Tag Archives: Chelsea

Guest Post: Own Goal 101 as Taught by Unnamed Liverpool Defender

-1

Every week I play in a social game of football that ranges in size from four to twelve a side. It is a straightforward setup with the only limitations being barefoot play and the goals are small like in ice hockey. It used to be that we would play first to ten, but then it got to the point where even after over two hours of non stop play the score would barely sneak past three each. Sitting exhausted in the grass of Hagley Park I wondered how can so much effort go so unrewarded.

Thoughts which I am sure were echoes of what the players of Barcelona and Valencia had had the day before. Their clash on Sunday morning (NZT) was the best game that I watched this weekend. A frenetic ninety minutes of exquisitely skillful, counter thrust football.  Unbelievable though, was that when Alfonso Pérez Burrull blew time the scoreboard at the Mestalla still sat unchanged at 0-0. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Football, Premier League

Guest Post: Top Four Sunday

thisisawatch

This is a watch. Somebody needs to introduce Martin Atkinson to one. Old Trafford is like a casino in that time does not appear to have any relevance until the house wins. More than anything I am just annoyed because I lost the near full page of notes I made during this derby, that will surely be remembered as one of the most pulsating ever played. On a day that schedule makers pat themselves on the back for enabling the top four teams on the table, well before Liverpool unwantedly shoved their way in with a 3-2 win over West Ham, squaring off in two derbies back to back. 

But first to rather more humble arenas…

Turf Moor Stadium in Burnley. You know it’s a small town team when a major sideline hoarding bears the words David Fishwick Minibus Sales. I thought I should watch a Sunderland game as they were one of the teams at the start of the season that I thought could push into the upper middle of the standings. A good number of quality off season additions to the squad and a new manager in Steve Bruce has confirmed this feeling with the best start to a league campaign since 1980. All facts that would have had the Black Cats’ biggest Northern Ireland residing Scot fan Anthony feeling very chuffed. That was before Portsmouth cast-off David Nugent kept alive a number of surprising trends with two well taken goals.

I am still utterly perplexed by The Clarets as a Premier League entity.  For most of this game they were thoroughly outplayed yet a 3-1 scoreline meant the result was fairly comfortable. The lesson is to put a chunk of change on them when they are playing at home. No promoted side since Blackburn in 1992 (who won it all two years later) have won their first three home games, making it nine straight at the Turf Moor. Making their start to the campaign that little bit more impressive they have also now played four of last years’ top five and so should have an easier time of it until the return fixtures kick in.

Arsenal kicked their habit of winning late against Wigan by simply thrashing them instead. Maybe they just wanted to give a Yankees cap-wearing Spike Lee a better sideline experience than suffering through another Knicks game. At 3pm (gmt) these two teams were only two places apart on the table. Wigan’s new spot of 15th more accurately reflects the gulf in class between the two squads. Forced into constant fouling to keep the half time score respectable at 1-0, they had given up 13 free kicks to do so. Emmanuel Eboue must have compromising pictures of Arsene Wenger because his continual presence on the starter’s sheet is unfathomable otherwise. In the corresponding fixture last season this happened.

This game he managed to hold it together somewhat more convincingly, but the sooner any of Rosicky, Arshavin, Walcott or Nasri can make it through 90 minutes I will feel an overwhelming sense of relief. As it was the Czech featured in his first competitive game at the Emirates since an FA Cup draw with Cardiff City on January 25th, 2008.

 The real star though was Belgian Thomas Vermaelen. His scouting report from the usually impeccable Ajax Academy was that of a good but limited player. I am still waiting to see the same. With these two goals he is now the club’s leading scorer. The second was a work of true beauty.

Picking the ball up just forward of the centre circle and advancing 20 metres, pushed it left to Eboue and then ran through the middle plainly calling for the return. 59,103 people in the stadium could see this and thankfully EE did too and a) Diaby left it and b) Eboue managed a simple squaring maneuvre. Hitting it first time with his left foot the resultant curl perfectly brought the T90 Ascente inches inside Kirkland’s left upright.

 Continuing a theme for the weekend we move to Manchester for the first of Sunday’s derbies to see whether Citeh can continue their best ever start to a Premier League campaign.

At 2:25am (nzt), after 94 of the most thrilling, free flowing minutes of counter thrust football you would ever hope to see, the answer was yes. United took the lead three times but could only hold it for 14, 3, and 10 minutes each time. It is unfortunate then that the final memory will be one of, not so much a refereeing mistake – more indifference, say, because Martin Atkinson actually had an excellent game. Only for United’s third goal could any other questions be asked with an incredibly soft free kick awarded. This was duly fed onto Fletcher’s head from the boot of an irrepressible Ryan Giggs. For two such cosmopolitan teams, featuring players from nearly every Fifa confederation including the “infinitely yours SEOUL” marketing unit Ji Sung Park, the goals were scored by three Englishmen, a Welshman twice, and a Scot also twice.

bellamy
Bellamy Fires One In

The Welshman, Bellamy, was particularly excellent on a day in which Citeh had £75 million of strike power sitting in the stands in civvies; Robinho could learn a thing or two about caps from Spike Lee. Even purer than Vermaelen’s the day before, from pretty much nothing he fired an absolute rocket from the left corner of the penalty area across into the top right corner. This time Foster could not be blamed. Citeh’s desire to prove themselves more than just a “small club” was best exemplified by Carlos Tevez and his hustle that saw him absolutely mug poor Foster and create Barry’s goal. Both Foster and the player formerly known as England’s premier centre half, Rio Ferdinand, should have to shine Michael Owen’s boots for the rest of the season.  All which leads me to set the Manchester United Cuntiness level for the first time this season.

Right now it is running at an inverse of the amount of relief expressed in the media after the All Black’s win on Saturday night.

 How do you follow up a game like that? The initial plan was to just record the action at Stamford Bridge but there was no way that sleep would come quickly with emotions running as high as they were. Yet was there any way that it would feel anything but anti climactic? Even the pitch looked like a pale imitation of that of the Theatre of Dreams, the smaller dimensions meaning the play was of a more intricate nature.

Chelski fully deserved their 3-0 win and are now the only holders of a 100% record now that the Manchester Blues have lost theirs. Carlo Ancelotti is the first manager ever to win his first six games in the Premier League and he also managed to get his team to put in an impressive post Champion’s League performance. Something they have been notoriously bad at. That he has restored a harmony to an unsettled squad is shown by the performance of the biggest malcontent of them all, Drogba who has equaled his entire league goal tally from last year in six games.

UKRAINE/

To finish I will leave you with the opening of the first stadium to be considered elite by Fifa in, of all places, Donetsk in the Ukraine.  Awesomely timed for the annual holiday that is Miner’s Day, appropriate as the team is named after a miner.  They threw a big party that featured of all people Beyoncé. No Kanye though…

– Tom Townley

2 Comments

Filed under Football, Premier League

Guest Post: Finally Some Football

With the world of European football now in one of those annoying international breaks it is time to reflect on the biggest story of the season so far. Namely the truly awful uniforms that have been rolled out this season. It is as if the person in charge of this year’s Nike effort saw some old rugby league footage and thought “that looks snazzy, just what Manchester United have been missing all these years, a V on their chest.”

Then down the road at Puma they had a similar thought for Spurs and to further ruin a classic white strip decided that there is not enough fluoro yellow around these days, not even with Wigan’s away tops. The true travesty though is what Adidas have inflicted on Chelsea. Square pec defining patches and little zips! Maybe not surprising that a German company would reference mid ’90s rave wear. How are players supposed to come onto the pitch in a dominating frame of mind when their final action in the locker room is a wee vvvvvvvpppp? All of which gives me a chance to run a picture of one of my favourite football shirts, that of Sport Boys in Peru. For some incongruous reason it features a famous Puerto Rican salsa star by the name of Hector Lavoe who has no relationship with the club except to have maybe visited their home town of Callao.

sportboys2

Perversely these ugly uniforms seem to be inspiring a quality of play hoped for in the past few seasons but rarely achieved. Take Tottenham who have earned the maximum 12 points from their first four games, a total it took them until November 23rd and fourteen season killing games to earn last year. The change cannot even be put down to transfers as looking at the summer transactions they are all in the ‘players out’ column apart from the acquisition of Newcastle defender Sebastien Bassong.

Spurs have always been a club to play an attractive brand of football only now they seem to be able to defend as well as win those soul crushing games against lesser opposition that was their previous specialty at losing. Lennon’s smart 90th minute winner on Saturday a case in point. Hopefully they can keep it going now that their little Croatian playmaker, Luca Modric is out for six weeks with a broken leg.

Across town it is little surprise to see Roman Abramovich taking renewed interest in his team. After churning through five managers in a little over two years he is finally seeing the free flowing, attacking play he seemingly preferred over winning things with Mourinho. Somehow making four central midfielders work and still play a possession game, they have defied their stupid tops and look in dominant form especially when both Cole and Bosingwa at fullback play so dynamically.

It seems both Spurs and Chelsea are benefiting from settled squads who now play with even more confidence through greater familiarity. The other week against Sunderland was most unusual with the northern team having outspent the formerly free spending Blues by some £30 million. In other Chelsea transfer news, was anyone even aware that Andriy Shevchenko was still with the club when it was announced this week that he was free to leave?

At 5am on Sunday morning the plan of watching football through the night seemed like the right one. Arsenal B (any time Eboue is a starter it is a second rate team) was 1-0 up at Old Trafford and a splendid start to the season was looking likely, mostly thanks to the vibrant Arshavin. There were so many questions about how he would cope in the English game when he arrived at the club in February but apart from some lingering murmurs about his fitness the quality of his play is a real treat to watch. Pace, guile, simple and elegant footwork, and a shot of such power and simplicity from an instantaneous trigger make any moment when he collects the ball close to the box an attacking one.

While he may have been beaten by one of these masterstrokes, United keeper Ben Foster sure made up for it in the second half instinctively saving a van Persie snapped shot from six yards that left the Dutchman standing with a look of incredulity frozen on his face. Similar to the look on mine moments later when Howard Dean awarded England’s favourite pig dog a simply laughable penalty. How can you call a player impeded when just before falling over the diving keeper they have already booted the ball out closer to the corner flag than the upright? Feeling left out, the fourth official decided to make the game’s end a farce by trying to eject Wenger which achieved little beyond creating a nice photo opportunity.

wenger stands

Farce!

For such an early stage in the season this weekend’s games were of an incredibly high billing. Not only Man U – Arsenal in England but the Milan Derby as well in only the second week of Serie A action. With the Chosen One looking more like Bob the Tomato from Vegetales it only took a half to reverse Internazionale’s previous poor away form in their home stadium. As the away team at the San Siro they had only won one of their last six meetings with AC Milan. New manager Leonardo has a lot of work to do with the three Nerazzurri Ms in Motta, Milito, and Maicon making his team look very ordinary to go into halftime 3-0 and a player up aswell. There is €65m from the sale of Kaka that needs to be spent pronto as the two ducks, one by name one by nature in Pato and Ronaldinho, look like nothing without his creativity enabling them.

As if to prove this, in his opening La Liga game for Real Madrid Kaka was the standout of all the new signings on show. At least in the moments you could pick him out from the blurry mist that ESPN calls an image. The first goal for los meringues featured one of those passes from the Brazilian that seems to freeze time through to an equally as impressive debutant Benzema who was unlucky not to open his account for the club with his shot deflected onto the post. Fittingly the rebound fell to Raul to slot home from his customary five yards. However, just as with the original Galacticos in Florentino Perez’s first go as club president, the success of all this money spent is still going to rest on the overlooked defence.

With many people still bringing their half time Estrella’s back to their seats, Deportivo’s Valeron received an innocuous ball at the top of the box and calmly stroked it past Casillas while four Real defenders simply watched him do it. So a game they looked dominant in became a nervy 3-2 win. There was a saying about Liverpool last year that you cannot win titles with players like Arbeloa, Aurelio, N’Gog or Lucas. The former of that quartet is Perez’s only contribution to counter all of the spending up front.

With the Milan derby a foregone conclusion at the half time break it was over to see how that other title pretender would handle the always scrappy Bolton, n ow managed by former Anfield favourite Gary Megson. The softly spoken ginge has never beaten his old club as manager in seven, now eight, attempts although most of these can be excused due to his former charges being West Bromich Albion.

One all at half time, the Trotters somehow held the lead twice despite only having 20% of the ball and of course it was Stephen Gerrard who scored the winner in the 83rd minute. Someone in the promotions department at the NHS should really formulate some sort of healthy living campaign around the Liverpool team. Surely their supporters suffer more heart problems than those of any other club due to their teams seeming inability to win matches without dramatic late game winners.

It is a shame that there is a break in league play for World Cup qualifiers this weekend. At the beginning of a season it is hard to develop any sort of comprehensive picture as we wait for storylines to develop and transfers to settle in. It felt this weekend that we were on the cusp of this happening. Take Burnley, a team I have now watched play twice both times looking embarrassingly ordinary and incapable of even stringing three passes together.

Yet they have already inflicted an early loss on the defending champions and caused Toffee’s fans to wonder whether they are in for a Newcastle-like season before Sunday’s win over Wigan. Fans at the Turf Moor Stadium should hope their team follows the model Hull set last year of accumulating home points before Christmas and then grimly hanging on as the wear and tear of the season catches up with an outmatched squad after New Year. Here is someone who will not be contributing anything further to Belgian team RSC Anderlecht’s season. Thanks to Kim K for the link which is even more gruesome than Eduardo’s in Birmingham in 2008.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OapMvlhZOQ]

Marcin Wasilewski’s Horror Break.

– Teeth Benitez

6 Comments

Filed under Football, Premier League

Guest Post: Not Watching The 'Piss Ant' Final

An alternative title to this piece could easily have been Stumbling Block. Right across Europe teams that either had to win to maintain pressure on the league leaders bottled it or table toppers suddenly looked as though they don’t like the limelight anymore and just want to spend some time in mediocrity. Perhaps the most astounding of these was Middlesbrough looking fairly convincing in a 2-0 win over Liverpool at the Riverside, the first time they have managed this for five years. To put some perspective on how long it has been since Gareth Southgate’s boys managed to do anything right I was watching their away win over Aston Villa while in Shanghai, over 8,000kms of land travel ago. If you are reading this at the end of a day’s work think that you’ve just spent that whole time playing football and not scored a goal in that whole time, that being the time between Alfonso Alves putting the ball in the net against Sunderland and Xabi Alonso statuing the ball in for an unfortunate own goal.

Here are some other things that were going on the last time Middlesbrough won:

– UK #1 single they would be listening to – X Factor Finalists – “Hero”

– New Zealand were not yet rugby league World Cup winners.

– Australia were still the best ranked one day team in the world.

– Liverpool were top of the table.

Number 1 the last time Middlesbrough won

...and these guys had the UK #1 Single

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Football, Guest Post, Premiere League, Soccer

Guest Post: Crossover Appeal

If you have been watching Sportscenter at all over the last month one of the more ridiculous segments that will seemingly not go away is the “which NBA stars would make NFL stars” discussion. Started by LeBron’s commercial for State Farm it is one of those conversations that should be talked about maybe for a week but once Bristol gets hold of it will probably lead to a months long team by team vote. Returning to topic here is Kobe showing what everyone already knew, that he is much more into the beautiful game anyway.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUDZ3Pl0Emg&eurl=http://jmayers.blogspot.com/&feature=player_embedded%5D

Fact of the week 1: Three newly signed strikers scored on debut in the mid-week games – Mido, Heskey, and Bellamy.

Fact of the week 2: In developing a spine news, Newcastle have lost only one of their last nine at St James’ Park.

Fact of the week 3: Sunderland have not won consecutive league games since last April.

Fact of the week 4: Liverpool won their first league game for 2009.

Fact of the week 5: Hull have the fourth lowest goal difference at -15 yet lie 11th on the table showing the great ability to really take a pasting or eke out a win. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Basketball, Football, Guest Post, NFL, Premiere League

Guest Post: A Return To Action

It’s a glorious feeling waking up in the morning knowing that right before you are three back to back games of premiership action. And so without further ado, some observations:

Fact of the week no. 1: Aston Villa’s 1-0 victory over Portsmouth was their first at Fratton Park in 34 years.

Fact of the week no. 2: That Villa win was also a club record sixth consecutive away victory. Next up Blackburn Rovers.

Fact of the week no 3: £23.5 million combined is what teams have paid in transfer fees alone for Emile Heskey. The Donkey scoring a typically scrappy goal first time out for his new employers.

donkey-2

Fact of the week no 4: Jermaine Defoe continued his record of scoring every time he has played Stoke City in his career.

Fact of the week no 5: Manchester United have now gone 1032 minutes without conceding a Premiership goal, passing Chelsea’s record in the 84th minute of their game against West Brom.

Fact of the week no. 6: That wasn’t the only defending record achieved in that game; 11 consecutive clean sheets is also a new mark. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Football, Guest Post, Premiere League, Soccer

Guest Post: And In The 47th Minute…

After the fantastic, if too brief, flurry of games between Christmas
and the new year the FA Cup has left us with a bit of a lull in
Premier League action and just at a time when this correspondent could
really do with some solid distraction too. Left with nothing to do
but sit on a beach all day here are some thoughts from the just past
the half-way point in the season mainly in a team by team manner
except if the team is too boring or pointless to think about. The
2008 part of the season has actually been fairly even with there even
being a stretch of three weeks right at the end where none of the big
clubs won, helped of course by ManU being over in these parts for two
weeks winning the Sepp Blatter trophy.

Liverpool: 1996-97 was the last time that we saw Liverpool at the top
of the table at Christmas, they finished fourth. In fact only one
team other than ManU and Chelsea has managed to hold onto such a lead
since the inception of the Premier League and that was Blackburn back
when I was starting high school. Still, of all the seasons that are
supposedly going to be Liverpool’s this one looks like having the most
chance of success about it; the team is playing a fast and exciting
brand of football while sacrificing little of their usual stinginess
on defence. In the last month Gerrard has scored more goals than
Middlesbrough and Stoke City combined, a resurgent Robbie Keane as
many as his former club Spurs managed in the same time all while
TBSITL (the best striker in the league) Torres is showing off his
scarf and coat collection waiting to come back from injury. If not
for a couple of draws against Hull and West Ham things would be
looking mighty rosy from the top, still what would you rather have
received for Christmas, a nice away grey Gerrard 4 shirt or a 5-1
demolition of Toontown?

Torres and appropriately named girlfriend Olalla.

Torres and appropriately named girlfriend Olalla.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Football, Guest Post, Premiere League, Soccer