All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘eboue’

Gunners Go Through

Posted by hiphopmama on August 26, 2009

eduardo pen
Arsenal 3-1 Celtic
(5-1 aggregate)
1-0 Eduardo (pen), 28′
2-0 Eboue, 53′
3-0 Arshavin, 74′
3-1 Donati, 90′

There was never really any doubt as to what the result of this one would be, but with Fabregas nursing a gimpy hammy and considerations for the Manchester United clash this weekend, Celtic got to take their best shot. Or at least they did until my favorite name in officialdom – Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez – saw fit to award a penalty to when Eduardo went down in the face of zero contact from Celtic keeper Artur Boruc. In live action, I thought it was an iffy decision, and the replay showed the keeper pulled away from the challenge at the last minute and probably failed to even touch the Arsenal player. But, as always, these things are hard to call, and from his angle Gonzalez thought he brought him down. So Eduardo stepped up, stroked the penalty home, and the outcome was all but guaranteed.

The final two goals were icing, and both were scored in fine team fashion. Eboue was the beneficiary of the first, when a Bendtner backheel found Diaby on the left wing to set up a lovely cross and finish. Twenty minutes later, substitute Andrei Arshavin got his first Champions League goal for Arsenal when he cleverly shepherded a ball in from Jack Wilshere, turned around the defender, and slotted it past the goalkeeper. Massimo Donati eventually netted Celtic’s consolation goal on a well-taken volley, but the failure to keep a clean sheet won’t trouble the Gunners much as they progress to the group stage of the UCL.

I can honestly say I feel slightly bad for Celtic fans, whose team was robbed of any real chance in this one by the early, and clearly inaccurate, penalty call. But the tie wasn’t lost on this one call alone, and if Arsenal hadn’t scored on the penalty in the 28th minute, they would certainly have done so at some later point because they were pouring on the pressure and Celtic rarely looked likely to score. Even Tony Mowbray admitted as much, stating, “You cannot deny that over two legs, Arsenal had more quality and deserved to go through.” As for Donati’s recommendation that UEFA hand down a two-match ban to Eduardo for diving, I think his hopes for that one are about as low as Celtic’s always were for getting past Arsenal in this one. Did he go down easily? Yep. Way too easily? Probably. But for all the egregious flopping that goes on all the time, I just don’t see it happening. Wenger made a good point here as well, noting that lingering psychological damage after his horrific injury last year may have contributed to his diving (in the innocent way) to avoid contact with Boruc. “I never asked in my life any guy to dive to win a penalty, but sometimes the players go down because there is no other way to escape the tackling of the keeper, sometimes they dive. I do not want a penalty which is not a penalty, but I do not go as far as to say Eduardo dived.” Even with all that, I’ll admit it was probably a dive, but whichever way it was called, the result was always going to be the same. And besides, it’s Eduardo, about whom I’ve never heard any grumblings of cheating before.

So that’s that, Arsenal are through, and the draw for the group stage is tomorrow. What are the chances the English teams are kept on such separate paths again this year?

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Two Games, Ten Goals, Six Points

Posted by hiphopmama on August 23, 2009

arsenal-portsmouth

Arsenal 4-1 Portsmouth
1-0 Diaby, 18′
2-0 Diaby, 21′
2-1 Kaboul, 37′
3-1 Gallas, 51′
4-1 Ramsey, 68′

That’s a pretty good return on the first two matches of the season, no? Arsene shuffled the line-up a bit, but the result was essentially the same. Sagna and Clichy were replaced by Eboue and Gibbs at left and right back, respectively, and Abou Diaby started in place of Alex Song in the midfield. Eduardo also joined the front line instead of Nicklas Bendtner, who did see a few minutes as a sub. The formation wasn’t as clear a 4-3-3 as it was in the previous games, seeming to slip into more of the 4-4-2 we’re used to seeing, but the movement always looked good and everything was fluid so it doesn’t really matter.

Diaby played somewhat of a rangy role, popping up here and there and making himself very dangerous for the Portsmouth defense. He scored back-to-back goals in the span of a few minutes to put Arsenal 2-0 up, the first on a beautiful move by Eduardo to get past his defender before playing the square ball back to Diaby. Fabregas and Eboue provided the set-up for his second coming down the right flank instead of the left this time. Kaboul’s header pulled Portsmouth within a goal, and Pompey made it a rather nervy affair for a while, raising old questions about Arsenal’s back line. Luckily, Gallas showed up for another goal off a fortuitous bounce to restore the two-goal advantage. An Arshavin free kick pinballed its way around the box before banging off Gallas not once, but twice, and heading for the back of the net. Second-half substitute Aaron Ramsey got in on the action as well, getting in behind the Portsmouth defense and poking one past David James for the Gunners’ fourth.

This was a slightly more unsettling match than the scoreline indicates, at least in parts. After Portsmouth got their goal, Arsenal looked like they might crack and allow Pompey to even the match. Fortunately, they played just tight enough to keep out another goal and then allowed their lovely possession football to salt away the match. I was a tad concerned when Fabregas didn’t start the second half, presumably because of a lingering hamstring issue and also perhaps in preparation for the midweek game against Celtic. It was nothing to worry about in this game, because Ramsey filled in nicely, not only with the goal but also in creative link-up play through the midfield. He’s nowhere near the level of his captain, but at 18 he has plenty of time to work up to that high standard. And what can you say about Gallas? Three goals in three games for the center back? ‘Tis better to be lucky than good, I suppose, although Gallas has looked both this season: good at the back, and lucky in front of goal. I’ll take the combination any day.

One of the more refreshing aspects of this win was the continued high quality of play with the different line-up. There weren’t any wholesale changes, but with four new players in the starting 11 I wondered whether or not the free-flowing chemistry would be the same. It was, and the goals came just as easily. I still have some concerns about the occasional shakiness of the defense, but as long as they can keep the goals pouring in, the possession game should help in that respect. Arshavin is right, though, that squad depth will be important if Arsenal want to contend for the title. Because as amazing as they’ve looked so far – easily as good or better than any other team in the Prem – their continued success comes with a big “if” pertaining to their ability to remain healthy. The season is long and arduous, so it’s not really a question of “if” as “when” the injuries will come. How the team deals with them will determine its fate, and at the moment there isn’t exactly a wealth of riches on the bench, especially backing up the defensive portion of the pitch. But with just a week left till the transfer window closes and the team rolling, I don’t foresee any new additions to the squad. So fingers crossed all around that this group can stay healthy and continue to get the job done.

Of course, as I write this, I’m reading about Fabregas’ hamstring injury possibly keeping him out for the next three weeks, effectively ruling him out for the Manchester United match next weekend. I’m not even going to comment. Just get well, Cesc.

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Tightening at the Top of the Premier League

Posted by hiphopmama on March 15, 2009

  • Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool (Ronaldo 23′ (pen), Torres 28′, Gerrard 44′ (pen), Aurelio 77′, Dossena 90′)
  • Arsenal 4-0 Blackburn (Ooijer 2′ (og), Arshavin 65′, Eboue 88′, 90′ (pen))
  • Chelsea 1-0 Manchester City (Essien 17′)
  • Aston Villa 1-2 Tottenham (Jenas 5′, Bent 50′, Carew 85′)

I’m happy to report that all the games of the top five teams went my way this weekend. I already gushed about Liverpool’s thrashing of Manchester United, but Arsenal also gave out a thumping to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, continuing their rejuvenated scoring streak. Their first goal could have been credited to Arshavin, who was its originator, but it was heavily deflected and Ooijer got the distinction of being awarded the own goal. Arshavin did eventually score his first goal for Arsenal, and it was a beauty. He smashed the ball into the top of the net from a ridiculous angle for the game’s second goal. Then, miraculously, Emmanuel Eboue doubled the Arsenal lead. His first was a tap-in off an Arshavin miss, and his second came from the penalty spot after Carlos Vela was brought down in the box. Blackburn didn’t even bother trying to score, instead playing typical Sam Allardyce football, which meant sending everything at Arsenal in WWE fashion. If they were allowed to bring out a steel chair, they would have, along with some tables, ladders, and chairs. I’m not gonna go into the disgraceful tactics or the red card that should have been (yeah fuck you, Diouf). It’s enough to say that the suckers got what they deserved in the 4-0 loss. 

Chelsea was similarly dominant in their game against Man City, but they weren’t able to finish as well as Arsenal. (How often do you say that??) Michael Essien scored his second goal in as many games when Lampard took advantage of some lax City defense with a quick free kick and found the recently returned midfielder at the edge of the box. It did come off his shin, but it was still a superb strike that floated right over the head of the keeper. In the end it was all Chelsea would need to get the win, but with all the chances they had to score they should have added a couple more to their tally. 

Tottenham completed my perfect weekend by knocking off Aston Villa, who can’t seem to buy a win lately. There was a time about a month ago when it looked like Arsenal would have quite an uphill battle to regain their Champions League spot, but Villa sure helped them out by falling off quicker than Chris Brown’s advertising revenue. Jermaine Jenas was responsible for putting Villa on the back foot when he tapped the ball in off Brad Friedel’s deflection of Aaron Lennon’s shot. Villa had plenty of chances to equalize but came up empty-handed, and Tottenham got their second early in the second half when Darren Bent headed home a Robbie Keane cross. Carew’s late header made the scoreline more respectable but couldn’t change the outcome, which saw Villa fall to fifth place behind Arsenal on goal differential. As it should be.

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Champions League, Part Deux

Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009

manyoo-inter

Manchester United 2-0 Inter (Agg: 2-0)

  • 1-0 Vidic, 4′
  • 2-0 Ronaldo,  49′

almunia

Roma 1-0 Arsenal, Shoot-out 6-7 (Agg: 1-1)

  • 1-0 Juan, 9′

England has the strongest league in the world. Hands down. I was hesitant to admit it for a while, especially because La Liga is my favorite to watch. But after watching Champions League action in conjunction with the individual leagues, it is essentially impossible to argue otherwise. In the two preceding years, three of the final four teams were from England (Man Utd, Chelsea, and Liverpool in both cases), and last year was an all-England final. Now, as we head into the quarterfinals, all four English teams have advanced, at the expense of Italy’s three representatives in the round of 16. Spain still has two teams alive in the competition, but only one of them – Barcelona – stands any real chance of making it all the way.

Defending champs Manchester Utd took out Italy’s last great hope and their Special coach (wonder if he knows what the connotations of that term are). While I had finally settled on Inter as the lesser of these two evils, I was not at all unhappy to see Mourinho get humbled like that. I wish it could have been at the hands of someone other than Fergie and ManYoo, but watching Inter bomb out of the Champions League with the coach they brought in specifically to get them better results in Europe was still sweet. Man Utd opened each half with a goal, which was just enough to finish off Inter. Sir Alex’s boys weren’t particularly impressive today, but they did what they had to do to beat Special Sauce and Co. Both goals came off beautifully delivered passes, the first a corner taken by Giggs and the second a chipped pass from Rooney. Ibrahimovic finally decided to show up and made some key contributions, but neither he nor Adriano could break all the way through the ManYoo defense. And the quintuple is still alive.

In the final England-Italy match-up, Arsenal carried a 1-0 home victory into Rome but watched that margin disappear on an early goal by Juan, who scored the game’s only goal in his brief return from injury Not long after leveling for Roma, he had to leave with a re-aggravated thigh injury, further depleting the Roman squad. Arsenal seemed the likelier of the two sides to score for most of the game, but they never found their way onto the scoreboard. The best chance they had came when Bendtner deflected the ball to start a lightning quick counterattack. Eboue dribbled up the right side and should have easily been able to pick out Bendtner in the middle for a straightforward tap home, but his disappointing season continued with a horrible ball that went long and ruined any chance Arsenal had of scoring for the moment. In the end it went to penalties, and Arsenal started poorly, with Eduardo’s weak shot blocked by Doni. Vucinic helped the Gunners even it up by getting a little too cute and sending one straight at Almunia with not much pace. Finally, after eight takes from either side, Tonetto stepped up and skied it over the bar, ending Roma’s hopes of any silverware this year.

We now have to wait till the 20th to find out the match-ups for the quarterfinals, which will be drawn from the following teams:

  • Bayern Munich
  • Villarreal
  • Chelsea
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester United
  • Arsenal
  • Barcelona
  • Porto

The round of 16 draw was a tad suspicious, with the Italian teams all matched up with English opposition, so the conspiracy theorists among us would probably say the broadcasters got their wish with all four English teams through. Whatever the case, I hope we get a more equitable shakedown for the quarters, preferably keeping Arsenal and Chelsea on opposite sides, since those are the last of my teams standing. Realistically, though, no one is touching either Man Utd or Barcelona, and barring an unfortunate draw, they should be the favorites to make the finals. Everyone else is a long shot at this point.

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Arsenal 1 – 0 Wigan

Posted by hiphopmama on December 6, 2008

  • 1-0 Adebayor, 16′

This weekend, my sporting worlds seemed to collide, and not in a good way. As a devoted Lakers fan, I watched with chagrin as my blazing hot team gave up a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter to lose to a sub-.500 team in Indiana. They followed this up with a fairly convincing win over Toronto and then, on Friday, tried to give away yet another sizable lead to a struggling team. In the third and final game of this road trip, the Lakers toyed with the Wizards like a cat lazily slapping around a mouse, building a 19 point lead in the second half, only to see it evaporate with their talented bench players on the floor. The Lakers ended up pulling out the win, but not without some nervous moments, including a chance for the Wizards to win the game on a last second three-pointer. 

What does this have to do with the Arsenal game? Plenty, especially for my viewing experience. Just like the Lakers in all three games, Arsenal were the superior side and played like it for stretches of time. The Lakers were considerably more dominant, but it’s true just the same. Arsenal jumped out to an early lead with a somewhat fortuitous 16th minute strike by Adebayor, who benefited from poor positioning by Titus Bramble and slotted the winner past Chris Kirkland. The rest of the game was hot and cold. The Wigan attack threatened numerous times and often for sustained periods, but they were unlucky and never broke through. The Arsenal defense played fairly capably for the early part of the game, but as it drew to a close they started to panic. Arsenal were close to that second insurance goal many times, with Robin Van Persie twice just missing the chance to double the lead, but when they couldn’t secure it, they became increasingly harried at the back. Actually, it would be more accurate to say they slipped up at the back all the way up to the midfield area. Eboue, who came in as a substitute for an injured Nasri in the first half, played a couple of poor passes and lost possession at crucial moments, and as the crowd got on him for it he seemed to shrink away and play even worse. You couldn’t help but feel awful for him, especially since he was filling in on the left wing when his normal position is at right back. Wenger eventually subbed him out for Silvestre at the very end, killing time and adding an extra defender, but it seemed like a questionable move. Silvestre didn’t play very convincingly, and it must have been even more devastating for Eboue to have been removed like that.

Arsenal managed to hang on, but only just. Amr Zaki, returning from injury, came on as a sub and ran his butt off to try to pry open the Arsenal defense. Heskey had the best chances for Wigan and only narrowly missed a header to tie the game, sending it just over the bar.

It was a nervy win for Arsenal, but three points is three points, I suppose. The word I kept thinking was “composure,” as that is exactly what the Gunners lacked. When it was clear they weren’t going to get a second goal, they should have just maintained possession and worked the clock down. Instead, the looked frantic in their passes and unsure of what exactly to do, and as a result they awarded Wigan a number of opportunities they needn’t have had. In the end, though, they managed to follow up their enormous win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with a victory, something they had been unable to do after beating Manchester United, or just about anybody, for that matter, as consecutive good performances have been hard to come by for this team. 

Watching Arsenal almost dissolve under pressure after a good start was certainly familiar to me after recent Lakers games, but it also reminded me how fortunate I’ve been to have the purple and gold as my basketball colors. Because while Arsenal have mostly lost this kind of close game, the Lakers have almost always won them. LA is currently 16-2 and clearly leading the Western Conference, yet I have been consistently critical of their play, particularly their defending and composure late in games. All of which is true, but it bears remembering that, even with all these apparent issues to tweak, they have still won a remarkable percentage of their games, which counts for a lot. You can say, as I have, that they have won the games that they were supposed to win, but even that is impressive. Plenty of teams – Arsenal included – can’t manage to do even that. The Tottenham debacle comes to mind, as do their games against Fulham, Hull City, and Stoke City. So I guess the moral of the story is, be grateful for what you have, because it can always be worse. Unless you’re a Clippers fan.

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Saturday EPL Results

Posted by hiphopmama on September 21, 2008

Sunderland 2 – 0 Middlesbrough

  • Sunderland started the game dismally, but after Stewart Downing sent a penalty kick over the cross bar, Sunderland were re-energized and Chopra scored both goals in the last ten minutes to give them the win.

West Ham 3 – 1 Newcastle

  • West Ham’s new manager Gianfranco Zola got a win with two goals and an assist from David Di Michele. Owen scored Newcastle’s goal, but it wasn’t nearly enough. The Magpies continue to look awful.

Blackburn 1 – 0 Fulham

  • This hard-nosed battle wasn’t won until the 84th minute. Carlos Villanueva sent in a nice cross from the left side which Roque Santa Cruz headed down into dangerous territory, and Matt Derbyshire knocked it home. Blackburn manager Ince looked good for bringing in both Villanueva and Derbyshire as subs late in the game.

Liverpool 0 – 0 Stoke City

  • Steven Gerrard struck one in off a direct kick from the left side, but the goal was disallowed for an apparent “off side” call. Kuyt was near the goal line, but the call was dubious, even according to the Stoke manager after the game. Liverpool kept the pressure on, but they just couldn’t pull the trigger, especially Torres. It was a disappointing draw that let Arsenal slip by them into first place.

Bolton 1 – 3 Arsenal

  • Arsenal played pretty impressively in this one, especially in the first half. They had myriad chances to score early goals, but Bolton grabbed the lead first on a header by Kevin Davies off a corner kick in the 14th minute. It was weak defending on the set piece, but Arsenal immediately turned around and put them under pressure. They saw a couple go off the woodwork, but eventually (three minutes later) Eboue put one in from the left side off a pass from Bendtner. It was Eboue’s first Premier League goal, and he played aggressively the rest of the way, looking to duplicate it. Bendtner then scored one himself off some nice, Arsenal style build-up play. Bolton upped the pressure in the second half, but Almunia especially played well, taking balls decisively and making some nice saves, and Arsenal added a third goal by Denilson which was set up by a blazing run by Theo Walcott. I suppose they could have played some stouter defense in the second half, but all around it was a good win for Arsenal, and it put them back at the top of the table. The low point of the match was a harsh foul (which only earned a yellow card) by Kevin Davies which sent Clichy out of the game with a bad-looking leg injury. (Update: Clichy suffered only bruising to his shin, with no fracture. Whew.)

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