Posts Tagged ‘Arsenal’

The Semi-finals are over and we will have an all European Final and a first time winner.  Uruguay held on as long as they could against the Dutch but Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) couldn’t win the game by himself.  Germany was missing Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) and couldn’t get over on Spain.  Both very good games and the Finals should be must see.

On to the games:

Uruguay – Netherlands (2-3)

Goals – Van Bronckhorst (NED) 18’, Forlan (URU) 41’, Sneijder (NED) 70’, Robben (NED) 73’, Pereira (URU) 90’+2

I don’t know how many people outside of Uruguay actually thought Uruguay would win this game.  It would have been a nice story but realistically the Netherlands were just too strong.  Even if Luis Suarez (Ajax) wasn’t suspended it would’ve been hard for the South Americans to advance.  The Netherlands are clicking and even though you may only be hearing about Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), this team is stacked and everyone has played fantastically.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) is doing a lot of work that goes unnoticed when you don’t score.  Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) is attracting defender which leaves more space for Sneijder and Robben.  Mark Van Bommel (Bayern Munich) is starting everything from the midfield.  All great stuff but you only get your name in the highlights and the stories if you score.

The main statistics were about even with the Netherlands holding a slight advantage in time of possession.

With Luis Suarez missing, Edinson Cavani (Palermo) was in as the other forward to compliment Forlan.  Cavani is mainly a forward but has been playing more of a midfield role when Suarez has been in the games.  No big deal there except Suarez is slightly better but it probably didn’t make much of a difference.

The Netherlands were without defender Gregory Van Der Wiel (Ajax) and midfielder Nigel De Jong (Manchester City), who were both sitting out due to yellow card suspensions.  Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart) took over in defense while Demy De Zeeuw (Ajax) was in the midfield.  Boulahrouz played well but De Zeeuw, not so much.

Goivanni Van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) put the Netherlands on the board before the twenty minute mark with what has to be the best goal of the tournament.  He ripped in a shot from at least thirty meters.  Nice!  Not to be outdone, Diego Forlan drew Uruguay level right before the half with a long shot that Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax) got a hand on but couldn’t keep it out of the net.

The second half was all Oranje and the late Uruguay goal from Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica) really didn’t matter.  The Netherlands had the game in hand by then.  This game could’ve very easily been 4-2 or 5-2.

Just a note, how far has Ryan Babel (Liverpool) fallen?  He can’t get on the field at Anfield and somehow he makes this team only to never see the light of day.  He needs a switch.  He should leave Liverpool and go to a team that would give him quality minutes.  He’s only twenty-three and his career is at a stand still.  On the other hand, with Fernando Torres most likely leaving Liverpool will Babel get more playing time?  Just a thought.

Germany – Spain (0-1)

Goal – Puyol (ESP) 73’

Spain had the greater time of possession, more shots and more shots on goal.  How?  Germany was only missing one player, Thomas Mueller, but they looked like a completely different team.  Germany was lost and how does that happen.  Germany was flat.  That should not happen to a German team.  As good as they were throughout the World Cup, this game tarnishes that.  Sure Mueller was a big loss but that doesn’t erase having Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne), Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen) and Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich) on the pitch.  How does a team with that time of midfield creativity and firepower only manage two legitimate shots on goal?  Shocking!

It’s just me but why didn’t Marko Marin (Werder Bremen) play in place of Mueller instead of Piotr Trochowski (Hamburger SV)?

Thanks to Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04) this game wasn’t 4-0.  Spain kept coming and coming but Neuer was always up for it.  Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen) and Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV) looked ordinary.  They were employing the England and USA technique of giving guys too  much space.  Ouch!

Manuel Neuer was the only German player who did any real work

Pedro (Barcelona) got the start over Fernando Torres (Liverpool) and I’m not convinced it was a bad thing.  Torres has been average in this World Cup.  I wonder who will get the start against The Netherlands in the Final or will Spain go with one, lone forward in David Villa (Barcelona)?  My feeling, Spain would be wrong to think that they can be effective with only one forward against The Netherlands.

Sunday it’s Netherlands – Spain and I’m not really that excited.  I was hoping for a Netherlands – Germany matchup and Spain winning took away most of my excitement.  Will I watch the game?  You better believe I wouldn’t miss a World Cup Final for anything.  The only time I would consider not watching is if the USA were in the Finals but we all know that’ll never happen.  Expect to hear a lot of Clockwork Orange references in the buildup to the game.

Oh, I almost forgot, the Netherlands beats Spain 3-1.

The Netherlands have great fans

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Day twenty-two saw Brazil’s run come to an end and Asamoah Gyan (Rennes) miss one of the biggest penalty kicks in the history of the World Cup.  It doesn’t top Roberto Baggio’s miss in 1994 but it’s up there.  The Netherlands find a way to fight back against Brazil and Uruguay continues its improbable run to the Finals.  With Brazil gone, it’s anybody’s tournament to win.

One of my darkest moments as a sports fan.

On to the games:

Netherlands – Brazil (2-1)

Goals – Robinho (BRA) 10′, Felipe Melo (BRA) 53′ own goal, Sneijder (NED) 68′

Red Card – Felipe Melo (BRA) 73′

Brazil scored at 10′ and it seemed like this was gonna be another Brazil highlight reel.  The Netherlands could not get anything going in the first half.  Brazil was running them all over the field on offense and were swarming them on defense.  Luckily, the half ended and Brazil was only up 1-0.  Manageable.

The second half started and it was a totally different game.  Brazil slowed its pace, looking content to hold on, and the Netherlands picked it up.  On offense they were stringing passes together and on defense they were coming up big.  An accidental header by Felipe Melo (Juventus) tied the game and Brazil seemed stunned.  Fifteen minutes later Wesley Sneijder (Inter) scores and panic started to set in for Brazil.  Melo then gets red carded for stomping Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) and the Dutch had the man advantage for the last 17+ minutes of the game.

Brazil tried to go forward but the Netherlands defense was up for it.  Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven), a last-minute starter in place of  Joris Mathijsen (Hamburger SV), was brilliant.  He didn’t let anyone get by him and was physical to boot and the Brazilian players hate that.  The final whistle blew and I think most of the world was stunned.

How did Brazil fall apart so quickly to start the second half and how did the Netherlands adjust so quickly?  It was a fantastic game.  Robben, Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) and Sneijder didn’t seem too friendly out there and it seemed like there was some tension between them.  I know the team didn’t take too kindly to Van Persie’s actions after being substituted in the round of sixteen game earlier in the week and that spilled over in to practice.

The referee wasn’t that great and he lost control of the game somewhere late in the first half.  The players didn’t respect him and were jawing all game at him and he didn’t even card anyone for it.  A yellow card early in the game would’ve put an end to that.  Referee Yuichi Nishimura(JPN) always felt the need to explain himself to the players whenever he blew the whistle so there were a lot of conversations between him and the teams.  It’s like he had to validate why he blew the whistle and that’s not a good sign.

Yes i just blew the whitsle now let me tell you why

Brazil did a lot of complaining in this game and obviously the Dutch got under their skin in the second half and threw them off their game.  Usually Brazil does the talking with their play and not their mouths.  Dunga is probably already gone as Brazil’s coach and if he isn’t, he will be soon.  Kaka (Real Madrid) was off but I think the whole Netherlands physicality thing had something to do with it.

Uruguay – Ghana (1-1) (4-2 PSO)

Goals – Muntari (GHA) 45’+2, Forlan (URU) 55′

Red Card – Suarez (URU) 120’+1

What a great game!.  It was back and forth all the way.  Ghana had more time of possession and shots on goal but the difference in the game was some quick thinking from Luis Suarez (Ajax) and a huge miss by Gyan.  Both these teams deserved the result but there had to be one winner.

Sulley Muntari (Inter) was finally deemed good enough to start for the Black Stars and it paid off.  Milovan Rajevic should’ve done more with him in this tournament.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) did a lot of work for Uruguay and was rightfully named Man of the Match.

As I said, the game was back and forth but the result hinged on a late game scramble in front of the Uruguay net.  The game was about to be headed to penalty kicks.  After the second extra time period but just before the whistle could come, Ghana made a late rush and two shots were saved on the goal before a third was saved by a handball from Suarez.  Luis Suarez was on the line and punched the ball out of the air that was destined for the back of the net.  I don’t know who shot it but it was going in if not for the quick thinking of Suarez.  The referee pointed to the spot and Suarez was shown the door.  The penalty kick was going to be the last play of the game.  Make it and the game is over, miss it and we go to penalties.  Asamoah Gyan places the ball down, takes a few steps, takes a shot, the goalie is beaten, CLANK!!!  The referee blew the whistle for time and we have penalties.  How did he miss it?  That has to go down as one of the worst, clutch misses ever but not the worst.  Suarez stayed around near the tunnel to see the outcome.  Once the ball hit off the crossbar he jumped for joy and went to the locker room.  Sure, Luis Suarez is suspended for the Semi-final but he had no other choice.

Ghana was devastated going into the penalty shoot out and after two Ghana misses, Sebastian Abreu (Botafogo) makes Uruguay’s fifth shot and the South Americans move on.  Gyan was inconsolable after the match.  He was crying like a baby.  What a game!  It’s sad that Gyan will be remembered by the miss because he did have a great tournament.

I had a good tournament, really!

Tonight we have Argentina – Germany and Paraguay – Spain.  The winner of the Argentina – Germany game should automatically become the favorite to win the whole thing.  Don’t miss it!  Remember this name: Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen, for now).

Day fourteen is over and the reigning champions are going home and rightfully so.  More on that in a bit.  New Zealand proved they weren’t one of the worst teams in the World Cup and actually had a shot at advancing.  Japan proved me wrong and they’re moving on to round two while the Dutch continued to shine in a win over Cameroon.

I thought Italy would get lucky, like the always do, and go far in this tournament but I was so wrong.  It’s easy to get lucky when you have a talented team but this team was awful.  This has to be one of the worst Italian teams, on paper and on the pitch, in a long long time.  The first mistake Marcello Lippi made was bringing Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus, soon to be Al-Ahli Dubai) to South Africa.  Yes, he was the darling of 2006 but memories don’t win you games.  His career has been in decline since the final whistle blew in Germany four years ago.  It’s not a good sign when your oldest player is also your starting center back.  The rest of the defense wasn’t much better.  Gianluca Zambrotta (AC Milan) is a name everyone probably knows but his play wasn’t the greatest in Serie A this season.  No matter, Lippi coached him at Juventus so that has to count for something.  Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa) and Leonardo Bonucci (Bari), do those names scare you?  Weak!  Maybe I’m being biased but one of the AC Milan youngsters of Ignazio Abate or Luca Antonini would’ve looked good on this Italian team.  Hell, bring them both.  They’re defense was outstanding this season and they can make runs up the sides of the field.  That’s just me.

It's not 2006 anymore. What have you done for me lately?

The absence of Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) in the first two games was huge but they should have had someone to make up the difference.  Who?  You can’t tell me that Marco Boririello (AC Milan) wouldn’t have looked good up front for this team.  Instead, let’s bring Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) and watch him come up small in big games.

How much of a dent does this put in the legacy of Marcello Lippi?  He was riding high after taking the World Cup to Italy in 2006 but he has to be the goat for bringing this team to South Africa.  An Italian team can’t win one game in a group with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia?  Merda!

On to the games:

Slovakia – Italy (3-2)

Goals – Vittek (SVK) 25’ & 73’, Di Natale (ITA) 81’, Kopunek (SVK) 89’, Quagliarella (ITA) 90’+2

Italy knew a win would get them through and even a tie might be enough.  They did neither.  Both teams were even in time of possession but Slovakia looked a step faster.  Robert Vittek’s (Ankaragucu) first goal came on a defensive mistake and his second goal came when all the Italian defenders were standing around watching while Vittek was going to goal.  Italy brought it back to 2-1 at 81’ but Kamil Kopunek (Spartak Trnava) scored before the end of regulation to condemn the Italians to taking the walk of shame back home where the media and fans will have lots of venom for them.

It was nice seeing Gannaro Gattuso (AC Milan) starting for this team.  It was odd because he wasn’t good enough to even play in the first two games and now he’s a starter.  My joy didn’t last long because he was substituted at 46’.  He was a monster and had so much heart/anger.  The rest of the team should have so much heart.  I’m surprised Zdenko Strba (Xanthi) continued after the clash he had with Gattuso.  It was an accident but Gattuso slid in and his cleats hit Strba’s knee and sliced it open.  It was pretty gruesome.  Strba was about five seconds from being replaced because of the cut but he jumped up as his replacement was walking to be introduced into the game.  Gattuso said he would retire from the national team after this World Cup and that’s too bad, for me.

You will be missed. Maybe not but Zdenko Strba but definitely by me.

Paraguay – New Zealand (0-0)

Paraguay only needed a tie to advance and that’s just what they did.  Not to say they didn’t try but they just couldn’t put the ball in the net.  New Zealands goalkeeper Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix) had a fantastic game.  Paraguay had the edge in time of possession, shots and shots on goal.  Actually, New Zealand didn’t really have an actual shot that Justo Villar (Valladolid) had to worry about saving.

I have to give props to New Zealand because they left this tournament with three points and not losing a game.  I truly believed they would get killed by Paraguay and Italy.  I thought Slovakia would beat them too.  Again, I was wrong.  New Zealand showed that they deserved to be here.

Denmark – Japan (1-3)

Goals – Honda (JPN) 17’, Endo (JPN) 30’, Tomasson (DEN) 81’, Okazaki (JPN) 87’

The winner goes through in this one and a tie favored Japan.  Who wanted it more?  Japan played better even though Denmark controlled the ball longer.  The goals from Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) and Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka) both came from set pieces outside of the Denmark area.  Honda and Endo put the ball directly in the net.  I think it’s the first time all tournament that there’s been a goal directly from a free kick.  Most times, players have been smashing the ball into the wall or launching it over the goal.  I’m surprised it took this long for a free kick to make a direct goal.  I think the ball still might have something to do with it.

So much for this being a down tournament for Japan.  They have played very well and their defense is pretty good.  Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Nagoya Grampus Eight) is everywhere in defense and probably deserves a look from a mid-tier club in Europe.  Denmark was my dark horse in the tournament but they couldn’t get it done against the Netherlands and Japan.  The absence of Simon Kjaer (Palermo) to suspension was huge because he was a big part of the defense.

Cameroon – Netherlands (1-2)

Goals – Van Persie (NED) 36’, Eto’o (CMR) 65’ penalty, Huntelaar (NED) 83’

Netherlands were playing for fun and Cameroon were playing for pride.  Fun wins.  Cameroon have to be disappointed to be leaving the World Cup without even garnering a single point.  Much to no one’s surprise, Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen stepped down after the match.  Most likely he’ll take the Australia job and run them into the ground.

Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) finally scored after threatening in the first two games.  Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) made an appearance and also scored but that won’t be enough to earn him a spot in the starting lineup.  Oh yeah, Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) entered the game at 73’ and looked good.  The injury looks to have cleared up and that doesn’t bode well for Slovakia in the next round.  The only question is, who gets dropped to make room for Robben?  Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid)?

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (7), Mexico (4),  South Africa (4), France (1) – Uruguay and Mexico advance

Group B:

Argentina (9), South Korea (4), Greece (3), Nigeria (1) – Argentina and South Korea advance

Group C:

USA (5), England (5),  Slovenia (4), Algeria (1) – USA and England advance

Group D:

Germany (6), Ghana (4), Australia (4), Serbia (3) – Germany and Ghana advance

Group E:

Netherlands (9), Japan (6), Denmark (3), Cameroon (0) – Netherlands and Japan advance

Group F:

Paraguay (5), Slovakia (4), New Zealand (3), Italy (2) – Paraguay and Slovakia advance

Group G

Brazil (6), Portugal (4), Ivory Coast (1), North Korea (0) – Brazil advance, North Korea eliminated

Group H

Chile (6), Spain (3), Switzerland (3),  Honduras (0)

Chelsea takes on Manchester City and I’ll be keeping a running blog post while I’m watching the game.  If you look at my Top 5 Hated Soccer Teams list from my previous post you’ll see that these two teams.  Man City is higher on that list so I have (slightly) more venom for them.  I usually would have no use for this game but the whole Wayne Bridge/John Terry drama is too much for me to pass up.  If they weren’t playing each other I’d probably be watching a Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal movie on Super Action, a replay of Korea winning baseball gold at the 2006 Beijing Olympics (for the 1,000th time) or South Korea’s exploits in the 2002 World Cup (for the 100,000th time).  As you can see, my Saturday night TV viewing is very limited in the ROK.

Besides the Bridge/Terry thing there are other important storylines with this game.  Man City manager, Roberto Mancini, may be on the hot seat since his teams poor run of form assures them that they will not win any hardware this season.  That’s not what the multi-billionaire Dubai owner wants to hear from a team he’s spent so much money on.  A loss here might seal his fate.  Adebayor is out of this game because of the red card he picked up against Stoke City.

Chelsea leads Manchester United by only one point after Man U’s win earlier in the week.  A loss here makes the title chase even more interesting.  Man City beat Chelsea at the Eastlands 2-1 on December 5th so the Blues will be looking for revenge.

Let’s not kid ourselves, Bridge and Terry are the main draw here.  Earlier this week, Wayne Bridge turned his back on England and doesn’t want to be in the squad going to South Africa.  Fabio Capello probably has mixed feelings about his decision but, at the same time, it might make his job easier.  There certainly will be less tension in the locker room and England has no shortage of left-backs.  England are my pick to lift the trophy but it’s still too early to be sure.  Bridge said he would refuse to shake Terry’s hand in the pre-game ritual.  Some of Bridge’s Man City teammates said they would do the same.  We’ll see what happens.  Either way, there will be plenty of boo’s and whistles whenever Bridge touches the ball.  I think Bridge and Terry shake hands, they’re professionals

Lineups:

Chelsea – Hilario (GK), Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry (C), Lampard, J. Cole, Mikel, Ballack, Malouda, Drogba, Anelka

Manchester City – Given (GK) (C), Richards, Bridge, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, A. Johnson, Barry, De Jong, Tevez,                           Bellamy

Substitutes:

Chelsea – Turnbull (GK), Ferreira, Alex, Belletti, Matic, Kalou, Sturridge

Manchester City – Taylor (GK), Onuoha, Sylvinho, Toure, Wright-Philips, Santa Cruz, Ibrahim

Referee: Mike Dean

The Game:

Players in the tunnel waiting to come out.  Mike Dean has words with Shay Given.  I wonder if he’s telling him not to refuse to shake Terry’s hand like some players had threatened to do.

Teams making their way out on the pitch and line up for the pre-game ritual.  Chelsea in all blue.  Man City wearing white with a red and black diagonal stripe on their shirts.  The look like River except with the added black stripe and the fact that River Plate’s uniform looks a million times cooler.

Pre-game handshake time.  Things going smoothly so far.  Terry extended his hand, Bridge looked at him but refused to shake his hand.  Crowd erupts in boos.  I’m sure this won’t be the last time.  I was wrong about Bridge being professional about this.

I guess John Terry is the bigger man

Mancini and Ancelotti have a hug and a smile.  Will this be it for Mancini?

1st Half:

Chelsea kick off.  We’re off.

Hilario handles a slow roller well.  It’s not a sure thing with him, given the way he looked against Inter in the Champions league in mid-week.

Boos for Bridge as he takes the throw in.

What’s with Jolene Lescott’s hair?

I wonder how long the crowd can keep up booing Wayne Bridge?

Cheers every time John Terry touches the ball.  Can they keep that up too?

Quick shot by Lampard.  Save Given.

Gareth Barry is not happy for some reason.  Ref has a talk with him.  I think a yellow card for Barry will happen today.

If John Terry scores, Stamford Bridge will explode.

Tevez’ first touch is a hand ball.

Nice move on the right side by Ivanovic.  Quick shot and Given saves.

Fabio Capello in the house.

What’s with all the (bad) tattoo sleeves?

Adam Johnson with a free kick from the right of goal.  Too strong for Kompany to get on the end of it.

Malouda thinks about taking a shot from 30 yards.  Not a good choice.

Mancini knows this isn’t Italy right.  Managers in England aren’t fashion plates.  Take off that stupid scarf!

Drogba hauled down by Richards right outside the box to the left of goal.  Where’s the yellow?  Free-kick.  Drogba over the ball.  Short pass to Lampard.  Quick shot.  Blocked.  Poor choice on the play.

Ballack finally makes an appearance at the 15 minute mark.  Nice shiner.

Drogba makes a nice pass across goal to no one.  Where’s Cole or Lampard?

Rough entry by Malouda on Johnson.  Free kick for Man City to the right of goal about 20 yards out.  Johnson takes the kick.  Straight to Hilario.  Save.  Another poor free-kick choice.

Nice quick shot by Joe Cole.  Given punches.  Possession favoring Chelsea.

20 minutes in and Tevez has yet to touch the ball with his feet.

Crowd giving Hilario sarcastic cheers every time he kicks the ball.  That won’t help his confidence.

Bellamy a mile offsides.  He doesn’t think so.  Of course he doesn’t.

Drogba heads an Ivanovic pass right over the goal.  Close

Chelsea leads in shots 6-1 at the 25 minute mark.

Tevez receives the ball at the center line.  I’m sure Chelsea don’t mind him getting the ball there.  Quick back pass.

Nice run by Joe Cole.  Passes to Ivanovic.  Return pass to Cole too strong.

Anelka has a go from 20 yards.  Right to Given.

Malouda OWNING A. Johnson so far, 30 minutes in.

Drogba shows up on the right makes a cross on goal.  Kompany almost put it into his own net.  Corner.  Ball comes out, to Ivanovic.  Cross.  Drogba, Richards, and Zabaleta go down in a heap.  Drogba and Zabaleta knocked heads.  Drogba gets up but Zabaleta on the ground and looks dazed.  He walks off the pitch slowly.

Joe Cole and Bridge having a chat at 32 minutes.

Richards steps in on Anelka.  Free-kick Chelsea.  Malouda takes the kick from the left of goal.  The kick crosses the field and out.  Poor.

Crowd can’t keep up with booing Bridge.  They’re losing interest.

Lampard’s errant shot goes to Drogba who puts it right over the goal.  Another close one.

Zabaleta returns at 35 minutes.

Nice run by Anelka.  Diagonal for Drogba in the box.  Too long.

Tevez is pretty much just taking up space.  A non-factor.

I forgot Gareth Barry was still in the game (36 minutes).

Is Craig Bellamy supposed to be somebody?

Anelka pretty much doing whatever he wants.

GOAL Lampard at 42 minutes.  Nice pass from Joe Cole.  Lampard was alone in front of goal.  What were Richards and Kompany doing on the play?  Chelsea lead 1-0.

I hope Mancini is just renting.

Surprisingly clean game so far.  Not many whistles.

Man City looks shaky.  Two shots by Cole and Lampard stopped by Given.

GOAL Man City.  Tevez scores (45+2).  Game tied 1-1.  Tevez goes 1 v 2 on the break.  Hilario pretty much just watching as Tevez zigzags and can’t get his hands on Tevez’ weak, rolling shot.  Did I mention Hilario is terrible?

Lescott almost heads in a free-kick.  Hilario overplayed it.  Lucky it was wide.

Mike Dean blows the whistle for half time.

Half:

Terry giving it to the linesman as he walks off.

Lucky goal by City.  Otherwise, they have been awful.  Chelsea in charge of the play.

Can a coach get fired during the game?

2nd Half:

Manchester City kicks off and goes backwards.

Richards makes a hot run up the right but hen he remembers he plays defense and promptly gets confused and loses the ball.

Step in by Terry.  Free-kick Man City right outside the area.  Tevez, bridge and A. Johnson standing over the ball.  Wall set.  Bridge puts it right into the wall.  Malouda makes a run but it fizzles.

Nice effort by Carvalho to keep play alive.  Ivanovic loses the ball in the box.

GOAL Man City (51 min).  Bellamy makes a run on the left side and what looks like a pass turns into a goal.  Right under Hilario’s left hand.  He overplayed it again.

Man City up 2-1 on two goals against the run of play.

Drogba pushed off by Lescott in the box.  Referee says no.  Dean was wrong.  Lescott even extended his arm to push-off.

Ballack taken down to the left of the box.  Drogba will take the free-kick.  Wall set.  Blocked.  Corner.  Lampard takes.  Shot goes through the box.  Cross by Terry.  Save by Given.

Joe Cole is doing a lot of work.

Crowd is a bit dead except for the Bridge boos, which have picked up again.

Zabaleta shown a yellow card (57 min) by Dean for constantly asking for a yellow card.  Karma.

Ivanovic picks up a yellow (58 minutes) for a body on Barry.

Substitutions coming.

Man City:  Wright-Philips for A. Johnson (60 mins)
Chelsea:   Belletti for Mikel (60 mins)
Chelsea:   Sturridge for Joe Cole (61 minus)

I can see the Mikel substitution because he was never really part of the game.

Why did Joe Cole come off?  He was running the midfield and controlling play.  Mistake.

Mike Dean giving Tevez and Terry a taking to after the players had words.  Tevez should’ve been shown a yellow for the push (63 mins).

Sturridge has had two touches and looked terrible.  Fans booing the move.

Long pass by Ballack out-of-bounds.

Ivanovic bails out Hilario by stopping Bellamy on the break.  Corner.  Barry takes and Hilario alertly punches.

Man City has a bit of momentum.  Chelsea has stalled.

Anelka fights his way into the box and takes a quick shot.  Blocked by Given.

Ballack given a yellow (68 mins) for wasting time and tells the linesman to go fuck himself.

Substitution:

Chelsea:  Kalou for Carvalho (70 mins)

Bellamy takes a long-range shot which Hilario surprisingly stops.

Kalou should make a difference.  He looked good against Inter in the Champions League.

Given charges out to anticipate Drogba (71 mins).

Sturridge looks terrible.  Why Ancelotti?

Nice long shot by Ballack.  Given there.

Belletti takes Barry down in the box from behind.  Penalty for Man City and red card for Balletti.  Chelsea reduced to 10 men.  Tevez takes.  GOAL (76 mins).  3-1 Man City.  GAME OVER!!!

Mancini saves his job I think.  Wasn’t Mark Hughes fired after a victory?

Manchester United will stay one point behind Chelsea in the standings.

Substitution:

Manchester City:  Santa Cruz for Bridge (78 mins)

Looks like Mancini wants to score more goals.

Weak shot by Lampard (79 mins).  Save Given.

Wright-Philips with a screamer (80 mins).  Wide right.

Ballack shown yellow/red for tackle on Tevez.  Chelsea down to 9 men.

Fans are starting to stream out as Tevez pretends to limp off.

Shot by Drogba easily saved by Given.

GOAL Bellamy (87 mins).  Wright-Philips makes a nice run on a break from the right and crosses to Bellamy for the tap in.  Where’s Hilario?  4-1 Man City.

Manchester City has three goals against the run of play.

Garbage time.

Substitution:

Manchester City:  Sylvinho for Tevez (90+1)

Anelka is taken down by Barry in the box.  Penalty.  Lampard to take.  GOAL (90+1).  Man City lead 4-2.  Too late to help.

Abramovich looks bored.

Mike Dean blows the whistle to end the game.

Game Thoughts:

Mancini lives to see another day.

The Joe Cole substitution is puzzling because he was a huge part of the game.  Chelsea started going downhill with the introduction of Sturridge.

Sturridge looked out-of-place and tight.

Cech will be out a least a month with the leg injury he picked up mid-week against Inter.  If they can’t hold on to the lead at the top of the table, this will be a major reason why.  Hilario is terrible.  He doesn’t seem to know what to do.  He overplayed all three Manchester City non-penalty goals.  How did Chelsea get stuck with him as their back-up?  With all the money they spend they can’t get a decent back-up?

Chelsea was the better team up until Balletti’s red card.  Manchester City made the most of their breaks.

I don’t think I saw De Jong or heard his name during the whole broadcast.

Lampard looked second best to Joe Cole in the game.

Ivanovic got caught out on many City breaks because of his always going forward.

Referee Mike Dean had a good game.  Not many whistles until the 1st red card.

Manchester United are now one point back and Arsenal is theoretically three points back.

It’s weird watching the game in Korea because I don’t know what the announcers were saying but I could hear their excitement.  Would have liked to have heard the English broadcasters call this game.

Crowd was not as angry with the score as I thought they would be.  They kind of just accepted it.  After Bridge was replaced at 78 minutes, the crowd kind of went dead.

Did I mention how bad Hilario and Sturridge were?

Not City's best decision but they're used to making poor choices. Mancini lives another week.

Yesterday, one of The Blasian’s (remember him?) favorite teams, Inter Milan took on Chelsea at Giuseppe Meazza in the Champions League Round of 16 clash.  Inter won 2-1 and look good, not great, going into the return match in three weeks time.  Before I go into the actual game let me tell you about these two teams.

Last week my favorite team, AC Milan took on a team I really, really like, Manchester United.  Inter and Chelsea are the opposite of that.  They both make my Top 5 most hated soccer/football/futbol/calcio teams.  Both teams are probably tied for third on that list.  Let’s take a quick look at what that list look likes:

Top 5 Most Hated Soccer Teams
1.  Juventus (Italy)
2.  Manchester City (England)
T3. Inter Milan (Italy)
T3. Chelsea (England)
5.  Roma (Italy)

Even though Inter and Chelsea are on this list I have to admit that I do like some of the players on these teams whereas I hate everything about Juventus and Man City.  Juventus and Man City have no redeeming qualities and there is not one player, coach or member of management I like on either of those teams.

Sure Inter has won a few scudettos lately they but they haven’t won the Champion’s League/European Cup in my lifetime and this makes me very happy.  The Blaisian (who dat?) can say whatever he wants about Inter but you can have all the league championships you want but you’re nothing until you win in Europe.  Plus, don’t think winning one puts you in the same sentence as AC Milan.  Same goes for you Chelsea.  Try to win in Europe before you think you’re on par with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

I’m sad that AC Milan or Manchester United will be out after the Round of 16 but at the same time seeing Inter or Chelsea out makes it a little better.  The one thing that scares me is that Inter or Chelsea will go through to the final and beat AC Milan or Manchester United. That would be my ultimate nightmare.  Although, if it were reversed and AC Milan or Manchester United beat one of those two teams it would make winning the title even sweeter.  AC Milan has one quite a few Champions League/European Cup titles but the one I savor and remember the most is when we beat Juventus in the 2003 final in Manchester.  It was like winning two titles at once.  The Blasian (where are you?) would be unbearable if Inter won the Champions League.

The game:

To be honest, this game wasn’t that exciting.  I thought Chelsea worked hard and deserved better.  I wonder what the referee was thinking on the play where Kalou got taken down right in front of the goal?  Eto’o was disappointing.  Ivanovic (Chelsea) and Sneijder (Inter) had great games for their respective teams.  Maybe the game played too much like a chess match because both coaches knew the other team as well as anyone.  Chelsea better hope that Cech is able to play in the return because Hilario looks terrible.  The guy looked frightened when he came in to the game and can’t execute a goal kick to save his life.

Inter will go into Stamford Bridge with a slight advantage.  That away goal by Chelsea is big.  Chelsea can go through with a 1-0 win but if Inter scores then Chelsea will need to win by two.  Even though I hate both teams, I would love to see Inter crash out first.  Not just because The Blasian (I think he still writes for this blog) likes them but because they are and always will be second class citizens in Milan.

I don’t know if I should say this but I don’t like Mario Balotelli.  Please Blasian (come back soon), don’t rip me because he’s your guy.  It has nothing to do about his skin color.  I have no idea why the Italian fans have a problem with his ethnicity because on the field he’s all Italian.  What does that mean?  He’s such a whiner and goes down in a heap with minimal contact.  How has he not played for Italy yet?  He’d fit right in.

Italy, don't boo Super Mario because he's black, boo him because he dives and whines

Now that all of the games in the first leg are complete, lets take a quick look at the other games and what might happen in the return.

AC Milan – Manchester United (2-3), Manchester go home looking real good.  Three away goals are huge and I have trouble believing that Milan can score two, let alone win by two.  Then again, if Ferguson decides to play Neville on the right then Milan could probably do whatever they want (see Everton).

Bayern Munich – Fiorentina (2-1), Bayern got the benefit of a non-call from the referee and the linesman.  Klose was offsides not once, but twice on the play.  Sure, Fiorentina got an away goal but I think Bayern will find a way to get this done.  Don’t forget that Bayern went to Torino and beat Juventus 4-1 to knock them out of the tournament.

Lyon – Real Madrid (1-0), Lyon shocked Madrid but an ever healthier Ronaldo should make the difference at the Bernabeu.  I can’t muster up any excitement for Lyon because Jean-Alain Boumsong is one of their defenders.  Rangers, Newcastle and Juventus fans know what I’m talking about.

CSKA Moscow – Sevilla (1-1), a good showing by Sevilla in frigid Moscow puts them in the driver’s seat going back to Sanchez Pizjuan.

Stuttgart – Barcelona (1-1), the defending champs were frustrated by the German side and the return should be interesting.  Don’t put Barcelona in the next round quite yet but playing at the Camp Nou should help.

Porto – Arsenal (2-1), Arsenal looked terrible in this one.  Who knew that Almunia, as bad as he can be, is the best Arsenal can do in goal?  That being said, Arsenal rights the ship and advances at the Emirates.

Olympiakos – Bordeaux (0-1), the French leaders look good going back home.  Bordeaux have lost only once at home this season in Ligue 1

Chelsea plays at Arsenal this Sunday (16:00 GMT).  I hate both teams but I am very interested in what happens.  Chelsea beat Arsenal 3-0 at The Emirates in November so you know the Gunners want revenge.  Plus, a win would put Arsenal back in the title hunt.  They’re currently six points behind the Blues and a loss would surely put an end to any title dreams. 

Sorry Blasian and the rest of the Gunners fans but I don’t see Arsenal winning this one.  Chelsea just doesn’t lose at home.  They’ve won eleven and tied one in their games at Stamford Bridge.  Arsenal have only won twice in the last fifteen against Chelsea.  Also, look for Drogba to score in this one since he has ten goals in his last nine games against Arsenal in all competitions. 

There's a good chance this man will be celebrating on Sunday

I know Arsenal has scored the most goals in the league (60) but that doesn’t mean much against this stout Chelsea defense.  They have eleven shutouts this year, the most of anyone in the Premiership.  Don’t think Chelsea doesn’t need this game also.  They’re only two points ahead of Manchester United and Man U should have their way with Portsmouth at Old Trafford Saturday night (15:00 GMT).  

Personally, I’d like to see a tie here so Man U would be tied with Chelsea and six points clear of Arsenal.  

In other news, John Terry was stripped of the England captaincy.  I think everyone is making a big deal out of this decision.  What does being the captain really mean on the field?  Have England’s chance of winning the World Cup changed now that Rio Ferdinand is the captain?  No.  These guys are professionals and they will come to play in South Africa.  Frankly, I don’t know why he had to lose his spot as captain.  That other stuff is personal and, as much as I hate Chelski, John Terry has always given his heart and soul every time he put on the England shirt.  

I heard a story that Wayne Bridge commented that he wouldn’t play for England if John Terry was still on the team.  Is he serious?  There’s no way Capello outright drops Terry.  If that’s true, have fun watching the World Cup on television Wayne.  I’ll take John Terry over Wayne Bridge any day of the week. 

Wayne who?

Since there is no “Simply RiCOCKulous” article for this week, I decided to hit you with something a we can all relate to…b/c we all have gotten these emails at work!  You know what emails I’m talking about!  The one from that really close “Personal Friend” (You know the one that you grew up with and gave your kidney to last year and the same one that would never do anything to harm you in any way) b/c you can always trust them!!……Yea, that buddy…so  you open the email at work and all of a sudden, a picture or short video of 2 COMPLETELY NAKED  Women (or Men) playing twister while covered in chocolate pops up on your screen!…(See now you know what I’m talking about) And sometimes if you are lucky like me, it is at that exact moment that your boss decides to walk by and pay you a visit.  Well THIS poor fellow has it much worse b/c his email was opened on live TV on a major financial network….Poor Bastard! But still quite funny!

Another future casualty of the Economic Downturn! Or simply stupid!

Anyway this is primarily a Sports Blog so let me go ahead and say a couple words on something sports related…..

1) Arsenal of the EPL is NOT who we thought they were! That’s right the Gunners lost AGAIN to another big team this week!  Actually getting crushed 3-1 at home by Manchester United!  Yet, the Young Gunz can take some solace in the fact that they have had an impressive season so far given that most thought, they would finish out of the top 4 given their age and inexperience!  However quite to contrary, b/c as recently as last week the ARSENAL was at the top of the EPL standings (if only be it for a couple days). But if they really want to make it to the next level they are going to have to at least win at home against the Man Utd’s and Chelsea’s of the World!

"THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE"

2)  Apparently Being ranked #1 in College Basketball is an Automatic Loss Manufacturer this season!  Since the cupcake portion of the season ended (around Jan 4th),  All 3 teams that have been ranked #1 coming into the week (Kansas, Texas and Kentucky) have promptly lost after being bestowed with such Honor.  And due to this, I’m not sure if I feel that anybody is a clear cut favorite to win it all this year. Here’s hoping the next #1 ranked team can at least keep the rating for a week!

3) And am I the only 1 that thinks Tennis is getting totally boring?  Serena and Federer won again at the Aussie Open!!  Where’s the new blood??? Who is suppose to be challenging these guys?  Murray and Roddick are definitely not living up to the hype and  Nadal still really can’t beat Federer either!  At least Serena takes brakes from dominating her opponents to make clothes, jewelry and music videos or whatever!  But you can’t deny that when she’s focused nobody can beat her, (including her sister)!  I mean I’m all for Great Champions and all but would love to at least see some more promising competition for these two!

This is all too Common! (Pun intended!!)

– Kennedy Wong aka The BLASIAN