Archive | April, 2011

This is pathetic

28 Apr

Alright, we know, it was an undeserved red card.  But what good does bitching about it all over your website do?  Who thought writing this article was a good idea?  It just makes Real look spiteful and petty.  Plus, with the way that game was going, who’s to say someone else wouldn’t have gotten sent off?

Here’s a life lesson for you: decisions don’t always go your way, but you get over it and you move on.  Focus on the next thing.  It doesn’t do any good to dwell on what’s done and dusted.

Messi is awesome, game was not

27 Apr

Lionel Messi scored twice in the final 15 minutes to give Barcelona a 2-0 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.  He has now scored 11 goals in his last 11 Champions League games and as is typical, his goals were quite nice.  What wasn’t so nice?  The vast majority of the rest of the game. Thoughts and observations below:

  • Pepe’s red card was on the harsh side.  I probably would’ve given yellow if I was the ref. (But let’s be honest, I’d be a terrible ref because I’d never call anything unless you were bleeding and/or a bone was sticking out of your body.)  More deserving of a red card?  Emmanuel Adebayor’s blatant face shove of Sergio Busquets.  I realize you’re frustrated, but still, that was unnecessary and you were lucky to only see yellow.
  • Whether it was completely legit or not, the red card completely changed the game.  Pepe was the key cog in the clogging of the midfield and a vital piece of Real’s success against Barca in their last two encounters.   Barcelona was finally able to break through because they were finally able to string together passes through the midfield.
  • For the love of all that is holy, enough with the diving.  If you get knocked over, fine, but grow a pair and get back up.  There is no need to act like you just got shot from the stands.  It’s embarrassing.  Players should be able to be carded and/or fined after a game ends for playacting.  Games should be won and lost because of the product on the field, not because someone (cough*Dani Alves*cough) is a good actor.
  • Also, there’s no need for 15 people to get in the ref’s face after every single foul call (and there were a lot of them tonight).  He made a decision, now let’s move on.
  • This game never got into any sort of rhythm.  There were too many whistles and too much bitching.  (Not saying they weren’t legitimate fouls, but hot damn, there were a lot of them.)
  • Yeah, Messi is kind of amazing.  His first goal required an excellent touch off a great cross and his second goal was pure brilliance.  Talk about a difference maker.  I love how he doesn’t always go for pure power on his shots.  It’s all about the placement.
  • Jose Mourinho is an excellent coach and a brilliant tactician.  However, me thinks he runs his mouth a bit too much.  After the game, he said, “Barcelona has qualified for the final. Sometimes I feel disgusted about this football world of ours…No one has any chance against Barca. Where does all this power come from? To win like this is very nasty.”  Huh.  If I recall correctly, your team beat them in the Copa del Rey final last week.  Also, you beat them as manager of Inter last year.  So you got a player (and yourself) sent off, get over it.  If it had been the other way around, would you be bitching?  Doubt it.  I realize that being rational isn’t necessarily Mourinho’s strong point, but please, you just sound way too bitter.
  • Halftime fight in the tunnel.  Seriously, people?  I realize tensions are high, but that’s just stupid.  What if Victor Valdes had gotten hurt?  Barcelona would’ve been screwed since Jose Pinto was sent off during the fracas.
  • Real has an uphill battle going into the second leg at the Camp Nou.  They won’t be able to sit back and let Barca control the ball 80% of the game if they want a chance at the final. (Which it sounds like Mourinho has already given up on…or are these just more Special One mind tricks?)

What’d you think?

Drama, drama, drama

27 Apr

Yesterday’s semifinal between Schalke and Manchester United was merely the appetizer for today’s main course: El Clasico #3.  Let’s recap the last two meetings, shall we?  El Clasico #1 – A  1-1 draw in league play thanks to penalties on both sides, Real effectively shut down Barca’s passing game.  El Clasico #2 – Real wins its first domestic trophy in 18 years on an extra time header from Cristiano Ronaldo and again they shut down Barca’s midfield.  Sergio Ramos drops the trophy under a bus (yep, still funny).

What can we expect from this edition? Real had  success against Barcelona the last two times out mainly because Pepe is a beast.  That man was all over the place.  Barcelona did not have the space or time to get the ball high up the field to players like Lionel Messi.  I’m sure Pep Guardiola has realized that there needs to be a shift in the way Barca plays today, so it will be interesting to see the adjustments.

There are also some injury issues for both squads.  Real will be missing Sami Kheidra and Barca will be without midfield man Andres Iniesta.  Good news for Barca, though, as Carles Puyol is back in the squad.

Barcelona has dominated the clash the last couple years, but Real’s drastically improved performance over the last week shows that this Champions League match is totally up for grabs.  Hopefully it will be epic.

My prediction: Real 1, Barca 1  Why?  I just can’t see Barcelona getting shut out by Real for the second time in a row.

TV Schedule
Real vs. Barcelona – 2:45 p.m. ET/FX (Live)

Schalke-United kick off Champions League semis

26 Apr

Schalke hosts Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal clash today. United is definitely the favorite and will try to put this tie to bed early, but if Schalke can play like it did against Inter in the quarterfinals, it will be a close contest. The visitors will be without Dimitar Berbatov, who is injured, while the host side will be missing key defender Benedikt Hoewedes, who was injured over the weekend.

United was eliminated by Bayern Munich last year in the quarterfinals and doesn’t have the best track record against German teams, winning only seven of 19 Champions League matches. However, that really does not matter one iota as it’s in the past. Meanwhile, Schalke has won all five of its home Champions League games this season, so it will be no walk in the park for United.

Of course, this is the forgotten semifinal as everyone is geared up for El Clasico #3 tomorrow, but more on that later.

My prediction for today’s game: Schalke 1, Manchester United 1 – There is no doubt that Schalke is more than capable of hanging with likely EPL champs Manchester United. The German side will score a surprise goal early, but a typical late goal from United will salvage a crucial away goal.

TV Schedule
Schalke vs. Manchester United – 2:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Live)

What up, Maxi?

25 Apr

Maxi Rodriguez was the unlikely hero in Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition of Birmingham Saturday, notching a hat trick in his first league appearance in over a month. Workhorse Dirk Kuyt and late sub Joe Cole (remember him?) also scored. The goals weren’t necessary pretty (with the exception of the Luis Suarez to Maxi one), but they all count. The nature of the goals just served as a reminder of how far this team has come since January. There’s more fight, more desire and more hope for 2011-12, it’s pretty awesome. Seriously, I have high hopes for next season.

It was a dominating performance by a resurgent Liverpool side. The defense put on another solid performance as John Flanagan and Jack Robinson continued to show that the future is bright. Lucas and Jay Spearing controlled the midfield well and did not give Birmingham much time to get anything sorted.

With four games to go, the Reds sit in sixth place with 52 points. Tottenham is fifth with 55 points and a game in hand. Manchester City’s win today over Blackburn gave City 59 points. The Reds are definitely not out of the running for a spot in Europe and they have four winnable games remaining against Newcastle (H), Fulham (A), Tottenham (H) and Aston Villa (A). Tottenham has it a little bit tougher with games against Chelsea (A), Blackpool (H), Manchester City (A), Liverpool (A) and Birmingham City (H). Liverpool will have to continue to play passionate, aggressive football (and of course win) if there’s to be any chance at Europe next year.

Real bests Barca, Arsenal still can’t seal the deal

21 Apr

Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid side won its first domestic cup title in 18 years with a 1-0 extra time win over hated rival Barcelona in the Copa del Rey.  Cristiano Ronaldo scored the game-winner on a powerful header off a pinpoint cross from Angel Di Maria in the first half of extra time.  Real looked the more dangerous team to score throughout.  Much like in their 1-1 draw at the weekend, Pepe was all over the place for Real as he did not allow Barca’s midfield maestros (Xavi in particular) to get into a rhythm.  The disruption of the passing game worked well for Real as it also meant that Lionel Messi had to come further up field to receive the ball and ended up making him less of a goal-scoring threat.

Real has frustrated Barcelona’s free-flowing play two straight games now and I’d say it’s a safe bet that they will play the same style in the Champions League semifinal next week.  Pep Guardiola may have to make some adjustments to allow players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Messi to get more touches in dangeorus areas.

Oh, the hilarious part of the Real win?  Sergio Ramos dropped the trophy off the bus in the celebration in Madrid and it was subsequently run over.  Well done, sir.

Meanwhile, back in London, Arsenal continued to show why there is no way in hell it will challenge Manchester United for the Premier League title in a 3-3 draw with Tottenham.  The Gunners went up 3-1, thanks to first half goals from Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie, but Tottenham pulled one back just before half on a strike from Tom Huddlestone.  A 70th minute penalty from Rafael Van der Vaart sealed the draw.

It seems like every single time that Manchester United drops points, Arsenal cannot take advantage of it.  I’m sure they were tired for the Spurs game after the drawn-out affair against Liverpool Sunday, but seriously, you all have to learn how to put a game away if you want to be a title contender.  To make matters worse for Arsenal, Chelsea leapfrogged them in the table on goal difference, courtesy of a 3-1 win over Birmingham.  (And in case you were wondering, no, Torres did not score his first Chelsea goal either.) I’m sure Arsene Wenger is on the verge of a meltdown after his team let yet another lead slip away.

Late drama at the Emirates

19 Apr

Holy final couple minutes, Batman.  Liverpool and Arsenal exchanged penalties late in stoppage time at the Emirates as Liverpool further dented Arsenal’s hopes of catching Manchester United in a 1-1 draw.  Thoughts and observations below:

  • The foul on Lucas?  Definitely a penalty.  The commentator went on and on about how it was a dive and he sold it to the ref, but in reality, it was a stupid foul by Emmanuel Eboue.  He didn’t even argue it.  Running straight into the back of someone like that was just dumb and unnecessary especially with the ball moving away from goal.
  • I love Kenny Dalglish.  His post-game “exchange” with Arsene Wenger was awesome with the “Piss off” taking the cake.  It even sparked a #PissOffWenger trend on Twitter.
  • Despite losing two defenders in a single game (again), Liverpool’s make-shift defense did a superb job.  Teenagers John Flanagan and Jack Robinson played very well.  Flanagan could have easily been shaken after his clash of heads with Jamie Carragher knocked the man unconscious, but he recovered well.
  • Arsene Wenger was upset about the amount of stoppage time.  Get over it.  You learn at the youth level to play to the whistle.  Why should the Premier League be any different?
  • If Arsenal was a true title challenger, they would be able to put games like this away.  They’ve failed to capitalize on opportunities too many times this season, especially when United drops points.
  • Major credit to Liverpool for fighting back after giving up that late, late goal.  They could have easily folded, but kept going hard pushing for an equalizer.  And what a concept, it paid off.
  • Well taken penalties by both Robin Van Persie and Dirk Kuyt under big pressure.  With his tying penalty, Kuyt becomes the first LFC player to reach 10 goals this season.  Nicely done.