Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday Open Thread

There's some big, probably over-hyped match this weekend. Perhaps you have noticed. However, it's not today, so you can continue to sleep off that hangover.

Selected schedule (times EDT):

7.30 Aberdeen-Dundee United
7.45 Sunderland-Middlesbrough
10.00 Norwich-Sheffield United
10.00 Blackburn-Fulham
10.00 Liverpool-Stoke City
10.00 West Ham-Newcastle
12.30 Bolton-Arsenal

And, of course, anything else you want to talk about.

For example, Lisa Munday, Norwich City's Jamie Cureton's special someone. One more after the jump.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Backpasses: This is what we had to work with

As you'll see, the problem wasn't quantity, but quality.

Inter Milan want Maradona as consultant. It's only a matter of time before he and Mourinho have a slap fight. [Guardian]
Arsenal made money while losing money last year, more or less [BBC]
Aston Villa's UEFA Cup opponent don't play the game very well [The Spoiler]
Get ready for the next ex-US international player that will leave you muttering "bastard" under your breath [Soccer by Ives]

Onyewu wants out of Belgium. Cut and paste this for January [SI]
I'm guessing England's North-South divide is not quite to the same level as Italy's [Guardian]
New team pops up in Liverpool [Liverpool Echo]
No shit, Sherlock [Soccernet]
A look at shirt sponsorship deals in England [Guardian]

And, finally:
Mike Riley chosen for Chelsea-Manchester United because neither team objects. Since when are referees chosen like juries? [Daily Mail]

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German Women's Team Seeks Sexy Sponsor

Amateur women's side, Meiendorfer SV, is in the same boat as Premiership sides West Ham and West Bromwich Albion in that the need a new kit sponsor. Meiendorfer may not have the name cache those EPL (suck it, Barclay's!) squads have, but the team makes up for it in the creativity department. Just check out their plea, accompanied with the following:

Sexy Sponsorensuche, indeed!

My German's a bit rusty, not having been back to HJ camp in some time, but it appears that a sponsor will receive an original photo of the twelve ladies above tossing away their "last shirt." However, those devishly clever frauen aren't throwing away their bikinis, because, as they say, a new sponsor is essential "but not at any price."

Nicht so Sexy Sponsorensuche!

I've been duped. I thought European women were more liberal in sexual mores than American women.

Regardless, maybe UF has an opportunity here. I'm sure our readers could provide a few ideas about what Meiendorfer SV could put on their chests.

Speaking of sponsors, if anybody wants to help UF out and become a sponsor, feel free to hit us up at unprofessionalfoul[at]gmail[dot]com with your ideas. Your support would be much appreciated.

[H/T: Abgefahrn]

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It's one of those days

There ain't a damn bit of news coming out today. Either that or we are just too lazy to write up what we have. So it goes. Stay tuned for possible, maybe, just-might-happen updates later. Or just come back tomorrow for the open thread.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Rex Grossman is jealous of Del Piero

Writer spends time, a lot of time, with Deuce. Pretty damn good read [This is American Soccer]
Ex-Birmingham striker finds new job. He's a cop in Calgary [Calgary Sun]
Odd job: Becks lookalike [Headingly Today]

And, finally:
If you haven't seen Del Piero's goal from Wednesday, go see it now [101 Great Goals]

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Eh, why not, a spot of liveblog: NY Red Bulls v. Columbus Crew

I've been watching this game and rather enjoying it, so I thought a little 2nd half liveblog wouldn't be a bad thing. For someone who is always ragging on MLS, I've had fun with this one.

Good attacking football from both sides, and the tempo is high.

I just feel like the one thing they're all missing is that last pass through en route to goal. The final delivery is sloppy, but it'll come in time. Thus, you end up getting guys shooting from range without much menace (except for Angel, whose free-kick was beastly), or you get a lot of goals scored via the old Fifa '98 route: cross from the touchline, get a tap-in or a header from the edge of the 6-yard box.

Maybe I'm wrong. Either way, it's been a good 'un so far. 1-1 at halftime, and they're getting ready to come back...

Follow along if you're around, after the jump.

Starting XIs:
New York Red Bulls:
18 - Jon Conway (GK)
2 - Kevin Goldthwaite
6 - Seth Stammler
7 - Mike Magee
9 - Juan Pablo Angel
13 - Jorge Rojas
17 - Gabriel Cichero
19 - Dane Richards
23 - Juan Pietravallo
27 - Andrew Boyens
60 - Jeff Parke

1 - Danny Cepero (GK)
4 - Carlos Mendes
8 - Sinisa Ubiparipovic
12 - Danleigh Borman
15 - John Wolyniec
32 - Luke Sassano
33 - Chris Leitch
Columbus Crew:
1 - William Hesmer (GK)
2 - Frankie Hejduk
4 - Gino Padula
5 - Danny O'Rourke
10 - Alejandro Moreno
11 - Pat Noonan
12 - Eddie Gaven
14 - Chad Marshall
15 - Stefani Miglioranzi (replaced by Ekpo, 20")
16 - Brian Carroll
19 - Robbie Rogers

18 - Kenny Schoeni (GK)
6 - Andy Iro
8 - Duncan Oughton
9 - Jason Garey
17 - Emmanuel Ekpo 20
23 - Ezra Hendrickson
32 - Steven Lenhart

And we're off.

46 mins:
Holy shit... that didn't take long. GOAL COLUMBUS... Robby Rogers, who caused a lot of problems on the left wing, takes the ball with pace and cuts infield, letting fly from 30 yards and sending the ball soaring past Jon Conway.
New York Red Bulls 1, Columbus 2

50 mins:
Rogers and Eddie Gaven are causing nightmares on the flanks for RBNY. Rogers ghosts past Cichero on the left, and the Venezuelan defender decides to stonewall him and send him flying. The crowd wants a penalty; the ref gives it where he should have given it, just outside. Rogers floats it in but Conway collects easily.

Conway's been rather pants tonight. Caught way out of position on goal #1, arguably on goal #2 as well, and just hasn't looked up for it tonight.

Moreno collects it outside the box dead center and decides to rip a shot with Boyens in his face... narrowly wide.

Sub for RBNY: Woljniec in, Pietravallo out. The salt-and-pepper hair atop the sub is rather hilarious to look at.

Other players who have looked good: Ekpo for Columbus (fast as shit but can't play a good final pass!) and Dane Richards, another lad who is faster than the proverbial speeding bullet but whose passing has the accuracy of a shotgun at long range.

55 mins:
LA Galaxy haven't won since Arena took over? I'm not surprised. Meanwhile, RBNY struggle to have any possession whatsoever. Moreno feeds Ekpo at the edge of the box, his thunderous shot is blocked and loops high and harmlessly towards the touchline. Conway canters across to collect under no pressure, but misjudges it and it dinks off him for a corner.

Corner doesn't amount to much, although the clearance is weak, and when Gaven gets it in the box again, his shot is rather weak and smothered easily.

57 mins:
RBNY cough it up again cheaply in midfield, and Brian Carroll jogs towards goal and shoots from 35 yards. It loops wide. What is with all this long-range shooting? A lot easier to score if you're close.

60 mins:
Harkes (I think it's Harkes) posits that the way to mark Juan Pablo Angel out of the game is to put two on him; one right in front of him to stop him shooting, and one right behind him to stop him getting the ball. Is he suggesting JPA might enjoy being the Lucky Pierre?

I wish I didn't now have that imagery. Damn you, Harkes. NIGHTMARE FUEL.

61 mins:
The RBNY defensive third of the field is beginning to resemble WW2-era Dresden; it is raining possession and chances on poor Conway's goal, leaving their defense looking rather dilapidated. (That's right folks, a tenuous WW2 reference!) The raiding is halted momentarily by a foul on the edge of the box that gives Conway a chance to clear and breathe a little.

62 mins:
Here come Columbus again. Marshall plays Moreno through, and it's a straight sprint to goal. He holds off the last defender, Conway comes out to greet him on the edge of the box, Moreno dinks it past him to the left and then takes a rather ridiculous dive right over Conway's outstretched body. The crowd becomes apoplectic looking for the penalty, but the ref knows best and awards a goal kick.

Moreno knocked it far too long past Conway to sell the ref on the foul, which was dubious at best to begin with.

RBNY have a corner on the right, which they promptly squander by heading well over the bar.

66 mins:
Columbus spending all their time attacking without difficulty down the wings. A weak cross from Gaven is cleared easily, and Rojas sets off for a sunday job through the entire midfield. He gets some 25 yards virtually untouched, and with 4 Crew defenders in front of him and RBNY players trying to make a break, he takes a speculative shot from range. Not far over, either, but leaving his teammates looking rather frustrated.

RBNY attack again down the left, but Goldthwait tosses up a cross to nowhere.

68 mins:
Cynical that from Dane Richards. A RBNY corner is cleared easily, and Rogers breaks up-field. He knocks it past the first man and turns Richards, whose response is to pull on his shirt until he falls down. Yellow card. Columbus take the free-kick quick and break down the right, the cross in finds Gaven who narrowly heads over.

70 mins:
It's Angel's turn to cross to nowhere. Bit more possession finally for RBNY in this second half, but Columbus have threatened to score a boatload of goals so far in this second half. Will their profligacy in front of goal lead to a soft equalizer?

20 minutes left to find out.

71 mins:
Cute trickery from Ekpo in midfield, but his final pass to Moreno trickles harmlessly through to the keeper. Frustrating stuff from someone who is very, very fun to watch.

I missed a substitution 10 mins ago for RBNY: Mike Magee off, Danleigh Borman off.

72 mins:
It's Hesmer's turn to look like Paul Robinson in goal, as a long, lofted free kick into the box catches him in two minds and he's forced to fumble it out for a corner with 2 Red Bulls giving him pressure. It amounts to nothing.

73 mins:
I'm not watching MLS anymore; it's just the Rogers and Gaven Show. Their link-up play is enjoyable, but Columbus aren't doing anything with it. Wojyniec breaks for RBNY down the left flank, but Hejduk distracts him enough to regain possession. Both teams are passing it around neatly for the most part, but it's not adding up to clear-cut chances.

76 mins:
HOW IN THE NAME OF DAVID BECKHAM DID THEY MISS THAT?!?!?!? Gorgeous play by Columbus. Given time to pass it around on the edge of the box from left to right to left again, Rogers chips the defense and Hejduk beats the offside trap. Through one-on-one on Conway, he hits it right into the goalie, and the ensuing scramble breaks to Rogers on the edge of the box. With plenty of space to shoot at, he scuffs it off the outside of his foot, it takes a deflection and Conway smothers the loose ball. Gilt-edged chance for the Crew.

... immediately from that Wolyniec beats the trap from Rojas's smart angled pass, but Hessmer is equal to it. Welcome back, end-to-end football. I've missed you the last 20 minutes.

80 mins:
Both sides are tired, but RBNY are starting to look more threatening. Still, the final pass is lacking. To prove my hypothesis, Rojas has a chance to spring Angel, but his pass is too strong and despite a spirited chase, it rolls out for a Columbus throw-in.

82 mins:
Sub time for Columbus after a lull in the play. Ekpo is off, with defender Danny Iro coming in. Would be awful to drop 2 points after this performance.

Sigi Schmid has another sub ready in the form of Jason Garey. Who's he replacing?

85 mins:
Dane Richards capitalizes on a gaffe to break down the right wing. All alone, he whips in a quick, low cross but it's easily clear. You can sense Angel's frustration from here.

And just like that... Columbus break and SCORE ANOTHER GOAL. Neat, clinical move, too. Hejduk gets through on the right after a neat chip through by Noonan, he races in on goal with the Goldthwaite breathing down his neck, he waits until Conway comes out before passing across for Gaven, who was wide open and slots it into an empty net. Very nicely done indeed.
New York Red Bulls 1, Columbus Crew 3

Just like that they bring on Garey for Noonan, who's had a quiet game. Not much of note from Pat N.

89 mins:
Frustration and petulance emerge from the RBNY side, who are clearly annoyed at the rather lackluster performance they've put in this evening. Rogers (I think) holds the ball near the left-hand corner flag, slowly sucking time off the clock, and Goldthwait decides he's had enough and takes a wild hack at the back of his leg. A long, swinging kick for no reason whatsoever, and the ref's decision is easy. RED CARD FOR GOLDTHWAIT.

Columbus fans cheer, Goldthwait stomps off. Stupid move late in the game.

90+1 mins:
Roll on full time, please. RBNY are just committing stupid, angry fouls and tension is running a little higher at the game winds down. Hejduk has another run down the wing, but it's broken up by Stammler. Less than a minute to go.

90+2 mins:
O'Rourke skies a shot well over, and we're seconds from the whistle.

A comfortable, richly-deserved win for Columbus at home despite coughing up the early goal. Rogers and Gaven were a constant menace, and RBNY will now have to deal with a suspension for Goldthwait, the guy with the most mins this season, after his idiotic foul at the death.

Final Score: New York Red Bulls 1, Columbus Crew 3

Decent game, that. MLS is slowly winning me over. Sure, it's no Liverpool, but I need to stop the snobbery when it comes to the US version. Still, I'm adamant that they're lacking the final pass. Too many long-range shots and dribbling into two defenders. Still, a good game.

Now it's time to crack into the scotch and watch Gordon Ramsay berate moronic, ornery failing restauranteurs for an hour.

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Belated UEFA Cup thread

Does anyone watch Little Cup?

A ton of the matches have already concluded, probably due to being played in countries so tiny and scattered that they have their own provincial timezones. However, it's not over just yet!

Everton v. Standard Liege just kicked off, as did Spurs at home to Wizla Krakow, which should be fun as they're missing new signings Pavlyuchenko and Corluka (both cup-tied... good transfers, then), and Modric who already has a knee injury.

Starting XIs and the rest of the scores after the jump.

Get ready for some bad news, all you Omonia Nicosia fans...

Everton 1 Yakubu 23"
Standard Liege 1 Mbokani 9"
(kick-off 3.05pm ET)

Everton: Howard, Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Anichebe, Castillo, Osman, Arteta, Cahill, Yakubu.

Subs: Nash, Baines, Vaughan, Nuno Valente, Jutkiewicz, Baxter, Rodwell.

Standard Liege: Aragon, Camozzato, Onyewu, Sarr, Dante, Dalmat, Jovanovic, Defour, Witsel, De Camargo, Mbokani.

Subs: Devriendt, Goreux, Toama, Mikulic, Nicaise, Ingrao, Gonzalez.

Spurs 0, Wisla Krakow 0
(kick-off 3.10pm ET)

Tottenham: Gomes, Gunter, Woodgate, King, Bale, Bentley, Jenas, Zokora, Lennon, Giovani, Bent.

Subs: Cesar, Huddlestone,Gilberto, Campbell, Dawson, O' Hara, Assou-Ekotto.

Wisla Krakow: Pawelek, Singlar, Baszczynski, Cleber, Diaz, Boguski, Sobolewski, Cantoro, Zienczuk, Pawel Brozek, Jirsak.

Subs: Juszczyk, Guedes Filho, Glowacki, Niedzielan, Malecki, Lobodzinski, Barreto.

AS Nancy 1 Berenguer 42"
Motherwell 0

Litex Lovech 1 Popov 10"
Aston Villa 3 Reo-Coker 45+1", Barry 72" (pen), Petrov 90+2"

Portsmouth 2 Diarra 39", Defoe 60"
Guimaraes 0

Omonia Nicosia 1 Duro 49"
Manchester City 2 Jo 59", 72"

Read more on "Belated UEFA Cup thread"...

Oh Halsey...

It is hard to be a referee. Or at least, I imagine it to be. You're not very popular, you don't get paid very well, and the only way anyone judges you to have done a good job is if you're invisible and not heard from. There's death threats occasionally, you get called "wanker" more times than anyone else on earth (despite whether your masturbatory habits are that regular or not), and you catch shit from players, fans, and coaches every single day.

Sometimes though, you'll get rewarded with a big, high-profile game between big clubs, and you'll be seen all over the world in your black shirt clutching your little whistle. Prestigious, right?

Well, it is until you get something wrong, cause a big appeal to the FA where your ruling is overturned, and then you get dumped down to League Two for a couple of weeks.

Yep, that's what happened to Mark Halsey. Poor bastard. The wrath of Chelsea is clearly a lot stronger than I ever imagined.

From the Daily Mail, whose insistence on typos in their online content never ceases to amaze me:

Halsey dismissed Terry for hauling down Jo in the Blues' 3-1 win at Manchester City, but the England captain successfully appeal against the red card he picked up at Manchester City.

Halsey deemed it a serious foul play and showed Terry the red card, but Chelsea protested, and yesterday submitted a claim for wrongful dismissal.

Jo still had a long way to go to goal when the foul came in from Terry, whose fellow defender Ricardo Carvalho was in close attendance.

An independent regulatory commission heard the appeal today and the FA revealed they upheld Chelsea's claim, meaning England captain Terry must no longer serve a three-match ban.
Independent, eh? That means Roman can probably get to 'em. Some new velvet cossacks, or a Mercedez Benz knocked off from a car park in St. Petersburg.

Either way, as the article goes on to mention, Terry's reinstatement is rather fortunate for the Blues, as they play Manchester United this weekend, and his suspension would carry through their Carling Cup tie against Pompey on the 24th, and the following league game against Stoke.

Poor lad. He was gutted at the thought of not playing against Jermain Defoe.

Halsey's punishment for royally messing things up and forcing these commissions in the first place is a prime gig this weekend: Chester vs. Shrewsbury.

It's good to see some accountability there, especially as the straight red was dubious from the start, but it makes me wonder what'll happen to Ed Hochuli, whose transgression was far more influential. San Diego lost, and he received bad grades that might stop him working in the playoffs. Could they send him to ref 1-AAA college football instead?

Either way, there are two morals to the story: be a good referee, and never, ever, ever get on the wrong side of John Terry.

Read more on "Oh Halsey..."...

Lyon don't play nice

While we were all captivated yesterday by the games which British teams failed to win, a pretty stunning comeback happened. Lyon, playing at home, went down 0-2 to Fiorentina by halftime. While Arsenal struggled to make up for a cheap PK, Lyon roared back with two second half goals. It must have been a stunning comeback with lots of hard work, right?

Not so much, it would appear. Lyon's first goal came at the benefit of a Fiorentina injury. The man was down, and Lyon maintained possession and scored. While it would be despicable enough if the injury was up field, Fiorentina's injury happened in their own box. Instead of playing the ball out, Lyon used the prone player to beat an offside call and score.

There is video at The Offside. You can watch the goal and the aftermath, as Fiorentina take umbrage with Lyon's interpretation of Fair Play. If any of you could provide a translation of the Italian announcers (DONE!), that would be much appreciated.

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Caption Competition Winner!


Time's up! We asked you to come up with a clever and witty caption for the above picture of Nicky Bailey (Charlton) and Andy Keogh (Wolves) and you did not disappoint. But someone must win right?

Find out who, and read some of the entries, after the jump.

So we have a winner but first let's look at the best submitted offerings from our UF blog fiends.

Permanent4: The zombies in Wolverhampton seemed quite confused about where the brains were.
Precious Roy: God this game IS boring. I'm gonna take a nap on your ass. (Made me laugh aloud!)
iskoppa: Please, please don't leave me! I promise never to score again!!!!
Goat: Whilst Wolves took the 3 points, Charlton had the last laugh as Nicky Bailey administers what is know colloquially as a "stinkface" to Wolves' Andy Keogh.

But the winner is this one...
Private: Are you sure your car keys are in here?

Well done sir. Please send your guest blog to unprofessionalfoul{at}gmail{dot}{com}.

We will have another caption competition soon so stay tuned!


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Old news: Hicks family and Liverpool are not BFF

Nothing will ever be simple for the Hicks family in Liverpool. They were welcomed with the same cautious enthusiasm that met soldiers in Baghdad square (well, we're led to believe so anyway), and now, they've been exposed as rather insidious and dishonest since then.

Liberators on one hand, now they're the dismal status quo holding us back.

Well, it seems like even a monumental win over Manchester United this weekend STILL couldn't buy them some second-hand goodwill.

Tom Hicks' son, Alex Hicks, thought that a night on the town would be a bit of fun, although a drunk American outside the Cavern Club is going to draw some attention, especially when traveling with a small cadre of minders and bodyguards (Rule #1: no matter how restless and crude the natives appear to be, treat interaction with them as something more relaxed than an anthropological journey).

Back at the hotel, a fight broke out, and his bodyguard punched out a security guard and spent the night in the clink.

From the report:

"Witnesses said alcohol and cutlery were hurled out of an upstairs window to the street below. A drunken fracas is believed to have revolved around Alex Hicks and his group of friends."
He was charged with assault and sent on his way, but it is yet more bad press for the already embattled Americans in charge at Anfield. At least Gillett has been seen at some games recently! He even tried to sing along with You'll Never Walk Alone!

Still, it's worth noting that the incident took place at the Hard Day's Night Hotel, the recent downtown development of a Beatles-themed hotel. There's an All You Need Is Love joke in there somewhere...

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Blog theft sucks

Don't do this. Don't EVER do this [The Original Winger]
Pavs doesn't like the English game [Daily Mail]
Totally responsible source says Arsenal linked with American 14-year-old. Well, the age is right [The Soccer Blog]
Post says Chelsea Spartak London is the new Manchester United. Today's play says Man U is the new Liverpool [Kornheiser's Cartel]

Why does he even speak? [Soccernet]
John Barnes takes first job since 2000, as Jamaica's new manager [BBC]
Sometimes I think journalists are being touchy when complaining about the athletes they cover. This time, they are in the right [Play the Game]

And, finally:
Everton signed Screech [Daily Mail]

Confidential to inky_wretch-Promise we didn't steal from you. Thanks for the link, though.

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Blog theft sucks"...

CL Open Thread

Now that everyone here got the Roma-CFR Cluj matchup completely wrong, it's time to move onto Matchday 2. Arsenal, Celtic and Manchester United are you British teams involved, With ManU-Villareal apparently our ESPN2 game of the week. Given that the early listing was for Real Madrid-BATE Borisov, I'll take it. If you don't like that game, please feel free to browse our links. There is one that should really help you out.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be making his season debut for Manchester United tonight. That is, if he gets off the bench. Unfortunately for us American fans, The Haitian Sensation is not on Villareal's Champions League roster, though Giuseppe Rossi is. Bastard.

Match-ups and lineups after the jump.

Group E
Manchester United-Villareal

Group F
Steaua Bucharest-Bayern Munich

Group G
Dynamo Kiev-Arsenal

Group H
Juventus-Zenit St Petersburg
Real Madrid-BATE Borisov

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Robson, Brown, Maloney, Samaras, McDonald
Aalborg: Zaza, Beauchamp, Jakobsen, Olfers, Pedersen, Curth, Johansson, Augustinussen, Risgard, Enevoldsen, Saganowski

Manchester United: Van der Sar; Ferdinand, Evra, Neville, Evans; Hargreaves, Fletcher, Park, Nani; Rooney, Tevez. Subs: Anderson, O'Shea, Ronaldo, Vidic, Brown, Foster, Giggs
Villareal: Diego Lopez; Gonzalo, Capdevilla, Angel Lopez, Godin; Fernandez, Eguren, Edmilson, Cani, Pires; Franco. Subs: Viera, Llorente, ibagaza, Fuentes, Cazorla, Senna, Venta

Dynamo Kiev: Bogush, Betao, Diakhate, Mykhalyk, Nesmachniy, Vukojevic, Yussuf, Yeremenko, Aliev, Ninkovic, Bangoura. Subs: Shovkovskiy, Ghioane, Morozyuk, Shatskikh, Kravets,
Arsenal: Almunia; Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy; Walcott, Fabregas, Song, Denilson; Van Persie, Adebayor. Subs: Fabianski, Vela, Eboue, Bendtner, Ramsey, Wilshere, Djourou

Alright, it's Lingering Bursitis here. I have no idea what I'm undertaking, but I thought that since I'd found a Real Madrid v. BATE Borisov feed, I might as well do a half-hearted liveblog (while still technically at work). Call it madness, but I could probably bank on us being the only ones around with that depth of coverage.

2 mins: Raul goes close to scoring. The feed is in Portuguese. This is not going to be easy.

5 mins: All Real so far, unsurprisingly. BATE elicit loud wolf-whistles for hoofing their sole possession downfield.

11 mins: GOAL REAL MADRID... nice build-up. Robben's romp down the left wins a corner. Van der Vaart takes it short, and Guti's low "cross" scuffs across the box to Sergio Ramos, all alone on the back post, and he one-times it through Veremko's legs. Real Madrid 1, BATE Borisov 0 (Ramos 11")

And brilliantly, the patchy Portuguese feed goes down. What the hell was I thinking anyway? I'm just playing out a crisis on the blog... the need to do something about soccer completely overwhelming my better nature.

Time to troll for another obscure game to cover.

Read more on "CL Open Thread"...

Caption Competition!

Ok readers it's caption time..Yay! The above picture is from Wolves 3-1 win at Charlton last Saturday and features Charlton's Nicky Bailey and Wolves Andy Keogh. The winner of this fine competition will be honored for their comedic talents with the gift of U.F. That's right...You will get to guest blog here at the best site on earth! Good luck!


Read more on "Caption Competition!"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Reaching down into the Colaship this week. Nottingham Forest are a long ways away from their heights of European successes as the '70s became the '80s. Brian Clough was the architect, manager, and psychologist of that team. Clough left the team in 1993, after they were confirmed relegation from the first season of the EPL, going down for the first time in 16 years.

Forest immediately returned to the top flight, and finished third the next season, granting them entry into the UEFA Cup. This was doubly important given that this was the first season the English clubs returned to European competition following Heysel. When faced with such a meaningful re-entry, one has to make a splash. This week, we see what Forest came up with.

Wait, we've seen this shirt before, haven't we? Yes, and no. We have definitely seen the rough template before (and I am on record of how I feel about teams sharing the same fucked-up looks), but this is different. Umbro, when throwing paint splecks on jerseys one day, decided to attempt to work in the club badge into the mess. While you can barely see it on the Aberdeen shirt (on the shoulders, rotated 90 degrees), it's obvious on the Forest shirts.

Perhaps it's because they never felt the need to delete the Forest text taken from the badge. All I know is, The placement of the shirt sponsor could have been a little better. If you are going to put your name one the pattern of the shirt, you should probably ensure that the sponsor does not cover up a couple of letters of your name. That's the kind of thing that riles the supporters.

Anyway, my main feelings about this shirt hold over from the Aberdeen one linked to above. If I were a Forest fan, I would seriously consider getting this as a laugh, but would immediately regret doing so. That collar just has to feel awful on your neck.

Oh, and this shirt is for sale, too. For $14 after shipping, you can get it delivered straight to your doorstep, and marvel at just how much brighter the yellow is in person than it is in pictures. Happens to me every time. Even if you are nor interested, do hit the links for some good in-game photos of this shirt in action. Look at that collar. Ugh.

Read more on "The Good, The Bad, The WTF"...

Only Slightly Less Cool Than West Ham's New Kits

Now that the Fed has bailed out borderline-insolvent insurer AIG, the giant's sponsorship deal with Man United is set for a makeover.

Pretty sweet, huh? Oh wait, we're Americans... Pretty fuckin' sweet, huh?

Who says truth is stranger than fiction? Because in this case, it's not. The truth here is really fucking boring. Nothing is going to happen to the AIG sponsorship of United, and, if anything, United might be worse off for not having their deal with AIG—4-years and £56.5 million—fall through two years in.

So says someone named Drew Barrand, of something called the Sport Industry Group"

"Because of the global commercial appeal that United have, you could interpret it that they wouldn't have minded if the deal had been terminated half-way through. It would have allowed them to go into the market again and negotiate for a new deal that potentially could have earned them more."


Oh wait. Jokes on them. Ha ha, yeah Ben Bernake hates United. And his bailout of AIG screws them just that much more. Sweet.

As a taxpayer, I fully support the US Govt's undermining of United. And the beauty part of this is that Sir Alex is totally distracted from even seeing this is going on.

Read more on "Only Slightly Less Cool Than West Ham's New Kits"...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: Snobbery at its finest

Another look at Jozy's La Liga debut. With video [NYT Goal Blog]
TFC want a star DP next year. Good luck with that [CBC]
Looking like Mike Ashley in Newcastle is hazardous to your well-being [Daily Mail]
Someone asked John Harkes his opinion about the USMNT [NY Times]
Knife fight at a soccer match [Newsday]

And, finally:
Are you a soccer snob? Score yourself in the comments. I'm a four [Examiner]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Snobbery at its finest"...

CL Open Thread

Oh, happy days...

It's finally upon us. Catch the excitement! CL Matchday 1. Oh, sweet lord, I never thought we'd get here, and to think we almost didn't if it weren't for the hilarious profligacy of Standard Liege in front of goal.

Moving on, here's the slate for today/tonight:

Spartak London v. Bordeaux
Roma v. CFR Cluj-Napoca

Panathanaikos v. Inter Milan
Werder Bremen v. Anorthosis Famagusta

Barcelona v. Sporting
FC Basel v. Shakhtar Donetsk

Marseille v. Liverpool
PSV v. Atletico Madrid

Any score predictions? Anything to note about the games? Drop it after the mark and let's celebrate the return of Big Cup.

Marseille v. Liverpool:

Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart, Zubar, Hilton, Taiwo, Cana, Cheyrou, Kone, M'Bami, Ben Arfa, Niang.

Subs: Riou, Ziani, Zenden, Kabore, Samassa, Erbate, Valbuena.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Dossena, Gerrard, Mascherano, Leiva Lucas, Kuyt, Torres, Babel.

Subs: Cavalieri, Agger, Keane, Riera, Alonso, Benayoun, Degen.

Referee: Konrad Plautz (Austria). He was the baldie who presided over the Spartak London-Liverpool 1-1 semi-final 1st leg last season, and the disastrous Portugal-Switzerland game in Euro '08 in which he incorrectly disallowed a goal and also failed to give an obvious penalty. Can't wait for this one.

Meanwhile, across the Channel... Spartak London v. Bordeaux

Spartak London: Cech, Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Obi, Joe Cole, Deco, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka.

Subs: Hilario, Di Santo, Ballack, Ferreira, Kalou, Alex, Belletti.

Bordeaux: Rame, Jurietti, Diawara, Planus, Placente, Diarra, Menegazzo, Gouffran, Gourcuff, Wendell, Chamakh.

Subs: Valverde, Henrique, Cavenaghi, Bellion, Ducasse, Traore, Obertan.

Referee: Pieter Vink (Holland). This is the guy who reffed the Arsenal-Liverpool quarter-final 1st leg that same year, the one in which Hleb thought he had a penalty when he actually didn't. This bodes well for all teams involved.

Read more on "CL Open Thread"...

A rather hasty CL Preview

Who is more intelligent: Sepp, Gordon Brown, or the balls they're holding?

As noted in a previous post, the CL groups are ready to go, and things will begin in an hour or so. I made my predictions way back when, but now it's everyone else's turn to estimate who's going through to the knockouts.

Has anyone picked BATE? Could anyone even identify Borisov on a map? We shall find out!

Chelsea, AS Roma, Girondins Bordeaux, CFJ Cluj

One of the softest groups in the competition (thanks to Mr. Abramovich and his clever hidden network of payoffs), and we almost have a consensus amongst the group. It will be Spartak London and AS Roma advancing through on a landslide, if not for the nationalistic myopia of resident Frenchie, The NY Kid. He is confident that Bordeaux will make it to the next round, where they'll almost certainly lose anyway. The French sure do love the agony of delayed heartbreak.

Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, Anorthosis Famagusta, Panathanaikos

This is the group with by far the best names. Mourinho should suffer no such Anorthosis in waltzing past the rest, and we all agree: this is an Inter Milan group through and through, except for Precious Roy, who has the Greeks gutsying past 'em for the group win (unless that was a mere formatting issue in his email; it could swing either way).

Behind that, a whole mess of questions. Bremen's an unknown quantity, and you never know what you're going to get from a Greek side. It's either a 1-0 win or a 5-1 defeat. Thusly, such confusion spread to the UF braintrust, as opinion split 50/50 between the bruisers from Germany, and the defensive boredom brought by Panathanaikos.

One thing we could agree on: Famagusta have less chance of qualifying than Chinese Democracy has of topping the charts.

FC Barcelona, Sporting Lisbon, FC Basel, Shakhtar Donetsk

Another slew of unpronounceables. Everyone picked Barca and Sporting, to the surprise of no-one.

Liverpool, PSV Eindhoven, Olympique Marseille, Atletico Madrid

Tons of intrigue here, at least in possible storylines, but not with UF when it comes to boldly proclaiming that LFC will live to canter another day. Beyond that, a lot of variety (well, as much variety as having three teams to choose from could bring).

The NY Kid once again exhibited his unflinching loyalty to that most uninteresting of leagues, selecting Olympique as his group runner-up. u75 went to another uninteresting league for his pick of PSV, whereas the rest preferred the flair of the other Madrid.

This is definitely the wrong group to bet money on.

Manchester United, Villarreal CF, Celtic, Aalborg BK

For every Russian string-puller, there's also a gum-chewing Scottish contingent hell-bent on rigging the odds in their favour, and it comes in this absolute cake of a group. 2 teams in Celtic and Villareal that they've played (and dispatched of handily) in the Champions League, and then a team from Scandinavia, which might as well translate to "6 points" in English.

Thusly, no-one of the crowd displayed the testicles necessary to pick away from the crowd, as Manchester United and Villareal are the ones with the golden tickets..... EXCEPT ONE. (can you see where this flimsy conceit is going yet?)

The NY Kid, bold and perhaps stupid, feels Celtic can shimmy and glasgow kiss their way past the La Liga outfit to claim a sacrificial lamb place in the next round. If he displays any more outliers, I'm going to have to assume he's picking at random. If there's a BATE pick in there, I might have to step down as a blogger and as a human being.

Olympique Lyon, Bayern Munich, Steaua Bucharest, Fiorentina

Well, there's a French team in here too, but thankfully everyone else picked Lyon and Bayern to cruise on, so no NY Kid joke in this one. Phew.

Arsenal, FC Porto, Fenerbahce, Dinamo Kiev

Arsenal are gifted passage into the next round by virtue of the fact that a. they're a good side and b. just about every UF staff member is a Gooners fan. The 50/50 split beyond that is for the Portugese and the Turkish, which makes me almost want to go back and pick Kiev just so they don't feel left out. It's only the kind, NY Kid-esque thing to do.

Real Madrid, Juventus, Zenit St. Petersburg, Bate

Mercifully, a rather soft group to close out. Lots of squabbling about the 1-2 order, but almost everyone has Real and Juve so it's immaterial. The Fan's Attick fancies the Russians (as does our favourite prognosticator, The NY Kid), and to be fair, they're a stylish pick right now having dispatched of Man U in the SuperCup. However, Liverpool just beat them, thus neutering the impact and significance of Zenit's performance a little bit. Still, it'd be nice to see one of the juggernauts fall, especially either one of these two snooty collectives.


So there you have it. Close to 1000 words (probably), and yet no closer to figuring out who's winning this bloody thing. I mean, we can't be that bold, can we?

(Of course, I am picking LFC, instantly making me several notches worse than NY Kid on the guessing game scale)

Read more on "A rather hasty CL Preview"...

Colaship Round-Up

              Charlton players complain about the decision that started the Wolves comeback!

No I had not forgotten and yes it is Tuesday, but late is better than never, eh?

That's what Tony Mowbray was saying after Saturday's encounter with Zola's West Ham at the Hawthorns. Wait: this is about the Championship, so forget about the top flight for a few minutes and join me for a look-see at what happened in the Coca Cola Championship this weekend!

Business as usual at St Andrews on Saturday. Another 3 points for Bongo as Cameron Jerome scored their winner against Donny Rovers right before half-time. Ex-Sheffield United forward Steve Kabba scored the only goal of the game for Blackpool as the tangerines beat Barnsley. Cardiff shared the points with Bristol City. Charlton got 'done' a treat at the Valley by Wolves after taking a 3rd minute lead through Nicky Bailey. But the wheels fell off in the second half and with 30 minutes to go Ebanks-Blake scored from the spot before Sam Vokes hit a late double to leave Charlton on 6 points and near the bottom of the table. Wolves have had an excellent start to the new season and top the table, leading Bongo on goal difference.

                                                           Empty seats at Portaloo Rd.

Elsewhere Coventry and Preston finished goal-less, Palace beat Swansea 2-0 at Selhurst Park, Derby notched their first win of the season to lift some pressure from the shoulders of Paul Jewell, Forest lost at home to Burnley, Wednesday beat Watford 2-0 and the scummers beat Reading at Portaloo Rd.

Notice the empty seats in the picture above? Understandable...who would want to spend an afternoon at that dump watching Campo huff and puff all over the place.

So Bigus? What about Norwich? How did they do away to Plymouth?

Well readers, we hit the bar 3 times, had a goal disallowed but took all 3 points with relative ease after goals from the AA team: Arturo and Antoine. Arturo Lupoli put us in front after 15 minutes when a Sibierski (left) header put him through on goal, and then the big Frenchman with a shiny head scored himself from 30 yards with a free kick on the hour. Paul Gallacher scored a late consolation for Plymouth. Get in City! If we beat Q.P.R. on Wednesday, we could find ourselves where we belong, in the top 6!

Just one result left to mention. Wednesday's visitors to Carrow Road (Q.P.R.) stuffed Southampton 4-1 at Loftus Road on Sunday to leave the Saints second from Bottom with just 3 points. It's going to be a tough season for them. They flirted with the drop last term and I can see them going down this year...

To make matters worse former Saint Dexter Blackstock (above, spot a Southampton defender?) scored 2 of the goals. Plymouth are currently the strongest team in the league as they hold the other 23 teams up.

Click here for the table.


Read more on "Colaship Round-Up"...

You Know?

With the ghost of Danny Murphy looking on, this weekend proved plenty sweet for the Red half on UF as Liverpool finally notched a league win over United in the Rafa Era. Not only did it keep LFC atop the table (alongside Chelsea, on ten points), but it also managed to take the shine off Berbatov's bow in Manc red.

But even sweeter is this post-match interview with the legend himself, Jamie Carragher. That is, for one reason... Carra's use of the words 'you know'. You'd think he'd have broken his leg laying down a tackle on Dimitar the way he uses that phrase as a crutch.

Watch the interview and try to count how many times he says 'you know' (assuming you speak Scouse)...

I'll save you the trouble. By my count, in one minute and fifty seconds, Carra wedges it in 28 times.

Impressive, you know?

Read more on "You Know?"...

Blathering Out of Africa

FIFA President Seppsis Blather recently trekked to South Africa to take in the host country’s preparations for the 2010 World Cup. From the outset many doubted South Africa would be able to handle the responsibility and rumors of shadow host country plans have been rampant. Believe those rumors no more, since Blather has pronounced the Rainbow Nation to be ahead of schedule on stadium construction.

Pay no mind to the crime, transportation and lodging issues because Blather said “When I left the plane and arrived on African soil, I started dancing” in advance of his inspection that wasn’t an inspection. I have no doubt he was wearing a dashiki and kufi while dancing. Blather would lead us to believe that if F.W. De Klerk sharted in his shorts that it was gold bullion, if it meant he looked good. South Africa 2010 is his baby.

Keep in mind this is the same Blather touring South Africa that claimed millionaire players were slaves to their clubs, when FIFA forces players to participate in international games against their wishes at times. The man speaks with a forked tongue and is a complete and utter disgrace to football.

I can only hope that the FIFA jet left him behind dancing to be eaten by some hippos, because lions are too dignified for this man.

Read more on "Blathering Out of Africa"...

Terry wins red card appeal

Despite being sent off for Serious Foul Play and not for a Professional Foul, England's Brave John Terry had his red card suspension overturned by a board of appeals. Oddly, they cited that there were teammates behind him on the replay, and that he was not last man back.

One hopes the board enjoy their all-inclusive Russian vacations.

Read more on "Terry wins red card appeal"...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Backpasses: What else do you need?

German teams love mascots almost as much as Germans love Hasselhoff [The Best Eleven]
A glowing review of Jozy's La Liga bow [The Offside]
Does Barcelona want a MLS sister club in Miami? [Miami Herald]
French ref admits blowing a penalty call in weekend game, surrenders [Soccerway]

Football moments to be adapted into English ballet. Expected to be as great as any other English ballet [Guardian]
Mrs. Becks shows she can dress down and be a regular soccer mom [Daily Mail]
Kazakh coach gets dumped. Soccernet tries a Borat joke [Soccernet]
FSC to get Nielsen ratings. Check out those demographics [Trading Markets]

And, finally:
Italian club gets a taste of the Mourinho treatment, don't like it [Eurosport]

Confidential to The Offside Rules: We'll try.

Read more on "Monday Backpasses: What else do you need?"...

Making an Impact Stateside - Darren Huckerby.

Darren Huckerby has been a bit of a revelation since arriving on the West Coast with the San Jose Earthquakes. Struggling San Jose were adrift at the bottom of the table with 4 wins in 16 league games B.D (Before Darren). But the A.D (After Darren) picture is a rosy one indeed. The 'Quakes are unbeaten in 8, with 4 wins and 4 draws. Darren has scored 4 goals, had 4 assists and generally made a nuisance of himself down the left hand side, even outshining Goldenballs himself last month as Huckerby's new side beat Beckham's Galaxy 3-2 at the McAfee Coliseum in front of 26,000 eager fans. The last 8 games have seen the 'Quakes close the gap in the Western standings and they now sit just 2 points shy of second place!

Here at U.F you may have noticed we love an interview. Recently I was lucky enough to have the chance to put some qustions to the former Norwich legend and the newest star of the M.L.S.

BD: Darren, Thank you for your time. How are you enjoying life in the U.S.A? Did the football here require any adjustment on your behalf?

DH: So far so good here in San Jose. The team is winning games and that is the most important thing so that makes the adjustment easy.

BD: It must be tough playing for a team far away from your family, how much time will they be spending with you in the California sunshine?

DH: The family was here for six weeks this summer and now they have gone back so the kids can go to school.

BD: What was the major factor when deciding to join the Earthquakes over Toronto? Was the plastic pitch at BMO Field a big issue? I noticed you looked a little cautious when playing on it during your ‘Quakes debut.

DH: There was not one major factor for me. Overall, I just wanted to come to San Jose and I think that has been a good decision.

BD: How are you settling in with your new teammates? Has anyone played a dressing room prank on you yet?

DH: I am settling in well. Ronnie O’Brien stole my weightlifting gloves and hid them. I don’t know if that counts as a prank though.

BD: How does the training compare to Norwich. Are you training the same amount of time a day and is it as much hard work?

DH: Training here is a little bit less intense, but it is 80-90 degrees here everyday so that makes it difficult. It is a little different to train in the heat.

BD: You appear to be very popular at Buck Shaw Stadium already. More Norwich shirts appear in the crowd every week and your name can be heard being chanted from the stands. Are you enjoying a rapport with Earthquakes fans like the one you share with Norwich City fans?

DH: I am lucky that the fans have taken to me here just like they did in Norwich. I just want the team to keep playing well and keep the support coming.

I must apologize that you had to be subjected to the idiocy of Gary Radnich on KRON a few weeks back, he clearly had no idea what he was talking about and it was a popular subject for many football fans here and at home once the video hit YouTube. I hope this did not affect your opinion of American journalists. What was going through your mind when he was calling you Derek and asking you questions about Posh Spice?

DH: I just got through it the best I could and just got on with it. It was interesting to see the reaction afterwards though.

BD: How did Mrs. Huckerby react to you writing off her chance at a singing career?

DH: She wasn’t really bothered about that, more that I said that she was old.

BD: Was the Radnich interview the weirdest you have ever done?

DH: I don’t think it was the weirdest interview that I have ever done, but it was definitely the interview that got me the most attention.

THAT infamous Radnich KRON interview!

BD: The MLS is widely considered to be of a 'lesser' standard than football in England. Has this been obvious to you? Is it what you expected it to be or has the standard been a pleasant surprise?

DH: It is a good standard here. The main difference is the depth in the squad. In England the teams seem to have more depth, but over here there is a good main group but not as much depth.

Huckerby works the wing.

BD: Since your arrival the Earthquakes are unbeaten, and San Jose has now climbed up the table. With plenty of points to still play for, can the ‘Quakes make the play-offs this year?

DH: We have got a chance to get in. It will be difficult, but it is in our own hands now.

BD: Which San Jose players have impressed you since arriving? Do any of the younger players stand out as having the potential to play in the Premiership one day?

DH: The back four or five have been very good all year and they are one of the best in the league. Joe Cannon is a great goalkeeper also. Of course, the Premiership is a tough league so it is no easy. Jason Hernandez (right, playing for Chivas) might have a chance.

BD: Did your wife think you were nuts turning down a Premiership side and 11 other teams to stick to your word on never playing against Norwich?

We decided together that I wouldn’t play against Norwich.

BD: You are wearing the familiar number 6 for the 'Quakes. Did the club offer the number or did you ask for it?

DH: I had a choice of number 6 or number 10, but there was really only one number for me.

BD: Onto Norwich now..How surprised were you that Glenn Roeder decided to let you go?

DH: I kind of saw it coming, but it was still a bit of a shock when it happened.

BD: Some people seem to think that his decision was based reasons other than the football, for example the fact that you were so popular in Norwich didn’t suit his personality of being the top dog in town.

DH: I would like to think not.

BD: Norwich have signed some good players during the summer, 11 signings in total, including Hoolahan, Bell, Stefanovic and Lupoli. Ryan Bertrand has also come back for another stint. 4 games in and Norwich haven’t won yet and have been struggling to find the net. They do seem to be passing the ball around and creating chances, how do you think they will do this season? Could they make the play-offs?

DH: They have to start winning some games, but by all accounts they are playing well right now. We shall see.

BD: I read somewhere that you have Norwich season tickets. Will you get to many games this year once the MLS season ends?

DH: I will be back over there as soon as the season ends here, hopefully in late November. I will go to as many games as I can.

BD: What do you think you will do when you retire from football? Does hosting a match day club like Gunny and Goss do at Norwich interest you? Do you fancy having a go at TV work like Dion? Or will you just relax and break out the golf clubs?

DH: I think that I would like to work with a club in some capacity, maybe working with the kids. That is a long way off though.

BD: Finally… Who is the toughest manager that you have played under and who is the best and why?

DH: The toughest was probably Gordon Strachan. The best was also Gordon Strachan and also Nigel Worthington.

BD: I wish you all the best this season Darren. Thank you very much for your time.

If San Jose continue their good form into the playoffs they will be the first expansion team in ten years to make the knock out stages of the M.L.S.


Read more on "Making an Impact Stateside - Darren Huckerby."...

It's Witchcraft

Almost certainly not how it happened

Wicked witchcraft. Although, you know, it's strictly taboo, people still try to practice it. But if you try to use witchcraft to coax a good performance out of your team, and that team is in the northeast corner of Democratic Republic of Congo, there will be a riot with deaths. That's just the way of the world.

This time (not that I know of an others, really), witchcraft was practiced by the goalkeeper of Nyuki, who left the penalty area to use "fetishist" spells against his rivals. An on-pitch melee ensued between the teams. A local police commander came onto the field to try to break it up, but was pelted with rocks by the crowd. Other police then fired teargas into the crowd, which caused a rush for the exits. During the mad rush to get out, 11 people were killed, presumably trampled, though the article has no exact information on that.

See? There was no way to prevent this type of escalation once that rogue goalkeeper started doing his goal dance. Every step of the way the response of the people involved was the only logical one that could be taken. Once witchcraft entered the picture, 11 people had to die. I bet they had terraces in there, too.

Okay, now that I got that out of my system, what things would lead to such a riot in England? Sure, there could be a pub brawl, but those usually only lead to one knifing death at a time, such as this one from last week, which took the life of a professional footballer. We're long since out of the days of Hillsborough, now that top-flight stadiums are all-seater and many fans have been priced out of the game anyway.

Could one of Chelsea's patented (and much-copied) circle the ref moves get out of hand? What if Mark Halsey had reacted negatively to being surrounded on Saturday and started handing out more bans? At what point would Chelsea fans have started ripping out seats?

It's fantasy, I know, it wouldn't happen. Chelsea fans don't care enough to riot, they just like it when the team brings home a trophy or two. Anything else just gets in the way of spending money.

Read more on "It's Witchcraft"...

Ring Around the Ref'ree

Chelsea defeated Manchester City 3-1 in the EPL (Suck it, Barclay's!) in the billionaire version of Human Battle Bots. Roman Abramovich's expensive bot parts Ricardo Carvalho, Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka all scored for Chelsea while the shiny new Manchester City bot part Robinho scored in his debut on a free kick. Citeh held on in the first half but the Chelseabot just had too many parts, for now.

By the end of the match most of the excitement was gone, that is until England's Brave John Terry earned himself a red card and an automatice suspension for next weeks Manchester United match. (Video at approx. 3:00). True to form, Chelsea surrounded the referee to complain about the decision. Although, it does appear a little unjust as Terry was not the last man on the professional foul. Chelsea will likely appeal.

The appeal, though, will likely be unsuccessful according to Times Online.

It is understood that Mark Halsey, the referee, deemed Terry’s block on Jô, the City striker, to be serious foul play rather than a professional foul and he faces a three-match ban, ruling him out of matches against United, Stoke City and Aston Villa. The FA is unable to downgrade cards from red to yellow, so Chelsea must demonstrate that Terry should not have been booked to get the decision overturned, an unlikely proposition.

JT looks likely to miss the Red Devil match, but what of the Respect Campaign? You might recall that the League has initiated a campaign to increase the respect towards match officials from the players as a result of the proliferation of team protests and remonstrations surround the referee.

Much of the finger pointing has been directed at Chelsea for circling the refs, although it must be noted most clubs seem to have followed suit, including Man U and Liverpool.

As the pictures in the post demonstrate, much of the criticism is deserved. Even though, EBJT has said he supports the campaign.
The campaign may succeed eventually, but I suspect well soon be finding Chelsea players surrounding the houses of referees' with their SUVs, probably parking in handicapped spaces as well.

Read more on "Ring Around the Ref'ree"...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

Matchday 5 in France saw several 1-1 results and numerous matches featuring exciting halves of football, although there was only 1 match which featured end-to-end action for 90 minutes. By the end of the weekend, the names at the top of the table looked very familiar. Join me after the jump to find out how the usual suspects got there.

Saturday, September 13:

Auxerre 1-1 Nancy - This was one of the more lackluster matches of the weekend, as Auxerre dominated the run of play for the majority of the 90 minutes. Auxerre opened the scoring in the second half on a 54th minute strike from Lejeune, with Zerka responding for Nancy just 10 minutes later. The only other action of the match was two yellow cards for Auxerre (Mignot, 62nd minute; Pedretti, 70th minute).

Le Mans 1-2 Toulouse - Le Mans dominated time of possession (67% - 33%) and peppered the Toulouse net with 11 shots, but Toulouse ultimately prevailed thanks to early strikes from Mansare (11th minute) and Braaten (19th minute). Liverpool cast-off Le Tallec pulled one back for Le Mans in the 35th minute, but his teammates were listless for the rest of the match. Each side picked up 2 yellow cards, with Le Tallec this week's winner of the "Goal-scorer to get carded" award in the 47th minute.

Monaco 2-0 Lorient - Lorient maintained more possession (55%), and Monaco was whistled for offsides 7 times, but it was the latter who prevailed in this match. Park opened the scoring for Monaco in the 25th minute, but the goal of the match was provided by Nimani. The 19 year-old was a 65th minute substitute, and it took him only 5 minutes to gain possession and dribble the keeper for Monaco's second goal (70th minute).

Rennes 1-1 Le Havre - Ligue 1 newcomers Le Havre struggled in the first half, giving up a 27th minute strike to Briand. They managed to get the equalizer from Lesage in the 32nd minute, and were effective enough in the second half to maintain the tie. Rennes goal-scorer Briand was also yellow-carded in the 51st minute in a bid for this week's award (given to Le Tallec, above).

Lyon 3-2 Nice - Lloris gave up Lyon's first goal of the season when he was beaten by Bamogo in the 3rd minute. He was beaten again in the 20th minute, this time by Loic Remy, for a 2-0 Nice lead. And then things got interesting in this match. When Lyon was awarded a free kick in the 40th minute, Juninho scored on a screamer. He followed up the goal by being awarded a yellow card in the 43rd minute. Lyon began the second half in a dominant fashion, and Juninho scored on a second free kick in the 73rd minute. Soon after that goal, Nice received 2 yellow cards to Bamogo (goal-scorer carded alert!) and Hognon. And then things got really interesting in this match. In the 4th minute of extra time, Fae was yellow-carded, which was followed shortly by Hognon being whistled for handling the ball in the box. Benzema (who was a second-half substitute) stepped up to slot home the PK, and Rool was awarded a straight red card for his vehement protests.

Valenciennes 1-1 Grenoble - Another snoozer for most of the match, Grenoble was the quicker team but Valenciennes had more opportunities. The excitement came in the 85th minute when Battles handled the ball in the box and was red-carded for his protests. Pujol slotted home the PK for Valenciennes, who were all set to celebrate until Courtois tied the score in the 90th minute. Oops.

Bordeaux 1-1 Marseille - The best match of the day featured two incredibly evenly-matched teams. Bordeaux had 14 shots (4 on goal), while Marseille had 13 (2 on goal), with the corner kicks 6-4 in favor of Bordeaux and a 50%-50% time of possession. Marseille opened the scoring early in the 2nd minute (Kone, who was also carded in the 56th minute), and Chamakh evened the score for Bordeaux in the 25th minute. The remainder of the match featured excellent pressure on goal from both sides, with Mandanda called into action slightly more often.

Sunday, September 14:

Caen 2-0 Saint-Etienne - Despite 18 shots (5 on goal) and 56% of the possession, Saint-Etienne was unable to parlay their dominance into a win, meaning that they have lost 4 of their first 5 matches. They received excellent play from Bafetimbi Gomis, but it was Caen who capitalized on their chances (with 7 shots on goal) in the form of goals from ben Khalfallah (29th minute) and Nivet (90th minute, 2nd minute of extra time).

Sochaux 1-1 Lilles - Another match featuring 2 evenly matched teams, the first half was also another snoozer. Soon after the second half started, Sochaux opened the scoring on a strike from Privat (47th minute). Bastos drew Lilles even in the 63rd minute, but the rest of the match was notable only for the "almost-goal" from Lilles transfer-deadline signing De Melo.

Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 Nantes - The final match of the weekend was also fairly even, providing an easy start for new Nantes coach Elie Baup. His comfort level dipped precipitously in the 7th minute when N'Daw was adjudged to have pushed Hoarau while in the box. Kezman stepped up for PSG to take the PK and provided the only goal of the match. Not having done enough for the day, N'Daw also picked up a yellow card in the 55th minute. Nantes threatened several more times, but Landreau was only called upon to make 2 saves.

So, after Matchday 5, the top of the table looks like this: (1) Olympique Lyonnais, 13 points on a 4-1-0 record; (2) Olympique de Marseille, 11 points on a 3-2-0 record; (3) Paris Saint-Germain, 10 points on a 3-1-1 record, with a +2 goal differential; and (4) Grenoble, 10 points on a 3-1-1 record, with a +1 goal differential.

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