Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Open Thread

It's a light schedule today. Only 5 EPL matches, as well as a full slate of Colaship and SPL games. Everything starts at 10 Eastern today. Yay, congestion!

The games we are most likely to be following:
Aston Villa-Fulham
Stoke City-Hull City
Wigan-West Brom
Sunderland-SF Bolton
Sheff. Wednesday-Norwich

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Pop and lock

Fact: Thanksgiving is less fun when bouncing back from food poisoning.

The Beckhams spent Thanksgiving with the Cruises [Daily Mail]
A look at the challenges to the 6+5 rule implementation [NY Times]
SFA looks to the Bush administration on how to run things [Telegraph]
Peruvian clubs are the first to feel the backlash of FIFA's banishment [Reuters]

And, finally:
Teen offers Giggs breakdancing lessons for when the hairy-chested one scores [The Sun]

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We Own Steaua Bucharest, Too! Thanks!

My fellow Americans (and expat taxpayers), we need to start keeping better track of our new and exciting holdings across the sports world.

Today, I am thankful for so many things, none more than our newly apparent stake in Romanian side Steaua Bucharest... the team so good it has four nicknames!

After months of tacitly funding SAF and his devilish enterprise (Figure that Tottenham fans, our personal funds actually helped prise Berbatov from Spurs. Jolly!), we finally snatch up a piece of fun club like Steaua. They've got good uniforms-- Barca rip-offs. They play in a city that's emerged as the hub of Romanian New Wave. And... well, that's about it. But who's complaining?

Not me. I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed. First, we'e got a new baseball stadium opening this spring in Queens, NY. There's that issue about Man U. Now this bit about Steaua. Forget the crypto-populist rags whining about the deal. We need to talk to our new co-owner about his Queen hang-up.

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Some Turkey Day Thanks

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't already 3 beers in at this early hour. It's soon to be 4, and that's the beauty of this wonderful American holiday. Well, that and all the family stuff.

But on this day, I thought I'd nip out a quick post of things I'm happy about as we take a giant tryptophan rest this afternoon. Or rather, follow this flimsy conceit as a way to cover a few of the morning's headlines to its logical conclusion.


I'm thankful that Steven Gerrard didn't rearrange some French faces yesterday, after it was revealed that a Marseille fan threw a cigarette lighter at him while he waited to take a corner. You see how it's done, Didier? Instead of flipping the bird and throwing projectiles back into the crowd (and receiving a ban for your efforts), he simply took the corner and kept on playing. UEFA is investigating, and hopefully they'll find a way to punish the club, or even that entire country, for not having more respect for the mighty $tevie Mbe.


I'm thankful that Scolari has some humility. He reckons that if Spartak London don't beat CFR Cluj and make it to the knockout stages, he doesn't deserve his job. A bit of an overreaction, sure, but wouldn't it be nice if some of these self-inflicted threats actually came true somewhere down the line?


I am thankful that Arsenal is in such turmoil at the moment. Even though I'm sick of the word by this point, schadenfreude really is a wonderful feeling. Gael Clichy's come out and hosed Gallas much like Gallas hosed the entire team last weekend, and despite their shaky 1-0 win against Dynamo on Tuesday, they're coming unstuck.


I'm thankful that Fergie is such a prick, because it gives me a reason to pay attention on those slow media days. It seems like whenever the headline mill is running low, SAF is there to spark it back up with a soundbite or two. The rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United is nowhere near what it used to be, but Fergie does his best to keep it going, and I appreciate that. Sometimes, I forget why I hate the Devils so much, until that soused Scot gives me a reminder.


Ronaldinho at Fratton Park. Enjoy it while it lasts, because you'll never see it again.

I'm thankful for David James. Really, you are going to give AC Milan a massive shock tonight. You're also right in just what the shock will be; a visit to your quaint, underwhelming south coast port town. The result on the pitch certainly won't be shocking to anyone.


I'm thankful for Kaka and Man City stirring up the nerves of every team in the EPL just when things appeared to be settling down. While I'm not the biggest fan of the sudden financial windfall at Eastlands, as well as their burning desire to spend $50 million on any superstar available, I like that every now and then, we get a media-aided reminder of their new-found influence.

It's also nice that the Brazilian midfielder would honestly love to play in England some day. But really, Kaka at Manchester City? Are you shitting me? I thought that'd only be possible in FIFA '09.

(Speaking of FIFA '09, I felt like running a quick season with Arsenal. I sold Adebayor to Celtic for $28 million, Van Persie to Newcastle for $42 million, Bendtner to Fulham and Gallas to Bordeaux, and used that money to buy Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Balotelli from Inter Milan. We played some good football but finished 3rd in the league. Go figure.)


I'm thankful for the Football League and their efforts to preserve the development of English players, as they're voting next month on a "home-grown players quota" that would require them to include at least four players "registered domestically for a minimum of three seasons prior to their 21st birthday" in their matchday squads. It's a noble effort, but really, when all the big clubs poach the young stars to dwindle in their reserves, it won't matter much.


I'm thankful for Leeds United. Mighty Leeds! They used to be the bosses of England, in the days of Woodgate, Rio Ferdinand, Mark Viduka, and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink. That five-year period saw them reach the UEFA Cup semi-final, the Champions League semi-final, and then fall foul of crippling loans taken out in expectation of future success that never quite materialized.

You know the deal from there: they fell into administration, were docked 25 points, relegated down to League One and never looked like turning it around.

Well, Christmas has come early at Elland Road, as they announced a $8.5 million profit (4.5 million pounds) for the 14-month period ending June 30 this year and their future looks bright. Brilliant! They are the ultimate cautionary tale in how not to run a soccer club in the modern era, and it looks like they're turning things around. I couldn't be happier for them.


And finally, predictably, I'm thankful for the growth and quality of Unprofessional Foul over the last 11 months. Our daily email threads are a constant source of entertainment, and I look forward to our next big meeting. I'm also eternally thankful for all our readers and commenters, who keep the place going when we're clearly not. May the good times roll and continue!

(Oh, and yes, please keep voting on the US Best Soccer Blog of 2008. In case you hadn't heard, we're in the running for that one.)


Alright, it's time for beer #5 (yes, it took me so long to write this that I'm through another full one). Bigus might be dropping by with a UEFA Cup liveblog this afternoon, so keep posted for that as well.

What are you guys thankful for?

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No World Cup and No Subtitles to Reid

Former Everton legend and Sunderland manager Peter Reid has been off the radar recently but thanks to a nugget on the BBC rumours page he has been found! And not only that, he gets special viewings of new bond films. I suspect that's because he cannot leave his new country!

Peter Reid has been the manager of Thailand since July when he signed a 4 year deal. Getting Thailand to qualify for the World Cup is now impossible as they sit bottom of their group on 1 point after 6 games. Oman, Bahrain and Japan sit above them and that means that Reid has some spare time on his hands. So what do you do in Thailand on your own time?

Well if you are Peter Reid you are gifted a special screening of new Bond movie 'Quantum of Solace'. The only problem with this is that Mr Reid cannot speak Thai and the film was not subtitled. Personally I think the attempt at home comforts was to occupy Reidy and avoid telling him that he won't be able to leave the country should he wish to. Protests against the current prime minister are underway and angry Thai folk have shut down the country's main airport.

Maybe Reid doesn't need James Bond to help keep him busy, he will be coaching the Thailand under 19 team in a tournament later this month before trying to help the main team forget their pathetic World Cup effort as they take part in the Kings Cup and ASEAN Championships.

Maybe after reading this you are wondering how Mr Reid can manage the team without having a grasp of the lingo? Well in the interest of the Thai people, allow UF to help.

Below are some key phrases that should see Mr Reid through. Although the Liverpool accent could still cause a problem.

1: Pass to the lad up front. HAI DEK HNOM PHAN KERN PAI DAN NAR.

2: Shoot at goal. YING PRA TOO.

3: Don't watch him, tackle him. YAH DOO KAO JUD KARN KAO.

4: No bunching together. YAH OW MA ROUM GUN.

5: I said mark him, don't hit him. HAI GRANG KHO POOD, TAE YAH PAI TEE KAO.

6: Not that way, the other way. MAI CHAI WI TEE NUN, WI TEE AUEN.


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Fernando Takes On Gerrard

Anfield Prince Fernando Torres decided to play one-on-one with Gerrard to prove who had the best skills. Gerrard was dogged in his defense of Torres. El Nino couldn't take the bite out of Gerrard. In the end, no one proved the top dog.

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Norris Charged.

Ipswich Town's drink-drive sympathiser David Norris has been hit with a misconduct charge by the FA for his 'secret message' goal celebration earlier this month.

Norris celebrated scoring against Blackpool on November the 8th by making a handcuffs gesture to his friend Luke McCormick. McCormick was jailed in October for killing two young boys while drink-driving. The former Plymouth keeper and team-mate of Norris was driving home from Norris' wedding on June the 7th when he ploughed his Range Rover into a car killing 8 year-old Ben Peak and his 10 year-old brother Aaron. The boys father was also badly hurt, sustaining back and neck injuries. McCormick was jailed for 7 years and four months.

Norris' celebration caused national outrage, which the midfielder tried to play down by stating the celebration was a 'secret message' he could not reveal. Later he admitted the 'handcuffs' sign was meant for McCormick when he visited the victims mother Amanda Peak to apologize for the act. Ipswich fined Norris two weeks wages after the incident but it appears that the FA are keen to make an example of Norris.

And rightly so.


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Yeah, I had to look it up

It seems like incoming links are broken with the switchover to the new address. We'll get it straight here soon.

Come on, there should be no choice here. Play 'em in Columbus and book the 2-0 win [Sign on San Diego]
Poor Bojan. All the talent in the world, but no stiff upper lip [The Spoiler]

How the British press see some of their MLS exports [Guardian]
PROTIP: Professional soccer and China don't mix [China Daily]
LA Galaxy acquire Champions League medal winner(again)[Seattle P-I]

And, finally:
A while back, I opined for (the hopefully not defunct) Federation Soccer that I thought Spanish clubs would move to the top of the Champions League pile in the near future. I take that back. [Bloomberg]

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Now If They Only Had A Coach

Well, the Seattle Sounders now have more than just Kasey Keller and Freddy Ljungberg to call their own*.

Kinda hard to be competitive with just two players, so the Sounders went and pillaged the rosters of the other clubs and cribbed some players. It's okay, it was all above board as the nice folks at MLS actually let them do this for today's expansion draft.

Specifically, the fourteen other MLS teams were allowed to protect 11 players (not positive on that but I'm too lazy to go look it up this close to the end of the shortened week) and the rest were available for the Sounders to choose from, but one per team and from only 10 teams total (There's a complete list of unprotected players here).

I'm not sure I could have written that in a more confusing manner. Anyway, here's the list of players (and their respective clubs) selected today by the Sounders. Follow along after the jump:

Nate Jaqua (Houston)
Brad Evans (Columbus)
Stephen King (Chicago)
Jeff Parke (New York)
James Riley (San Jose)
Khano Smith (New England)
Jarrod Smith (Toronto)
Nathan Sturgis (Salt Lake City)
Peter Vagenas (Los Angeles)
Tyson Wahl (Kansas City)

Jaqua isn't too much of a surprise as the word floating around was that, as part of the deal for his return to Dynamo in the summer, he wanted to be able move back closer to home in the Pacific Northwest (he's from Eugene). But it's still a good pick-up. He's a big, physical guy with a decent touch and good finishing skills by MLS standards.

Other notable names include Jeff Parke from NY and Peter Vagenas from L.A. Notable isn't necessarily good, but we'll refrain from editorializing blatantly. There is also the straight confusing. Jarrod Smith? You sure you picked the right Smith from Toronto (hint: Johan is better)?

*Okay four. They also had Sanna Nyassi and Sebastien Le Toux before today's draft.

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Flasher Flasher Flasher

There once was a young lad at Hearts
Who enjoyed showing off his man parts
He disturbed several women
Now jail time is loomin'
His BP must be high off the charts

Alan Lithgow, like many men at the age of 20, is seriously horny. However, instead of chasing the readily-available tail that might be there for a soccer player who's been capped by the Scottish U-19s and has a promising future in the sport, he gets his jollies the wrong way: exposing himself to women and performing sex acts on himself, and now Alan's facing some jail time for his, ahem, efforts.

From the Scottish Daily Record:

Pervert Lithgow, 20, pleaded guilty to exposing himself in his home town of Airdrie, Lanarkshire, and in Edinburgh on four occasions last year.

The first offence took place on August 27 last year when he exposed himself and performed a sex act in front of a woman in Airdrie's Petersburn Road. His next offences took place on October 15 when he flashed three different women on the same day.

The first was in Lady Ann Crescent in his home town. The second took place in Balerno, Edinburgh and the third in Gogar in the city, where he also performed a sex act in front of the victim.

Lithgow will be sentenced nextmonth at Airdrie Sheriff Court.
In a brilliant PR move, the director at his new club, Clyde, who signed him last month after Hearts released him in the summer, was swift to distance the club from Lithgow's actions, making note that he was a flasher before he joined.

To add to the pile-on, the Record's quote from a "soccer insider" reckons that Lithgow will never kick a ball professionally again, unless perhaps he's coaching the prison team in a Longest Yard spin-off:
"Lithgow has been trying to cover this up and even Clyde were unaware until now. It is hard to believe that someone like Lithgow, who is meant to be a role model, would do something so disgusting. It is such a waste of talent and his career is over. No football club in their right mind would want him now. He is a disgrace to the profession."
Tell us how you really feel, insider.

Lithgow received a deferred sentence until a full investigation concludes, but he does go on the registered sex offenders list while also facing the likelihood of being released by his new club.

To recap: soccer exposure good, dick exposure bad. The more you know.

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CL Liveblog: Bordeaux v. Spartak London

It's the day before Thanksgiving, which means I'm not at work and I'm sitting in front of the television ready for some live Champions League action. Shame they picked the dud of the fixture list. Ah well, beggars can't be choosers.

So join after the jump, won't you? Come read my disparaging assessment of a team I hate playing a team from a country I hate.

But first... what other games are on tap today?

Group A
Bordeaux v Chelsea
CFR Cluj v Roma

Group B
Anorthosis Famagusta v Werder Bremen
Inter Milan v Panathinaikos

Group C
Shakhtar Donetsk v Basle
Sporting Lisbon v Barcelona

Group D
Atletico Madrid v PSV Eindhoven
Liverpool v Marseille

Some intriguing storylines there, I think. I wanna see the Romanian team win again, personally.

Starting Lineups for LFC and Chelsea:
Liverpool v. Marseille
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Mascherano, Alonso, Kuyt, Gerrard, Riera, Torres.
Subs: Cavalieri, Dossena, Keane, Benayoun, Babel, Leiva Lucas, Kelly.

Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart, Zubar, Hilton, Taiwo, Ziani, Cana, Cheyrou, Ben Arfa, Niang, Kone.
Subs: Riou, Rodriguez, Zenden, Kabore, Samassa, Grandin, Valbuena.
Bordeaux v. Spartak London
Bordeaux: Valverde, Chalme, Planus, Diawara, Jurietti, Menegazzo, Diarra, Gourcuff, Gouffran, Wendell, Chamakh.
Subs: Olimpa, Cavenaghi, Bellion, Placente, Traore, Obertan, Tremoulinas.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Ashley Cole, Mikel, Joe Cole, Ballack, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka.
Subs: Cudicini, Drogba, Bridge, Ferreira, Kalou, Alex, Stoch.

And we're off.

1 mins: Immediately a foul by Chalme in the corner as he protects the ball out for a goal kick. I approve of this aggression against Scolari's Spartak side.

4 mins: Nice little backheel flick by Cole that amounts to nothing, although Wendel gets clattered while chasing possession. A very cagey start early. The French crowd are singing at full volume, while both sides are playing in very ugly shirts.

Bordeaux break down the right wing but the move is halted when Terry hip-checks Gouffran and the ball goes out for a goal kick. No foul there?

6 mins: An early shot from Fernando tests Cech, who is forced to parry it out for a corner. Ballack gave him all the time in the world to shoot. Never a good idea, really.

11 mins: Sorry folks, a bit of technical trouble there slowed me down. Chamakh played Gouffran through on goal with a nice pass, forcing Cech to come out and clear, and then a foul by Mikel on the right gave an early free-kick some 30 yards out that Wendell promptly wasted. Bordeaux look much brighter than the garish yellow shirts of Spartak London in the early goings. The strategy seems to be attacking down the right wing, and so far it seems to be effective.

14 mins: Malouda scraps and hustles at the touchline under pressure, but nothing comes of it. Really, I don't see how Spartak can continue being good with Kalou and Malouda. Sure, they're top at the moment, but does anyone really think Anelka can keep scoring like he is? Not to mention the Drogba situation. Just offering that out there...

17 mins: I'd type faster if anything were really happening. Spartak aren't showing much fluency moving forward, and Bordeaux are definitely looking more inventive. Spartak are playing the long ball game, which is drawing boos, wolf whistles and jeers from the style-minded crowd.

20 mins: Chalme gets clean through on the right edge of the box and blasts it goalward, forcing a diving save from Cech. Slowly but surely, the game is opening up... it helps that the two teams are now scuffling in midfield after an ankle tap by Mikel on Gourcuff right before John Terry clips him and falls all over him. The referee handles the mess with a yellow card for England's Blundering John Terry.

22 mins: Tommy Smyth beats me to it: where are Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack? The middle of the Spartak midfield is practically empty, giving Gourcuff and Gouffran plenty of running room. Anelka fouls trying to get under yet another speculative long ball. Very dull stuff so far, really.

(A goal flourish elsewhere. Roma score on a tap-in, Simao puts Atletico Madrid ahead with a determined finish, and Barca have scored twice in two minutes. Oh, and now Totti's added another: CFR Cluj 0, AS Roma 2)

Goal for Gerrard too! A nice header at the back post off Xabi's cross. Liverpool 1, Marseille 0... now goals almost everywhere but at Bordeaux.

29 mins: Gourcuff works himself some space and gets an open shot from 25 yards, forcing another diving save from Cech. Spartak will cough up a goal soon, I reckon.

And then seconds later, Fat Frank gets into the action for the first time today. His contribution to the game? A late sliding tackle on Chamakh that earns him a yellow card. Wendel promptly shows manager Laurent Blanc why he shouldn't be taking any more free-kicks in scoring territory as he blasts it high over the crossbar.

30 mins: Dear, oh dear. Spartak are playing hack-a-Frenchman at the moment. The crowd goes absolutely apeshit (and rightly so) as Ashley Cole scythes Chamakh down, making no contact with the ball. Terry sprints over to remonstrate and complain, but the ref issues another yellow card. Wendel miraculously gets to take it, and his cross ends up being cleared comfortably. As Andrew said in the comments, there will be red in this one. Hopefully it'll be Terry. Smyth is wrong to say that proceedings resemble "a rugby game". I swear it's like listening to Alzheimer's with that aging Irishman behind the microphone.

32 mins: More danger for Spartak. Ball is cut inside from the right wing, and played right across the edge of the area to meet Jurietti's sprint from left-back. Joe Cole reads it well and slides in to intercept in the nick of time, else he'd have been one-on-one with Cech. Scolari looks rather pained at the moment.

(Cluj have pulled a goal back.... CFR Cluj 1, AS Roma 2)

35 mins: A rare period of comfortable possession for Spartak as they move the ball around midfield with ease. The final pass comes to Malouda, but his shot was a shot in name only.

Bordeaux break again down the right side, forcing Terry to shin it out for a corner. Gourcuff's outswinging corner misses everyone and everything.

38 mins: I fear we're entering that dreaded pre-half time lull. Amazingly, Spartak have had far more possession, but nary a shot on goal. That sounds more like Arsenal than anything else.

39 mins: Move that sums up Spartak's evening thus far: Malouda sprints across to the right wing to receive a throw-in, gets boxed in against the touchline, does that nifty backheel flick thing to himself but it trickles out of play for a goal kick. Kalouda are awful, both individually and as a collective. To the transfer market in January you should go, Scolari. Anything to prevent this pair from sniffing the starting XI.

At Anfield, Pepe Reina does well to turn a Taye Taiwo free-kick onto the post and out, while Rodrigues Jadson has scored to give Shakhtar Donetsk a 1-0 lead at home to Basel

41 mins: Pretty dismal evening for Spartak thus far. Lampard, Ballack, Kalou, Mikel and Joe Cole have done fuck-all thus far. I hope this trend continues. That said, all this pressure for Bordeaux and no goals only serves the visitors' cause in the long run.

Jesus... a foul throw? When was the last time you saw one of those? Chalmat is the guilty party, guilty of looking like an absolute clown. Really. You learn throw-ins when you're 14 years old.

44 mins: The game has descended into a nit-picky midfield battle, a style that neither team are rather good at playing. It's boring as shit to watch, that's for sure. Is it any more boring to read about?

45 mins: Ballack gets free on the left, but his cross never reaches the lone Spartak player, Anelka, in the box. Then Bosingwa tries to assert himself on the right wing, but is handled tidily by Diarra. Bordeaux break and Gouffran gets free in the middle, only to blast his shot high over the bar. If the goals were 15 feet high, it'd be 3-0 Bordeaux at this point. As such, we prepare for half-time, and the ref mercifully puts us out of our misery.

HALF-TIME: Bordeaux 0, Spartak London 0

Around the grounds:
CFR Cluj 1, AS Roma 2
Anorthosis Famagusta 0, Werder Bremen 0
Inter Milan 0, Panathanaikos 0
Shakhtar Donetsk 1, Basel 0
Sporting Lisbon 0, Barcelona 2
Atletico Madrid 2, PSV Eindhoven 0 (clearly, they're missing Heurelho Gomes)
Liverpool 1, Marseille 0

I'm off for a nap until the second-half.

46 mins: We begin again, and hopefully these two teams will actually play soccer in the 2nd half. I have my doubts.

Early pressure for Bordeaux forcing yet more muscle from Cech, coming out to collect a deflected cross and climbing over Terry in the process.

50 mins: Drogba is warming up. I repeat, the sullen striking malcontent is warming up. I wonder if he'll replace Kalou and Malouda, because frankly Spartak would be more effective with 10 men than either of those two.

No chances early. It bears noting that Spartak don't really need to win this game to qualify for the knockout stages, but still, think of the poor French people who took time off not-work and spent hard-earned Euros to watch this game! At least provide something that we can believe is an honest effort, even if you're not really trying.

52 mins: A long ball ends up safely in Valverde's hands. Anelka's been shit today. Without his tapped-in, empty net goals, he's really not very industrious or inventive unless you tee up the goals for him so he can't miss.

Gouffran breaks down the right but his sharp, low cross is deflected out for a corner. Scolari looks even more pissed off than he did an hour ago, and maybe it's because his midfield has been non-existent so far.

(Goals a-plenty everywhere else, yet again: Danny Koevermans pulls one back for PSV, Lionel Messi adds a 3rd for Barcelona, and Da Silva Willian makes it 2-0 for Shakhtar Donetsk over Basel and surely cementing their UEFA Cup spot.)

56 mins: Yellow card for Jurietti after his 11th ticky-tack foul. Does anyone even care?

And yes Adam, that Golf Academy ad is awful. It looks about as reputable as that Minnesota art school where you have to draw the pirate and the turtle to get accepted.

60 mins: Well, whaddaya know, I didn't miss a thing while I searched on YouTube for that ad!

61 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL Spartak London, and what a fucking joke that was. An innocuous pass forward to Anelka somehow beats Diawara, giving the Frenchman about 10 minutes to canter down the pitch untroubled before slotting the ball past Valverde as Jurietti finally arrives to apply pressure. Awful. Their first shot on goal, and they've scored. Anelka's immediately subbed off by Scolari, which you know was the plan anyways, but that's a heck of a way to say farewell to the action before hitting the pine. Bastard. The crowd is subdued. Bordeaux 0, Spartak London 1

64 mins: Lampard blazes a free-kick narrowly over the bar, and surprise surprise, Chelsea look a lot more confident now, so much so that Cech almost gets caught in possession while trying to dribble it out of his area. What a clown! Still, it's on Bordeaux to force the issue now, as they can't exactly afford defeat with just one group game to go. Shake off the mistake and get upfield!

(Another goal for AS Roma, which looks to be pushing Bordeaux towards elimination unless they can knock off Spartak somehow this evening. Also, Cypriot side Anorthosis are close to qualifying from Group B as they take the lead 1-0 at home to Werder Bremen, the goal coming from Nicos K Nicolaou.)

66 mins: Fernando Cavenaghi on, Gouffran off for Bordeaux.

69 mins: Anyone still out there? I realize this game is tough going, but stick with me, please... I could use the support and comfort of knowing I'm not suffering through this hell in vain.

(Alright, try to keep up with this from the last 5 minutes: Sporting score 2 in 2 minutes before an own goal makes it 4-2 Barcelona. Anorthosis double their lead to boost their chances of making the knockout stages, and Shakhtar Donetsk score a 3rd goal at home to Basel. All good?)

73 mins: Gourcuff gets some medical attention for a head wound, and it's really the only meaningful thing he's done in the 2nd half. No more goals in this one... mark it.

(Panathanaikos take the lead in Milan.... Greek team 1, Jose Mourinho's team 0. If it holds, then Group B becomes a clusterfuck on Matchday 6. Meanwhile, Werder pull a goal back in Cyprus, making squeaky bum time a certainty there. Anorthosis 2, Werder 1.)

76 mins: The crowd aren't happy at how the home side have been rather bad since the sucker punch goal. Drogba gets fouled, and Bordeaux make another substitution: the bad free-kick specialist Wendel comes off, replaced by Gabriel Obertan. That's about as exciting as it's been for the last 15 minutes.

(Game over in Lisbon, as Pedro is sent off and Bojan scores from the penalty spot... Sporting 2, Barcelona 5. Also, Shakhtar score their 4th of the night. Good for them!)

And yes Georger, I do hope Dossena leaves. He's fucking terrible. Let's get this Jurietti guy from Bordeaux. He seems decent enough.

78 mins: Spartak settle into playing 8 behind the ball and double-teaming every tackle, which is just the trick if you're looking to squeeze the life out of the final 10 minutes as they are planning to.

Lampard forces a low save from Valverde after being put through by Malouda, the clearance ends up with Lampard again but no such luck second time around. Funny how Lampard always seems to spring to life once his team is winning, isn't it?

(Shakhtar score a 5th, and its dawning on me that Group B is going to be fun in 2 weeks. After all, any one of Anorthosis, Inter Milan or Panathanaikos could go through. Nothing is guaranteed after today, if the results hold. At least one of these groups has proven to still have drama heading into the final matchday.)

82 mins: Bordeaux appeal for a backpass, to no avail. A bit desperate, really.

83 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL and it's one of the amazing Diarras! There's quite a few of them, but make no doubt on this one: Alou Diarra leaps like a gazelle from a nice inswinging corner, and he buries it in off the near post. Cech doesn't move, and nor do any of the Spartak defenders in the box, all of them remaining rooted to the grass. They deserved that. Bordeaux 1, Spartak London 1

I blame John Terry for that one. Then again, I'd blame him for global warming if I could.

Substitution for Chelsea: Joe Cole off (he gave away the corner that Bordeaux scored from), Paulo Ferreira on.

86 mins: Wonderful! Lampard, who's had an awful game, slides late on Fernando Menegazzo and picks up a yellow card. He slinks away as it takes the ref a minute to realize Lamps was booked earlier. Thankfully, the ref got it eventually and beckons Lampard over to show him the red and end his dismal evening. Can Bordeaux sneak it with the man advantage? This liveblogger hopes so.

88 mins: Bordeaux are pouring forward down the left and Jurietti's cross is cleared to Planus, who seizes his chance to hammer it high into the stands. Good effort from the defender there. Spartak are shaky as the clock ticks down.

3 minutes of injury time.

(Also, all the Cypriot talk should be put on hold temporarily, as there's a chance no-one will face them in the knockouts: Werder Bremen just equalized. 2-2 in Cyprus with seconds remaining.)

90 mins + 1: Chalmat hoofs it forward to no-one in particular, which is not the strategy you'd expect from a team with a man advantage. They do get a more meaningful attack shortly thereafter, and Malouda gets the last touch as it goes out. Corner to Bordeaux. Gourcuff to thwack it in.

The outswinger causes trouble as Diawara got a head to it. It bounces around a bit but no shot before Terry belts it long down the pitch... and that's all she wrote.

FULL-TIME: Bordeaux 1, Spartak London 1
As painful to watch as it was, a deserved result. I do love to see Spartak struggle, and Lampard's sending-off was a particularly happy moment.
Thanks for following along, one and all. One last look around the grounds (all full-time scores):

CFR Cluj 1, AS Roma 3
Anorthosis Famagusta 2, Werder Bremen 2
Inter Milan 0, Panathanaikos 1
Shakhtar Donetsk 5, Basel 0
Sporting 2, Barcelona 5
Atletico Madrid 2, PSV Eindhoven 1 (I forgot this was played behind closed doors bc of their home fan troubles)
Liverpool 1, Marseille 0

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

In honor of FIFA's decision to kick Peru out of its membership, I thought I'd try to get a shirt from the exiled country for this week's entry. Unfortunately, Peru's National Team shirts tend to be a bit boring and too normal for me. So instead I went for a defunct club which wore a shirt style that we have seen before. But hold on, there are a couple of surprises ahead.

So, there it is. It looks awfully familiar, doesn't it? You know what the weird part is? Check this picture

It would seem that a company named Polmer decided that Umbro's design was one worth stealing. Now that is just odd business sense.

However, it is not company-shutting-down business sense. Polmer has since moved on to other teams as well, including one rather well-known in England. It seems that Polmer has since hit the jackpot by putting out Deportivo Wanka shirts. Why is that a jackpot? As someone on Wikipedia wrote,"The British slang word wanker "one who masturbates", sounds like Wanka when said with a (non-rhotic) British accent."

There is one final twist in this post. At the top I said that Deportivo Pesquero is a defunct club. That's not entirely true. The truth is they merged with another club back in 2000, allowing the second club to be promoted to the top division in Peru. That club--Deportivo Wanka.

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Sir Alex Ferguson Saeed al-Sahaf

So after yet another rather listless 0-0 draw for United against Villarreal, Sir Alex Ferguson took the occasion of the postgame to complain about... wait for it... wait for it...

Yes, the officiating.

Oh, Sir Alex what we would do without your ritual bitching that you are on the business end of every whistle despite the fact that pretty much the opposite is the case? I think I'd dance a jig, but that's a post for another day.

Anyway, first SAF came out to say that Rooney atoned for his dive in the box: "He apologised to me and said he didn't mean to do that. Then I gave him a lollipop for admitting he was being dishonest."

Okay, I made that last part up, but hey, someone gave Fergie a map to the high road. Too bad he summarily used it to wipe his Scottish ass. He continued: "I think he's been watching (Villarreal forward) Robert Pires too much. At least he apologised to their players. You'd never see Pires do that."

So even when a United player dives, a) his actions are still laudable relative to other players who do the same thing and b) it's an occasion to take a cheap shot at an opponent. Curious choice of Pires there, too. Wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that he used to play for Arsenal, would it?

Then SAF added this gem about Cristiano Ronaldo: "The systematic fouling on him, that's what's now happening. It's a tactic. Eventually the referee thinks he's diving all the time." Actually the referee thinks he's diving all the time because he is diving all the time. Ronaldo starts trying to locate the ref as he's going to the ground so he knows where to aim the pouty face as he appeals for a whistle.

Finally Sir Alex made the assessment that "The referee was very fair and strict with both teams." Okay, so here's the stat line: Villareal were whistled for 10 fouls and United for 24; meanwhile United were given 2 yellow cards while Villarreal were shown 3 yellows and one straight red.

Here's the comment from the Soccernet gamecast on the red card: "Oh! A straight red for Capdevila after a foul on Ronaldo. Not much in it really, a bit of a high leg, and it was late, yes, but that's never a straight red. Ronaldo did his bit of course."

So, United is clearly the more physical team (almost 2 and a half as many fouls!) yet they receive fewer cards and get to play the last 10 minutes with a man advantage after a dubious sending off for Capdevilla, but no, United is the one who is being treated unfairly by the referees.

At least Baghdad Bob was slightly amusing in his inability to grasp reality. But even he got one correct every now and then..

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Barnsley Fume Over FA Hume Decision

Barnsley are furious today after the FA announced they will not be taking further action over Chris Morgan's elbow on Iain Hume 17 days ago. Hume suffered a fractured skull and was rushed to hospital after the incident. He was released days later but readmitted on Monday.

Barnsley today released a statement outlining their attempt to seek justice outside of the Football Association:

"The decision by the FA to disconnect a violent act from its consequences runs contrary to the principles of civil and criminal law. The FA's failure to act has let Iain Hume down badly and the only option now remaining is for recourse outside of the normal football processes."

Meanwhile Sheffield United wish to forget about the incident as quickly as possible, says asst. manager Sam Ellis: "We think people have made a little bit more of it than they should have. It was closed after the game."

Hume had scored four goals this season before the incident which took place during Barnsleys 2-1 defeat at Oakwell to the blades on the 8th of November. Speaking before he was readmitted to hospital, Hume shared his enthusiasm to play as soon as possible: "It's upsetting to know that it was life threatening but the surgeons did a terrific job and I'm so grateful for what they have done for me. Nothing will stop me from playing, it's my life."

I hope that the Canadian international returns as soon as possible after a full recovery. No one likes to see an incident like this ruin a career, and I'm sure Chris Morgan feels the same way. I understand Barnsley's frustration. The force of the elbow and its use deserves more than the yellow card it received in this case. But watching again, Morgan shows no malice to clobber Hume in the head; he was watching the ball and hustling for a header when he swung his arm. After all, how often do you see defenders use their arms to shield a ball from an opponent before a header? 

If Hume doesn't stoop down, the elbow is chest height and like many featured on pitches all over the world every weekend.

- Bigus.

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TFA's Dilemma

The Fan's Attic is in a pickle. He needs UF readers to help him figure out how to proceed in this delicate situation.

Here's the background.

Yours truly, TFA, is on a men's league soccer team. The team has gone through several iterations and one name change, but TFA has been with the squad since 2003 and is the longest tenured player. I don't have a leadership or managerial role with the squad. So, I just have seniority.

Recently, the team discussed getting new uniforms. One of our players works for Adidas and offered to get us cheap Spanish National Team Jerseys. Sounds great, right?

Well, I show up to one game and the jersey I receive is an El Tri jersey. That's right, the Mexican National Team kit. TFA is a red blooded American soccer fan and this puts me out to no end. I have nothing against Mexico, except for its national team.

So what is TFA supposed to do about this? I really don't want to wear the El Tri jersey, not to mention it has 3/4 length sleeves which look awful. Ugh. There are some Hispanic players on the team and I don't want to offend them either, if they happen to be Mexican. Llet me know if I am completely offbase with my issue.

Help a blogger out. Please.

Read more on "TFA's Dilemma"...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: One card is never enough

Yes We Can [Gunner Blog]
My favorite thing from today. A ref who is prepared to make a splash [The Offside]
Martin Olsson will not be welcome back at Tottenham, I think [Guardian]
Well, Peru weren't making the World Cup anyway [NYTimes]

Greg Lalas blah blah blahs his way through a piece about MLS Cup [SI]
Bundesliga teams make more off shirt sponsors than EPL clubs do [The Offside]
Seattle Sounders get their first draft tomorrow [Seattle Times]

And, finally:
Spartak London take over a youth academy in LA [Soccer365]

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Champion's League Open Thread Tuesday

It's a rainy, boring Tuesday afternoon where I am, but hopefully you our fair reader are close to a television set and can watch this afternoon's Champion's League matches. Or there's always the usual minute-by-minute blogs. Check out the fixtures and share your thoughts after the jump. (Oh, and check out our fancy new URL... but please do not bitch if things go kerflooey.)

Zenit St Petersburg v. Juventus are almost over with a nil-nil draw, the rest of the games start at 2:45 EST (suck it, Greenwich Mean!).

Group E
AaB Aalborg v Celtic
Villarreal v Man Utd (on ESPN)

Group F
Bayern Munich v Steaua Bucharest
Fiorentina v Lyon

Group G
Arsenal v Dynamo Kiev
Fenerbahce v FC Porto

Group H
BATE Borisov v Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg 0-0 Juventus

Yes, and as Bigus pointed out, most importantly of all, Norwich v. Crystal Palace.

Please don't forget Exeter City v. Rotherham either.

Read more on "Champion's League Open Thread Tuesday"...

The gift of Bradford.

Bradford City have devised a novel way to help fans get through the current credit-crunch while hoping to attract stay-aways for next season.

The 99 quid season ticket. Bradford City for $7.00 a game. Not bad if you have nothing against League two football. In-fact it's a real bargain, but will people come back and what does Bradford City have to offer that would make you happy to receive 22 Bradford City games for Christmas?

So what DO Bradford have going for them. They are currently 4th in League two so there is a chance that your Christmas gift could see you watching Q.P.R, Derby, Norwich and Reading. If they stay down however, you could be welcoming Burton Albion to Valley Pardade (Coral windows stadium for now) for your Saturday afernoon entertainment.

Bradford have done a good job of keeping the fans coming through the gates since dropping from the Premier league to League 2 over the last 7 years. This season they are getting between 12 and 14 thousand supporters to a home game. Not bad for a team with many lower-league sides to compete with. Bradford doesn't just have one or two clubs nearby, they have 12 or so. Their part of the U.K is a hot-bed of football league action. Leeds, Rochdale, Doncaster, Barnsley, Huddersfield, Burnley, Halifax, Oldham, Rotherham, Bury and Scunthorpe are all close by. That means there are plenty of rivals to despise and lots of derby's to enjoy.

What else does Bradford City have to offer for 99 smackers. Well, there is a proud 105 year history, including many years in the top-flight. Most recently under Paul Jewell back in 99/00.

Chairman Mark Lawn thinks the drop in price can be good for the supporters and the club...

"Stuart McCall and the players say that the support we get does give them a big lift. We thought about what we can do to help the fans because there is a credit crunch, It's a genuine opportunity for people to buy something for partners, spouses, children at Christmas. We appreciate that Bradford is not the most affluent of places and if we can do something, and if we can do it at Christmas, then I think we should."

If the crunch continues and the Bradford City model proves successful then we may see more clubs offering discount season tickets. Arsenal and Chelsea fans should not get their hopes up though.


Read more on "The gift of Bradford."...

David Beckham: Soccer Star, Super Celebrity, and Sage Adviser?

For our female readers, our gay readers, our bi-curious readers, and most importantly Lingering Bursitis who may or may not be a member of one or more of the aforementioned groups of readers.

Chef Gordon Ramsay finds himself in pot of hot water this week due to allegations of a seven year affair. Generally, I defer to chefs on their menus, but I think I am going to pass on the blanched Ramsay florettes. Sarah Symonds, author of Having An Affair?, has gone Rebecca Loos and claims a long term affair with the TV Celebrity Chef. Naturally, she wants to make her way to a TV career:

UK publicist Max Clifford revealed that Symonds had come to him for advice earlier this year, as she was keen to launch a television career on the back of her book.

She was talking about getting herself a television profile in much the same way as Rebecca Loos (former personal assistant to David Beckham, who famously had an affair with the soccer star), the Daily Telegraph quoted him as having told the Daily Mail.

She’s articulate and intelligent and she’s got it all worked out - she realised that this was her opportunity to launch herself like other people that have launched themselves out of scandals, he added.

More like she was looking to make a career on her back. Amiright?

So who does Ramsay turn to for advice? David Beckham, naturally. I certainly would ask Beckham about whoring himself underwear endorsements, but I am not so sure I would go to him on PR advice, maybe his PR person would be the better person to approach.

Although, Becks has his own history of well publicized allegations of marital infidelity, so he might have some insight. A source of The Daily Mail reports that:

Ramsay, 42, is said to have asked 33-year-old Becks how to handle the allegations linking him to Sarah Symonds after they came to light at the weekend.

Becks had been in a similar situation when the Rebecca Loos scandal broke in 2004, and sources closes to Ramsay said that he spoke to the former England football captain to see how he coped with being accused of cheating on wife Victoria, 34.

David has a lot of experience dealing with the press in awkward situations, the Daily Star quoted the source as saying.
My first piece of advice would have been, don't mess around with a woman who writes a book about having an affair. That certainly cannot lead to good things. My second piece of advice? Cheat with somebody better looking.

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Bombs Over St. Petersburg

OutKast's version was far catchier, but it appears that an explosion in St. Petersburg this morning is threatening the Champions League Group Play match between Juventus and Zenit St. Petersburg. The Beebs states:

Reports suggested Tuesday's game may be postponed after three people, including a child, died following an explosion in a taxi near the club's training ground.
Sad. It is always difficult to determine whether "the game must go on" or not in situations like these, but I am sure Russia will somehow use it to their advantage.

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Happy Xmas Al.

Q: What do you get for Christmas when you win just 4 games out of 18 this season, including 10 defeats, leaving your team in the relegation zone heading to league 1?

A: If you are Alan Pardew then 1 million quid (1.7 million bucks), payable in just 12 days from being fired.

But that's not the total he will bag for being a duff manager. Oh no.

Pardew had a clause in his contract stating that he would be entitled to 1 million of his windfall within 12 days of getting the tin-tack. Under-perform, collect 1 million smackers, but Pardew's total haul for leaving Charlton in the bottom 3 of the Championship will be 1.6 million pounds. Nice work if you can get it. Just in time for Christmas shopping (Mrs Pardew has not stopped clapping yet). Pardew was fired on Saturday after Charlton were defeated 5-2 at home to Sheffield United.

The south Laaandan team are in a financial hole at the moment. They have had to sell their best players over the summer and the job at the Valley is not one to be admired. There will likely be no money when the transfer window opens in January. Especially now that the Addicks have to shell out 1.6 million to Pardew as a return for a spot in the bottom 3.

Meanwhile... Former Charlton man Alan Curbishley says he is not interested in a return to the Championship...But he is not ruling it out either....Managers!

“If I did look to come back to management it would be in the Premier League. I’m sure I’ll be linked with the job but we’ll have to see.” -Alan Curbishley.

So roughly tranlsated that's "they have no money for players and I am not interested in taking on a club circling the giant hole to league 1... But if no one offers me a better job in the near future and they get a couple of results in the coming weeks, I am in!


Read more on "Happy Xmas Al."...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Backpasses: Massive Link Dump!

Montreal withdraws its MLS bid, leaving Portland, Ottawa, Vancouver, Miami, Atlanta, and St. Louis in the running. []

Perhaps boding poorly for Atlanta's bid, the USL Silverbacks folded up shop and won't compete next season. [ATL Journal-Constitution]

Meanwhile, Albert Pujols lends his support to St. Louis's bid. [The USA Today]

Man arrested for having machete with which he was going to decapitate Maradona. Why we shouldn't trust it? He wanted to get back at Maradona over "World Cup 85". []

Sportswriter emulates our friend Marc Stein and has tryout with a professional indoor soccer team. [Detroit Free Press]

Speaking of the ESPN, here's a very good interview with Bob Ley, even though he's a Spurs supporter. [The Big Lead]

And there's even more after the jump!

Celtic again the beneficiary of poor reffing. St Mirren player, yards behind last defender, gets taken down by Boruc 25 yards out. The result? Yellow card. [Guardian]

Credit crunch leads SFL to promise payout to all clubs in December. [Scotszine]

Ghana's Premier League lose their sponsor. []

NYTimes blog on ESPN's MLS announcing crew. Commenters do not agree. [NY Times Goal Blog]

Subotic chooses Serbia over US. [NY Post]

Credit crunch hits professional WAG Colleen Rooney. []

Phil Neville told his digs are too gaudy to sell (it really is fucking unbearable!). [The Sun]

Michael Ballack meets Adidas. [Offside Rules]

Pink soccer boots! [The Sun]

10 good reasons to hate footballers. [Soccer Lens]

And finally, notice a certain theme with these last two stories?

Beavers are making a comeback in Britain! []

Big boobies are deemed to be not an illness in Germany, nor in the rest of the world. They are a blessing from heaven. []

Read more on "Monday Backpasses: Massive Link Dump!"...

Captain My Captain Or Rather Capitán Mi Capitán

It seemed so obvious that it's hard to call it 'news' but it's a) it's official and b) it's the first non-disastrous thing to happen at the Emirates in a few weeks. Anyway, Cesc is now the captain.

This comes on the heels of Wengner telling Gallas that he can have his position back for tomorrow's Champions League match if he mans up and apologizes to his teammates.

It's not like things are fixed. As much of a shit as Gallas has been, the Gunners actually need him in central defense as evidenced by Silvestre and Clichy (was it?) getting in each other's way as they gifted the ball to Stephen Ireland for City's first goal Saturday. I'd rather have an borderline crazy person with skills marshalling the backline than a 4-man sieve lest Arsenal slip farther away from the rest of the Big 4 (of which the Gunners are only honorary member at this point in the season).

The Guardian Rumour Mill is reporting that Willie might be off PSG so he can scream and cry in his native tongue. Of course they are also rumoring that RvP might be off to Milan. Fuck me.

Anyway, it's still a bit of a mess and it gets worse before it gets better as Arsenal goes to Stamford Bridge this weekend. The primary hope at this point is that a ball-swelling staph infection starts running through the Chelsea clubhouse sometime toward the end of the week. Short of that, maybe some bodies get healthy and Arsnene can field a proper PL squad (read: No Bendtner). Also maybe Scolari will line up and play football a la Sir Alex. Teams that put 10 men at the edge of the 18, then proceed to get physical have had their way with the Gunners this season. Teams that want to play open, flowing football still find they are in for a match (save Villa who both beat up and outplayed Arsenal).

Anyway, it's going to be a long season. And it's going to seem even longer. Then when it's over a lot of really good players might leave. Maybe giving Cesc the armband forestalls one departure for at least another season.

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Colaship Review - Fires, Hires and 10 Man Try-ers.

Good day, good day to one and all. Especially all of you Colaship followers out there in the grand blogesphere. Good day indeed. Bigus is in a good mood this week, take a guess why, go on? You got it..And with 10 men no less. Get in!

There was plenty of action in the Coca Cola Championship this weekend including lots and lots of goals. One manager was shown the door and a reserve team coach was given his first ever managerial role. Wolves won again and so did Watford. I know!

Join me after the jump for all of the results and news in a bumper edition of the Colaship review.

Lets start at Charlton. Poor Charlton. Alan Pardew was shown the door at 4.45 on Saturday after the Addicks lost 5-2 at home to Sheffield United. The 47 year-old former Hammers manager was relieved of his duties after Charlton slipped into the bottom 3. Charlton have won just one of their last 12 fixtures and look to be in some real trouble. They have shipped 13 goals in their last 4, which led to protests outside the valley after Saturdays defeat. Assistant Phil Parkinson will take temporary charge of the team and his first game is a toughie. Charlton travel to Q.P.R tomorrow and Parkinson will be hoping that he can restore some pride for miserable Charlton fans. As for Parkinson's long term future, I don't see one. Parkinson has managerial experience, he guided Colchester to promotion but had a short and miserable spell at Hull shortly afterwards. I can see Alan Curbishley returning to the Valley. Curbishley spent 15 years managing Charlton and saw them promoted to the Premier League twice. Charlton and Curbishley have both suffered since parting company in 2006. They are made for each other and I am sure both will be talking about a return over the next few days.

Pardew ponders his teams performance before being sacked on Saturday.

Charlton's opponents tomorrow evening, Q.P.R have their own new man in charge. Paulo Sousa was given the reigns last week but his first game at the helm ended in defeat. The Hoops lost 3 nil on Saturday, shockingly enough to Watford. A team with one win in their last 8 before beating Q.P.R. Owners, Ecclestone and Briatore will now be wondering if they have the right guy. Watford climb out of the bottom 3 at Charlton's expense and Q.P.R slip to 12th.

Lets stay with Watford. Today they announced the appointment of Brendan Rodgers as manager. Who? Rodgers was the reserve team coach at Chelsea. What a gamble. Good coaches often make lousy managers and this is a bold move on Watford's behalf. Malky Mackay will stay as assistant to Rodgers and Frank Lampard Senior joins as a consultant. Rodger's first game in charge will be away to Bristol City tomorrow evening.

It was a good weekend for Sheffield United. They put five past Charlton and climbed into 5th spot. They sit 2 points behind Reading who slipped up in a shocker. The Royals lost 2-1 at home to struggling Southampton who enjoyed a two-nil lead at the Madejski stadium courtesy of Bradley Wright-Phillips before Jimmy Kebe pulled one back midway through the second. Reading still occupy third place, 4 points behind Bongo FC and the Royals still have the best goal-difference in the league. Southampton's win was the first defeat at home for Reading this season and Bradley Wright-Phillips double just the 5th and 6th goals to find their way into the Reading net at the Madejski this term. Afterwards manager Steve Coppell accused his side of 'starting slow'. Reading are at Cardiff tomorrow and they will be looking to regain the lost ground at the top of the table.

League leaders Wolves enjoyed a comfortable victory at home to Blackpool. Chris Iwelumo goals either side of the break settled that one. Iwelumo has 13 goals this term and looks to have put the nightmare of that Scotland sitter far behind him. He has 5 goals in his last 6 games. Wolves are still 6 points clear of local rivals Bongo FC, who beat Swansea 3-2 on Friday night, thanks to a 5 minute second-half brace from veteran Kevin Phillips.

Bloody Burnley only managed a point at home to basement boys Donny Rovers on Saturday but Reading's loss could be Burnley's gain. They take on Barnsley at Oakwell tonight and a win would put them joint third with Reading. Of course they would need to win 20 nil if they wanted to take third place, due to the Royals superior goal difference.

Plymouth had a very good win at home to Cardiff this weekend. A result that saw Argyle join Cardiff on 28 points in the battle for 6th spot. Goals from Emile Mpenza and Paul Gallagher gave Plymouth a two nil lead. Sunderland loaner and Cardiff hero Michael Chopra scored what turned out to be a consolation with 30 mins to go.

Other notable winners this weekend include Crystal Palace. Neil Warnock's men won convincingly at home to Bristol City, 4-2. Derby lost at Ip..Ip..Ip..them two-nil and Preston beat Barnsley 2-1 at home to bring themselves within a point of 6th spot.

Richard Chaplow scores the opener for Preston at Deepdale.

Talking of notable winners, lets turn to the reason why Bigus is so happy on a Monday morning. Norwich won away at Nottingham Forest 2-1 after playing for 70 minutes with ten men.

Gary Doherty was sent off for a professional foul on 20 mins, it was harsh to say the least. Nathan Tyson was too fast and slid the ball away from the ginger one as he tried to take it. Doherty is one of the clumsiest players to ever play the game but the straight red was harsh. What smarts here is that the referee removed the red card from his pocket 2 seconds after the incident and didn't even think about conferring with his linesman. Referee Michael Oliver was in charge at the City ground and Oliver is just 23 years old! How can you referee a Championship match at 23? His eagerness to show a red highlighted the importance of having experienced referees at this level. Referees who make sure they are right before changing a game after just 20 mins!

Still, Mr Oliver's lack of experience turned out to be irrelevant. Norwich took the lead shortly after the sending off as David Bell collected a loose ball on the right, inside the box and drifted a cross to the far post where Matty Pattison was arriving to volley home his first goal for Norwich since joining last season. Pattison was excellent on Saturday and should keep his place in the side based on this performance.

Matty Patty celebrates with the travelling fans.

Forest tried to take advantage of the extra man and Norwich needed David Marshall to make some excellent saves. Marshall, however, was responsible for Forest's goal. Not through bad keeping, but a slip, handing Paul Anderson most of the goal to fire at.

The second half needed a heroic effort from Norwich. Omozusi (who replaced Doherty at center half) had to come off injured and (former Forest) midfielder Sammy Clingan became John Kennedy's third center back partner of the afternoon. Norwich looked as if they had 11 men for spells, largely due to the excellent work of wingers David Bell and Lee Croft. The game was decided when Forest couldn't deal with a Croft cross and Chris Cohen, under pressure from Fotheringham, watched in horror as the ball left his head bound for the bottom corner on 73 mins. Norwich shut up shop and held on. I am hoping that this is the start of a much needed run, but then again I thought that was coming after we thumped leaders Wolves 5-2 a few weeks back. I won't hold my breathe. Norwich host Palace tomorrow evening.

Last weekends results in full.

Burnley 0 Donny Rovers 0
Charlton 2 Blades 5
Palace 4 Bristol City 2
Ipshit 2 Derby 0
Forest 1 Super City 2
Plymouth 2 Cardiff 1
Preston 2 Barnsley 1
Royals 1 Saints 2
Wednesday 0 Coventry 1
Watford 3 Q.P.R 0
Wolves 2 Blackpool 0
Swansea 2 Bongo 3

Click HERE for the full table.

I'll round-up tomorrow nights games later in the week.


Read more on "Colaship Review - Fires, Hires and 10 Man Try-ers."...

UEFA Has Solved Your Referee Problems

Pictured above: Bennett, Webb, and Dowd. Not pictured: Styles

Complaining about the referees is, as Brave John Terry would tell you, the God-given right of every footballer. Most of the complaints revolve around four things: (1) that forward is a diving poofter who dove (i.e. the Cristiano Ronaldo factor); (2) that defender is a dirty hack who hacked me (i.e. the Marco Materazzi factor); (3) I have suffered an egregious violation/affront within the 6-yard box and must immediately be awarded a penalty; and (4) the ball did/did not cross over the goal-line. Well, fret no more, as UEFA has solved all of these problems!

Surely you have all been watching the UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying round mini-tournament in Cyprus. No? How strange, I assumed that everyone here spent 19 hours a day watching footy. Perhaps because these matches are "under-the-radar", UEFA (that's the Union of European Football Associations) has taken the opportunity to experiment with a system of 5 referees per match. There are the typical center referee and 2 assistant referees along the touchline, but these are bolstered by an additional assistant referee behind each goal-line. In theory the 2 additional ARs will help the referee with the most important decisions, such as penalties/fouls in the area.

So far UEFA has implemented the system in 3 separate mini-tournaments for the qualifying rounds in the Under-19 Championship. Overall, the 5 referees on the pitch are being assessed by a team of former top-level international referees, including 2 members of the UEFA Referees Committee (Hugh Dallas of Scotland, and Marc Batta of France). Although there is no word on the effectiveness at the Cyprus tournament, results from mini-tournament in Slovenia seem encouraging. It was there that UEFA President Michel Platini and General Secretary David Taylor were linked in to the referees' communication during the match. Both men felt that the additional referees provided an increased efficiency and accuracy to the match, with Taylor noting one play in particular:

"For example, in the first half, we saw a goalkeeper diving at the feet on the oncoming centre-forward. Was it a penalty or not? It was clear from behind the goal that it was not. These important decisions require the best sight of the situation, and this is what I witnessed myself."

So, how long until we see this experiment take place in other venues? Will we see a move to the Champions League or domestic leagues first? Regardless, what happens the first time a "behind-the-goal" AR blows an important call? Fear not, good people, for UEFA has all the answers...

...Answers to be forthcoming by 2027.

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Shamless Begging - Monday Edition.

Morning blog fiends, it's Monday. Another week is well under-way and that means lots of interesting bits and bobs to read on here. But before I crack on with this weeks Colaship review and the rest of the guys dig deep to amuse, I wanted to remind you that there is just over a week left to vote for Unprofessional Foul. Vote you say? Are we not done with voting for a while?

Not quite. We have been nominated to be U.S Soccer's Best Blog of the Year! You can vote once a day. Click HERE and vote, we want to win!

Many thanks.


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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

Paris Saint-Germain get the result of the week, handing Lyon only their 2nd Ligue 1 loss of the season. The match itself was chock full of shenanigans, which you can discover after the jump.

Saturday, November 22nd:

Bordeaux 1-1 Rennes - Once again Bordeaux dominated a match statistically but was unable to pull out more than a single point. The club started off the match quickly, getting a nice combination from Wendel to Chamakh in the 14th minute, but the resulting header was saved by Rennes GK Douchez. Bordeaux GK Valverde then shot his team in the foot in the 20th minute when his clearance hit Rennes striker Thomert and rolled into the goal. Valverde made up for his gaffe in the 27th minute when he made a brilliant 1-on-1 save on Briand, and followed that up with another great save on a Mangane volley. Mangane was then involved on the wrong end in the 60th minute, when he and Douchez had a serious miscommunication which allowed to Gourcuff to charge in and slot home the easy chance. In the waning minutes Gourcuff and Cavenaghi twice combined to force Douchez into saves to preserve the tie.

Caen 1-0 Auxerre - Auxerre dominated this match early, and in the 6th minute Hengbart sent in a nice cross to Hafni who shot over the crossbar. In the 29th minute Nivet almost scored, but his header was kept out by Auxerre GK Riou. The lone goal of the match came in the 57th minute when Lemaitre slotted his header past Riou. Auxerre almost rescued the point in the 65th minute when Niculae beat Caen GK Plante, but the ball was cleared off the line by Sorbon.

Grenoble 0-0 Le Havre - In a matchup of clubs moving (slightly) in opposite directions, Le Havre escaped the relegation zone while Grenoble now has zero wins in their last five matches. Havre started off better, with Lesage getting the first shot on goal in the 1st minute, although it was straight into Grenoble GK Wimbee. The pressure from Grenoble then came through Courtois, who forced Havre GK Revault into two nice saves in the span of a few minutes. The best chance of the match came for Grenoble in the 66th minute when Djadjedje sent in a cross to Akrour, who put the resulting shot over the bar. Wimbee was called upon to make a final save when an Idir free-kick into Nestor was placed on goal.

Lorient 1-0 Toulouse - Lorient played surprisingly well in this match, forcing Toulouse into 27 fouls. The pressure started early, when Vahirua forced a save from Toulouse GK Carrasso in the 7th minute. The first legitimate threat on goal for Toulouse did not come until the 30th minute when Mathieu hit the post with his header. In the second half, Didot provided the pressure, hitting the post in the 50th minute and forcing a great save from Lorient GK Audard off a free-kick in the 52nd minute. Just one minute later, Audard made a great save off a brilliant diving header by Capoue. The breakthrough finally came in the 75th minute on a counter-attack when Abriel sent in a nice cross for Gameiro to finish.

Saint-Etienne 0-1 Nice - Saint-Etienne took 19 shots (5 on goal), and had 65% of the possession, but it was Nice who picked up the 3 points, winning their 4th in a row. In the 9th minute, Hellebuyck took an excellent free-kick that forced Saint-Etienne GK Jadot into a save. But it was Saint-Etienne who almost scored first when an Ilan volley beat Nice GK Letizi in the 14th minute, only to be cleared off the line by Bamogo. Echouafni broke the deadlock with a header in the 20th minute, and Nice then sank into a mostly defensive posture. Gomis had three excellent chances, putting a shot just outside the post in the 30th minute, having a volley saved by Letizi in the 46th minute, and then missing an easy header, but the Saint-Etienne (and Les Bleus) striker was booed off the pitch when he was substituted. His day was almost made worse when his substitute Gigliotti almost rescued 1 point in the 92nd minute, forcing yet another save from Letizi.

Valenciennes 2-2 Sochaux - Valenciennes gaffer Kombouare received the dreaded vote of confidence during the week, and he watched his side struggle in this battle of relegation zone clubs. His club almost gave up an early goal in the 10th minute when Tulasne lobbed Valenciennes GK Penneteau, but the shot went just wide. They did not get a chance of their own until the 37th minute, but Belmadi's shot was well-saved by Sochaux GK Richert. Disaster struck two minutes later when Erdinq picked off a soft backpass and scored to put Sochaux ahead 1-0. But Valenciennes fought back in the 2nd half, with Saez poking the ball through Richert's legs during a goal-mouth scramble in the 63rd minute, and Audel hitting a stunning volley in the 68th minute. Unfortunately, Sochaux struck in the 87th minute when Privat (who takes home this week's "Goal-scorer to get carded" award by default) headed the ball past Penneteau.

Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 Lyon - Although the offensive pressure was even for both clubs, Lyon committed 21 fouls to only 10 for PSG as they fell for only the 2nd time in the Ligue 1 season. Lyon started off dominant, with Ederson and Benzema forcing early saves from PSG GK Landreau, but it was mostly downhill from there. In the 12th minute, Reveillere was stretchered off with a knee injury, and Lyon were forced to bring on Kolodziejczak in his first appearance. PSG struck in the 25th minute when Giuly headed home the cross from Ceara to provide the 1-0 lead. In the 35th minute, Kallstrom stole the ball from Makelele and provided Govou with a set-up, but Landreau made an excellent save. Then things got even worse for Lyon. Juninho (who coach Claude Puel had on the bench yet again) came on as a substitute in the 62nd minute and immediately sent a volley over the crossbar. Just 15 minutes later, he received a straight red card for a nasty tackle on Armand. Despite being down to 10 men, Lyon almost equalized in the 86th minute, but the shot from Fred was well-saved by the busy Landreau.

Sunday, November 23rd:

Monaco 3-0 Le Mans - Monaco bossed Le Mans all over the pitch and came away with the 3 points. Le Mans GK Pele was first called into action in the 13th minute on a shot from Adriano, followed shortly by Monaco GK Roma making a nice save on Le Tallec. In the 38th minute Baal took down Licara in the box, but Cuffre was unable to capitalize for Monaco, sending the PK over the crossbar. His club responded well in the second half, as the scoring was opened in the 49th minute when Alonso received a pass from Park and then dribbled two defenders to push the ball past Pele. Just one minute later Meriem sent a free-kick into the box, and Andre unfortunately headed the ball into his own goal. Three minutes after that the scoring was complete, as Licata hit a thunderous volley past the flat-footed Pele. Le Mans almost salvaged some pride with a goal in the 81st minute when Thomas volleyed a Coutadeur cross, but Roma was equal to the task. Freddy Adu watch: Freddy was a 90th substitute. I mean, seriously, why bother?

Nantes 0-1 Nancy - Nantes took 19 shots and Nancy committed 20 fouls, but it was the latter club who came away with the win. In the 8th minute a long throw from Rory Delap N'Daw went into Klasnic, whose shot hit the Nancy post. N'Daw then played Bagayoko through, but Nancy GK Bracigliano made a nice save. Bagayoko then hit the post twice, and sent a shot just wide in the remaining minutes of the first half. At the start of the second half N'Daw had his shot saved by the busy Bracigliano, and Moullec put the rebound wide. Klasnic then shot wide from 30 yards, as Nantes continued to waste chances. They paid for their inability to score in the 74th minute when Hadji headed in a nice cross from Berenguer.

Marseille 2-2 Lille - In a fairly even match overall, Lille looked to take the 3 points early only to allow Marseille to equalize at the death. Lille started strong, with Hazard's 25-yard shot in the 2nd minute forcing a save from L'OM GK Mandanda. They capitalized on some hesitant defending in the 11th minute when Rami got up for a header to give Lille the 1-0 lead. Samassa almost equalized immediately for Marseille, but his shot just skipped over the crossbar. In the 25th minute the club hit the bar again as Niang blasted a shot from 30 yards. Lille opened up a 2-0 lead in the 37th minute when Bastos capitalized on yet more defensive shenanigans. Debuchy swung in a well-taken free-kick, and Mandanda came out for the ball. Unfortunately for him, Zubar attempted to head the ball back to his keeper, resulting in the ball lobbing Mandanda for the easy finish for Bastos. Marseille began the climb back in the second half, scoring in the 47th minute when Samassa headed home a cross from Bonnart. Lille GK Malicki and Mandanda then traded saves on Cheyrou and Bastos, respectively. The match turned up the heat in the final 10 minutes, as Lille received 4 yellow cards (Mavuba, 80th minute; Malicki, 86th minute; Chedjou, 91st minute; and Cabaye, 91st minute). Unfortunately for Lille, the downhill spiral didn't stop there, and they watched a free-kick from Zenden in the 92nd minute sail through the wall and into the goal to salvage the point for Marseille.

So, after Matchday 15 the top of the table looks like this: (1) Lyon, with 33 points on a 10-3-2 record and a +11 goal differential; (2) Nice, with 28 points on an 8-4-3 record and a +6 goal differential; (3) Marseille, with 27 points on a 7-6-2 record and a +11 goal differential; and (4) Rennes, with 26 points on a 6-8-1 record and a +9 goal differential.

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