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 April 20, 2009
Getafe 0-1 Barcelona
0-1 Messi, 19′
Recreativo Huelva 0-1 Real Madrid
0-1 Marcelo, 49′
Try as they might, Real can’t quite get over that six-point hump that separates them from class of the league Barcelona. That 1-1 draw with Atletico a few weeks back put a halt on their crawl-back on Barça’s tail, and since then they’ve been stuck six points back. Even worse, Barça seem to have refound their form and, while not exactly blitzing opponents like they did earlier in the season, they are winning consistently with little worry.
Both teams held ground this week by identical scorelines, 0-1 on the road to bottom-dwellers on the La Liga table. Barça were on the front foot the whole first half but only came away with one goal courtesy of Lionel Messi’s prodding run in the box on 19 minutes. Only Getafe’s new it-boy goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic kept them from pulling further ahead. A few failed efforts – and one incorrectly disallowed goal – later, Barcelona left Madrid with another three points.
Real Madrid had to slog it out a while longer to get their one-goal cushion as they looked mostly listless in the first half but came out firing in the second. Marcelo broke the deadlock on a lovely through ball from Gago and gave Los Blancos all they needed to stay within that magic six points of Barça. Robben created his typical slew of chances and, also typically, ruined most of them by being selfish and spurning the obvious pass. All in a day’s work for the Dutchman, who saw countryman Wesley Sneijder go out with a serious-looking injury. The latest word is that he will miss a month with a torn muscle in his hamstring, which means he will likely miss the rest of the season. Because Real haven’t already lost enough players to injury.
It continues to look like Barcelona will refuse to lose, no matter how much pressure Real put on them. The defending champs will obviously keep the burner on full boil to push them to the bitter end, as well they should, but I really don’t see Barça slipping enough to make it truly interesting. In the end, I could envision Real pulling to within 3-5 points, but Barça have too much of a mental and numerical edge to fade at this point. And congrats to them for it, because they have been the best coached and prettiest playing football club in the world this year, which is much more than you could say for Real Madrid. If Barça can continue their dominance in European play, they will likely be challenging for the three titles we all expect them to win. Take notes, Real – this is what a cohesive team looks like.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, gago, marcelo, messi, primera liga, real madrid, wesley sneijder | 1 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 1, 2009
It’s a brand new year, which means it is also officially mercato time. Now is the hour for ridiculous and absurd speculation to spill forth from every news source, reputable or not, about the never-ending rumors concerning players’ futures with their clubs. This is the first January I’ve really paid attention to it, so I’m hella excited for what will transpire. Here are a few of my hopes, in more or less vaguery:
- Mikel Arteta to Arsenal. Good ol’ Arseblogger has been calling for this one, and I am all in favor. I have been a fan of the Everton midfielder since I saw him drill one of the goals of the season in ’05-’06, and with Fabregas out for essentially the rest of the year, he would be a wonderful candidate to fill in for him. He is a seasoned player with plenty of Premier League experience who is great on free kicks. Unlike so many in the Arsenal squad, he would be ready to make an immediate impact, and he seems well suited to the Wenger style of play. Please make this happen, guys.
- Some kind of defensive help at Real Madrid. They’ve already inked Diarra (the second) and Huntelaar, but neither will directly solve the defensive woes that have proven so costly this season. To be fair, they played remarkably well in their match-up with Barcelona, holding them scoreless for 80+ minutes with a limited squad, but Canna and Salgado are old, Pepe is iffy, Marcelo can’t be bothered to defend, and Heinze is shit. That leaves the always stellar Sergio Ramos and a rejuvenated Metzelder as the only working cogs on the Madrid back line, which doesn’t bode well entering the second half of the season. I would also like to see a legitimate goal-scoring partner for Higuain up front, but I believe the offense will sort itself out if the defense can do its job at even a marginally functional level. It hasn’t been doing that so far, and you’ve seen the results.
- Anyone non-primadonna under 30 for AC Milan. This squad is ridiculously stacked with big names that cannot or will not get the job done. Ronaldinho is an enormously talented player, but the money they shelled out for him could have been better spent elsewhere, as this season has made clear. What’s done is done, but they need to avoid sinking money into hopeless products that can’t deliver on their promise. Names like Shevchenko and Emerson sound nice, but they are well past their prime and far from productive with this team. Not that anyone wants them, but they, along with others like Dida, should be off-loaded to free up room (and money) for some younger players with less notoriety who might be persuaded to play within the team concept to achieve better results. With Kaka, Dinho, Pirlo, etc., there’s no reason some talented youngsters couldn’t shore up the side.
- A new mentality for Chelsea. While thinking about this little wish list, I was easily able to come up with desirables for the other teams I root for, but I got stuck at Chelsea. There is clearly something amiss lately, despite the fact that they’re just 3 points back of league leaders Liverpool, but it’s not because of any major holes in the team. Essien’s injury has been the most costly, but Mikel has been a wonder as his replacement. Carvalho’s absence was painful as well, and if Scolari would have played Ivanovic in his stead more than Alex, the damage might have been more limited. Anyway, Ricky’s already making his way back into the lineup, so that’s a non-issue. (If Terry can keep his ass on the pitch, that is.) With a healthy Drogba and a surging Anelka, the strike partnership has all the makings of greatness, although recent (and not-so-recent) grumblings suggest the Ivorian may be on his way out. Bosingwa has been a revelation at right back, emerging as one of the team’s most consistent performers, and with Lampard leading the midfield there aren’t many gaps to fill. I suppose you could wish for better than Malouda on the left and perhaps find someone better to partner Anelka up front – especially if Drogba continues the histrionics – but the team’s biggest deficiency is psychological. It’s cliche at this point, but some of the old Mourinho toughness needs to come back. They were playing pretty football at the beginning of the season, building up an insane goal differential, but teams have adjusted and now they can’t pull out close victories either at home or on the road. Terry’s red card exploits surely cost them, but it’s hard to imagine them conceding the kind of painful late goal that hurt them against Fulham in years past. I’m not smart enough to know how something like this gets fixed, but if you’re being paid the big bucks to steer the ship, you better be able to figure something out, and fast. Oh, and stop playing Deco so damn much. Almost everyone else can see that he’s worthless out there. Joe Cole has no business fighting for playing time with him. Barça didn’t want him, and neither should you after this display.
Like I said, not much in the way of specifics there aside from Arteta, but that’s all I’ve got. For serious transfer rumors, I’m sure you’re consulting a much more reputable source anyway. However you slice it, Arsenal and Real Madrid are two of the big name clubs that desperately need some reinforcements and I hope they get them. Especially the Gunners, because they are a treat to watch when firing on all cylinders, and injuries have absolutely ravaged them this season. The same is true for Madrid, but I feel less sympathy over their plight seeing as they’ve won the last two Primera Liga titles and are generally a detestable bunch. Why I continue to root for them, I have no idea, but at this point it is what it is. Best of luck to all parties in the transfer market and the rest of the season.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: ac milan, anelka, arsenal, bosingwa, cannavaro, carvalho, chelsea, deco, diarra, dida, drogba, emerson, epl, fabregas, heinze, higuain, huntelaar, joe cole, john terry, jose mourinho, kaka, malouda, marcelo, metzelder, michel salgado, mikel, mikel arteta, pirlo, primera liga, real madrid, ronaldinho, sergio ramos, serie a, shevchenko | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 18, 2008
Eleven rounds deep, this year’s Primera Liga is starting to take on a definite form, with a few things becoming clear about the top teams. There is a pretty clear division between the top five teams and the rest, although the league is competitive top to bottom as usual. Here are some thoughts on the season so far, with a focus on the biggies.
- No one is touching Barcelona. They have a ridiculous goal differential of +28, with more goals scored than anyone else (36 – Real Madrid is closest but still trails by 8 goals with 28) and tied for fewest allowed (8 – with Sevilla, who have only scored 18 themselves). More importantly, they are playing just as well as those numbers indicate. They started a little sluggishly, drawing with Racing Santander and losing to Numancia in their opening matches in La Liga, but they haven’t slipped up since then, winning their next nine league games. Their only mediocre showing was a 1-1 draw against FC Basel in Champions League play, but this came after beating the team 5-0 in the home fixture. I don’t see any other team in Europe playing as well as Barça are doing right now, especially if you take consistency into account. Chelsea are playing good football with a similarly spectacular goal differential, also +28, but they have suffered more slip-ups than Barcelona, particularly in their 3-1 loss to Roma in Champions League and a 0-0 defeat to Championship side Burnley on penalties in the Carling Cup. Pep Guardiola has the team playing at a higher level than anything I’ve seen in recent years from them and probably better than anyone else on the planet right now.
- Valencia and Villarreal have yet to prove they have real staying power at the top. That might be unfair considering they both currently sit ahead of Real Madrid in the standings, but it still feels true. Both suffered disappointing outcomes this week, with Valencia losing to Sporting and Villarreal settling for a draw after giving up an injury time goal against Malaga. Villarreal are still the only unbeaten team in the Primera but have five draws to go with their eleven wins. Valencia have lost two consecutive home games but are doing better than just muddling through without Spanish international David SIlva playing up front alongside Villa. Villa is carrying the goal scoring weight disproportionately, as expected, and the team will have to prove they don’t need to rely exclusively on him as the rounds continue.
- Sevilla may be tied for third, but they are not easy on the eye. They have scored far fewer goals than anyone else in the top five (a mere 18) and seem content to scrape by. In their defense, they have been without important striking options, including last year’s Pichichi runner up Luis Fabiano and Kanoute. They have been playing better their last few games after a poor run of form that included losses to Malaga and Valladolid in league play, to Ponferradina in Copa Del Rey, and to Standard Liege in the UEFA Cup. They have a tough end to the month with home matches against Barcelona and Valencia, both of which will be important in gauging how they intend to go forward.
- And finally, Real ain’t got nothin’ on Barça. Whereas Madrid have been undergoing some soul searching regarding their current coach, Barcelona are reveling in the new level of intensity under their new steward. Real has been scoring at a decent clip, although nothing like Barcelona, but the truly troubling thing has been their weakness at the back, which has been repeatedly exposed. Gabi Heinze in particular has been suspect, as has Marcelo and even Cannavaro on occasion. They have had some serious injury woes which have only worsened with the news this week of Van Nistelrooy’s season ending knee surgery, but that doesn’t account for the poor defensive performances. Given the team’s propensity to spend, a significant pick-up or two in the January transfer window seems likely. Tevez has reportedly been in their sights, as has Mario Gomez, although one might wonder whether they aren’t more in need of a stronger defensive presence or even a winger to replace Señor Vidrio, who is once again out injured. Whatever the case, their moves will play a big role in deciding how their season ends up and seeing whether they can pull off the three-peat.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, cannavaro, carlos tevez, gabriel heinze, marcelo, mario gomez, primera liga, real madrid, sevilla, valencia, villarreal | Leave a Comment »
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
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.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: ac milan, apono, baha, borriello, duda, eliseu, esposito, gabriel heinze, guti, highlights, higuain, inter, julio cruz, kaka, lecce, malaga, marcelo, pato, primera liga, real madrid, ronaldinho, scores, sergio ramos, serie a, udinese, zanchetta | Leave a Comment »