scoring his 22nd and 23rd Premiership goals (video). Berbatov added another (video) to finish off Fulham who clung on till half time before the second half swamp. The Bulgarian had a brilliant game. He is a such a pleasure to watch when he is on. Mostly he is off.
Add to the growing "as Rooney goes, so shall England." We can try and find him a strike partner but as the highlights show give him a couple of clever wingers and he will do it all.
Hertha's troubled season got worse with the club facing possible sanctions after unruly fans invaded the pitch, some wielding steel bars. They were reacting to the club's defeat at the hands of Nurnberg. 30 arrests were made and 4 police officers were injured.
It was a crucial match for both relegation threatened clubs. The loss leaves Berlin almost no chance of remaining in top flight, the first time in 12 years. A precipitous fall from their 4th place finish last season. They got off to a disastrous start in the present season losing six games in succession. Coach Lucien Favre was fired in October and replaced by Friedrich Funkel who has not been able to correct the club's downward slide.
The scene left manager Michael Preetz in tears who now prepares for life in League 2 barring a miracle.
Landon Donovan appeared for the final time for Everton when the Toffees played Birmingham City to a 2-2 draw.
He is on his way back to the Galaxy for the season opener which should begin 27th of March if the player strike does not go through.
Everton fans got a lot of love from the American. And the appreciation appears to be mutual.
"But I've never met a fan base like this, either playing for them or as an away player. Forget about football for a moment, this is a experience I'll never forget."
Good for him. He now goes back to an unsettled league that is showing signs of player revolt at the limited economic opportunities.
He also has impressed David Moyes enough that an Everton appearance might be a regular gig in the MLS off season. So this might be the start of a nice series of cameos and a gateway to a more permanent place in the European leagues.
Arsene Wenger was a very relieved man when Nicklas Bendtner using his newly found predatory instincts scored when Boaz Myhill parried the ball from Denilson's 20 yard blast. Bendtner following up found the ball in his path.The Gunners got the win well into stoppage time. (+6 minutes).
If the Gunners go onto win the Premiership they can count this as a pivotal match.
The match was drifting into a dispiriting 1-1 draw when Bendtner's goal broke the deadlock. Most importantly, it gave the Gunners three points to keep them just behind Chelsea. Earlier the Blues completed a 4-1 rout of West Ham. Tomorrow Man Utd takes on Fulham with a chance of going on top of the table.
Arshavin gave the Gunners an early lead (video) as Bendtner fed him the ball. The little Russian took on two Hull players and off his dribble the ball struck Bernard Mendy's foot bouncing forward. The unsighted defender spun around only to see Arshavin move to his left past him and retain the ball and slot it past Myhill.
A wrong decision by Andre Marriner restored parity. A clearly offside Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (video) went down quite conveniently after clearly inviting Sol Campbell to make contact. Wily bit of acting.
Jimmy Bullard with his shaggy mane looking like Michael Pitt/Peter Frampton/Richard Thompson took the penalty and celebrated like a rock star afterwards.
The final third of the first half was eventful for all the wrong reasons. Bendtner should have gotten a penalty as Mendy mugged him in the box leaping for a header. The match became quite testy as Mendy, Bullard and Fagan kept making these niggling fouls on the Gunners.
Two things happened all at once- Andy Dawson making a pretty awful challenge on Denilson for which he was awarded a yellow card and George Boateng's finger puppetry on Nicklas Bendtner's face which was detected by a linesman for which both received a booking. A few minutes later Boateng was sent off for making a horrible challenge on Bacary Sagna, a high studs up tackle on the shin for which he received his second yellow but deserved a straight red. In between Arshavin missed a couple of good chances. (video- 18 minutes)
The Gunners played without Fabregas, Gallas, Rosicky, and Alexander Song. Denilson, Diaby, and Eboue started for the Gunners.
Andrey Arshavin's part in the Champions League goal feast against Porto was somewhat overlooked because of Samir Nasri's wonder goal so he scored a wonder goal of his own against Hull yesterday dancing between a barely discernable crack between two tightly packed defenders and putting the ball past a despairing goalkeeper .Hull City came back into the game with a controversial penalty.
Bendtner brought the smile back to Arsenal when he scored a late late 93rd minute winner.Goals.....
Arsenal have won their last five games, 8 remain in the season.They have overtaken Man U to take second spot behind Chelsea. Wenger is saying 'All you need to do is believe'
Peter Storrie who enjoyed his best years as Pompey's CEO when Sasha Gaydamak was the owner but became the dupe who let in all the barbarians at the gate finally ended his tenure.
However, he will continue to receive a remuneration for his assistance in finding a buyer and also to making the FA Cup semi-final arrangements.
Tragically, 85 other employees also lost their jobs in the cost cutting measures taking place under Andrew Andronikou, the administrator in charge of steering the club back to financial health.
Meanwhile, the administrators are now investigating £1.5 million worth of unexplained payments which seem to have originated when Daniel Azougy, a disbarred Israeli lawyer was made CFO by the then owner Ali Al Faraj in October 2009. The payments were made via Faraj's client account at London law firm Fuglers.
I am sure when all of Pompey's deep, dark secrets are uncovered, it will make for a juicy book. Looking for a journalist with the investigative chops to write a quality expose into the first Premiership club going belly up.
The NY Times has an article by Barry Bearak on the cost of building Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit (FIFA has kept its Afrikaan name but it is officially Mbombela), gateway to Kruger National Park, which will host four of the World Cup's 64 matches.
The stadium is an assay into every step gone wrong.
A summary: From the disputed acquisition of the stadium land for which the local Matsafeni community were paid a pittance; the forced eviction of two city schools from its site; a turf war between rival ANC factions fighting for a share of World Cup monies and patronage; an entrenched system of kickbacks and fraud which escalated stadium costs; and the murder of the city council speaker Jimmy Mohlala, the whistleblower who exposed them.
Amidst all this excess, is the grim picture of squalor and some of the world's worst inequality. Yet, no one knows what will happen to Mbombela Stadium once the World Cup ends. Will it become a white elephant used for government rallies? Leaving all those rosy promises of economic succour to the surrounding inhabitants largely unfulfilled. Proving critics of the World Cup correct, that it was primarily concocted to benefit the elite minority and the politically connected.
The Mbombela gives us a glimpse into the paradox of a sport which once united black South Africans living in shanty towns in their struggle against apartheid but now lays bare the divisions in an increasingly split political landscape.
By the way, compare this article and its more hopeful ending to the more bleak Guardian article on this very topic and one can draw the conclusion that the World Cup means different things to different people. Then again, it also lends some legitimacy that the British media is a bit Hobbesian in their SA coverage.
A shocker in the Serie as Inter crashed and burned against Catania, a club 15 places below and struggling against relegation. The beneficiaries are Milan if they can shake of their Man Utd shellacking to win against visiting Chievo this weekend and close the gap to a point.
Both teams played fast attacking football as the first half finished with no goals but plenty of chances. The second half saw Inter take the lead as Diego Milito finished of a Samuel Et'oo pass.
But Catania showed they were no slouches as they fought back through Maxi Lopez's emphatic finish off a scintillating cross by Sebastian Alvarez. Things got worse as Sulley Muntari was sent off after handballing a Giuseppe Mascara free kick and Catania were awarded a PK. Mascara duly scored off a cheeky lob. The door slammed shut when Jorge Martinez pulled of a goal that had shades of Samir Nasri against Porto.
Sweet redemption for Catania's manager Sinisa Mihajlovic a former assistant coach at Inter who had a testy relationship with Jose Mourinho. Their disagreements ranged from Adriano, the absconding Brazilian striker; Mihajlovic's personal conduct on the field (he was a notorious spitter); to Mourinho's knowledge of the game. By the way, Mihajlovic might have the last laugh but as this article points out he has a reputation as a rather unsavoury character.
All indicators are that the MLS season will be delayed as players overwhelmingly voted to strike if free agency and guaranteed player contracts are not part of the collective bargaining talks.
This means that the season will not begin on March 25th as anticipated unless the two parties come to an agreement very soon.
This has immense benefits for Donovan who gets to extend his Everton stay without the moral hazard of violating the same principles he accused David Beckham of abandoning last season.
Except this is far worse. While hundreds of his MLS brethren fight for a better day for themselves, Donovan gets to play for the best league in the world while earning more than many of them. Their pay will likely be docked for every no show, cutting further into their paltry salaries.
A strike could also virtually end the hopes of MLS players with national aspirations making it to the World Cup. Donovan has no such worries. As a DP he is inoculated from the vagaries of free agency and settled contracts. So far he seems to have said very little about the labour dispute.
You might say so what? Let the players stew in their juices. But these are the very tactics that initially setback the MLB and NFL but transformed them into the viable leagues they are. The European leagues have benefited immensely from free agency and Bosmans. It is part of the maturation of sport.
The MLS pays attention when a talismanic figure like Donovan spurns a high profile, high paying overseas gig to come back and fight with his team mates for a better future. In fact, every player who cut their teeth in MLS and now play for leagues abroad should be standing in solidarity with the players they have left behind. They know the reasons why they left and they should be the first ones to appreciate every effort to make the MLS better.
Fiorentino Perez's silence after the Lyon defeat has been remarkable. Quite a turnaround from the eve of his bombast "Real has the DNA to Europe."
However, what is heartening is that fans and club supporters have largely stopped scapegoating Manuel Pellegrini. Instead in poll after poll they have turned their ire on Real's chairman. Somewhere Ramon Calderon, the bitter rival to Perez is wearing a smirk. Even Sir Alex, might be enjoying an aperitif.
Perez was supposed to have been in attendance for a beverage presentation by Cristiano Ronaldo for a sports drink company at the Bernabeu that was abruptly canceled at the last moment. Family reasons were cited.
Looks like Perez has slunk of underground to lick his wounds.
In 2000, Fiorentina Perez joked that Madrid, as an ideal, was above titles.
He was talking about money. The club is a money making machine and in 2000, it made €100 million. Last year the revenues exceeded €400 million. With Ronaldo and Kaka in the squad the club could be on pace to exceed €500 million by 2012. Real has outstripped its competitors by peddling memories of a glorious past and the image rights of its current superstars.
The only clubs keeping up are Barcelona and Man Utd.
The outlay on transfers has not been matched by a commensurate increase in titles won. Since 2000, Real has only won 10 titles of the 38 competed. The discrepancy worsens after 2004, with only 3 titles won in 20 competitions.
The defeat at the hands of Lyon, was the sixth time in succession that the Merengues were eliminated in the Champions League knockout stage. Far from the sobriquet of European excellence in footballing terms. Luckily, the club has never had to rely on the boost provided by CL money, unlike Liverpool where transfer money is heavily weighted by European success.
However, times maybe changing. The paucity of titles is gradually having a deleterious effect on club revenues. Coupled with the drag on the economy that has hit Spain hard with unemployment rates spiking to almost 20%.
The Bernabeu has seen attendances decline almost 8% from last season and the Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo jerseys have not been the envisioned bestsellers. Real now sells less jerseys than Chelsea and Liverpool. The €151.5 million in low interest bank loans which Real borrowed to fund its €250 million buying spree need to be repaid through 2015. The massive investment in players has swelled the club debt to well beyond its current €510 million account.
All these adverse figures could have been leavened by the €60 million in CL prize money, TV fees, and performance related bonuses that Real missed out on when it lost to Lyon.
"Real Madrid has a lot resting on its role in the Champions League," said Jose Maria Gay, a Barcelona University professor who specializes in soccer finance. "Its costs have soared and it's under pressure to increase its income by about 20 percent to balance its accounts."
A return to the Bernabeu to contest this year's CL finals could have not only provided Real with a glorious homecoming, but a short term economic boost. The real danger is the long term effects of all these curtailed CL appearances. Selling Ronaldo jerseys may not be feasible when the club has been "out of sight, out of mind" on the world stage for so long.
After Lyon gutted them, Real have once again started their Wenger overtures.
Seriously, there is nothing more crass than a club that uses the lure of money to try and get everyone including Kim Jong Il on board.
So I am glad that Wenger came back forcefully:
"Leave me alone," he said. "I am always going to go to the end of my contract. It is the worst moment to come back on this subject. I want to focus on the match against Hull City on Saturday. Maybe it's less glamorous than Real Madrid, but they are much more important in my life."
Good for him.
This year's CAF awards comes in the wake of the tragedy at Angola and Togo's subsequent suspension giving a somewhat farcical quality to the announcements. The CAF president, Issa Hayatou as has already been established does not seem to live in reality. But more on the awards, especially the crown title.
Didier Drogba got a handy birthday gift when he was crowned African Footballer of the Year. This is his second time winning the honour having previously won in 2006. Drogba was instrumental in Ivory Coast's World Cup qualification scoring five goals.
One of the criteria used is the player's charisma and influence. There is no doubt that Drogba occupies a special place in the hearts of Cote D'Ivoirians, a vocal activist for unity, bringing together that fractious country. As captain of the national squad, he is very involved in operational aspects, for e.g., coaching decisions.
When the national association made contact with Guus Hiddink to ascertain his interest in coaching the team, Drogba took the initiative making a personal request to his ex-boss.
This aspect seems to have proved influential in winning him the title over the other front runner Samuel Eto'o, a three time winner but who has none of Drogba's off field dynamism. Last year's winner Emmanuel Adebayor was not even considered.
He also beat out his Chelsea team mate, Ghana's Michael Essien, the Susan Lucci of nominations having never won. The other two nominees were Barcelona's Seydou Keita (Mali) and Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast) rounding out the dominance of the European leagues. Only Mohamed Aboutrika in recent years has broken that mold with his Al Ahly and Egypt exploits. He is also the only one outside the West Africa stranglehold.
Drogba gained from the the World Cup qualifying countries that had no footballer of the year nominees. South Africa, Nigeria, and Algeria gave him their maximum three votes.
He also was the candidate of choice from wider swaths of Africa whereas Eto'o benefited from more North African countries. Essien landed up as mostly third choice nominee after countries split their vote between Drogba and Eto'o. A number of sub Saharan countries went for Keita and Toure. A notable exception was Sudan who gave no votes to the two front runners dividing their votes between Keita, Toure, and Essien.
Drogba was not around in Accra to receive his award. Instead it was picked up by an Ivory Coast Football Federation official.
Lille scored a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the Europa League round of 16.Eden Hazard scored what is described here as a fortuitous free kick.Unfortunately no fortuitous breaks seem to have come Liverpool's way at all this season.They have hit rock bottom and now look to be carving a hole to get a bit deeper.
Andrew McNaught and Guy Dawson are the Nomura bankers advising the Red Knights
Guy Dawson and Andrew McNaught were the bankers advising the Man Utd board members during the long drawn out negotiations with the Glazers which resulted in their £790m takeover in 2005.
The two at that time were partners in Tricorn, a corporate financial services company specializing in M&As.
In December 2009, the company was taken over by Nomura Holdings in their buying spree to bolster their British corporate presence. Dawson and McNaught joined Nomura as part of the restructuring, the former as the vice chairman of its European investment banking team and the latter as managing director of the bank's M& A services.
Fast forward to 2010 and Nomura today climbed on board as advisers to a Red Knights Man Utd buyout. The team of bankers responsible for planning the acquisition will be led by Guy Dawson and Andrew McNaught. This is being considered as a major coup and it elevates the Red Knights ambitions to a altogether different level.
A stumbling block towards a buyout could be the proposed non-renewal of season tickets as protest by thousands of supporters. Such bad faith tactics could backfire as the Glazers would be less likely to negotiate. Whatever the dynamics maybe, there appears to be no overnight resolution and it could take months to put together a meaningful bid.
As a starting point one should also shine a light on the incredibly clubby group of bankers that are spearheading these efforts. Sixty of them against a family run business. When it comes time for accountability, a smaller number is more manageable.
Free agency rights and a larger cut from guaranteed deals continue to be sticking points.
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the agency mediating the dispute said that the two parties had agreed to meet again to resume negotiations.
The MLS season is set to being March 25th.
Stan Chelney of Soccerlaw explains why MLS will not accept free agency. Basically, if it does so, it undermines its own single entity structure by which the league, not the team decides, owns and negotiates player contracts. MLS has already been challenged by players in court which has upheld its single entity structure.
The vote is running almost two thirds in favour of keeping Manuel Pellegrini underscoring the Spanish tabloid disconnect. They hate Pelllegrini. At least the fans realize when they are being sold a bill of goods.
And it takes old hands like Guti and Sergio Ramos to accept responsibility that they did not play as a team.
But Kaka's reaction is shameful. This is quintessential Kaka using a third party to voice his displeasure. Pellegrini was right in substituting him as he did nothing except flop on the ground and complain all match long.
An unhappy Kaka was removed by Manuel Pellegrini to make way for Raul Gonzalez. He later twittered his unhappiness to his wife who showed it to Diogo Kotscho, his communications director.
Kotscho blasted his own twitter showing what he thought of Pellegrini. He called his decision a joke.
" The manager is a coward and changed the player to divert attention from his incompetence."
On has to fathom the implication of this loss.
A club boasting Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Rafael Van Der Vaart, and Gonzalo Higuain cannot count themselves as Europe's elite. The salary and transfer fees of these players equals the annual pay packet of 4,000,000 Spaniards. It just boggles the mind.
But if you saw the match, it was built around the fragile hope of Cristiano Ronaldo's early goal. That is all they had. Manuel Pellegrini can get all the brickbats but what does he have to do with Gonzalo Higuain's criminal miss with an open goal waiting? How is a manager culpable for such a sin? In football, more than any other sport, the adage you are only as good as your players holds. The rest is relationship building.
Pellegrini does not deserve this and his players do not deserve him. Their performance in the second half was shambolic. He is being made a scapegoat. If Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo have an ounce of shame, they will own up to their responsibility for such a debacle and support their manager.
Full marks to Lyon. Their defense was iron clad when it needed to be and for that we can single out two players - Cris and Jeremy Toulalan. They were huge as they stopped pretty much every Real attack in their tracks. Hugo Lloris did the rest. On the attacking end Lisandro Lopez, Cesar Delgado, Kim Kallstrom, and Miralem Pjanic took a buzz saw to the Real back line. Delgado especially was a thorn in their side and it was his industry that set up Pjanic's goal.
In their place, Guti and Esteban Granero will make their start against Lyon in the second leg of their CL fixture.
Meanwhile a nervous expectation descends on the club.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain have been in cracking form and they go up against a superb Hugo Lloris. The Lyon custodian has gone 620 minutes without conceding a goal.
Champions League last 16 second leg
Venue: Old Trafford Date: Wednesday 10 March Kick-off: 1945 GMT
He wants them to lose.
If he does play it will be the first time in Old Trafford since he left seven years ago on the way to Real and now AC Milan. He is unlikely to start. But he can make an appearance, can't he? Even Leonardo is playing coy.
United have to fancy their chances to advance to the quarterfinals. Even a 1-0 win will not help Milan. Plus, Wayne Rooney is sure to make an appearance which could only mean more goals.
Arsenal for the first time overcame a first leg deficit in the CL. There were a couple of different looks how this was managed.
There was always someone to receive the outlet and a moment of genuine counterattacking skill where Arshavin finally managed to lay bare his speed for a rare breakaway.
Nicklas Bendtner was the beneficiary on both occasions as the ball sprang free in the box. The first time when Nasri's beautiful pass isolated Arshavin with the Porto defense reacting too late. As the protagonists collided, the ball rolled free to Bendtner who tapped the ball in.
The second time it was Arshavin at his most brilliant as he shimmied his way leaving a swarm of Porto defenders in his wake and laid a cross that Bendtner latched onto for his second goal. On both occasions Arsenal had a player in the box when it counted and Bendtner showed some well needed hustle.
Even better was how the fourth goal was set up with Arshavin busting loose and then passing onto a galloping Eboue who reminded me of Rooney in his counterattacking glory in his desire for the ball. Eboue slipped past Helton and finished off smartly. Bendtner completed his hat trick after Eboue was brought down in the box following some neat ball skills.
This was exactly what was missing from Arsenal's attack during those miserable losses against Chelsea and Man Utd. Arshavin was often isolated far ahead of players who seemed to lack that extra step to receive the ball from him. Arsenal also had virtually no counterattacking punch to trouble their opponents.
The match provided some redemption for all concerned:
Samir Nasri: The French midfielder stepped out of Fabregas shadow stamping his creative imprint on the match. We can celebrate his magic carpet ride in the 63d minute as the peak but even before that he positioned himself emphatically as the fulcrum of the attack. His discipline on the line also saved a sure Porto goal. There was nothing soft about Nasri yesterday.
Nicklas Bendtner: He scored a hat trick silencing his critics for a while (yours truly included) but did you see how he won almost every ball down field, flicking it on or bringing it under control. Using his height to great use and a more deft first touch saw Bendtner retain more meaningful possession of the ball. He even threw in a curling effort that saw Helton scramble for a save.
Andriy Arshavin: By now we have to take the desultory with the brilliant. The second goal was all Arshavin and so was the point blank miss as Nasri cut the ball inside. But the Russian owned the piece of territory from the center to the left embankment. Fucile was futile. The body count was high as he stretched the Porto defense to breaking point.
Manuel Almunia: Short of self confidence, long on the stubble. Almunia has managed a sleep deprived look. But against Porto he looked sharp on the few occasions they looked dangerous. He was decisive punching the ball away, on corners, and he saved Falcao's down the pipe shot.
Emmanuel Eboue: Usually vertically challenged at his worst but this time he stayed upright enough to hopscotch around the Porto defense to administer the coup de grace after Nasri's sublime goal. And he did not have to play aggrieved victim as Fucile brought him down for Bendtner's penalty.
Gael Clichy: The left back literally lost his head challenging Hulk but was saved when the Brazilian went for self glory. Apart from that he looked solid fending away the hulking Brazilian whose finish was rusty. Clichy seems to have regained some of his speed and cross making abilities.
Bacary Sagna: A scary moment when the Frenchman lay hobbled with pain after a tough challenge but he shook it off and managed to neutralize Silvestre Varela and Ruben Micael quite effectively.
Sol Campbell: The big question was how Big Sol would manage Radamel Falcao, Porto's in form Colombian import. The question was quite easily. He was fouled more by Falcao than the other way around.
Thomas Vermaelen: A nice block by the
Dutchman Belgian on Raul Meirelles and a typically feisty performance continues his excellent first season. Both Vermaelen and Campbell weathered a torrid 15 minutes of the second half after Cristian Rodriguez was introduced.
Abou Diaby and Alexander Song: The backfield was manged by some robust interventions between these two gentlemen. They pulled off quite a number on Meirelles and Ruben Micael, Porto's first leg heroes. Song playing clean up and Diaby managing a higher line acting as a conduit between the deeper reaches and the attacking line. He was unfortunate as Helton denied him a goal pulling off a spectacular save.
Theo Walcott and Denilson: The former launched a few ambitious attempts and the latter came on late for a quiet interlude.
In the end the win gave us another memorable moment when Wenger broke out in a delighted jig. Lord of the Dance, yeah!
Let us first remind ourselves at the outset that if it was not for Miroslav Klose's ridiculously offside goal in the first leg, Bayern would not have progressed to the quarterfinals.
This was a game played with great intensity with some brilliant moments. It will be one of the more well remembered matches and for Viola fans, it will be one of pride as well as heartbreak.
At the Stadio Artemio Franchi, it was Fiorentina that looked the more attractive attacking team. Juan Vargas gave them the lead with a tightly angled shot after Butt spilled Marco Marchionni's rasping shot straight to the Peruvian. It was 1-0 and things were looking good for the Violas on a 2-2 aggregate and an away goal advantage.
In the second half Gilardino's exquisitely timed back heel found Stefan Jovetic whose smart finish gave Fiorentina a 2-0 lead as the Viola fans erupted in raucous celebration. They could taste the quarterfinals. Surely nothing could take it away now.
But Franck Ribery on the left who had a swarm of Fiorentina players descend down on him every time he touched the ball managed to wriggle free and pass it square all the way to the middle of the pitch. It arrived at the feet of an arriving Mark Von Bommel who lashed a nicely placed grounder to the right of Sebastian Frey. Parity was restored.
It was Jovetic, a livewire in attack who again gave Fiorentina the aggregate advantage. After a Gilardino header found him, he took off for goal managing to shoulder aside the heavier Daniel Van Buyten and place the ball past Butt.
But even before the fans had time to catch a breath, Robben who so far had been contained with great difficulty broke free moving inside and whipped in a 30 yard screamer with his left foot that seems to have caught a thermal on its way to goal. It capped a frenetic exchange of goals as Fiorentina redoubled their efforts to find another goal to no avail.
In the end it is Bayern going through and Fiorentina left behind undone by a travesty.
Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli:
(Reflecting on Miroslav Klose's goal from the first leg) "We gave up a goal that shouldn't have counted for anything, and instead we're here talking about getting eliminated by a goal that was two metres offside."
A few days ago the bigwigs at FIFA turned their collective backs on video technology and put their heads back in the sand.Here now is a easier on the referees way of playing footer that they may indeed find acceptable because it really doesn't need video technology.It's also very human and the fans are bound to talk a lot.
Champions League last 16, second leg
Venue: The Emirates Date: Tuesday 9 March Kick-off: 1945 GMT
Fabregas aggravated the same hamstring that caused him to miss three weeks in January. The first time was in the Villa cameo on December 27th, a match in which he scored twice in a 3-0 rout.
During Cesc's absence Arsenal won against Portsmouth and drew Everton proving that Arsenal's attack was versatile and multi-pronged.
The Everton match was heading towards a loss when Tomas Rosicky scored an extra time goal.
Today, Rosicky, Nasri, and Arshavin should share the creative load.
Does Arsene go with a 4-2-3-1 with Abou Diaby and Alexander Song adding more protection at the back with Gallas gone? At some point Walcott's could be trotted out with his return to alacrity and goal scoring form. Wenger can also turn to Emmanuel Eboue to bring a zip down the right flank.
All we need is a win with one goal scored. Surely, even Nicklas Bendtner could manage that. Eboue could serve him on the plate.
Porto have never been successful on English soil and they suffered a 4-0 thumping last season at the Emirates. Lets hope their adverse record continues.
Go Gunners! Win one for Ramsey.
Just when I thought that defenders were the new media generators what with their off field sexual peccadilloes, breaking legs, and getting injured all over the place. What happened to Joey Barton, Craig Bellamy, and Lee Bowyer? They seemed to have had off season pre-frontal lobotomies or are on downers or smoking sheeshas.
But Steven Gerrard gave us some hope. So on a day when Liverpool gets 5 yellow cards, Gerrard goes one better and makes what appears to be an offensive gesture to Andre Marriner, the referee. But it really was not so.
Liverpool came up with a strong statement that Gerrard was not really flipping the bird or trying to tear another orifice and it seems to have worked. The FA might be willing to overlook the matter since Marriner himself did not bring it up.
However, more disturbing is Gerrard's inability to manufacture goals. It has become a big factor in the regression model that might explain the reason for Liverpool's abysmal and chaotic season. Throw in and out Tom Hicks, Lucas Leiva, the blinkered use of Benayoun, the defensive let downs, and Rafa to explain the variance.
"Poor attitude, lack of character, limited intelligence" was how Rafa summed up the Reds effort against Wigan.
It all came undone with a Hugo Rodallega strike as the February push has turned into the Ides of March.
Rafa's statement maybe true but it does not hold for the one player who always gives them a chance- Yossi Benayoun.
On intelligence alone, the Israeli would find himself in the World's top XI. Yet, he is almost always rationed in Benitez's team selection, relegated to footnotes. It's too bad his team mates can't keep up. He was taken off with 20 minutes to go by Alberto Aquilani and the attack faded into a series of long balls.
In a midfield comprising Maxi Rodriguez, Lucas Leiva, Dirk Kuyt, and even Steven Gerrard - Benayoun comes across as a giant. Yet he logs almost 1000 minutes less playing time than Lucas who can be charitably described as barely adequate. Captain Fantastic is in the shadows of last year's prodigious contribution and when comparing goals to minutes played, Benayoun comes out streets ahead.
It is time to move to a club where Benayoun's midfield vision can be fully exploited. He is in his third year of a four year contract when he signed on for Liverpool in July 2007. Time to get the pen out.
The defender re-aggravates his calf injury which means he will not only be missing against Hull this weekend but could be out for up to a month. Earlier, he was ruled out of the Porto second leg today. In his place, Sol Campbell (whose return can be counted as a success story) will see more action with Thomas Vermaelen.
"We were impatient with him and we pushed him and he wanted to get on as well, that is why maybe it has happened. But there is no obvious sign as to why it keeps coming back. He has no pain at all, then goes for a little jog and then it goes again."
This weekend Arsenal meets with Gallas to discuss his contract extension. It appears that the 12 month restriction for players over 30 might be lifted in his case.
Sepp Blatter and the FIFA Luddites have gotten their first serious challenge.
The FIGC chairman Giancarlo Abete came out against FIFA's decision to do away with goal line technology in the name of keeping it "human."
"That doesn't take away that experimenting can be possible. If we don't test, there is a mistake in the method."
The real agenda appears to be FIFA's controlling nature, to keep clubs and countries bickering with one another and slapping them with fines and suspensions. It's quite medieval.
The decision came on the day when the FA suspended goal line technology and the referees failed to spot Liam Ridgewell's clear goal. Talk about immediate proof.
More voices like Abete need to be heard. There has been a lot of teeth gnashing from pundits but the silence from national federations and leagues has been deafening.
SA will become the condom-nation during the World Cup.
In the fear that an estimated half a million tourists will sow their wild oats in the month long orgy and contribute to the AIDS epidemic, the SA government has requested for a billion condoms. Britain has responded by sending 42m condomns. 40,000 prostitutes are expected to partake in this social experiment.
Looking at these numbers one would imagine empty stadiums and a few players missing on match day.
However, Jacob Zuma is the poster child for prophylactics. He just fathered his 20th child from a friend's daughter. But when it is his personal plea to combat the scourge of AIDS, you realize the seriousness of the matter. It was Zuma not three years ago who had sex with an HIV positive woman without using a condom and then showered after " as this would minimise the risk of contracting the disease [HIV]."
Nigerian player Endurance Idahor of Sudanese club El Merriekh playing against Al Amal collapsed after a tackle from one of his club players left him on his back.
Attempts to revive him on the pitch failed and he was rushed to the hospital by ambulance but is said to have died on the way. He was just 25. Early reports indicate a possibility of a heart attack as two days before the match the player was complaining of chest pain.
Idahor played for Nigerian club Dolphins before El Merriekh signed him on and he left for the Sudanese league in 2006. He was loaned out to UAE outfit El Nasser for one season. After his return he became one of El Merriekh's leading goalscorers with 67 goals scored guiding them to their first CAF Confederation Cup final since 1989.
El Merriekh released a brief statement describing the player as "an example of a professional and committed individual and a symbol of loyalty" and added, "We will assure that justice takes place".
There could be a bit of a controversy as to where Idahor is buried. His widow appears open to the idea of him being buried in his adopted country.
When asked by journalists if she wouldn't mind burying her husband in his adopted country, she answered "I don't mind. Idahor loved Sudan and the Sudanese loved him," but added that she would like to consult the late player's family in Nigeria first before taking the final decision.
Another tragic death of a young player. One remembers Antonio Puerta, Dani Jarque, Mark Vivien Foe, Miklos Feher, Phil O'Donnell, and Antonio De Nigris in recent years. All from a undetected heart condition.
Liverpool redefined the word nadir for themselves - sinking to a new all time low....
Hugo Rodallega scored this goal for Wigan and all Liverpool managed was 5 bookings leading Benitez to question the intelligence of his team.
The FA recently launched these two videos as part of their Respect Campaign to try and cut anti social behaviour that ruins games and dreams..
"I was hoping [he would recover] after the game because we were cautious with him. He was not adamant about coming out of the team but still he has damaged his hamstring and we cannot take a gamble on him.
"However we have gained Sol Campbell back in the squad and Alex Song too, who was suspended against Burnley."
The dreaded metatarsal fracture crops up before the World Cup.
This time it is Wes Brown who is to undergo a bone scan for a suspected fifth metatarsal fracture which could keep him out for as long as three months. His absence surely poses yet another headache for Capello in the midst of rejiggering an already thinned back line.
His injury will surely set in motion the debate once again whether England's long hard season without a winter break is counterproductive in a World Cup year. While other competitor nations have key personnel injured, the list is far less extensive and they will have them ready in time for the World Cup.
Villa were down a brace through Shane Long and it looked an uphill struggle for the club. The second half saw the Villans burst to life. Three goals within 12 minutes. Ashley Young and Carew with a couple of goals gave Villa the lead but Reading came close on a couple of occasions to tie the match.
In stoppage time Carew was brought down by Ivar Ingimarsson in the box for a penalty. He duly converted it bringing his hat trick dream to fruition.
Villa's win brings to an end, Martin O' Neill's bizarre statistic of not winning a single match in March since his takeover from David O'Leary almost four years ago.
Villa now meet Chelsea at Wembley for the first FA Cup semi-final. Portsmouth awaits the winner of the Fulham vs Tottenham replay.
John Terry guides Chelsea into the FA Cup semi-finals as they beat Stoke 2-0.
A fired up Terry then celebrates by drawing up his jersey sleeve showing off his captain's armband as the Stamford Bridge crowd go wild. After a series of poor games against Everton, Inter, and City - he signaled his return to match form and led his club by example.
Earlier Terry set up Frank Lampard's scorching shot which took a deflection of a Stoke City defender to to give Chelsea the lead.
His off pitch behaviour notwithstanding, Terry is a leader. He gives no quarter and he wanted the goal more. Team mates and fans appreciate a player who gives his all for the club. That is why I think he will be missed as England's captain because Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard don't command that sort of respect.
A goal and an assist as Everton swamp Hull, 5-1. So is this Donovan's Everton swansong? He still has the Birmingham match next weekend before the Galaxy's repo men come calling.
However, it looks like he very much wants to stay longer.
The best bet for him would be if the MLS season is postponed because the league and the players union cannot come to agreement over the free agency issue that are a sticking point in the collective bargaining talks. The players representatives are threatening a strike.
That way Donovan can claim no other choice. However for all those domestic players staking their claim for a World Cup berth, a work stoppage could not come at a worse time.
Great win for Pompey.
A goalmouth melee and Joe Hart who did not help his cause by a helpful flick forward gave Nelson Piquionne an easy first goal. Three minutes later, it was all Piquoinne who turned and twisted his way into the box collecting his second goal with a cool finish.
This guy will be a hot item in the Pompey firesale.
And what is a match without a huge controversy? Check out Liam Ridgwell's goal that the linesman and the referee missed altogether. Clearly behind the line. To think FIFA just withdrew goal line technology. Just moronic.
Many remembered Keith Alexander.
The England squad wore black arm bands in memory of the late coach in their Egypt match.
Assistant coach Gary Simpson on the loss of his friend:
"He's one of the fairest people I have ever met and he would think of nothing to go out of his way to help you whenever he could. He was a good bloke and there is a big gap in all our lives today."
The match kicked of after a minutes silence and both teams wearing black armbands.
It was a brave decision to go ahead with the match but it was made easier by home fans respect for Alexander.They were magnificent staying back to applaud the players and the team supporters after the match was over. The touching spectacle was much appreciated by Mike Rance, Macclesfield's CEO.
The match ended in a 2-0 Macclesfield win.
Simpson now the caretaker boss said this:
"Today was extremely difficult but I am just delighted we were able to pick up a result for Keith and his family."
"And the win was also as much for the fans who have been magnificent all week and never shut up today. They were a big help to us on what was an emotional day."
Keith Alexander's funeral is set for Moday, March 15th.
Looks like Zinedine Zidane maybe a step closer to taking over the Algeria job after the World Cup. Rabah Saadane after that hugely emotional win at Khartoum has seen his team's fortunes flatline with his tactics being questioned openly after the miserable defeat in the Serbia friendly.
Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika offered the position in a meeting with Zidane and his father at the presidential palace. Zizou was visiting Algeria as part of the futsal gala that pitted the 1998 French World Cup winning team against the Algerian all stars led by Lakhdar Belloumi. His presence electrified the 10,000 fans in attendance for the match at the Olympic dome.
One of the factors being mentioned which could predispose to this move is his personal relationship with Henri Emile who is soon to take over as the head of Algeria's Football Federation. In 2006 Zizou returned to the country of his origin in 2006 for the first time in twenty years accompanied by his Algerian born parents.
It was an emotional return with a serious purpose. He visited a pediatric centre that he and Emile helped set up through funds raised from a charity match after a 2003 earthquake devastated the northern Algerian region of Boumerdes and destroyed the local hospital.
Emile's association with Zidane goes back to the time when he was Les Bleus team manager in Aime Jacquet's 1996 European Cup squad. Jacquet had just spurned Eric Cantona to bring on Zidane to the national side and his faith was vindicated immediately in a friendly against the Czech Republic at Bordeaux as Zidane went onto score a brilliant brace. Jacquet's gamble paid of two years later as France won the World Cup.
His long managerial tenure came to an end in 2004 when Raymond Domenech took over. Emile was swept away in a back room clean up, a factor that is said to have influenced Zidane's retirement in 2004 (from which he came back for the 2006 World Cup). Both are heavily involved in charity work with Emile also working or the French Football Federation to raise futsal's profile within the country.
In an interview with Echourok, Zidane revealed that he followed Algerian football. He was Lakhdar Belloumi admirer and had always dreamed of playing against the legend one day. He also went onto say that it would be an honour and dream to coach Les Fennecs in the future when he had gathered more experience. Maybe in five to ten years.
That might be in an official capacity but it appears that Zizou is already working behind the scenes as Algeria's cheerleader and offering coaching tips. In an interview with France Football (Via Goal.com).
"Maybe it's already happened... There are some things I'd like to do but I can't speak about them publicly. That stays between me and those involved, the players. I know some of them. That doesn't necessarily mean I'll do something with them either. All of that only concerns myself," he added.
Yeah, that Zizou was always known for his clever no look passes. This might be one of them.
...or subhuman perhaps.
The 124th Annual General Meeting of the International Football Association Board,chaired by FIFA as is traditional in a FIFA World Cup™ year, was marked by the major decision to no longer pursue the development of goal-line technology.
FIFA Secretary General, Jerome Valcke said "The IFAB has decided not to pursue goal-line technology and to no longer continue experiments in that area,The question posed to the members of the IFAB was simple: should we introduce technology in football or not? The answer from the majority of members was no, even if was not unanimous."
"The human aspect of football is essential to this sport," said Jonathan Ford of the Football Association of Wales. "The big moments in this sport - whatever they are - get supporters talking and go down in history. That's what makes this sport so vibrant."
So there you have it folks.The stone age continues.....and by implication sports that allow video referrals are played by robots not humans,their supporters refuse to talk to one another and they are incredibly dull.
Real Madrid joined Barcelona at the top of La Liga on a night of high drama.Both teams are equal on points with 13 matches to go.Barcelona only managed a draw against Almeria and that because of not one but two equalisers from Messi.
Real Madrid won their game against Sevilla 3 -2 mainly due to the fact that Rafael Van der Vaart scored a late winner.
Heartwarming scenes from the fans and the players alike. Aaron Ramsey was very much in our hearts and minds today. Tom Jenkins has more photos on the Guardian website.
Check out Nasri as he spots Fabregas running towards goal and delivers a sublime ball over the Burnley thicket of players right onto his feet. Fabregas scores his 17th goal of the season nutmegging Brian Jensen in the process.
But through the match it was Bungle It Like Bendtner and a dozen missed opportunities. Arsenal had to settle for a 3-1 win with Theo Walcott and Andriy Arshavin returning to welcome goalscoring form. David Nugent scored the solitary goal for Burnley.
Walcott clearly elevated his game, no doubt stung by Chris Waddle's twaddle on his lacking a football brain. A charge the gaffer fiercely rejected.
A link to more highlights of the game >>
Fabregas sustained a hamstring injury in the Burnley match which saw him exit the match and replaced by Abou Diaby.
He is to be evaluated further either tomorrow or Monday and Wenger will have to make a late decision if he has to play the Porto match on Tuesday.
With the Premiership title race so delicately poised I think rushing our best player back prematurely will be very unwise.
Portsmouth maybe in administration but it showed that it has lots of football left. They beat Birmingham through a Frederic Piquionne brace.
Jamie O'Hara was the motor running the attack. The victory was sweetly deserved but Birmingham might feel hard done. A Liam Ridgwell header clearly crossed the line before David James was able to keep it out but was not given as a goal.
Do it for Aaron.
Arsenal make four changes with Mikael Silvestre, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Denilson coming in for Bacary Sagna, Sol Campbell, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song.
Great chance of going up on top if they score four goals or more.
The salary of Lars Lagerback, the Swedish coach now the helmsman for the Super Eagles has become a controversial issue.
The amount is said to be in the region of $1.5 million although Lagerback himself is said to have asked about half that. Nigeria has a history of hiring coaches with sign on bonuses, bloated fees, and little responsibility. Berti Vogts virtually coached the team from Germany only coming down to Nigeria ten days in the month while collecting his salary. His player agent acted as the de facto coach deciding which players would play on the team.
With the terms of his contract murky, the arrival of Lagerback has not entirely generated optimism from some quarters with the period of time too short for Nigeria to expect miracles. The NFA has set a semi-final berth as a mandate which appears to all purpose pie in the sky.
Guus Hiddink not part of the 2010 World Cup? Not possible.
Right on cue, Didier Drogba reportedly reaches out to his old boss through a personal call to find out his availability for the Elephants coaching job. Time for the Cleaner to move in and administer his shock therapy.
The Ivory Coast football federation made recent contact with the Dutchman at Loftus Road where the Ivory Coast lost to South Korea, 2-0 in a friendly.
Hiddink on his part will have to sandwich a World Cup venture between now and his Russia job terminating on 30th June. He takes over Turkey's national team almost immediately.
He coached his last game on March 3rd when Russia held Hungary to a lethargic draw. The match appeared to be more of a sendoff for the coach.
The new head of the Russian Football Federation Sergei Furskenko later revealed that Hiddink would be leaving well before his contract end date. Accordingly, the Federation has canceled all spring and summer friendlies.
These are encouraging developments for the Ivory Coast in their Hiddink quest.
Russia has already made some Fabio Capello feelers for the 2012 European Cup but the Italian has indicated that he is not interested.
In his stead, Dick Advocaat, the AZ Alkmaar coach is now the favourite to lead Russia. Advocaat met with Fursenko during the recent European Cup draw at Warsaw. He has some solid Russia cred with his former association as coach of Zenit St Petersburg leading them to a UEFA Cup and Super Cup title.
Wenger talking about how much he admired a great technical tackle as much as a good offensive creative pass in this clip from his conference.
He was thoughtful, factual, and yet forceful. Predictably the press went after the Gallas tackle in the Bolton game. Wenger put them in their place reminding them that Mark Davies was out of the game for less than 10 days and not the 4-5 weeks that they claimed.
The most gripping part was his emotional response when asked if he was looking for more protection for his players.
" I look for nothing. You cannot say, listen, you cannot say you have a 19 year old boy who has a double broken leg like it happened to us Sunday and say that everything is alright. Do you accept that? I cannot."
Hard to refute. It was pushback against the overwhelming Shawcross is a nice lad and bears no malice punditry.
The BBC link to the larger segment >>
In some good news, Aaron Ramsey also made his first statement after his surgery vowing to return "fitter and stronger." He thanked Glenn Whelan, the Stoke player who comforted him after his injury. Ryan Shawcross was not mentioned.
His injury is not considered career ending but as in Eduardo and Diaby's case there are lingering effects that can force protracted injury time off. So there are stumbling blocks on the way to a full return to the pitch.
Sunday's match against Hull might be the last for Donovan in a Toffees jersey.
As it stands Landon Donovan will return to the LA Galaxy well in time for their March 27th season opener. Bruce Arena indicated that he wants Donovan back and has scotched rumours that the Galaxy would be open to an extension.
Arena said: "We're not interested. Landon will be back here on 15 March, as we have said all along."
Donovan's three month Everton loan has been an unqualified success marred only by a pretty lame miss in front of an open goal against Spurs. His pace and attacking qualities proved influential in their second interlude capped by historic wins against Man Utd and Chelsea. The fans were won over by him. David Moyes was quite keen that he stay on till the end of the Premiership season.
For Donovan, this is a total turnabout from his initial foray into the European leagues - a frustrating Bundesliga stint. His Everton stint shows a matured player possessing the qualities to shine in the toughest league.
However, much as he is tempted into staying there is a small issue of principal.
Last season in a well publicized snit, he lashed out at David Beckham accusing the English midfielder of lacking commitment to the Galaxy as he showed up three months into the MLS season after completing his Milan loan. The accusations were not made to Beckham's face but through more unprofessional third party sources. In this case though Grant Wahl's book " The Beckham Experiment" which sort of pre-empted any moral high ground.
"All that we care about at a minimum is that he committed himself to us. As time has gone on, that has not proved to be the case in many ways - on the field, off the field."
He also said this which bears significance for his own situation.
" But with Beckham, I'd say no, he wasn't committed. Let's say he does stay here three more years. I'm not going to spend the next three years of my life doing it this way.
Bruce Arena might be providing a gentle reminder.
Personally, this is a good time to be in the English league just before the World Cup playing at its level of pace and physicality, rubbing shoulders with some of the opposition, and in the eye of the scouting agents of the big clubs. A good World Cup campaign could provide a nice continuum into a permanent European placement.
But if he truly believes that the Galaxy need him more as I think he does, this should be an easy choice. Otherwise it will just be another platitude getting in the way of a career opportunity.
Carlos Tevez was run out of Argentina partly because he was caught in flagrante delicto just like John Terry. He was secretly dating model Natalia Fassi while his ex-girlfriend Vanessa was pregnant with his child. When the news broke, fans turned against him and the paparazzi stalked him at every corner.
His form at Boca plummeted and he was forced to look outside Argentina to prolong his playing career. A reminder that even stars in this football crazy country have feet of clay when it comes up against its strongly moralistic Roman Catholic vein.
When Tevez talks about John Terry "losing his legs" for similar sleazy reasons if this happened in Argentina - he is essentially pointing out the contrasting nature of the treatment meted out to him.
Booing fans and some creative chanting. Losing the national captaincy. Tevez would take that in a heartbeat.
What I found interesting was David Moyes's reasons for rejection.
"While it might be quite exciting, we play 38 Premier League games and that is where you should be judged," said Everton's manager, David Moyes. "Say it is Tottenham who finish fourth after an unbelievable season and they get beaten by a team who finish seventh, having worked so hard?"
It just well could be Everton doing a number on Spurs. Or I dare say Moyes is talking about Everton having an unbelievable finish and ending up fourth. Which is still very possible.
The Stoke defender has been in the news for a number of reasons which must have left him quite disoriented.
A tackle that resulted in Aaron Ramsey's horribly broken leg saw him exiting the Arsenal match weeping to serve out a four match suspension. On the same day he gets an England call up from Fabio Capello. A joyful event under any circumstance but for Shawcross it was laced with grief knowing what had transpired a few hours before. A 22 year old faced with a maelstrom of emotions.
Shawcross, admirably in all of this has not forgotten Ramsey. He has been in touch inquiring about the Arsenal midfielder's condition. In this he has been helped by Tony Pulis who in my opinion is one of the more nurturing souls in the league.
"It was very, very important that we got hold of the lad as quickly as possible and spoke to him," said Pulis.
"We will continue to keep in contact with him through his recovery period."
The genuine remorse shown by Shawcross has earned him hundreds of messages of support from Arsenal fans. It was a tackle without ill intention that ended tragically.
He has Theo Walcott convinced as the two of them met at training just before the England match.
Walcott said: "He's a very humble lad. He's a great defender. Obviously he knows what's happened and feels very bad. He's apologised. He's not a player to do those sort of tackles. He'll put his head down and work very hard for club and country. Any hard feelings? No, not at all."
Maybe because his conscience is clear, Shawcross has vowed to play the same way. Meanwhile, Martin Taylor now at Watford is still suffering the pangs of his tackle on Eduardo two years later. He has never been the same.
The difference between the Dutch and the US was that they had a midfield.
Wesley Sneijder showed us what a committed ball controller can do. We still do not have that player. That is why we place such a premium on set pieces and counterattacks. It helps us sweep aside the weak ball possession and lack of build ups.
To be fair Michael Bradley was never the answer. Landon Donovan seems to be going through one of his cold spells. Against Sporting Lisbon too, he was AWOL. Maurice Edu is more a ball stopper than a holding midfielder.
Bob Bradley has quite a few questions. He will get back Ricardo Clark but meanwhile the lack of midfield control is a vexed problem.
One must ask how many degrees of separation Jim O' Neill has from his company Goldman Sachs? O'Neill is the frontman in the Red Knights consortium that counts sixty members who have banded together in the hopes of buying out Man Utd from the Glazers.
They have raised an eye popping £1.5 billion in their bid and it appears that they can go higher which should make the Glazers deliriously happy. The Red Knights are being cheered on by the Man Utd Supporter Trust (MUST) whose alarm over the club's enormous amounts of debt has gone viral boosting their membership to well over a 100,000 in a few short weeks. Its a bit weird when you think about it. Tea Baggers and Wall Street type honchos mixing it up?
It sounds reassuring when O'Neill touts his lifelong Man Utd fan credentials. He is also Goldman Sachs head of global economic research. The company was also among the advisers on the Man Utd bond issue.
A reality check here. You do realize that the guys running the financial show in the Obama administration are the ones thick as thieves with the Wall Street fat cats. That is Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley. Every effort at financial reform and transparency has been stymied by these institutions with a boost up by Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, the point men in the US government. The irony is that the economy's implosion and its spiraling global effect was a direct consequence of these institutions making investments that stank. A phenomenon that has not left football untouched.
When I say Goldman Sachs it is a euphemism for these investors who seem largely to come from such a background. It is a good question to ask whether they represent their institutions or whether they come as concerned citizens or fans to save Man Utd? The recession was made far worse by these very financial institutions who largely hid all those junk investments by flouting mark to market accounting rules. Till the bottom fell out. Transparency has never been their strong suit.
The one thing that the Glazers and the Portsmouth debacle should have taught us- don't cheer lead every potential investor that comes along. Look for the conflict and/or confluence of interests and ask these questions. It could save a lot of grief.
Nigel De Jong should have gotten a red card.
Stuart Holden is out for six weeks with a fractured fibula following De Jong's tackle.
It was a reckless challenge as De Jong comes flying in with his leg extended and studs up catching Holden above the right ankle. It is clear when you look at it from the front.
By the way the Dutch highlights don't show the tackle.
Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager had this to say following Holden's injury:
"It's disappointing for Stuart because he has come into the team and done ever so well.
"He's a very good player, an international player, and he has shown a real hunger and desire to do well for our football club."
The Algarve Cup threw up a star in Lauren Cheney who scored the winning goal for a pulsating, 3-2 victory over Germany, the women's World Cup champion.
It was not easy playing on this pitch. Large areas were little less than mud. One can feel for both goalies as they had to deal with ball which did strange things. Nadine Angerer, the German goalie was left gesticulating angrily through the match.
Goals from Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach within four minutes of each other put the USA up before Germany rallied though Inka Grings to narrow the score, 2-1. In the 70th minute a lofted ball towards Cheney saw Angerer charging out and misjudging the bounce. The ball got away from her and straight to Cheney leaving her a simple tap into an empty goal.
Cheney's goal proved to be the difference as Grings and Germany staged a comeback with a goal five minutes later.
USA held on for the win through some stellar defending by Amy LePeilbet and Rachel Buehler. Hope Solo came up with a save to what would have been an own goal in the last minute.
Congratulations to Pia Sundhage and the US women!
2 goals from Peter Crouch and one from Shaun Wright Phillips saw England to a comfortable 3 -1 win over Egypt.
Maradona's Argentina beat Germany by a solitary goal.That sound you can hear is the alarm bells ringing in Germany....
And Spain are on course of course. France got beat 2 - 0.Henry got booed by the French fans every time he touched the ball even though he did not use his hands even once.Domenech needs to find some inspiration if his team are going to go anywhere.
Keith Alexander's passing away was tragic on so many levels. Only 53 years of age and in his second season at Macclesfield.
What is eye catching is Alexander was only the second black manager throughout the professional English league, all 92 clubs. Paul Ince, the MK Dons manager is the other one. There are no black managers in the top flight at present. Ironically, Ince was the first who broke that glass ceiling when he was made manager of Blackburn but was removed six months into his hiring in December 2008 after Rovers fell to Man Utd.
For a sport that has so many black players playing professionally for years, the discrepancy in managerial representation is staggering. Alexander's death is a pointed reminder that in this area there exists a serious lacunae. Is the resistance to hiring black managers structural? An implicit assumption when it comes to planning and execution of the sport - leave it to whites?
England has come some ways from the days of the sort of overt racism exemplified by Ron Noades, Crystal Palace's chairman who as recently as 1991 had this to say about blacks on British TV.
" The problem with black players, " explained Noades, whose heavily black team had just finished third in the country, " is they have great pace, great athletes. love to play with the ball in front of them...... when it's behind them it's chaos. I don't think many of them can read the game. When you're getting into the mid-winter you need a few of the had white men to carry the athletic black players through. " (From Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski)
Emlyn Hughes, the Liverpool legend was fond of pointing to the "lack of bottle" in the black players. The absence of fortitude and the lack of discipline were the most glaring omissions of virtue as many immigrants from the Caribbean arriving in the 1970s took to the game.
For a contrast, one has to look across the pond.
An analogue of Noades "I don't think many of them can read the game" could arguably be found in the NFL. In the surfeit of running backs and wide receivers there was a singular lack of black quarterbacks. It was long felt that blacks for their undoubted athletic prowess lacked the decision making skills for the sports most important position.
Warren Moon of the Houston Oilers was one of the few exceptions. Moon, a fine QB with a great arm was named to nine Pro Bowls and kept company at the top with Dan Marino breaking a number of passing records. He was at the vanguard of a transformation as his success broke long held taboos. We now have the occasional remark from unreconstructed bigots like Rush Limbaugh denigrating black athletes but the reality is that Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Duante Culpepper, Michael Vick, Aaron Brooks, and Byron Leftwich are now an accepted part of the changed complexion of the game.
A similar close mindedness operated within the NFL in their hiring black managers. It was so pervasive that clubs deciding between similarly qualified managerial candidates invariably chose whites while overlooking black assistants with stellar records who had spent years in their ranks. With the top job closed off, these assistants fatalistically accepted that they would play smaller roles in managing special teams or the running backs. Even becoming the offensive co-ordinator was a huge accomplishment.
Things changed when Tony Dungy who had spent years as an assistant eventually became the Tampa Bay Buccaneers manager in 1995, three years after his former mentor Dennis Green was made Minnesota Viking manager. The two brought success to their clubs culminating in Dungy becoming the first black to win the 2007 Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.
Long time assistant Jim Caldwell immediately took over as manager after Dungy's retirement in 2009. He created a record with most wins as a rookie in a regular season and led them to this year's Super Bowl. Caldwell was a tad less successful compared to Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who in 2008 became the youngest Super Bowl winning coach when he beat the Seattle Seahawks.
Tomlin is the first black coach of the Steelers in their 75 year existence. His ascension is proof that the Rooney Rule is working.
The rule was the brainchild of Dan Rooney, the Steelers owner who worked to redress the imbalance of a league virtually bereft of blacks in the coaching upper echelons compared to their overwhelming presence on the field. The rule states that the hiring club has to at least interview one minority candidate when filling a head coaching position or be fined.
"There were some people who said, 'I want to hire whoever I want to hire. You can't be telling us who to hire.' That is your decision," Rooney said. "But we say you must give an opportunity to an African-American or a minority.
"That sort of took hold. And when we went through that, it worked."
Rooney makes clear that he expects that the Rooney rule is not going to be around for too long. After the initial leg up when the successful hiring of minority managers is not in dispute the rule may not be needed at all. The punitive aspect might be a bit of flim flam but when the club willfully ignores the rule, they are potentially looking at black players who might be chary of signing up with the club. The powerful players union weighed in with their strong disapproval on a recent bid by a consortium that included Rush Limbaugh to buy out the St Louis Rams. Individual players strongly objected threatening a club boycott and in the end the consortium backed down.
To be fair when Noades made his views clear he was derided in England. By the time the Premiership was formed, 90% of the professional league had fielded at least one black player. A huge jump from the 1973-1974 season when just two clubs out of the 92 fielded a black player was in the roster. At the back, England turned to Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Ashley Cole, and Sol Campbell in the 2002 World Cup to provide protection.
However when it comes to managers the record continues to be extremely dismal. As Simon Kuper points out it is old racism in a new bottle. Trevor Philips, the head of Britain's Commission on Equality and Human Rights puts it.
" Loads of black players on the field and none in the dugout."
Kuper is not optimistic as he says that unlike players who visibly fail or succeed and get weeded out in a process of natural selection, the optics by which a manager does the same is not clear. In short, one cannot distill into clear language why a manager succeeds. Because there have been many more white managers, some who can be deemed as successes the law of averages works adversely for black ex-players seeking employment as a coach. The fear of failing while taking a chance seems to have jeopardized Paul Ince's tenure at Blackburn. It also seems to be what is in operation at a larger level throughout the league.
The NFL is the petri dish for socialistic enterprises like a salary cap and revenue sharing. So affirmative action hiring practices are less hard to adopt and carry out. The Rooney Rule in the more sink or swim English league may not work. But there is no reason why a version cannot be explored. It is deplorable that with the death of Keith Alexander, the pool of black managers has been reduced to just the one. The situation is not any different when Luther Blissett in the 1990s when he applied to 22 clubs for the coaching job and was refused an interview from every single one of them.
Leighton Baines, Everton's wingback is the favourite ahead of Stephen Warnock of Aston Villa in the Egypt friendly to earn his first full England start when Fabio Capello announces his XI. Both are impressive contenders but Baines has been taking to the training ground with Capello in what should be considered the starting line up.
The attack minded left back is most likely to be second in the depth chart in the wake of Ashley Cole's injury absence and Wayne Bridge's retirement. Most importantly, he will have to show Capello that he can take care in the defensive end of the business. No one doubts Baines speed, quality of crosses, and set pieces.
He has to show he can take care at the defensive end. Capello's Glen Johnson experiment has made him decidedly wary of full backs who tout impeccable attacking instincts at the expense of more sketchy defensive qualities.
My personal feeling is that Capello would vastly prefer Wayne Bridge with his international experience and his less venturesome character for his final 23 for the World Cup. He still holds out hope that Bridge reconsiders his retirement for those good reasons.
There is a good chance that a behind the scenes diplomatic operation will be launched to repair the relationship with John Terry. Many prominent players have urged Bridge to eschew personal feelings over the call of international duty.
Baines can help settle the vexed left back position with an impressive display against Egypt and render this conjecture moot. He has to contend with the talented Mohamed Zidan and an midfield anchored by Ahmed Fathi. Egypt is riding into Wembley on the back of their impressive Africa Cup win so confidence is not an issue. Ronnie Shehata also has the luxury of a deep bench to turn to, including Amr Zaki and Gedo, the Africa Cup top scorer in case breeching England's defense proves difficult. This is no friendly as 80 million Egyptians following this match will attest.
A list of ESPN's top choice 50 players at the World Cup and descriptions of their strength's and weaknesses here..
Messi is in pole position and C Ron comes in second.Landon Donovan is ploughing a lonely furrow at the 50th place.An objection to Ballack figuring on the list at number 30 has been duly registered.
What Liverpool has been sorely missing.Torres returns to score this winner against Blackburn .He is also going to play for Spain in a friendly against Spain one of these days giving Benitez more anxiety.
This post is pretty late too.The late winner below was scored way back on saturday against Malaga with about 6 minutes left to go in the game.Real Madrid were briefly ahead of Barcelona on points because they had beaten Tenerife 5 -1 by then.This goal from Messi however took Barca two points clear of Real Madrid again.Though the goal goes to Messi it was Xavi's glorious defence splitting pass that brought it about.