All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘michael essien’

Champions League Finals Set

Posted by hiphopmama on May 8, 2009

fabregas manyoo
Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United (Agg. 1-4)
     0-1 Park, 8′
     0-2 Ronaldo, 11′
     0-3 Ronaldo, 61′
     1-3 Van Persie (pen), 76′

iniesta chelsea
Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (Agg: 1-1)
    
1-0 Essien, 9′
     1-1 Iniesta, 90′ 

Apologies to anyone in the world who actually reads my soccer updates. I’ve been too disillusioned by the results of the Champions League semifinals to bring myself to post about it. Plus, with the Lakers losing game one of their series with the Rockets, it made three straight days of disappointing results for me, and it was too much for me to get over and start writing right away. I’m not going to summarize these games. By this point, you all know what happened anyway. What I will do is give my opinion on all the contentious issues. So here goes. 

There was no controversy to the first game. Arsenal got beat, flat out, and it hurt. It really hurt. This was the Gunners’ last chance at a trophy this year, and while I didn’t really expect them to win it, I didn’t expect them to go out like that. The first goal was just pure misfortune, with Kieran Gibbs slipping and allowing Park to nick it past Almunia. The second was pure Ronaldo. And the third was pure Manyoo, Ronaldo supplied by Rooney. Arsenal got a concession goal from the penalty spot near the end, but this was a rout and, sad to say, a just result. Where is Thierry Henry when you need him?

Oh yeah, he plays for those Spanish guys now. And those Spanish guys were taking on my other London favorites, Chelsea, across town for the final spot in the title game in Rome. If I loved Chelsea as much as I loved Arsenal, this one would have brought me to tears. The Londoners seized the lead in the 9th minute on a miraculous shot by Michael Essien, watched as Barça was reduced to ten men, and then stood helpless as Andres fucking Iniesta equalized and put Barça ahead on away goals with a great strike from 20 yards at the dead end of extra time. You all saw it, there’s nothing left to say about it. It was an incredible finish to an exciting game. But Chelsea deserved at least ONE of those possible penalties to be called. I thought the Alves foul was inside the box and Drogba’s fall to the turf could have gone either way, but there’s no point running all those down because the game was Chelsea’s to put away and they failed to do so. A lot of credit has to be given to Victor Valdes, who has been much reviled by many Barça supporters for failing to be Iker Casillas. And for all he has been guilty of in occasional missteps and less than authoritative moves for the ball, he was stellar in this most crucial of games and kept Barcelona within a goal long enough to let them get that away goal that put them over the top and into the final. Hats off to him for his work.

So now the final is set and we have the match-up everyone predicted going in: Barcelona vs. Manchester United. Pep vs. Fergie. Messi vs. Ronaldo. And it’s easy for me to root for someone in this game. In some sense, this works out well for me in that, even though neither of my teams won in the semi’s, it now makes it easy for me to root for the right team, which is Barça by a long shot. I am so tired of Manyoo running rampant all over everything, and although I’m not the biggest Barça fan in the world (it’s hard to be when you pull for Real Madrid), I will have no trouble pulling for them when they head to Rome in three weeks’ time. Messi for Ballon d’Or 2009.

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Chelsea-Liverpool Goes the Distance

Posted by hiphopmama on April 14, 2009

Is it over yet?

Is it over yet?

 

Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool (Agg: 7-5)
     0-1 Aurelio, 19′
     0-2 Xabi Alonso (pen), 28′
     1-2 Drogba, 51′
     2-2 Alex, 57′
     3-2 Lampard, 76′
     3-3 Lucas, 81′
     3-4 Kuyt, 82′
     4-4 Lampard, 89′

That. Was. Ridiculous. Going in up 3-1 with a trifecta of away goals and Liverpool’s captain and offensive engine out injured, Chelsea must have felt pretty safe in their Champions League position. John Terry did have to sit out, having reached a suspension-worthy number of yellow cards, but Carvalho was available and both Alex and Ivanovic have been filling in nicely. All they really had to do was hold on. But in a complete turn-around from the typical pattern in this match-up, we saw another offensive explosion with eight goals and countless changes of momentum. 

The first half was all Liverpool as Chelsea looked tentative in giving up two early goals to give their opponents renewed hope. The Blues came out of the break a different team, though, and they were pressing forward from the start. Aside from a couple scary moments in the early going, when Cech looked suspect and Ivanovic had to clear one off the line with his head, Chelsea controlled play for the first 20+ minutes. They hit quick on the counterattack, and Anelka sent a low cross into the six-yard box. Drogba was there to meet it, but in the end it was deflected into the goal by Reina himself, who was visibly upset with himself for a long time afterward. If that one didn’t put it away, the next one surely did, or should have, when Alex absolutely DRILLED a free kick past Reina, scalding the back of the net. It looked to be set up for Lampard or Ballack, but Alex ran onto it and simply kicked the shit out of it, seemingly catching the Liverpool wall unprepared and off guard. And just in case the Chelsea faithful were in doubt, Lampard added another off a Drogba cross in the 76th minute.

6-3 aggregate with three away goals? Fifteen minutes remaining? Easy finish, right? Wrong. Liverpool kicked it into another gear out of nowhere, going for broke and being rewarded when Lucas’ long-range effort deflected off Essien and past Cech. Okay, 6-4 aggregate, still fine, right? Wrong again. Just one minute later, Liverpool scored again, just blitzing the Chelsea defense up the left with Kuyt heading home the cross from Riera. 6-5 now, and one more goal puts Liverpool into the semifinals. Well, shit. It was now officially “oops I crapped my pants” time. Luckily, the nervousness only lasted another seven minutes before Lampard put it well and truly out of reach with a shot that banged off both posts before going in. Liverpool still managed another scare, ruffling Cech and forcing Essien into a goal-saving header, but it was too little and (finally) too late. 

This is always a good match-up but usually of a very different ilk. Everyone was expecting some 0-0 or 1-1 type games, but we were instead treated to a 12-goal explosion that lasted until the very last minutes. It was exciting as all hell, especially to the disinterested observer (if there is such a thing with these teams), but it should never have come to that, at least from the Chelsea perspective. No matter, because now they’re through to the semi’s and set to face Barcelona – gulp – and their brigade of ass-kickers. They can’t feel overly confident about that one, but then again no one was picking them to oust Liverpool either. I suppose anything can happen, and after seeing this I’m both more and less confident about their chances against the Spanish giants. More, because they managed to snuff out a surging Liverpool side. Less, because it happened in such dramatic fashion when there was no need for it. You can bet that if they give Barcelona those kind of chances, the Catalans will gladly take them.

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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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Champions League Tuesday

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.

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