All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘drogba’

Wheat, Here; Chaff, There

Posted by hiphopmama on September 12, 2009

van persie man city
As much as I don’t want to say it, I feel like this may have been the week where the contenders separated themselves from the pretenders, or where the wheat finally separated itself from the chaff, if you will. It pains me, mostly because I’m an Arsenal fan but also because I’m desperate to see someone (ANYONE) other than ManU hoist that trophy, with as many changes in that top four oligarchy as possible – other than Arsenal’s place in it, of course.

Tottenham 1-3 Manchester United
1-0 Defoe, 1′
1-1 Giggs, 25′
1-2 Anderson, 41′
1-3 Rooney, 78′

So Tottenham playing well was a good thing for me, because, despite their heated rivalry with Arsenal, it was another team putting pressure on the biggies and they had the chance today to knock off the reigning champs. They failed, and big time. They opened the game in brilliant fashion with a laser of a bicycle kick from Jermain Defoe inside of the first 50 seconds putting the North London side up 1-0. But then United did what they always do – slow and steady to the finish line. In the 25th minute, Ryan Giggs curled in a free kick to knot the scoreline, and Anderson blasted one past Cudicini just before halftime to give ManU the lead for good. Paul Scholes had a typical Paul Scholes day, sliding into two dangerous tackles and earning himself a red card in the 59th minute. Being reduced to ten men didn’t hamper United much, though, as Rooney tiptoed right down the lane to slot home Manchester’s third and final goal of the game.

And just like that, Tottenham’s supposed coming-out party was put on ice, if not abandoned altogether, and their 100% record went out the window as well in favor of a clear statement of intent from the defending league champions. Spurs just seemed short of answers today, scoring early but then never really finding anything else to punish ManU with. Perhaps the loss of Modric had a role to play in this, but whatever the case, it doesn’t bode well for the longevity of their stay at the top of the table.

Manchester City 4-1 Arsenal
1-0 Almunia (og), 20′
1-1 Van Persie, 62′
2-1 Bellamy, 74′
3-1 Adebayor, 80′
4-1 Wright-Phillips, 84′
4-2 Rosicky, 88′

I don’t even want to talk about this one. Maybe I’m officially a soccer nut if a loss like this can screw up my whole day, because that’s what it did. I watched the rest of the matches I recorded today after this, but only grudgingly and with the bitter hope that the other big teams would fail too. I’m not going to bother describing each goal, because it will just depress me further. The first was tragically comical in everything from the ball’s lofted trajectory off Micah Richards’ bulbous head to Almunia’s hapless expression as the ball ricocheted off his own melon and into the Arsenal goal. 1-0 City despite Arsenal looking the better side in the opening minutes. Things were pretty even for a while after that, until Arsenal started piling on the pressure in the second half, eventually resulting in a goal by Robin Van Persie to tie things up. For a good ten minutes after that, it seemed inevitable that we would get another and take the lead, but there was some kind of lapse in the aftermath of Adebayor’s very intentional kick to Van Persie’s face and Alex Song’s foul of revenge on his former teammate. City parlayed the resulting confusion into a lightning quick counterattack and a strike from Craig Bellamy to restore their lead. And then Adebayor scored (that’s all the description I’m going to give) before jetting to the other end of the field to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans. Cunt. It might have been the fastest I’ve ever seen him run. If he had hustled like that last season, Arsenal might have competed better down the stretch. But no matter. He got his ticket (check?) out of London and over to the trendy new Manchester side, where it must be said he is playing quite well. He reminds me of my separated parents, only NOW doing all the things he should have been doing all along to salvage his former relationship. Do I sound bitter?

There was one silver lining in this match, and it was the return of Tomas Rosicky, including a sweet goal in his first game back. It came on some gorgeous link-up play between he and Fabregas, who lofted the ball to the little Mozart, who in turn needed just one touch to send it on its way. The whole Arsenal side looked better after he was introduced, so everyone just pray he can miraculously avoid anymore injuries for a while and we may have a winning combination on our hands.

Liverpool 4-0 Burnley
1-0 Benayoun, 27′
2-0 Kuyt, 41′
3-0 Benayoun, 61′
4-0 Benayoun, 82′

Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea
1-0 Faye, 32′
1-1 Drogba, 45′
1-2 Malouda, 90′

Two very different victories here, but with very familiar overtones. Liverpool absolutely ran rampant over Burnley, with Yossi Benayoun netting a hat trick and effectively setting up Dirk Kuyt for the fourth by blazing the shot that Brian Jensen parried into Kuyt’s path. Chelsea, on the other hand, needed another late-game winner to beat a bottom half side, but they, like Manchester United, proved that it doesn’t matter how you earn those points, as long as you get ’em. They secured all three today and kept their perfect start going, now having won five games in five tries. Only they and Manchester City can claim a 100% record going forward, with Chelsea having played one more game at this point.

Which brings me to a question I have for my own theory: if the true title contenders are separating themselves from the pack this week, what does this say about Man City? Because I don’t really consider them contenders for anything other than a Europa League, or at least I didn’t before the season started. I’m hoping I’ve just come up with a faulty explanation for the weekend’s turn of events, but I’m beginning to worry. They can’t be the real deal, can they?

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Champions League Finals Set

Posted by hiphopmama on May 8, 2009

fabregas manyoo
Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United (Agg. 1-4)
     0-1 Park, 8′
     0-2 Ronaldo, 11′
     0-3 Ronaldo, 61′
     1-3 Van Persie (pen), 76′

iniesta chelsea
Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (Agg: 1-1)
    
1-0 Essien, 9′
     1-1 Iniesta, 90′ 

Apologies to anyone in the world who actually reads my soccer updates. I’ve been too disillusioned by the results of the Champions League semifinals to bring myself to post about it. Plus, with the Lakers losing game one of their series with the Rockets, it made three straight days of disappointing results for me, and it was too much for me to get over and start writing right away. I’m not going to summarize these games. By this point, you all know what happened anyway. What I will do is give my opinion on all the contentious issues. So here goes. 

There was no controversy to the first game. Arsenal got beat, flat out, and it hurt. It really hurt. This was the Gunners’ last chance at a trophy this year, and while I didn’t really expect them to win it, I didn’t expect them to go out like that. The first goal was just pure misfortune, with Kieran Gibbs slipping and allowing Park to nick it past Almunia. The second was pure Ronaldo. And the third was pure Manyoo, Ronaldo supplied by Rooney. Arsenal got a concession goal from the penalty spot near the end, but this was a rout and, sad to say, a just result. Where is Thierry Henry when you need him?

Oh yeah, he plays for those Spanish guys now. And those Spanish guys were taking on my other London favorites, Chelsea, across town for the final spot in the title game in Rome. If I loved Chelsea as much as I loved Arsenal, this one would have brought me to tears. The Londoners seized the lead in the 9th minute on a miraculous shot by Michael Essien, watched as Barça was reduced to ten men, and then stood helpless as Andres fucking Iniesta equalized and put Barça ahead on away goals with a great strike from 20 yards at the dead end of extra time. You all saw it, there’s nothing left to say about it. It was an incredible finish to an exciting game. But Chelsea deserved at least ONE of those possible penalties to be called. I thought the Alves foul was inside the box and Drogba’s fall to the turf could have gone either way, but there’s no point running all those down because the game was Chelsea’s to put away and they failed to do so. A lot of credit has to be given to Victor Valdes, who has been much reviled by many Barça supporters for failing to be Iker Casillas. And for all he has been guilty of in occasional missteps and less than authoritative moves for the ball, he was stellar in this most crucial of games and kept Barcelona within a goal long enough to let them get that away goal that put them over the top and into the final. Hats off to him for his work.

So now the final is set and we have the match-up everyone predicted going in: Barcelona vs. Manchester United. Pep vs. Fergie. Messi vs. Ronaldo. And it’s easy for me to root for someone in this game. In some sense, this works out well for me in that, even though neither of my teams won in the semi’s, it now makes it easy for me to root for the right team, which is Barça by a long shot. I am so tired of Manyoo running rampant all over everything, and although I’m not the biggest Barça fan in the world (it’s hard to be when you pull for Real Madrid), I will have no trouble pulling for them when they head to Rome in three weeks’ time. Messi for Ballon d’Or 2009.

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Chelsea-Liverpool Goes the Distance

Posted by hiphopmama on April 14, 2009

Is it over yet?

Is it over yet?

 

Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool (Agg: 7-5)
     0-1 Aurelio, 19′
     0-2 Xabi Alonso (pen), 28′
     1-2 Drogba, 51′
     2-2 Alex, 57′
     3-2 Lampard, 76′
     3-3 Lucas, 81′
     3-4 Kuyt, 82′
     4-4 Lampard, 89′

That. Was. Ridiculous. Going in up 3-1 with a trifecta of away goals and Liverpool’s captain and offensive engine out injured, Chelsea must have felt pretty safe in their Champions League position. John Terry did have to sit out, having reached a suspension-worthy number of yellow cards, but Carvalho was available and both Alex and Ivanovic have been filling in nicely. All they really had to do was hold on. But in a complete turn-around from the typical pattern in this match-up, we saw another offensive explosion with eight goals and countless changes of momentum. 

The first half was all Liverpool as Chelsea looked tentative in giving up two early goals to give their opponents renewed hope. The Blues came out of the break a different team, though, and they were pressing forward from the start. Aside from a couple scary moments in the early going, when Cech looked suspect and Ivanovic had to clear one off the line with his head, Chelsea controlled play for the first 20+ minutes. They hit quick on the counterattack, and Anelka sent a low cross into the six-yard box. Drogba was there to meet it, but in the end it was deflected into the goal by Reina himself, who was visibly upset with himself for a long time afterward. If that one didn’t put it away, the next one surely did, or should have, when Alex absolutely DRILLED a free kick past Reina, scalding the back of the net. It looked to be set up for Lampard or Ballack, but Alex ran onto it and simply kicked the shit out of it, seemingly catching the Liverpool wall unprepared and off guard. And just in case the Chelsea faithful were in doubt, Lampard added another off a Drogba cross in the 76th minute.

6-3 aggregate with three away goals? Fifteen minutes remaining? Easy finish, right? Wrong. Liverpool kicked it into another gear out of nowhere, going for broke and being rewarded when Lucas’ long-range effort deflected off Essien and past Cech. Okay, 6-4 aggregate, still fine, right? Wrong again. Just one minute later, Liverpool scored again, just blitzing the Chelsea defense up the left with Kuyt heading home the cross from Riera. 6-5 now, and one more goal puts Liverpool into the semifinals. Well, shit. It was now officially “oops I crapped my pants” time. Luckily, the nervousness only lasted another seven minutes before Lampard put it well and truly out of reach with a shot that banged off both posts before going in. Liverpool still managed another scare, ruffling Cech and forcing Essien into a goal-saving header, but it was too little and (finally) too late. 

This is always a good match-up but usually of a very different ilk. Everyone was expecting some 0-0 or 1-1 type games, but we were instead treated to a 12-goal explosion that lasted until the very last minutes. It was exciting as all hell, especially to the disinterested observer (if there is such a thing with these teams), but it should never have come to that, at least from the Chelsea perspective. No matter, because now they’re through to the semi’s and set to face Barcelona – gulp – and their brigade of ass-kickers. They can’t feel overly confident about that one, but then again no one was picking them to oust Liverpool either. I suppose anything can happen, and after seeing this I’m both more and less confident about their chances against the Spanish giants. More, because they managed to snuff out a surging Liverpool side. Less, because it happened in such dramatic fashion when there was no need for it. You can bet that if they give Barcelona those kind of chances, the Catalans will gladly take them.

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Good News All Around

Posted by hiphopmama on April 8, 2009

Manchester United 2-2 Porto
     0-1 Rodriguez, 4′
     1-1 Rooney, 6′
     2-1 Tevez, 85′
     2-2 Mariano, 89′ 

Liverpool 1-3 Chelsea
    
1-0 Torres, 6′
     1-1 Ivanovic, 39′
     1-2 Ivanovic, 62′
     1-3 Drogba, 67′ 

It’s been a good 48 hours for me as a sports fan. My Lakers routed an inferior Kings team, and I got all good outcomes in Champions League quarterfinal action. After watching Arsenal fight back to claim a slight edge via their away goal draw with Villarreal, I was treated to a surprisingly tight game between Man Utd and Porto. I fully expected United to steamroll the Portuguese team, kinda like Barcelona did to Bayern today, but instead Porto struck first with a goal within the first five minutes and put Fergie’s squad on the back foot. The goal came as the result of cascading errors from Manchester, but Porto soon returned the favor when Bruno Alves very generously played the ball right into the path of Wayne Rooney, who had only the keeper to beat in order to tie it up. It was an edgy game the rest of the way, with United dominating possession and creating plenty of chances but never able to break through while Porto settled for the occasional counterattack. Things stayed level until the last five minutes, when substitute Carlos Tevez scored from close range off a lovely flick from Rooney. The Old Trafford faithful must have thought that was the final blow, but there was one more dagger left and it was in Porto’s hands. Not long after United scored their second, Porto broke out another blistering counterattack, Lisandro found Mariano Gonzalez alone on the left, and he stabbed it past Van der Sar before the big keeper could fully close out on him. Now, with two away goals in their back pocket, Porto return home to play the second leg in a stadium where no English team has ever won. It still seems far-fetched to say United are anything but full contenders, but it does even things up a bit now, doesn’t it?

And it wouldn’t be crunch time in the Champions League without a Liverpool-Chelsea match-up. This time it went down in the quarterfinals with Liverpool riding a wave of excellent form which included an impressive win against Man Utd at Old Trafford in the Premier League and a routing of Real Madrid in the UCL. Chelsea have looked resurgent under Hiddink, but the loss to Tottenham a couple weeks ago took the wind out of their sails somewhat and relegated their title hopes to the Wishful Thinking bin. So it was interesting to say the least to see them put in this kind of performance at Anfield, where Liverpool hadn’t lost in a couple millennia or so. It didn’t start promisingly for the Blues, who went down early on some sweet set-up play by Liverpool which resulted in a clinical strike by Torres. After that, though, the Merseysiders wilted from view into an indistinct mass with no one stepping up to carry the weight. Drogba followed the goal almost immediately with a one-on-one chance that Reina managed to stop, and Chelsea kept their foot on the pedal. Branislav Ivanovic became the surprise hero after he scored two goals, both headers off Chelsea corners, and gave his team a commanding lead with the two away goals. Drogba capped it by scoring Chelsea’s third off an assist from Malouda and putting Liverpool’s Champions League dreams in serious doubt.

Barcelona also embarrassed Bayern Munich, making them look like a B-league squad rather than the Bundesliga juggernaut they’ve been. They put four goals on them in the first half, then settled back and wiled away the second 45 minutes. I didn’t care too much about this one, but I always like to see Spanish sides do well, so I consider it a personal victory too. God has well and truly smiled on me.

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Champions League Tuesday

Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009

Juventus 2-2 Chelsea (Agg: 2-3)

  • 1-0 Iaquinta, 19′
  • 1-1 Essien, 45′
  • 2-1 Del Piero (pen), 74′
  • 2-2 Drogba, 83′

Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid (Agg: 5-0)

  • 1-0 Torres, 16′
  • 2-0 Gerrard (pen), 28′
  • 3-0 Gerrard, 47′
  • 4-0 Dossena, 88′

I’m going with the good news first on this one. Chelsea’s 1-0 home victory in the first leg ended up playing a big role in their ability to stave off Juve’s attack, as the lack of that crucial away goal made it extremely difficult for the Old Lady to get past the Blues. Juventus was frankly unlucky not to have scored at Stamford Bridge, and they again played well in front of their home fans, opening the scoring early on a nice break-out goal by Iaquinta, who was put through by a lovely ball from David Trezeguet. The momentum looked to be moving away from Chelsea until a 44th minute free kick by Drogba appeared to cross the line. The ref didn’t see it that way, however, and play continued, until Michael Essien poked home the rebound off a long distance shot by Lampard just minutes later. That goal virtually assured the result as it gave Chelsea the tie-breaking away goal and required Juve to score two more to win. Things got even worse for the Italians when Chiellini was sent off for his second yellow card in the 70th minute, but the 10-man squad managed to win a free kick that led to a penalty when Juliano Belletti momentarily lost his mind and knocked the ball away with his hands inside the area. Del Piero converted the penalty to make it a match again, but ten minutes later Drogba sealed it by jabbing in a goal off a low cross by Belletti, beating Buffon and clinching Chelsea’s place in the quarterfinals.

Cech had a great game for Chelsea, and he couldn’t really be blamed for either goal. He was Chelsea’s most important player for much of the match, taking balls confidently and stopping good efforts from the Juve players. But Essien was the hero of the night. He seemed doubtful to start, just coming off the injury that has kept him out all season, but Hiddink rolled the dice and came out looking like a genius. Essien had to play out of position, on the right side of midfield, and he occasionally looked out of his element, but he never quit fighting out there and hustled his way to that first goal, following Lampard’s shot in and getting himself in position to score the rebound. He was understandably subbed in the 66th minute, although why it was for Juliano Belletti is anyone’s guess. That stupid handball that led to the penalty seemed more evidence against his inclusion, although he did redeem himself somewhat with the cross that set up Drogba’s goal. Oh well. Hiddink got everything else right.

As for that other match… Well, that one’s still painful to talk about. As much grief as it gives me, Real Madrid really are my number one team, and to see them crash and burn like that was pretty awful. It was the kind of performance that says to me that they won’t really be challenging for the La Liga title after all. Granted, they were probably never going to take it away from Barça, but it seemed likely that they could at least make it close. Now, after the draw with Atletico and this disgusting effort (if you can even call it that) against Liverpool, they don’t look likely to continue the outstanding form that got them back into the race in the first place. And anyway, Barcelona isn’t likely to continue this lull much longer, and once they recover their form they will be out of reach. Unless the fatigue of multiple tournaments continues and Real Madrid go absolutely insane all the stars align, this is probably the end of the road for the reigning champions. You just don’t recover from that kind of loss without some kind of serious soul searching, and unless Juande Ramos can channel Tony Robbins levels of inspiration, that will take some time. And now I’m going to cry.

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Happy Transfer Window

Posted by hiphopmama on January 1, 2009

It’s a brand new year, which means it is also officially mercato time. Now is the hour for ridiculous and absurd speculation to spill forth from every news source, reputable or not, about the never-ending rumors concerning players’ futures with their clubs. This is the first January I’ve really paid attention to it, so I’m hella excited for what will transpire. Here are a few of my hopes, in more or less vaguery:

  • Mikel Arteta to Arsenal. Good ol’ Arseblogger has been calling for this one, and I am all in favor. I have been a fan of the Everton midfielder since I saw him drill one of the goals of the season in ’05-’06, and with Fabregas out for essentially the rest of the year, he would be a wonderful candidate to fill in for him. He is a seasoned player with plenty of Premier League experience who is great on free kicks. Unlike so many in the Arsenal squad, he would be ready to make an immediate impact, and he seems well suited to the Wenger style of play. Please make this happen, guys.
  • Some kind of defensive help at Real Madrid. They’ve already inked Diarra (the second) and Huntelaar, but neither will directly solve the defensive woes that have proven so costly this season. To be fair, they played remarkably well in their match-up with Barcelona, holding them scoreless for 80+ minutes with a limited squad, but Canna and Salgado are old, Pepe is iffy, Marcelo can’t be bothered to defend, and Heinze is shit. That leaves the always stellar Sergio Ramos and  a rejuvenated Metzelder as the only working cogs on the Madrid back line, which doesn’t bode well entering the second half of the season. I would also like to see a legitimate goal-scoring partner for Higuain up front, but I believe the offense will sort itself out if the defense can do its job at even a marginally functional level. It hasn’t been doing that so far, and you’ve seen the results.
  • Anyone non-primadonna under 30 for AC Milan. This squad is ridiculously stacked with big names that cannot or will not get the job done. Ronaldinho is an enormously talented player, but the money they shelled out for him could have been better spent elsewhere, as this season has made clear. What’s done is done, but they need to avoid sinking money into hopeless products that can’t deliver on their promise. Names like Shevchenko and Emerson sound nice, but they are well past their prime and far from productive with this team. Not that anyone wants them, but they, along with others like Dida, should be off-loaded to free up room (and money) for some younger players with less notoriety who might be persuaded to play within the team concept to achieve better results. With Kaka, Dinho, Pirlo, etc., there’s no reason some talented youngsters couldn’t shore up the side.
  • A new mentality for Chelsea. While thinking about this little wish list, I was easily able to come up with desirables for the other teams I root for, but I got stuck at Chelsea. There is clearly something amiss lately, despite the fact that they’re just 3 points back of league leaders Liverpool, but it’s not because of any major holes in the team. Essien’s injury has been the most costly, but Mikel has been a wonder as his replacement. Carvalho’s absence was painful as well, and if Scolari would have played Ivanovic in his stead more than Alex, the damage might have been more limited. Anyway, Ricky’s already making his way back into the lineup, so that’s a non-issue. (If Terry can keep his ass on the pitch, that is.) With a healthy Drogba and a surging Anelka, the strike partnership has all the makings of greatness, although recent (and not-so-recent) grumblings suggest the Ivorian may be on his way out. Bosingwa has been a revelation at right back, emerging as one of the team’s most consistent performers, and with Lampard leading the midfield there aren’t many gaps to fill. I suppose you could wish for better than Malouda on the left and perhaps find someone better to partner Anelka up front – especially if Drogba continues the histrionics – but the team’s biggest deficiency is psychological. It’s cliche at this point, but some of the old Mourinho toughness needs to come back. They were playing pretty football at the beginning of the season, building up an insane goal differential, but teams have adjusted and now they can’t pull out close victories either at home or on the road. Terry’s red card exploits surely cost them, but it’s hard to imagine them conceding the kind of painful late goal that hurt them against Fulham in years past. I’m not smart enough to know how something like this gets fixed, but if you’re being paid the big bucks to steer the ship, you better be able to figure something out, and fast. Oh, and stop playing Deco so damn much. Almost everyone else can see that he’s worthless out there. Joe Cole has no business fighting for playing time with him. Barça didn’t want him, and neither should you after this display.

Like I said, not much in the way of specifics there aside from Arteta, but that’s all I’ve got. For serious transfer rumors, I’m sure you’re consulting a much more reputable source anyway. However you slice it, Arsenal and Real Madrid are two of the big name clubs that desperately need some reinforcements and I hope they get them. Especially the Gunners, because they are a treat to watch when firing on all cylinders, and injuries have absolutely ravaged them this season. The same is true for Madrid, but I feel less sympathy over their plight seeing as they’ve won the last two Primera Liga titles and are generally a detestable bunch. Why I continue to root for them, I have no idea, but at this point it is what it is. Best of luck to all parties in the transfer market and the rest of the season.

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