All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘nicklas bendtner’

Gunners Go Through

Posted by hiphopmama on August 26, 2009

eduardo pen
Arsenal 3-1 Celtic
(5-1 aggregate)
1-0 Eduardo (pen), 28′
2-0 Eboue, 53′
3-0 Arshavin, 74′
3-1 Donati, 90′

There was never really any doubt as to what the result of this one would be, but with Fabregas nursing a gimpy hammy and considerations for the Manchester United clash this weekend, Celtic got to take their best shot. Or at least they did until my favorite name in officialdom – Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez – saw fit to award a penalty to when Eduardo went down in the face of zero contact from Celtic keeper Artur Boruc. In live action, I thought it was an iffy decision, and the replay showed the keeper pulled away from the challenge at the last minute and probably failed to even touch the Arsenal player. But, as always, these things are hard to call, and from his angle Gonzalez thought he brought him down. So Eduardo stepped up, stroked the penalty home, and the outcome was all but guaranteed.

The final two goals were icing, and both were scored in fine team fashion. Eboue was the beneficiary of the first, when a Bendtner backheel found Diaby on the left wing to set up a lovely cross and finish. Twenty minutes later, substitute Andrei Arshavin got his first Champions League goal for Arsenal when he cleverly shepherded a ball in from Jack Wilshere, turned around the defender, and slotted it past the goalkeeper. Massimo Donati eventually netted Celtic’s consolation goal on a well-taken volley, but the failure to keep a clean sheet won’t trouble the Gunners much as they progress to the group stage of the UCL.

I can honestly say I feel slightly bad for Celtic fans, whose team was robbed of any real chance in this one by the early, and clearly inaccurate, penalty call. But the tie wasn’t lost on this one call alone, and if Arsenal hadn’t scored on the penalty in the 28th minute, they would certainly have done so at some later point because they were pouring on the pressure and Celtic rarely looked likely to score. Even Tony Mowbray admitted as much, stating, “You cannot deny that over two legs, Arsenal had more quality and deserved to go through.” As for Donati’s recommendation that UEFA hand down a two-match ban to Eduardo for diving, I think his hopes for that one are about as low as Celtic’s always were for getting past Arsenal in this one. Did he go down easily? Yep. Way too easily? Probably. But for all the egregious flopping that goes on all the time, I just don’t see it happening. Wenger made a good point here as well, noting that lingering psychological damage after his horrific injury last year may have contributed to his diving (in the innocent way) to avoid contact with Boruc. “I never asked in my life any guy to dive to win a penalty, but sometimes the players go down because there is no other way to escape the tackling of the keeper, sometimes they dive. I do not want a penalty which is not a penalty, but I do not go as far as to say Eduardo dived.” Even with all that, I’ll admit it was probably a dive, but whichever way it was called, the result was always going to be the same. And besides, it’s Eduardo, about whom I’ve never heard any grumblings of cheating before.

So that’s that, Arsenal are through, and the draw for the group stage is tomorrow. What are the chances the English teams are kept on such separate paths again this year?

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Gunners Win In Glasgow

Posted by hiphopmama on August 18, 2009

arsenal-celtic

Celtic 0-2 Arsenal
0-1 Gallas, 43′
0-2 Caldwell (0g), 71′

Two games, two wins. Top of the Prem table, in line for Champions League qualification. Yeah it’s early, and neither has much predictive value at this point, but I’ll take what I can get.

While both games witnessed some traditional Arsenal football, they both also featured some atypical goals, and this was especially true today against Celtic. Arsenal are certainly renowned for the flair with which they play and the manner in which they move the ball around the field, but grinding out victories has never been their strong suit. Yet in one of the most hostile environments in Europe, the Gunners walked out with a comfortable win and two crucial away goals in their pocket. And they did it in a rather fortuitous manner, scoring two goals on two deflections. The first came off a Fabregas free kick, which accidentally ricocheted off the back of William Gallas and past the outstretched arms of the keeper. The second resulted from a nice build-up by substitute Diaby and Gael Clichy, whose cross was deflected into the net by Celtic defender Gary Caldwell.

To be fair, Arsenal deserved the two-goal margin they got, dominating possession throughout and creating a multitude of chances besides the two that went in. Celtic did have a few nice opportunities, but they were mostly isolated incidents and the Arsenal defense always looked capable of handling the threat. Gallas, who looked to be on his way out around this time last year, has regained his form remarkably and looks to be a team stalwart at this point. He was partnered well by Vermaelen, who seems to be settling in as nicely as could have been hoped for. Sagna, Fabregas, and Denilson all played despite questionable injury status, and their inclusion surely helped stabilize the line-up by providing consistency from one game to the next. Bendtner was slightly anonymous for most of the night, but the rest of the front line covered the gaps, especially Arshavin in his roaming, creative role. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Alex Song, whose steadiness in the holding midfield role laid the foundation for the team’s forward movement by helping secure the back line. He caught a lot of flack last season from fans, myself included, who felt the team lacked both experience and steel in the center of midfield, but he has really stepped up to the plate this season and proved us all wrong. In my own defense, the team was in need of a wily veteran in the middle of the park last year, and could probably still do with another player in that area, but Song is developing right on pace and fulfilling that role better than I could have imagined. Kudos to him, and may he keep it up all this season and the next.

With the 2-0 victory and two away goals, Arsenal have set themselves up for a relatively straightforward home leg of this tie and are clear favorites to advance. With the extra money that a Champions League spot will ensure, I have some hopes, however mild, that these funds may be reinvested in the squad. With Arsene Wenger, though, and given the stellar start to the season he has enjoyed, I don’t put much stock in them. There’s still a little time left before the transfer window closes, and even just one addition could be key in the team’s push for silverware this year. With both Liverpool and ManU having lost important players, the time could be ripe for Arsenal to sneak in and steal one. Fingers crossed on my end.

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Happy Birthday To Me

Posted by hiphopmama on August 15, 2009

arsenal-evertonEverton 1-6 Arsenal
0-1 Denilson, 26′
0-2 Vermaelen, 37′
0-3 Gallas, 41′
0-4 Fabregas, 48′
0-5 Fabregas, 70′
0-6 Eduardo, 89′
1-6 Saha, 90′

So yeah, it’s not really my birthday, not even close, actually. But it’s as good as, with the Premier League starting back up today and finally bringing to an end the mortifying period when European soccer, basketball, and American football are all in their off-seasons. Aside from the occasional MLS broadcast, only baseball is still in action, which is a non-entity in my book anyway, even with the Dodgers leading their division. Praise be unto the lord almighty that they don’t much believe in the concept of “rest” for their footballers in Europe, because their abbreviated off-season has mercifully sprung me from the depths of sporting boredom.

The new season was perfectly inaugurated by my Gunners, who put a hurting on Everton in their season opener. Aside perhaps from Liverpool-Tottenham, Arsenal easily had the toughest fixture of the Big Four sides in their trip to Goodison Park. Plenty had been made of the “losses” of Adebayor and Toure, as well as the limited acquisitions the team made in the transfer market, plus all the usual guff about the team’s (excessive) youth and lack of killer instinct. Yet while Chelsea needed all of extra time to pull out a victory against Hull City, Arsenal made quick and easy work of David Moyes’ side, netting three goals per half, including a brace from captain Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard helped set up the first goal as well, laying it off nicely for Denilson to send one wailing goalward from just outside the box. Newcomer Thomas Vermaelen headed home the second off a Robin Van Persie free kick, and Gallas scored on another header shortly thereafter. Fabregas got his first on a classic Arsenal counterattack to start the second half, tucking it under Everton keeper Tim Howard, then knocked in his second on a quick strike from distance. Eduardo put the capper on it in the dying minutes, slotting home the rebound off a shot Arshavin never should have been allowed to get off. Saha did eventually get Everton their consolation goal in extra time, but it did little to dampen the euphoria of the 6-1 thrashing.

It was all done in typical Arsenal fashion, too, making it that much sweeter to watch this group of youngsters pull off what Wenger always believed they could. The question now will be whether or not they can replicate this kind of performance, but for now I’m not going to let pragmatism cloud this victory. I was a bit surprised to see them come out in the formation they did. The 4-3-3 itself wasn’t really a shock, but Bendtner playing out wide with Arshavin in the center of the front line was not what I expected to see. Wenger clearly knows more than me, though, if you didn’t already know that, because Bendtner played beautifully on the wing and Arshavin gliding around in the middle. The Dane used his size to control the ball well and used his skill to set up his teammates in and around the box. It was his good work on the flank that helped pave the way for Denilson’s opening goal. So while unexpected, his performance out wide was excellent, and Arshavin can obviously play anywhere on the field he likes. With Eduardo still working his way back to full fitness and Rosicky’s potential return on the horizon (I can dream, right?), Arsenal’s prospects for the season are exciting if they can hold their mettle in the middle of the park. Let’s all pray Alexandre Song keeps eating his Wheaties and the center-backs stay fit, so we can ignore the team’s thinness at those spots and revel in the creative potential of the squad. Today, at least, we look like we can win it all.

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Champions League, Part Deux

Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009

manyoo-inter

Manchester United 2-0 Inter (Agg: 2-0)

  • 1-0 Vidic, 4′
  • 2-0 Ronaldo,  49′

almunia

Roma 1-0 Arsenal, Shoot-out 6-7 (Agg: 1-1)

  • 1-0 Juan, 9′

England has the strongest league in the world. Hands down. I was hesitant to admit it for a while, especially because La Liga is my favorite to watch. But after watching Champions League action in conjunction with the individual leagues, it is essentially impossible to argue otherwise. In the two preceding years, three of the final four teams were from England (Man Utd, Chelsea, and Liverpool in both cases), and last year was an all-England final. Now, as we head into the quarterfinals, all four English teams have advanced, at the expense of Italy’s three representatives in the round of 16. Spain still has two teams alive in the competition, but only one of them – Barcelona – stands any real chance of making it all the way.

Defending champs Manchester Utd took out Italy’s last great hope and their Special coach (wonder if he knows what the connotations of that term are). While I had finally settled on Inter as the lesser of these two evils, I was not at all unhappy to see Mourinho get humbled like that. I wish it could have been at the hands of someone other than Fergie and ManYoo, but watching Inter bomb out of the Champions League with the coach they brought in specifically to get them better results in Europe was still sweet. Man Utd opened each half with a goal, which was just enough to finish off Inter. Sir Alex’s boys weren’t particularly impressive today, but they did what they had to do to beat Special Sauce and Co. Both goals came off beautifully delivered passes, the first a corner taken by Giggs and the second a chipped pass from Rooney. Ibrahimovic finally decided to show up and made some key contributions, but neither he nor Adriano could break all the way through the ManYoo defense. And the quintuple is still alive.

In the final England-Italy match-up, Arsenal carried a 1-0 home victory into Rome but watched that margin disappear on an early goal by Juan, who scored the game’s only goal in his brief return from injury Not long after leveling for Roma, he had to leave with a re-aggravated thigh injury, further depleting the Roman squad. Arsenal seemed the likelier of the two sides to score for most of the game, but they never found their way onto the scoreboard. The best chance they had came when Bendtner deflected the ball to start a lightning quick counterattack. Eboue dribbled up the right side and should have easily been able to pick out Bendtner in the middle for a straightforward tap home, but his disappointing season continued with a horrible ball that went long and ruined any chance Arsenal had of scoring for the moment. In the end it went to penalties, and Arsenal started poorly, with Eduardo’s weak shot blocked by Doni. Vucinic helped the Gunners even it up by getting a little too cute and sending one straight at Almunia with not much pace. Finally, after eight takes from either side, Tonetto stepped up and skied it over the bar, ending Roma’s hopes of any silverware this year.

We now have to wait till the 20th to find out the match-ups for the quarterfinals, which will be drawn from the following teams:

  • Bayern Munich
  • Villarreal
  • Chelsea
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester United
  • Arsenal
  • Barcelona
  • Porto

The round of 16 draw was a tad suspicious, with the Italian teams all matched up with English opposition, so the conspiracy theorists among us would probably say the broadcasters got their wish with all four English teams through. Whatever the case, I hope we get a more equitable shakedown for the quarters, preferably keeping Arsenal and Chelsea on opposite sides, since those are the last of my teams standing. Realistically, though, no one is touching either Man Utd or Barcelona, and barring an unfortunate draw, they should be the favorites to make the finals. Everyone else is a long shot at this point.

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Big Wins For Struggling Sides In Champions League

Posted by hiphopmama on November 25, 2008

Arsenal and Real Madrid, both struggling of late, secured much needed 1-0 wins today in their Champions League matches. Madrid has only been “struggling” according to the stratospheric standards of the renowned club, and they were coming off a weekend victory over Recreativo. Arsenal, on the other hand, have been flailing by any reasonable measure, losing to seemingly everyone and gifting goals to teams by the handful. Wenger finally made the hard decision to strip William Gallas of the captaincy, handing it over the Cesc Fabregas for the first time today against Dynamo Kiev. 

Both teams played solid if unspectacular games, controlling possession and doing just enough to win and secure their places in the next round. Madrid went up early on a goal by captain Raul in the 7th minute off a cross from Drenthe, who fueled the Real attack all game. Madrid saw a number of other good chances miss the mark, including another from Raul and a fantastic opportunity for Saviola, but they kept BATE off the scoreboard and got the win.

Arsenal had to wait till the 86th minute for substitute Nicklas Bendtner to score the game winner after lots of skillful, effective build-up play from a young side under heavy scrutiny of late. Fabregas led the Gunners from midfield in his first start as captain, and the change from Gallas – who also played – seemed to have a positive effect on the team, who played with energy throughout. Bendtner made me look like an ass by winning the game for Arsenal after I saw him getting off the bench and muttered to myself, “Oh no, don’t bring HIM in.” He took his time getting his shirt on before entering the game and then ripped it off after scoring his goal, apparently very pleased with his physique in front of plenty of shirtless Arsenal fans at the Emirates. The goal eventually came off a quickly taken free kick from midfield by Fabregas, as Bendtner steadied himself against his defender and fired home the winner. 

It was a good day of Champions League play for me, as Arsenal and Real Madrid both won and moved on, while Juventus and Manchester United were both held to 0-0 draws (the second time in four days for ManU). Tomorrow can be just as good if Chelsea and Barça win while Inter and Liverpool both lose (or at least draw). And yes, I am pulling for both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Spain all the way, even though they are racist bastards.

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