Fabrizio Miccoli and Antonio Nocerino combining with Matia Cassini put Palermo two goals up. Inter's defending bordered on the ludicrous with Maicon looking a pale imitation. That was before Giampaolo Pazzini newly bought from Sampdoria took matters into his hands. Both goals were the result of impeccable goal poaching instincts in front of goal. It was left to Samuel Eto'o to pull off a come from behind win to keep Inter on pace with the Serie leaders.
Osasuna's Javier Camunas sent Real Madrid into a world of pain with a wonderfully placed strike that clipped the woodwork but fortunately went in (Robin Van Persie will have something to say about that). With this loss, Real are 7 points behind Barca and as Sid Lowe points out, the race for the title maybe all but over. Suddenly Manuel Pellegrini does not look so bad.
Mourinho brought on Emmanuel Adebayor, Kaka, and Xabi Alonso (now which club can boast such bench players?) but to no avail. Mesut Oezil seems to be the one creative spark. Ronaldo was quite invisible other than a hissy fit. Real's woes have come on the road against the bottom dwelling clubs like Mallorca, Levante, Almería and Osasuna who seem to be taking inordinate pleasure in sticking it to Fiorentina Perez's Galacticos version 2.
Fernando Torres vs Andy Carroll; Didier Drogba vs Luis Suarez
Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel combined fetched the Reds £56m in transfer fees which left them almost breaking even with their purchase of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll at £22.8m and £35m, respectively. The Reds would have loved to have Charlie Adams but Blackpool's bid of £14m was a bit too high.
Torres, the Liverpool want away's new address is Stamford Bridge. At £50m he became the most expensive player purchased by an English club.
The Blues also secured the services of David Luiz from Benfica for £26.5m. The central defender's move hit an impasse which was finally broken when Chesea added Nemanja Matic, the highly regarded Serbian midfielder as a sweetener.
The two clubs splashed a record breaking £134.3m in transfer fees on the last day. This coming Sunday provides an instantaneous litmus test as Torres, the new Chelsea number 9 faces off against his old club alongside Didier Drogba. His opposite number Andy Carroll also takes the field with new strike partner Luis Suarez. Who will come out on top?
Real Madrid went and lost 1 - 0 to Osasuna and this means they are now seven points behind Barca at the top.
Adebayor's debut did not make any difference to the scoreline.
Javier Camunas scored in the 62nd minute with a that shot went in off a post. Defender Alvaro Arbeloa stopped Osasuna scoring a second when he cleared Krisztian Vadocz's shot off the line near the end. Mourinho is going to find it hard to turn this around.
Things like this remind me that there's still some hope for the human race.
Boreham Wood F.C. are a football club based in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire who have major relegation issues at the moment.In a recent game against Havant a loss would have meant that they would be 6 points away from the safety margin.Lose they did.
They lost 2 -1 .But in doing so they gave an outstanding display of good sportsmanship.
Havant was 1 goal up with 9 minutes or so of play remaining.That's when Havant kicked the ball out of play so that a Boreham Wood's injured player - Sam Pearce - could receive treatment. When play resumed, Mario Noto of Boreham Woods collected the ball from the throw in line and booted it back to the Havant goalie from near the halfway line. However Noto's kick which was meant to be a pass to the opposing goalie beat him instead and flew into the goal.
Then came the good sportsmanship.
They did not claim the freak equaliser and run around hysterically in all directions as expected.
They chose rather to allow Havant's Wes Fogden to walk the ball from the kick-off and score a second for Havant while they just stood by.
Hope for the human race right ?
Real Madrid's famous Alfredo di Stefano team was the last one to chalk up 15 consecutive victories on the trot. Now - 50 years later - Pep Guardiola's team equalled that record when they beat Hercules 3 - 0.
"It's an immense honour to have 15 consecutive victories and to equal the record achieved by the Real Madrid of Di Stefano.I am sure some team will equal it or pass it one day but it is something no one has managed for 50 years" he said.
Southampton held the lead until almost midway through the second half before Michael Owen and Javier Hernandez staged another comeback for Man Utd.starting There were 8 changes in the team that had made the last comeback. Man Utd were without Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Ryan Giggs, Nani,Van der Sar ,Rafael da Silva, Rio Ferdinand, Vidic and Patrice Evra.
Ronaldo - the corpulent one - takes William Tell to the next level.
If William Tell were to do this it would involve him shooting an arrow out of the sky with another arrow.
Ronaldo achieves the same effect using two footballs and possibly some sleight of leg.
This is a video clip with presenter Charlotte Jackson.
Andy Gray makes a lewd remark to Jackson which critics will see as sexist and supporters will consider harmless banter. But there is no mistake he crossed the line with Sian Massey simply because of her gender as the clip below shows.
She was proved absolutely spot on ruling Fernando Torres onside. The FA thinks very highly of her and she has spent hours training for this job. Meanwhile thousands of her male colleagues have demonstrated hapless incompetence interpreting the offside rule sometimes by a mile. Remember this Klose jawdropper against Fiorentina which robbed the Violas of a Champions League win. There are many such examples which never robs males of their cozy double standards.
There is a less obvious one at play here - defending such derogatory remarks as a sign of a macho culture (men being men) is hypocrisy when men proven wrong are not man enough to own up or apologize. Which is what Gray should have done to Massey.
It was surprising Richard Keys, his fellow commentator at Sky Sports got off lightly guilty of similar such remarks about Massey. But his career might be on the line with some leaked new footage where he uses sexist language to describe a former girlfriend of Jamie Redknapp. So the next question is who is sticking it to these two? Gray and Keys obviously rubbed some off the wrong way.
As for Gray, his gruff and opinionated style earned him much airtime. Mixed in with his often apt commentary on referees and divers were his awry judgments of players. He was also condescending of other leagues and their players belittling Barca or Real's chances against real "English" clubs like Stoke or Blackburn and calling Messi "Little". So he really won't be missed by the cognoscenti. And neither it appears will those who found his off air sexism unfunny.
Update: Richard Keys and Andy Gray "apologize" for their remarks. Keys goes a bit Harry Potteresque when he says there are dark forces at work.
Blackpool were brilliant in the first half. Charlie Adam who Ian Holloway is hanging onto for dear life even as Liverpool furiously shake their hips at him was unstoppable. A pair of corner kicks and Craig Cathcart and DJ Campbell made fools of the Utd defense to put Blackpool up two. They showed no signs of stopping while running Man Utd ragged. It was all very exhilarating.
But Utd needs one moment. And it happened minutes into the second half as Rafael barges into Luke Varney in full view of Peter Walton. It was a PK whichever way you cut it. For some inexplicable reason Walton does not give it. One loses track of the times decisions have favoured Utd. Would it have made a difference? You just knew the worm was turning. Darren Fletcher squares the ball as the Blackpool defense in disarray allows Dimitar Berbatov to steal the ball home. It was the Bulgarian's 19th goal.
Ryan Giggs. Can we say genius till our mouths run dry? The second goal was exquisite. Giggs floating a perfect drop on a dime pass to Chicharito controlling it with one touch and then sweeping the ball into goal. This is Utd - Wayne Rooney shuts off but up comes a cohort of new heroes. The languid Berbatov, the quick witted Chicharito. Unfortunately for Blackpool they were not finished. Berbatov scored his 20th goal finishing off a Scholes pass after another disjointed defensive effort allowed them acres of space.
10 minutes of extra time was added due to Rafael's injury but it was not enough for a Blackpool to stage their own comeback. Man Utd's only wrinkle was Rafael's concussion which forced him out of the game.
Utd's unbeaten streak may eventually be halted but it will prove a blip in their march to their 19th league title. They are inexorable. We've seen it far too many times.
It took Arsenal an hour to break the frustrating logjam. But in the end Nicklas Bendtner, Laurent Kosicielny, and Cesc Fabregas booked the Gunners to their first Carling Cup final since 2007 and a shot at their first silverware since the 2005 FA Cup. The first half was marked by Robin Van Persie's solitary attempt which struck his mortal enemy, the woodwork (this must be his umpteenth time he's hit either the upright or the crossbar). To prove that point once again, his header clanged of the crossbar after Bendtner set him up for one more chance in the second half.
With every nerve racking minute gone by the anxiety levels were reaching stratospheric levels. Was it going to be another evening of frustrating football without any goals and Ipswich making history? Fabregas missed another chance from a sublime pass by the tireless Jack Wilshere.
It was Wilshere who finally provided the breakthrough as he swept a long pass that Bendtner was able to collect while remaining onside. The Danish striker cut inside Carlos Edwards and curled his shot past Martin Fulop, no slouch in goal, with elan. Say what you will Bendtner does not lack confidence. The Emirates exhaled a collective sigh of relief. Arsenal 1 Ipswich 1 on aggregate. Game on.
The Ipswich custodian was at fault two minutes later when he came off his line ill advisedly following an Andrey Arshavin corner only to find Laurent Koscielny beating him to the punch with his header. The icing on the cake was provided by Cesc Fabregas 10 minutes later latching onto a return pass from Arshavin and nutmegging Fulop.
The League Cup maybe on the lower end of the totem pole. In the past Arsene Wenger has treated it with almost seeming contempt bringing out his B and sometimes C side. He's come to the realization that success however small will be a huge fillip to a squad that has has not seen any and has forgotten how to win silverware. Success breeds success. Only Gael Clichy amongst them was part of the 2005 FA Cup winning squad. Winning the Carling Cup will be the first step in unlocking that mental block that has kept the Gunners from winning the bigger prizes.
Ronaldo - the other one - recently did a William Tell act by knocking a bottle off a chaps head with a football.Some skullduggery was afoot as the ball did not actually seem to go very near the bottle.
Anyway French humourist Remi Gaillard has decided to give Ronaldo a bit of competition by doing a William Tell act of his own that looks a whole lot more convincing.
A couple of weeks or so ago Jose Mourinho slipped while stepping into the dugout when Real Madrid were playing Getafe.
At that time it seemed that it just went to show that he was human after all.Take a look.
However it turns out that there was actually a conspiracy afoot. As this shocking GIF image reveals....!
Nikola Kalinic chested the ball to Hoilett who then scored his maiden EPL goal for the Rovers.The goal has been variously described as spectacular,unstoppable,a firecracker,a howitzer and so on.Coach Steve Kean was happy.
"We see it everyday in training, and it's just good that everyone's seeing it on the pitch because he's a quality player, and I think he's a match-winner when he's on that form,"
Sian Massey was one of the assistant refs in the Liverpool vs Wolves game.She was correct in her call that Fernando Torres was onside as he went on to score the first goal of his hat trick.She was also assistant ref in a game between Sunderland and Blackpool in December last year. That crumbly sound you can hear is the sound of another male bastion crumbling.
Or possibly Blatter grinding his teeth.!
Even as Berbatov's hat trick of hat tricks was helping Man Utd blast Birmingham into 5 - 0 obliviion Van Persie was also quietly scoring a little hat trick of his own.Arsenal happily sent Wigan home wiith the score reading three goals to nothing.
Qatar were done in by an 89th minute goal from Japan.They were in the lead two times in the game through goals from Sebastian Soria and Fabio Cesar.
Shinji Kagawa is not going to be a popular name in Qatar for awhile.He scored the equaliser both times.
With the game apparently destined for extra-time, an enterprising Kagawa dribble drew Qatar goalkeeper Qasem Burhan from his line and when the ball broke to defender Masahiko Inoha, he rolled home the winner- preventing Qatar from entering the semi final stage - something that would have been a first for them.
Peru is where the action is.The 2011 Youth Championship is underway.
There are four qualification slots for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 along with two for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 also at stake.
Neymar showed Paraguay why he is one of the star attractions of the tournament.
Barcelona' s 4-1 win over Malaga took them to two new records. The win meant that they have dropped just 5 points in their first 19 matches and have taken 52 points from a possible 57, something that no side has done before.
The win also extended Barca' s unbeaten run in all competitions to 28 matches, which is a new club record.
Four points are all that stand between Liverpool and the relegation zone.All they could manage was a 2 -2 draw against Everton.The defence conceded two incredibly shambolic goals.Sylvain Distin was given the freedom of Stanley Park to nod home the equaliser less than a minute after Raul Meireles had scored a ripper from inside the box.All the good running from Torres and Meireles did not translate into goals.Jermaine Beckford put Everton ahead.Kuyt equalised with a 66th minute penalty.Four points from relegation.Wake up.
India has a total area of 3.29 million sq. km.Bahrain on the other hand is a mere 620 sq km.Rapid mental maths reveals that the ratio in favour of India is about 50,000:1
This alas did not translate into the scoreline.The indian Asian Cup dream ended with a 5 - 2 beating at the hands of Bahrain
Talk about a very miniscule David beating a very very overweight Goliath.The Indian Coach Bob Houghton however is still seeing the positive side of things.
Ian Evatt outjumps Martin Skrtel and heads the ball across goal for DJ Campbell to finish. Blackpool celebrate a double against Liverpool for the first time since 1946-47. King Kenny's arrival fails to stop the rot. Maybe Roy Hodgson feels a wee bit vindicated.
Liverpool made a bright start and were up early with Fernando Torres coming alive in a rare instance to lash a ball past Richard Kingson after receiving a pass from Martin Kelly. But they were undone by sloppy defensive work when Torres carelessly passed the ball to Raul Miereles forcing him to reflexively toe poke the ball to David Vaughan. The Blackpool midfielder wasted no time to feed the onrushing Gary Taylor Fletcher, who easily cut inside Daniel Agger and slot the ball past Pepe Reina. The euphoria which swept the visiting fans after Torres's goal dissipated instantly.
Blackpool are now in 9th position. They're an enjoyable side to watch playing an attacking and attractive brand of football - they seem less bothered by the grimness of hanging onto promotion which probably has a lot to do with Ian Holloway's effusive personality.
In retrospect, Chelsea did a great disservice to Arsenal this weekend. Because if there is anyone in the league that can get away without doing the hard work, it is the North London side.
The Gunners probably felt that they just had to show up and Ipswich would cave in just as they did against Chelsea. But they had a shock waiting for them. With Paul Jewell looking on in the stands, Ian McParland managing his last match fashioned a victory that will be savoured for years to come. It must have felt like deja vu for Jewell who managed the Wigan side that beat Arsenal in 2006 in their semi-final encounter.
Tamas Priskin finished off magnificently after racing past Johan Djourou to send Portman Road into delirious celebration. Priskin for his part came close on two other occasions but lacked the nerve. This time he kept his cool to angle the ball past Wojiech Szczesny. The goal came unsurprisingly after another defensive breakdown.
This is the second Championship team to lay the lumber on the Gunners in a matter of days which begets the question: Would the Gunners be in the relegation zone if they were in the Championship?
Full marks to the Tractor Boys rebounding from their humiliating loss. They played with a plan that was very English. Long balls to the heart of the vulnerable Arsenal defense and then let the speed of Priskin and 17 year old Connor Wickham do the damage. They were aided and abetted by the utter incompetence of Djourou, Koscielny, and Eboue, who were outmatched aerially and on the ground.
On attack, the Gunners were equally listless. Lots of mindless and ineffective passing which did not work. One just wishes that they would have a go once in a while at goal to break up the monotony. But except for Nasri, the current lot will never be mistaken for sharpshooters.
Andrey Arshavin continues his downward spiral - tentative on the ball and detached off it. Wenger's most expensive signing was barely in the game as he's been for months now. Nicklas Bendtner talks a good game but was familiarly inept when it came to deliver on those words. Still he's a legend in his own mind.
Fabregas was very ordinary. Very ordinary. He also missed a golden chance to score minutes before Priskin's winner but instead of shooting or heading the ball, he lamely stuck his thigh out to Kieran Gibbs's beautifully directed cross and the ball went out of play.
Ipswich could have added a few more goals. Szczesny suspiciously handled the ball inches out of the box which the officiating crew failed to spot. And then Carlos Edwards came very close in the dying minutes.
What really should be disturbing is the lack of scoring for the third game in a row. This being Arsenal one can expect defensive errors to gift goals but they've overcome this handicap by outscoring the opposition. Now they can't even get a goal while the same old shoot yourself in the foot mentality continues. Wenger was uncharacteristically blunt:
"We had a lot of the ball but didn't make a lot of it," Wenger said. "Ipswich defended with heart and commitment, and we made a defensive mistake. They showed you can have 70 per cent of the ball and lose games. They defended well. We were not sharp, not creative. We had an off night. Every single pass was a problem from the start."
Infuriatingly too, Arsenal comes to each match with such wildly varying degrees of intensity they make bipolar disorder seem tame in comparison. Now, that they know the Tractor Boys are no pushovers that should make for a much better return performance at the Emirates. That is the CW. But this is Arsenal!
Michel Platini has made financial reform his signature theme. The danger has never been so keenly felt before with a glut of clubs facing an existential crisis because of living beyond their means.
Clubs will have to clamp down on debt and start breaking even from the 2011-12 season for a three year rolling period or otherwise face potential bans from European competitions. The look back period will be enforced from the 2013-14 season.
Which is why Arsenal is getting some special love from the UEFA bigwigs. They want more clubs to adopt Arsenal's financial model which incorporates prudent spending with maximizing different revenue streams.
"Ten years ago Arsenal reported less income than Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle," Infantino added. "Now it is more than those clubs and in 2009 more than double Newcastle's."
"This shows what is possible with good management and careful investment."
Arsenal turned in £300m a year in revenue and made pre-tax profit of £35m for FY 2009. These figures are an exception to the more grim statistics confronting more and more clubs. UEFA are now monitoring clubs on their overspending and have placed Chelsea and both Manchester clubs in a high risk category. The most vulnerable is City whose appetite for high spending so far remains unchecked. However, they too seem to be getting the memo and Roberto Mancini recently made some noises indicating a halt to their spending activity.
Of course, this is subject to how UEFA strictly adheres to its enforcement of these financial rules. On the other hand there are legitimate ways and means a club like City can adopt that gradually steer it to financial equilibrium. But this maybe more a unique case of City having the wherewithal to pull it off. These financial fair play rules are not meant to even the playing field between the bigger clubs and smaller clubs because they are not scalable. Living within your means still means that big clubs will get the players they want because there is no salary or transfer cap.
Thomas Vermaelen has suffered another injury set back which now needs surgical intervention on his damaged Achilles heel. He's now expected to miss a further six to eight weeks.
Sebastien Squillaci is also out for possibly three weeks with a hamstring injury. Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou are the two healthy central defenders left which leaves Arsenal with no cover should an injury, suspension, or any other emergency befall either one or both. Wenger has indicated that he might have to explore the transfer market. And his target might be a Premier League player.
"Ideally it would be better if they were adapted to English football because if you need players now in January you cannot wait three months before they can play for you."
Naturally, Gary Cahill rumours are flying thick and fast.
However, this is Wenger. Notoriously tightfisted when it comes to such matters and more prone to applying a band aid.
"If the opportunity turns up we will fetch it, but if not we can cope. I believe we can cope."
"We have still solutions internally with Miquel, with Song who can play centre-back and with Squillaci, who should come back very quickly."
Actually, it went to Leo Messi, who in any circumstance is not an undeserving winner. But when you look at a man commanding a soccer ideology as perfectly as Xavi in Spain's greatest sporting achievement then his claim to the world's most influential player is a bit more tenuous.
Xavi's style of playing so familiar to Barcelona was unhesitatingly incorporated into Spain's national team. Because it works. No one maintains the shape of a midfield as brilliantly as Xavi. He is the one who resets, recycles, and releases players like Messi to do what they do best - make defenders look silly. Though Spain won the World Cup with the fewest goals scored they were never outplayed. With a player like Xavi it usually comes down to the matter of when they score. Messi is his best executioner but Villa, Bojan, and Pedro have been beneficiaries too.
With Maradona casting aside Juan Sebastian Veron, the only player within a whiff of Xavi's calibre - Messi became less effective having to drop deeper to link up with Javier Mascherano. The Germans just had to wait in ambush. No one more than Messi knows better the reason for the disparity between his club and national performances. He, Veron and countless others acknowledge the symphonic quality of the Barca midfield orchestrated by Xavi.
We can also make the case for Wesley Sneijder, instrumental in giving Inter the title that they craved most, the Champions League. Under Roberto Mancini, the attack was carried out by individualistic and opportunistic strikers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Real Madrid reject brought to Inter in a master stroke by Mourinho became the club's playmaker easing the burden on Diego Milito. Sneijder also proved no slouch at scoring goals. Pushed hard by Roma, his set pieces proved decisive in winning the Serie and the Coppa Italia. And who can forget his seal on the Brazil game in the World Cup.
Sid Lowe explains why someone like Sneijder was overlooked in the run up to the final three candidates. He became a victim of FIFA's desire to amalgamate the Ballon d'Or with the Fifa World Player Award. Under the old format, the Ballon D'Or awarded by France Football would have chosen Sneijder. Messi would have finished fourth. But now the expanded pool of voters includes coaches and captains who pulled the votes for the Argentinian.
Some tabloids complained about an anti-Spanish bias after the awards. But the more obvious explanation is that Xavi and Iniesta split the vote which unfortunately did not work out well for either one of them. The increased number of voters have also diluted objectivity. Many have a political axe to grind. Some just choose their team mates in a fit of blind allegiance.
Jose Mourinho deserved the coach of the year award. So much of his success is built on a chip on the shoulder bravura that even in this august moment he did not let go of his cagey and calculating persona. He looked like someone was going to announce it as a very big mistake. But he too is notable for doing what Xavi does so well, make others give off their best. Wherever he is - Porto, Chelsea, Inter, and now at Real, his players are lifted to a different level of performance.
Marta became the world's best woman player for the fifth time. The title is an ongoing battle between the Brazilian and Birgit Prinz for the last seven years - a feat of notable durability.
The Indian cricket team is going from strength to strength but the football squad unfortunately are not making much headway.
142 ranked India were no match for the Socceroos who cleaned up the game 4 goals to nothing.
The coach Bob Houghton however had many positive things to say.Said it was all part of a significant learning curve for his inexperiened team in their quest to improve and that they were outclassed but not disgraced.
"We played a very good team. It's not by fortune that Australia are the number one team in Asia. They're very good and a team with enormous experience.They were playing against a team that is emerging at this level so it was a difficult game for us but I thought our boys stuck to their task very well.We kept our shape, we kept our discipline, we kept going and I thought we were a little bit unlucky. I'm pleased with our boys and I think they'll improve from it and learn from it.
The vehicle that will move Indian football forward is the national team. When the national team becomes successful, I think the interest in football will follow it.
I hope that the fact that we've managed to get to the Asian Cup for the first time in nearly 30 years will encourage the government and the federation to spend money on training facilities.
In India we don't have it and you can't produce players if you have no facilities. You can't do it."
Ryan Babel responded to the call that led to the Ryan Giggs spot kick by Twittering this photoshop of Howard Webb. Liverpool lost to Man Utd by that solitary goal. Webb also sent off Steven Gerrard for his two footed tackle on Michael Carrick. Both decisions were bitterly disputed by Kenny Dalglish on his first match as 'Pool's interim manager.
The Dutchman may face FA disciplinary action. But from the looks of it Webb might have been lampooned fairly. Berbatov did go to ground very cheaply. But Webb does have a case against Gerrard.
Not to be part of the squad but to train with them for four weeks. He will return to the Galaxy well before the MLS season begins. That was a lot of hoo ha about nothing. Harry Redknapp could still be angling for a loan move as rumoured.
Edinson Cavani was Diego Forlan's understudy in the World Cup. But here is evidence that the talented Uruguayan will be a transfer target for bigger clubs. A hat trick scored by Cavani- all three goals were headers helped Napoli overcome Juventus and maintain their threat to AC Milan.
Cristiano Ronaldo was the headline grabber with three of the goals but the bigger story was Kaka scoring his first goal after returning from an eight month injury layoff. Jose Mourinho celebrated in his usual over the top style which led to this bit of agitprop by Cani. The Villareal midfielder was punished with a red card. Later, Mou stated he was not taunting the opposition.
"I went to celebrate the goal with my son who was behind the visitors' bench, and the Villarreal players thought I was provoking them," Mourinho told the post-match news conference.
"I hope that when one swears on their son they believe you. I think this (situation) comes from a state of affairs where everything I do is always classed as negative."
Villareal played some scintillating football in the first half with Marco Ruben artfully chipping the ball over Iker Casillas to send the Yellow Submarines up by 2-1. But Real's muscularity embodied by Ronaldo proved too much. See the third goal - a remarkable piece of hustle. The Merengues are keeping it close with Barca on top by just two points.
Daniele Bonera had a nightmare game. Alexis Sanchez, Antonio Di Natale, and German St Denis were beneficiaries of some very shoddy defensive work by the central defender.
The second goal by Di Natale highlighted a poor defensive sequence as Clarence Seedorf was stripped and Di Natale scampered down the field to leave Bonera hopelessly out of position.
Udinese were 3-1 to the good but an own goal by Mehdi Benatia and Alexander Pato's second goal brought Milan back to level terms. Then St Denis made Bonera eat crow for the third time to put Udinese back on top. It looked like the visitors were heading to victory but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an injury time equalizer after Antonio Cassano put him through with a neat little pass.
Exciting, open game with lots of scoring opportunities and in a rarity for Serie teams virtually non-existent defense. Milan have lost some ground at the top of the league as Napoli surprisingly handed Juve a 3-0 loss.
Arsenal continued to find ways to get to goal only to be thwarted by poor finishing and Kasper's Schmeichel's goalkeeping. When the son of the Danish legend failed, Jonathan Howson was at hand to effect a goal line clearance.
Then came the moment which changed the match. Denilson stuck his leg out in unthinking fashion to trip Max Gradel after the Leeds winger got past him. Phil Dowd had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Robert Snodgrass duly converted although Wojciech Szczesny got a hand to it to put Leeds up.
Denilson should be benched and then transferred. It is still a mystery why Wenger continues to repose so much faith in him.
The Gunners had to wait almost 40 agonizing minutes to equalize. Wenger had to send in Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas to the rescue. The winger turned on the jets after Bendtner fed him the ball and was brought down by Ben Parker.
Fabregas stroked in an assured PK to ensure Arsenal's visit to Elland Road. The Gunners were almost awarded a penalty previously through Walcott's theatrical abilities for which he apologized on the club's website after the match was over. Refreshing bit of candour.
"I want to apologise to the managers, because I dived," said Walcott on the Arsenal website. "I was trying to win the penalty."
Szczesny continued his impressive form in goal and came with a spectacular save to deny Luciano Becchio. On the other hand, Arshavin could not take advantage of his start. He seems to have lost his way and clearly is not enjoying his football. Nicklas Bendtner continues to be played bizarrely out of position as winger - he is too slow and lacks the crossing ability. He could have won the match with one last gasp as Fabregas put him through with a beautifully floated ball but his finish was awful.
Odil Akhmedov scored from a 30 yard belter to give the Uzbekis the lead. The goal was reminiscent of Siphiwe Tshabalala's scorcher for SA against Mexico in the World Cup's opening game. Server Djeparov intercepted a pass and added to the tally as the Qataris defense went to sleep.
The lesson learned by Qatar's royal family will be to increase pay and naturalize foreign born talent more quickly.
One thought that Wednesday was going to be a big day for the Tractor Boys because they were supposed to meet Arsenal in the Carling Cup semi-finals.
They'll be disappointed to know in their place it's going to be Liverpool as per The Sun. Stellar journalism as usual. When it comes to disinformation it does not get better than a Murdoch run operation. Did you know that the tides are caused by God? Which is proof that God exists according to Bill O'Reilly, hands down the dumbest man on planet Earth. He could not be bothered to look up simple laws of planetary motion and gravity. Fox News?? We distort, you deride.
Anyways, the bigger story is that no one knows whether Roy Hodgson is in charge any more. A press conference was canceled which led to more rumours that Sunday's FA game against Man Utd might not see him prowling the sidelines. But there appears to be no one else who can take charge at such short notice. And who would if they've to face Man Utd as their first opponent?
The Asian Cup begins in Qatar today providing a preview to the world's biggest dance in 2022.
Can the tiny oil and gas rich country start turning around the skepticism that greeted it's shock selection? How about their national team - a usual joke even with its neighbours? Can Brian Metsu make them competitive? How will they handle the issue of indentured labour that regularly gets them into trouble with human rights organizations? Will they make allowances to the LGBT community to express themselves openly since homosexuality comes under their blasphemy laws? Will they relax rules that forbid alcohol in public spaces? And the heat, oh the heat! Even winter brings on a milder version of sunstroke.
Kristine Lilly, retires after 24 years. The most capped player in men's or women's soccer history with 352 caps. A feat of incredible durability. The most under rated player in her group of high flying compatriots like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, and Michelle Akers who regularly stole the thunder. She outlasted them all doing the little things that made the USA, the powerhouse in women's soccer.
A tribute by US Soccer capturing some of her career highlights >>
Serie action began once again after the winter break.
Leonardo's debut was an excellent one as Inter beat second placed Napoli in a high voltage encounter. Open ended attacking football from both teams but Inter's finishing proved crucial.
Thiago Motta known mostly for his enforcing role under Mourinho enjoyed a transformation into a striker finishing off a nice left footed volley after an interchange of pretty passes. Napoli seemed to have an instant answer but Edinson Cavani's goal was called back after Andrea Dossena was adjudged correctly for being offside. But a little bit later there was no denying Michele Pazienza heading home from Ezequiel Lavezzi's corner.
Inter took the lead again as Maicon bounding down the right swung in a cross which Esteban Cambiasso nailed remorselessly. They added to their tally as Motta rising hard and high turned in Goran Pandev's corner past Morgan De Sanctis.
A little too early to say whether this will hold but Leonardo's presence seemed to provide the oomph that Inter lacked under Rafa Benitez.
The English cricket team will not look like this when they return home
This is a magnificent victory. It is cricket and as such has no place on a blog about soccer/football but for those growing up around that game like we did in India or elsewhere in the cricket playing world - the Aussies were damn near invincible for aeons. Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and their band of swashbuckling merry giants ran riot over the other troll nations.
Now, it's all over. An under hyped English team retains The Ashes. And today in Sydney won the series 3-1, their first triumph Down Under in 24 years. The mighty Aussies are a shadow of themselves. Sliding inexorably to the precipice.
Cricket in its birthplace slid to irrelevancy as its former colonies have ousted the sport. The same same topology applies to football as it left its native shores to find roots elsewhere.
The reaction to both sports by the media is spectacularly different. The English cricket team are portrayed as ne'er do well before a Test series or the Cricket World Cup and so far the results seem to bear them out. But the football team always gets over hyped and sent over with a sealed and signed verdict of virtual indestructibility. As South Africa proved, despite the proclamations a whimper would be too kind a descriptive for what happened yet again.
The difference is that along with cricket moving offshore, so has the money. A large part of England's attraction for cricketers in the developing world was county cricket. It led to an influx of players in the 70s and 80s. There was a bit of money to be earned but it was mostly exposure to playing good pace bowlers that was the main draw. But county cricket could not compete financially and thus began the reverse migration. It is India that now has the EPL's version of cricket on crack.
The Indian Premier League is the fifth most lucrative sports brand and is getting only bigger and better. There has been an inflow of upcoming talent and former national players who have found homes in the Rajasthan Royals, Chennai Super Kings, or Mumbai Indians. An average salary would be in the vicinity of $4 million over a year, second only to the NBA.
In football, the economy has remained in England. The sport remains within privatized clubs and there are no county counterparts. The EPL remains highly competitive with England's players competing with top notch overseas players. The receipts from its global media and TV enterprise remains unsurpassed. It is not hard to see how this could engender a false equivalency. A similar misplaced sense has developed within the Indian media about the infallibility of the national cricket team.
English cricket seems far more real with less fatuous idolatry. But an average cricketer also appears infinitely more perceptive than his footballing counterpart. At the very least he knows it's not all about him. Here is Paul Collingwood on his last day as a Test cricketer and given the honour of leading out the victorious English team:
"My role in the side is to score runs, I'm disappointed I haven't done that. But four years ago I scored a double century and we lost 5-0 and I much prefer it this way round. We deserve it."
In contrast, English football still lives in a bubble.
But enough already. We're here to celebrate an extra-ordinary victory and yes, for many of us, an extra-ordinary demise. The English media is trumpeting the new look cricket team that will come to a heroes welcome. Congratulations England! And dare one say, better luck next time Australia?
The former Man Utd hardman's reign comes to an end after the Tractor Boys slumped to 19th position in the Championship and in serious danger of relegation. Roy Keane was sacked by owner Marcus Evans days before Ipswich play a FA third round fixture at Chelsea and then travel to Arsenal for the Carling Cup semi-final first leg.
Maybe this all has to do with the new Kumbaya mode of living. The old snarly self would have been more effective.
Roy Hodgson in all likelihood should have managed his last game as Blackburn felled Liverpool, 3-1. The only thing extending his job in the very short term is there are no readily available options for the Reds. They could crank up an emergency call to Martin O'Neill or come back crawling on all fours to Rafa Benitez. Or bring in Kenny Dalglish, the club's icon. Maybe Juergen Klinsmann can be lured back to managing. All these choices will require convincing.
Martin Olsson opened the scoring aided and abetted by some horrendous defending by Glen Johnson and then it was Benjani, resurrecting his once promising career striking twice for Blackburn. Stevie Gerrard managed to claim a consolation goal.
At the press conference, Hodgson refused to answer questions about his future:
"I am not prepared to talk about that because I am depressed enough with the performance and result," Hodgson said.
Another ex- Liverpool manager is feeling the heat. Under Gerard Houllier's tenure, Aston Villa have gone south. This time they lost to Sunderland. They're now firmly in the relegation zone.
Hungry like the Wolves? At Molineaux, the bottom dwellers went ahead on an own goal scored by Jose Bosingwa. And then held on for the next 87 minutes. The loss probably pushes out Chelsea out of title contention and Carlo Ancelotti out of a job.
From January 7th to January 29th.
The AFC Asian Cup takes place every four years, having had its first edition in 1956. Since then only seven teams have lifted the title..
Saudi Arabia, Japan and Iran have won three titles each, South Korea two, and Kuwait and Iraq one. The remaining team is Israel, which won the 1964 tournament before later joining UEFA and leaving AFC.
At China 2004, there were sixteen teams: three years later the tournament was moved to an odd year to allow for a greater spreading of international matches across the world. Thus a selection of South East Asian nations hosted the '07 cup, which was won by Iraq, who beat Saudi Arabia in the final. South Korea edged Japan for third place.
This is the first time Qatar have hosted the tournament since 1988:
It's being played in the winter to beat the heat.
A couple of promotional videos ...
If Edin Dzeko is by any remote chance reading this blog, I implore him not to come to City because he'll become a castaway in Roberto Mancini's grind scheme of things.
City came to the Emirates not to play but to salvage a point which they did by parking the bus. Mind numbingly formulaic and efficient. On attack, City were little more than gnats apart from some individual forays by Tevez and Yaya Toure. Boring, boring, Citeh!
A clearly frustrated Cesc Fabregas jawed with Mancini post match. It was not hard to lip read. "You call that futbol because my abuela could play better than that."
City looked absolutely ripe for the taking in the first 15 minutes as a scintillating Arsenal broke in waves. But they were helped by a team that was not ruthless enough. Jack Wilshere's effort just wide off the mark should have been finished by RVP or Walcott but both failed to attack the goal.The post also denied the Dutchman and a little later Fabregas. The Fabregas effort had Hart absolutely beaten and the City goalkeeper must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when the post kept the ball out.
In the second half, RVP's touch which seems to have gone for a long stroll sputtered back on but Joe Hart effected a fine save to deny a long range blast. In between there were some dreadful bloopers.Overall, he is distinctly a step slower and less hungry in front of goal. Walcott's beautifully placed cross was shepherded off tamely by Kolo Toure as RVP was nowhere in sight. Ditto for Fabregas's cross. The most skillful Dutchman in the Premiership without doubt is Rafael Van Der Vaart.
Arsenal also enjoyed a huge advantage in corners but settled for the short version repeatedly because lets face it, the City defense made the Gunners look Lilliputian. And when did you last see an Arsenal goal through the air? The match was now entering familiar territory - the home team camped in the opposition half moving the ball around fluidly and authoritatively but running into a roadblock.
Wenger's substitutions amounted to a big doughnut. Arshavin did little but lose the ball, chase back futilely, and then foul. Nicklas Bendtner did not even touch the ball. Why was Chamakh, a more skillful striker left on the bench?
The defense delivered on the few occasions they were called on to act. Wilshere and Song were on hand to clean up and get the ball moving up field.
The match winding down to an inevitable draw was marred by an incredulously stupid set of decisions which could prove costly to both teams. Bacary Sagna brought down by Pablo Zabaleta on the sidelines retaliated and both engaged in a mutual head massage which rated a PG-13. But referee Mike Jones saw otherwise and gave both red cards. There will be protests and a good chance that these will be rescinded.
Man Utd benefits most from this result and have a game in hand. Chelsea lost to Wolves in now what appears to be increasingly looking like Ancelotti's last days. And Spurs increased the long odds on winning the title by losing to Everton.
There will be no more midfielders, strikers, or goalkeepers. The only question is cover for Thomas Vermaelen whose Achilles heel injury seems to be dragging on forever.
Vermaelen's been a fantastic addition but is a known injury risk. While at Ajax he missed a substantial number of games in four out of the five seasons. Depending on how he progresses with his recovery in the next two weeks, Wenger seems to be leaning towards a late transfer decision bringing another center back.
In the Birmingham match, Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny showed impressive organization and strength nullifying set pieces. If they set the template with a similar performance today against a more highly rated City attack then Wenger maybe less inclined to make a transfer move.
With Vermaelen's return, either one of them could be his partner (Djourou is a better choice) leaving Sebastian Squillaci on the bench as injury cover.
Gary Cahill is again mentioned as a possible candidate but his price tag of £20m is a dampener. Even throwing Carlos Vela as a sweetener might not make that much of a dent in price for the value minded Wenger. There is a strong possibility that there might be no more additions in the January transfer window.
Scott Carson produced yet another major gaffe in West Brom's 3-0 defeat at Fulham.
Simon Davies' long-range shot bounced off his fingers into the net to give Fulham the opening goal..
The wierd thing about this is that just about a year ago,the very same Carson was doing the very same thing.Creating clangers.
History does repeat itself.
Trite but true - won't someone show Beckham the door?
It is interesting to note that Harry Redknapp is reconsidering David Beckham's short term loan move to Spurs fearing it could prove counter productive. He seems to indicate he prefers a longer stay.
That won't sit well with the LA Galaxy. This is a club that can make the same argument against Beckham. The overwhelming feeling is that he is on loan to the MLS while his larger ambitions and fealty to his global iconic status show up the league as doormats. It was left to fans showing a spirited dissatisfaction forcing Beckham into a megaphone of commitment but the league itself did not take concrete steps to stop this guilt free binge. It's no surprise he's doing it again.
Beckham has played just 48 out of the 106 regular season games since arriving at the Galaxy in 2007- the second season with 25 appearances accounts for more than half of that productivity. He was absconding for most of the third season when he extended his 2009 Milan move to six months and then his appearances in the fourth season was curtailed to just 10 games (7 regular season + 3 playoff matches) after rupturing his Achilles heel while on loan to Milan for his second time. Clearly, he is not even a bragging point any more when all those European super clubs come into town for the summer friendlies. More practically, his move has done nothing to end the Galaxy's trophy drought.
By now, these loan moves have become du jour. Ostensibly, it is to keep him in the hunt for a spot in the English national squad. This endeavour is beginning to look Sarah Palinesque - as capricious as her presidential ambitions. His presence makes a virtual mockery of Fabio Capello's purported change in direction towards younger and fresher blood rejuvenating an old and stale English squad. Beckham's time machine has been stuck for a while while his body ages. The more likely consequence will be yet another devastating injury and more angst for the Galaxy fans.
There is some speculation that Beckham's move is an effort on the part of Phillip Anschutz, the owner of the LA Galaxy to strengthen his association with Spurs. His company AEG is teaming up with the North London club for the Olympic Stadium tenancy. There are some rumblings that he is also planning a takeover. But if that were the case wouldn't that make Landon Donovan a more attractive alternative to Aaron Lennon? He impressed while at Everton matching the league's physicality. He can play with speed down both wings, shows deftness with set pieces, and is a proven goalscorer.
No, this is entirely Beckham's doing. He can't even be a Dennis Rodman and retire to a life of shotgun weddings and bad flicks. It's time for the MLS to sell him to Blackburn, a club that seems to be bent on becoming the laughing stock of the Premiership. The Colorado Rapids, a no name team were winners of the MLS Cup for the first time in club history reminding us when 23 regular guys come together as a team, good things happen. They didn't need no stinkin' superstars.
Some handbags reported in the Man City training grounds between former Arsenal mates, Adebayor and Kolo Toure.
The reports of Edin Dzeko arriving at the Eastlands has further endangered Adebayor's status at City. The disgruntled striker is probably wishing he had joined AC Milan when he had the opportunity.
David Silva and Mario Balotelli are also going to be unavailable as both suffered knee injuries ahead of tomorrow's big showdown with Arsenal, one spot below in the standings.
The Gunners could really make a big statement with infighting and key injuries undermining one of their big rivals. Silva has been the signing of the season for City with his creativity and skilled touch. But the last thing should be complacency and a laissez fair attitude which has dogged some of the London side's efforts. They need to be focused against a City side which still has Carlos Tevez, a proven handful. Plus, they need to be disciplined against those set pieces.
Sepp Blatter is setting up an anti-corruption committee to investigate the ethics committee or some such thing. Methinks he's a bit freaked out by the stories of back stabbing that went on with the USA, England, and Australia bids - where FIFA members blatantly lied about giving them votes only to switch to Russia or Qatar. What if it happens to him? An "Eye in the Sky" committee will make sure that members deliver on their votes promised for his June re-election campaign.
If you have not yet seen it - here is evidence that Arsene Wenger might be signing him soon. Sergio "Kun" Aguero's son, Benjamin all of two years old with bullet kicks and some nice foot skills. He's also got grandpa Maradona's genes. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it?
Lee Bowyer is a nasty piece of work. The FA correctly slapped a three match ban on him for stamping on Bacary Sagna with malicious intent to hurt as clearly shown in the picture. He was also guilty of raking his studs down Sagna's Achilles heel on two separate occasions. It was clear as daylight on the pitch and it should have resulted in a straight red card but the referee and linesman either missed it or chose to ignore it.
While at Leeds, Bowyer along with team mate Jonathan Woodgate, now at Spurs were charged with committing grievous bodily harm and affray on a young Pakistani student, Sarfraz Najeib following a night out at a Leeds nightspot. The two toasted footballers and their friends gave chase to Najeib who was also at the same spot with his brother and his friends. The victim was left with a fractured leg, cheek and nose. In addition, he was viciously bitten by Paul Clifford, a friend of Woodgate's.
Although Bowyer was cleared of charges, Woodgate was not. But as this article makes clear, Bowyer has tested the boundaries of racism a few times in thought as well as in deed. And he has not always been the best of team mates as this video clip clearly shows.
Antonio Cassano made his debut for AC Milan in a friendly against Al Ahli which they won, 2-1. No goalscoring spectaculars but some useful work down the wings for the former Sampdoria player.
Cassano had a very public falling out with Riccardo Garrone, Sampodoria's president of Sampdoria and his situation became untenable with the case going to arbitration.
Milan opportunistically was able to prise him away by restructuring a deal with Samp in which the club would pay off Real Madrid who owns Cassano's contract a part of the 5 million euro sell-on fee. The cost would be shared between the two clubs and the player himself. Cassano's contract with the club runs till 2014.
Silvio Berlusconi's club now promises some very fine attacking firepower in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato, and now the very talented Cassano. If he clicks then it could be the end of zero tituli. On the other hand, Cassno has had such moments which makes coaches tear their hair out. He is a ticking time bomb.
Chelsea almost got out of fifth place but Aston Villa pulled off one of those spectacular injury time equalisers. Three all at full time.
Chelsea are six points behind Manchester United who also happen to have a game in hand over them.
A decidedly underwhelming performance by Spurs against Fulham. But Gareth Bale added to his already acquired superhero status by artfully deflecting a Rafael Van Der Vaart free kick past Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham on the other hand showed a lot of enterprise and skill. Some slick passing saw them coming close to equalizing but Michael Dawson effected a fine goal line save. Damien Duff, put through by Chris Baird's fine pass also failed to find the target. They're now firmly in the relegation zone. Spurs come back to a top four spot with this win.
Wayne Rooney ended his open field goal scoring drought when he headed home from a Patrice Evra cross. It looked so anti-climactic after all that media space devoted to this phenomenon. But West Brom answered back in spectacular fashion through James Morrison's lashing drive that dipped in to beat Tomasz Kuszczak.
By now the Baggies were playing excellent controlling football. But their inability to finish proved to be their undoing. That was indeed the case when Peter Odemwingie flubbed his spot kick miserably. They should have had one earlier when Chris Foy chose to ignore Gary Neville's clear foul on Graham Dorrans when the striker was in the act of shooting. He should have also been red carded.
With Utd barely registering a pulse on attack, Sir Alex sent out Chicharito and the Mexican delivered with 15 minutes left in the game. Rooney continued his comeback by providing the assist.
We've seen this happen time and time again. Sub- par performances that prove to fatal to every other club except Man Utd. They ride out as winners and one has to agree with Paul Wilson this makes them the favourites to win the Premiership once again.
Harry Redknapp expects Beckham to introduce some class to this Spurs side
David Beckham is set to return to the Premiership after almost seven years. A short term loan move to Spurs is in the works. From the looks of it Harry Redknapp expects him to suit up to play in the FA Cup tie against Charlton Athletic as soon as next weekend.
Becks has availed off these short term loans before to AC Milan which he explains are necessary for him to contend for the England national team. Not withstanding Fabio Capello's dismissive comments, he still entertains fond hopes that he will add to his 115 caps. As for Redknapp, he believes that having Becks will bolster his wide game and the set pieces. This could work because his quick eye and pinpoint passes could strengthen the counterattacking strength of this pacy Spurs side. Plus, he has similar attributes to Teddy Sheringham who was hired by Redknapp whilst at Portsmouth.
"[Beckham] would be a great influence. When I took Teddy to Portsmoiuth, I said to the others 'watch him train, watch his technique and how he takes pride in everything he does. Watching how top players practice is better than all the coaching in the world. If it's doable, it's a no-brainer."
More worrying, are the real chances of re-injuring his frail ankle. He had to suffer through a torn Achilles heel which he sustained last year in March while at Milan and saw him miss out on the World Cup as well as a large part of the MLS season. Becks has rehabilitated his trust with fans and team mates like Landon Donovan but it rests on the fact that he return healthy as well as in time for the MLS season. There could be extra-ordinary pressure to make this a permanent move should he fulfill Redknapp's purpose.
Juventus is reportedly preparing a £20million bid for Robin Van Persie as a replacement for Alessandro Del Piero, now 36 years and close to retirement. This might be a sick twisted attempt to get Van Persie and Giorgio Chiellini reacquainted on the same side of the field.
After all it was Chiellini's tackle that blew out Van Persie's ankle ligaments which led him to miss more than 6 months of last season. It led to a bitter feud between Wenger and the Dutch football federation and a comical digression into the bizarre curative aspects of placenta therapy.
According to Daily Star (another fount of journalistic verity), the deal could be sweetened by throwing in Felipe Melo who was on Wenger's radar a few seasons ago. Instead, the Brazilian chose to move to Juve.
This is probably not going to happen. Arsenal really does not have enough depth at the striker position. Marouane Chamakh has been good but his intestinal fortitude playing that position is a work in progress. Nicklas Bendtner might start some Carling Cup fixtures but he is not consistent enough for the longer Premiership season. Carlos Vela maybe leaving on loan to get more playing experience. Van Persie leaving will deplete the striker corps unless there is a comparable player coming on board. One has seen no signs of that developing.
It is also hard to see Wenger shipping him off to the Serie with Van Persie just getting back from an injury plagued couple of years. This time he might get stuck in long enough to help the Gunners through to the end of this very tightly contested season.
The Melo part of the deal also does not work - with Song playing so well, another holding midfielder will add redundancy. And Melo will not come to the Emirates to sit on the bench.
The other part is Juventus's necessity for another striker - scoring goals has not been a problem. With 32 they top the Serie and Fabio Quagliarella has knocked in nine. So one would question their need for an additional striker.
Cracking start to the second half of the season as Arsenal coasted to a win in the hostile environs of St Andrews. It is not easy to win there and for the Gunners, any trip to Birmingham dredges up bad memories, very bad memories. But they turned in a scintillating performance against a club that has only lost once in 29 other occasions at home. The scoreline flatters Birmingham - in reality they should have lost by at least half a dozen goals.
Once again Andrey Arshavin found himself on the bench - coincidentally both matches without him in the starting line up have resulted in wins. Or maybe not? Walcott seems to be cementing his place. His pace and industry gave the Birmingham defense jitters even though his finishing left much to be desired. He's also much more adept at covering for Sagna than Arshavin is for Clichy.
The first goal had a touch of controversy. Robin Van Persie already linked to Juventus went tumbling theatrically on the slightest of contact with Scott Dann. His free kick would have been handled quite comfortably by Ben Foster but the ball took a fortuitous deflection of Lee Bowyer, last week's hero and went past him. Van Persie wasted two other opportunities, one an absolute sitter - clearly he is missing his touch.
The second goal was a combination of Fabregas and Nasri with the latter finishing off with a fine touch - stroking the ball between Foster and the near post. The duo were once again involved minutes later in the third goal as Fabregas overlapped Nasri after a brilliant exchange of passes and lashed in a shot which resulted in an own goal by Roger Johnson after the ball bounced off Dann.
Nasri obviously has been the star with 14 goals so far but it was great to see Fabregas get his just reward for some very fine work. He complimented a crisp display with an emotional lift as he urged on the visiting fans celebrating the third goal.
There were a few anxious moments for Arsenal when Seb Larsson's swerving free kick was parried out by Lukasz Fabianski. His fine effort got him a pat on the back by Fabregas. A few minutes before the half, Johnson's volley blazed over with just Fabianski to beat.
Johnson also caused the most angst when he clattered into Fabregas's leg with his studs up. It left the Arsenal captain writhing in pain and clutching his shin - evoking very nasty memories of Eduardo's grisly injury caused by Martin Taylor three years ago on the same ground. Fortunately, this time around no major damage was done. But the Birmingham centre back should have gotten his marching orders. Instead Peter Walton settled for the yellow. Lee Bowyer was another player who should have received a red when he stamped on Bakary Sagna deliberately.
Here we must mention the Arsenal defense - it always gets brickbats. But this game saw a disciplined and organized defense that did not panic on set pieces. They were very gritty with their tackles too - Song and Wilshere get a lot of credit. Johan Djourou has been outstanding and he really should be pairing Vermaelen when the Belgian center back returns from his injury layoff. And Fabianski looked decisive when handling those corners and free kicks. A clean sheet will undoubtedly bolster his confidence which seems to wax and wane.
On Jan 5th, City comes knocking with their tails up - they've been on a fine run and Wenger has to ensure that there is no flagging in the team's focus. Every loss or draw will be a further setback to their chances in this tightest of seasons.
SoccerBlog.com is a fan-driven site founded by Christian and Shourin. Our goal is to cover the beautiful game and talk about some of the issues that may not be covered elsewhere. Since we aren't any good at playing, we decided to talk about soccer instead!