Anti Joga Bonito (Love All Football)

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

Tag Archives: Milan

Random Thoughts 1 (on a rainy football-less Saturday)

It’s very quiet today in terms of football watching opportunities… there is the German cup final tonight… maybe I’ll watch to see if Kloppo can take one further title away from the loud Bavarians. It would be good if they end up complete losers across all competitions, in the same style as Bayer Leverkusen in 2002. But they are still favorites for next Saturday, no diggedy.

In the meantime, management of second tier EPL clubs is invited to take notice of the old guard sale at Milan AC. The departures of Gattuso, Nesta, Van Bummel (that’s purposeful – lame & cheap – but purposeful) and Inzaghi (the only man that José ever said he is afraid of) have been confirmed, and Seedorf as well as Zambrotta are also expected to move on. Good buying opportunities (in terms of increasing media profile and WAG coefficient) for QPR (if they stay up), and perhaps especially Reading, whose new boss’s wife has set the bogey.

But there is fortunately some major action taking place tomorrow. The EPL final round has turned out to be more of a hyping up opportunity than the media could have ever dreamed of, and Fergie has not disappointed by upping the stakes with a fine volley of his expertly crafted mind games. Mark Hughes must be wetting himself at the opportunity to ingratiate himself in the eyes of his former mentor, and who knows, maybe also the Glazers. Will certainly take a special place in the red’s hearts if he manages to frustrate Mancini’s boys.

Kanouté is celebrated by his teammates.

In Spain, it will be fascinating to see if Real Madrid can reach the 100 point mark by winning their last game at home against Mallorca, and perhaps even reach the +90 mark on goal difference – which makes for a nearly +3 average per game. Not bad for a defensively minded team masterminded by the enemy of football. Sevilla will be happy to turn the page on this season, but sad to lose one of its final greats from the phenomal epoch of the UEFA Cup double, Frédéric Kanouté, whose contribution and partnership with Luis Fabiano, Dani Alves, Jésus Navas and the others was a key factor in the success of the club. A great but yet very underrated player (check out his wiki if you don’t know his career, a couple of interesting points about his personal life and engagement on political issues), Kanouté also confirms in this little clip how much humility, integrity and sense of loyalty he has – estarás en nuestros corazones para siempre, Freddy!

Super capitano Javier Zanetti

Regarding Italy, it’s a big day tomorrow for the four clubs competing for the final C1-qualifying 3rd spot, namely (in current pecking order) Udinese, Lazio, Napoli & Inter, as well as Lecce & Genoa who will battle for survival in Serie A. Big thanks to my man Nick for passing on this superb post in honour of super capitano Javier Zanetti – like Clark Kent (copyright: Prince O), he never ages (and yet never has to resort to any kryptonite).

Finally, a mention of this documentary sent to me by my good friend P, otherwise known as Blu (of Downtown Boogie fame). Interesting but somewhat annoying documentary on corruption – while starting out promisingly on a cross-sports theme, it quickly becomes boring as it transpires that – despite it’s title (Sport, mafia & corruption) – it is going to all about vilifying football and presenting financial crime operating through online betting sites as an inevitable corollary of the former. Against a doomsday keyboard background that would have been great for a follow-up to the tedious Angels & Demons, and accompanied by a narrator whose voice sounds as if he is recounting the story of a genocide, the documentary descends into “modern football” bashing and low common denominator / soft leftie consensus on the general (and highly original) theme that “money is bad/corrupts”. They roll out a few statistics on the amounts involved – all of which pale in comparison to the sum of monthly irregularities in the financial industry. I am not saying there is no problem, but the general doom-mongering tone, as well as the gimmicky typewriter sound accompanied filming location sites legends, are supremely unhelpful. Still, I suppose it should be highly recommended viewing for all Juve fans – it seems this kind of stuff is still news to them.

  • Highlights: reminder of the dodgy Milan win against Napoli for the 1987-1988 title (see 5mins 30secs, or this YouTube video, around 6mins).
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Posticipo Brillante

The front pages of the Italian press will tonight be all black and white, but for the nerazzurri, it is like a re-birth. One almost wishes that the season was already over, as one could hardly pen a more fitting & emotionally uplifting scenario to wrap an otherwise difficult season that has tested the frontiers of complexity. This evening’s Milan derby has done a lot to restore pride and happiness, as well as remind the nerazzurri of the kind of passion that has been missing for most of the season. Even the ridiculously incompetent (or purposefully malignant?) refereeing trio could not dent the force of the hosts tonight, despite denying them a goal and then gifting a non-existent penalty to the visiting Milan AC.

Il Principe started things off brilliantly with a true poacher’s goal, but the fans then had to endure the now predictable officials’ “helping hand”. Unsurprisingly, the squad suffered after the gifted penalty was converted, and was further tested after the second goal by Ibrahimovic. But the ageing “senators”, led by the tireless and as usual exemplary captain Zanetti, have again confounded the critics by digging deep for that agonistic spirit that has characterised the side that won the historic triple in 2010. Let them now come forward and argue that the squad is old and depleted – they would be hard pressed to find evidence of fatigue and resignation in tonight’s performance. This was partly helped by the compact 4-5-1 formation (with Wesley occasionally venturing forward in support of the otherwise lonely Milito), but fundamentally this game was all about heart, guts and motivation in standing up for self and fighting injustice. Because it would clearly have been a case of daylight robbery had the visitors managed to get away with 3 points.

Instead of suffering what most observers mights have already banked on, the blue & black soldiers rose to the occasion, similarly in many ways to the return leg in 2010 in its dramatic intensity and sense of overwhelming favoritism for the opponent. And with what aplomb! Douglas Sisenado gifted us one of those goals that had forever endeared him to the nerazzurri fans in the past and notably in 2010, reminding all of his attacking flair and capacity to take responsibility.

The joy of this victory is doubly delicious as it presented the final blow to the cousins’ aspirations, condemning them to a title-less season and putting Allegri’s last season’s success into a more humble context.

It was certainly a most appropriate way to pay homage to one of the longer serving faithful, for whom it was the last game at home, Iván Ramiro Córdoba Sepúlveda.

The dream continues!

Supercoppa Disappointment

Grande Wes already on the ball

Yes it is, but not enough for the usual “silenzio stampa” treatment. The pressure was high for new coach Gasparini and the team delivered superbly in the 1st half, with new signing Ricardo Alvarez showing lots of promise as well as young Obi Wan highlighting why he was one of the few things buzzing under the fortunately short lived Rafa days. Milan was disjointed and uninspired in the 1st half and though Wesley’s (superb) goal came on a free kick, it crowned a team effort in ball control and territorial dominance.

The second half was unfortunately not up to scratch as Milan found renewed courage and showed more bite offensively. I hope that Gasparini is not going to be another one of these coaches who feels that they have to address the supposed “defensive” nature of Inter’s play by playing so called “attacking” football. As it happens, however, the theory is not always in line with actual practice, and so it was that the 2nd half performance wasn’t so offensively minded after all, since Eto’o was left to toil alone for most of the game upfront, the introduction of Pazzini coming in too late. Also, the omission of a creative potential like Goran Pandev was puzzling, particularly if the 1st choice instead was the relative unknown non-pharaonic quantity of Faraoni. As many observers have pointed out, Inter lacked bite upfront and was rarely truly dangerous.

Still, despite the missed opportunity of another title, particularly at the expense of bitter cujini rivals, the nerazzuris should not despair as this was from the outset an experimental outing without a number of key senior squad members, and notably Lucio and Cambiasso but also Maicon and Diego Milito. The fighting spirit is still there and the excellent performance of Wesley Sneijder, who the Inter management will hopefully know better than to allow to leave, Samuel, and the aforementioned newcomer Alvarez, provide grounds for good expectations in the new season.

Good Easter Weekend

Convincing results for a number of favorite teams, and notably:

  1. Vincente al Olimpico

    Calcio: Inter win at home (watch video highlights here) – following a convincing display on Tuesday at the Olimpico against Roma (0-1 victory for the black & blue in the 1st leg of the cup semi-final), it was always going to be tough to follow-up with another strong performance. And indeed it was not easy nor particularly graceful, but the result is there again: thanks to its character and resourcefulness, and aided a bit by the terrible state of the pitch (for once, though it has potentially cost us many points and also again Dejan Stankovic for another injury), Inter took all three points from a decisive confrontation with direct rivals Lazio. Down 1 goal and reduced to 10 men after yet another one of Morganti’s special favours that he mainly reserves for Inter – namely the red card for Julio César resulting in a penalty converted by Zarate – Inter seemed in a bad shape. But thanks to Wesley Sneijder’s free kick before half time and despite being one man down, the nerazzuri sourced serenity and skill from their deep stock of character and took the lead again through some cool finishing by Samuel Eto’o. Thought there were some close shaves in the 2nd half (Zarate going wide and/or hitting the crossbar on a couple of occasions), Leonardo’s squad were finally able to claim another important victory that sees them go second following Napoli’s second defeat in a row at resurgent Palermo (watch video highlights). Milan, meanwhile, maintained a clean sheet and grabbed a goal for another 3 points from Brescia.

  2. Negredo arms his lob against Diego Lopez

    La Liga: Sevilla win at home against fourth placed Villareal – initially knocked out by two quick punches in the 1st half (Rakitic free kick and another sumptuous goal by Negredo – see approx. on 13 seconds on this video highlight), the yellow sub marines (cheap pun intended) looked the more dangerous of the two outfits in the 2nd half. Subs Rossi and Cani both added potentcy in construction and Villareal came close on several occasions as Sevilla’s defense looked increasingly like its usual shabby self as the game went on. However, one important mistake allowed Sevilla to stretch their lead to 3-1 (Romaric) and despite Villareal pulling one back through Marchena, they ultimately held on to that one goal lead to claim 3 important points for a possible European place. It was not a pretty sight by any stretch, and by comparison the Barça-Real game on Tuesday way poetry compared to what went on (notably the new “ball-throwers” scandal which will undoubtedly go on for a few days despite condemnations by the president Del Nido and the coach Manzano). As noted earlier, Real Madrid won at Mestalla 6-3 against Valencia while Barcelona also got their 3 points away against Osasuna, winning 2-0. Atletico Bilbao is also doing quite well in 5th place thanks to claiming victory against local rivals Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Notable results / news from other championships:

  1. EPL: it’s always a delight to see Arsenal lose, and while Liverpool returned to winning ways with an emphatic win over Birmingham City, Man U squeezed out another minimalist but actually deserved win (given the number of opportunities created) at the expense of Everton. Chelsea meanwhile (as reported in a previous article) managed 3 against West Ham (goals and points). As Wigan and Wolves also lost, the relegation battle is looking as bitter and tight as ever, and it seems that it will go down to the last game.
  2. Ligue 1: Lille dropped two more points away at Lorient. Nobody has benefited yet as PSG also dropped 2 and Rennes stumbled on a surprisingly resilient Monaco who are now out of relegation zone. Marseille can go top of the table if they win the southern derby at home against Nice, while Lyon will also be looking upwards with more hope as they receive a disappointed Montpellier looking for a rebound after defeat in the Ligue Cup final on Saturday (against Marseille). Props to Didier Deschamps for confirming with another title.

Like KC & The Sunshine Band, that's how I like it

The Spirit of August 29

To paraphrase that much revered sage that was Bill Shankly, why is football so much more important than life and death? Because in a totally irresponsible and careless way we commit our emotions to something which is totally out of our control, that is 11 lads (or usually less if it’s Inter) running after a ball aiming to take it and keep it away from another 11, both groups of which ultimately want to put it in the back of the other ones’ net. Sometimes that will yield incredibly exhilarating outcomes, putting the kind of wind in our sails that defies earthly laws; at other times, it will sink us to the bottom of our self confidence and morale.

For Inter fans (of which I am one), but also all the Inter haters (of which there are many, in Italy and beyond, most of which don’t have the courage to declare themselves openly as such), this week has seemingly stretched the depths of the latter.  The double whammy of a scoreless defeat to Milan in the derby, followed by an even more humiliating drubbing by Champions League first timers Schalke 04, is threatening to put a serious stop to Inter’s confidence and ambitions.

But should we really doubt? Should this moment of doubt and contextual underperformance really rock the foundations of the renaissance of the dream that goes by the name of Leomuntada?

For sure, all is not well in the Inter camp: the last two games have highlighted again the importance of that key quality that the enemies of Inter often point to with feigned outrage as the “joga feio”: defensive robustness. The 7 goals leaked in the last 2 games have indeed exposed a recurring theme of this season, underscored by injuries, that of a certain (i.e. occasional) frailty in Inter’s defense. For these last two games, this should not really be so surprising to any informed observers of the game. Lucio, the current remaining (functioning) pillar of the nerazzurre defense from last season (the other one being Samuel), was absent from both games due to suspension, and a significant portion of the team was fatigued from its international duty commitments. Not as much could be said for either Milan’s or Schalke’s squads.

This is not to take any credit away from the performance of these opponents as indeed congratulations are in order, and especially for Schalke who exhibited the same kind of steel and composure at San Siro as Inter had done in the Allianz Arena two weeks before that. The aim is rather to highlight the specific current main challenging area for Leonardo’s team. The paradox illustrated by the two games that seems to escape most of the critics is that Inter – in terms of the features of its football system – has slipped not because of its supposed main and only quality (i.e. defensive and collective solidity) but rather due to its relative absence, at least in relation to its two winning opponents. If Milan is doing so well this season, it is not so much because of its attacking flair: true they have scored 54 goals so far, but both Inter and Udinese better that with 56 goals so far, and Napoli is not far off with 50.  What is distinguishing Milan this season is their defensive strength, as exemplified by the lowest total of goals conceded at 22, 7 less than the next best Lazio who currently has taken in 29. The point is equally demonstrable on the flip side of the coin, namely the attacking front, as Milan failed to score against Tottenham Spurs over 180 minutes and has therefore found itself out of Europe once again. Inter, on the other hand, scored two brilliant goals on Tuesday, one of which may end up as one of the most spectacular goals of the season (Barça’s second goal against Shakhtar Donetsk, by Daniel Alves, being quite impressive too, by its audacity and elegance of execution).

So this opera is far from over. What the champions must now do is regain their composure at the back and recreate the collective spirit of Nou Camp last April in tandem with the one that enabled them to put 4 past Milan on August 29, 2009. This challenge starts tomorrow against Chievo. For more inspiration, the nerazzurre (and their fans) can help themselves by watching recordings of that inspirational performance, or that of Deportivo la Coruna in April 2004 who scored as many against Milan in the second leg of the Champions League quarter final to see them out of the competition. After all, isn’t Schalke actually called Schalke 04? If that isn’t destiny calling, I don’t know what is.

Initially I was planning to wax lyrical about how Leonardo has been a major contributor and certainly a guiding inspiration for team’s rebound from the profound collective and personal malaise instilled by the faceless and profoundly antihuman régime of the goateed fatso from Anfield. On second thoughts (and I have had time to reflect since Tuesday), I do not feel the need to do that. Just as in January when they had to pick themselves up, these are the defining moments of champions DNA – finding the conviction and the resilience in the face of adversity. And we relish at that. Bring it on.

C’mon Brighi, gtfohwtbs!

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.

Great Week (March 19-20 Weekend Overview)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

    Another Almunia howler, assisted by Squillaci

    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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.