All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘manchester city’

Wheat, Here; Chaff, There

Posted by hiphopmama on September 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Random Week 1 Predictions

Posted by hiphopmama on August 19, 2009

In a very limited number of matches, there have already been quite a few surprises and the question now becomes whether or not particular teams are as good/bad as they looked in their earliest outings. These are my gut feelings as to which teams are pretenders and contenders at this most preliminary of stages.

  • Manchester United are finally going to fall off their championship pace, but not by as much as many think (or as I would like). I know they’ve looked pretty mediocre in their first two matches, but they are a historically slow-starting team and Sir Alex is a strong enough coach that I’m sure they will eventually settle in and start rolling off games. If nothing else, Rooney will at some point hit a groove and score something like 30 goals in 4 matches to earn them a few points. Will it be enough to keep them at the top of the table? No, but they’ll do better than they should based purely on quality of management.
  • Manchester City will both exceed and fall short of people’s expectations. Now a lot of this depends on whose expectations we’re talking about, but the point is true nonetheless. They will exceed expectations because haters and hypocritically bitter opponents (see Chelsea fans’ “money isn’t everything” banter) are already writing them off as impostors masquerading as the real deal and are predicting middling returns on their investments. While I believe their weaknesses at the back will eventually be their undoing – and while I would love to see them flounder in general – I find it hard to believe that the assembled group of superstars won’t at least mildly improve their fortunes over last year, when they finished 10th. That said, I don’t see them making any drastic jumps in the table, and they will probably be lucky to qualify for a European spot at all. Having splashed out close to £100 million in the summer transfer market, mere qualification will inevitably not satisfy the owners and some supporters, who will have their own ideas about how the money might have been better spent. If a top four spot is in their future, it’s a long-term plan at this point.
  • Last season’s upstarts will be under pressure even if they produce similar results. I expect both Martin O’Neill and David Moyes to be on the hot seat at some point this year, mostly because they got their teams to perform so admirably last year. Everton and Aston Villa secured their positions as the best non-Big Four teams in 2008-’09, but this will be more of a curse than a gift in ’09-’10 as both will be expected to improve upon last year’s performances despite the improbability of this task. Fair? No, not particularly, but I see it on the horizon nonetheless.
  • Tottenham will be all up in the mix. No one doubts that Harry Redknapp produced magic when he took over for Spurs last season, but I fully expect him to continue the upward movement at the club and get the most out of a typically underperforming yet talented squad. Bringing both Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe back into the fold will bolster the team, as will the addition (again) of Peter Crouch. They’re currently sitting at the top of the Premiership table, and while that certainly won’t lost, don’t be surprised to see them hovering around the danger zone till late in the season.
  • Arsenal will surprise people with the consistency of their challenge. Yes they’re still young and still a bit iffy at the back, but they are no joke and this year Wenger’s faith in his youngsters will finally start to pay off. In just two games, we’ve already seen improvement from players like Denilson and Song, neither of whom was dubbed as having much potential to rejuvenate the squad last season. Now, with another season under their belts and that much more savvy to draw on – not  to mention with a healthy Fabregas and Arshavin for the full season – they will take their game to the next level. Look for them to be challenging for the title till the bitter end.
  • Chelsea are indeed that good and will likely win it all this year. They finished not far off the pace last season, and that was after a horrendous run under Luiz Felipe Scolari. Now, with a squad almost entirely carried over from last year’s, further time to gel, and (hopefully) some consistency in coaching, they are poised to reclaim the title and bring it back to London. Liverpool only just missed a chance to win the Premiership last season and would have been the obvious choice to hoist it this year had they not last their midfield maestro Xabi Alonso. Without him pulling the strings in the center of the park and making things go, I just don’t see them mounting the same kind of challenge. Chelsea, on the other hand, have essentially the same team they had last season with the potentially key addition of Yuri Zhirkov to bolster an already strong left side that includes Ashley Cole, Florent Malouda, and Joe Cole. Couple that with arguably the strongest central defensive pairing in the league in John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, as well as a playmaker with metronomic consistency in Frank Lampard and you have the recipe for a Premiership champion. I’m an Arsenal fan at heart, but I believe they’re a year and a defender away from true contention, so a Chelsea title would be the next best thing. Say it with me now: Anybody But United.

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Tightening at the Top of the Premier League

Posted by hiphopmama on March 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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Strange Week For Premier League’s Big Four

Posted by hiphopmama on November 23, 2008

Talk about bizarre. Aside from Arsenal, who lost horribly to Manchester City 3-0, all the big teams in the EPL finished the weekend in 0-0 draws. ManU drew away at Aston Villa; Liverpool went scoreless at home against Fulham; and Chelsea failed to get on the board at home against Newcastle. So between the big four teams this week, not a single goal was netted. 

There has been some talk about the level of competition in the Prem being generally higher this year and, miracle of miracles, that someone outside of the big four might sneak their way into a Champions League spot. Granted, there have been some nice surprises among the “lesser” teams and the bigs have looked distinctly beatable, at least at times. Arsenal in particular look to be on the verge of a bid for the UEFA Cup next year, and ManU have had a hard time getting results against the top teams. 

Despite all this, any discussion of supposed parity in European football makes me laugh. I know no one expects teams like West Brom and Wigan to be able to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool, but the notion that the Grand Canyon-sized gap between the top and the bottom of the league might possibly have closed by an inch or two is pretty comical. Let me get this straight. 75% or more of the top of the table is likely to shake out according to form (AKA dollars), but the possible inclusion of Aston Villa or even – gasp – Hull City is supposed to get me excited? I agree that Hull City’s story is amazing, and I’m definitely pulling for them to upset some people come season’s end, but I don’t really see that going anywhere. All the biggies will just retool, probably siphoning off some of the new up-and-comers’ talent, and we’ll be back to square one next year. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for some more competition in the Premier League. It’s just that, coming from a background of American sports which have at least a semblance of a salary cap, the occasional contention by a dark horse team just doesn’t inspire me. The U.S. hasn’t figured out many curbs to capitalism’s excesses, but sports is one area where we’re light years ahead of Europe. It’s not categorically better or worse, just much more even across the board. From what I can understand from my limited experience, that’s not even really the goal in Europe. You have these huge teams, like Chelsea and Real Madrid and Inter Milan, and they drive much of the action. Smaller teams chafe at them when they steal their talent away with a big paycheck, but I don’t sense much of a blowback from anyone with a serious interest in changing the system. Or to put it more directly, I cannot imagine a scenario in which one of those big teams was relegated.

And that aspect of the European game may be a crucial part of the difference. As the analysts are so fond of noting, on any given week, even the lowliest team in the NFL has a chance to knock off a title contender. Who would have thought at the beginning of this season that Atlanta would be 7-4 while Jacksonville sits at 4-7? Injuries play a huge role in leveling the playing field in the NFL, but a strict salary cap certainly deserves some credit as well. On the flip side, there are no special penalties for having a poor season, besides the general ill will of fans and a decrease in profits. In Europe, however, the consequences are harsh, with relegation to a lower league bestowed upon the lowest three finishers. I can’t fathom how big name teams like the Giants and the Patriots would handle the possibility of relegation in an off year, and I can only imagine they would be equally harried in their efforts to do whatever possible to avoid it. 

That doesn’t capture the whole situation, because even in a desperate attempt to stay in the top flight, NFL teams would have to do so within a salary cap. But with a relegation system in place, the wealthier organizations would have a big interest in lobbying the league to loosen up the monetary restrictions. 

Okay, that was a long aside on the monied interests in European sports, but there it is. Back to the games. The two I saw were much more entertaining than their goalless scorelines suggest. Chelsea blanketed Newcastle in possession, but the Magpies dug in their heels and held on for dear life, only just making it out by the skin of their teeth and a gracious full time whistle. Lampard saw a couple of good opportunities go wayward and Shay Given made a great save or two, but overall Newcastle showed great grit in keeping Chelsea off the scoreboard. Manchester United were similarly frustrated by a surging Villa team coming off an emotional 2-0 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates last week. Aston Villa posed a little more of a threat going forward than Newcastle did, but they also sat back and dared ManU to get one past them. At one point near the end, forward Gabriel Agbonlahor made a game-saving clearance in the box, indicating just how many Villa players were staying back to defend. I enjoyed this one since I hated ManU and Cristiano Ronaldo in particular. He was full of overblown histrionics in this game, rolling around on the ground and grimacing in pain as if he had lost a limb, only to get up and walk off under his own power all the while complaining to the referee. When he eventually went off with a slight but noticeable limp, I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t all for effect, as most things are with him. Whenever I watch him, he seems to be playing as if for a highlight reel in his head, picturing how this is going to look on YouTube the next morning. Hence all the useless stepovers and backheels that are entirely unnecessary and unhelpful to his team. When he is in form, he is an absolute joy to watch as he does things with the ball at his feet that few others can, and even a hater like myself can appreciate his talent. But that doesn’t detract from what a pissy little pretty boy he is. I’m sure he spends more on primping and pampering than any girl I know, including those meticulously waxed eyebrows and that perfectly gelled hair. Am I far off the mark in seeing him as Ricky Martin in cleats?

As for the others, I can only tell you what I’ve read. For Liverpool, Fernando Torres’ return could not offset the loss of Steven Gerrard to a groin injury, and the defensive minded Fulham team stubbornly denied them all game. Benitez’s decision to rest Xabi Alonso was a little surprising given the absence of Torres, although he was brought on in the second half, but it was too little too late. And then there was Arsenal. I’d prefer not to talk about it, but if I have to, I guess I’ll just say that the depleted line-up and lack of any momentum whatsoever really caught them up. They were without Gallas after the former captain was stripped of the armband, and in addition they were missing Fabregas, Walcott, Adebayor, and Toure. Confusion at the back resulted in the first goal by Stephen Ireland, and Robinho chipped one over Almunia for the second. Finally, in the game’s dying minutes, Daniel Sturridge nailed the penalty after a poor challenge by Djourou in the box. Arsenal now find themselves out of the top four, just behind Aston Villa and only a point ahead of Hull City. Frankly, I’m surprised it has taken this long, but I don’t see things getting better any time soon. It seems everyone at the team is under fire at the moment, so it will take a while for things to settle back down. A good run of play certainly couldn’t hurt that process, though.

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Man City 2 – 3 Liverpool

Posted by hiphopmama on October 6, 2008

I don’t really give a shit about either of these teams, except that they both mildly irritate me, so it was really a no-win. On the one hand, I was kinda pulling for Man City as the new kid on the block against the established big guns, but on the other hand, Robinho is a whiny little bitch and Man City is way overestimating themselves in believing they can challenge the top teams right now. So you’ve signed a couple overpriced players. That’s not nearly enough to even put you in the ballpark with teams like Chelsea and Man Utd, who have been vastly overpaying players for years and have accumulated quite a few primadonnas. 

Oh yeah, the game. Stephen Ireland put City ahead in the 19th minute after the ball was rather hopelessly knocked around the box a few times. Javier Garrido then put in a sweet free kick in the 41st, and Man City went into halftime with a 2-0 lead. The second half belonged to Liverpool. Man City seemed to be on their heels the whole time, except for a couple opportunities that passed them by. Robinho in particular had a perfect goal scoring set-up, but he sent it over the bar. And he was offside anyway. The Reds finally struck back in the 56th minute, when Steven Gerrard started the attack with a through ball to Arbeloa, who put his cross in prime striking territory for Fernando Torres. It should also be noted that Robinho was too lazy to defend Arbeloa, helping provide the space for the cross. Pablo Zabaleta was sent off ten minutes later for a reckless challenge on Xabi Alonso, and Liverpool seized the advantage, with Torres scoring his second on a header from Gerrard’s corner kick. City tried mightily to hang on for the tie, but when Kuyt smashed home a Torres shot deflection in stoppage time it seemed inevitable. Liverpool also finished the game with ten men after Skrtel went off with an unclear injury that appeared to have been pretty severe, judging by his reaction. 

Pitiful performance by Manchester City, and another thrilling come from behind victory for Liverpool, who stayed tied with Chelsea at 17 points. They’re currently in second place behind Chelsea on goal differential.

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Some Soccer Notes

Posted by hiphopmama on September 15, 2008

What a debut for Robinho! Except that Man City lost, 1-3, to the clearly superior (if momentarily less wealthy) Chelsea. After a questionable foul call on Carvalho just outside the box, Robinho stepped up and blazed in a direct kick that took a deflection and sailed past Cech. Unfortunately for City, Carvalho scored the equalizer just three minutes later, and Chelsea handled it from there, with a nifty goal from Lampard in the 53rd minute and a hard-earned touch home from Anelka off a Joe Cole pass. It went pretty much according to plan for Chelsea, except that John Terry was shown a red card for reaching out to stop Jo in what referee Mark Halsey dubbed “serious foul play.” It was clearly a card, but it looked more like a yellow to me. Terry will now miss three games, including next Sunday’s match against Man U.

And dammit, can AC Milan get their act together? Kaka’s not in shape yet and maybe they’re still incorporating all the new recruits, but they can’t do better than a 2-0 loss to Genoa with Kaka, Ronaldinho, and Shevchenko up front? Not to mention the interminable list of other big names that fill their roster. Tough times for Carlo Ancelotti, for sure.

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Inauspicious Beginnings For Soccer’s Biggies

Posted by hiphopmama on September 4, 2008

How can it be that Real Madrid, Barcelona, and AC Milan all lost their opening matches? This after Barcelona and Milan retooled significantly during the off-season. Seriously, how many players did AC Milan poach from other big name teams this summer? The list is ridiculous: Ronaldinho, Zambrotta, Shevchenko, Flamini, and now Senderos, to name a few. For me, the Flamini pick-up will be the most meaningful non-Ronaldinho acquisition. He’s a solid player who has always seemed to come up big at the right times for Arsenal in recent years, and I expect more of the same in Milan. How Shevchenko fares in his return is a complete mystery to me. It seems doubtful he could ever reclaim his pre-Chelsea status, especially with Ronaldinho and Kaka as the team’s centerpieces, but maybe he could actually be worth something back in Italy, which is more than you could say for his stint in England. 

At least all is right with the world in the EPL. It’s so American of me, but these elite teams stealing, I mean ACQUIRING, smaller market teams’ players with impunity still gets under my skin. It’s great if you’re a Yankees (or Chelsea or Man U) fan, but it sucks for everyone else. And dammit, I liked Berbatov! Why did he have to go to Manchester fucking United?? My husband has a huge man crush on him. He will be so crushed.

Also, sorry if I’m not buying into Robinho and Man City’s plan to become “the world’s biggest club,” but I just don’t see it. It should make for some interesting matches in the Premier League, but I don’t see much coming of it beyond that. I’ll still be pulling for them against their crosstown rivals, though.

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