April 19, 2009
The UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals 2nd leg matches produced arguably some of the greatest ever goals in the competition. From cracking long range strikes to an exquisite chip the last 8 teams in the competition produced top shelf finishes. Here is a look at my favourites.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in the 3rd minute against Porto in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter final has to be one of the greatest goals you have ever seen. As much as I can’t stand the pretty boy with his slick backed hair and arrogance probably only matched by Anthony Mundine, this goal was just phenomenal. If you haven’t seen it, then do yourself a favour and youtube it. It was a special, special goal that no superlatives could give justice. Not only was his execution flawless, but he also managed to produce it at an extremely opportune time – against one of his most rivaled clubs. Having spent his pre-Manchester United days at Sporting Lisbon, Ronaldo would have loved nothing more than to put one over his former arch nemesis.
The reigning FIFA World Player of the Year was not the only one crowing over his mid week strike. You can bet Theo Walcott was just as impressed with himself when he opened the scoring against Villarreal at Emirates Stadium. Walcott delicately chipped the ball over the on-rushing Diego Lopez and the ball gracefully trickled into the far corner of the net. Absolutely delightful. It was a finish of the highest quality from the young English superstar. Injuries have plagued his season, however if he finds a way to stay on the pitch he is going to be a quality player in the future.
The epic encounter between Liverpool and Chelsea provided its fair share of screamers. Come on down Fabio Aurelio and Alex. The Brazilian duo both struck the back of the net from free kicks, both from some distance. Petr Cech needs to give himself an uppercut for being so grossly out of position (in fact for the majority of his recent displays), but take nothing away from Fabio Aurelio as this strike was wicked. A left footed whipping free kick snuck inside the near post from a good 30 yards which caught Cech totally off guard. Obviously he hasn’t seen any footage of Fabio Aurelio from his Valencia days! Alex wasn’t going to be out done by his compatriot and fired a rocket straight down the middle of the goal early in the second half. The ball hit the back of the net at such pace that I am surprised it didn’t burn a hole in the back of it.
What did you think of these goals?
What is your favourite Champions League goal of all time?
April 5, 2009
Silly season is the term generally given to the period between the end of a season and the beginning of a new one. It is given this name due to the outrageous number of players linked to an obscene amount of clubs. Supporters hopes are raised and deflated based on the superstar names that are linked with their teams. Many of these never come to fruition and the prospective transfers fade. Some however are completed and so the cycle goes around and supporters are given a very ‘silly’ feeling.
Most European leagues are still eight weeks from completion so it is very surprising to have the same ‘silly’ feeling now. Based on quite a few bizarre happenings the world of football is currently experiencing an out of season silly season. Let’s go through a few shall we –
Argentina’s 6-1 annihilation at the hands of Bolivia in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier in La Paz was just a tad silly. All excuses aside (including the reoccurring altitude debate), Argentina were just simply outplayed. A bizarre story inside the crazy result is that the world class Argentinean ace – Lionel Messi was completely shown up by the little known Bolivian, Joaquin Botero, who plys his trade in the Mexican second division for Correcaminos. Argentina will come good, but this certainly was a strange result for the two time World Cup winners.
Newcastle United, who are deeply entrenched in a relegation dog fight, have appointed a caretaker manager for their last eight games who has no managerial experience. My hat goes off to you Mr. Shearer for being such a prolific goal scorer in the Premier League during your playing days, but surely your appointment to one of the Premier Leagues biggest clubs (in terms of size and support – clearly not on results) is far too premature. I know that he is regarded as a club legend, but it will be interesting to see if he retains the same status amongst the Toonami once he has taken the one million pounds he has been guaranteed and has led Newcastle to relegation for the first time since 1993.
Liverpool are still within touching distance of Manchester United (did I type that correctly?). After both sides securing victories in injury time this past weekend the title is still very much up for grabs. There will be no easy games remaining for either side and the premiers (whoever they will be) could be decided on the last day of the season. I bleed Liverpool Red, however, it feels a bit silly that we are still in the title race given the embarrassing loss we had against Middlesborough a month a go.
Still on the topic of Manchester United, how silly is Cristiano Ronaldo’s haircut. Ok, not silly – completely ridiculous. I’d also say that he is silly for acting like a two year old with all the whining and arm throwing he does, but I haven’t really come to expect much more from the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year.
Joshua Kennedy not being able to get a game at Karlsruhe in Germany is silly. With the flashy figures of six goals from twelve appearances in the Green and Gold (should it be the other way around now that the shirt is predominately Gold?) where many have come from off the bench, how can the struggling German side not give him a run? I know that his scoring form for club isn’t as good as it for the national side, but surely when your side can’t buy a win and are sinking faster than the titanic, shouldn’t you give a goal scorer some time on the field? If, or should I say when, Karlsruhe are relegated, Edmund Becker (the manager at Karlsruhe) will only have one person to blame and that is himself for not giving the 194 cm tall Australian more time on the field. Very silly indeed.
March 28, 2009
If the Premier League title was won based on kit design Liverpool would be a shoo-in for the 2009/2010 season. Based on the “leaked” images (pictures at the bottom of this post) of the potential strips for next year’s season that are doing the rounds on the www, Man United and Chelsea are in serious trouble. Man U are opting for new home and away designs, both of which your grandfather wouldn’t be caught in. Chelsea look as though they are trying to toughen up by adding a shield to the front of their jersey. Arsenal have taken the “going green” thing a little far with a new away design that is at best average. Keeping their home kit from the 2008/2009 campaign, Liverpool are looking at introducing a new alternate strip which is pure class, I must say.
Again, keep in mind that these are only proposals at the moment. That being said…
Man United’s new home and away strips are the greatest crime out of the lot. The tacky collars on the home kit and the dreadful shoelace on the away jersey are ammunition for any opposing fan. A touch of retro is alright, but this has gone a bit over the top. A very nice way to send Sir Alex on his way into retirement – not!
Chelsea have kept a similar style to this season, however they have added a hideous panel to the front of the shirt that resembles a piece of armour. Perhaps John Terry could give this to his mum for the next time she has a brush with the law (shoplifting anyone?). The zip collar is a tragedy and I can only hope this does not make its way to the red side of Liverpool in future years. Given that their kit sponsors are both Adidas this unfortunately could come to fruition.
Arsenal’s canary yellow kit from this season looks to be on the out. This is unfortunate, as I quite liked it. There is nothing special about their new proposed away strip and if this design goes through, then I think the Arsenal players will be hoping that next season ends quicker for them than this one.
The pick of the lot is the stunning design of Liverpool’s potential away jersey. The predominately black shirt, with gold and red trim will have Liverpool fans queuing at merchandise shops world wide. David Silva would look quite awesome in this strip next year.
What are your thoughts on this shot?
March 22, 2009
Let’s just hope he uses the money wisely. I am referring to the 30 million pound war chest that Rafa Benitez will be given when the transfer window opens this summer. It is great that the manager will have more power when it comes to transfers, let’s just hope that he acquires quality talent. Rafa has a history of ‘gap filling’ when it comes to bringing players in to Anfield. With the exception of a handful of players – Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano – Benitez has admitted that he doesn’t always go after the best talent. He likened his purchase of Josemi for the right back position to a piece of furniture stating, “You don’t need to buy the best leg for your table. You need to buy the leg you need for your table.” Liverpool doesn’t need hole pluggers, they need top quality purchases. The Manchester Uniteds, Chelseas and Arsenals of this world don’t just plug holes. They either purchase a top quality international, or they invest in young prodigies who will blossom into excellent talent.
Looking at the players that Benitez has brought into Liverpool over the past five seasons is further evidence of his poor transfer policy. Of the 33 players that he has purchased over the last 5 seasons, he has moved on 11 of them. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realise that Rafa has not been satisfied with a third of the players he has spent money on. Hopefully the final straw was the Robbie Keane transfer debacle, which effectively lead to a 4 million pound 6 month loan deal. We all know this money could have been better spent.
Gareth Barry’s name is sure to be one that will be linked with Liverpool again this summer. Please help me understand why Benitez is so keen to ship Xabi Alonso off? He has been outstanding for the Reds this season. Rafa would be better off aiming for players in positions where we have shortages in high quality. Dirk Kuyt could surely do with some support on the right wing, in addition to another striker. David Villa anyone?
We can only hope that Rafa uses the money he has wisely. Purchase one top quality player or two very good players with the 30 million and not 10 mediocre players for 3 million. Let’s bring quality into the club, not quantity.
What are your thoughts on this shot?
March 15, 2009
A common argument I have with friends of mine is the importance and relevance of a finals series. For those that are unaware, a final series is played at the end of the home and away season. Teams that finish higher on the ladder, almost always have an advantage in the final series by receiving home field advantage or in most circumstances a ‘second life’. Australia is one of the only countries that I know that has a finals series after the regular season. It starts at our domestic premier competition – the Hyundai A-League and flows down all the way to local competitions.
Eliminating the final series and replacing it with a knock out, cup style competition similar to the FA Cup in England or the TIM Cup (Italian Cup) in Italy is the way to go. (More on how I think the format would be best adopted in Australia in a moment.) The main reason that I am against the finals series is that it severely discredits the team that finishes at the top of the table at the end of the home and away season. Presently, the team that wins the grand final, the game at the end of the final series, is coveted more so than the team that has achieved results over the course of the entire season. A team that can consistently perform and get results from the first to the last round of a campaign are a far better team than the one that can win, at most three games in a row, to win the finals series. I don’t disagree with those that argue that the feeling you get from winning on grand final day is almost second to none, as it is. I have been there, on winning and losing sides, and I understand the feeling you get on grand final day – the nerves, the adrenalin, the ecstasy and the heartbreak. It is all great.
That is why I propose a knock out cup style competition that is played throughout the season. The best way to organise this is to set aside ‘x’ amount of weekends throughout the season as dedicated ‘cup weekends’ or depending on the resources available, play mid week night matches. The cup final is played after the final game of the regular season. With this set up, the grand final day purists still get the trials and tribulations that a grand final day brings. The teams in the league are drawn, at random, to set up brackets for the cup knockout format. This gives the less fancied teams in the league a shot for glory – something that they arguably wouldn’t get under the current finals system. The team that wins, progresses and the team that loses, is eliminated. This continues until you have two teams remaining, making up the cup final.
The most important thing is to reward the league champion. Giving the league champion a home field advantage or a second chance in a finals series is not enough. They should be given the due respect they deserve and that means having a separate competition which is unparallel to the home and away season. The league champions are just that, the champions. Let’s treat them this way by not having a devaluing finals series.
While I am on the topic of finals series, why is it that the Hyundai A-Leagues are so disjointed? The Minor and Major Semi Finals are over two legs – home and away whereas the Preliminary Final, which is the following week, is played over one leg. Where is the consistency and sense in this? There is none. They should either have the Minor and Major Semi Finals as well as the Preliminary Final over two legs, or eliminate the two leg play off altogether. Better still, how about a cup knockout competition? Common sense people, common sense.
March 10, 2009
The All Indian Football Federation’s (AIFF) plan to withdraw players from club football for the 2 years leading up to the Asian Cup in 2011 is a giant step towards the end of club football. It might sound a little dramatic, but if the proposal goes unobstructed by FIFA then one must wonder where the line will be drawn.
‘Goal 2011’ is the name of the AIFF backed initiative where a squad of 25 Indian players selected by Indian coach, Bob Houghton, will forego club commitments for two years leading up to the Asian Cup in 2011. It is believed that the AIFF will part with around 400 million rupees for the 2 year long assault. The plan is to give the Indian national team the best possible chance of success in the Asian Cup. There is no denying that Indian Football is a shambles. Currently sitting 148th in the FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking, Indian Football is desperately trying to rekindle the success they had in the 1950’s. But at what expense? This will be a huge detriment to club football in India. The majority of the 25 players that are anticipated to be selected for the training group ply their trade in the I-League – India’s premier club competition. To go one step further, if the precedence is set and India are allowed to proceed, what prohibits other nations from acting in a similar manner and pulling players out of club sides in the lead up to say the 2014 World Cup? Allowing this to happen would mean talented players are drained from club sides across the world, strengthening national sides at the expense of club football. As a result, the quality of club football will decline and fans will become agitated with the decrease in the quality and will begin to show less interest in club football. The countries who decide to have 2 year (or longer) ‘preparation camps’ gain enough momentum to form their own league and all of a sudden, football takes on a cricket-like flavour where the primary competition that is played is based on playing for your country.
If the AIFF are not brought in line by FIFA and stopped from moving forward with their ‘Goal 2011’ plan we soon could be watching ‘Football World Series 2020.’ I strongly oppose the game moving in this direction. I am an advocate for the current structure – clubs should pay player wages and playing for your country should be an honour, not a job.
March 4, 2009
If you listen to reports originating from the San Siro, A.C. Milan are lining up a summer move for Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic. The Rossoneri are rumoured to be willing to offer Manchester United 17 million pounds to acquire the services of the 27 year old Serbian international. Milan’s aging defense is in desperate need of reinforcement. With Paolo Maldini (40) due to retire at the end of the current Serie A campaign, Alessandro Nesta (32) plagued with injuries and Philippe Senderos returning to Arsenal from his season long loan, Milan will have a shortage of quality in the heart of their defense. The move for Vidic makes perfect sense. At least it does for Milan.
There is however, one problem with the equation. No amount of money will tempt Sir Alex Ferguson to part with his prized centre back. In fact, it would be Sir Alex’s biggest mistake as a manager if he did. It is in huge part to Vidic’s dominating season, that Edwin Van Der Sar went 1,311 minutes in the Premier League without conceding a goal. Vidic’s rock like presence and uncompromising brand of football has shot Manchester United to the summit of the table and has already brought (and will bring more) silverware to the cabinets at Old Trafford this season. Nemanja Vidic’s supremacy this season has made him a shoo-in for the English Premier League’s player of the year, a feat rarely won by a defender. Vidic has not only proven his value in the back half of the field, but he has also popped up with four goals this season, one of which was a crucial 90th minute match winner against Sunderland back in December, coming at a time when United couldn’t afford to fall further behind in the title race. Sir Alex has Jonathan Evans, Manchester United’s young centre back, waiting in the wings as a great prospect for the future, but until he gets more first team experience he is no where near ready to fill Vidic’s boots.
Milan will try and tempt Vidic into a career in Italy, however, Sir Alex Ferguson won’t allow it to happen, not even if it means making three or four times the 7 million pounds that was outlay on Vidic in 2006. Keeping the key asset of his defense will be his number one priority in the summer, not increasing the bank account at Manchester United. Milan will need to look elsewhere.
March 1, 2009
Saturday night’s Hyundai A-League Grand Final between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United was a severe disappointment. It was a let down for many reasons – the overall poor quality of the game and the questionable decision making of Matthew Breeze to name a couple. But the most disappointing aspect was not the influence that Matthew Breeze, the referee, had on the game; it was the actions of the players towards Breeze throughout the 90 minutes. It will be argued (and repeated ever so frequently by Robbie Slater) that the sending off of Cristiano in the 10th minute ruined the game. In case you missed it, the dubious decision was a result of Cristiano challenging for a header with his elbows raised against Rodrigo Vargas. Cristiano made contact with Vargas’ head, however his eyes never left the ball and there was no malice or intent to injure Vargas in the challenge. Breeze, initially was only going to issue Adelaide’s lone striker with a yellow card until he consulted his assistant referee and saw Vargas lying on the ground in a pool of blood at which point he turned it into a straight red. Cristiano was unlucky. Adelaide was unlucky and as a consequence had to play the next 55 minutes one man short. But one bad decision doesn’t ruin a game. What ruins a game and far more worryingly, ruins a sport was what Breeze was subjected to. Muscat, Ognenovski, Cornthwaite, Allsopp and Jamieson were all culprits.
Breeze was the target for many verbal sprays and hand waving remonstrations throughout the game and this was, by far, the greatest travesty to Australian Football. It was detrimental for two reasons:
- It turns young aspiring referees away from the game. One area of our game that we desperately need to retain is our junior referees and losing them will only lead to a decrease in quality of our referees in the future.
- It makes us looks like whiners. This game was being televised to over 80 million people world wide. There is nothing wrong with showing your colours in the heat of the moment, but blatant abuse of the match officials needs to stop.
It of course will be argued that if Matthew Breeze hadn’t have made a poor decision in sending off Cristiano that perhaps he wouldn’t have been thrown the abuse that he was. What a load of rubbish. Referees are constantly the centre of projected insults and until we get on board with the Respect Campaign we will continue to fall behind in the standard of officiating and it will detract on the overall image of not only our game, but it will tarnish the image of our country. Come on FFA, it is time to protect one of our most valuable resources.