All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘ryan giggs’

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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Better All The Time

Posted by hiphopmama on August 19, 2009

jensen save

Burnley 1-0 Manchester United
1-0 Blake, 19′

This one was sweet. I’ve been waiting upward of three years for someone other than Manchester United to hoist the Premier League trophy, and it seems this may finally be my year. He would never admit it, but Sir Alex appears to have thrown in the towel on the season already, accepting the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez with little more than a whimper of protest and little done to remedy the squad depletion it caused. Michael Owen? Okay, that’s cute and all, but no one, least of all Sir Alex, expects him to fill the boots of CR7 or Tevez. And with the team’s cadre of veterans racking up another year on those old bodies, you have to wonder how players like Giggs, Scholes, and Neville will hold up over a long, grueling season without a player like Ronaldo to lean on during dry spells.

All these weaknesses and more were on display in their match against Premier League newcomers Burnley, whose hometown population apparently would fit inside of Old Trafford in its entirety, according to the game announcers. That is a nice bit of perspective for the upset they pulled off, as is the fact that they hadn’t won a game in top-flight football in 33 years. Robbie Blake’s lovely volley gave Burnley the only lead they would need inside of 20 minutes, but goalkeeper Brian Jensen had just as crucial a role to play in the victory. His stop on Michael Carrick’s penalty just before halftime buoyed the team and gave them the will to hold on by their fingernails to the slim margin and keep ManU off the scoresheet. He made a few more key saves, and his defense scurried around just enough to put United off their rhythm, so that even the substitution of Berbatov and Valencia did nothing to change the outcome.

While it’s not quite as satisfying watching ManU (potentially) fall off their perch with such a weakened squad, you won’t hear any complaints – or sympathy – from me. If either of my London teams can step in to fill the void, I will be doubly happy, but even if the title goes elsewhere I will still be grateful to Florentino Perez and Kia Joorabchian for helping break up the dynastic unit and let in some sunshine at the top.

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Four Points

Posted by hiphopmama on March 14, 2009

liverpool-manyoo

Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool

  • 1-0 Ronaldo (pen), 23′
  • 1-1 Torres, 28′
  • 1-2 Gerrard (pen), 44′
  • 1-3 Aurelio, 77′
  • 1-4 Dossena, 90′

That was fun. That was hella fun, if you’ll forgive the CA slang. I’m not a Liverpool fan by any stretch – I root avidly for two of the Big Four and just as fervently against the other two – but United has rapidly become the greatest evil in the Premier League, perhaps the world. (Inter is a close second, and I’d love to see either or both completely self-destruct. Fat chance.) That makes me a Liverpool supporter for all intents and purposes, at least in games like this one which give Chelsea (or anyone else, for that matter, Liverpool included) a chance to knock the fifth horseman of the apocalypse from its perch.

Things didn’t start in too promising a fashion, as ManYoo put Liverpool under pressure early and often and were justified in earning a penalty that Ronaldo blazed home in the 23rd minute. With United’s vaunted defense and an early lead at home, it seemed like a tough ask to expect Liverpool to come back for a tie, let alone a win. But the Reds played as if their season depended on it, which it did given the seven point gap at the top, and they scraped together enough moments of brilliance which – however brief – helped them turn things around. 

Liverpool were gifted their first goal by Nemanja Vidic, who misplayed a long ball in the air and then couldn’t recover in time to prevent Torres from securing it and beating Van der Sar to tie the game. It was 1-1 and game on again. Yet United still looked the stronger of the two sides, creating plenty of chances and keeping Liverpool largely on the back foot. It seemed like only a matter of time before they scored again to regain the lead, but they were again caught out by a quick counter, as Torres released Gerrard with a beautiful through ball and Evra brought him down in the box. It was another clear penalty, and Gerrard make no mistake with the PK, sending it easily past Van der Sar for the lead.

For almost a full 30 minutes after the restart, Manchester looked all but certain to score, with Wayne Rooney sending some superb crosses into the box. They kept getting closer and closer, and my stomach kept churning, and all that was before Sir Alex inserted Giggs, Scholes, and Berbatov at the 74 minute mark. With Manchester going for broke, you couldn’t help but think their attack would finally break through, but the usually perfect Vidic made another critical error in fouling Steven Gerrard just outside the area. He was deemed to be the last defender and, perhaps a bit harshly, was sent off with a straight red. It was, as they say, a cynical tackle – more like a take-down – and an obvious booking, but the red was less certain. I wasn’t complaining, though, especially when Fabio Aurelio stepped up and curled the free kick into the corner of the goal, leaving Van der Sar flat-footed as he watched it whip into the net. 

ManYoo still had a few more opportunities to get one back, but luck just wasn’t with them today, and we were all treated to the pleasure of watching Ronaldo completely miss the ball on a nice big swing around the edge of the six-yard box. It was an absolutely perfect way to end the match, aside from the exquisite goal Andrea Dossena scored to close things out. As seconds ticked down toward the final whistle, Manchester were AGAIN beaten by a long ball over the top, with Ferdinand being the guilty party this time. When he failed to deal with the threat, Dossena took one touch to loft it up and over Van der Sar for the fourth and final goal just before time.

There are not enough adjectives to describe happy this result makes me. The win for Liverpool means that they are now within 4 points of United, and Chelsea have a chance to close to within 4 as well when they take on Manchester City tomorrow at Stamford Bridge. Of course, Man Utd still have a game in hand (can they just catch up already??), but I refuse to look at the negative side of things right now. Instead, I’m going to act blissfully ignorant of the fact that United are too solid a team, too well coached, and with too impressive a pedigree to slip enough for anyone to overtake them. None of that matters right now. The gap is 4, and I can still dream.

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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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