Adidas and Zidane are going to get this 5 a side competition underway one of these days.
And while we wait for that there are more problems for Football in France as rumours about a quota system to limit the number of black players start doing the rounds...
April 2011 Archives
Adidas and Zidane are going to get this 5 a side competition underway one of these days.
Cristiano Ronaldo does not like Jose Mourinho's tactics which are built on rope a dope tactics where one defends till the opponent keels over in exhaustion and then comes the sucker punch.
Except CR7 is exactly the sort of player suited for Mourinho's counterattacking style because he likes to run hard and direct at defenders, employ his stepovers, and unleash his shot in a flash. 0 to 60 in a nanosecond. It brought him success at Man Utd. There is no patience nor guile in for Barca's tiki taka. He would develop a permanent pout realizing he serves as one of the many nodes in Barca's highly developed parallel scheme.
On Wednesday evening he had the perfect opportunity to practice his counterattacking skills. Carles Puyol at makeshift left back and at 33 years, a vintage Studebaker to guard against a sleek purring Bugatti. He could have made Barca play like a man down even with stunted service. And yet, there was hardly a time when CR7 got the better of the veteran. His set pieces were horribly off blasting into the wall or spooning it into the stratosphere.
At the other end Leo Messi went about his destiny with greatness in the usual way.
Mourinho's tactics become a convenient punching bag for an underwhelming performance. But it is all part of a blame game being played out from the manager down.
Oscar Cardozo's free kick traversed a perfect arc to beat Braga's Artur for the winning goal. The Paraguayan had a hand in his side's first goal. His header off Maxi Pereira's cross struck the upright but Jardel was perfectly positioned to toe poke the rebound for the lead. Vandinho scored a valuable away goal as he deflected his header superbly off Hugo Viana's free kick past a wrong footed Roberto.
Radamel Falcao scored four goals while Freddy Guarin scored one and provided two assists as Porto sank the Yellow Submarines. It was the Spanish side however who drew first blood when Cani headed the ball home from a Nilmar cross just before halftime. But Porto was just getting warmed up for the Falcao, Guarin and Hulk show. To be fair, the Villareal defense was quite pathetic caught ball watching. And don't they know to put a wall for the free kicks as well as two defenders on the goal line on set pieces?
It looks like Villarreal will be unable to prevent an all Portugese final as the other semi-final was contested between Benfica and Braga.
The Europa Cup limelight should heighten interest in the Portugese league from the bigger European clubs. Oscar Cardozo, Falcao, Joao Moutinho, Fábio Coentrão, Jorge Fucile, Matias Fernandez, Mossoro to name names.
The fall out over Wednesday's El Crassico continues. UEFA has decided to open disciplinary cases into both Real Madrid and Barca. Of the two, the Madrid club gets off much worse.
"The case against Real Madrid is in relation to the throwing of missiles, a pitch invasion, the red card shown to Pepe, the dismissal of coach Jose Mourinho, as well as the inappropriate statement given by Mr Mourinho to the media after the match." (Uefa Disciplinary Regulations, Article 5 - Principles of conduct).
"The case against Barcelona regards the red card administered to Jose Pinto."
I have never seen Jose Mourinho look so down in the mouth. In his post match conference, he practically threw in the towel. And his "sometimes it is disgusting for me to live in this world and have this football world for a living" reminds me of his post Chelsea days when he took a hiatus for a year because he had had enough.
With Barca at its peak, Real might have to consign itself to second fiddle for a considerable period of time. What is Mourinho going to do? Develop a system? Players? He's never done that in his career. As a coach Mourinho plays not to lose - it was the way things were done in Chelsea and Inter. Tough gritty defenses and efficient counterattacks. It made for ugly but effective football.
Yesterday was a good case in point. He had three holding midfielders and four backs with Mesut Oezil, Angel Di Maria, and Ronaldo as his attacking options. Barca had to overcome a defensive cordon stretching from the half line down with Di Maria and Oezil falling back to track. It was clear Mourinho was playing for a draw. By the end of the match a frustrated Ronaldo was about 60 yards away from his normal position trying to retrieve the ball. Adebayor was an improvement at first but clearly after Pepe's ejection service to him was unforthcoming.
Barca maybe the beneficiaries of some questionable dismissals but Madrid were never going to beat them even if they had their full complement of players. Mourinho's tactics have to be questioned when players like Kaka, Gonzalo Higuain, and Karim Benzema sit on the bench who not three days ago had subjected Valencia to a 6-3 humiliation.
Mourinho also borders on the ludicrous when he says "They have gained that power. Others don't have a chance." This is the manager of a club who spent €500m on players with bank loans in a country a step away from declaring insolvency and reeling from record unemployment. Everyone knows Florentino Perez just has to call to get these loans approved because no bank can afford to be looked on as the one to torpedo Madrid's chances. In the public relations department the Madrid media are nothing but shameful water carriers for their team. Tell me who has the power. I have said this before but Mourinho's genius lies in turning himself into a victim. Arsene Wenger tries but he comes across as a whinger.
The spotlight should be on Mourinho's tactics not some pie in the sky UNICEF conspiracy theory. What bets he's pining for a Premiership return? He may not even wait to exercise that clause in his contract which says he is free to look for alternate employment after two years.
Yesterday was not a good day for clubs named Real. Humberto "El Chupete" Suazo scored the winning goal for Monterrey in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League finals. The Mexican club won on a 3-2 aggregate and will go to the Club World Cup later this year.
For Real Salt Lake, a club linked with the Madrid giants, the loss put an end to a two year unbeaten streak at home. RSL put on the pressure in the second half creating a number of chances. Alvaro Saborio forced a save with a header. In the dying minutes the ball came loose to Javier Morales following a goalmouth but his toe poke saw the ball sail out. Moments later, Jonathan Orozco in goal was able to keep out a Jamison Olave header on his second attempt. When the final whistle was blown you could see and feel the anguish of Jason Kreis and the players.
Full credit to RSL for coming close to becoming the first MLS team to go to the CWC. They can celebrate their hard fought wins over Cruz Azul and Deportivo Saprissa. And their MLS season has gotten off to a very bright start. Which augurs well for another shot at the CONCACAF title.
Bolton were sent packing by a Clint Dempsey brace with Brede Hangeland chipping in with the third. Deuce's first goal was a spectacularly struck side volley. The second came after Eidur Gudjohnsen's neat flick is guided home by Dempsey. Danny Murphy's laser like free kick finds the giant Hangeland for Fulham's third strike.
Fulham with this win ensure that they will continue in the Premiership while Bolton have no such problems except that they would like to savour a top half finish.
Spare a thought for Wolfgang Stark. For about 75 minutes this was the El Crassico as players dived, pulled, slapped, and shoved each other. You've never seen full grown men whinge like this before. And one hopes it never happens again.
Pedro and Busquets were atrocious in their theatrics. Pepe took a dive like he had been poleaxed and Lassana Diarra quietly went around nastily clipping each Barca ankle. How he managed to stay on the field is one of the great mysteries.
Barca unsurprisingly had about 75% of the ball but ran into a Real team that sat back and soaked up the pressure as Mourinho applied the same anti-football tactics while at Inter. It works if you're effective on the counter.
The problem was Real could muster very little threat. Cristiano Ronaldo was the lone ranger with very little supply. The striker had just about one testing shot and a header that flew over and that was it. His set pieces were tragic. He is a supremely physical lad but he has absolutely no guile. Carles Puyol shunted to left back and two paces slower was immense in blunting his endeavour.
The bad feelings spilled over at halftime and there was a fracas in the tunnel which resulted in Barca's third string goalie Jose Pinto given the red card. After the half, Pepe flew in with with his right leg leading and clipped Dani Alves. The severity of the tackle is in dispute but the red was a reputation call. Referees are aware of players past records and Pepe is a known thug. But it set off Mourinho furiously winking at the linesman implying he had been paid off. It was red for the Real Madrid gaffer and he spent his minutes in the stands furiously scribbling instructions on a notepad.
Ibrahim Affelay made an instant impact as he came on for Pedro. Marcelo who had hitherto kept Alves and Pedro under wraps was left scrambling as the Dutch winger blazed past him to send a nice dipping cross which was gobbled up by Messi fronting Ramos. 10 minutes later the little maestro left the Real defense in sixes and sevens to finish off majestically with his right foot. The last 15 minutes were vintage Barca stroking the ball with ease and precision and running Real ragged.
Now it is Camp Nou and Mourinho will be without Pepe and Sergio Ramos. The right back's brainless foul on Messi cost him a place in the second leg. The chance of a Man Utd vs Barca repeat final is looking very good.
Mourinho has a conspiracy theory.Dark and diabolical forces are at work...
If I tell Uefa what I really think and feel, my career would end now," Mourinho said. "Instead I will just ask a question to which I hope one day to get a response: Why? Why? Why Ovrebo? Why Busacca? Why De Bleeckere? Why Stark? Why? Because every semi-final the same things happen. We are talking about an absolutely fantastic football team, so why do they need that? Why? Why does a team as good as they are need something [extra] that is so obvious that everyone sees it?
"Why Ovrebo [two] years ago [when the Norwegian referee did not give Chelsea a series of penalties against Barcelona]? Why couldn't Chelsea go to the final? Last year it was a miracle that Inter got there playing with 10 men for so long. A miracle. Why weren't there four penalties against Chelsea [in 2009]? Why send off [Arsenal's Robin] Van Persie [in the last 16]? Where does their power come from?
The match was marred by a brawl between players of both sides.Jose Manuel Pinto and Mourinho both got sent off.Messi's goals came in the last 14 minutes...
szólj hozzá: RM 0-2 BAR - Highlights
CONCACAF Champions League Finals, second leg: Real Salt Lake vs Monterrey, 10 PM ET, Rio Tinto Stadium: On FSC/TeleFutura
Amidst the headline grabbing Real Madrid vs Barca Champions League semi-finals, there is one less noticed match taking place. Today, Real Salt Lake could become the first MLS club to go to the FIFA Club World Cup as CONCACAF champions.
They meet Monterrey at home for the second leg after forcing a 2-2 draw in Mexico in the first leg. The Rio Tinto has been a fortress where the league's hottest team have not lost in 37 matches.
And Utah's most famous sporting legend Karl Malone will be following the game.
This once promising season has come unglued for Blackpool. The second half has seen just two wins and more damagingly, recent losses to promotion rivals Wolves and Wigan, have seriously damaged their chances of remaining in the Premiership.
Holloway's squad plays attacking soccer with a zest but have shown an alarming tendency to lose focus in the second half with opponents scoring at will on the counter. It comes as no surprise that they've conceded 70 goals, the most in the league. Their next four matches are all against teams in the top half of the table. Which makes their prospects even more daunting.
However, there is a chance that Blackpool might be able to weather it out because they actually have a winning record against these sides. They managed to beat Stoke, 1-0 at the Brittania, drew Bolton 2-2 at Ewood, and in two home games beat Spurs, 3-1, and from a winning position lost to Man Utd, 2-3.
Bolton and Stoke travel to Bloomfield Road with both clubs having poor away records. Bolton with just 2 wins and Stoke marginally better with one more. Scoring goals has been a huge problem for both sides away from home which should provide comfort to Holloway's men.
In between these two home games, Blackpool travel to Spurs on 7th May. White Hart Lane has been quite impregnable with just the one loss but what should hearten them is the number of draws managed by the opposition. The most in the league at home with eight and equal to the number of wins. Blackpool end their season at unblemished Old Trafford and it will be naive to think of any change in that record. Especially if Man Utd have to pull out all the stops to prevent Chelsea sneaking off with the title.
Holloway's best bet would be to go all out to win both home games and play for a draw at Spurs. A total of 7 points out of a possible 12 will push the tally to 41 points. Which is about the minimum required to realistically dodge relegation. They also have a very significant advantage in goals scored as compared to their rivals keeping an adverse goal differential from ballooning further. Scoring goals and manning up their defense to stop the second half comeback will be keys to their continued presence in the league. We can look forward to a brand of entertaining and attractive football amidst the drudgery from the usual suspects.
All the good money says he is. And after last evening's performance he won't come cheap. As for Man Utd, it won't be a surprise if Van Der Sar were to continue for another year.
The lead in to Barca vs Real is just as fascinating. The normally composed Pep Guardiola finally lays into Jose Mourinho. The Guardian has an English transcript along with a bit about what sparked this row.
"Mourinho es el puto amo". Sort of dismaying because we now have the spectacle of Guardiola coming down to Mourinho's level. On the other hand, this is the sort of stuff that can fire up both squads in a game of such immeasurable magnitude. It is a sign of Mourinho's genius that a €500m team gets to play victim while all the pressure is on Barca to prove themselves.
Mourinho said: "I told my players there was someone called Albert, Albert Einstein, who said that there is a force more powerful than steam, electricity and atomic energy - will. And this guy Albert was not stupid.''
Today, the world's foremost genius shot back saying he had based his theory of special relativity on Jose Mourinho. He observed that "neither absolute defeat nor the absolute lack of winning can exist when Mourinho is the manager, it is constant, even when clubs and players are interchanged. Because he sucks out all the air."
Einstein proved that neither absolute motion nor absolute lack of motion could exist, because the speed of light in a vacuum is constant, to all observers, and mass and energy are interchangeable--hence the formula, E=mc2 (96-97).
The Special One and the Special Theory of Relativity. It's really not that much of a stretch.
....for 66 minutes.The score would have read a lot more than the eventual 2 - 0 by then if it hadn't been for his brilliance between the posts.
It finally took something pretty special to beat Neuer.
Rooney slid in a reverse-pass that was perfectly weighted for Giggs and that's how Schalke's obdurate goalkeeper was beaten at last.Rooney scored the second shortly afterwards..
Footage of Sir Alex acknowledging Neuer's performance ....
Its almost rote now but Real Madrid's rejects will do well in their new clubs. Raul and Rafael Van Der Vaart have followed in the footsteps of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.
Raul, the all time leading goal scorer at Real leads Schalke against Man Utd in the Champions League semi-finals. The former Merengue is hoping to add to his CL record of 71 goals which is 15 more than second placed Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Only Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have a realistic chance of topping that.
The Premiership team has a poor record against Bundesliga rivals and Schalke are hoping it stays that way.
Schalke has a pacy winger in Jefferson Farfan and a Samir Nasri type midfielder in Jose Manuel Jurado, effective out on the left or in the hole. Jurado's assists have been instrumental in Raul scoring on a number of occasions. The Spanish midfielder is a product of the storied Real Madrid cantata.
Ralf Ragnick's side also relies on veteran Edu, who likes to have a go from distance and should test Van Der Sar. The former FC Hoffenheim coach will miss the services of Benedikt Howedes, outstanding at centre back but still recuperating from an ankle injury. He might have to draft two young holding midfielders Joel Matip and Kyriakos Papadopoulos as centre backs to stop Wayne Rooney and Chicharito Hernandez's progress. Both have stepped up admirably in the face of Schalke's injury crisis. Ryan Giggs should also come up against Atsuto Uchida, a top rated prospect at right back.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar whose Real and Milan stints were underwhelming has revived his career at Schalke. Ralf Ragnick could turned to him for minutes but he's currently out with an injury. This could also be a big evening for Manuel Neuer, outstanding in the 2010 World Cup and surely on Sir Alex's radar along with Atletico Madrid's David De Gea as possible replacements to Van Der Sar.
Upset on the cards? They might be naive but Schalke have shown some real footballing skills coupled with true grit. A touch of the Teutonic spirit instilled by Felix Magath which has proved unsettling to English sides in the past. Ragnick could continue the fairytale.
The ageless Roberto Carlos who many thought would finish his career in Corinthians made another U turn when he joined Anzhi Makhachkala, a Russian Premier League club based in Makhachkala, the capital of the North Caucasian republic of Dagestan.
The club is bankrolled by billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, the 118th richest man in the world who made his fortune in metals, oil, real estate, and banking. Kerimov took over the club in January 2011 and immediately set about changing the face of the team with a decidedly Samba touch. Roberto Carlos was lured with a huge paycheck and his move was followed by fellow Corinthian Jucelei, part of Mano Menezes new look Selecao and Genk's Joao Carlos. Diego Tardelli, Atletico Mineiro's standout striker and on Dunga's reserve list for the 2010 World Cup is the newest arrival in this turnaround.
Kerimov might be able to pull of an Abramovich and vault Anzhi Makhachkala to the top of the Russian league. As Domm Norris points out, "the influx of South American talent to Makhachkala has inevitably made people stand up and take notice of a side who finished last season rooted in mid table mediocrity."
On April 24th, Roberto Carlos scored his first goal against Dynamo Moscow through a penalty and the spring in his step during his celebration shows he is game for another two seasons. He may never have heard of his new club but he's ready to lead them to trophies. They're currently 6th in the table behind better known Zenit St Petersburg and CSKA Moscow.
There are different reasons for getting energized by these developments but one maybe the tongue twisting delight in saying Anzhi Makhachkala rapidly. Makhachkala's etymology is rooted in the city's homage to the Dagestani revolutionary Mahomet Ali Dakhadayev (in Dagestani, Makhach means Mahomet) and Qala/ Kala is Armenian for fortress. Anzhi is soil.
Fernando Torres toiled for 703 minutes to finally score his first Chelsea goal. A day later, Edin Dzeko ended his even longer frustration with a match winning goal against Blackburn.
City keeps up the pressure for a fourth placed finish while Blackburn is now firmly in relegation peril. Before the result, Venkatesh Rao, co-owner of Blackburn affirmed his faith in Steve Kean but if the club does go down they might be forced to look for a new manager.
The MLS family welcomed two new additions to the 2011 season, the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps, increasing the number to 18 clubs. One of the original members, Kansas City Wizards rebranded themselves Sporting Kansas City, a European touch as the club included other sports like lacrosse and rugby. They also await moving to the new Livestrong Stadium, their third home which opens June 9.
In 2012, the Montreal Impact will join the MLS and in a few years, New York could see a derby between the Red Bulls and a reincarnated Cosmos. But the expansion might not just stop there as Don Garber indicated that the MLS could very well end up having more than 20 teams in the not so near future with interest being generated in several markets.
This season has seen the return of many prominent European based US players notably Jay De Merit and Benny Feilhaber. Charlie Davies, the 2009 USMNT standout has provided the season's biggest buzz returning to the sport with a vengeance after potentially career ending injuries kept him out for a year. He moved from Sochaux to DC United in a loan move.
The MLS has also established itself as a league that big European teams love to travel to in their off season and this year is no exception as Man Utd, Barcelona, and Real Madrid come knocking.
These developments augur well for future growth and profitability. Player salaries and portability have improved and while the MLS still does not attract top notch foreign talent in their prime it has a smattering of big names that generate an audience. However, the bottomline is and will always be, the number of supporters who show up to see matches. The MLS shows a decidedly less rosy picture on that front.
The above graph shows a subset of the 10 original MLS franchises with declining or sub par attendances after a quarter of this season gone by. Even last years inductee, the Philadelphia Union dipped in attendance. Chivas USA, the club linked with the storied Mexican club and boasting a huge Hispanic base continue to operate at disappointing 50% level.
The Revs decline has much to do with a club stuck in reverse. The arrival of Benny Feilhaber bolstering Shalrie Joseph's midfield creativity might lead to an uptick but the Revs have not attracted the marquee names like the Red Bulls. For the first time under Steve Nicol, the franchise failed to make the playoffs last season after eight years. There they cemented a frustrating Buffalo Bills type of frailty, losing all four MLS finals.
Even big ticket boosters like Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez are not enough it seems as New York has failed to fill seats. Exciting national prospects like Juan Aguadelo and Tim Ream are fodder for fevered online forums but it has not translated to an increased presence. Juan Pablo Angel, the long time Red Bulls/ Metrostars warrior move to LA might be a factor. The former Aston Villa striker was known for his skill and gutsy performances. It's the same story for the Rapids. The bloom from their first MLS Cup triumph has provided no special incentive. An Eagles vs Giants type of rivalry clearly evident in the Union's April 9th encounter with the Red Bulls was witnessed by a record 19,027 attendees. But there are fewer takers for the other matches.
The second graph shows two clubs that have shown an improvement with DC United benefiting from the Charlie Davies factor. FC Dallas's brand of attacking soccer with a Latin flair finds an eager audience with David Ferreira and Marvin Chavez leading the way. Ruben Luna, a home grown player is being followed keenly and Fabian Castillo, a Colombian import adds depth to the striker corps.
As has been the case the previous two seasons, it is the Sounders who consistently sellout Qwest, bringing up the MLS numbers. Seattle's fan base, a network of highly educated young technocrats are a passionate and knowledgeable group. They now have North West rivals in Portland and Vancouver, two other cities with comparable demographics which can only burgeon attendance.
This post's purpose is to open up debate. The overarching theme is of a league on the upswing but narrower indicators like average attendances also show uneven trends and decline in some instances. The focus should not just be on a lateral spread but also to find ways to deepen the existing audience.
Highlights with doomsday soundtrack. Painfully familiar patterns repeated themselves. For the umpteenth time, Arsenal were unable to defend against set pieces. Which needless to say is getting to be more predictable than a Charlie Sheen meltdown.
Wojciech Sczesny growing pains are all too evident but he showed more bottle than the whole Arsenal team combined. Some great saves by the recently turned 20 year old including a penalty by Kevin Davies. The goal which gave Bolton the lead was actually scored by Gary Cahilll but Daniel Sturridge gets the credit.
The real hero was Tamir Cohen whose added time goal was a homage to his recently departed father. It was a fitting tribute for which he was woefully booked but one wishes it had not come at the expense of Arsenal. On the other hand, one can rationalize it as we're the best in the business of making other clubs look good.
This weekend was a weekend of comebacks as Kaka last seen in the year 156 BC crossing the frozen Pyrenees with Hannibal's army announced his return with two goals and two assists. Gonzalo Higuain, a little less distant in working memory scored a hattrick. Karim Benzema also joined in the goalfest. It was a touching sight to see all three share in the good vibes.
Real went up 5-0 on the board before Valencia registered their first goal through Soldado. The other goalscorers were Jonas and Jordi Alba but it was too little too late. The return to the Mestalla within a week proved to be a happy one once again for the Merengues. The only one looking a bit miffed was Iker Casillas, victimized by some easy giveaways.
More importantly, Real come into the crucial Champions League encounter with nemesis Barca this Wednesday riding some real momentum.
The real PFA player of the year scores another magnificent goal. By now we are well acquainted by Chicharito Hernandez's cabeza that is entirely controlled by micro chips run by Skynet. It can disconnect from his mortal body, separate into shards, and at the right time and place cyborg like coalesce around the ball.
This is scary. 19 goals in his first season. Can we anoint him legend? This is not a case of a defense that will figure him out sooner or later. It is an innate talent that keeps him a step ahead and unmolested in front of goal. Full credit to Antonio Valencia for surging ahead and sending that looping cross. And Everton were not shabby till that Sylvan Distin mistake. Unfortunately it happened against a side that is best at the business of punishing them.
John Cleese travels to Bolton to find a live Norwegian Blue. Arsenal travel to the Reebok to keep their season from being "bleeding demised". Coincidence? I think not. Monty Python were visionaries and they saw this day coming.
Everton and West Ham did no favours to Gunner hopes this weekend as they lost to Man Utd and Chelsea. The latter is now being taken at this late stage as a serious contender just when Utd looked like running away with the title.
Arsenal face a Bolton side eager to wipe the humiliation of a 5-0 loss to Stoke in the FA Cup semi-final. Their defense was virtually non-existent and Jussi Jaskailanen had a nightmare in goal. We know from past experience the Gunners are the one side likely to put back the "feel good" quotient in their opponents.
What Arsenal need to do is to play attacking football as they did against Spurs and then defend doggedly like they did against Stoke to preserve a narrow 1-0 win. This was pre Birmingham Carling Cup disaster when mental fragility did not seem an overarching issue.
Anything less than a win against Bolton and the idea of parroting Man Utd and Chelsea's match with each other and Utd's encounter at the Emirates as trump cards becomes increasingly irrelevant. Talking about parrots, Wenger insists Arsenal's title hopes are still alive when on the contrary like John Cleese, the average Arsenal fan believes, "it has ceased to be."
This season however has nothing to do with the future of the game. The models put forward by clubs like Man City, Chelsea, and even Man Utd living under a mountain of debt are simply unsustainable. The next few seasons are going to be a true indicator of which clubs are best positioned to reconnoiter the financial fair play rules. Arsenal is held as a benchmark. Wenger is right to counsel patience but as has been argued ad nauseum, augmenting the squad in key areas in the off season does not have to mean breaking the bank.
While the Indian cricket team did the country proud by winning the World Cup, Indian football took a step back as Bob Houghton resigned after a racism controversy.
Under Houghton, the Bhangra Boys made steady if not spectacular progress winning the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup and two Nehru Cups. They also qualified for the 2010 AFC Asian Cup but made a disappointing exit losing all three group matches.
India are ranked 146 in the world, below countries like Madagascar and Guinea Bissau.
Aston Villa received good news when they learned Gerard Houllier needed no surgery. The Frenchman, with a history of heart problems was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday for chest pains. In his absence, Gary McAllister, the assistant coach will guide Villa through to the rest of the season.
It has been a vexing time for Villans as the season resembles a thrashing eel. Hard to get a hand on. As high as 3rd and as low as 18th in a wildly fluctuating run. On paper, a very good side. On the pitch they've been underwhelming especially away.
Houllier's delicate health may mean Randy Lerner will spend the summer looking for a new manager. Martin Jol is available and so is former Villa manager Martin O'Neill, who has expressed a desire to return to coaching. Rafa Benitez with his wings clipped, may also want to come back to the Premier League.
O' Neill was not able to guide the club to the top echelon but his seasons were the models of stability. Which is what Villans might crave after this rollercoaster.
A cleverly photoshopped jersey leaves no doubt as to Gino Coutinho's sponsors. The ADO Den Haag goalkeeper is facing charges of owning a cannabis farm and additionally for money laundering and forgery. Under Netherland's liberal drug laws, if found guilty, Coutinho faces upto a year in jail. Which would make a certain Nelson Rockefeller very, very unhappy.
This is not the first time, Coutinho has been in trouble. In 2009, police raided a warehouse in a Dutch village and found 4200 cannabis plants. Coutinho and his girlfriend were on the premises and were arrested. He maintained his innocence even after the warehouse was discovered to be registered in his name. This was a family joint venture as his father too served time recently for the same racket.
ADO Den Haag has been doing well this season currently lying 5th in the Eredivisie and their upcoming encounter with FC Twente has great import on a tightly clustered race at the top. Coutinho has been their number one goalie. With him gone, who's going to "pass the dutchie"?
Footage of Sergio Ramos dropping the trophy atop the bus cruising the Madrid streets celebrating their Copa Del Rey victory over Barca. Unfortunately for him and Real Madrid, the bus ran over the trophy crushing it to bits. Cue jokes about Real not being used to handling trophies. For the record it has been a full 18 years since the Madrid club won that title.
This year's Premiership is still to be decided with Arsenal and Chelsea contending with Man Utd.
There is however no such ambivalence with the Forbes 2011 soccer valuations. Man Utd is tops once again for the seventh year running at $1.86 billion. Real Madrid follows with $1.4 billion and Arsenal who meet the most valuable club on May 4th are third at $1.19 billion.
The soccer world seems to have done better than the global financial markets with the top 20 clubs registering an increase of $640 million net worth, an impressive 1.3% over last year. Average operating income also rose 25% to $40 million.
The Premiership can also count Chelsea ($658m), Liverpool ($552m), Tottenham ($412m), and Man City ($291m) in the top 20.
Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich converted his massive loans into equity through his holding company which needs to be repaid as he's the owner of both entities. The debt drags down the valuation.
Liverpool's valuation dropped a steep 33% from last year saddled with debt by its previous owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
Tottenham shows impressive growth with an 11% increase reflecting its CL participation and strong brand following. 33,000 on the ticket waiting list and an estimated 116m followers worldwide.
Man City are pumped up by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan's $577m of personal loans. The club's valuation has increased 13% from Europa Cup participation, merchandising revenue, and boosted ticket sales.
For more on the top 20 >>
Real Madrid fans take to a laser to distract the world's best footballer. First at the Bernabeu over the weekend and yesterday at the Copa Del Rey at the Mestalla. Poor sportsmanship.
Gone are the days you could turn to Spurs for comic relief. Nowadays the North London derby has gone through a revisionism. The first half was a frenetic kaleidoscope of highlights which produced 5 goals of extra-ordinary quality. Lets put it this way the defense did not get in the way.
Theo Walcott was the man for Arsenal putting them first on board with a scintillating finish and then providing an exquisite cross for Robin Van Persie to power a header which Heurelho Gomes saved but the Dutch striker was able to lash in the rebound. The winger again came close when his shot just whistled past the far post with Gomes breathing a sigh of relief. In between Samir Nasri resurrected his goalscoring touch as he smashed in a shot through traffic and an unsighted Gomes.
The Gunners were up 3-1 with Rafael Van Der Vaart's superb one touch finish off Vedran Corluka's cross being the only blot. This being the new Arsenal the critical question becomes what lead is safe? Answer: None so far. Within minutes of Van Persie's goal a weak Arsenal clearance invited Tim Huddlestone to send in a thundering half volley which gave Wojciech Szczesny no chance. Shades of Danny Rose's marvelous goal at White Hart Lane a season ago. The half finished 3-2.
The second half had a theme: Spurs outplaying Arsenal in the middle of the field and maintaining possession of the ball. Alex Song and Abou Diaby were nowhere to be found. And Wilshere replacing Diaby was equally anonymous for the second game in a row.
Gareth Bale was a non factor taken off after a collision with Szczesny left him unable to continue. But there was no drop off in pace or threat on the flank as Benoit Assou Ekotto turned in one of his best performances. In the 70th minute his pinpoint diagonal pass sent Aaron Lennon scampering. Szczesny gets the blame for bringing down Lennon but what else was he to do? The Arsenal defense was nowhere to be found. Spurs again found a way to comeback. They won the battle of wills - faster on the ball, won the 50-50s, and looked dangerous on the counter.
Arsenal was a trifle unlucky when a Van Persie goal was ruled offside. On closer inspection it should have stood. But the striker was guilty of a bigger crime when he spurned an opportunity to service Walcott wide open in front of an empty goal and took it upon him to try score from an adverse angle. His shot had neither power nor placement and Gomes had no problems collecting. Fabregas also had two great looks at goal.
Wenger again made headscratching changes removing Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott, the two players most likely to score for Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin in the 80th minute. If Arshavin is to be effective he needs larger cameos. And it needs to be pointed out Wenger made just two purchases before the season. One has been injured since September, the other has faded away and was not even on the bench. So much for his cherry picking.
Birmingham were no match for Chelsea who now occupy second position on goal difference and could pull off a shocker. Man Utd have the two CL fixtures against Schalke potentially complicating their Premiership progress which involve meeting Chelsea and Arsenal.
In Gaspar Noe's "Enter the Void", the soul of the deceased protagonist floats above the streets of Tokyo in agonized limbo waiting for his sister to make the correct choice. She after a seeming eternity consummates her relationship with his best friend and the tortured soul is reincarnated as their baby son.
Wenger reminds me of that tortured soul. Looking for the perfect untapped talent to bring his youth experiment to fruition. Six years later it still has not happened and Cesc Fabregas just threw him under the bus.
A few days ago, Neil Lennon had talked about the scourge of sectarianism underlining the Old Firm rivalry and had expressed pessimism that it would ever be wiped out. The Celtic manager had reason to do so as he was one of the recipients of a letter bomb along with two other prominent club supporters.
Disturbing to say the least. And this maybe a poor choice of words but religion and football make for a combustible mix.
Jose Mourinho has already lost the Liga. What if he loses the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League matches to Barca? What is he managing Real for?
He was brought expressly for beating the Catalunyans, the portal to all the domestic and international honours. This test of four matches is as comprehensive a look into the levels between two clubs: For Real, who else do they add to their group of assembled superstars to try and beat a system that defines the collective?
Mourinho has a clause in his contract which says he's free to look for a new job after two years. But there is a feeling that he may not even wait that long if he feels the challenge is insurmountable.
Today, the two heavyweights go at it in round 2: The Copa Del Rey at stake.
Good news for Arsenal in ordinary circumstances but we're talking of a mentally frail club. As for the game, plenty of possession and chances for the Red Devils but the finish wasn't there.
Cesc Fabregas who Arsene Wenger spirited away from Barca as a 16 year old to lead the charge in his youth revolution just pronounced its death throes. Fabregas in an interview with a Spanish media outlet had this to say:
"You have to make a decision: either go and win, or develop players."
These feelings of disillusionment were already surfacing back in 2007 when Arsenal was now playing third fiddle to Chelsea and Man Utd.
"From 2007 I had already started saying we're not winning, but we're playing well. And then you realise that's no use."
Wenger's poster boy brings up the Invincibles in a sign that he did not completely believe in his manager's philosophy even then:
"Young players learn from the older ones. Now, it is more complicated. If you put (Jack) Wilshere in the team that played before . . . it is different. I am not saying better or worse. Before, there were reference points, winning and strong players and playing with them, you learned faster."
Reference points is a word for leadership and Arsenal in those days had many such players who claimed that mantle. Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho realized the importance of senior players in their squads. Reference points is a word for winners. When you have players who know what it to takes to win titles their winning mentality rubs off on younger players.
Fabregas also admits in a tacit way he was never primed for captaincy. And it might have affected his performance.
"Now, a lot has changed, and I am the man that everyone looks to. I don't like to say it but it is true. If I play badly, I take responsibility and the pressure of the supporters."
On an intellectual level, Fabregas gets why Arsenal might define success differently and he understands the need for economic stability. But these are things he does not believe in - it is the board's way of doing so. Implicit in his statement is Wenger's responsibility in changing the ethos.
Which is borne out by the fact he mentions Wenger would have been fired in the Liga if he had gone three years without a trophy. He goes onto indicate that Arsenal have a decision to make which could involve a post Wenger world.
"But I imagine there will be a moment when you have to decide: do you win things or not?"
This is as strong an indictment of a manager as you can get. And most tellingly by an existing squad member who happens to be the club's talisman. The fans have already lined themselves into the AKB and the Wenger should go camps. The manager has redefined a winning mentality and indicated he won't change one iota.
" As long as you are second in the league, I am ready to sign for the next 20 years and stand up for that. We've done well for our age and we are second in the league. Is that a disaster?"
Wenger might ignore the slow bleed of fans cutting into the club's financial bottomline. Believe me it has begun. But what about the players themselves who are not signing onto his article of faith? It is ironical a player Wenger protected so fiercely from the clutches of Barca and Real is on the eve of Arsenal's fiercest clash casting doubts about his managerial capability.
Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano criticised Jose Mourinho's tactics in the first round of El Classico gainst Barcelona.
He said Madrid played like a mouse against a lion of a Catalan team.
"Barcelona's football in the Bernabeu was simply brilliant. Their superiority was there for the whole planet to see," Di Stefano wrote. "Madrid was a team without personality. The decision to try and play Barcelona on the counterattack was clearly not the right one. Barcelona play football and dance while Madrid just run back and forth constantly, tiring themselves out."
Di Stefano is part of legend and song as far as Real Madrid is concerned.
He was part of the team that won five successive European Cups during the 1950s.
Messi meanwhile is just one goal short of another milestone - to become the first Barcelona player to score 50 competitive goals in a single season.
Every time one writes off Clarence Seedorf he comes up with the goods. Antonio Cassano scored against his former club and Robinho rounded off the scoring.
Sampdoria are now fighting relegation woes. The club won last on 13th February, 3-1 against Bologna and the side's goalscoring has completely dried up. Three goals in 9 matches since that day and just 26 for the season. Only Bari has scored less.
The lack of goals speaks to the loss in quick succession of quality players like Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini, the pair's fruitful strike combination led them to last seasons high of 4th in the Serie and a playoff spot in the Champions League.
Pint sized Sebastian Giovinco and Juventus reject Amauri give the dairy farmers a 2-0 win over Internazionale. And once again the defending is shambolic. Inter have now slipped to 3rd and their Serie hopes are fading fast. They're eight points behind league leaders Milan who seemingly are coasting to their 18th Scudetto.
Those who saw El Clasico this weekend saw Leo Messi kick the ball into the stands in a moment of frustration. A rare breakdown by a player upheld as the epitome of good sportsmanship. The Bernabeu crowd made their displeasure clear. But it was comical to see who gave Messi, a lecture on good behaviour.
Pepe. A thug of the first order. A player who went insane in an orgy of violence against Getafe and after being ejected carried his fury to the Real Madrid bench where he had to be physically restrained. A 10 match ban obviously was not enough for this clown.
Sandro Meira Ricci was voted the best referee in Brazil in 2010 but he's unfortunately gone over to the dark side.
Along with Graham Poll.
In a Campeonato Candango match between Brasiliense and Formosa he dished out two yellow cards to the same player (Formosa defender Kassio) but forgot to issue a red.
The first foul took place on 29 minutes and seven minutes later Kassio committed another yellow card offence.
Graham Poll is advocating leniency - saying "It could happen to anybody"
Good on ye, Jack. The one Arsenal player who's shown consistent bottle. Gareth Bale wins the player of the year for his Usain Bolt like surges down the left. The fourth Welshman to do so. Hopefully Aaron Ramsey will follow and become the fifth in an Arsenal shirt.
Samir Nasri, Bacary Sagna, and Wilshere were also included in the PFA's squad of the year.
Missing in all this Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. My vote for young player of the year, if not POY. 18 goals in 37 appearances in his first year. Most of them phenomenal, most of them big.
Bolton's defending was shambolic. They made Kieran Richardson look like Leo Messi. And Stoke showed it helps to crack those long range shots with Jussi Jaskailanen, normally a very dependable goalie found leaden footed yesterday. Matthew Etherington, Robert Huth, Kenwyne Jones and Jon Walters with a brace all scored at will as Stoke romped home in the biggest blow out in a FA Cup semi-final since 1939.
This is Stoke's first entry into the finals. They meet Man City who last won the FA Cup in 1969.
Wenger walks towards Kenny Dalglish whining about the penalty and the added time and the Scot has none of it. Yes, it was a frustrating result but what was Wenger expecting? Some sort of commiseration. No handshakes which of course means that Wenger bears the brunt but a small part of me says he deserves it.
96 minutes of almost nothingness. Then a dodgy penalty call and RVP scores for Arsenal. This being Arsenal you knew they would look for ways to shoot themselves in the foot in the remaining minutes.
And sure enough it was Emmanuel Eboue, a footballer whose mental fortitude is that of a fruit fly, barging into Lucas Leiva when all he had to do was shepherd the Liverpool man out. Leiva milked that moment and Andre Marriner did not hesitate to point to the spot. Dirk Kuyt's equalizing penalty sounded Arsenal's death knell.
Except for the penalty, Van Persie resembled Nicklas Bendtner in his utter failure to be effective. Cesc Fabregas contribution was going down cheaply to Jay Spearing, theatrics that earned them a penalty. Its been ages since the Arsenal captain looked sharp. Samir Nasri dazzled with his inventive foot skills but was often isolated out on the left. Even Jack Wilshere, a usually industrious presence in midfield was missing.
Andrey Arshavin, often derided for ennui on the pitch, cut a lonely figure in his enterprise and zeal when Wenger brought him on late in the second half. It was heartening to see his lively presence on the wing and his enthusiastic tracking back - probably the only positive note in this otherwise drab affair.
With Liverpool's most experienced defender Jamie Carragher gone knocked lights out after a head butt by his own player and Fabio Aurelio departing earlier to an injury, the back four sported an unfamiliar look with teenagers Jack Robinson and John Flanagan. Top scoring threat Andy Carroll was subbed off with a knee strain.
Yet, Arsenal could not press their advantage despite Liverpool's lack of experience in key areas. For all the possession there was the familiar litany of scoring chances laid waste, crosses that found no one, or one dribble too many. Arsenal's woeful set piece capabilities let them down too. Laurent Koscielny came close when his header off a corner struck the crossbar. There was always Pepe Reina to clean up those close chances as he did stopping Van Persie's low shot.
Liverpool looked sharp when Luis Suarez had the ball and the Uruguayan with his twisting runs and change of pace clearly troubled Arsenal's defense especially in the second half. But both teams looked unlikely to score even with 8 minutes of added on time counting for Carragher's injury. Till the late, late dramatics kicked in.
This result crystallizes a few things - Arsenal has a monkey's chance of winning a title with the current crop of players. It's not that they aren't good, it's that this team is mentally fragile. But they are also made hapless by a manager whose persecution complex grows with every passing game as he assigns blame to circumstances beyond his control. Arsenal also have clear structural goalscoring issues for such an attack minded team. It's ironical Wenger whose knowledge of the game is exemplary has these huge blindspots when it comes to his own team. The defense in this case was not the maligned party.
The first round of El Classico played out to a 1 -1 draw despite predictions to the contrary by various octopuses all over the world.
Ronaldo scored his first goal against Barcelona via a penalty and Messi scored his first goal against Mourinho via a penalty.Even stevens so far while we wait for the octopuses to tell us the score for the next game.
szólj hozzá: Real Madrid v Barca Highlights
Edwin Van Der Sar so magnificent in the Chelsea match manages a weak clearance. Michael Carrick enjoying a rejuvenation of sorts gives the ball up. And then it is Yaya Toure's long legs eating up real estate as he bursts past Carrick and Nemanja Vidic to nutmeg an onrushing Van Der Sar for the winning goal.
City keep Bert Trautmann's hopes up for a FA Cup title. The former City goalkeeper and rehabilitated Nazi paratrooper was in the 1956 squad that won them one of their few meaningful silverware. That it might happen at the expense of their more illustrious neighbours will be that much sweeter.
It will be also be a fitting tribute to Neil Young, whose goal won them their last FA Cup triumph in 1969. He passed away earlier this year after a long battle with cancer.
As the Copa Libertadores enters its last week of group play Uruguayan club Penarol unrolled the largest stadium banner in history.
It's dimensions are a monstrous 310metres by 48 metres ( that's 1017 x 157 feet for the metrically challenged)
It was created to celebrate Penarol's 120th anniversary.
It took over four months to make and covered nearly two stands in the club's Centenario Stadium once it was fully unravelled...and is currently the only football club banner that is visible from outer space.........!
Ranger fans reprise "Scotland's Shame" singing sectarian chants during Europa Cup matches against PSV Eindhoven. FIFA/ UEFA open an investigation on April 28th which could end in disciplinary action including heavy fines and closed door matches.
It has not been a particularly good year for Scottish football. Which of course is a reference to the ugly scene following the March encounter between Rangers and Celtics. But the first sentence in itself presents the problem. The Old Firm has become a metonym for Scottish football.
As Gerry Hassan in this evocative article puts it the sad part is the Old Firm rivalry sucks almost all the oxygen out of Scottish football leaving very little left for the rest of the clubs.
Between Rangers and Celtics, there have been 26 years of domination and the fans following other clubs have shifted allegiances to the big two. Sixty years ago, 1 in 6 followed Celtic or Rangers and now it is up to 1 in 2. He proposes these two clubs face punitive action including protracted bans to clean up their acts. But there are powerful forces who see advantages in keeping this rivalry as ugly as possible. And invariably it is a downward spiral into sectarian vitriol.
Portugese giants Benfica drew PSV Eindhoven after falling behind two goals as the spectacularly named Balázs Dzsudzsák and Jeremain Lens scored for the Dutch team.
Guus Hiddink, the former PSV coach who brought them so much success was honoured at half time but he could not help his team tide the Benfica comeback sparked by Luisao's acrobatic scissor kick. It turned worse as César Peixoto was brought down and Oscar Cardozo duly converted the penalty. The match ended in a 2-2 draw and Benfica went through to the semi-finals on a 6-3 aggregate on the crest of their 4-1 first leg win.
It was a red letter day for Portugese teams as Braga drew Dynamo Kyiv, 0-0 but progressed forward on a 1-1 away goal advantage gained in the first leg. This despite the fact Braga played a man down for more than a hour when Paulo Cesar was sent off in the 29th minute (video)
Jose Mourinho's former club, Porto routed Spartak Moscow, 5-2 for a 10-3 aggregate victory. Hulk, Cristian Rodriguez, Fredy Guarin, Falcao and Ruben Micael scored for the visitors while Artem Dzjuba and Ferreira Ari scored consolation goals for the Moscow side. (video). As the clip shows it would be difficult to find worse defending.
The Europa Cup semi-finals will be an all Iberian affair with the three Portugese clubs joining Spanish side Villarreal who finished off FC Twente, 3-1 for a 8-3 aggregate with American born Giuseppe Rossi getting on board with a penalty conversion (video)
The above headline is not written as mere sensationalism. It is what Abramovich thought of his team after they failed to win the Premiership and the Champions League in 2008. Failure which prompted him to seek a new coach.
The Russian is featured prominently in Carlo Ancelotti's autobiography "Preferisco La Coppa' with many anecdotes and observations garnered during their meetings when Chelsea were looking for a permanent replacement for Big Phil Scolari. But the book also gives an insight into how Ancelotti looks at football. The conclusion:
Ancelotti is way too intelligent, well balanced, and witty for this sport. He is also something rarer, an altruist. The book was written with its proceeds benefiting Stefano Bergonovo, a former Milan team mate now stricken with Lou Gehrigs disease. And it is clear he's the polar opposite of Jose Mourinho.
It should come as no surprise that Ancelotti accepts Zen like that Abramovich will sack him and it poses no problems if that eventuality occurs. He rationalizes accepting the Chelsea job thus"There are worse things in life than working with Abramovich." An indication of a pragmatic streak. The Russian on the other hand comes across as a fatalist, obsessed with winning, and not terribly enamoured of his team.
Ancelotti on his part is well aware of Chelsea's lack of creativity when he gives his wish list. But he finds Abramovich anguishing about a certain player. Fast forward two years and this could be the exact words describing Torres.
Even the title "Preferisco La Coppa" or "I prefer trophies" is tongue in cheek, mocking silverware when in actuality it refers to a type of ham (Coppa) from Parma, where Ancelotti was raised. These are the real things in life which we should cherish he seems to be telling us.
Raul the Real Madrid legend is on his way to becoming a Schalke legend after his stellar performance gave them victory over reigning champions Inter. The fans invited him over after the match for a tutorial on their chant. As the rest of the team took their place on the pitch, Raul joined the fans in a full throated rendition. And it goes like this as per a You Tube commentator:
Kämpfen und siegen
Vorwärts Schalke auf gehts zum Sieg
Olé olé olé olé ,vorwärts Schalke
Fighting and Winning
Come on Schalke win the game
Olé olé olé olé come on Schalke
Well done Schalke. This maybe the year a German team other than Bayern wins the Champions League.
Why is Ronaldo looking so happy and triumphant ?
Because Iniesta the Octopus has picked Real Madrid to win.
Captured crime lord Salvatore Lo Russo reveals in his testimony what happened to Diego Maradona's Golden Ball trophy won for his 1986 World Cup exploits which went missing as part of a football museum tour.
Lo Russo helped Maradona recover the trophy only to find that the clan that had stolen it had already melted it down to be sold as gold bars. Bizarre. Now that is something Glenn Beck would have gotten behind.
The bedrock of Spanish football will be strip mined in a series of four encounters between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Who will be left standing? At stake, La Liga, the Copa Del Rey, and the Champions League. Starting tomorrow at the Bernabeu with El Clasico.
Cristiano Ronaldo's record against the Blaugrana is an exceedingly poor one. He's never scored against them in six occasions. The first time he faced Barca while at Man Utd, he missed a penalty three minutes into the match.
United the eventual 2008 European champions went on to hold Barca at the Camp Nou and then won 1-0 at Old Trafford with Paul Scholes scoring the winning goal. A year later, in the final, CR 7 had a few good looks in the opening minutes and then faded away for the remainder of the match. Barca went onto win 2-0.
The jinx has continued after joining Real. At the Bernabeu in his first El Clasico, he played 66 minutes without scoring and had to leave while Barca were up by a goal. The second time he went 90 minutes without posing any threat as Barca swept both encounters and went on to win La Liga. This season was even more disastrous as Real were blistered for a 5-0 loss at the Camp. Many remember CR 7's pre game warning, "See if they can score eight", a reference to the previous weekend when Almeria were swept aside, 8-0.
510 minutes played without a goal against his rivals. While he keeps pace with Leo Messi as goalscoring leader with 29 goals to the little maestro's 30. However, it is with a group of peers that he does less well with Johan Cruyff saying the Argentinian is on his way to "greatness" while being decidedly lukewarm about CR 7's prospects. "A physical player" was all he managed to say. Messi on the other hand could be legitimately compared to Pele, Diego Maradona and Alfredo Di Stefano.
Messi is also more versatile. He has 18 assists to CR7's 7 showing off his skills as goal provider. And he also takes more shots on goal with 61 to 51. There is nothing more CR 7 would like better than to show up Messi on his seventh occasion. If he fails again, he can console himself by sparing a thought for Fernando Torres, who would like a goal, any goal to end his 693 minutes without one.
Guus Hiddink left Stamford Bridge after his four month cameo righted the ship. The Premiership proved out of range but Hiddink won the 2009 FA Cup and the hearts and minds of the fans. There was a hint in his farewell that he would love nothing more than be back to complete unfinished business.
He is unsurprisingly linked with a return given Carlo Ancelotti's rumoured departure this summer. The Russian job which was essentially bankrolled by Roman Abramovich allowed for a cozy transfer between club and country. Previously too, Hiddink had managed the Socceroos in their 2006 World Cup while doubling for PSV Eindhoven. He is now overseeing Turkey's 2012 Euro qualification.
The Turkish Football Federation reading the tea leaves came out with a strong statement reiterating a clause in Hiddink's contract that precludes any such arrangement. Even if this were possible, it would be November before Hiddink set foot on the Bridge after fulfilling his Euro commitments.
As other potential candidates go, Marcelo Lippi has mentioned his interest but Chelsea need rejuvenation - Lippi's approach is overtly cerebral with a reliance on graybeards. Jose Mourinho will see out his Real Madrid contract and return to coach Man Utd so he can stick it to Abramovich. Pep Guardiola will never set foot in Stamford Bridge in any capacity other than visiting coach - Abramovich is just too into instant gratification for a La Masia type of cornerstone.
The problem with going through six managers in seven years is that the owner begins to attract attention. The departure of Frank Arnesen to Hamburg is also mentioned as a possible stumbling block in the search for a manager. The club will have to find his replacement first.
A true assessment might show that Chelsea's expectations have been inflated by their overwhelming previous season and they undergoing a correction. There are suggestions that Ancelotti is also paying for some adverse owner decisions with his own low key temperament playing a part.
At the end of 2010 season, Chelsea cracked the 100 goal barrier, the first club to do so, and for good measure adding three more. It was a clinic in goalscoring efficiency. Drogba with 29 and Lampard's 22 driving that record figure. This season Lampard spent an extended time away with injuries while Drogba is clearly two levels below that stratospheric best.
103 goals is an outlier since the title can be won with far less. Man Utd won the 2008-09 season with just 68 goals scored. At this stage, Chelsea have scored 55 with 7 games to go. This is quite close to Chelsea's goal average and traditionally the club trails Man Utd and Arsenal in scoring.
The sudden departure of Ray Wilkins set off an 11 match swoon between November 17th to January 5th where Chelsea only managed ten points. The nadir reached with the Sunderland loss at home. Coincidence? Or something structural? Drogba's output was a mere three goals and Chelsea nine. Before that they looked like they were continuing where they left off from last season. By accepting the Wilkins departure with a boss knows best shrug, Ancelotti indicated his deferential attitude. It probably did not translate too well with the players seeing it as unfair treatment of a veteran assistant having the ear of many of the senior players.
With Torres in the line up, Ancelotti had to play Russian roulette with his other strikers. It led to a set of inexplicable tactical decisions that potentially could have made a difference in the CL encounters with Man Utd - sending off Drogba in the first leg when he looked threatening and then sitting him down for the first half in the second leg. All for the owners desire to see Torres score and justify what appears to be a £50m albatross.
What we are seeing is a squad that cannot deliver on a consistent basis due to age, injuries, wavering mental strength, a shallow bench, and lack of creativity in the midfield. But the inconsistency also reflects a coach bowing to an owners whimsy. If Ancelotti leaves it will be a decision that will in no way solve the inherent problems of a club that has not yet started rebuilding in earnest. Ancelotti was never given that charge. It will be a challenge but he should be given that chance.
Former Arsenal director Danny Fiszman passed away after a long battle against throat cancer.
He was Arsenal's largest shareholder till September 2007 before gradually disinvesting his stake to Stan Kroenke. He sold the remaining 16.11% shares to Kroenke just two days before his death.
Fiszman will always be known as instrumental in Arsenal's move from Highbury to Ashburton Grove. A lifelong Gooner, he was also involved in bringing Dennis Bergkamp, Robin Van Persie, and Cesc Fabregas to Arsenal. And during his time on the board, Arsenal won two Premierships and three FA Cups.
Arsenal Chairman Peter Hill-Wood said: "Danny Fiszman was a visionary Director, a gentleman and a true Arsenal fan.
"We are all deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend Danny. His voice, wisdom and presence around the football club he so dearly loved will be sorely missed".
RIP Danny. A true friend of Arsenal. You shall be missed.
Messi's 48th goal of the season against Shakhtar Donetsk was a new club record.47 goals was Ronaldo's record - from the 1996-97 season. Barcelona have at least 10 more matches this season and Messi can take it to where no one has gone before.....
szólj hozzá: Shakhtar Barca 0:1 Highlights
And while we are talking about the little maestro here's more evidence of his genius - he never dives.This from the same game against Shakhtar Donetsk..
Before we say Raul and make no mistake this was all the former Real Madrid man, we've to say this Inter defense was exposed once again. What a difference a year makes.
Schalke was obviously the brighter of the two teams but Jurado slipping a pass to Raul through a defense hopelessly caught out of position and the striker feinting past a stumbling Julio Cesar did not make for a pretty picture. Thiago Motta got a consolation equalizer but a desperate Inter were undone as Raul slipped a nice pass for Howedes to outrun the defense and score.
It is Man Utd and Schalke in the semi-finals and if past records are any indication then the Red Devils will have their hands full against Ralf Ragnick's team. German teams have had their way against the Mancusians.
Gomes keeps Manuel Almunia company in goalkeeping bloopers. Real Madrid romp home on a 5-0 aggregate and now face Barca in the semi-finals in a mouthwatering treat. As for Spurs well played in their first CL encounter! They had some big wins - Gareth Bale destroying Inter and victory over AC Milan in the group of 16.
He is in the capital of Chechnya coaching Terek Grozny, a football club whose chief patron is Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov. An article in Der Spiegel examines Gullit who built his reputation not just as a player but as a human rights activist and his sell out to a man wanted on war crimes.
It seems that the parties concerned with keeping Arsenal in the hands of joint ownership are hardening their positions. First, it was the AST voting down the Stan Kroenke offer and indicating it wouldn't sell its shares and now its Alisher Usmanov vowing that he will not negotiate his 26% share.
"I love Arsenal, that's why I'm a shareholder."
This is a lie. Usmanov is a Man Utd admirer. But that's not the real problem.
The problem is that two biggest shareholders have an inimical relationship. The politics of the boardroom will resemble a jousting match between these two figures trying to throw each other down. Usmanov has promised loads of money for transfers while Kroenke has deferred to Arsenal's self sustaining business model. Such polarization is undesirable for a club going forward.
The AC Milan striker came back from a 3 match ban and is promptly sent off for three more after his red card reprisal in the Fiorentina match.
His actions have attracted the ire of the club owner who now seems to be making noises to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to his bunga bunga parties. Which means that Ibra could be looking at his fourth club in four years.
Ian Herbert is convinced he is.
18 goals in 20 starts in his debut year. All indications that Chicharito Hernandez maybe able to keep up that extra-ordinary strike rate. At £6m he represents a Bosman in today's hyper-inflated football market.
Lets compare some past signings:
In his first year at Man Utd, Dimitar Berbatov scored 9 goals in 31 Premiership appearances. In 45 appearances he scored 14 goals. He cost United almost £31m and it led to the derogation "Berbaflop". In a bitter twist, Man Utd made an exception in his case despite a clause prohibiting the purchase of players older than 26 years.
Carlos Tevez proved to be far more productive. The controversial striker arrived in 2007 with the Kia Joorabchian mess hanging over his transfer. But he soon justified his £20 million fee by scoring 19 goals in 48 appearances including 14 Premiership goals in 34 appearances which proved instrumental in breaking Chelsea's grip on the Premiership.
Cristiano Ronaldo whose 2009 departure for a record £80m represented not just a phenomenal 645% rate of return on his initial investment of £12.4m, it was commonly perceived as an apocalyptic event for the club. Ronaldo who become synonymous with blistering goals and a prodigious output had beginnings which were hardly auspicious. His first season yielded just 6 goals in 40 appearances.
Compare these stats to Chicharito's 11 goals in 22 Premiership appearances. And he has been phenomenally productive in the Champions League scoring 5 goals in 8 appearances compared to his team mate Berbatov's zero goals in 6 appearances. In 37 appearances he has notched 18 goals while costing £25m, £14m, and £6m less than Berbatov, Tevez, and Ronaldo, respectively.
Another way of looking at this is to compute the transfer fee paid to goals scored in their first season - Chicharito averages £333,333 per goal scored, this balloons to £1,052,631 (~ 300% increase) per goal scored for Tevez, which in turn is dwarfed by the £2,066,666 and £2,214,285 (~ 600% increase) cost of a goal scored by Ronaldo and Berbatov, respectively. Of course, these figures come down with the number of goals scored in subsequent seasons. Which makes Chicharito even more value for money.
At present his valuation would be about £20m. It took Ronaldo seven years to add £68 to his initial value. If Chicharito keeps this up he will eclipse that figure with a few years to spare.
Man Utd looked sharper and decisive when they had the ball while Chelsea had more of it without looking threatening. What happened to the team from last season who had no problems putting it away?
And can we say Chicharito played exactly like a £50m striker should. A preternatural ability to find the net. Ryan Giggs and John O'Shea combined nicely to provide the spadework.
Carlo Ancelotti went to Drogba at halftime and the Cote D'Ivoirian delivered. But Man Utd almost immediately replied back through Park Ji Sung. That is their mantra. If it is not Rooney, it is Berbatov. If not him, its Chicharito. If he switches off, Berbatov switches off, it is Rooney. It could also be Giggs, Park Ji Sung, Nani, or Vidic.
The goals always get the highlights but in the midst of them was the sight of 40 year old Van der Sar running out to tackle Nicholas Anelka. Simply amazing. Utd were thoroughly deserving winners. They face Schalke in the semi-finals unless Inter manage to pull off a miracle.
Can we lay the £50m Torres boondoggle squarely on Roman Abramovich? Except it will be Ancelotti paying for it with his job.
The former Liverpool striker has gone 11 hours and 33 minutes without scoring while his replacements Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez are firing Liverpool to a possible Champions League berth. As Jonathan Wilson points out Fernando Torres is struggling in the Chelsea formation of 4-4-2 where Drogba or Anelka rotate the strike with him.
This is because traditionally he plays best when he is up front by himself. The finals against Germany in the Euro 2008 finals come to mind. His best Liverpool form came before his injury early last year which left him a World Cup doubt.
When he came back in time it was quite obvious that Vicente Del Bosque did not quite repose the same faith in him using David Villa instead. It has been a year and a half but he's not been much better since struggling with his touch and looking sluggish off the ball.
It is unclear whether any formation would make a difference - there are signs that a 4-3-3 might be better but to justify his huge price tag it became imperative to start him above Didier Drogba. The proud Cote D'Ivoirian became part of the strike rotation as Ancelotti gave in to Abramovich's wishes. Chelsea's owner probably naively thought that having Torres and Drogba would have a multiplier effect while the right thing to do would have been to transition Torres as a direct replacement to Drogba.
In the first leg, Drogba was yanked when he looked like he was most likely to score and today, Ancelotti waited till the half to sub an ineffective Torres. Unsurprisingly Drogba delivered. But it was too late which leads to all sorts of "if only" conjectures. Without any trophy, Chelsea are now left battling for CL qualification. Ironic when you consider Torres left Liverpool because he wanted to be part of a winning club.
But the problem really lies ahead - what do you do with a striker who is not scoring, a striker who does but feels like a stepchild, and a coach who was not bold enough to stand up to his owner ? In the end all three might not remain at Stamford Bridge.
Alisher Usmanov is now being glorified in certain quarters within Arsenal's supporters for holding out on his shares. The Uzbeki's actions are seen as an intent to maintain plurality of ownership as a desirable option.
This revisionism ignores the fact it was Nina Bracewell Smith who refused Usmanov's higher bid for her shares. He was offering her £1200 more per share an indication of his seriousness buying out the club. Which means if it had not been for her we would have been supporting Kroenke in preventing single ownership by someone with a hastily stuffed closet of skeletons. Usmanov's call to KSE (Kroenke Sports Enterprise) to match his shares in AST's fanshare program also seems to be a bit of opportunism.
Kroenke in the past has come out in support of small shareholders and has stated no plans to de-list the fanshare program. However, the AST will probably wait till they see more details of subject in KSE's formal offer document.
For fans not otherwise interested in boardroom maneuvers, the big question is whether all this means more money for transfers. A sum of £40m is being mentioned. Which is peanuts compared to Chelsea and Man City but in keeping with Arsenal's live within the means budgeting. I seriously doubt whether Kroenke's takeover will affect the transfer budget all that match other than the odd big purchase- his US teams seem to reflect a desire for value for money.
The biggest news over the weekend was 41 year old Jens Lehmann's return and the commanding difference he made in goal. It was supposed to be a quiet segue into a week of preparation before the all important Liverpool match.
But today, Stan Kroenke or "Silent Stan" made waves completing a virtual takeover of Arsenal excepting for Alisher Usmanov's 27% share. Unlike other takeover's this was done from the inside with Kroenke steadily adding to his share since 2007 leaving him a hair trigger away from the 30% needed for an automatic bid. The more relevant question is how has he secured this financing and more worryingly, will he do a "Glazer" and use the clubs assets to finance debt? Nothing prevents him from using the club's multi-billion pound dividends or its cash reserve to pay down debt.
He did not offer an answer to his source of funds other than an assurance: "The offer will not be funded by way of any debt finance .... for which the payment of interest on, repayment of or security for any liability [contingent or otherwise] will depend on the business of Arsenal."
The takeover took place with an implication of trust in Kroenke's integrity. Nina Bracewell-Smith and Danny Fiszman, two of Arsenal's oldest hands agreed to sell off their shares. It is hard to imagine them being a party to this agreement without the reassurance the US billionaire was using his own assets to secure the £731m needed for full control. In addition, he's been a board member since 2009 unlike Usmanov.
Kroenke is Walmart's scion (he's married to James Walton's daughter). His personal fortune is assessed at $2.6b (130 on the Forbes 400 rich list) with wife, Ann coming at 99th with a $3.4b with estimate.
Over the years, he's transformed his initial real estate and retail success to building a thriving sports empire. He became a full owner of the NFL's St Louis Rams (valuation $929b) , the 2000 Super Bowl champions after transferring his ownership of the Denver Nuggets, a regular NBA playoff contender and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, two time Stanley Cup champions to his son. Last year, his soccer team, the Colorado Rapids won their first MLS title. He also owns an Arena football team and a lacrosse team.
His sports company Kroenke Sports Enterprise (KSE) also owns Pepsi Center, home of the Nuggets and Avalanche) and is a co-owner of Dick Sporting Goods Park, the Rapids soccer specific stadium. In recent years, he has branched out into sports merchandising and TV media.
This is a businessman with considerable assets diversified over a myriad of successful professional teams. He also has considerable clout in the real estate and retail sector by his personal association with the Walmart family. There is a history of long term investing, prudent decision making, and a passion for improving his teams. An unobtrusive persona maybe his biggest virtue as there is rarely a mention of his interfering with the players, administrators, and coaching staff.
Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal's CEO was also quick to point out that Kroenke who he knew in his MLS days would not interfere in Arsenal's daily business.
" So I don't think we will see dramatic changes. At the same, I do think that Mr Kroenke brings experience in the sports arena. He's got tremendous experience in the United States and also experience now over here in England."
The gut feeling is that Kroenke will not use Arsenal to load his personal debt like the Glazers and Tom Hicks, both took over Man Utd and Liverpool in highly leveraged buyouts without ever gaining the fans trust. And he has reposed faith in Arsene Wenger. So far the Arsenal Supporter's Trust has not commented on these significant developments but one suspects it will not be an unfavourable assessment of the situation when they finally do. It appears a good marriage between self made man with an eye for detail and a penchant for maximizing opportunities with a conservative spending club with a self sustaining business model in prime condition to negotiate FIFA's financial fair play rules.
Kroenke in his own words:
"All of my mentors told me to find something I loved to do and try to be the best at it. Personal recognition isn't something I have thought much about - I think if you work hard and are honest, then good things will happen."
The only thing one has a quibble with is the timing. With Arsenal's title hopes delicately poised and dependent on their remaining performances, this could prove an ill afforded distraction as momentous as this one. On a related note, there is every indication Arsenal may start touring the USA in their pre-season and tap into an audience hungry for a taste of soccer different from say that of Man Utd and Chelsea.
The Liverpool beating Manchester City 3 - 0 video........
szólj hozzá: Liver 3-0 M.City | Highilights
Messi scored two second half goals to help Barcelona to come back from being a goal down against Almeria.Barca had to huff and puff a bit to beat a charged up Almeria side but Messi as usual ensured that things didn't get out of hand.
szólj hozzá: Bar 3-1 Alm All
Man Utd stroll past Fulham but Fergie fumes - this time at his own team.
Berbatov was perhaps offside for the first goal.
Fulham's performance in the game has been compared to their statue of MJ in a very entertaining way here.
To quote ...Their performance was "about as convincing as their new statue and nowhere near as frightening.".......................!
Look to the future is Arsene Wenger's mantra once again. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater maybe another.
All said and done a stirring defense of this team's performance and a pointed reminder that a real team cannot be bought. It is a placation to the team's supporters increasingly disgruntled at the lack of urgency shown towards the only and most meaningful title left.
But in the midst of it is a sense of victimization. On two levels. The first, an "us" and "them" gulf that seems to separate the club from Man Utd and Barcelona. Thus, Arsenal did not lose to any other team, they lost to good ones. But that did not stop Wenger from trumpeting winning a quadruple before the FA Cup encounter or the Barca second leg. The context: United were at a low ebb beaten by Wolves, Chelsea, and Liverpool and we had the good fortune of carrying a goal advantage to Barcelona. Now how did we go from dishing it out to eating crow?
The second and most relevant level. These are criticisms leveled by "people who have not worked half a day in football." By that dint, not to be taken seriously but by golly are they tiresome. Now, this means armchair pundits like me - who've never put an ounce into the sport in any other capacity other than kick leather. But we've been Arsenal fans for years and we remember a Wenger era when his teams looked and did beat the crap out of anyone and everyone. "Fragile" is not how one characterized players like Adams, Keown, Bould, Parlour, Vieira, and Petit.
" People's opinion is people's opinion and we have to accept that in our game," he said. "As long as you are second in the league, I am ready to sign for the next 20 years and stand up for that."
These are mere bumps on the road. In fact, if you read right Wenger seems to be saying it is alright to come second every time in a world gone mad on the football machine that believes buying their way to a title is the only way. I wish sometimes Wenger, with all my heart would give up his football job and become SEC chairman or the US Treasury Secretary. We suffer because as supporters of a club we only understand the straight and narrow, whereas, Wenger's real purpose is to save the world we inhabit. It is a transformation he thinks will only be appreciated through time. Patience, my friend! I've heard it is a virtue.
Great goal by Neymar against Colo Colo in the Copa Libertadores which sets off a celebration that is borderline narcissistic. The referee is not impressed and books him. This being Neymar's second offense he is sent off. For those who follow the larger picture Santos piled on three unanswered goals before Colo Colo came back with a brace. It was an ill tempered match with five red cards issued.
What is a player do to celebrate? No taking off the jersey (Cassano). No swearing in front of the camera (Rooney) No donning masks (Neymar). What next. The only way out now is to go down on bended knee and kiss the referee's hand.
The man can be a short fused nightmare on and off the pitch but he speaks the truth. Spot on.
5-1. With goals from Iniesta (who had a brilliant game), Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Seydou Keita, and Xavi Hernandez. Shakhtar avoided a donut when Rakitskiy pulled back a 6oth minute goal.
A mouth-watering semi-final clash between Barca and Real Madrid is now an inevitability adding to an intense series of clashes between the two Liga giants including El Clasico on the 16th April and the Copa Del Rey, four days later.
Sir Alex might feel a bit more at equilibrium right now. Somehow this time the dark forces that haunt his team at Stamford Bridge stayed away. Maybe it helped that the referee's name was not Martin Atkinson. But seriously this was a downright mugging and it boggles the mind that Messrs Alberto Undiano Mallenco and company did not give a penalty and send off Evra.
Liverpool fans can expect NBA superstar LeBron James to be present in their midst at Anfield taking in a game sometime in the near future.
LeBron is joining hands with John Henry, chairman of the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) who own Liverpool. As part of the deal, LeBron gets a minority stake in Liverpool while FSG partners with his sports marketing company to become his exclusive world wide representative.
The WSJ reports that this is the first time a professional athlete at the top of his game has taken an ownership interest in a team with the size and prestige of Liverpool, one of the biggest and most storied names in football.
The deal marks FSG's serious intent to become a power player in the world of sports marketing through their subsidiary Fenway Sports Management. LeBron marks their biggest capture and it is hoped that the tie up with FSG will open up his marketing potentially on a global scale wherever Liverpool is popular, especially Asia.
These are optimistic times for Liverpool as Damien Comolli, director of football has indicated that the purse-strings will be opened up in the summer for some high priced transfers. John Henry wants to augment the squad and openly fretted that the high wage bill reflected poorly on its quality and depth. Their priority like many before them, to win their first Premiership.
LeBron was left admiring Liverpool's eighteen league titles although one should have told him the last one came in 1990.
Rooney scored the only goal of the game and didn't swear at anybody.Torres came very close with a header but was denied by a diving Edwin van der Sar.Highlights ...
szólj hozzá: Chelsea 0-1 ManUtd, Highlights
Much has been said of the huge damage done by Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the Carling Cup finals. With it went a golden opportunity to end a six year trophy drought. But the loss did more than failing to lift that monkey off the back, it was a momentum killer. The nature of that loss did everything to further the Gunners "Born under a bad sign" reputation.
One way to look at it is through scoring and in the matches leading up to the final there was no problems getting goals. If one breaks the 30 matches played so far chunking them into sets of three and graph the goals for and against Arsenal we see obvious fluctuations but the trend is an overall healthy scoring record despite giving up some atrocious goals.
This came to a screeching halt after Feb 27th with the only exception, a 5-0 result against Orient. We lost to Barca, 1-3 not unexpectedly and we swallowed a 0-2 loss to Man Utd in the FA Cup. But it is the Premiership which we now heavily invest as the only viable title left where most damage has been wrought. In the three matches, Arsenal have scored just two goals and garnered 2 points for its leanest spell. We have to go back to weeks 10 through 12 to come up with comparable scoring but we managed 6 points despite losing the Newcastle game.
The meme that Arsenal could come up with the quadruple (in hindsight this is Wenger's moment of irrational exuberance) was built around the Barca win at the Emirates and the upcoming Birmingham final. It followed a series of matches just before the Feb 27th date at Wembley when the club reeled of 15 goals for 16 points. The only blemish was the Newcastle implosion but the club was able to reconnoiter that slippery slope by winning the subsequent matches against Wolves and Stoke. "Gritty"and "mental strength" was how it was described. It must have been a giddy high.
The response after the Birmingham disaster has been three desultory draws against relegation fighting teams who have been handily beaten in their recent matches (save WBA). The scoring malaise might be attributed to a set of tactical decisions undertaken by the team and its opponents but the graph clearly shows the robust goal scoring trendlines prior to this period. The more obvious conclusion is a crisis in confidence. Even Wenger has been forced to comment on the team lacking energy.
It is not unreasonable to assume in the wake of the Carling Cup loss, a number of players quietly believe no matter what, Arsenal will always be blindsided (its always something or other). Wenger can make tactical adjustments but his main concern will be to pull his squad back from believing that the only thing left is counting the days till the season is over.
Almost two years ago, Stankovic lashed an equally spectacular volley from midfield past Marco Amelia. Compare this to the goal against Schalke.
The match was lost in the first 15 minutes. Aaron Lennon taken ill before the match was replaced by Jermaine Jenas, Emmanuel Adebayor had scored, and Spurs were reduced to ten men after Peter Crouch was sent off.
The Spurs striker already on a yellow, in one of the most shockingly bone headed displays earned a second yellow when he needlessly brought down Marcelo. The Brazilian had no qualms milking the foul for all its worth and then celebrated wolfishly at the sight of red. Unseemly as this was, Crouch was solely to blame for his undoing. With him gone the rest of the Spurs did not rise to the occasion.
Van Der Vaart continued his sense of entitlement doing little other than mouthing off at the referees and making no one at the Bernabeu mourn his departure. Gareth Bale, he of the 80m price tag was lost on the right initially but came into his own when Harry Redknapp put him back in his familiar position down the left. But it looked like he was short of match fitness not going out gangbuster on Sergio Ramos. Luka Modric was anonymous. It was left to the Spurs defense to limit the damage but Real were not going to oblige.
Adebayor continued his Spurs slaying ways and added another goal. Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo also chipped in. Real had 64% of the possession and 11 shots on goal as compared to Spurs one solitary attempt. It was a one way street.
23+ minutes from Canal. Commentary in French.
It all started swimmingly well for Inter within the first minute as Dejan Stankovic's stunning volley from 50 metres left Manuel Neuer stranded miles from goal! The San Siro was rocking!
But Schalke equalized through Joel Matip following a goalmouth scramble as the Inter defense failed to clear the ball. Inter came back as Sneijder's chip was met by Cambiasso at the far post and the midfielder expertly headed the ball into the path for Milito to finish superbly. However, Schalke's party was just beginning as Edu on his second attempt was able to get to the ball before Julio Cesar and banged it home. Schalk went ahead though the evergreen Raul after he collected Jefferson Farfan's pass and scooting through defenders found the net. It was his 71st CL goal, topped only by Filippo Inzaghi.
Calamity struck Inter as Andrea Rannochia caught on the counter attack tamely turned Jose Manuel Jurado's cross into his own goal. Inter's rotten defense would pay one more time as Edu managed to blast the ball from the top of the D past Cesar. But before that Christian Chivu picked up his second yellow for bringing Edu down in the 62nd minute.
Ralf Ragnick's men scored a sensational win over the defending champions at their home. Their counterattacking was incisive with Jurado and Farfan in particular with their speed down the flanks stretched the defense to breaking point. Inter's defense, the one that withstood Barca's attacking fury in their CL winning season was a pale imitation. Maicon looked jaded, Rannochia clueless, Zanetti slow. It looked like they were still hungover from the 3-0 Milan beating over the weekend.
Leonardo has essentially thrown in the towel. He has to get either a 4-0 or a 6-3 win at Gelsenkirchen. Virtually impossible.
Love the tongue in cheek "Chelsea were right to spend £50m for Torres". The artful dodger is a master at playing head games.
Jose Mourinho will risk bringing back Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo even as they remain injury doubts. Fans are divided on this issue with half of them urging Mourinho to take his chances and the rest characterizing it as a foolhardy decision. Their Liga aspirations are all but over so they might as well go for broke in the biggest title. It has been 7 years and 12 days since Real played the Champions League quarterfinals.
Real Madrid: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil, Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Many intriguing scenarios. Amongst them - the presence of CR7, Carvalho, and Adebayor who've had success against Spurs while in the Premiership. What will make Pepe lose his cool? And try decapitating his opponent.
In other news, Harry Redknapp slapped a £80m price tag on Bale on the eve of the Real match after the winger expressed his desire to play in Europe. Mmmmmm. The timing is impeccable.
In the aftermath of the Zamalek vs Club Africain match which brought 5000 rioting fans onto the pitch, one thing lies forgotten. It was a gripping match with enough theatrics of its own. And it hinged around three defensive mistakes.
The most egregious of them by Zamalek's standpoint was their goalie Abdel Wahed El-Sayed misjudging the flight of Ben Yahia's powerfully struck free kick from 30 feet out. He starts to his right and by the time he recovers the ball swerves into the far left hand corner. El-Sayed's reaction says it all. Club Africain had to endure a defensive mix up of their own as Hussein Yasser put Zamalek ahead just before halftime. The sparkling play of Mahmoud Fadlalla created that goal. In the end, Zamalek failed to capitalize on their away goal advantage with Ben Yahia's strike proving costly. The Tunisian club advanced on a 5-4 aggregate despite being reduced to 10 men with Bilel Ifa given his marching orders in the 59th minute.
The optics has all been taken over by the riots and the injuries to the fans, players, and officials. The fans went after the Algerian referee for disallowing a late offside goal that would have made the difference. The pitch invasion raised the spectre of reigniting tensions between both countries brought to the fore when Algeria played Egypt in Cairo and Khartoum thereafter in the World Cup qualifiers. Egypt's interim government was forced to exert damage control promising an investigation into the riots, condemning Zamalek fans for their "acts of thuggery", and apologizing to the Tunisian team.
Egypt's PM also conveyed a message that resonates with the newly configured Middle East acknowledging the Tunisian revolution as a catalyst to their own. The volatile situation was also somewhat mitigated by the very heroic spectacle of Zamalek players shielding the Club Africain players from the rampaging fans.
For Zamalek the penalties could be severe with the most damaging a possible 3 year sanction. Other Egyptian clubs could also face CAF's wrath. The Algerian football federation has already decided that no more referees from their country will officiate in Egypt.
Francesco Totti two goals against Fiorentina were his 200th and 201st in Serie A.
He is only four goals behind Roberto Baggio's record of 205 and is the 6th player to reach this awesome Serie A milestone.
If you about 47 minutes of time to spare here are all 201 goals....!
A feel good gesture but as suspected Chad Ochocinco failed to make the grade. Peter Vermes, Sporting KC's coach also invited the Cincinnati Bengals WR to train anytime he wanted with the reserves.
Vermes statements are revealing.
"But being out of the game for as long as he was, there's no way he could make up that time so his basic foundation for the game just is not there," Vermes said. "His first touch is what kills him."
No two things about Ochocinco's athleticism but soccer is not just about that. It is an easy trap to fall into saying Michael Vick or Terrell Owens would be great for the game and if such athletes took to soccer then the US would be a world power. Ochocinco could probably outrun and outleap Leo Messi in a head to head but Messi would run circles around him all day with the ball.
Even Didier Drogba considered an elite athlete is an exception to soccer but he would be a dime a dozen in the NFL. But Drogba does not just rely on his power to be effective, he possess a great first touch and an uncanny ability to be at the right place and time to put the ball into goal. Gary Lineker would have failed every NFL combine but his poaching instincts were impeccable. For that matter David Beckham was panned by George Best for his distinct lack of athletic ability.
"He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right."
But everyone knows Beckham can bend the ball to the delight of physicists studying the Magnus effect. You don't have to be an elite athlete to succeed in soccer.
Soccer is one of the most visuo-spatially complex sports. In fact, it shares many parallels with basketball. It is for that reason Steve Nash would have made a fantastic soccer player if he had not chosen to become one of basketball's pre-eminent point guards. Nash regularly highlights his previous exposure to soccer as being instrumental in enhancing his basketball skills. So does Paul Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, and Manu Ginobili.
Stirring documentary about Jay De Merit who arrives in England with a dream of playing in the Premier League and with little money on him scraps around in a non-league club. Two years later he's playing for Watford in their Premiership promotion match against Leeds and scores in front of 65,000 people sending them to the world's top league. His Watford exploits in the following year earn him a call up to the USMNT.
Equally compelling is the story of how Ranko Tutulugdzija, the film maker, and a college buddy of De Merit came to make the film overcoming many obstacles including no prior film experience and a life threatening medical condition. In a selfless moment, De Merit learning his friend needs a kidney transplant offers his without hesitation.
As Tutulugdzija explains: " this isn't just a movie about soccer, but a human story of perseverance, hard work and belief. And for me this project was done with all heart, and with a sense of gratitude that's hard to explain, that Jay was willing to lay down his own life for a friend. That is something that the world doesn't know about Jay, but should. He is more than a soccer player, he is an awesome human."
They movie is complete but they have to pay off the licensing fees of $150,000 before it can be shown in public. If you want to help with the finances and/or distribution contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Australian category for best sport writing went to Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker of The Age for their articles exposing the money trail involved in Australia's unsuccessful World Cup bid.
Two perfectly lovely characters by the name of Fedor Radmann and Peter Hargitay benefited from AUD 11.37m of tax payer money for their lobbying services. And they are all tied at the hip to the odious Jack Warner. The Football Federation of Australia tried hushing it up by being deliberately vague in its accounting to the Australian government.
Andrew Jennings has more on the duo who have colourful histories. Hargitay in particular was twice acquitted on cocaine trafficking charges, worked for Marc Rich, the tax dodger who fled the US, and was linked to a securities fraud in Hungary. He's now actively involved in getting Mohammed Bin Hammam elected as FIFA president.
Karene Asche won this year's Dimanche Gras singing "Uncle Jack" a song about Jack Warner. The relevant lyrics below reference Warner's shameful treatment of the Soca Warriors and Andrew Jennings getting on his case.
As footballers ask for their earnings,
Well that is when you raise his wrath,
And if you mention - Andrew Jennings,
Is then self he start to froth;
De Warriors you see,
On the road to Germany,
Their pay issue ent settle yet;
When Jennings for fun,
Ask him- "Where de money gone",
Warner start to fret,
Then unleash a whole new alphabet...
For the rest of the lyrics to this catchy song >>
The FA hands the Man Utd striker a two match ban for swearing into a camera. One more defining moment in the life of England's finest writer. One is looking forward to his expletive laden spittle flecked sequel. But rest assured the FA is not going after the tabloids who built up England to win the World Cup and led the fans to go after Rooney when they didn't.
This is how one media report out of many describe this incident "Didier Drogba had to be forcibly removed from the Britannia Stadium pitch after becoming embroiled in a heated row with one of his own fans following Chelsea's draw with Stoke.As words were exchanged, Chelsea team-mate Paulo Ferreira intervened to usher a furious Drogba down the tunnel and away from an unseemly spat."
Take a look at the video and see if you agree.
They can exaggerate a wee bit right ? It's got to sound really dramatic otherwise no one will read what they have written .As Mulder said to Scully - the truth is out there. It's just been spruced up to look a bit more interesting.
This was no April Fool's joke as Bosnia and Herzegovina found themselves banned from international football.
The problem: FIFA/ UEFA does not like the structure of that country's football association which vests powers between three presidents rather than under the more conventional single figurehead.
The reality: Bosnia and Herzegovina, a product of the violent and genocidal "Balkanization" of the former Yugoslovia which gave to the world its first real time exposure to the horrors of "ethnic cleansing" is a country sensitive to the historic need for balance in a complex sharing of power between its major ethnic groups that comprise Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks.
As this article clearly points out, the very genesis of Bosnia and Herzegovina remains the central issue rather than the issue based politics played out elsewhere. The Dayton Framework, the principal charter agreed upon following the cessation of hostilities was primarily a peace accord which created the political entities represented by the Bosnian Serb majority Republic of Sprska and the Croat and Bosniak driven Federation.
The agreement's virtual absence of clearcut administrative directives has created a laissez faire void. The political space is given to fractious identitarian politics with the primary objective delegitimizing the other rather than tackle more pressing issues like corruption.
FIFA's decision is particularly baffling because it is at odds with the political reality of Bosnia and Herzegovina's governance. The tripartite composition of the football body mirrors the national politics with elected representatives from the Serb, Croat, and Bosniak community forming the presidency in a process sanctioned by the European Union's OHR (Office of the High Representative) that implements the political aspects of the agreement.
The EU recognizes this power sharing as instrumental in maintaining the country's political stability however imperfectly. The politically inward thinking FIFA seems to believe that its "one size fits all" is essential to governance.
As it turned out the national football body met in Sarajevo responding to FIFA's request to resolve the presidential impasse but was held hostage by the very identitarianism that consume it's political space. Serbs fearing a loss of their autonomy clamoured for their presidential representation fully knowing that their intransigence could potentially end their country's Euro campaign. They were supported by Croatian secessionists unhappy with the power sharing arrangement between them and the Bosniaks in the Federation.
While sports professionals were disappointed in the federation's failure to conform to FIFA and UEFA rules, the president of the Bosnian Serb region, Milorad Dodik, told reporters that he was "against having one president of anything in Bosnia, even a beekeeper's association."
Soccer has a particularly intimate and at times violent association with Balkan nationalism. It was in the terraces of Partizan Belgrade that Arkan assembled his proto-fascists and embarked on his scorched earth strategy against Bosnian Muslims, leaving a trail of death and destruction. The seeds of Croatian independence were set down on the pitch of Dinamo Zagreb by Zvonimir Boban who became a national hero and captained the national team in the 1998 World Cup. It is hardly surprising that soccer is intertwined with identitarian consciousness and many actors in charge of the sport share a deep and corrupt nexus with the politicians who run the country. The football federation is a cesspool and in need of major reform but that is not why FIFA is going after it.
To punish a country because it fails to adhere to an arbitrary standard shows the depth of political anachronism and arrogance that is a way of life after 40 years of Joao Havelange and Sepp Blatter. Even if that standard flies in the face of the political reality and international law that hold that country together. FIFA will be better served lifting the ban on Bosnia and letting them continue on with their Euro qualifiers.
Nice write up in the NYT magazine about 16 year old phenom Indi Cowie, whose family is originally from Glasgow but now settled in North Carolina. This clip gives an overview of her amazing freestyle skills which are entirely self taught. And she is not a half bad player on the pitch dazzling everyone with her dribbling and scoring loads of goals.
Not surprisingly, she is not too popular with her school mates who think she is a ball hog. But that single mindedness is celebrated in all the top goalscorers including Mia Hamm, who Indie recognized as a kindred spirit when she saw her score a goal. Like Hamm before, Indi too is set to go to UNC and possibly takeover both mantles of greatest soccer player as well as freestyle artist.
Not smart but really not a huge deal. Actually, he brings this passion to the fore on the field where it really matters.
Roony is a yahoo and there is the element of being politically correct to consider with so many kids watching the match but there is an element of payback in this reaction. This match was all about Rooney for the first time in a long time. He vented at the camera after every tabloid practiced unrelenting proctology on him from the summer before casting him as a washed up has been. But the FA is getting all Victorian and might bring charges on him.
Yes, Arsene but can Arsenal beat Spurs? That should be a more pressing issue than two bits about a Champions League match that is of no concern. Lets hear your ideas of how you plan to confront Spurs away on 20th April or Blackpool or Liverpool because at this moment we are Premiership also rans.
Sandro Rosell, Barca's president predicts a 5-0 lashing of the Merengues in their Copa Del Rey meeting a day after their arch rivals lost for the first time at home this season. The loss ended Jose Mourinho's 150 game unbeaten home streak over a stretch of nine years. It also effectively extinguished Real's Liga title hopes.
He then apologized after his comments caused an uproar. But the 5-0 thrashing was the exact scoreline Real lost by in El Clasico in November last year. So what is the fuss all about? Mourinho, a pioneer in head games would've approved but he's too busy trying to write off this season and looking for a graceful exit.
Edinson Cavani will not be in Napoli much longer. He scored a hat trick in one of the Serie's most thrilling matches which had everything. The Uruguayan playing in the shadows of his more illustrious peers Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez recorded his 23, 24, and 25th goal. His last goal capped a spectacular comeback for the Partenopei..
Lazio charged ahead two goals to the good through Stefano Mauri and Andre Dias. Things were looking bleak for the home team before Ezquiel Lavazzi orchestrated two goals within a minute of each other and brought the two teams back on level terms. Andrea Dossena got onto the end of a botched clearance off Lavezzi's free kick to head home at the far post. The Argentine was on target moments later when his soaring free kick was headed across the face of the goal and Cavani was at hand to redirect the ball.
Mauro Zarate's craftiness restored Lazio's lead as Salvatore Aronica was forced to concede an own goal. The see saw battle went the other way as Guiseppe Biava at odds with Cavani's strength and speed brought the Uruguayan down giving up a penalty and in the process also earned a red card. Cavani cool as a cucumber against fellow Uruguayan Fernando Muslera duly converted. With 10 minutes left, he once again had Muslera's number as he chests down a ball and flicks the ball over the stranded goalie who despite getting a desperate hand onto it is unable to prevent it from lodging into goal.
Cavani now shares top goalscoring honours with veteran Antonio Di Natale. He just turned 24 and with his age and sharpshooting ability, the Matador will be one of this summer's hottest transfer targets.
Masimiliano Allegri won the clash between the Serie's two most photogenic managers. AC MIlan looked very comfortable in their 3-0 win. Leonardo had to finish empty handed in his return to his former club. Alexandre Pato scored two goals and Antonio Cassano got the third through a penalty.
The former Sampdoria striker promptly celebrated by taking off his jersey which resulted in a booking. With the result a foregone conclusion it was now a matter of conjecture whether Cassano would be able to play out the rest of the match. Luckily he did not disappoint as he pulled down Andrea Rannochia in a bone headed foul and was given his marching orders.
Earlier in the second half Christian Chivu was sent off after impeding appeared Pato as the last defender in his course towards goal. The fiercely struck free kick taken by Thiago Motta was saved by Julio Cesar. Inter had their chances with Abbiati managing to save Rannochia's header off the goal line. Samuel Eto'o missed an absolute sitter but otherwise was largely out of position on the left.
The other fascinating contest was between Brazilian mates Robinho and Julio Cesar which the goalkeeper won after stopping the former for the fourth time. After yet another save, Robinho congratulates Cesar.
With this win Milan moves five points clear of Inter who are in third. Napoli who beat Lazio in a thriller moved to second. Udinese maintained fourth even as they lost to Lecce.
A couple of weeks ago, Man Utd took to the field against Bolton and found themselves a man down when Jonny Evans was sent off for a poorly timed tackle. Somehow they found it in themselves to score a goal with a little help from Jussi Jaskailanen.
That same weekend, Arsenal through two self inflicted goals against West Brom managed to salvage a draw. Arsene Wenger thereafter went to extra-ordinary lengths to praise the Gunners fighting spirit. The draw kept them in the title hunt and with the international break coming up at an opportune moment giving time to Walcott, Song, and Fabregas to recuperate, there was a sense of optimism with regards to the Premiership. After all what else did we have left to focus our energies on?
Blackburn came visiting, a prime opportunity to score three points and with a game in hand put tremendous pressure on Man Utd before the Emirates meeting. It would not come out of left field that Blackburn was angling for a draw and would put up a defensive crunch.
The onus would be on Arsenal to be successful with their scoring chances. And they created many but in a by now familiar theme, they were wasteful yet again. Walcott was a spark but his continual use as a winger is wasteful when his instincts as a striker need to be developed.
Jack Wilshere and Marouane Chamakh, a shadow of his former bright self, provided two of the most grievous examples. The rest of it was taken care of by a doughty defense and Paul Robinson. With each missed opportunity, the level of anxiety heightened. Not even Steve N'Zonzi's 76th minute sending off made a difference.
At the other end Blackburn found an ally in Manuel Almunia resurrecting his usual role of Calamity John, coming very close on two occasions. Jens Lehman did a poor job of hiding a smirk on the sidelines. Despite his Wigan waffles, the German must really be relishing his chances.
Samir Nasri had to exit nursing an egg shaped lump brought on by a clash of heads with Ryan Nelsen. The sight of him sitting on the sideline his head covered in crepe looking woozy sums up Arsenal's season.
It was left to Wenger to administer a barely adequate rap on the knuckles:
"It was a frustrating performance," Wenger said. "There was a lack of energy and sharpness in our game. It is a big concern to see what we have seen. It is difficult to identify [why Arsenal underperformed]. We started OK, but the players didn't have the resources to keep the pace in their game."
His dispassionate statement is a tacit admission of why this team essentially appears enervated. Wenger's dislike of getting down and dirty quells any fighting spirit or a chance of Arsenal waking up from their slumber party. No hair singeing rant. No fire or brimstone. No throwing the kitchen sink which Sir Alex must have done to put the fear of God into Man Utd after being two goals down to West Ham. Rooney woke up to his goalscoring ways and Chicharito found himself unmolested. Now that is what desire looks like. Hook up the Man Utd players to a brain imaging MRI and you will find overdeveloped amygdalas and hippocampuses. They can smell another title.
Arsenal top the four clubs with points dropped at home with fifteen. An unacceptable statistic. This was their third draw against teams like Sunderland, WBA, and Blackburn all flirting with relegation. No wonder the team was booed. This invariably leads to some sociological revelation that Gunner fans are fair weather as opposed to others but they have every right to do be if Wenger himself seems incapable of coming up with answers to their predicament.
"It is difficult to identify [why Arsenal underperformed]".
This is not emblematic of one match. And it is unflattering to someone who goes by the honorific "The Professor" to come up with such a lazy throwaway. Frankly, Wenger sounds more comfortable as a football administrator/ pundit with his pronouncements on the state of the sport than a manager concerned about the dwindling prospects of his club ever lifting a title and trying to reverse it. If the fans appear visibly dissatisfied it is because they're trying to convey their impatience with a manager who routinely rationalizes Arsenal securing a Champions League spot as a successful benchmark. Unlike Ancelotti who knows his buffer of goodwill bought by his debut success is limited to a season. It will not be the fans who will show him the door.
Mohammed Al Fayed has told Fulham fans they could "go to hell" if they did not like the Michael Jackson statue at Craven Cottage stadium.He unveiled the statue on Sunday prior to their game against Blackpool.
While it is generally not known whether MJ ever played soccer the statue has got it's present place of honour due to the fact that he and Al Fayed had been close friends.
Fans had been a bit critical of the whole thing fearing that it would make the club a laughing stock. Al Fayed's speech for the defence included
"Why is it bizarre? Football fans love it. If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell"
That's clear enough then.The statue is here to stay and their permission is not required.
The video shows the unveiling ceremony, feeble attempts made by Al Fayed to dance and some dazed onlookers clapping half heartedly.
The statue itself to say the least is not a very good likeness and actually pretty ghastly...!
The team meanwhile seem to have recovered sufficiently from the shock because they went and beat Blackpool 3 - 0 .
Firstly ...Charlie Brown is going to fall for this again today...!
Portugal sells Cristiano Ronaldo to Spain for €160m to ease the national debt..
Fernando Torres is going to perform anancient Spanish goat sacrifice ceremony to end his Chelsea goal drought curse...
Fulham players are going to do the moonwalk after every goal they score ...