Saturday, May 30, 2009

Showdown in Chinatown 2009 Date Announced

Titi v. J-Kidd... also pictured: Macca's tuccus

It really would not be an exaggeration to say that Showdown in Chinatown was the highlight of last summer. NBA stars, footy stars, and even ESPN's Marc Stein running around on a small pitch in the Lower East Side in front of hundreds of fans hanging off a chain-link fence. Heaven truly is a playground.

It's with great excitement that we have learned that the game is happening again this year, and that a date has been chosen. Steve Nash launched a new website for the charity Football for Good, wherein Nash included a video announcing that the Showdown will be held on June 24th in New York. There is even a contest where you get airfare and a ticket to the match.

We are also hearing rumors that the roster will be even more fantastic than last year. This video might have some clues... Some really great football players are featured, as well as Joe Cole.

So, if you are in New York, or you can get to New York, better start planning for a sick day.

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The Bootroom: FA Cup Final Edition

One last chance for Spartak London to take home some hardware on the season before Guus Hiddink sods off back to Russia. Our very own Autoglass is at the all-Blues final at Wembley with Autoglass Jr., cheering on his beloved Chelsea. Somebody call Child Protective Services!

After the jump, the brief details for the FA Cup Final, as well as what else is going on in the world of footy this weekend.

Chelsea finished 3rd in the EPL (suck it, Barclay's!) with 83 points, while Everton finished 5th with 63 points. So, a bit of a gap between them, then. Aside from Autoglass, most of us here are rooting from Everton because: (1) Spartak London are the anti-Christ; and (2) Everton sport American Tim Howard in goal. As for our true Liverpudlian, Lingering Bursitis? I'm sure his head will explode trying to decide on the lesser of two evils.

Probable line-ups for the dance:

Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, A Cole; Essien, Ballack, Lampard; Malouda, Drogba, Anelka.

Everton: Howard; Hibbert, Yobo, Lescott, Baines; Osman, Neville, Cahill, Pienaar; Fellaini; Saha.

Referee: Howard Webb.

Notes: Everton gaffer David Moyes was the EPL Manager of the Year. Each club has a massive twat on the pitch - Ashley Cole for Chelsea and Tim Cahill for Everton. Marouane Fellaini's hair is outrageous. If there is only 1 goal in this match, it is guaranteed to come from Malouda in order to further piss off Lingering.

In other footy, titles and relegation will be decided in the following matches:

Ligue 1: (all matches at 3:00PM EST on Saturday)

SM Caen v. FC Girondins de Bordeaux
Olympique de Marseille v. Stade Rennais FC
Paris Saint-Germain v. AS Monaco FC
Toulouse FC v. Olympique Lyonnais
AS Saint-Etienne v. Valenciennes FC
FC Lorient v. Le Mans UC 72
Grenoble 38 v. FC Sochaux-Montbeliard

Serie A: (all matches at 9:00AM EST on Sunday)

Fiorentina v. AC Milan
Juventus v. Lazio
Genoa v. Lecce
Bologna v. Catania

La Liga:
Saturday matches:

Atletico Madrid v. Almeria
Mallorca v. Villareal

Sunday matches:

Numancia v. Sevilla FC
Real Betis v. Valladolid
Racing Santander v. Getafe
Osasuna v. Real Madrid
Sporting Gijon v. Recreativo Huelva

Read more on "The Bootroom: FA Cup Final Edition"...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Backpasses: Fraggin' A

English guys like to frag each other when they get together [Dirty Tackle]
Jimmy Conrad continues to rule the internet [Off The Post]
Top moments of the EPL season that was [Pies]

American in Rome mistaken for soccer fan, stabbed. Tifosi apparently unaware that Americans don't like soccer [Newsday]
Jonas brother playing with fire. Last week he wore an Argentine shirt, now this [The Beautiful Game]
A twist on robbing player's houses while on European duty. Giggsy's mom's house was invaded for a drug party [The Spoiler]
Scholes to break ankles and coach at Stoke next season? [Daily Mail]

Clueless American watching a game and writing it up is now a meme. Milhouse, however, is not a meme [Upper Deck]

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America Wants Caen Relegated

The task is simple for SM Caen this weekend on Matchday 38 for Ligue 1 - win and stay in the top flight (well, unless Saint-Etienne beat Valenciennes by 15 goals). If they lose and Saint-Etienne win (regardless of by how much), they will be relegated. So, who will be the targets of Caen's fury tomorrow? Eh, it's only Les Girondins, who assure themselves a Ligue 1 title with a victory. Boy, it's a good thing that Caen don't have any distractions.

This match is being held at Caen's home, the Stade Michel D'Ornano, but like most clubs Caen are staying in a hotel the night before the match. Caen is located in the Normandie region of France - sound familiar? That's right, it's near Normandy (that's the English spelling) and the 65th anniversary of D-Day is right around the corner. What that means is that there are US officials all over the place right now preparing for President Obama's visit next week. There are also thousands of veterans and visitors coming in for the planned commemoration (although Queen Elizabeth is not among them), but surely a professional football club should be able to focus on the task at hand.

Well, apparently one of the American delegates has contracted swine flu (although it's uncertain if she was already infected before entering the country), has been hospitalized, and has caused other delegation members to be quarantined for a period of time. Even worse is the fact that the hotel at which she was staying was to be the headquarters of SM Caen before their vital match this weekend. Instead, Caen were forced to stay at a hotel in Bayeux. People, that's 6.5 miles away!

If a sleep-deprived and uncomfortable Caen lose their match tomorrow and are relegated, it will be a conspiracy the likes of which hasn't been seen since the dodgy lasagna incident. Does anyone know if Obama is a Saint-Etienne supporter?

Read more on "America Wants Caen Relegated"...

So What's the Confederations Cup All About?

The FIFA Confederations Map. Isn't it pretty?

The Confederations Cup kicks off on Sunday, June 14th with a 16:00 (umm, that's probably S. Africa time, not EST) match between South Africa and Iraq at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg. But who are the countries involved, how did they get there, and what the heck is this thing all about?

The tournament was originally hosted and organized by Saudi Arabia, and was known as the King Fahd Cup. Not suprisingly, Saudi Arabia was a participant in every tournament, and extended invitations to winners of various continental tournaments. There were 2 iterations, in 1992 and 1995, after which FIFA took over the competition, formalized the rules regarding participants, and decreed that it would take place every 2 years. In 2005 FIFA realized that due to the schedule of a variety of other competitions (most notably the Olympics, the World Cup, and EURO tournaments), it would be most effective if the Confederations Cup was held every 4 years, which brings us to 2009.

Since 2005 the Confederations Cup has been held in the same country as the next World Cup, with the latter following by 1 year. This allows the WC host country to assess its readiness on a number of factors including infrastructure and safety. So, who are the national teams that get to dance at this dress rehearsal, and how did they get there? The rules of the Confederation Cup state that the 8 participants will be the winners of each of the 6 FIFA confederation championships, the reigning World Cup champion, and the host of the upcoming World Cup. There are also a host of rules for what to do when these overlap (e.g. the reigning WC champion is also hosting the next WC; the winner of 1 of the 6 confederation championships is also the reigning WC champion) - and in fact some teams have declined to participate in the Confederations Cup for a variety of reasons.

The 2009 Confederations Cup participants are:

(1) Italy - invited as the reigning World Cup champion

(2) South Africa - invited as the host of World Cup 2010

(3) Egypt - invited as the Confederation of African Football (CAF) winners, having won the African Cup of Nations

(4) Brazil - invited as the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) winners, having won the Copa America

(5) Spain - invited as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) winners, having won EURO 2008 (officially referred to as the UEFA European Football Championship)

(6) Iraq - invited as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) winners, having won the Asian Cup

(7) New Zealand - invited as the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) winners, having won the OFC Nations Cup

(8) United States - invited as the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) winners, having won the Gold Cup

With a total of $17.6 million in prize money at stake, matchups featuring USA-Italy (June 15th) and Italy-Brazil (June 21st), and the reputation of South Africa on the line, the 2009 Confederations Cup has a lot to offer.

And we'll be ready with the live-blogs.

Read more on "So What's the Confederations Cup All About?"...

Quick Throw: Not so fast, bored Arab!

The EPL, miraculously finding the time between filet mignon lunches and visits to the spa, have decided to run the potential Pompey owner through their "fit-and-proper persons" rule that's yet to be fully implemented. I guess they're checking to see whether he's qualified or honest or something.

Good luck, Pompey! Remember: all the money in the world doesn't mean you'll be signing Kaka in July. If he and the rest of the soccer superstars didn't want to go to Citeh, they're certainly not choosing the gloomy South Coast.

[Guardian Sport]

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Fernando re-ups at Anfield

Fernando Torres has been busy signing things lately. First, his marriage license, and now, a new deal at Anfield that could keep him there until 2013, with an option for 2014.

On his website, he had this to say:

"I want to remain here (at Anfield). Since arriving at Liverpool I feel that there is a bond and commitment. We listened to the club's offer, which came on the back of two seasons of positive work. My objective now is to win a trophy with Liverpool next season."
I pray to God that trophy is not a Carling Cup.

After the jump, a vid or two showing his goalscoring. Why? I mean, why not?

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: I don't see it

Nando's been busy. Got married. Signed a contract extension [Sky Sports]
Beckham does not care who he endorses, he is using an iPhone, dammit [Daily Mail]
Videos of the Barcelona victory parade. The last one features a drunken (and cursing?) Messi [Barcaloco]

For you Twitterers--MLS and other US soccer players on Twitter [The Best Eleven]
First: There is a "Singapore Beckham". Second: He's back [Soccernet]
France unveils their Braille shirt. Is it ust me, or are those dots not raised? [World Cup Blog]

The latent homoeroticism of football commentators revealed [Who Ate All The Pies?]

Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: I don't see it"...

Quick Throw: Steve Bruce to Sunderland Is Imminent

Wigan continues its strategy of buy-low sell-high as Steve Bruce has been given permission to talk to Sunderland, with an official move to the Black Cats expected within 48 hours. Wigan gets somewhere under 5 million pounds in return, and will likely announce Roberto Martínez, Swansea City manager and former Wigan player, as Bruce's replacement.


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Who is the mystery woman training with Germany?

Let me get this out of the way before I forget, because between this post and the new Aberdeen kit, Football Fashion is my site of the day. Plus, if I didn't do it now, I'd probably be too spent after looking and relooking at all of the pictures ahead.

Britta Heidemann is quite the fencer. She won Gold in the individual epee this past summer in Beijing. She's a Leverkusen gal, and, like the local soccer team, is sponsored by Bayer. These days, she splits her time between Germany and her second home in China. Needless to say, Heidemann was probably quite happy when the German men's team decided to go to China for a friendly. Next thing you know, there she is at training with the Mannschaft, one top athlete working out with other top athletes.

Oh, and did I mention she has done Playboy? Yeah, there's a NSFW pic after the jump.

With the team. Look closely for the Bayer pin

I dunno, but I like this one

Coach Loew keeping a close eye on the proceedings

It would be a little misleading to say Heidemann is a Playboy model. She appeared in a 2004 (I'm guessing) female athlete-themed issue in the German version of the magazine. It's safe to say that she's not going to show up on the next season of Hugh Hefner Gets Better Trim Than You, or whatever it's called. Still, nudes are nudes, and hers are pretty swell.

I'll leave you here with one oddly-censored photograph from the shoot. If that whets your whistle, then head on over here for a couple of more uncensored ones. Enjoy.

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Pompey Hope Crouchaldinho Likes Falafel

DiCaprio is an Italian name, right? Sign him up!

Sulaiman Al-Fahim brokered the deal whereby Abu Dhabi Group (for which he is a member of the board) took over Manchester City. Okay, fine, he helped out some of his potentate friends when they needed a new play-thing. Only now, Al-Fahim (excuse me, Dr. Al-Fahim) has bought Pompey from embattled owner Sacha Gaydamak (cue the "you know how I know you're gay" jokes) for an undisclosed amount. While the club is currently £65m in debt (that's slightly over $100 million - Abramovich thinks that number is "cute"), an influx of Middle Eastern oil and real-estate money is likely to fix that issue soon enough. But there are other issues lurking.

Al-Fahim has an MBA from the Kogod (who knew Unsilent Majority had his own school!) School of Business at American University, and received his Ph.D. from American as well, so he presumably knows what he is doing. An alleged child chess prodigy, he founded a sports financing company (the Sulaiman Al Fahim Group) at age 18, and is currently the CEO of Hydra Properties, a United Arab Emirates real estate company he founded in 2005 at age 28. The latter has reeled in over $2 billion in real estate projects, leading Al-Fahim to describe himself as a billionaire philanthropist (note: people younger than me should not be richer than me).

Today some more details regarding the sale of Portsmouth were announced, and Al-Fahim noted that his financing was obtained with the help of a "network of Asian and Middle Eastern investors" including Falcon Equity, for which he is also a board member. The latter was also involved in an aborted purchase of Chelsea earlier this year, so it is clear that Al-Fahim has been looking to get involved with another EPL team for some time now.

There has been the usual talk regarding staying true to the Pompey faithful and making moves to get the club into European competition, but given Al-Fahim's previous comments regarding potential Man City transfer targets Ronaldo, David Silva, and everyone else under the sun (none of which came to fruition) one has to wonder how much of this bluster will come true. However, the bigger concern has been the connection to the Man City purchase and how that will affect how Pompey conduct their business on the pitch. If Man City need 3 points for a spot in Europe and they play a Portsmouth club with nothing to gain or lose, will the latter lay down? Al-Fahim claims that his involvement with Man City ended immediately after the deal last September, but he remains a board member of Abu Dhabi group.

Even more importantly, if I was a Pompey supporter I would be worried that my club has just been bought by the Middle Eastern Donald Trump.

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Don't Give Cubs' Fans Any Ideas

Famed Brazilian club Fluminense are experiencing a bit of a rough patch. Currently 12th in the table, they have but one win in the start to the admittedly young 2009 Brasileirao. They were knocked out of the Brazilian Cup by Corinthians. And then got pasted 4-1 by Santos over the weekend.

So fans reacted in the only reasonable manner possible. They attacked the team at practice.

About 30 fans of Brazilian club Fluminense entered the training grounds yesterday to protest, confronting some of the players for their disappointing results in recent matches.
Fluminense midfielder Diguinho started arguing with one of the interlopers and the fan responded by punching him in the stomach. Security guards then arrived and fired two shots into the air to break up the fracas. Yeah, shots. Good thinking.

Man, American sports are so tame. Ron Artest goes into the crowd after a fan throws a drink at him and the entire league goes into crisis mode like the apocalypse in neigh. Fans attack a team in Brazil, that's called "Tuesday."

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Arsenal's Dueling Ownership Are Having the Best Week Ever

Boy howdy, this football season sure has ended with a whimper, huh? One minute it’s all title races and contentious cup draws, the next minute it’s summer vacation and transfer speculation (and yes, I know the FA Cup Final hasn't been played yet, just saying).

Amongst the Arsenal supporters, one of the more interesting -- and by interesting that I mean tedious -- storylines this summer will be the ownership struggle between Jabba-the-Hut-impersonator Alisher Usmanov and mustached American billionaire Stan Kroenke. Kroenke seems to be in the driver’s seat thanks to his positive relationship with the Arsenal board, but Usmanov appears quite incapable of going away quietly.

After the jump, find out why both Kroenke and Usmanov are having the Best Week Ever.

Let’s start with Stan Kroenke. In addition to his stake in Arsenal FC, Kroenke also owns the Denver Nuggets, who are in the midst of an NBA Western Conference playoff series with the L.A. Lakers. Since joining the NBA from the old ABA, this is only the Nuggets third trip to the Conference Finals, with the most recent being back in 1985. So, you could forgive the Nuggets' management if they hadn’t exactly planned ahead.

That lack of foresight led to a double booking of the Pepsi Center this past Monday. The other party that thought it had the venue booked? A WWE wrestling event. In the end, the WWE was forced to relocate, which led to a rather bizarre skit in which a fake Stan Kroenke told the audience of pimply 15-year-olds, “Do you think that I care that I screwed thousands of WWE fans? I do not. I have much more important things to do with my team than worry about you people.” The skit ended with WWE impresario Vince McMahon shoving the fake Kroenke. Which once again proves true that wrestling is not exactly Henrik Ibsen.

Meanwhile, professional fat guy Alisher Usmanov has expanded his run of overpaying for investments by pouring $200 million into Facebook. According to Forbes, this investment actually came through Digital Sky Technologies, of which Usmanov is not an official owner but who reportedly has a “substantial” stake.

The valuation of Digital Sky’s investment is over 300% where previous private equity had pegged Facebook's valuation (short version: Digital Sky overpaid). Forbes also points out that Usmanov has a fairly poor track record of investments lately, including a bad bet on something Norilsk Nickel. We can only guess what this might mean for Facebook's future (speaking of which, befriend us here!)

So, these are the two people who will be battling it out this summer to control Arsenal FC. In the meantime, they are both having..... the Best Week Ever!!

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Somebody Really Wants to Win 'World's Biggest Dick' Award

Wow, just wow.

So, a United fan in Nigeria is so upset about the Champions League loss he drives his bus into a crowd of celebrating Barcelona fans and kills four of them. Dick.

Jesus, at least upset Arsenal fans are classy enough to only take their own lives.

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Whoa, Hold On. You Mean Torres Isn't Gay?

Hard to believe that a guy with his own name tattooed on his arm in Tengwar script would be into chicks but apparently Fernando Torres likes one of them enough to marry her.

Which he did. Yesterday. We think.

Como se dice "shotgun" en Español?

Seems while the rest of the footballing world was looking at a shiny object ("Look: a Champions League final") Nando got hitched to Olalla Domingez who is seven months preggers.

Her name becomes a lot less fun to say when you remember that a "ll" in Spanish is the rough equivalent of a "y" in English.

Sure Liverpool fans will sport wood when they find out that she sported a Red dress.

There's a little more detail from Kickette here. And some Spanish press here. From the latter it seems they've been together for 10 years so this might be surprising only to his domestic [strike] partner David Villa.

Read more on "Whoa, Hold On. You Mean Torres Isn't Gay?"...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: This does not get old

Tough day for my friend Thomas. He's a Man U AND Blackhawks fan. Sometimes, sports are no fun.

That mystery American who bought into Sunderland is taking full control of the club [Eurosport]
And it looks like he is bringing in Steve Bruce [Guardian]
Trouble in Norway. Mascot punches player in face [Off The Post]

Umm, this is Cisse and Eduardo bad. African player gets leg broken in excruciating detail. Avoid if you are squeamish [Total Pro Sports]
Frank Lampard dresses up to meet a princess [Kickette]
To be fair, Eugenie was wearing these [GTTF]
More trouble in Portland. How long until the team is pulled? [MFUSA]

If the first paragraph doesn't sell you, maybe the rest will. NBC really did not want you to watch the CL final [NBCSports]

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How to get in trouble in Greece

Apparently, it's not difficult. And no, it has nothing to do with wearing AEK Athens colors in Olympiakos territory, either.

No, this is a spin-off of the classic tale "Boys Behaving Badly on Holiday", although when you see all the pictures, you might wonder what all the fuss what about.

A group of 17 current and former players for Hanham Athletic and Hanham's Sunday League team went on holiday to the island of Crete, and as is customary with team vacations, they brought some dress-up gear to be worn humiliatingly around town while hopping from watering hole to watering hole.

Long story short, they were arrested, but not for being drunk and disorderly...

the locals have decided enough is enough, however, and the footballers were arrested and accused of causing offence to the Catholic Church with their outfits.
Good way to kick off your holiday, isn't it?

The group were released by the judge once the case was brought to court, but not before they spent some time getting acquainted with the local, ahem, facilities:
(Club Secretary Mick) Underhill, 59, said he and his team-mates, aged 18 to 65, were marched into a courtroom in the Crete capital of Heraklion yesterday morning still dressed in the risque garb after spending 40 grueling hours in a 'cramped' and 'disgusting' prison cell.

Speaking from a bar in Malia, now a free man, Mr Underhill said: 'The last 48 hours have just been unbelievable. It's no doubt something we will never forget.

'The prison facilities were horrendous. You wouldn't let the dog use the toilets in there. There was graffiti all over the walls. We were all squeezed into one cell with eight concrete beds - and we had to buy food if we wanted to eat.'
Can't be much worse than the toilets at Southend, can it?

So, lesson learned. Don't stuff your 65-year-old body into a spandex nun's costume on one of the largest Greek islands. It's still better than what they do at Manchester United holiday parties.

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Liveblog: Champions League Final- Barcelona v. Man United

Commence haunting, feverish classical music... or just the Chaaaaampions song. That'd work too

Greetings from the Stadio Olimpico in Roma... I mean an Irish bar in New York City... I mean my couch, with a doped-up cocktail of cold medicine! But enough about me, your not-so-humble, meekly constituted liveblogger. Today is the Day of Days. The most exciting evening of this footballing season is upon us. United and Barca, champions of their respective domestic leagues, have been the best in the world (see: UF Power Polls) for the better part of a year. Now in just minutes they shall settle it all on the Roman turf.

Could there have been a better matchup? Has there ever been? Simon Kuper, author of Football Against the Enemy, and a columnist for the Financial Times, posits that just maybe, this is as good as it's ever been.

More questions, quotes, predictions, lineups, then the action... all after the jump.

First and foremost, we put our sacred honor on the line:

Lingering Bursitis says... "2-1 Barcelona in extra time"
Precious Roy: "3-2 Blaugrana on a 89th minute strike from Titty"
Autoglass adds, "I'm going 3-2 Barca as well"
ian is bold: "5-4 Barca hattie for Titty final of the decade"
u75 is bland: "1-0 Man U"
The Liveblog Lad is hopeful: "3-1 Barca. Remember Eto'o."
Bigus Dickus reports from The South, "1-1, pens." No indication of what he believes will transpire in the lotto.

Here are the teams:

Van der Sar
O'Shea, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Carrick, Anderson, Giggs, Park, Ronaldo, Rooney
Subs: Kuszczak, Berbatov, Nani, Scholes, Rafael, Evans, Tevez.

Valdes, Puyol, Toure, Pique, Sylvinho, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Eto'o, Henry.
Subs: Pinto, Caceres, Gudjohnsen, Krkic, Keita, Rodriguez, Muniesa.

Per Lingering Bursitis: I'm thinking 4-3-3s for everyone!

Quotes from Rome, courtesy BBC:

The Players...

Lionel Messi: "Cristiano Ronaldo is a player I'd pay to watch. He and I are very different, but he is unbelievable, very special. As for me, I have no desire to ever leave Barca. I owe them so much. The doctors at home in Argentina told my parents I would never grow past 4ft 5in. Nobody took a chance on me apart from Barcelona. I want to repay them for the rest of my career."

Cristiano Ronaldo: "It's normal that people speak about me but I am 100% focused on this game. I will try to help my team 100%, score a goal and win the game. That's it."

Wayne Rooney: "Barcelona are one of the most attractive and exciting teams in Europe so it'll be a difficult night. Lionel Messi is an amazing player. He's so quick, his control is unbelievable and he scores goals. In my eyes he's one of the best."

Thierry Henry: "I've definitely changed opinions about me this season. Now I feel the affection of the Camp Nou fans. This is a club where, to triumph, you have to understand not only the fans but the club., the city and the fact that Catalonia is not Spain. That took me too long to realise when I arrived."

Patrice Evra "You can be the best in Europe but when you beat a team like Barcelona you can be more proud... I have respect for Chelsea but against Barcelona it will be an amazing final."

"You will remember it every day for the rest of your life if you win a Champions League final against Barcelona... This is not only the Champions League final, this is something else."

The Legends...

Sir Bobby Charlton: "I've seen Sir Alex at close quarters more than anyone else, so I think with his record I would have to say yes. Not only what he's done at Manchester United but the influence he has on other young managers - there are lots and lots of young managers who dream of achieving what Sir Alex Ferguson has done."

Johan Cruyff: "Manchester United play good, daring football and it will be a great spectacle. The suspensions of Daniel Alves and Eric Abidal hurt Barca more than Darren Fletcher's hurts United because if you look at the English team's bench, you can see they have the stronger squad."

The Peanut Gallery...

Fabio Capello: "You are talking about two teams loaded with top-class players, all of them capable of deciding the outcome with a single move. They are the two most entertaining teams in the world and let's hope that the final will be entertaining too."

Henry Winter: "It'll be Wayne Rooney's sort of game. He will probably play wide left against Carlos Puyol, who is an ageing right-back and I think it'll be Rooney's final. If Manchester United win, I think they will be the greatest British team of all time, eclipsing the Liverpool team of 1984."

2:05 PM-- First ESPN eyesore! In SC rundown, they swap Champions League for "UEFA Cup" as if they are one and the same. As if!

2:24 PM: One minute to the Chaaaaaampions!

2:26 PM: Our Preeeecious, Roy, is at Chi-town's Fearon's to watch. By 30 mins to kick he reports that not only is the place less full than last year, he's the only one not in United gear. Might seem odd, but when you figure that a United-Chelsea final was the gloryhunter convention of the decade, it kinda makes sense.

2:33 PM: So do we need an expert to tell us United are looking to clog up the midfield, in an effort to stifle Xavi & Iniesta, and cut them off from Messi, Eto'o, and Henry? Of course, with United, most of those "stifling" midfielders are perfectly capable of potting one from 30 yards. Head vs. Heart here...

2:38 PM: Lingering Bursitis reports:

pick of the twitter #championsleague

kingjbell: Funyuns and pineapple fanta got a n***a on!!! Chillin bout to watch the champions league final flippin between dat and the french open!

Indeed, kingjbell, indeed. Funyuns and Pineapple Fanta. WHO CAN TOP THAT???

2:41 PM: Terrifying Bjork-esque Gold-plated Mermaid character carries CL trophy onto field as teams emerge from underneath.

Gladiator reference #3 is registered by Mr. Rae. Over/Under for the match? I think 17.

2:43 PM: Oh really, Derek Rae? Haaaad to make the Swiss ref/neutrality joke? Neeever saw that coming. Someone studied their playbook last night.

2:45 PM ET: We're off! (Sounds looooud!)

1: United look like Real in their silky whites. Barca should hope...

2: Ronaldo free kick knuckles under Valdes, who just gets a hand to it... deflection pushed out for a corner, which is cleared.

4: Rooney wheels around to find Park shooting down the right. Alas, it's a bit tall for the Korean. Goal kick.

5: I too am trying digest this "Ronaldo alone up front" business. He's either drifted left, or ESPN is just fuckin' with us.

7: United are owning possession so far. No meaningful touches for any of Barca big boy, thus far.

8: Ronaldo with his second shot. Off-target, but nooot by much.

9: Evra sends in Ronaldo, who settles a bouncing ball, only to pull it just left of Valdes's post. That might have been 1-0...

10: 1-0 Barcelona!! Iniesta feeds Eto'o, who snaps one under Edwin's left hand

Go check the predictions, please... I really need to start gambling

12: So this whole "first goal" thing seems to have had an effect on the Catalans. They have taken the initiative.

13: Messi pulled down after a comedy of errors by United (Carrick then Anderson)... no whistle.

16: Gerry Pique blocks a freewheelin' Ronaldo after giving up possesion. He sees yellow. Ronaldo has another shot from steps outside the box.

Giggs takes it with the left foot... aaaaand.... sends a balloon into the crowd. Goal kick.

Bigus just saw Giggs miss the target on this television, in lovely Lake George, NY

19: Messi cuts in from the right, his shot just barely over vdS's glove and the crossbar.

21: Ronaldo take his chance now. His comes from a bit further out, but misses by just as narrow a margin. Balls skips wide right on slick turf.

22: Valdes is a bit nicked up after Park runs into him. Looks like he's done taking goalkicks.

United corner now...

23: Giggs into a well-marked Ronaldo, who heads way over the bar.

Pique takes the goal kick.

25-26: Barca hold possession, look more and more threatening. Look like European champions...

26: Iniesta dragged down by Anderson.. free kick for Xabi, 25 yds out.

Goes two feet wide of the upper 90. Goal kick.

28: Messi grabs Carrick's penis as they go tumbling about the middle of the pitch.

(over the shorts, excuse me)

29: United going to the loooong ball. They fail, at first. Trying to spring Rooney...

32: Rooney feeds Evra on the left wing, his high cross is nodded clear by Pique, with Ronaldo stalking nearby. United are a bit cautious, but starting only now to recover from the shock of 0-1.

33: Barca again dancing around the midfield. I keep counting passes, juust in case they pull an Argentina and string together 27(?) before scoring the deuce.

35: Puyol with a hard low cross that Vidic punches out for a corner.

Evra heads out for another.

Pique just misses. Defender on his back hurt the cause. Throw in now for United.

37: Rio sets Ronaldo on a run up the left wing. He loses possession, THEN runs into Barca defender. Looking for a blocking call? Closer to a charge anyway. The Swiss fella is unimpressed.

39: Ronaldo and Rooney look a bit confused about who belongs where. Ronaldo dumps off to Wayne, who promptly looks for Evra to his left. Everyone wants that left side. The pass, by the way, goes out into touch. Recriminations!

40: United threaten again. Offside, now.

41: Park looking out of his depth. Berbatov or Tevez on to start the 2nd half, or soon thereafter?

44: Barca are just chipping away... buzzing around the Manc box. We await, the shoe drop...

45: Messi outruns entire United right side, cross is intercepted by vdS, who bobbles, but sees it cleared by Rio.

45 + 1: There'll be only 1 added minute, a testament to the brisk pace so far.

45+2: Iniesta looks for Henry to slither in... just missing.

AAAnd that's the half.

United have got to be glad to trail by JUST one.

Barca probably displeased to have JUST one.

Can't imagine United sends out the same XI as walked off.

HALFTIME nap. Seeya in a few.

Jesus! I'll buy some Heineken, ok?

I enjoyed those few legit commercials here on ESPN 1... then we got back to the hair plugs,, and 87 Chaaaaaampions sing-alongs. (actually, how much to rent the pool choir??)

2nd Half:

46: Tevez on for Anderson. No surprise. Languish DImi, languish! Hahahha.

46: From Precious Roy, in Chicago:

"Shirt count [at the bar]: 15 United. 2 Barca. And one confused Mexican in an Arsenal shirt."

Why not a confused Arsenal fan born in Mexico?

47: This is it for United. No games left to play. No need to rest or rotate. Their whole season will be judged, fair or not, on how they respond this last 45 mins. So far, it's all in hand for Barca.

49: Henry set off running down the left, takes a step inside, then out-- spins around the defender-- then it's only VdS to beat. But the Dutchman is up for it.

Barca on the attack again.

50: Now it's Sylvinho pikcing out Eto'o, but again VdS snuffs it out, this time from the air.

51: Barca are running roughshod thru the United defense. Eto'o nearly finds Messi, who may have been tripped-- so he claims-- barreling down the middle.

Barca back in possession.

52: Messi wasn't touched till after the miss, anyway, Barca with another free kick from right at the top of the box... Iniesta dragged down.

53: OOOOOOOh my! Xabi rattles the post. Surely it's a matter of time before Barca strikes again.

Yet, the longer they wait, the more United would be set up for a shocking retaliation.

60: I'm not just slacking. I mean, I am, but not much has happened. United are listless.

One note: if you're watching, ignore me. But Valdes is injured. He's slowed and wearing a big wrap. Sideline reporter has reminded us of this 11x

62: Scholes is warming up.

63: Tevez is taking this "play anywhere" thing to his mongrol heart. He's a ball of energy in the midfield.

Rooney runs in on the right, but Pique defends. Out for a corner.

64: Berbs warming up now. Hmmmm.

He's called "languid" for the 87,436th time this year.

66: Henry gets a stulted shot off from the left side. Saved, easily enough.

66: Berbatov on for Park.

67: Ronaldo delivers a severe elbow to Puyol's hideous melon as they leap together... whistle? Non.

68: Carrick looks for Ronaldo, on a long run down the left, he over-kicks him. (Can I say that? Over-kicks?)

69: Pique knocks another cross out for another corner.


short, and picked up by Messi, who runs the byline until he runs out of space

70: Messi!!!!! Barcelona 2 - United 0 Xabi picks out Messi, who heads easily past VdS

72: Keita on For Titty. Berbatov comes flying back for United, and it's only a swell (get it) save from Valdes that preserves the lead

74: Ronaldo goes into that marauding right back CARLES PUYOL... it's a free kick from just to the left of the box for Barca.

Xabi picks out Puyol who heads a rocket right into VdS's craw.

Scholes on now for the invisible man, Ryan Giggs. A tough way to go out, if he does go out, which he won't. PFA my bollocks.

77: The traveling Catalans are in full throat. SAF looks lost. His work is done, with no subs left. Ronaldo is winding around lookng for 40 yard potshots. This looks... no! I won't say it.

78: Speaking of the devil... Ronaldo races Puyol to the baseline, then body checks him clear at the moment. Yellow for Crissy.

80: The thugs are out, as Scholes does his best to break Busquets leg. He fails. Earns yellow card for his trouble.

83: Read the silence. Nothing is happening. Not as far as United are concerned. Time bleeds away.

84: Ole Ole Ole... Barca are playing keep away in the midfield. Puyol finds a hole eventually, but VdS beats him to it. Alves, what?? Puyol has been a beast on the right!

86: I do wonder, for once, how many KM the Languid Dimitar Berbatov has travelled during his brief spell...

Puyol is officially the opposite of Franco. My point being, he seems popular with the Barca fans... :)

87: Oh, it just gets better. Berbatov scuffs a header, his and probably United's best chance of the half. He looks, emmm, nonplussed. No, no... Laaaanguid.

90: Matter of time now. Whistle! Caaaaahmon!!!!!

3 mins added.

90+2: Pep is pulling a Roy Williams and running out his benchwarmers

Iniesta off for someone. Standing oooooooh!

90+3: It is over in Rome! Barcelona are the new champions of Europe. Hugs all around. And why not? United never had a chance. Xabi and Iniesta win their second straight major title in tandem. They are legends now, if there was any doubt.

Read more on "Liveblog: Champions League Final- Barcelona v. Man United"...

Geordie Requiem

Allow me to interrupt the CL festivities for a tardy farewell to the Fog on the Tyne

So, the EPL loses one of the institutions, one of its loudest, most colorful teams from the North of England. Do I feel bad or sorry for them? Not especially. If I'm honest, I'm rather non-plussed. For Newcastle, the writing's been on the wall for quite some time.

I watched their fish-out-of-water performance on Sunday, in disbelief that their limp effort was that of a team fighting and clawing for its survival in the world's best and most lucrative soccer league.

After the first 20-25 minutes that yielded a handful of gilt-edged chances (wasted time and again by Martins and Viduka), Newcastle retreated within themselves like an old crab. Once Villa took the lead on a freakish deflected goal (incidentally, it came off the heel of their most hard-working player in 2008/09), I felt compelled to pull a trick from the Tuesday Morning Quarterback School of Exposition and thus, I wrote "game over" in my notebook.

They were painfully bereft of invention, sustenance or spirit for a team so well supported and seemingly willed across the finish line by Alan Shearer and Iain Dowie, the pair of highly-touted guidance counselors who managed 1 win their 8 games in charge.

Before that clueless duo, it was Joe Kinnear, a man whose managerial nous was forged in the fires of the 1980s, and yet, the task of keeping Newcastle afloat was literally too much for his heart. Caretakers came and went, but a good deal of blame must be laid at the feet of Kevin Keegan, a man so well-known for his toughness on the pitch and now equally well-known for his timidity and fragility off it.

And the team? 15 players making more than 50,000 pounds a week, and none of them worth it. This list tells the tale, and I don't disagree; just look at some of the names and wages!

Michael Owen hasn't been worth 105,000 pounds since his single season at Real Madrid, while the rest of 'em are somehow still trading on good form from many seasons ago to get a good contract: Viduka, Alan Smith, Geremi, and Kevin Nolan.

And then you look at the riskier buys that all failed -- Coloccini, Cacapa, Xisco, Jose Enrique -- and you're not left with much worth keeping. The Magpies will need to completely overhaul their squad if they're to have any chance of competing.

Who ultimately gets the blame? Not the players, nor the procession of managers, but tubby Southern softie Mark Ashley, the man who bought a valued cultural commodity and turned it into a circus. His public apology was unexpected, but also way too late.

Like we saw with Leeds, it has to get a lot worse before it gets better, and though it's been a while since one of the venerable institutions of top-flight football has tasted the sour mash of the lower leagues, it doesn't mean they are immune.

RIP, Newcastle 08/09. Your fans, cartoonish as they may seem, deserved better. Their club was poorly operated, badly mismanaged, and utterly hopeless on the pitch. Even their former owner agrees.

So what say you, folks? How long until the Magpies get back to the top flight?

My Bold Prediction in Bold:
Middlesbrough will return to the EPL before Newcastle, simply because the one thing 'Boro have going for them is a cohesive, coherent squad. Top to bottom, they're full of youngster blooded and bred through the Academy, and while their expensive imports have largely failed (here's looking at you, Afonso Alves), they have a core of players that are tied to the club for the long haul and with minor tinkering, they should be able to get right back up.

After all, that's what gets you success in the Colaship: a squad full of hungry, younger players that are well-drilled in playing as a unit. Add a couple of experienced vets to the mix, and they should be fine, unless they all start playing diva in the summer and demand transfers to Bolton, Wigan and Birmingham.

Read more on "Geordie Requiem"...

Your Federally Mandated Champions League Final Preview

We're having a hard time getting up for today's Champions League final. Why? Well, some of us have crippled livers that don't detox as efficiently as they used to. Some of us are sick (physically, that is) or bordering on it.

But almost to a man here, we're filled with a little dread. United seem to be the favorites, meaning they repeat as club champions of Europe and pull a quad (not a muscle).

Given our varying allegiances here—everyone but United—an overt fear of the inevitable has put a bit of a damper on today's festivities.

But fuck, this is the Champions League Final. And Barca are going to roll out Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o, and Thierry Henry. It's not like Fulham is going out there to line up and roll over for this supposed United juggernaut.

Oh, and did I mention that Fulham beat United the last time they played? Well I just did. Maybe as telling: in a two month stretch across December and January, United dismantled relegation candidates Sunderland, Stoke, Boro, and SF Bolton all by the impressive scoreline of 1-0. Add another 1-0 win over mediocre Wigan in that span and you've got a team that can be positively average on any given game day.

And remember if Porto could have managed to either bury just one of the two near-sitters they missed at Old Trafford or simply to score at home, then United are out in the quarters. And we're talking about an Arsenal v. Barca rematch (indulge me, okay).

Sure Barca had some slips, but they also have a front line that put in 19, 23, and 29 league goals between Henry, Messi, and Eto'o. That's three more goals than United managed as a squad. So why the hell does everyone think United are such heavy favorites?

Ninety minutes. Maybe 120. Then possibly a lottery of sorts. But it will be decided on the pitch.

After the jump Lingering Bursitis tells you why United will prevail. Then I debunk their chances with unassailable logic.

Why Manchester United Will Win

Where There is Rooney, There is Fire: As talismanic as Lionel Messi is for Barca, there is a similar figure in red for Fergie's men, and his name is Wayne Rooney. With his workrate, confidence, energy and tenacity, Barca will invariably struggle to contain the multi-faceted United attack.

Rooney is the high-octane trigger for Ronaldo and co, and if he finds himself with room to operate across the final third (I'd expect Barca to try and man-mark him), he will be difficult to stop. And if they stop him, it'll leave someone else open.

Barca's Backline: No Marquez, no Alves, and a barely-there elder stateman in Carlos Puyol. Throw in a couple more physically-adept, not-so-tactically-sound stand-ins, and you can almost see the goals piling up before a single ball has been kicked.

As cautious as Sir Alex might well choose to be in this, a major European final, it's not inconceivable to see him releasing the hounds upon that patchwork defense.

They're Manchester Fucking United: Of all the teams in all the leagues across the globe, you'd be hard-pushed to find a single one as blessed as United. Whether it's generous refereeing decisions or downright piss-poor game-calling, United are rarely on the receiving end of rough justice. Why should the CL Final be any different?

For proof, look at last year's final; their luck on the pitch was shared evenly with Chelsea, but in this most team of team games, they were lucky to have the greed of John Terry on their side. After all, with other penalty specialists in the side, it was EBJT who begged for the final shot, and slipped and scuffed his teary-eyed way into soccer history.

Why Barcelona Will Win

Massimo Busacca: That's the ref. He officiated the 2007 UEFA Cup final where he sent off Moises Hurtado on a second yellow, the first of which came in the 18th minute on something between an Al Haig (i.e. "I'm in charge here") and a Nuke Laloosh ("Announce my presence with authority").

He's going to do it again and card the first defender to make a slightly less than borderline challenge. And my money is on Vidic to be the perp of such a foul. Vidic does it weekly in England, so it's a safe bet. But Busacca isn't an EPL official (he plies his trade in the Swiss Super League), so he's less likely to let it slide because of the jersey color. An early yellow changes the dynamic of how the United backline plays. Moreover, Busacca's not afraid to flash red no matter how big the match (having done it in World Cup quarter as well).

The Forecast is for Rain: Remember that slip by Kieran Gibbs in the semi return leg that led to Arsenal's collapse and a bit of a walkover for United. Yeah, well the fates are sick fucks with the cruelest sense of humor. Expect a United player to similarly slip—please God, let it be PFA Player of the Year Ryan Giggs—and gift a deciding goal to the Catalans.

Cristiano Ronaldo is an Enormous Douchebag: If there is a God, he is aware of this fact. Eventually he has to intervene and stop this giant twat from winning more trophies. That day is today.

Read more on "Your Federally Mandated Champions League Final Preview"...

Dog Bites Man

In maybe the least surprising news of the day, a Mancunian was stabbed in Rome.

There is a history of violence between AS Roma fans and United fans as two years ago, Roma's Ultras took to knife wielding to welcome their English opponents in the Champions League quarters. And given how that affair played out, they are probably still none to pleased with their visitors.

After Roma's 7-1 defeat by Manchester United two years ago, police fear some of Roma's hardline supporters, known as Ultras, may have linked up with Barça's ultra-nationalist Boixos Nois to take on the Reds' hooligan fringe, known as the Men in Black.
Of course Roma fans also went Stabby McKnife on an Arsenal fan in this year's Champions League round of 16. So maybe Roma fans just like stabbing people.

Read more on "Dog Bites Man"...

Hey, This Is What Our Weekend Looked Like

That bloody mess on the ground is WAG and qualified nail technician—and who says WAGs don't have any real world skills—Danielle Lloyd.

Lloyd got in fight in a place called Crystal where she was thrown on a table of glasses and bottles. As a result of the altercation, Lloyd needed an emergency procedure for a "deep laceration on her left calf." The rest of the photos are pretty brutal.

And if anyone can explain why, on leaving the hospital, both O'Hara and Lloyd are clad in sweats from a small northeastern liberal arts college, please enlighten us.

Anyway, a PR flack for the woman sleeping her way through Spurs' roster described the events thusly:

Danielle had been socialising with six friends, including her boyfriend Jamie O'Hara, when the unprovoked attack occurred at around 2.30am. Danielle was thrown on to a table of drinks by two females.
Unprovoked. Yeah. Right.

This is the second row for Lloyd in about a month as she was punched in the face by friends of O'Hara's ex. She looks kind of fakish, so maybe people do mistake her for a punching bag.

We're making a little light if only because it seems as if Lloyd is going to be okay, but she was kind of fucked up by the whole thing as her doctor noted: “She is very lucky that the major blood vessels and arteries were not involved, otherwise she would have been left permanently paralysed.”

Oops, Lloyd probably ought to lay low for a bit if she wants to avoid more unprovoked monthly attacks and keep her legs (and face) intact.

Read more on "Hey, This Is What Our Weekend Looked Like"...

Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus Liveblog

We will be liveblogging the Champions League final today. Probably from a bar. Adjust your lives accordingly.

Read more on "Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus Liveblog"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

There is a big to do happening today, isn't there? Something about champions of Europe, blah, blah, blah, complete with its own theme song. Must be a big deal. Anyway, to get you started off in some kind of mood as you kill the last few hours before the big game, here we go.

(Oh, and none of that pretending like you're not going to pay attention to the game. We and you both know that you are going to be staring at some kind of screen for this thing.)

It's the rare shirt that gets highlighted here which is contemporary. It's a first (I think) when the week's shirt is from the future. If you've seen the next Barcelona away strip, then you know what is in store. If not, steel yourself, because there is no turning back once you have hit the jump.

What color is that, exactly? I've seen it listed as Mango, but I think it comes off more as a salmon. Either way it's pink. Also, since it's no longer 2003, men aren't supposed to wear pink anymore. Barcelona must not have received my meticulously worded memo to that effect, or else I did not get it properly translated into Catala.

That color is horrid. The worst part may be how dismally it meshes with the usual flourishes of the Barcelona shirt. Staring at the badge now makes one queasy just because of the border that surrounds it. The same thing goes for the Catalan flag on the back of the collar. At least the trim, in navy, works OK there.

The sad thing is that I don't even think the shirt is the worst part of the uniform. Check out the socks.

Maybe, standing alone in a picture, they're not so bad. But these are the socks that Thierry Henry will have pulled all the way up to his lower thigh (should he stay). Now picture them. Not so pretty is it? In fact, these socks may force Henry to start a new trend--pushing the socks down and tucking them behind the shinguards. I know I would.

At least one of the other guys on the blog made the comment that these shirts look like Pepto Bismol in color. I, of course, would object, since I had another shirt pegged with that comparison. Instead I offer up that these shirts look like what happens when one ingests the Pepto a little too late and then it comes back up with your escaping stomach acids. Unfortunately, I can say that I've been able to see that exact color. Food poisoning is a bitch. And so are these shirts, on the eyes.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Backpasses: This guy must have been awesome

Trophyless no more. Take that, haters [Soccernet]
And a look back at a win that really meant something [Arseblog]
This Bucholtz guy has a point, you know? [Style Points Blog]
I hate 'em, but Rangers fans pulled off a great prank [101 Great Goals]

French kits to be in braille. Leave your NYK-baiting comments below [The Beautiful Game]
Hey, it's always fun when the goalkeeper scores, right? [Dirty Tackle]
Not quite as hard-hitting as our Brad Guzan interviews, but Lionel Messi is a nice catch [SoccerLens]
Yes, we'll be paying close attention to the Confederations Cup. Here is a US TV schedule [Match Fit USA]

He made up for it, but damn, this is a bad miss. Leave your NYK-baiting comments below [The Offside]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: This guy must have been awesome"...

Wait, the Weekend is Over?

Yes, we're aware that the biggest match of the season is tomorrow. We're quite literally paralyzed with anticipation.

And that explains why we were seemingly derelict in getting stuff up on the site today.

Not buying it, huh? Okay. Well, we're not good liars but we do have really good reasons for our slackitude. Normal programming (and the good Lord willing a United loss) will return tomorrow.

(Oh, and not soccer related... RIP Jay Bennet)

Read more on "Wait, the Weekend is Over?"...

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

As the season winds down the Ligue 1 champion has yet to be determined, but it will definitely be a different club from the past 7 years. This week saw reduced scoring and tight matches as clubs at both ends of the table looked for much-needed results. The result of the week goes to Le Mans, who tied Grenoble 1-1 and in so doing probably did enough to stave off relegation.

Saturday, May 23rd:

Auxerre 1-0 Saint-Etienne - Both clubs started quickly, as Payet forced a save from Auxerre GK Sorin, while Birsa sent his shot just over the crossbar at the other end of the pitch. In the 40th minute Pedretti's cross found Jelen, who shot just wide, and the latter opened the second half by shooting over the crossbar. Jelen would get his goal in the 60th minute after a defensive mistake. Saint-Etienne would have 2 final chances to earn a draw, but Benalouane was stopped by a nice save from Sorin in the 76th minute and Ilan headed over the crossbar in the 86th minute.

Bordeaux 1-0 Monaco - Bordeaux earned a vital 3 points to maintain their lead atop the Ligue 1 table by bossing Monaco all over the pitch. The club from the principality almost opened the scoring in the 3rd minute, Pino shooting just wide, but after that it was all Bordeaux. In the 10th minute Tremoulinas sent a free-kick just wide, and 10 minutes later Jussie forced a save from Monaco GK Ruffier. The lone goal of the match came in the 35th minute when Chamakh headed home a free-kick. Newly-named Ligue 1 POY Gourcuff was stopped by Ruffier just after the restart, and Bordeaux continued their pressure. In the 64th minute Sertic was stopped twice in front of net by the Monaco defense, but Bordeaux had the only goal that they needed. Freddy Adu watch: Freddy broke his streak of sitting on the bench and not seeing the pitch by...not even being on the bench.

Le Havre 0-1 Lille - Le Havre, already relegated, put up very little fight in this match, with Lille holding 59% of the possession and getting off 10 shots on goal. In the 21st minute Vittek shot just wide, and Le Havre GK Revault was kept busy for the next few minutes, coming out to grab a cross from Beria and stopping Vittek 1-on-1. The second half began with some signs of life from Le Havre, as Lille GK Butelle was called upon to stop a header from Dieuze and a free-kick from Alla. The goal came in the 67th minute when Hazard found Bastos unmarked for the relatively easy finish.

Le Mans 1-1 Grenoble - In an even match between the similarly-situated clubs, the 1 point from a draw was the deserved result. In the 3rd minute Maiga had his header stopped by Grenoble GK Wimbee, while in the 10th minute a volley from Courtois was saved by Le Mans GK Pele. The save of the match came in the 16th minute when Wimbee did well to get to a shot from Gervinho, and the GK followed that up by tipping a shot from Stromstad just over the crossbar. In the 58th minute a shot from Maiga was pushed out by Wimbee, and Le Tallec hit the crossbar with the rebound. The breakthrough finally came in the 70th minute when Akrour steered home a header from a Batlles free-kick. The lead was short-lived, however, as Wimbee once again parried a shot out to Le Tallec, with the latter finishing the rebound this time for the equalizer. Grenoble had 1 final opportunity, but Akrour was stopped by Pele.

Lyon 3-1 Caen - Lyon somewhat salvaged their season with this win, ensuring their spot in next year's Champions League. Lyon put in a dominant performance, starting things quickly with a goal from Benzema that was disallowed for offside. Caen had 2 good opportunities, but Savidan put his shot straight at Lyon GK Lloris in the 15th minute and the GK stopped Deroin in the 21st minute. In the 34th minute Juninho was brought down in the area by Lemaitre, and the former stepped up to coolly finish off the resulting PK. Several minutes after the restart Ederson and Benzema both shot wide, but there were still goals to come. In the 70th minute Govou received the ball with a nice bit of control and then finished his shot easily, taking home the GSTGC award for the week. Caen managed to make things interesting in the 82nd minute when Yatabare sent home a cross from Savidan, but Benzema secured the victory in the 89th minute after a long run through the midfield.

Nancy 1-2 Marseille - Marseille kept their slim hopes for a title alive with their victory over a struggling Nancy. In the 2nd minute Kone was stopped by Nancy GK Gregorini, while Chretien went just wide in the 9th minute. Although Nancy scored the 1st goal, it was an OG from Macaluso who deflected a shot from Bonnart. The next Marseille goal was more legitimate, as Brandao slammed a shot into the upper 90 off a corner kick in the 56th minute. Over the next 20 minutes Marseille and Nancy both saw numerous chances go wide. The latter club drew 1 goal back in the 88th minute when N'Guemo headed home a cross from Gavanon, but it was not enough.

Nice 0-2 Toulouse - The Nice offense was anemic, and they managed exactly 0 shots on goal. In the 2nd minute Bonnet forced a save from Nice GK Ospina, while over the next few minutes Gignac took several close shots on the other end of the pitch. The Ligue 1-leading scorer opened his account for this match in the 13th minute with a well-struck shot into the bottom corner. He finished his brace in the 30th minute, sending home a pass from Capoue. The second half was similar to the first, with Toulouse providing all of the offense. Nice looked to have an opportunity in the 67th minute, but Mouloungui had his shot blocked. The match ended with a speculative shot from 35 yards from Tabanou that went over the crossbar.

Rennes 3-1 Lorient - This match was fairly even statistically, but Rennes made the most of their chances to secure the 3 points. In the 7th minute Sow had his volley blocked on the line by Lorient defender Le Lan, Gyan sent a header wide several minutes later. The floodgates opened in the 41st minute when Sow collected a long pass and sent home the shot. Just before the half Fanni sent in a diving header off a corner for a 2-0 lead. The beginning of the second half was mostly listless, but things picked up in the 77th minute when Jallet hit the bar with a header. Just 1 minute later his teammate Vahirua gave Lorient some hope, but Rennes struck again in the 82nd minute when Ekoko finished off a through-ball from Leroy.

Sochaux 2-1 Nantes - The victory gives Sochaux hope that they will avoid relegation. In the 3rd minute Sverkos forced a save from Nantes GK Alonzo, and the latter did well to beat Afolabi to a cross 3 minutes later. Capoue was then stopped by Sochaux GK Richert on the other end of the pitch. In the 34th minute Erdinq headed home a Martin free-kick to open the scoring, and another Martin free-kick in the 45th minute resulted in a 2-0 lead when Afolabi finished it off. The latter then gave 1 goal back in the 61st minute when he brought down Klasnic in the area and Bagayoko finished off the resulting PK. Nantes should have equalized in the 80th minute, but Capoue hit the post, and their last chance went for naught in injury time when Abdoun was stopped by Richert.

Valenciennes 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain - PSG saw an embarrassing result come after optimism stemming from an early goal. While Luyindula went just wide in the 5th minute, his teammate Kezman was able to send home a cross from Giuly in the 12th minute to give PSG the 1-0 lead. Valenciennes then began to apply pressure, with Pujol having his shot cleared off the line by PSG defender Armand in the 25th minute. The lead should have been 2-0 in the 43rd minute, but Giuly was stopped by Valenciennes GK Penneteau. They would rue the misses in the second half as Audel equalized in the 61st minute with a header off a Danic free-kick. Pujol gave his club the lead in the 66th minute, sending home a pass from Audel. PSG had 1 final chance to equalize, but Luyindula was stopped by Penneteau in the 91st minute.

So, after Matchday 37 the top of the table looks like this: (1) Bordeaux, with 77 points on a 23-8-6 record and a +29 goal differential; (2) Marseille, with 74 points on a 21-11-5 record and a +28 goal differential; (3) Lyon, with 70 points on a 20-10-7 record and a +23 goal differential; and (4) Toulouse, with 63 points on a 16-15-6 record and a +18 goal differential.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Gone Walkin'

It's a gorgeous day outside, and we've decided to take the advice of one Roy Keane and run away from our problems, or rather walk away from them slowly with our dog on a leash and with a rather awfully ill-advised flat cap on. Apparently the front end of the cap keeps the paparazzi glare out of the eyes.

Normal service will resume tomorrow, but for now we've got one eye on Burnley/Sheffield United, and the other eye on that Intervention marathon on A&E. That shit is crazy; we're wondering when Adrian Mutu will turn up on an episode.

Until then, go walk that dog!

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

The EPL. The Final Day. The Madness of Trying to Follow All Games at once.

Can the Tyneside hero get it done today? I say no

So here we are, folks.... the 38th game. This is it until the Confederations Cup rolls around in mid-June (of course, we'll be all over it), unless you count the numbing monstrosities of Serie A.

All games begin at 10am, and I'm stuck with Hull/Man U on the television, as are any of you with FSC, I believe. I have another game or two on the laptop, and so I'll be bringing you a tri-liveblog of sorts, and also will try to keep up with all the other games going on at the same time. u75 just did the impossible with the SPL, so that gives me hope.

So what's the story?

- Sunderland, Hull, Middlesbrough and Newcastle all fighting to not be in the 2 remaining relegation slots up for grabs
- Can Spurs snatch the last place in Europe with a win at Anfield (and Fulham losing at home to Everton)?

As you can see, lots to keep up with.

If rushed spelling and incoherent narrative are your cup of tea, join me after the jump. I'll be back at 10.50 to get comfortable.

I did have the lineups but what's the point? Use BBC and stay here for the frantic recording of all incidents!

11.03am: Not much so far, obviously. I'm following Villa/Newcastle along with Hull/Man U and the 'Boro game. I want to see the relegation desperation in full effect.

11.04am: Agbonlahor headed narrowly over. Squeaky bum time already for the Magpies.

11.05am: Milner just ghosts by Coloccini and gets tripped for his efforts on the edge of the box. Free kick, natch, but Villa waste it and Newcastle breathe again. Not a confident start by Shearer's men, by any means.

Man United kick off, and I recognize almost none of their team. Still hung up on how crap Fabio Coloccini.

Louis Saha just hit the crossbar with a header at Craven Cottage...

11.09am: I figure FSC are about 5 minutes behind the live feed.

I think Essien just put a corner narrowly wide against Sunderland, too.... this is going to get confusing.

11.10am: COME ON MAGPIES! Damien Duff cuts inside nicely from the left, leaving Milner for dust. His right-footed shot catches Friedel by surprise but the Yank manages to turn it around the post, on reflexes alone.

And again close for Newcastle! Taylor has time to turn and shoot on the edge of the 6-yard box but it's booted off the line by Carlos Cuellar. Lovenkrands turned a nice cross in, and Martins tries to turn it goalward. No such luck.

11.13am: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL AT CITEH! Felipe Caicedo taps it in from close range after Robinho's quick free-kick is knocked across the area by Micah Richards. Manchester Citeh 1, Portsmouth 0

Obafemi Martins volleys it over the bar from 12 yards... he should have BURIED that. Didn't know he had 8 EPL goals this season.

11.16am: GOAL AT THE EMIRATES! A James Beattie own goal as Fabregas fires the ball into the six-yard box after a short corner. I dunno if you caught it as I was blogging, but I did predict a 4-0 Arsenal win somewhere amid the lineups... they play so well when there's no pressure whatsoever. Arsenal 1, Stoke 0

11.17am: Kevin Nolan has a crack at goal but Friedel falls on it with ease. Newcastle are definitely forcing the issue.

Not much to report at KC Stadium. Nani got fouled a minute ago, but Hull look comfortable thus far. United's teenagers are playing with no urgency whatsoever.

11.20am: Anything going on at Anfield? Upton Park? Ewood Park?

GOAL GOAL GOAL AT EMIRATES! It came from a penalty... Shawcross fouled Robin van Persie, and the oft-injured Dutchman puts it away. Arsenal 2, Stoke 0

Geovanni has a decent volley parried away by Kuszczak.

11.22am: So close for Villa! It looked like Ashley Young got free on the left and put a wonderful cross in the middle for Milner, who was right on top of Harper and the goalie got there first to poke it away.

GOAL GOAL GOAL AT EMIRATES! What did I tell you... RvP puts a cross in and Abou Diaby (his goal at Villa was one of my picks of the season, for what it's worth) nods it in. Those Gooners. Carefree. Arsenal 3, Stoke 0

11.24am: Ashley Young is causing so much trouble down the left for Newcastle. Can Ryan Taylor single-handedly keep the door closed at the back? You know Coloccini's going to do nothing.

Nani has a free-kick 30 yards out and sidefoots it towards goal.... Myhill smothers and saves.

Newcastle celebrate, as Man United just took the lead at the KC Stadium, and what a goal it was! Darron Gibson got the ball out wide left, and rocketed a shot some 30 yards from a narrow-ish angle and Myhill lost it in the sun. To be fair, he had no chance. Hull City 0, Manchester United 1

That goal keeps the Magpies in the EPL if they hold for a draw or better and Hull stay at 1-0 down.

11.28am: Junior Stanislav hits the crossbar for West Ham at home to 'Boro. So that's something.

Viduka is ready to come back on after taking a head knock.

11.29am: So far, so good I think.... right guys? It's easy to keep track when there have only been 4 goals in 10 games. I imagine events in an hour's time will be rather different. Come the 80th minute, I might need to sub out. Help me out in the comments, folks, if I'm missing goals anywhere else in the league.

11.30am: James Milner appears mandated to break down Newcastle all by himself. He is shooting from all angles. None of them are going in. Villa have had 64% of possession thus far but the Magpies have had by far the better chances.

11.31am: Gabby Agbonlahor is close to breaking that brittle offside trap, but he fails. Was clean through, but he couldn't hold his run enough! Annd.... the feed's gone dead. Need to find West Ham/Boro if possible.

TO RECAP: if these results hold, Newcastle finish 17th and Hull go down.

11.33am: GOAL GOAL GOAL FOR BRUCIE'S WIGAN! Hugo Rodallega has the easiest of tap-ins following Sol Campbell's swing-and-a-miss to clear a Charles Insomnia cross. Wigan 1, Portsmouth 0 Sidenote: I bet Shearer wishes he has N'Zogbia to call on right now. Nice work, Joe.

11.34am: Stoke have a penalty!

Michael Ballack is on for Chelsea, replacing the hobbling Belletti.

Watching West Ham/Middlesbrough now. 'Boro have a mountain to climb, but at least Marvin Emnes is trying to do the Sherpa's work. He's been busy. As I type it, GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL.... to West Ham! Herita Ilunga gets to the byline and puts a ball right across the 6-yard-box.... Jones doesn't collect, it rattles about a bit, 'Boro fail to clear and Carlton Cole sidefoots it home from close range. That's not good for Southgate, is it? West Ham 1, Middlesbrough 0

11.37am: Goals everywhere! Denilson lays out Ricardo Fuller, and the captain-slapping striker slots the PK. Arsenal 3, Stoke 1

And then at Anfield.... GOAL TO LIVERPOOL! Fernando Torres rises like a salmon to meet Dirk Kuyt's cross and guide it in off the crossbar. Liverpool 1, Spurs 0

Lots of ankle-biting challenges at the KC Stadium, but Hull are still rarely threatening the pre-pubescent United backline, marshalled by creepy Uncle Gary Neville on the right.

Lost my 'Boro feed, but gain the Villa feed back just in time...

11.40am: GOAL GOAL GOAL TO ASTON VILLA! Shearer is rather disheartened, and rightly so; some awful luck for the Magpies. Gareth Barry gets the ball at halfway, belts a shot from 40 yards, and it's going to Row ZZ until Damien Duff gets his foot on it, presumably to deflect it down to Row XX, but it spins past Steve Harper. Awful luck. Aston Villa 1, Newcastle 0

Everything to do for Newcastle and 'Boro now... Hull will stay up as all 3 are losing. Nothing happening in Sunderland/Chelsea to speak of.

11.42am: Lost that feed again... I'll keep trying. Thankfully, the 0-0 fests at Blackburn/West Brom, Fulham/Everton, and Sunderland/Chelsea are helping keep me focused.

11.44am: So close for Villa! John Carew surges forward, crosses for Gagbonlahor, but the youngster can't turn it in. Hull fans go wild at the KC Stadium, and rightly so; only in the EPL can you lose and still be safe.

11.45am: Ha, I was right, almost! GOAL GOAL GOAL AT THE EMIRATES, and Arsenal continue to prove their fearlessness in the face of no fear whatsoever. They cement their already-cemented 4th place with a 4th goal... it was Robin van Persie! Rory Delap tried an ill-advised backheader to Sorensen, but it's never making it, and RvP chests, controls, and volleys home from 12 yards. Arsenal 4, Stoke 1

Back to watching West Ham/Boro, and 'Boro appear to have woken up. A couple of corners in quick succession.... you never know. Goals right before half-time are at a premium these days, it seems.

11.48am: EVERTON SCORE! Steven Pienaar frees Leon Osman to beat the offside trap and the tiny Welshman(?) rounds Schwarzer and taps it in. Fulham 0, Everton 1

HALF TIME: West Ham 1, Middlesbrough 0

11.48am: Florent Malouda hits the crossbar at the Stadium of Light. Nevermind; Sunderland can lose and wake up tomorrow with his team still in the EPL.

HALF TIME: Aston Villa 1, Newcastle 0
HALF TIME: Blackburn 0, West Brom 0
HALF TIME: Fulham 0, Everton 1
HALF TIME: Hull 0, Manchester United 1
HALF TIME: Liverpool 1, Tottenham 0
HALF TIME: Manchester City 1, Bolton 0
HALF TIME: Sunderland 0, Chelsea 0
HALF TIME: Wigan 1, Portsmouth 0

11.50am: HALF TIME: Arsenal 4, Stoke 1

Well, I'm off to mainline some coffee and take some speed. This was rough, even with just a handful of goals to report. If teams start scoring at will after the break, I might need to be hospitalized.

Keep up the great work in the comments too! I need help with goals from some of those fringe games that aren't really on my radar.

Let's recap for a minute:
Hull will be safe. Middlesbrough and Newcastle will go down. Sunderland are safe, I think, no matter what, as the other 3 teams are losing. How's that for anti-climax? You'd think that considering the unpredictable season we've seen thus far (except for Man U winning, of course), we'd see some fireworks early today... that said, there's still 45 mins left. It's going to take some herculean efforts by all involved to turn things around.

12.02pm: It's worth noting that safety is well within reach for Newcastle. They just need one goal. One! A draw, coupled with the inevitable 3-0 Hull defeat, will keep them up on goal difference. Then, we'll spend the summer lauding Shearer as a savior when he's absolutely not. This one's down to the guts on the pitch (not literally); Martins, Viduka, Lovenkrands and co. need to show us just why they're worth keeping around for another season.

12.04pm: They're back out on the pitch at Villa Park, with the proverbial mountain to climb.

For what it's worth, my predictions:
- Hull will lose
- Newcastle will equalize
- Sunderland will lose
- Middlesbrough will lose

'Boro and The Perma-Tan to enjoy Colaship footy next season.

Oh, and Arsenal will now go on to win 11-1, simply because they're mindbogglingly consistent in their ability to turn up for games that don't count. It'll be some real champagne football, with great goals, wonderful skill, and absolutely no consequence to anyone or anything.

Everyone's underway again.

12.07pm: GOAL GOAL GOAL AT THE STADIUM OF LIGHT! Sunderland 0, Chelsea 1 ... you had an inkling it was coming. Still, with all 4 relegation-fighting teams currently losing, the table remains the same. Nicolas Anelka absolutely buries a shot from 12 yards for the goal.

12.08pm: Whither Michael Owen? You get the sense he'll be playing for Birmingham or Wolves next season, regardless of whether the Magpies escape or not. Fact is, one great England striker (Shearer) doesn't fancy the Guy who was Almost a great England striker. The lack of faith he has in Michael Owen is astounding, though not entirely undeserved. Looking at it straight, Shearer felt more confident in a 49-year-old injury-prone Australian, and Obafemi Martins, a guy who's essentially playing with one good leg after he declined urgently-needed leg surgery in order to help the Magpies survive.

12.10pm: FOR U75: exactly when does the Statute of Limitations run out on the season of the Invincibles? I mean, how long will you trade on that incredible performance considering you've won precisely nothing since?

12:11pm: GOAL GOAL GOAL AT UPTON PARK, and Middlesbrough have a lifeline! They need another, but something about the longest journey beginning with one single step, or something. It's Gary O'Neil with a thundering shot from the edge of the box.

GOAL GOAL GOAL AT THE STADIUM OF LIGHT! SBRAGIA FANS, REJOICE! Sunderland 1, Chelsea 1... looks like third place for the Blues. Kieran Richardson, a man of great inconsistency, does well to poach a goal after Cech failed to gather a cross from the left.

12.15pm: James Milner goes close to burying Newcastle, but his shot from 12 yards drifts wide of the far post.

Hey look, there's an ugly woman in the crowd at the KC Stadium!

Geovanni's off at the KC, replaced by Caleb Folan. I'd bet that's the last time we see him in a Hull shirt.

12.17pm: A temporary lull across England... where will the next goal come from? My money's on Anfield.

Meanwhile, at Villa Park, subs for Newcastle: Jose Enrique on, Lovenkrands off.

12.19pm: Middlesbrough's goal gives them hope, but they need another. More subs warming up at Villa Park, as that game heats up.

12.20pm: GOAL GOAL GOAL AT UPTON PARK... and I have a habit of typing things at the most inopportune times. West Ham take the lead, as Junior Stanislas (great name) ensures his infamy on Tyne and Wear with a speculative shot from 20 yards that sneaks underneath Jones in goal. That's surely it for 'Boro. Nighty night. I hate to say it, but sloppy mistakes like that are what put teams in the relegation zone to begin with. West Ham 2, Middlesbrough 1

12.23pm: Fine, I'll turn on the LFC/Spurs game as the other feeds are choppy. Just in time to see Benayoun almost score. As it stands, Everton will finish 5th, Villa 6th, Fulham 7th, Spurs 8th and no Europe... meanwhile, Hull and Sunderland will survive, and 'Boro' and Newcastle say goodnight.

12.24pm: I expected more goals, EPL Final Weekend! How dare you disappoint! At Villa Park, Michael Owen is gently warming up.

GOAL GOAL GOAL AT ANFIELD (Damn you West Ham, I almost won the bet to myself).... Liverpool score again! Eat shit and die, Robbie Keane! Look what you left behind! You're a fucking joke! Die! Stupid Robbie Keane! Fuck you! (just tempting fate HARD right now, and I don't care at all). Dirk Kuyt plays a nice 1-2 with SuperJew, and his shot gets deflected in off Alan Hutton. Liverpool 2, Spurs 0

Turner is playing well for Hull... meanwhile, the Macheda Magic Fairy Dust has well and truly worn off.

12.27pm: Any late drama brewing? I don't think so.

12.28pm: MICHAEL OWEN SIGHTING. He replaces the reliable, consistent Kevin Nolan, a midfielder who'll tear up the Colaship, me thinks. Can the oft-injured, oft-rubbish Owen do something magical? JUST ONE GOAL, MAGPIES. ONE FUCKING GOAL, and you're playing a Villa team as gap-ridden at Shane McGowan's teeth, especially since Martin Laursen's unfortunate early retirement.

12.30pm: Darron Gibson handballed at KC Stadium, and Hull bring on someone for Nick Barmby.

How did Gareth Barry not bury that? Nicky Butt gave the ball away with a stupid cross-field pass, and Barry jogs past the last man before putting his shot wide. Cut to agonized shot of Shearer and Iain Dowie, arguably the two LEAST-QUALIFIED men to get the Magpies out of this funk.

12.31pm: See? Macheda is rubbish. With one to beat, he blasts a shot a mile wide from 12 yards. Douchebag. And to think his goal against Aston Villa (SEE NEWCASTLE? ANYONE CAN SCORE AGAINST VILLA) is what quite possibly maybe decided this title race. Fucking death to Macheda.

12.32pm: RED CARD AT EWOOD PARK... apparently Jason Roberts elbowed someone but it should have only been a yellow card. And that concludes your game updates from Blackburn v. West Brom.

12.33pm: One goal. One goal. One goal. One goal. C'mon Newcastle. One single goal. Liverpool put 5 past Aston Villa. CSKA Moscow scored some. United scored 3. Everton scored 2. Villa aren't that great at the back. One goal. Seriously. Can you score one goal? Invoke the ghosts of David Ginola, Les Ferdinand, Faustino Asprilla (without a gun in his hand, mind you)... make Alan Shearer look like a good idea. One single fucking goal. C'mon. Seriously. Do it.

12.35pm: As Newcastle continue to not score, Villa make some subs. Emile Heskey on for Craig Gardner, I think. Or maybe it's a double sub. Will find out shortly.

Meanwhile, wake up folks.... GOAL AT THE STADIUM OF LIGHT! The least-troubled relegation-area team fall behind via a Solomon Kalou strike after they fail to clear a corner. With everyone else still losing, it doesn't make any difference. Sunderland 1, Chelsea 2

12.37pm: Seriously, is anyone else as disappointed as I am? Four teams playing for their spot in the best league in the world, and they're all losing. If you're not doing this for the money, do it for the pride. Seriously!

12.38pm: GOAL AT ANFIELD... and I'm glad my intentional hex effort paid off in the form of a goal. Waiting to hear who scored it. Probably Robbie Keane. Wow, what's that now, 5 goals this season? Load of fucking rubbish. Enjoy not Europe next season. Liverpool 2, Spurs 1

12.39pm: Yeah, woo, Robbie Keane beat the offside trap and scored. Who fucking cares? He's rubbish! He could equalize or score a hat-trick and I still wouldn't care.

GOALS SCORED IN GAMES OF HUGE MASSIVE CONSEQUENCE (including Sunderland although they were really always safe): 8

12.41pm: HA HA HA HA SUCK IT ROBBIE KEANE! An immediate answer from the Anfield gods. Eat that shit up with a spoon, you useless 2nd striker. Liverpool 3, Spurs 1

12.42pm: How did Carew miss that? Gagbonlahor's cross finds the lanky Norwegian at the back post, but he misses the header completely.

12.43pm: The 3rd LFC goal from SuperJew, Yossi Benayoun. He eluded the limp challenge of Ledley "Sick Note" King to bury it past Gomes. Suck it, Spurs. We'll win the league next year, and you'll still be shite.

12.44pm: HERE IT IS... Welcome Sami Hyppia. Gerrard narrowly bends a free-kick wide, and Hyppia comes on to rapturous waves of applause, taking the captain's armband in the process. Classy move, if not a little late. Love that Finn. Enjoy Leverkusen and come back to coach our Academy in a few years' time.

Meanwhile, it says a lot that all the action worth noting is not happening at Villa Park or Upton Park. Sorry fellas, but your teams just aren't good enough.

GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL AT THE STADIUM OF LIGHT... and Chelsea secure 3rd place. Malouda's shot is blocked, and Arsenal's favourite Ashley Cole tucks away the rebound with his right foot, no less. Sunderland 1, Chelsea 3

12.46pm: SCORE JUST ONE GOAL, NEWCASTLE. One goal. That's it. Play 1-1-8 and do whatever you can.

Still enjoying the SuperJew's goal against the Yiddos. Get in.

12.48pm: GOAL AT CRAVEN COTTAGE...zzzzzzzz Everton score again. Who cares? Not I. Any of you? Didn't think so.

Meanwhile, Newcastle still haven't scored. What a limp way to end up in the Colaship. Precious little fight from that lot, and Shearer/whoever's in charge will have a tough time rallying the troops for next season.

Zoran Tosic comes on for Danny Welback at the KC Stadium. Another boring, limp-dicked game there. Disappointed in the lack of fighting spirit from all relegation-threatened teams today. All of you went down with nary a fight.

12.51pm: That Everton goal was courtesy of Leon Osman again. Nice goal, too; beats a couple of defenders and rockets one from 20 yards. Fulham 0, Everton 2

GOAL AT THE STADIUM OF LIGHT! Can you Magpies not see how it's done? Sunderland bung in a 2nd against Chelsea, a feat far more difficult than scoring one against Aston Villa (still nothing yet)... Kenwyne Jones bags it, as well. Hey Spurs, there's the next expensive, inconsistent striker you'll be purchasing in July. Sunderland 2, Chelsea 3

12.53pm: SAMI HYPPIA ALMOST NODS ONE IN DURING HIS FINAL GAME FOR LIVERPOOL! Love that man. Meanwhile, Newcastle still haven't scored, although Jose Enrique came this close with a mishit cross, and then Shola Ameobi heads over from an Enrique cross. Also, Michael Owen hasn't even touched the ball yet. He's fucking rubbish. Like Robbie Keane.

FULL TIME: Liverpool 3, Spurs 1
FULL TIME: Fulham 0, Everton 2
FULL TIME: Blackburn 0, West Brom
FULL TIME: West Ham 2, Middlesbrough 1 'Boro go down
FULL TIME: Wigan 1, Portsmouth 0

FULL TIME: Arsenal 4, Stoke 1 I was close!
FULL TIME: Aston Villa 1, Newcastle Rubbish
FULL TIME: Sunderland 2, Chelsea 3
FULL TIME: Hull 0, Manchester United 1 Hull survive... ugh
FULL TIME: Manchester City 1, Bolton 0

12.59pm So there you have it. All 4 teams at the bottom lose, meaning the table stays the same. Hull and Sunderland rejoice, while the Magpies and 'Boro drop to the Colaship. To be honest, I wish all 4 of them could be relegated, while West Brom somehow get to stay (as they're the only team in the bottom 5 who actually ever bother to play decent football).

I'm amazed that there was no real drama today. Well, there was at Anfield, where Robbie Keane was royally stuffed by his former team in a comfortable 3-1 win. Get in. Oh, and Arsenal cantered to victory, which was to be totally expected.

Thanks for playing along, fellas. We'll try to liveblog some MLS until the Confederations Cup gets started... of course, we'll be all over that.

This was a lot of fun, and not as difficult as I expected it to be! Have a wonderful rest-of-Holiday-weekend, everyone!

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