Posted by hiphopmama on May 2, 2009
Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona
1-0 Higuain, 14′
1-1 Henry, 18′
1-2 Puyol, 20′
1-3 Messi, 36′
2-3 Ramos, 56′
2-4 Henry, 58′
2-5 Messi, 75′
2-6 Pique, 83′
Another clasico, another great game, but not another title for Real Madrid. That this game had any significance whatsoever speaks volumes of how the whites have turned their season around under Juande Ramos, because Barça’s early season lead should have been enough to put them definitively away long ago. Instead, the champions surged while Barça stuttered, however briefly, and suddenly the gap was four points heading into Spain’s biggest match-up.
But just as quickly, the title race was over. Higuain energized the crowd and his team’s title dreams with the game’s first strike on 14 minutes, with a header off a Sergio Ramos cross. Barça didn’t hang their heads, though, as they struck back two times in the next six minutes on goals from Henry and Puyol. Messi completed the first half romp with a third goal for Barça when Lass Diarra lost the ball to Xavi in dangerous territory and the spiky-haired Spaniard slotted Messi through.
Real made it interesting again early in the second half, pulling within a single goal with a blazing header by Sergio Ramos after he earned the free kick that Robben sent into the box. Two minutes later, though, the margin was back to two when some more lax defending, and a failed off-side trap, saw Henry through to an on-rushing Casillas, who missed the Frenchman and watched as he lofted the ball into the back of the empty net. The last two were mere icing – Messi’s beautiful diversionary tactics at the near post and Pique’s bizarre run to the far post – and that was that.
I won’t go into much detail, but Barcelona were by far the superior team, not just in this game but over the course of the whole season, so it was only right that they seal (just about) their La Liga title with a goal-fest against their arch rivals. Xavi facilitated absolutely everything; Henry sparked the front line; Iniesta made miracles out of nothing; and Messi was his typical brilliant self, and still the best player in the world, Ballon d’Or or no. They’re not my team, but I can recognize greatness when I see it, and they deserve all the accolades they’re getting.
The only bone I’ll throw my Real Madrid team is their savior in net: Iker Casillas. San Iker. Saint Iker. How can you not love this man? Before Barça blew the game open, he made one incredible save after another to keep his team in the thick of things. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best goalkeeper in the world. Not only does he make every sense he is physically capable of making – in addition to a good many he has no right to claim – he has the quickest restart and is remarkably accurate in getting the ball to the feet of his offensive players. Only Buffon comes close, but I gotta give the edge to Iker. Pure brilliance. Kinda like the Barcelona team as a whole.
p.s. Go Chelsea.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, higuain, iker casillas, iniesta, juande ramos, lass diarra, messi, pique, primera liga, puyol, real madrid, sergio ramos, thierry henry, xavi | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on April 28, 2009
Valencia 2-2 Barcelona
0-1 Messi, 24′
1-1 Maduro, 43′
2-1 Pablo, 45′
2-2 Henry, 85′
Sevilla 2-4 Real Madrid
1-0 Renato, 16′
1-1 Raul, 45′
1-2 Raul, 63′
1-3 Raul, 66′
2-3 Capel, 80′
2-4 Marcelo, 90′
And they just keep on coming. I’ve all but written off their comeback effort multiple times this season, going on record predicting Barça’s league title and lauding Pep Guardiola’s team rehaul, but every time I check the standings the champs are still hanging uncomfortably around. They picked up two more precious points this weekend when Barça were fortunate to leave Valencia with a draw after a late equalizer from Henry while Real overcame a slow start to run rampant over a Sevilla team that was alternately breathtaking and head-shaking.
Barcelona started in promising fashion, pouring it on Los Che and eventually breaking through with a typical Barça goal from a streaking Messi played in by a defense-drawing Iniesta. The Catalans continued their dominance right up to the end of the first half, when Valencia suddenly turned things around with two quick goals to send Barça reeling into halftime. Rather than coming out rejuvenated, as I admittedly expected, they were lackluster again and needed the full second 45 to build up the momentum to finally even the scoreline, as Henry did on 85 minutes off a corner kick spilled by Cesar. So while Guardiola got some intangible bonus points for bringing on Henry as a sub, he lost two very tangible ones in the race for the title.
Real Madrid opened their game in an entirely different manner, letting Sevilla run all over them and doing little more than look stunned for most of the first half. Then, just like Barça in the second half of their game, they started picking up steam and were able to tie the game off a Metzelder cross that Raul poked home under a charging Palop. Rejuvenated by the leveled scoreline, Real came out of halftime looking for more, which they got in the 63rd and 66th, both from Raul, who benefited greatly from Higuain’s set-up for his second and Palop’s mistake for his third. His hat trick should have been enough, but when Capel scored in the 80th Merengue fans got to nail-biting again. That is, until Marcelo sealed it with an injury time solo effort that he took his time to get just right.
And just like that, Real were within four of the leaders going into the Clasico match-up at the Bernabeu this weekend. The first game between the two Spanish giants was Juande Ramos’ first La Liga game with Madrid, and even on such short notice he had his side performing admirably, holding onto a 0-0 draw until the very end before Barça poured two quick ones on them. Those were the only two goals Real Madrid gave up for quite a while after that as Ramos instilled a stouter defensive mindset before unleashing the full weight of his team’s offensive attack. Once the floodgates were opened, though, Real came streaming through and haven’t looked back, scoring in bunches (except in the Champions League, of course) and still managing to hold most opponents to limited opportunities. With Barcelona losing some of their luster in the weeks following their last match-up, you have to figure that this one is going to be an incredible, powder-keg of a game with both teams looking to prove a point while improving their standing in La Liga. Barça will be keen to prove that they are without a doubt the best team in Spain, if not the world, as well as to redeem themselves after a frustrating 0-0 draw against Chelsea in midweek Champions League play. Real will be hoping to shave three more points off that gap and close within one while proving that they are still a force to contend with now that they have closer to their full complement of players. Well, sort of. Van Nistelrooy is still gone for the season, Robben and Sneijder are out, and Pepe has gotten his stupid ass suspended 10 games. But none of them would argue against the fact that they are better equipped from a squad standpoint than they were in the last go-round. Should be a good one, don’t you think?
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, cesar, el clasico, higuain, juande ramos, marcelo, messi, metzelder, palop, pep guardiola, pepe, primera liga, raul, real madrid, robben, sevilla, thierry henry, valencia, van nistelrooy, wesley sneijder | Leave a Comment »
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.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, belletti, champions league, chelsea, del piero, dossena, drogba, fernando torres, gus hiddink, iaquinta, juande ramos, juventus, liverpool, michael essien, real madrid, steven gerrard | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on February 15, 2009
Sporting Gijon 0-4 Real Madrid
- 0-1 Raul, 15′
- 0-2 Huntelaar, 37′
- 0-3 Marcelo, 49′
- 0-4 Raul, 76′
After Barcelona miraculously drew 2-2 with Real Betis, Madrid were presented with an opening, however small, in their match against Sporting Gijon. They took full advantage, never looking the timid offensive team we have seen since Juande Ramos took over. They still managed to keep a clean sheet – their seventh in eight games – but they were also attacking aggressively and efficiently, and that was without their spark plug Arjen Robben.
Everything looked in sync today. Gago won seemingly every tackle he went for. Lass Diarra secured the midfield with him and distributed the ball nicely. Marcelo looked comfortable in midfield and began the long journey toward redemption by scoring the third goal. Huntelaar got his first for Los Blancos and displayed a deft first touch on multiple occasions. Higuain was simply marvelous with the ball at his feet, controlling it with grace and ease and finding teammates with beautiful passes from every angle.
And then there was Raul. Once again, as always, now and forever, he got himself in all the right places at all the right times and capitalized on the chances that resulted. “Opportunistic” is too cynical a term for someone so keenly aware of positioning and timing on the pitch, and who has performed at such a high level for so long. “Savvy” might be a closer fit but still doesn’t capture the deadly lurking quality of his runs and finishes. Whatever adjective you choose, the result was the same: Raul finally passed Alfredo Di Stefano as Real Madrid’s all time leading goal scorer with his first goal today. It came off a fierce cross by Sergio Ramos, and it took a good deal of precision to make the right contact with it on one touch and steer it past the keeper inside the right post. It was a fitting way for him to grab the record, and the team was appropriately jubilant for its captain.
The second was merely icing. After Huntelaar netted his first for the club and Higuain set Marcelo up for the third with a gorgeous backheel, Raul stalked around the six-yard box to clean up the mess and stab one home off the rebound from Higuain’s shot. Lafuente was under a lot of pressure but probably still should have handled it better, and when he spilled it Raul was there for the kill. 4-0 and game over, if it wasn’t already.
This might have been the first Real Madrid game in 2009 that was actually fun to watch. It’s always nice to see them win, especially after the shaky start to the season, but they have looked mostly tentative in attack as Juande Ramos worked to shore up a mistake-prone defense. Obviously, his project worked, because Real have conceded in all of two games since he took over – 2 to Barcelona and 1 to Osasuna – and have kept eight clean sheets in ten games under the new manager. Today it appeared that he finally felt comfortable enough with the defense to unleash the offense, and a four goal onslaught was the result. Yes, it was only against Sporting Gijon, but the way they played today very few would have been able to hang with them.
They have a tricky few games coming up, with Betis coming to town next week followed by Liverpool in Champions League play, but after facing Espanyol and Atletico Madrid in league play (and wrapping up that pesky Merseyside match-up), they have a fairly easy road to hoe: Athletic Bilbao, Almeria, Malaga, Valladolid, Recreativo, and Getafe all in a row. Plus whatever Champions League action they can earn for themselves. There are still plenty of opportunities for them to slip up in those games, but if they can stay in contact with Barça, they can at least make it interesting toward the end of the season. Do I really think they can catch up with them? Nah, probably not. Barcelona is too talented and, most importantly, too well coached to stumble as much as would be necessary. But it would be nice for them to at least have to think about it and know that SOMEONE was waiting in the wings if they should slip. With Sevilla 9 points behind Real and 19 behind Barça, Madrid is the only club that could conceivably keep pace with them and really challenge for the title. Whether or not that happens, they will have at least redeemed their season and made a statement about what to expect next year. Juande Ramos may or may not be around to steer them that far, but he has already done his job in stabilizing the team for a future run at the title. Good enough for me.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: gago, higuain, huntelaar, juande ramos, lafuente, lassana diarra, marcelo, primera liga, raul, real madrid, scores, sergio ramos, sporting gijon | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on January 14, 2009
Mallorca 0-3 Real Madrid
- 0-1 Robben, 3′
- 0-2 Raul, 17′
- 0-3 Sergio Ramos, 66′
It was only Mallorca, a slumping team that was missing a few key players due to suspensions. Their injury list is still replete with all-star caliber players (as if that meant anything in a European football context – bear with me). And they still sit woefully behind Barça in La Liga standings.
Yet even with all that, there has been a certain transformation of the squad since Juande Ramos took over. Other than that stinging loss to their Catalan rivals at the Camp Nou, Real Madrid has not lost a game under the new coach and, what’s more, they haven’t even conceded a goal, beating Zenit 3-0 in Champions League, Valencia 1-0, and Mallorca 3-0. That is quite a statistic from a team that had looked abysmal in defense under Schuster. It helps that players like Pepe and Cannavaro are starting to come back from injury, but that is far from the whole story. The team as a whole just looked more composed in the new system, holding their lines better and playing better positional defense than any we had seen previously in the season. Bringing in Lassana Diarra has helped considerably, and so has his partnership with Gago in central midfield, effectively shielding a back line that has looked susceptible this year. Oh, and Iker Casillas looks superhuman again. One of the Real Madrid bloggers made the point that Schuster had to go if for no other reason than because the porous defense was causing Casillas to slip from his best-in-the-world form. With Ramos at the helm, he is once again San Iker, making world-class saves routinely and maintaining all those clean sheets Real has accumulated.
With the three consecutive wins, and the 3-all Valencia-Villarreal draw, Real Madrid now magically sits in second place, ahead of Sevilla on goal differential and eight points adrift of league leaders Barcelona. With reinforcements coming in the form of new signings and players returning from injuries, it’s hard to believe they won’t continue to pour it on. The question I have is how long will the honeymoon last? It’s like with a new pitcher in baseball – at some point, the other teams are going to catch up with what you’re doing and devise a way to deal with the onslaught. That isn’t quite as true when you can dish out ever increasing amounts of money to improve your team, but the other well equipped teams will eventually pick them apart and at least slow them down, and then we will see how Ramos counters.
In the meantime, Raul just keeps creeping up on Di Stefano…
Highlights, set to some absurd background music:
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, bernd schuster, cannavaro, di stefano, gago, highlights, iker casillas, juande ramos, lassana diarra, mallorca, pepe, primera liga, raul, real madrid, robben, scores, sergio ramos, sevilla, valencia, villarreal | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on December 27, 2008
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…
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.
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.
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!
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?
Posted in nfl, soccer | Tagged: ac milan, ambrosini, arsenal, aston villa, barcelona, bears, broncos, buccaneers, catania, chargers, chelsea, cowboys, david beckham, david silva, dolphins, eagles, epl, fiorentina, genoa, huntelaar, inter, jose mourinho, juande ramos, juventus, kaka, lassana diarra, lazio, liverpool, manchester united, napoli, new york giants, nfl, nfl playoffs, patriots, pirlo, primera liga, real madrid, ronaldinho, serie a, sevilla, valencia, vikings | 1 Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on December 14, 2008
Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid
- 1-0 Eto’o, 83′
- 2-0 Messi, 90′
After watching this game, I have decided to never again give any grief to Yankees fans. Sports are not nearly as politicized in the U.S. as they are in Europe – I can’t imagine ANY game in the States having the same tension or potential meaning as this one did – but people often like or dislike teams for reasons other than anything having to do with their geography or personnel. I root against most teams from Texas because I believe the state should, indeed, be messed with, while my dad hates all things Boston because of the city’s history of racist treatment of its players (and, I suspect, because he’s a Lakers fan with a natural beef with the Celtics). The Yankees are the easiest to hate because of how incredibly high their payroll is, especially compared to smaller market teams, and it seems vastly unfair.
European football has a similar wealth disparity between teams, but the leagues don’t even pretend to regulate it so it’s less of an issue. What often matters more is what the teams stand for socially, politically, economically, perhaps none more so than in the match-up between Barça and Real Madrid. And while every bit of my conscience and political judgment compels me to root for Barcelona – or anyone besides Real Madrid, really – I still end up rooting for Los Blancos. I’ve given up trying to explain it. After watching the organization eat itself from the inside out, I’ve been somewhat turned off and have started to shift allegiances, willing myself to convert to the Blaugrana. But after this game, I realized I just can’t do it. I am stuck liking this team and will try to quit beating myself up about it. Because sometimes you just like a team with no good explanation, and that’s all there is to it. Yankees fans are no better or worse than me for rooting for an obnoxiously stacked roster and royally cocky management. Those things are just accidents and not the basis for moral judgment. I still choose to hate the team, but I will refrain from dissing its fans. And here ends my mea culpa.
The game itself was an embattled one rife with intensity from beginning to end. From the opening touch to Canna’s last-ditch attempt to prevent the second goal, both teams gave everything they had and it was refreshing to see. In an age of jaded, overpaid players, here was a contest that really mattered to all involved, and it showed in their committed play.
Real Madrid played their hearts out, as was evident in their mud-caked uniforms, and they came painfully close to a 0-0 draw, which would have been as good as a win for a struggling Madrid team. Instead, it was a case of too much water eventually breaking through the dam. Real played better defense than I have seen them play all season long, holding a surging Barça side scoreless for upwards of 80 minutes, a moral victory in and of itself. Casillas saved their butts on numerous occasions, none bigger than the save on Eto’o’s penalty, and Madrid went into the locker room knowing they had had the best chance of the first half on a brilliant volley by Sneijder. Drenthe should have scored in a one-on-one encounter with Valdes, and there were a couple other chances left hanging. Barcelona utterly dominated possession in both halves, but Madrid defended with a fury, attempting to kick Messi into submission and playing wonderfully as a team. Sergio Ramos was started at left back in what turned out to be a great tactical move. He did his best, with lots of help, to keep track of Messi, and the team took turns chopping him down. The ref eventually started pulling the yellow card on it and it slowed down, but it had the desired effect early on. Yaya stormed forward a few times in the first half, as did Abidal, with Alves, surprisingly enough, being quite defensive-minded and making a number of key tackles. While it was a good half for Real, holding Barça scoreless, it felt more like they had survived than anything else.
Like the well-coached team they are, Barcelona remained patient and effective all game long, knowing it would pay off in the end. Real continued the good defensive effort, but it just wasn’t enough. When Busquets was brought on for Gudjohnsen, Barça immediately increased their upper hand as the sub was awarded a penalty after being brought down by Salgado in the box. When Eto’o stepped up to take it, you could feel hearts sink across the capital. And then the amazing happened. Iker saved it. Not just saved it – he blocked it out of bounds so there was no chance for a put-back. It was in-fucking-credible, and it was then that I knew I could not convert my allegiances so easily. I raised my hands in triumph and got set for what was sure to be a slog the rest of the way. From there it only got better as Iker made an insane double save against Eto’o and then Messi to keep the clean sheet. And for a while it seemed like we might have a chance at getting something from this game.
It was not to be, though, as shortly thereafter Barça broke the deadlock on a corner that Puyol won in the air and headed to Eto’o, who calmly slotted it home. It was pandemonium in the Camp Nou. I was 100% in Real’s corner by this point, but I couldn’t help feeling good for all of Barça’s players, for whom it was clearly the most important goal of the season. After that, the resistance was broken and Barça got their second a few minutes later on a lightning quick counterattack that saw Henry set up Messi for the chip over Casillas. Iker could not have prevented either goal and was visibly devastated in the aftermath.
Despite the result, the Real players should be proud of their effort. They played possibly their best game as a TEAM this year, something that speaks highly of Juande Ramos in his early days with the club. I can’t imagine Schuster eliciting this kind of performance from the team, so Ramos should be applauded for his team’s preparation. Literally everyone gave all they had in the defensive stand: Ramos played valiantly against Messi; Salgado did his utmost tactically to stay with Henry and protect the box; the midfield and forwards tracked back with abandon to help out; Cannavaro stuck his nose out there every time, sustaining a knock against the goalpost trying to prevent the final goal; and Metzelder had his most impressive game since joining the side. It was a well orchestrated effort that showed what they were made of, which was much more than I previously suspected. Even with all the injuries, they gritted their teeth and made a game of it till the final whistle. As a newly minted bandwagoner, I couldn’t ask for more.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, busquets, cannavaro, dani alves, drenthe, el clasico, eto'o, gudjohnsen, highlights, iker casillas, juande ramos, messi, metzelder, michel salgado, primera liga, puyol, real madrid, scores, sergio ramos, thierry henry, victor valdes, yaya toure | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on December 10, 2008
- 1-0 Raul, 25′
- 2-0 Robben, 50′
- 3-0 Raul, 57′
So Schuster was finally sacked and – wait for it – Juande Ramos, fresh off his firing from Tottenham, was hired as his replacement. Word is that the Porn Star knew Real were in talks with Ramos, which may explain his volatile behavior of late. On second thought, he’s always been good for some off the wall comments, so it was all in character after all.
All that matters for the team now, though, is that they got a win under the new coach, and a convincing one at that. Sure, they were just playing Zenit in a game with no real consequences, but that is exactly the kind of scenario that found Madrid lacking so many times already this year. It wasn’t a flawless victory, but neither was it as nervy as many of their other wins have been.
To start, I liked the lineup Ramos fielded, considering all the injury problems: Dudek; Salgado, Ramos, Cannavaro, Marcelo; Gago, Guti, Robben, Van der Vaart; Raul, Higuain. Getting Robben back made all the difference in the world, as he showed his ability to spark the offense and facilitate the play going forward. All three goals were a result of the interplay between Robben and Raul, who became the Champions League all-time leading scorer with 64 goals. The first was due to a mistake by the Zenit goalie, who didn’t properly handle a cross by Robben and left it for Raul to clean it up by tapping it past him and into the goal. Raul returned the favor by feeding Robben for a beautiful chip shot on the second. And Raul topped even that by nonchalantly chipping the keeper with his left foot off yet another ball from Robben. The first was fortuitous, but the last two were things of beauty and showed how much Real have missed having a winger of Robben’s quality. Now if he could only stay healthy…
Juve drew 0-0 with BATE, so they finish top of the group on goal differential. All the groups are so stacked with quality teams in both first and second place that it should make little difference going into the knock-out stages.
It was an important win for Los Blancos under the new coach, especially going into the match-up with Barcelona this weekend. As Schuster so bluntly acknowledged, they are clear underdogs, but with Real you never know. It’s not going to turn their sputtering season around immediately, but it could be the start of better things. Still, I’m not holding my breath.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: bernd schuster, champions league, juande ramos, raul, real madrid, robben, scores, zenit st. petersburg | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 2, 2008
Tottenham Hotspur secured points in their third consecutive game with Harry Redknapp at the helm today, and against formerly unbeaten Liverpool, no less. After beating Bolton in Redknapp’s first managerial appearance and coming from behind incredibly against Arsenal (down two goals with four minutes to play), Spurs scored another late goal against Liverpool to hand the team its first defeat of the season and help Chelsea leapfrog them on goal differential. Roman Pavlyuchenko’s late goal got Tottenham out of last place and up to illustrious 18th position in the table, still tied for second worst point total with Newcastle (9) and only one ahead of Bolton.
I guess all they really needed was a shake-up in their mental approach to the game, because I highly doubt Redknapp has made any significant strategical moves so quickly. The Juande Ramos experiment failed miserably, so anything would’ve been a step up. This – however meager – is a “one small step for man” moment for the team. Maybe they can avoid relegation yet.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: chelsea, epl, harry redknapp, juande ramos, liverpool, roman pavlyuchenko, tottenham | Leave a Comment »