Anti Joga Bonito (Love All Football)

Celebrating club football and shining the light on incompetent and biased journos indulging in stereotyping and negativity.

Daily Archives: March 14, 2011

Grande Remontada de Sevilla

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.

Iniesta tries to initimidate Medel

Medel is not impressed with Iniesta's CV

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.

KanouteControl

Another superb control by Kanoute

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.

Scudetto Sempre Aperto (Pareggi Weekend)

Nagato Eto Brescia March 11 2011

A time for consolation

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.