Celebrating club football and shining the light on incompetent and biased journos indulging in stereotyping and negativity.
Monthly Archives: March 2011
Ah, what a relaxing feeling, a lightness of the mind and the heart. For once this international week-end has come with almost perfect timing for some much deserved rest for the nerves, as long as there are no injuries to important players. Any surprises? Well, let’s see:
- In Group A, Germany crushed Kazakhstan. Azamat will be sad. Wa-wa-wee-wa. But seriously though, watch out for Belgium: 0-2 away against Austria may not sound like much, but the 3 points will be vital to them, and they have a side that is composed of some promising young players. Plus Hazard did not even play. For those who missed it, here is his 1st goal against Marseille from a few weeks ago in early March 2011.
- Group B: Ireland beat Macedonia 2-1, while Armenia and Russia settled on an amicable goalless draw.
- In Group C, Italy won more or less in the last minutes of the game against Slovenia, courtesy of Inter’s own Thiago Motta. I think Ronaldinho wants to play too, maybe they should offer him a passport too. Adriano could probably get one too, you should give it a go, Cesare. In the meantime, Serbia mounts a spirited fightback against plucky Northern Ireland in an empty stadium (merci Michel) to scoop up some much needed 3 points.
- In Group D, Bosnia beat Romania 2-1; with Ibisevic and Dzeko on a good day, these guys might actually do something this time around. France managed 2 in order to squeeze the 3 points from Luxembourg. Albania won their first game ever (no, I’m messing around, hopefully not) with a clean 1-0 against not to be underestimated Belarus.
- Holland made light of Hungary by 0-4 in the only game for Group E.
- In Group F, Georgia beat Croatia 1-0; there’s an upset for ya. Dzienkuje.
Israel got the 3 points by beating Latvia 2-1.
- England beat Wales (sooo suprisingly) in Group G for Gerrard. Don’t they have a really good player that plays in the EPL for a team in red, who’s really on fire this season? No, I don’t mean Chris Evans. Switzerland managed another draw away against Bulgaria. Qualification is looking increasingly unlikely. Credit Suisse would be well advised to start pulling back those investment brochures and posters with Hitzfeld.
- In Group H, the Viking standoff between Norway and Denmark ended in a 1-1 stalemate. Same in the game opposing Cyprus versus Iceland, except there it was even less exciting, nil-nil.
- Cech and the Czechs are not what they used to be: potentially the best game on the bill over the weekend in this Group I, things kicked off to a nice start with Plasil’s 1st (a nice strike rebounding in from the post), which was cancelled out in the 2nd half by Villa, in a remarkably similar effort, taking him to a new record of Spain’s best ever scorer.
How is it possible for the Italian football authorities to reduce Ibra’s initial 3 game suspension for the punch on Bari’s Rossi to only 2 games? 20/20 is a mutha, really. Apparently, he was trying to get the ball, according to reports. Yes, Fergie would probably agree, Rooney was trying to do the same the other day. Galliani and him should start a club. Unbelievable. Here’s how I feel about that.
It’s been a GREAT week in football – it is indeed very rare that things go so well in terms of combined successes of favorite teams:
- Inter beat a plucky and very well organized Lecce side who simply refused to go down until the very end and whose only mistake was to allow Pazzo Pazzini a little bit too much space to create the decider. As Leonardo pointed out in the interview after the game, it shows that there are no simple games in the calcio, and certainly none that you can count on winning with a cigarette in the mouth. Inter will regret the fact that Lucio received a yellow card that – added to his collection – will force him to miss the derby with Milan but on the other hand there is much to laud in Chivu’s performance in his original role as central defender. As Milan lost on Saturday away at Palermo, the gap between the two is now -2 points. However it’s getting ever tighter at the top as both Udinese and Napoli, led by the ever inspired Cavani who netted a double, won their games, so there is no room for complacency at the top for anybody.
- In Spain, Sevilla grabbed 3 points on the road against Valencia, thanks to a single goal by Rakitic. Coming after the heroic performance and achievement of holding Barcelona at home, this is a very important for Sevilla’s bid to secure a European spot – they are now just 1 point of Espanyol and Atletico who are both on 43 points in 5th and 6th position respectively. The top 3 all won: Real overcome city rivals Atletico by two goals to one, Barcelona managed the same score at home against Getafe, while Villareal’s single goal away at Bilbao proved enough.
- In England, Arsenal again dropped 2 points and might have dropped more were it not for a spirited comeback with goals by the brilliant Arshavin and still vibrant Van Persil. Spurs fans in particular will surely have lots of laughs for the next two weeks rewinding over Arsenal’s defense’s latest blunder – more cringe than an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 7.
Man U grabbed a point from Bolton in the dying moments of the game through an unexpected rebound ball provoked by Berbatov, while both Chelsea and Liverpool dispatched their opponents Manchester City and Sunderland (respectively) with two goals apiece and a clean sheet. Spurs couldn’t put one past a resurgent West Ham. Fellow bottom tablers Wigan and Wolves both grabbed full 3 points, confirming that the final games will ensure more drama for bottom 8 teams who are within 3 points of each other.
- In France, Marseille beat PSG in the not so enticing hexagonal classico that is no more but could have been, thanks to an André Ayew header. Lille is still in the lead thanks to beating Brest away by 2 goals to 1 as well as the tie between aspiring challengers Lyon and Rennes who tied at Gerland. Lens pulled off the surprise of the weekend beating Montpellier away 4 goals to 1, which drew some interesting comments from the ever controversial Lulu Nicolin.
- In Germany, 4th placed Bayern bounced back from their defeat to Inter with a victory over Freiburg, while Hamburg fancied themselves a tennis player and slammed Koln by 6-2 to lift their spirits from their defeat against the Bavarians last week-end, with Croatian international Petric providing 3. Leaders Dortmund dropped 2 points in a tie with 5th placed Mainz who thereby confirm their good run, and so Leverkusen’s win over Schalke 04 (with one goal provided by another Swiss player Derdiyok) still gives them some hopes of challenging for the title but it will be tough. Third placed Hannover overcame Hoffenheim.
In addition, there were some super goals this weekend that are definitely worth a mention – see if you can catch them on youtube or wherever else it is you go for your replays:
- Jelen 1st (and 2nd in fact) with Auxerre against Sochaux: another classic by the always electric Pole (pun intended). Got to see you back in form, Ireneusz.
- Luis Suarez for Liverpool’s 2nd against Sunderland: glad to see new “conejo” doing so well, even if it is with Liverpool. Mind you, without Stevie G and in black, they’re becoming almost watchable. If they could lose a few more of the less attractive facets brought in by the formerly much celebrated Spaniard with a goatee (notably Carragher. Lucas and possibly Kuyt too), they might actually become sympathetic.
- Charlie Adam’s free kick for his 2nd against Blackburn on Saturday – class.
- Gervinho’s goal for Lille’s 2nd against Brest: kind of similar to that scored by Luis Suarez.
- Chelsea’s 2nd goal by Ramires, against Manchester City: a cheeky entry with the ball through City’s defense, followed by a very confident slot-in to the left. It is great to see the Brazilian finally hailed by Stamford Bridge, he has been one of the most consistent (though admittedly not the brightest) of Chelsea’s players this season, grinding away in midfield like a gremlin that’s just had a swim. His fellow countryman David Luiz is also doing very well and outshining most of his colleagues.
- Real Madrid’s goals against Atletico – the 1st by Karim Benzema and the 2nd by Ozil – are both quite nice. Check out also the splendid strike by former Sevillanista Daniel Alves as well as Manu’s goal for Getafe in this summary. By the way, did anyone notice that by the end of the game there were no less than 3 former Sevillanistas on the pitch for Barça at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan last week? Daniel Alves, Seydou Keita and Adriano had all plied their trade in Andalucia before heading north for the big bucks. No wonder I’m feeling a little bitter.
- Speaking of Udinese, their opener against Catania by the Swiss international Inler will undoubtedly have Swiss fans wondering why the national side cannot manage better results than 0-0 against Malta. A small mention for Roma’s Francesco Totti who pulled off another double, helped with a penalty for his 200th goal in the calcio. No doubt he was motivated by the idea of denying his old enemy Sinisa Mihajlovic the full 3 points; there’s nothing like derby motivation.
Is it a dream? Is it possible? My heart’s pace has not yet slowed down (and that’s not only because I was doing fitness biking during the game). Such comebacks are the stuff of legends. But could it be that a so called moribund catenaccio-only Italian team (and worse of all, that of José Mourinho), that pertaining to the supposedly declining Italian football as it is so common to hear nowdays (be it from the ever provocative Kaiser before the game, a nameless journalist in Le Temps or even from friends on Facebook), is capable of producing such drama and character?
It may be the Brescians who are of the Leonessa but even they won’t tonight deny that the lion’s heart was all black and blue tonight. The team that José built and that Leonardo is carefully tending to has demonstrated once again its incredible character and heart in fighting back from what possibly the worst nightmare scenario at halftime, achieving on foreign soil what only one other team had managed to do in European competitions past.
And each one played his part. Including Julio Cesar, whose second blunder (over the two legs) put a heavy dent into the nerazzurris aspirations after the game had gotten off to a seemingly great start with Eto’s first goal on the night, a typically swift pounce on a through ball at the limit of offside. The Brazilian goalkeeper and his team – along with the fans – had to suffer further humiliation when the 2nd Bavarian goal went in, a deft touch by Muller following an unintended deflection by Thiago Motta.
But it wasn’t enough to kill the hope and the spirit. This team’s lettres de noblesses in suffering have already been written in countless games that have helped to forged a unique fighting spirit: from Ukraine to home against Sienna, this team does not give up easy. Despite being down 3-1 on aggregate at halftime, not only did they pick themselves up and continue to fight, but did so with the composure of a winning team, not one looking at an early exit. Not once did they abandon the identity and discipline of play that had brought them results in the past. The same patterns that seemed so vain in the first half were repeated in the second, but ever more resolutely, starting with the back pass to Andrea Ranocchia following ball recovery, slightly forward on to Thiago, sideways to Maicon to create breathing space, again in to the center to Cambiasso, then wide again onto the other side for Chivu, then Sneider, then Eto’o, and so on.
Is there any one of them that stands out more than the other? Of course Eto’s ball possession, athletic stamina and technical skill will have journalists from Catalonia to Tokyo drooling in admiration; of course Sneijder’s determination and aggression will enter into textbooks; indeed yes, Ranocchia is phenomenally mature for a young player his age; and Julio Cesar was decisive in preventing Bayern from equalizing more than once; and the list goes on. But no: this game is the victory of a team that stood as a unit. And importantly, that includes the work and support of a patient young coach for whom this was certainly the most important test of his budding career, that stood by them and supported them through thick and thin, and especially Goran Pandev, whom it would have been easy to replace earlier on the basis of his misses this weekend as well as some glaring errors during the game. I can’t help but be reminded of a similar night in the spring of 2004 when a young Portuguese coach similarly stunned the old aristocracy of Europe with a surprise steal at Old Trafford.
Atone and grovel now for forgiveness at the feet of your only survivor and potential savior, Italy. You, as well as all the Barça brown nosers, have been given a demonstration in what football is all about: not a one sided execution draped in smug sense of aristocratic entitlement, but drama, grit, fighting spirit, discipline, flair, goals, attack and defense.
P.S. Manchester United returned to this season’s form with a sufficient but somewhat fragile win over Olympique de Marseille seeing them through to the quarter finals.
In a classic case of media-applied Murphy’s Law, ever since I visited Sevilla in October 2010 and wrote a report on the team proclaiming it to be the only outfit that could challenge Madrid and Barcelona for the title (which I plan to re-post here shortly), the Sevillistas have struggled to reproduce the kind of form that made them two consecutive UEFA Europea League Cup winners and Barcelona’s executioners in Monaco for the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 2006. This season they are performing even less consistently than last year despite the recruitment of experienced coach formerly with Mallorca, Gregorio Manzano.
But tonight all that has been forgotten and at least momentarily put to right with an outstanding performance against Barça at home in the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. Of course, it wasn’t without the customary dose of extreme suffering that all teams who face the modern football equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters must bear, which was mostly felt in the 1st half in the form of suffocating pressure by Barça and almost total lack of ball possession by Sevilla. Fortune was involved for sure as the night could certainly have ended in a humiliating defeat too, as both Iniesta and Messi once hit the crossbar each, and another timely clearance by feisty Chilean midfielder Gary Medel prevented Barça taking the lead.
But putting it only to luck would be completely incorrect as Sevilla did stand up to the bookies’ favorite and put on a formidable fight back in the 2nd half, powered forward by none other than veteran Frederic Kanouté who came on for an uninspired Zokora. The former Spurs man (standard Brit journos’ EPL-centered reference) was clearly feeling very confident as his deft single touches frequently made the difference and outclassed the now predictable one-twos by the blaugranas. Most importantly, he provided much needed maturity, intelligence and skill that was lacking in the first half and especially in midfield, by his ability to win, hold and distribute the ball. Combining deftly on the left with another 2nd half substitute, the Argentian Perotti, Kanouté and his teammates created numerous chances in the 2nd half following the quick equalizer by Jésus Navas on the 48th minute, and will surely rue the missed opportunities to put the game away, notably a Jésus Navas shot that had seen the Barça defense in tatters.
Guardiola will know that his team got away relatively lucky. Sure, they showed their usual brilliance and notably that midfield magic pair of Xavi and Iniesta shined in both delivering caviar crosses begging to be put away by strikers. But the powerful resistance mounted by the home team shook them in their confidence and thus they experienced a significantly long wobbly patch between the start of the 2nd half and 80 minutes that led their coach to take El Guaje for midfielder Seydou Keita, a sure sign of acquiescence to a draw.
A much needed inspiration for an otherwise sad week that has seen the departure of Sevilla’s providential striker Luis Fabiano back to his homeland. We will miss you but you shall not be forgotten, Faboloso.
It has been a tough week-end in the calcio for any Inter fan after the nerazzurris tied away at Brescia on Friday night. Not just because of another 2 points lost to the Lombards, (Inter had already dropped 2 when hosting them at home in November), but also because the overwhelming impression at the end was that victory was actually at hand for Leo’s team who simply failed to kill the game. No game is easy in Italy when bottom teams are often capable of creating surprises against the strongest sides, but in this case Inter have mainly themselves to blame. Unlike in November, when the team was already suffocating under the incompetent and stifling coaching (if we can call it that) of the fatso from Anfield, on Friday there were many chances to put the game away after Samuel Eto’o had once again got the ball rolling on the 18th minute. Pandev had 3 clear chances on goal which he all infuriatingly spoiled, the clearest of all being the last one towards the 82nd minute where his heavy touch in controlling the ball prevented him from lifting his head to see the goalie coming out to block his low shot. He also spoiled another chance for Sneijder after Eto’o cleverly slipped the ball backwards (following another one of his mazy runs in the opposition’s box), but he probably did not hear the shouts of the Dutchman claiming the ball. However he was not the only guilty party on this one, as Sneijder also had a pretty clear shot on goal which he powered away directly at Arcari, at the expense of a more targeted effort that would might have had a chance of fooling the Brescia keeper.
Furthermore, Leonardo’s changes were perhaps not the most inspired since he joined and may have contributed to increasing sense of frustration (in the middle of the 2nd half) that could be felt within the Inter ranks after so many misses, and that was not lost on a brave and battling Brescia side who sensed a coup was possible. In particular, the introduction of Cordoba in central defense (in place of injured Lucio), followed shortly thereafter by his re-alignment on the left to make way for Materazzi, as well the late replacement of Europe ineligible Pazzini by Khardja (instead of Pandev) possibly all combined to sow doubt in the confidence of an Inter side that had seemed entirely in control in the 1st half and a good portion of the 2nd.
Ultimately, it was perhaps one of those nights when it simply wasn’t meant to be as Caraccicolo once again crucified the nerazzurris on 85 minutes after a clumsy back header by Cordoba. If anything, Inter could have walked away with nothing from this game had it not been for an amazing Julio Cesar who once again saved a penalty from Caracciolo and thus preserved a valuable point for his team.
Note to President: take example from Madrid’s practices and buy Caracciolo next season so we can have him help out with the primavera.
HOWEVER: Milan dropped 2 points at home on Sunday afternoon to bottom Bari, which leaves things open for Inter as well as hungry chasers Napoli (victorious away against Parma) and especially Udinese who are on file. Combined with the expulsion of Ibrahimovic following violent conduct against Bari’s defender Rossi, that should result in some quietly smug grins on the faces of Interistas on Monday morning. Those grins might even turn into resolute smiles if the Italian disciplinary committee does its due and sanctions the Swede with no less than the statutory minimum of 3 games’ suspension, but knowing their history, it will most likely only be 2 games as they look to compensate il Cavaliere for an otherwise tarnished anniversary.
So, the “natural” order of things among the European aristocracy has been upset once again. The rossonerris are out of the competition, ousted by none other than the perennial underachievers and losers from London: Spurs. The proverbial “champions DNA” is apparently rather diluted, which should be no surprise given the recruitment of such regular European absentees as Robinho and Ibra. The Swede’s lackluster performance has only reinforced the sense of consistency of his underwhelming contribution to big European events. He was possibly confused or inadequately incentivised by his club’s vice-president’s objectives: you see, he thought that the triple (tris) was Italian Cup, European Cup Winner’s Cup, and the World Champion Club. Maybe if Galliani is more coherent next time, or – better yet, shuts up completely – they might actually get a little bit further.
Spurs in the meantime have achieved way more than they hoped for, in particular by progressing further than their arch nemesis Arse rivals. Uncle ‘Arry will be especially pleased with the defensive robustness of his team who thus managed to keep two consecutive clean sheets. Mind you, having had to struggle through a supremely drab Juve-Milan last week-end, I am not so surprised by the outcome: while the rossonerris are very compact in the middle (3 leg breakers: Van Bommel, Gattouze & Highly Flamini) and tight at the back (Nesta & Thiago Silva), up front – and despite the presence of so called bigguns – they are lacking in something, possibly killer instict and/or creativity to find the spaces that make the diff.
In the other game, aspiring sides Schalke 04 & Valencia battled it out, the German club going through comfortably on a 4-2 aggregate scoreline. Raul is now possibly simultaneously relishing & dreading the prospect of a return to his beloved Bernabeu.
A lot of fuss will be probably be made in the UK about Swiss ref Massimo Bussacca’s poor refereeing last night – and rightly so! While Van Persie is not known for his temper control and fully deserved his 1st yellow, the 2nd one on the other hand is a screamer of bureaucratic pigheadedness by the referees, and a good reminder of the stupidity of such a rule. Of course proceedings have now been opened against Wenger and Nasri apparently, but I have a lot of sympathy with Van Persie’s reaction last night, and not just for the second yellow, but also as regards the penalty call that gives Barça the 3rd and decisive qualifying goal advantage.
It is true that Barcelona dominated through and through and Arsenal was lucky to make more than 3 passes (Guardiola joke) let alone get the equaliser. Messi’s 1st is a pure delight of futsal-like juggling skill and balance, punctuated in poignant fashion by that decisive volley. But nevertheless a gift is a gift and with 11 men and fuelled by the comeback to a 1-1 scoreline, things might have ended differently for the Gunners. It seems to be standard accepted fare now that Barça should play the return leg of their CL direct qualifiers against 10-men sides. Hopefully this will come to haunt them in later stages – what goes around, comes around.
- Almunia (strong return with many great saves sparing Arsenal blushes)
- Djourou (Geneva born defender shows a lot of composure and presence in a tough ordeal)
- Messi (inevitably, though squandered a huge amount of chances that should have seen the back of the net)
- Iniesta (what a pass for the 1st goal)
- Xavi (could have been ballon d’or for lifetime achievement, there’s always next year)
- Daniel Alves (for attacking appetite as well as dogged perseverance across the whole pitch)
LVP (least valuable player): Busacca
IP (invisible player): Fabregas (except for the friendly back heel just outside the goal area that sets in motion the movement for the 1st Barça goal)
Highlights (while available) (Note: no stupid background music so quite a good highlight summary)
In the other game of the night, Shakhtar Donetsk, guided by the Romanian veteran Mircea Lucescu, ousted the runners-up from the 2009-2010 Italian calcio season, and thus consolidate their reputation as a rising side in European football, following last year’s UEFA Cup win. Two goals from Brazilian Willian – and notably a sumptuous curler for the 2nd – and Eduardo’s goal (for the third) sealed Roma’s fate. The irony of Eduardo’s success in this side will not be lost on M. Wenger hopefully when he ponders why he held on to Bendtner instead of the Croatian-born Brazilian, who by the way has a delightful mixed accent combining his two cultural influences (watch). Veteran sides take heed of this crew.
The trigger that motivated me to start this lark again was the totally pathetic yet somehow enraging interview of Joey Barton on french national tv station TF1’s football show Telefoot. Completely lacking in any actual football content whatsoever, it was soaked in premeditated self-righteous moralizing of the player and his past, with droning narrative to boot, and to top it all off, was punctuated by a ridiculous sniggering remark by that idiot who runs it. The only thing that was missing was a “sponsored by Wenger Undisputable Truths Ltd” logo. I created an id on the station’s website and posted my outraged rant, only to find it (unsurprisingly, really) deleted within minutes. So here it is below, reproduced in full.
P.S. You would have thought that people would by now be aware of the risks of basing their entire worldview on Wiki posts, especially those in french which have a rather limited scope on a topic like this (Joey Barton Wiki post in French), but I guess not, some are still acting like it’s 1994.
C’est dommage pour l’interview de Joey Barton dans Téléfoot ce matin 6 mars 2011. C’était une belle occasion de saluer et soutenir la progression à la fois personnelle et footballistique de cet homme qui est en train de conquérir les démons de son passé (et notamment un contexte familiale plus que défavorable) et de contribuer à nouveau à son équipe. Il a été essentiel à la remontée de Newcastle la saison dernière et leur contribue encore beaucoup cette année, et notamment dans CE match contre Arsenal.
Pourtant, vous n’avez montré – et donc apparemment pas posé – une seule question liée au football. Au lieu de ça, on a eu droit à un sermon de bonne conduite sous forme d’une revue morale du passé de la personne. Devons-nous déduire de cette offrande dominicale que le football doit se pratiquer exclusivement sans contact physique, par des personnages fades et de préférence favorablement disposé envers tout ce qui est hexagone? Je vous conseille alors plutôt le foot volley, c’est encore plus esthétique.
En attendant, s.v.p., pour la prochaine fois, ayez la courtoisie envers notre intelligence de signaler ce genre d’intervention par un logo “parrainé par les vérités inconditionnelles de M. Wenger” afin de nous faire comprendre le besoin pour la chaîne d’amadouer le grand seigneur pour qu’il daigne venir commenter le prochain France – Malte.
This is the start of the new blog of the scribe formerly known as the Yugo Consultant (or Consultant Yugo, in french, to be more precise) – of modest Subfoot fame. This will be the place where we celebrate all worthy events, actions, goals and news from the world of club football, take the odd poke at country/national football, and above all take to task all those footie journos who found guilty or suspected of stereotyping players and/or teams, blatant negativity, indulgence in gossip and similar football media crimes. This will also hopefully (over time) become the archive of all of the articles written on Subfoot.com, in French (the majority up to now) or in English.