All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘lassana diarra’

Merengues Gain Ground…Still 10 Back

Posted by hiphopmama on February 15, 2009

raul-record

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.

Highlights:

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Real Reborn

Posted by hiphopmama on January 14, 2009

real-madrid-mallorca1

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:

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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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