All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘sir alex ferguson’

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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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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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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Bye-Bye, Quintuple

Posted by hiphopmama on April 20, 2009

Manchester United 0-0 Everton
     Everton win 4-2 on penalties 

It wasn’t as sweet as it could have been, with Ronaldo and his crew of merry men on the bench, but any day ManU loses is a good day. Fergie blamed the Wembley pitch condition for his decision to leave out some of his regular starters, but even with a couple of allowances – which still didn’t include CRon – it was clear that this was a fairly low priority game for the Manchester giants. Sir Alex trotted out a line-up of youngsters and reserves, including Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson, and they never looked like the threatening side we’ve seen this year (and last, and the year before that…).

The two teams just sort of sparred with each other for most of the game and extra time, setting up a penalty shoot-out that included more drama on paper than in reality. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t get excited as this one drew to a close. Even in the midst of penalty kicks, I wasn’t particularly enthralled, even when Tim Howard made two stops against Berbatov and Ferdinand to ensure his team a victory and a place in the FA Cup final with Chelsea. 

I can’t quite figure out what Fergie was going for with the line-up he chose. Was he waving the white flag? Did he know challenging for five titles was too much and decide to hedge his bets? Did he really think his B, or perhaps C team was enough to oust Everton? I think it’s probably a combination of all those reasons that influenced his decision-making process, but whatever the case, the quintuple dream is over and no one is happier than me. I don’t want to have to hear about this team for all eternity, and Ronaldo doesn’t deserve that swan song on his way out of Manchester anyway. He’s welcome to win title after title once he gets to Real Madrid, but hopefully he’s finished for now. As long as this doesn’t give them extra ammunition in their other competitions, it will be a positive for everybody.

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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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Soccer Thoughts

Posted by hiphopmama on March 3, 2009

It’s been a crazy few days, so all I can offer are the following notes on the weekend’s happenings in the soccer world. Because they are my opinions, they can be elevated to the level of fact. Take note.

  • Flippin’ Manchester United should have lost to Tottenham. Not because of any bad call or the result going against the run of play; just because I hate them and they shouldn’t be able to win everything. Carling Cup: check. Club World Cup: in hand. EPL: commanding lead. FA Cup: quarterfinals. Champions League: good position to make the quarters. Two down, three to go. It seems absurd to believe that all the games won’t eventually catch up with them, but just like Phil Jackson in the NBA, Fergie knows how to pace his guys to have them peaking at the right time. It will be interesting to say the least.
  • Speaking of ManU, that wasn’t a penalty on Cristiano Ronaldo. It wasn’t a dive, either, at least not a yellow card-worthy one (especially by his standards), and it should just have been a play-on. He was looking for the penalty the whole way – which isn’t a crime in itself – and he was already on his way down before the contact came. He put the ball so far out in front of him to bait the defender, but both players held up just enough to prevent enough of a collision to ensure a penalty. Yeah he stepped on his foot, but CRon was already headed to the ground by that point. 
  • Balotelli’s wasn’t a penalty either. I’m not gonna jump into the fray over officials and greasy hands and the powers that be. All I know is that it was a weak call in a big game, and it affected the outcome in a very definite (and very familiar) manner. [Adriano? Hand ball? Nothing retroactive? Gimme a break.] We’re a few years removed from the heart of the Calciopoli scandal, but Serie A still lacks a lot of credibility and they aren’t helping themselves any with all this. Does anyone really believe Inter were the only innocent ones in all that mess? Oh, and Mourinho needs to shut the fuck up or he can suck my Special One.
  • How about Real Madrid?? Barcelona is still in the driver’s seat, but they can feel the Merengues breathing down their necks now, which should make for an exciting finish. For Real to pull it off, they will have to continue their near immaculate play and hope Barça drop a few more points. A win over the blaugrana at the Bernabeu would go a long way toward helping Madrid narrow the gap, but I’d wager that they’d still have a shot if they could secure even a draw in that game. One game at a time for now…

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Inter Hold Off ManU

Posted by hiphopmama on February 24, 2009

The face of innocence

The face of innocence

Inter 0-0 Manchester Utd

Pretty good for a goalless encounter, and just about the best I could have hoped for in this match-up of detested teams. I was still a game-time decision regarding who I would root for (or root against less, which may be more accurate), but in the end my hatred of CRon and Fergie won out over Ibra and The Special One. It was still hard to pull for Inter after wishing them ill for so long, but Cristiano’s glistening head kept me in line. 

Let’s be clear: this result is a bigger disappointment for Manchester United. They were the better team today by a long shot, although Inter did eventually get their chances, and ManU really should have scored a few different times. Only some mediocre finishing and an incredible Julio Cesar prevented them from walking out of the San Siro up 1-0, 2-0, or even 3-0. Ronaldo put a couple of blazing free kicks on goal, but Cesar stopped them, including the one in the final seconds of stoppage time. He made a number of good saves in the regular course of play too and was easily Inter’s man of the match.

The home team had a few chances of its own, but Adriano was typically disappointing and Ibrahimovic once again disappeared in an important match. Inter looked completely unprepared for ManU’s intensity in the first half, but Mourinho obviously gave them the business because they were a different team in the second, attacking more often and keeping possession for longer periods. They still struggled against ManU’s passing game, but they were exposed for brief flourishes rather than for the full 45. 

All in all, I’d say it’s a small moral victory for Inter to have held ManU scoreless and prevented them from getting the all-important away goal. That means that even if the teams tie at 1-1 (or anything higher), Inter would be the victors on away goals. I thought this tie was pretty close to begin with, with things tilting a smidgen in the direction of ManU because of their history of performing in the UCL, but after this scoreless draw I think expectations shift toward Inter a bit. Then again, that could end up being their downfall, since they haven’t always proven able to shoulder the weight of favorites anywhere else but in Serie A, so we will have to wait and see. Until then, at least I won’t have to choose between these two anymore. That only one of them will make it to the next round will be my only comfort for the second leg.

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Real Finished With Ronaldo?

Posted by hiphopmama on October 24, 2008

Real Madrid’s all-over-the-place president, Ramon Calderon, is now claiming that Real is finished pursuing Cristiano Ronaldo: “It is forgotten, not only for January but forever.” Apparently he is finally trying to save face after his team’s aggressive maneuvers to get the Portuguese player prompted negative responses from Man Utd coach Sir Alex Ferguson, along with plenty of others. In the article over at ESPNsoccernet, he is quoted as somewhat penitently stating, “Madrid is not doing anything to disturb a ‘friend club’ like Manchester. We are two very big clubs. We want to be good friends forever. We are in the same market. I have a lot of respect for Manchester. I have a good relationship with David Gill and I want it to be like that for a long time.”

Bravo, Senor Calderon. You’re in the early stages of learning common courtesy. Although I (completely incredulously) like your team – and manifestly dislike ManYoo – it’s clear you need to cut some of the strong-arm tactics. You really don’t need them to get good players. The Real Madrid name is more than enough. And if it isn’t, then you’re not doing your job right.

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