All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘van persie’

Two Out of Four

Posted by hiphopmama on April 15, 2009

adebayor-villarreal

Arsenal 3-0 Villarreal (Agg: 4-1)
     1-0 Walcott, 10′
     2-0 Adebayor, 60′
     3-0  Van Persie (pen), 69′

Porto 0-1 Manchester United (Agg: 2-3)
     0-1 Ronaldo, 6′ 

Of the four teams through to the Champions League semifinals, you could say that two of them came off my wish list – the two London teams, to be exact. I couldn’t be happier at Liverpool going out, except if Manyoo had bombed out as well. Instead, the always well-coiffed Cristiano Ronaldo ensured his team a place in the final four with a superb strike from 40 yards that sailed past Helton and was enough to seal the deal. Porto presented a few dangers, but they were mostly manageable and nearly all from set pieces, which Man Utd defended decently enough.

Arsenal put on a much more impressive display against Villarreal. Walcott broke the deadlock early when some weak defending saw him through, and he chipped one beautifully over the Villarreal keeper. The Spaniards never looked particularly threatening, other than the first few minutes of the second half, but after that the Gunners kicked it into another gear. Adebayor atoned for some boneheaded play with a lovely finish on the counterattack off another Fabregas pass. They topped it off with a Van Persie penalty kick on what was admittedly a dubious call made by the referee’s assistant. 

These two teams will face each other on April 29th, while Barcelona will face Chelsea the 28th, and once again we see the Premier League with three of the final four Champions League teams. Even with that numerical advantage, you have to give the edge at this point to the Spanish representative, Barcelona, who are once again on the rampage after a tiny hiccup in form in La Liga. Good luck to Chelsea in that one. As for Arsenal, they are the underdogs of the bunch, but I could see them pulling off an upset against the reigning champs, setting up a possible rematch with Barça. Just two more weeks to wait.

Advertisements

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Arsenal 1 – 0 Wigan

Posted by hiphopmama on December 6, 2008

  • 1-0 Adebayor, 16′

This weekend, my sporting worlds seemed to collide, and not in a good way. As a devoted Lakers fan, I watched with chagrin as my blazing hot team gave up a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter to lose to a sub-.500 team in Indiana. They followed this up with a fairly convincing win over Toronto and then, on Friday, tried to give away yet another sizable lead to a struggling team. In the third and final game of this road trip, the Lakers toyed with the Wizards like a cat lazily slapping around a mouse, building a 19 point lead in the second half, only to see it evaporate with their talented bench players on the floor. The Lakers ended up pulling out the win, but not without some nervous moments, including a chance for the Wizards to win the game on a last second three-pointer. 

What does this have to do with the Arsenal game? Plenty, especially for my viewing experience. Just like the Lakers in all three games, Arsenal were the superior side and played like it for stretches of time. The Lakers were considerably more dominant, but it’s true just the same. Arsenal jumped out to an early lead with a somewhat fortuitous 16th minute strike by Adebayor, who benefited from poor positioning by Titus Bramble and slotted the winner past Chris Kirkland. The rest of the game was hot and cold. The Wigan attack threatened numerous times and often for sustained periods, but they were unlucky and never broke through. The Arsenal defense played fairly capably for the early part of the game, but as it drew to a close they started to panic. Arsenal were close to that second insurance goal many times, with Robin Van Persie twice just missing the chance to double the lead, but when they couldn’t secure it, they became increasingly harried at the back. Actually, it would be more accurate to say they slipped up at the back all the way up to the midfield area. Eboue, who came in as a substitute for an injured Nasri in the first half, played a couple of poor passes and lost possession at crucial moments, and as the crowd got on him for it he seemed to shrink away and play even worse. You couldn’t help but feel awful for him, especially since he was filling in on the left wing when his normal position is at right back. Wenger eventually subbed him out for Silvestre at the very end, killing time and adding an extra defender, but it seemed like a questionable move. Silvestre didn’t play very convincingly, and it must have been even more devastating for Eboue to have been removed like that.

Arsenal managed to hang on, but only just. Amr Zaki, returning from injury, came on as a sub and ran his butt off to try to pry open the Arsenal defense. Heskey had the best chances for Wigan and only narrowly missed a header to tie the game, sending it just over the bar.

It was a nervy win for Arsenal, but three points is three points, I suppose. The word I kept thinking was “composure,” as that is exactly what the Gunners lacked. When it was clear they weren’t going to get a second goal, they should have just maintained possession and worked the clock down. Instead, the looked frantic in their passes and unsure of what exactly to do, and as a result they awarded Wigan a number of opportunities they needn’t have had. In the end, though, they managed to follow up their enormous win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with a victory, something they had been unable to do after beating Manchester United, or just about anybody, for that matter, as consecutive good performances have been hard to come by for this team. 

Watching Arsenal almost dissolve under pressure after a good start was certainly familiar to me after recent Lakers games, but it also reminded me how fortunate I’ve been to have the purple and gold as my basketball colors. Because while Arsenal have mostly lost this kind of close game, the Lakers have almost always won them. LA is currently 16-2 and clearly leading the Western Conference, yet I have been consistently critical of their play, particularly their defending and composure late in games. All of which is true, but it bears remembering that, even with all these apparent issues to tweak, they have still won a remarkable percentage of their games, which counts for a lot. You can say, as I have, that they have won the games that they were supposed to win, but even that is impressive. Plenty of teams – Arsenal included – can’t manage to do even that. The Tottenham debacle comes to mind, as do their games against Fulham, Hull City, and Stoke City. So I guess the moral of the story is, be grateful for what you have, because it can always be worse. Unless you’re a Clippers fan.

Posted in nba, soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

All Aboard the Gunnercoaster

Posted by hiphopmama on November 30, 2008

Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal

  • 1-0 Johan Djourou (og), 30′
  • 1-1 Robin Van Persie, 59′
  • 2-1 Robin Van Persie, 62′

Friggin’ remarkable. Flippin’ incredible. Effing insane. I’m trying to stop cussing since my daughter will repeat the last word in any sentence she hears, so that’s the best I can do to convey the sheer ridiculousness that is the Arsenal season and this game in particular. They essentially didn’t concede a goal to Chelsea all game and scored three of their own. One of those they happened to put in their own net via Johan Djourou, but Van Persie made up for it by scoring two of his own for the right team. 

Everything looked to be going according to expectations. Chelsea were dominating possession with their beautiful passing game, and they certainly appeared to be the likelier of the two teams to score. That’s sort of what happened when Almunia made a boneheaded play, throwing the ball out right to Chelsea right back Jose Bosingwa. The resulting cross came dangerously across the six yard box, and Djourou slid in to deflect it. That it ended up in the Arsenal net was as much his fault as the goalkeeper’s, which I’m sure Almunia knew. 

The first half ended inauspiciously, and the beginning of the second looked to bring more of the same, with Lampard narrowly missing a chance to put Chelsea up two goals. Instead, Robin Van Persie was the happy recipient of a no-call by referee Mike Dean, who was well positioned but still declined to blow his whistle when RVP received a pass from Denilson in an offside position. Because Dean appeared to be in the right place to make the call,  announcer Robbie Earl (?) made the case that the ball deflected off a Chelsea defender, thus keeping him onside. I’m not sure this qualifies as being “played by” a Chelsea player instead of a teammate, but whatever the case, the goal stood and Arsenal tied the game.

There was no dispute about the second goal, which came a mere three minutes later. Van Persie secured the ball on the edge of the area, made a beautiful turn, and fired an accurate shot to the bottom right corner, seemingly surprising Cech and sneaking it past him. And that was all she wrote. Arsenal did have to hold on the rest of the way, including four minutes of added time, but it wasn’t as much of a struggle as you might have thought and they played steady enough to get the win. 

There have been so many of these dramatic ups followed by abysmal downs that I’m hesitant to draw any conclusions from this game one way or another. But with Cesc now 2-0 as captain, you get the impression this *might* just be the start of something good, or at least something not bad. It still wasn’t the greatest game, but it built steadily on their performance against Dynamo Kiev and hopefully set them up for a streak of good games. If they can continue this progression, inch by inch, they can begin to restore some of the confidence they sent packing over the course of their dreadful start to the season. They can prove their renewed mettle Tuesday in a Carling Cup match against Burnley and then again on Saturday at home against Wigan. Two winnable games that Arsenal must capitalize on if they want to right the ship. I’m betting they can pull it off.

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Arsenal Woes Continue

Posted by hiphopmama on November 5, 2008

Making a long couple weeks even longer, Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw with a Fenerbahce team they recently ran through, beating them 5-2 in their last Champions League match-up. The beginning of this most recent slide began with a 4-4 draw against North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, a match they should have won, being up 4-2 in the 88th minute. Some defensive lapses and their inability to just hold the ball and run out the clock – for a measly 5 minutes or so – cost them two points and a lot of pride. In a supposed bounce-back match against lowly Stoke City also produced a pitiful performance, with the Gunners beaten by two long throws by Rory Delap and evincing a significant lack of aerial presence at the back, as well as a lack of fighting spirit in such an important game. 

With this as the backdrop, and with significant injuries – to Gallas, Eboue, Walcott, Adebayor – Arsenal lined up to compete for redemption at home at The Emirates. So much for the talk of regaining focus, of the renewed sense of team commitment. They couldn’t even manage a single goal against a notoriously porous Fenerbahce defense. You know, the same one that allowed Arsenal to score 5 goals in the away match of this fixture. They seemed to really miss the attacking play of Walcott and Adebayor, and consequently seemed content to launch long balls over the top of the defense in the hopes of catching them out. Maybe this works with a point man like Drogba or Fernando Torres up top. Aiming for Van Persie all alone on the front line? Not so much. And this from an Arsenal team that prides itself on beautiful build-up play, often failing to pull the trigger in search of that perfect goal. 

I don’t know how to respond, nor how they will. It’s not exactly the kind of preparation you want going into a match against Man Utd on Saturday. They lucked out with Tottenham scoring a late goal to defeat Liverpool, keeping the gap between Arsenal and the leaders relatively reasonable, but they can’t count on that kind of luck to continue, especially when they’re failing to make any of their own. During November, in addition to Man Utd they will also face Aston Villa, Man City, and Chelsea, which could end up being better than you might expect. Maybe, after all the humiliation, they will actually psyche themselves up for these big games and get back on track, closing the point gap at the top of the table in the process. Maybe stringing together a good few games – and hopefully getting healthier in the starting XI – will set them up to make a serious run for the title and give the other three a run for their money. Then again, maybe they’ll continue to suck balls and fall out of the race altogether. With Van Persie facing suspension after his idiotic red card in the last League game, the latter seems more likely for now.

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Stoke 2 – 1 Arsenal

Posted by hiphopmama on November 2, 2008

things that make you go hmm...

things that make you go hmm...

 

  • 1-0 Ricardo Fuller, 11′
  • 2-0 Seyi George Olofinjana, 73′
  • 2-1 Gael Clichy, 90′

Is this really how it’s gonna go down? Arsenal alternately tearing ’em down and stinking it up, with more of the latter of late? I don’t get it. I love Arsene Wenger and his style of play and philosophy and haircut…but I’m starting to think the EPL isn’t the place for it. I know he’s had incredible success and I absolutely love him, but if he can’t get these guys to lock down when necessary it’s all for nothing. Then again, with his track record, it also might just come down to the players, although you could still say that this is his team and he has hand-picked these guys. I know I missed watching the whole Unbeatables season thing, but every year I’ve watched since then has been the same thing: almost, so close, but not quite. Not that I have a clue what the solution is. Going in a different direction would be tantamount to heresy, and I wouldn’t really want to see it, at least not right now. I would have thought last year would be the “transitional” year with Henry’s departure, but everyone seemed to settle in quite nicely and be poised for a good run this season. And it’s not just lack of experience. The midfield is a little shaky there, to be sure, but the biggest problems have come from positions of considerable age and renown (El Capitan, anyone?). 

Stupid Rory Delap and his damn long throws were our undoing today, creating both goals for Stoke and making Arsenal look as clueless as always defending (quasi-) set pieces – the first to Ricardo Fuller at the back post in the 11th, and the second by Olofinjana off the pass from Ryan Shawcross. Clichy scored a deflected goal at the very end but to no avail. 

Wenger was true to his word in changing the line-up after the midweek Tottenham debacle. Toure was back in the starting eleven and back in the role of captain, while Van Persie, Walcott, and Nasri got the axe in favor of Song, Diaby, and Bendtner. He eventually relented enough to bring on both Van Persie and Walcott, but all he got in return was a Van Persie red card and a Walcott injury. 

It’s so bad that even the Liverpool loss to Spurs doesn’t dampen it. Well, maybe just a little.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Arsenal 2 – 1 Everton

Posted by hiphopmama on October 20, 2008

This game saw both Arsenals show up: the one that looks completely hapless on defense and can’t contain squat, and the (much more pleasant) one that dominates possession and links up for beautiful goals. They opened the game with the first Arsenal present, and Everton struck quickly to take a 0-1 lead. Osman scored on some relatively average build-up play but, to his credit, put the cross he received away with ease. Arsenal sort of muddled through for the rest of the first half but returned rejuvenated in the second, playing their typical Arsenal football. It was truly a pleasure to watch, and it was capped off by a goal from Nasri. Arsenal had definitely begun to pick up the pace, but Nasri officially turned the tide when he hit an incredible strike from a few yards outside the area that might have taken a slight deflection and jetted its way into the back of the net to tie the game. The next goal came after they had about a gazillion touches in the area, and for a second it looked as though they were going to squander another opportunity looking for that perfect goal. Adebayor turned his back on one chance, then dished it off to Fabregas, whose shot was blocked by Howard. The rebound bounced to Van Persie, who headed it home to take all three points. 

It was a nerve-wracking performance, to be sure, especially coming from a side that desperately needed a win. They knew they couldn’t fall behind the three leaders by an additional three points so early in the season, and they gutted out a victory. It’s reassuring that they can win this kind of game, after going down a goal early on, but that they had to do so at all is somewhat disconcerting. Three points is three points, though, and Arsenal will take them any way they can get them at this point.

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »