1. In honor of Wayne Rooney’s stunning goal on Saturday, the Spoiler has an excellent collection of bicycle kick clips. Here’s one to get you excited:
I thought the United/City match was a good match, far better than the rubbish crime against excitement their first meeting this season turned out to be. City is finally turning its considerable talent loose more and has been interesting to watch the past few weeks.
2. I’ve watched Sunderland play just good enough to lose two weeks in a row. They had Spurs on the ropes, on the back foot, etc. (pick a cliche) during the entire first half of their match on Saturday. An unfortunate bounce gave Spurs an equalizer right before the half and I’m not sure Sunderland recovered their equilibrium, even though they did have quality chances and stretches of play in the 2nd half. The Cardiac Spurs have been living on the edge for months, but their last minute victories, the past 2 weeks, stand in absolute, total contrast to what has befallen the Black Cats. The effort and output of both these sides has been nearly identical (Sunderland has been the victim of shaky goaltending), yet Spurs have gotten the results and points and, sadly, Sunderland have banked nothing for their considerable workrate. This is actually a rare, perfect illustration of the cliche that “there is a fine line between winning and losing.” I can’t even measure my excitement over the Spurs/AC Milan match-up in the Champions League today. Harry Redknapp is vowing to attack! Man, it’s hard not to like Spurs!! I have a soft-spot in my heart for Ibra and Milan, though, so I’m just hoping for a beautiful game.
3. “Ten-Men Real grind out win.” That’s a case where the headline does succinctly capture the essence of a match. I thought the penalty on Iker Casillas was suspect, at best. I’ve seen a lot of Madrid matches this year, but I have to say that their 1-0 road victory over Espanyol was one of the most impressive. It was hard to tell that they were a man-down. There was a spell of a about 10-15 minutes after Casillas was sent off that where they had to settle in and regain their composure–after that they took complete control. Emannuel Adebayor was an absolute force, especially in the 2nd half when Espanyol’s keeper, Idriss Kameni, larcenous saves kept the score in single-digits. Ozil, Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso were brilliant as always. I also thought this was Sami Khedira’s best game in months. But Carvalho, Pepe and Marcelo were the true stars of the match, factoring hugely at both ends of the pitch. This was something special to watch–Espanyol are a quality team battling for a Champions League spot in the Primera Division–and Madrid expertly broke them down. Espanyol play an intricate possession style similar to their neighbors, Barca, but they lacked a dangerous presence at the top. They had some beautiful stretches of play in the 2nd half, excellent movement and passing, but they could not get the last ball they needed. Reports of Madrid’s demise (some posted here) have been greatly exaggerated.
4. Fulham played 85+ minutes of conservative, do-not-lose soccer against Chelsea yesterday. And then something crazy happened. All of a sudden Fulham starting pushing forward with warp speed under long pinpoint passes, which culminated in David Luiz’s penalty on Clint Dempsey in the 93rd minute. This penalty was called right when my wife came home from work, ruining my long planned, carefully choreographed roses and card hand delivery, as I rushed from the door to her lips to the TV…to see Petr Cech save Dempsey’s penalty. It was maddening. Chelsea played good enough to win but they kept misfiring on their chances, of which they had many. They dominated long stretches of the match. Chelsea has looked out of sync for awhile, but the insertion of Fernando Torres has made their shape appear even more contorted and crooked. Torres got the start over Drogba and his presence seems, at least for now, to negative effect Florent Malouda and Nicholas Anelka, forcing them into positions and areas of space they aren’t comfortable with or effective in. Torres’ confusing, nonchalant seeming (ala the 2010 Andrei Arshavin) effort prompted awesome “What a waste of money” chants from the Craven Cottage faithful. Chelsea remain a fascinating team to watch.
5. Sorry about the gap between posts last week. Lots of things going on in both of our lives, but I will be posting up in a footy friendly bar enjoying the Spurs/Milan match today. This is a huge, exciting week and we’ll be checking in more thoroughly over the next few days. Please bear with us.
Here are some bonus links: