I’ve watched Blackpool twice recently and I’ve been very impressed by their tenacity and style. Even though they lost 1-0 at Manchester City on New Year’s Day, the structure, cohesion and tempo displayed by the side as they dominated the 2nd half of the match in a frantic, sustained search for an equalizer was entertaining and eye-opening.
So on Wednesday when Blackpool faced a desperate Liverpool side, whom they’d defeated at Anfield in October, I was expecting an exciting end-to-end match. Fernando Torres, the knackered one, tore down the right side of the pitch and unleashed a furiously classy strike that found the back of the net, stylishly opening the scoring in the 3rd minute and giving the Reds a much needed shot of adrenaline and confidence. It was Torres’ 7th goal of the season and the Spanish striker is defiantly showing signs of slowly becoming less knackered, as he regains his formerly all-world form and fitness. This, sadly, was one of few positives for the Reds. Nearly 10 minutes after Torres’ goal, a bungled possession/giveaway at midfield led to Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s goal which leveled the score at 1-1. Blackpool carried the majority of play for the remainder of the match, but, unlike the match with City, this time they were able to achieve the result they needed when DJ Campbell struck with a header in the 69th minute. It was another solid, industrious performance from Blackpool who currently sit 9th in the table with 28 points, 4 places ahead of the Reds as they head home to Anfield for an absolutely crucial derby rematch with Everton.
Yesterday was the 1st leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal tie between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. This is an intense, longstanding rivalry and the match certainly reflected that intensity with searing pace and physical, yet clean, play displayed by both sides. I feel like I’ve seen more Atletico matches this year than any other side, including the baffling, no-doubt-about-it 4-1 thrashing they received from Hercules this past Monday. They are an enigmatic side to say the least, but I knew that they would give Real Madrid their best shot at the Bernabeu. The first half was lightning fast as Diego Forlan opened the scoring by pouncing on a rebound and putting it past Iker Casillas in the 7th minute. Madrid countered with a thunderous salvo from the head of defensive stalwart Sergio Ramos in the 13th minute. After that Real Madrid’s overwhelming array of talent took over and tilted play to Atletico’s side of the pitch. It’s really hard to pick a standout because Marcelo, Karim Benzema (at least in the 1st half) and Xabi Alonso all performed extremely well, but for me the 2 most pivotal players in this match were: Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria. It sometimes seemed as if there were 2 players wearing a Di Maria jersey, such was his impact on the match as he buzzed around the net creating space and scoring opportunities. The chemistry between Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo is truly something beautiful and dangerous to behold. Ozil delivered an excellent ball to Ronaldo for the side’s second goal, and then the burgeoning German superstar deftly tucked in a late goal to widen Real’s advantage to 3-1 and put immense pressure on Atletico to deliver in the 2nd leg of the tie.
We are going to start writing a list of players and teams we both love on this site and I just have to start the ball rolling by saying how much I love watching Ozil. His creativity and technical ability is just phenomenal. I first noticed Ozil this summer in the World Cup during Germany’s stunning demolition of Argentina. I’m not the the biggest Real fan, so I was sort of bummed when he transferred there this summer. Whether you support them or not, you cannot deny that this Real Madrid side is extremely dangerous (which makes what Barca did to them all the more stunning) and I expect them to do loads of damage in the Champions League.