All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘inter’

Not My Day…Kinda

Posted by hiphopmama on August 29, 2009

As good as the early weeks of the season have been to me, today was not my day. All the well-intentioned advice keeps telling me to fastidiously separate my subject matter, but fuck it – I watch multiple leagues, so I’m going to write about all of them at once. If you only keep up with one and are offended by my mixing, a thousand apologies. But this is how the day played out for me.

Act I

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
0-1 Arshavin, 40′
1-1 Rooney (pen), 59′
2-1 Diaby (0g), 64′

Inter 4-0 AC Milan
1-0 Thiago Motta, 29′
2-0 Milito (pen), 36′
3-0 Maicon, 45′
4-0 Stankovic, 67′

First off, fuck your bitch and the click you claim. Wait, that’s Tupac, but it could just as well have been my intro to Manchester United and their showdown with my Gunners, as much as I hate those Red Devil bastards and their gum-smacking manager. Things started out promisingly enough, with an AMAZING strike from Arshavin on 40 minutes putting Arsenal ahead. It really was unbelievable, a good 20+ yards out, and he lasered it into the upper corner of the net while a hapless Ben Foster barely got a hand to it. As sublime as that strike was, the second half went completely in the other direction very quickly. Arsenal had a chance right out the gate to go up two goals when Arshavin slipped past his defender on the left-hand side, sent in a low cross with some pace, and then watched in agony as Ben Foster stuck out a leg to keep out Robin Van Persie’s point blank effort. Not long after that, ManU turned the tables and finally made good on their pressure when Almunia dove in front of Rooney and the Shrek look-alike went down. I know, I know, it was a penalty. The keeper didn’t get so much as a fingernail on the ball, and he made more contact with Rooney than Boruc did with Eduardo. ManU weren’t foolish enough to send Michael Carrick to the spot a second time, and Rooney converted the penalty easily. From there, you sensed it was going to be a matter of holding on for Arsenal, and they just couldn’t do it. Giggs, who had set up the penalty with a nice pass, put a decent free kick into the box, and Diaby inexplicably headed it into his own goal to gift United the lead and the win. I’m still not sure what he was doing – he didn’t get enough on it to be trying to put it over the bar, so I can only assume he either, a) was stupidly trying to head it back to Almunia, or b) had absolutely no idea where he was on the pitch. The second of those seems more likely, but the reason doesn’t matter because the outcome was determined. Arsenal put in some last-ditch efforts to even the scoreline, and they came as close as they possibly could without actually scoring. At the dead end of stoppage time, Van Persie actually put the ball in the back of the net, but the goal was ruled out for offside, disappointingly the correct call. There was at least a little comic relief at the end when Arsene Wenger got sent off and then got into an entertaining back-and-forth over how far was far enough away from the action. Not satisfied with his initial departure, the ref ordered him into the stands. From there, he was instructed to put some more distance between himself and his bench, so he walked out to the front of the stands amidst the screaming United fans and smiled and shrugged his shoulders, asking, “Where do you want me to go?” It would have been hilarious had the game scenario not been so painful at the moment.

I couldn’t bear to watch any of the postgame wrap-up or listen to any of the talking heads give their two cents, so I immediately muted it and went looking for something else on my DVR to watch. It’s early, I told myself, and I have plenty of football available to watch to lift my spirits. The Milan derby was today too, right? Against all logic, I still thought AC Milan could pull off a surprise result, and I was bolstered in this belief by the teams’ week one performances. Inter draws 1-1 with Bari, Milan joga’s bonito over Siena to the tune of 2-1, and Ronaldinho was sure to be resurgent again in the pairing with Pato. Right? RIGHT?? Wrong. This one was a drubbing. I’m not sure there’s any point in going through the goals. Suffice it to say that, after a brief flourish of possession and attack in the opening minutes, AC Milan absolutely folded and Inter administered an embarrassing 4-0 defeat. Gattuso was sent off in the 40th minute, which didn’t help matters, but that was only after Inter had scored twice, including one off a penalty Rino himself conceded. After that, two great strikes by Maicon and Stankovic put the game on ice, if it wasn’t already, and left me hanging my head.

I then tried to move on to Real Madrid’s opener, but FUCKING GOLTV screwed up their guide listings AGAIN, causing me to miss the opening 40 minutes of their game against Deportivo La Coruña. Strike three.

At this point, all my hopes rested with Chelsea, who became my number two team in England when I realized a few years ago Manchester United losing was more important than anything else and Chelsea were the only ones with a hope of catching them. They’ve had a great start to the season, and I didn’t foresee them letting me down against Burnley. But then laundry, and cooking, and sweeping, and mopping got in the way and prevented me from getting in a decent result during the sunlit hours of the day.

Act II

Chelsea 3-0 Burnley
1-0 Anelka, 45′
2-0 Ballack, 47′
3-0 Cole, 52′

Real Madrid 3-2 Deportivo La Coruña
1-0 Raul, 26′
1-1 Riki, 30′
2-1 Ronaldo (pen), 35′
2-2 Valeron, 46′
3-2 Lass Diarra, 60′

Finally, with the family returned home, the daughter and husband in bed, and a kitchenful of dishes to do, I flipped on the TV and cued up Chelsea. It took them the better part of the first half to really find their groove (that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), but once they did, they didn’t disappoint. Right at the end of the first half, Drogba broke out down the right and fired low across the face of the goal, setting the table perfectly for Anelka to tap it home from inches out. The second half continued in the same vein, with Ballack scoring on a diving header off a Lampard cross two minutes out of the break. The third goal was the real peach, though, and came off still more lovely passing in the set-up. Ashley Cole, who played wonderfully all game, played a little one-two with Lampard around the left corner of the box. Lampard’s lofted ball found Cole impeccably, and the left back volleyed home a stinger into the top of the net to cap the scoring.

With at least one victory under my belt, I scavenged through all the mislabeled GolTV programming I had recorded to find the Real Madrid replay and sat down to watch my most anticipated match of the new season. Despite all my best intentions, the Blancos have my undying devotion, and even my detesting (to put it mildly) of Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t put the damper on my support. An unrequited love for Raul, Casillas, and Kaka helps in that regard, though, so I was more than ready to get the La Liga season underway.

The first goal showed all the promise of what this Real Madrid might achieve, combining the old guard with the new. Kaka delivered a gorgeous ball, nutmegging TWO defenders to find a streaking Benzema (who may or may not have been offside). The keeper appeared to get a fingertip to his strike to deflect it onto the post, and the rebound fell to Raul to poke it home. It wouldn’t have been so easy had the Depor defense not stopped playing looking for the offside flag, but no matter, Real had a 1-0 lead, and it was beautifully engineered by one of the summer’s big signings. Within five minutes, though, Deportivo equalized over some iffy defending off a set piece and header by Riki. Everything just looked a little loosey-goosey back there, which is to be expected, I suppose, with all the new players in there figuring out the system. After just five more minutes, Madrid reclaimed the lead when Aranzubia brought Raul down in the box and Ronaldo coolly converted the penalty. My hatred dissipated just a tad, momentarily at least, upon witnessing his celebration, which seemed entirely earnest in the emotion he showed at scoring his first official goal for the Merengues. Despite all his pomp and hair gel, he does seem to have a legitimate love for the club and appears to want nothing more than to succeed there, which is enough to make him palatable to me. Barely.

Deportivo wasted no time coming out of halftime, equalizing a second time on a nice strike by Juan Carlos Valeron from just outside the box. Once again, some lax defending left him in too much space and he snapped it past an onlooking Casillas after receiving a nice pass from Guardado. Last season’s stand-out Lassana Diarra finally settled matters in the 60th with a surprisingly crisp hit from the top of the box. He dribbled a bit, created some space for himself, and then fired it past Aranzubia for the third time. It came a bit out of nowhere, with all the millions of Euros standing around watching him, but it secured the three points nonetheless.

Epilogue

So in the end, I finished 2-2 on the day, although that last win was a little uncertain. Still, I’ll take it, especially after how horribly it all started for me, going from awful to horrendous in the Arsenal and AC Milan losses. A big thank you to Chelsea and Real Madrid for helping me finish the 24 on a good note. We’ll see how I fare on Sunday.

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Umm…

Posted by hiphopmama on August 27, 2009

I’m not going into any detail on this, but what the hell is going on at Real Madrid right now? I celebrated when they paid top dollar for Kaka. I didn’t blink when they spent untold millions on the Coiffed One. And nary an eye was batted when supplies were further exhausted to bring in Xabi Alonso. All good players, mind you, but not too subtle or nuanced a transfer policy, don’t you think? Understandably, they were always going to have to trim some fat from a squad that was already overlarge, and credit where it’s due, they axed the first and foremost on my list, Gabriel Heinze, early on. Michel Salgado was – rather unceremoniously, in my opinion – let go despite his years of service. Makes sense, they’re both aging defenders with little role to play in the new-look squad. Huntelaar eventually made his exit as well, making his way to Milan after some good finagling. Fine, they do have a glut of strikers at this point, so someone was going to be on the outs.

Things had appeared to slow down for a while, and then BOOM – Alvaro Negredo is gone, sold to Sevilla. Yes, they have a good buy-back clause on him, but why sell him in the first place? He did brilliantly with Almeria and looked poised to help spearhead Real’s front line, for a long while into the future, yet they let him go. Ushered him out the door, more like it. Ta-ta to another canterano. Transfer speculation appeared to slow after that, with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder looking likely to stay put. And now, what do we hear? Robben will find himself at Bayern Munich for the upcoming season, and Sneijder is to land at Inter Milan. This after I had convinced myself of their importance to the squad for this transitional year, while the new players find their way into the fold. They added the kind of depth crucial to any team hoping to contend in multiple competitions over the course of a long season. And besides that, Robben was the team’s most dangerous creative player in the games played so far with the new group, changing the landscape of the game when substituted for CRon and clicking with teammates far better than Pretty Boy did. I just don’t understand it. These are the kind of moves that will derail Real’s title hopes, especially when you consider Barça are returning essentially their whole team after winning the triplete with another year of chemistry under their belts. Until this, I thought they had a decent (if outside) chance to unseat the champions. But now, I must agree that Barcelona look all but assured to win it again. And all so Real can sign another unnecessary and overpriced superstar A YEAR FROM NOW. Ribery may be an excellent player, but he is far from an essential ingredient, and I don’t believe he is worth weakening the current squad for. Oh well, I guess. Who knows better – Florentino or me? Let’s just hope that quarter of a billion proves its worth, and soon. There will be no grace period, at least not anymore.

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Champions League Group Stage Draw

Posted by hiphopmama on August 27, 2009

Once you recover from the cleverness of the title of this post, continue on to find out the eight groups set up by today’s draw for the next phase of the UEFA Champions League, followed by my thoughts on them. Go on, treat yourself.

Group A
Bayern Munich
Juventus
Bordeaux
Maccabi Haifa

I can’t see Juventus having too many problems making their way through to the knock-out rounds in this group. No offense to either Bayern or Bordeaux, who will present tricky match-ups at the very least, but none of these teams has the same quality as Juve. Munich is the likely favorite to go through in the second spot, but look out for current Ligue 1 champions Bordeaux to challenge all parties.

Group B
Manchester United
CSKA Moscow
Besiktas
Wolfsburg

Sir Alex is sitting pretty after drawing this group, as Manchester United won’t face a single team from either Italy, Spain, or France, although they do have to contend with Bundesliga champs VFL Wolfsburg and Russian Premier League runners-up CSKA Moscow. Still, the Mancs should have little difficulty navigating this group, although I would love to see a shock results from the German upstart club.

Group C
AC Milan
Real Madrid
Marseille
Zurich

Humdinger of a match-up in this one, as Kaka makes his first return to the San Siro since moving to Real Madrid. Marseille are a very high-quality third team as well, so this one should be interesting till the end. It’s a tough group to predict in some ways, because we have little indication as to how the retooled teams of AC Milan and Real Madrid will perform this season. Milan’s opening day win over Siena was convincing enough, and Real Madrid’s preseason form was fairly encouraging, but real competitive play is another story altogether so we’ll have to see. Group C will definitely have some of the best storylines, though, no matter the outcome.

Group D
Chelsea
Porto
Atletico Madrid
APOEL Nicosia

This is one of just two groups that has three teams I could legitimately see getting through. You have to feel Chelsea are a lock, but both Porto and Atletico have equal claim on that second spot in my mind, at least for now. If Atletico’s strikers maintain the level of form they had last year, and if their back line can achieve some semblance of solidity, they should sneak through. But Porto are always tough at home and will be looking to secure their own place.

Group E
Liverpool
Lyon
Fiorentina
Debrecen

This is the other group with a three-way traffic jam at the top. Once again, the English team is the clear favorite, but Lyon and Fiorentina will really duke it out as well. Lyon will be playing to prove something after being knocked off the top spot in Ligue 1 by Bordeaux after seven straight years at number one, and finally breaking through in European play would help in that regard. I still expect the Viola to top them, though, and bolster the Italian presence in the quarterfinals.

Group F
Barcelona
Inter Milan
Rubin Kazan
Dynamo Kyiv

In case you needed any more Spain-Italy drama, you’ll get to see Eto’o and Ibrahimovic face each other after swapping teams as Barcelona and Inter face off in this easiest of groups to pick. Inter are the favorites to defend their Serie A crown, and Barça are favorites to win just about everything else, so unless they somehow cancel each other out, both will be waiting for the next draw for the knock-out stage.

Group G
Sevilla
Stuttgart
Rangers
Unirea Urziceni

This is the bland kind of grouping that convinces me that UEFA isn’t fixing these things, at least not at this early stage in the tournament. The lack of star power doesn’t mean a lack in quality, though, as Sevilla have a very solid team and Stuttgart have some big name players as well. Granted, most of them are cast-offs from bigger teams (Jens Lehman, Alexander Hleb), but the Germans will still have something to say about the outcome of this one. I’m happy to see Sevilla with a relatively clear path to the quarters here. They deserve it after all their workmanlike effort in La Liga, and more people need to see Jesus Navas. Wow.

Group H
Arsenal
AZ Alkmaar
Olympiacos
Standard Liege

As an Arsenal fan, I am more than pleased with the draw they got. As with ManU, they won’t have any competition from the biggest leagues (in Arsenal’s case, no Spain, Italy, France, or Germany). AZ Alkmaar and Standard Liege are the champs of their respective leagues, and Athens is always a tough place to play against Olympiacos, but with no Real Madrid, Inter, Juve, etc., you’ve got to think they got off easier. Hopefully they can lock up their spot relatively early and not have to bank on getting a result in Athens in that final game.

So that’s that. Barcelona-Inter and Real Madrid-AC Milan are the headliners of this group stage, which should mean some good head-to-head match-ups but with each team still making it through to the quarterfinals. I never completely understood how they set up the qualifying rounds, but it has indeed opened the way for some teams we wouldn’t normally see, a number of whom have a real shot to make it out of the group stage. Aside from pulling for Arsenal, I’m hoping for a good showing from the Spanish sides, because it’s about time La Liga started making a stronger showing outside of just the big two. Sevilla look poised to move on, and Atletico will like their chances as well, so we shall see. I don’t know how I’m going to wait till September 15th-16th to get this thing rolling.

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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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Soccer Thoughts

Posted by hiphopmama on March 3, 2009

It’s been a crazy few days, so all I can offer are the following notes on the weekend’s happenings in the soccer world. Because they are my opinions, they can be elevated to the level of fact. Take note.

  • Flippin’ Manchester United should have lost to Tottenham. Not because of any bad call or the result going against the run of play; just because I hate them and they shouldn’t be able to win everything. Carling Cup: check. Club World Cup: in hand. EPL: commanding lead. FA Cup: quarterfinals. Champions League: good position to make the quarters. Two down, three to go. It seems absurd to believe that all the games won’t eventually catch up with them, but just like Phil Jackson in the NBA, Fergie knows how to pace his guys to have them peaking at the right time. It will be interesting to say the least.
  • Speaking of ManU, that wasn’t a penalty on Cristiano Ronaldo. It wasn’t a dive, either, at least not a yellow card-worthy one (especially by his standards), and it should just have been a play-on. He was looking for the penalty the whole way – which isn’t a crime in itself – and he was already on his way down before the contact came. He put the ball so far out in front of him to bait the defender, but both players held up just enough to prevent enough of a collision to ensure a penalty. Yeah he stepped on his foot, but CRon was already headed to the ground by that point. 
  • Balotelli’s wasn’t a penalty either. I’m not gonna jump into the fray over officials and greasy hands and the powers that be. All I know is that it was a weak call in a big game, and it affected the outcome in a very definite (and very familiar) manner. [Adriano? Hand ball? Nothing retroactive? Gimme a break.] We’re a few years removed from the heart of the Calciopoli scandal, but Serie A still lacks a lot of credibility and they aren’t helping themselves any with all this. Does anyone really believe Inter were the only innocent ones in all that mess? Oh, and Mourinho needs to shut the fuck up or he can suck my Special One.
  • How about Real Madrid?? Barcelona is still in the driver’s seat, but they can feel the Merengues breathing down their necks now, which should make for an exciting finish. For Real to pull it off, they will have to continue their near immaculate play and hope Barça drop a few more points. A win over the blaugrana at the Bernabeu would go a long way toward helping Madrid narrow the gap, but I’d wager that they’d still have a shot if they could secure even a draw in that game. One game at a time for now…

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Inter Hold Off ManU

Posted by hiphopmama on February 24, 2009

The face of innocence

The face of innocence

Inter 0-0 Manchester Utd

Pretty good for a goalless encounter, and just about the best I could have hoped for in this match-up of detested teams. I was still a game-time decision regarding who I would root for (or root against less, which may be more accurate), but in the end my hatred of CRon and Fergie won out over Ibra and The Special One. It was still hard to pull for Inter after wishing them ill for so long, but Cristiano’s glistening head kept me in line. 

Let’s be clear: this result is a bigger disappointment for Manchester United. They were the better team today by a long shot, although Inter did eventually get their chances, and ManU really should have scored a few different times. Only some mediocre finishing and an incredible Julio Cesar prevented them from walking out of the San Siro up 1-0, 2-0, or even 3-0. Ronaldo put a couple of blazing free kicks on goal, but Cesar stopped them, including the one in the final seconds of stoppage time. He made a number of good saves in the regular course of play too and was easily Inter’s man of the match.

The home team had a few chances of its own, but Adriano was typically disappointing and Ibrahimovic once again disappeared in an important match. Inter looked completely unprepared for ManU’s intensity in the first half, but Mourinho obviously gave them the business because they were a different team in the second, attacking more often and keeping possession for longer periods. They still struggled against ManU’s passing game, but they were exposed for brief flourishes rather than for the full 45. 

All in all, I’d say it’s a small moral victory for Inter to have held ManU scoreless and prevented them from getting the all-important away goal. That means that even if the teams tie at 1-1 (or anything higher), Inter would be the victors on away goals. I thought this tie was pretty close to begin with, with things tilting a smidgen in the direction of ManU because of their history of performing in the UCL, but after this scoreless draw I think expectations shift toward Inter a bit. Then again, that could end up being their downfall, since they haven’t always proven able to shoulder the weight of favorites anywhere else but in Serie A, so we will have to wait and see. Until then, at least I won’t have to choose between these two anymore. That only one of them will make it to the next round will be my only comfort for the second leg.

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Sports Update

Posted by hiphopmama on December 27, 2008

Number 21 is tackling Jesus!!

Number 21 is tackling Jesus!!

With the NBA season picking up steam, this has essentially become a Lakers blog. Which is cool, but I had initially intended to use it as a forum to talk about all the sports I watched, and I’ve definitely fallen off in that respect. With that in mind, I’d like to recap all the sporting action I’ve been watching, with an eye toward what current results are likely to mean in the near future. Without further ado…

Premier League

Apparently no one wants to win the title this year, because every time one of the top teams slips up and presents an opening, the rest follow suit with disappointing performances to keep pace with the leaders. Arsenal are goners (not Gooners) at this point, but the remaining Big Three seem to win, lose, or draw together, as if they signed a mutual pact before the season stating that no one would run away with the title before the new year. Liverpool and Chelsea, in particular, have had their fates linked, with each team drawing games and losing points at the same time, and then both turning it around for a big win the following week. Friday’s games saw this happen again, as the top two squads gave dominating performances and secured three points apiece to stay logjammed at the top of the table (Liverpool currently sits one point ahead of Chelsea). It’s hard to figure Man Utd out at this point, since they’ve played two fewer games for the moment, but they’re certainly within striking distance, as are Aston Villa, the surprise upstarts of the season. They staged a miraculous comeback on Boxing Day – perhaps not so miraculous considering Arsenal’s form this year – surging from 2-0 down to tie the game with a stoppage time goal from Zat Knight. The draw kept Arsenal out of the top four for another week, three points adrift of Villa for the final Champions League spot. I had expected much more to be decided by the Christmas slate of games, but it appears we’ll be exactly where we started come January. How the teams approach the transfer market will thus likely have a big effect on the ultimate outcome.

La Liga

Pep Guardiola is right to point out that there’s a long way to go, but it’s increasingly looking like a foregone conclusion that Barça will win the title this year. Real Madrid is all but out of the race, currently sitting in fifth place and twelve points adrift of the leaders. No team has been as ravaged by injuries as Los Merengues, so an infusion of new blood will be necessary if they plan to make a late run to defend their title, or even to reclaim a top four spot. They’ve already locked up Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Lassana Diarra, but another defender and someone to play on the right wing would be a big help to Juande Ramos as he tries to extend his stay with the team. Valencia has stayed near the top longer than expected, especially considering the injury to David Silva, and Sevilla are the closest to Barcelona in second place. Mind you, they’re still ten points back of the Blaugrana, but they’re in a better spot than anyone else to overtake them. If they can hang onto their players, that is. 

Serie A

Inter continue their league dominance, entering the new year six points ahead of Juventus, their nearest competitors, with AC Milan nine points off the pace. While it pains me to say so, Jose Mourinho has done well with his boys, not allowing malaise to set in for extended periods and fielding good squads suited to the task at hand. Juventus have been picking up steam, though, and are poised to make life tough for Inter down the stretch. While I want to believe that AC Milan are still in it, I doubt they’ll be serious contenders come season’s end. Their aging squad has added another elder statesman in David Beckham, and the return of players like Pirlo and Ambrosini has helped prop the team up recently. Still, Kaka and Ronaldinho have yet to prove they can play effectively together and neither has been exactly scintillating so far. The middle third of the table is remarkably tight as well, with Napoli, Genoa, Lazio, and Catania all within striking distance of a top four spot. If Juve (and hoepfully Milan and Fiorentina) can give Inter a run for their money, it should be an entertaining sprint to the finish line. Anyone but Inter!

NFL

And now to the good stuff. The NFL is in its home stretch, with one more round of games to determine the lucky teams who will make the playoffs. While the Giants and Titans are essentially marking time until their second round match-ups, there are a number of battles yet to be played out. The Eagles still have a shot at a playoff spot if they can beat the Cowboys and get a little help from teams like the Bucs, Vikings, and/or Bears. The Dolphins have their fate in their own hands and can clinch the AFC East with a win this week, regardless of what the Patriots do. New England, on the other hand, has to win and then hope for a Miami loss (or tie). Come on, Dolphins. The best game of the week will be between the Chargers and Broncos for sole possession of the AFC West title, although I’ll have a hard time watching because I dislike both quarterbacks so much. Both seem like your prototypical QB jock brought up to believe their shit don’t stink. I hope they both crash and burn, but that the Chargers still win. This has the potential to be one of the more interesting playoffs in a while, with a surprising array of strong teams all with a chance to do some real damage. Just think about it. When was the last time the Colts were a five seed? The Vikings in the three spot? And the Dolphins in the playoffs at all?? Despite their stellar records, none of the top teams looks really unbeatable, so every game should be a slugfest with the potential of an upset. As long as the Patriots don’t make it, I really can’t lose this year.

So that’s that. My sports viewing in a nutshell. Does anyone really give a shit? Nope, just me, but I’ll always take the chance to prove my extensive knowledge and remind people that I know more about sports than they do AND I’m a girl. How about that X chromosome?

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Champions League Draw

Posted by hiphopmama on December 19, 2008

  • Atletico Madrid – Porto
  • Lyon – Barcelona
  • Arsenal – Roma
  • Inter – Manchester Utd
  • Real Madrid – Liverpool
  • Chelsea – Juventus
  • Villarreal – Panathinaikos
  • Sporting Lisbon – Bayern Munich

There are a few conspicuous things about these pairings. The first is the fact that the three Serie A teams drew Premier League opponents. Based on the performance of English teams in the Champions League in recent years, this wouldn’t seem to bode well for the Italians. However, looking at the match-ups individually paints a slightly better picture for the Serie A squads. Roma will take on an Arsenal team that has yet to really find its bearings this season. Unfortunately for Roma, the Gunners have played their best games against quality opponents, so that might be nullified. This has the potential to be one of the best match-ups because both teams play such open games. Juventus-Chelsea has the most back story to it, with Claudio Ranieri taking on his former team at Stamford Bridge, about which Ranieri said, “I can’t say I’m happy.” The biggest battle of all will be between Inter and Manchester United, two powerhouses currently playing well and expecting to go far in this competition. United are the reigning champions in Europe, but they are only just starting to hit their stride. Inter, on the other hand, came on like gangbusters only to slow down the slightest bit of late. This is an impossible one for me to watch because there is no one to root for. I am always looking for someone to upend Inter and their Special coach, but I cannot get myself to pull for Fergie and Ronaldo, so it will be Forza Inter in that one. 

The other noticeable thing in all this is the pairing of the non-biggies with each other. The match-ups of Atletico-Porto, Sporting-Bayern, and Villarreal-Panathinaikos all feature two teams who would be expected to fall by the wayside against the top-tier teams playing each other in the other ties. Because of how the draw came out, three of those teams will make it to the next round, while either Chelsea or Juventus, Inter or Man Utd, Real Madrid or Liverpool, Arsenal or Roma will be knocked out. It will make for a different look to the later rounds, that’s for sure.

Oh yeah, and Barcelona will play Lyon. It’s no disrespect to Lyon that it barely warrants a mention. Pretty much any opposition would elicit that reaction because of how incredible Barça have been playing. Let’s just say I don’t foresee any hicc-ups for the Catalans, although I’m sure Guardiola will convince them otherwise to ensure a good performance from his team.

As a fan of Arsenal (and secondarily Chelsea) in England and Real Madrid in Spain, I am at least satisfied with the draw. Liverpool is always a tough out in European play, but with a team that will hopefully be rejuvenated both through injury recoveries and new players, it’s a match-up Real can win. Roma is no push-over and they have been playing much better of late, but Arsenal could have faced much worse. As for Serie A, my team – AC Milan – didn’t even make it to the Champions League this year, so my only real interest there is seeing Inter lose. Except that I can’t root for Man Utd, so I’m really screwed there. In any case, it will be an incredible slate of games of which I’m sure I will only get sparing coverage. Gotta love that U.S. soccer coverage.

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Inter 1 – 0 Juventus: Lesser of Two Evils?

Posted by hiphopmama on November 24, 2008

 

  • 1-0 Muntari, 72′

This match-up for me is like watching the Cowboys go at it with the Redskins. I detest the Cowboys with a passion, always have, for their general team attitude and the asshole-ish personalities that seem to be magnetically drawn to the squad. But I make it a political point to root against the Redskins for their disgusting name and its horrible legacy offensive behavior and genocidal ambitions. (Whatever happened to this thing not being political?) It’s impossible to root for either team, which makes it almost excruciating to watch. The best I can hope for is a close game that requires both teams to play their big guns the whole time, leading to as many players as possible knocking the shit out of each other and, hopefully, knocking them both out of contention.

In soccer, I can at least hope for a draw, but it’s still not fun to watch. I don’t like Inter for pretty clear cut reasons, the biggest being that I just don’t like a lot of their players. I don’t mind a bit of cockiness from a player, and I probably have a higher tolerance for it than most. But Ibra still strikes me as a pompous ass. On top of that, he doesn’t show up in the biggest games, so he has little to be so brash about. Adriano is just plain worthless and, despite utterly wasting most of his vast array of talents, he carries himself as if he is owed something. And finally, Materazzi is a dick. I don’t think that needs any more explanation. I can’t bring myself to root for Juve for more nebulous reasons. The year when I formed my main allegiances was 2006-07, when they happened to be serving a stint in Serie B for the match-fixing allegations that surfaced against so many Italian teams. Because of this, they were mostly off my radar. I’ll admit that the Calciopoli scandal still leaves a bad taste in my mouth in regards to Juve, although I’m sure many more teams than those involved have participated in similar stuff. Still, Juve’s ties to this mafioso business were pretty clear and seemed worse than most, which makes it hard to root for them. In all honesty, the taint of all that really hangs over a lot of Italian football, but Juve bears the brunt of it, for me as well as others. 

With these and other factors in mind, I eventually came down on the side of the Bianconeri. I guess I figured that personal vendettas weighed more than institutional ones – and that Inter was probably far from innocent anyway. Plus, I decided that seeing Mourinho lose to Ranieri, the man he replaced at Chelsea, would be a welcome site. 

Needless to say, I was mildly disappointed with the way things played out. Inter were the better side for most of the match, putting more pressure on Juve and creating more goal scoring chances. Ibra fittingly missed his one clear shot at scoring (after netting two beautiful goals last week against Palermo), and Adriano also saw a number of chances go wanting. The home team finally went ahead in the 72nd when Ibra’s “pass” fell to Muntari, who struck it home. Del Piero produced a few opportunities, but other than that Juve were unable to really threaten Inter, who finished the weekend 3 points clear of AC Milan and 6 clear of Juve and fourth place Napoli.

It was disheartening to see Inter win and move further ahead at the top of the table, but it was even more frustrating to see Juve put up so little of a fight, especially after they had seemed to own the Nerazzurri in recent games. It also pains me to see the Special One have more reason to be smug, although I suppose there is very little that would entirely erase this problem. Luckily, it was only Juve and not AC Milan who fell to Inter, because that would have been much more painful. Still, I can only hope Napoli make them pay when they come to the San Siro this week.

Muntari’s goal:

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Three Great Games

Posted by hiphopmama on November 11, 2008

Even without seeing Arsenal beat Man Utd (*tear*), I still got to watch a trio of fun matches this weekend, all of which hung in the balance until rather late. Without further ado…

Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese

  • 1-0 Julio Cruz, 90′

This was a match-up of two top-of-the-table teams, with Mourinho’s boys looking to prove that they were the real deal after an embarrassing Champions League draw midweek against Anorthosis. They were also looking to stay ahead of AC Milan, who both were and are breathing down their necks. Being an AC Milan fan, I was obviously pulling for Udinese to hold them off, which they appeared to have done rather well until substitute Julio Cruz nabbed the header that secured three points for the home team in stoppage time. And I couldn’t even be mad at them in the end because it was such an exciting finish.

Lecce 1-1 AC Milan

  • 0-1 Ronaldinho, 79′
  • 1-1 Esposito, 90′

On the other hand, this game was frustrating. AC Milan dominated the match with over 70% possession and 21 shots, all but 3 of which were woefully off target. They had so many good chances I couldn’t even begin to list them all, although one of the most memorable saw Kaka send a one-on-one chance wide of the post after receiving a through header and beating the defender to the ball. Borriello missed his share as well too. After screaming for it to happen, they eventually brought on Pato in exchange for Flamini, and with his first touch of the ball he secured it and sent in a perfect cross which Ronaldinho nailed into the back of the net. After all the tantric teasing leading up to the goal, it was sweet satisfaction, but it didn’t last. Once again in stoppage time, a free kick to the left of the area was whipped in by Zanchetta and sent home by Esposito. Painful all around, but they’re still within one point of Inter and in second place overall.

Real Madrid 4-3 Malaga

  • 0-1 Eliseu, 6
  • 1-1 Higuain, 8
  • 1-2 Baha, 18
  • 2-2 Higuain (pen), 37
  • 2-3 Apono (pen), 70′
  • 3-3 Higuain, 71′
  • 4-3 Higuain, 78′

This game was pure insanity. Higuain with four goals, Sergio Ramos sent off in the first half, Malaga thrice claiming the lead only to eventually lose the game off a rebound from a missed penalty. Wow. I’m not even going to try to give a run-down of all the goals (see the highlights below). They were nice but none was truly superb, except maybe Higuain’s third. What was amazing was how it all went down, with each team one-upping the other over and over again. To sum up: Guti was the architect of much of what occurred; Ramos was an idiot for nonchalantly stepping on Eliseu; Duda is a beast; Heinze is a liability; Marcelo is a bit of both; and that last penalty was pretty debatable. And of course Higuain. Like I said, he wasn’t exactly scorching them out there, except by repeatedly finding the back of the net. Sort of like Van Nistelrooy, he was always in the right place at the right time and took advantage of his opportunities. The defense looks shaky as ever, but three points is three points, as they say, and they were desperately needed.

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