This is my blog on the unpredictable world of football. Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another famous victory for the Socceroos

Australia have come away with another famous victory against three time world champions Germany. It is fair to say Australia had a lot of luck go their way in this victory, but they fought hard to keep a young, creative German squad quiet - and they succeeded. It was refreshing to see Australia also manage to hold onto the ball once they had some confidence.

The first half was all Germany's as they felt their way into the match. They held possession well and created a few good opportunities, as well as winning numerous free kicks in around Australia's box. Australia just couldn't get the ball and when they did they struggled to hang onto it with misguided passes or good pressure and de-possessions from Germany in defence. It was Germany who struck first in the 26th minute after a build up of consistent pressure in Australia's half, debutant André Schürrle played a brilliant pass to Mario Gomez, who controlled and finessed the ball into the top left corner of the net. Germany had the confidence and went looking for a second soon after. They managed to win a free kick in shooting range and Lukas Podolski strode forward to take it, only managing to curl his effort wide of the right hand post. Australia's best chance of the half came from a quickly taken free kick by captain Lucas Neil who smashed the ball down field to Brett Holman, who in turn volleyed first time wide of the goal. Harry Kewell also had a chance after a nice turn between two German defenders but also blazed wide, as the first half ended 1 nil to Germany.

The second half got off to a much slower start, as Germany looked to relax both on and off the ball. This certainly gave Australia a whiff of getting back into the match and this was further helped when German manager Joachim Low brought off captain and lynchpin Bastian Schweinsteiger. The second goal of the match soon followed the substitution as David Carney looked to break down the left flank and played a neat one-two, but some sloppy defence from Germany allowed Carney to get in behind and one on one with the Tim Wiese - the German goal keeper - and slot neatly home between his legs, levelling the scores at 1 all. Australia now had the momentum and confidence for the first time in the match and minutes later Harry Kewell worked his way into the box only to be caught by German right back Christian Trasch. It was a heavily debatable decision as the referee pointed to the spot. Luke Wilkshire stepped up to the spot and struck home down the centre of the goal making it 2-1. Germany then looked to goal scoring hero Miroslav Klose to change the score, and he had one great opportunity but Socceroo gloves-man Mark Schwarzer was equal to the task. In the 80th minute we got to see German bound Robbie Kruse who replaced Harry Kewell, and one for the future Brent McGrath coming on for Holman in the 90th minute. A great result for Australia no matter how lucky it was, it will give the lads a lot of confidence heading into the 2014 world cup qualifiers. Lets just hope it puts football to the forefront of the sporting media in this country, after yet another giant killing performance by our boys. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The most hotly debated the world

The English football team's captaincy is one of the most fiercely debated topics, not just in England but around the globe. So when manager Fabio Capello this week decided to hand Chelsea hard man John Terry the armband back after first stripping it off him, a massive split in opinions arose. How did Terry lose the armband in the first place I hear you ask? Well last year rumours were confirmed that John Terry had an affair with team mate Wayne Bridge's ex girlfriend, talk about a captain's knock. Capello then handed the captaincy to injury prone Manchester United centre back and Terry's partner in crime for the Three Lions Rio Ferdinand. That in itself was an enormous decision the Italian - Capello - took, but it showed his authority on the team and why the English FA (Football Association) hired him. So little over a year later John Terry gets "his" armband back, but is it the right decision? In short, yes it is. John Terry is a natural leader and in my honest opinion England suffered majorly in South Africa largely on the back of him being stripped of the captaincy. But you could clearly see Capello had to strip it off him and it left England in a state of limbo. I do not agree with John Terry's style of play and his ethics for that matter but you cannot dispute his leadership qualities, he is one of the best captains around.

Back to Capello now and I think he has handled the re-giving of the armband to John Terry/taking it off Rio all wrong. First we heard the rumours once Rio was not fit to play in England's Euro qualifiers. This is when - in mine and a lot of other people's opinions - he should have taken Rio aside and told him of his decision in private before any one else knew. Unfortunately Fabio Capello didn't do it this way and let the English press run riot with captaincy stories and eventually announcing a press conference to confirm John Terry has reclaimed the Three Lions armband all the while not making much if any contact with Rio Ferdinand. Rio can certainly feel hard done by, his manager not even talking to him about this first is quite a blow but I'm sure Rio will come out the other side, maybe just not wearing the white of England anymore.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Braga bore Liverpool to the end

A massive upset was on the cards at Anfield, as little Portuguese club Braga held onto a 1 nil lead from the opening tie to keep Liverpool goal less in the second tie as well and knock them out of the Europa league. It was a match with many half chances for both squads, but they were both far too predictable to have any influence on the game. On one hand Braga sat back and were only interested in taking on Liverpool mainly on the break. Liverpool played the traditional English game, long balls to the target man up front. Whilst it was great to see Andy Carroll back from injury in his first start for Liverpool, he really didn't get any quality service from the midfield which was very disappointing for the Reds. They thoroughly missed midfield general, captain and heart of Liverpool Steven Gerrard. They also missed their other summer signing Luis Suarez, who is cup-tied because he played for Ajax who play in the same competition. Liverpool really missed these two and it was showing on the park, with lots of long aimless balls coming from the back looking for Carroll, and when he did get to them there was hardly any one to lay it off to. I found the game very disappointing, as Liverpool really didn't look to mix up their play with some shorter passes to unlock the Braga defence. They really needed to use a combination of the long ball and short ball to really try and break down a packed Braga defence. We also got the chance to see one Joe Cole making a rare appearance. You could tell he had hardly played this season, as he would show some glimpses of his brilliance before losing possession. It's fair to say he has had a wretched season full of injury, which is a shame for Liverpool because he looked a strong addition to their side pre-season. Andy Carroll as well looked a tad rusty still and will need another couple of games under his belt before we see him return to his goal scoring form which took him to his first English team cap last year. Liverpool must now focus on their crucial match against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, where mind you Carroll gave the Sunderland defence a nightmare in the derby in December before he joined Liverpool in the next month. Braga progress to the last eight with a steely performance that will put them down as dark horses for the competition. Yet again Liverpool have another season without silverware. Dalglish has certainly turned the club around, but it will take more than the King himself to make this club a force again. He must rally his chargers home in the Premier League if they want to be playing Europe next season, with a depleted squad it looks a grim task, but if you were going to trust any one to do it, it would have to be King Kenny.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Real Madrid monster lifeless Lyon

It was a sense of deja vu for both Real Madrid and Olympique Lyonnais as they once again met up in the round of 16. The tie in Lyon was a 1 all draw, and fair to say like most of the first leg encounters a bit of a nap-athon. However Lyon came to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu with bags of confidence having knocked out a fairly underwhelming Real Madrid in last years match. It was clear from the outset that Lyon were planning the same 'hijack' game as last year. Puel's - Lyon Manager - idea was good in principle but he must have forgot who his opposite number was, the 'special one' (Jose Mourinho). This 'hijack' mentality that Lyon tried played right into Mourinho's mens hands, as the French side sat back and waited to catch Real on the break. Brazilian left back Marcelo's runs down the left flank were causing all sorts of troubles for the right side defence of Lyon, and early on Marcelo had a half chance denied by Lyon and French number 1 Hugo Lloris. It was a trend Lloris would have to get used to as Madrid looked likely to score every time they went on the attack. In the 37 minute Marcelo received the ball from a Lyon play being broke down, he then proceeded to play a beautiful one-two with Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo and produce some magical footwork to beat two defenders before hammering a shot that Lloris could only just manage to get a hand to and open Madrid's account for the night and make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The second half began with a substitution for Lyon as they looked to take back the tie with in-form striker Bafetimbi Gomis coming on for Jimmy Briand who failed to produce in the first half. Madrid again had a monopoly of chances, but Hugo Lloris looked determined to keep his side in the game producing some brilliant saves. Ronaldo looked dangerous at times but really lacked match fitness, as a few of his shots blazed wide or over the mark. But not even Ronaldo's off colour performance could stop the Madrid juggernaut as they made Lyon pay in the space of ten minutes. It began in the 66th minute when a long ball from the back was played to German playmaker Mesut Oezil, but he failed to reach it as it drifted past and former Lyon striker Karim Benzema used his pace to get to the ball before an out of position Cris to go one on one with Lloris. Benzema calmly slotted the ball between Lloris' legs making it 2 nil on the night and 3-1 on aggregate, surely killing off the contest. Lyon decided it was time for another change as they took of French international Yoann Gourcuff for Pied. Mourinho decided to possibly rest his star player Cristiano Ronaldo for the Madrid derby on the weekend, as he brought on the on-loan Adebayour. Two minutes later Madrid struck again as it was that man again Benzema coming back in defence to take the ball before playing it forward to Oezil who in turn flicked it on to Argentine Angel Di Maria to finish and wrap up the game 3 nil and 4-1 on aggregate. Real Madrid finally making it past the round of 16 as they lift their European curse. It was fair to say this was nothing short of a training match for Real, they were in control from start to finish. A real clinical effort that would have Mourinho happy for now, but I'm sure he will let his lads know they need to finish a lot better if they want to continue their progression in Europe.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Inter the Quarters

Inter Milan have once again broken Bayern Munich hearts by overcoming a 1 nil deficit from the first leg to beat the bavarians in Munich 3-2 and progress to the final eight. It was a match that came with much anticipation from fans the world over, as last years finalists went head-to-head in the round of 16. We didn't have to wait long for the opener as Samuel Eto'o (from a possibly offside position) slotted home his eighth goal in eight appearances in the Champions League. The game kicked into life early on with Bayern looking to reply. Seventeen minutes later Dutch flyer Arjen Robben once again with his dazzling feet cut in from the right flank to shoot venomously at Julio Cesar in the Inter goal and my word what a meal he made of it, as he seemed to forget what to do with his hands as the ball struck his chest he chased in vein as Mario Gomez was johnny on the spot flicking the ball overhead style and over the calamitous Julio Cesar and into the net to make it 1 all in the match and 2-1 on aggregate. Ten minutes later and with Munich ramping up their attacks as Inter sat back, it was that man again, Robben, floating in a central position to deliver a defence cutting - or defence deflecting - ball to Mueller who superbly flicked the ball over Julio Cesar for Bayern's second and final goal. Not long after it was the other winger Franck Ribery cutting in from his left flank post to deliver a tantalising ball to Gomez - which Julio Cesar left his goal open for - who flicked the ball across the front of the goal, where centre back Andrea Ranocchia attempted to clear only for Mueller to challenge and get his foot to the ball forcing it only into the post in a play that thoroughly deserved a goal.

The second half began and five minutes into the half we saw Leonardo's (Inter Manager) intentions as he brought on his most attack minded player (Philippe Coutinho) on for stand-in captain Dejan Stankovic. It was a move that would pay his manager dividends for the positive move. It was he who gave a brilliant cross field ball to fellow country man Maicon who in turn layed of the ball to the other pivotal Dutchman Wesley Sneijder on the edge of the box for him to drive home and level the scores. This was then followed by a bizarre move from sacked-manager-walking Louis Van Gaal to take Arjen Robben off. This gave Inter even more hope and more breathing space for left back Christian Chivu who had been rounded so many times from Robben in both matches. Van Gaal then decided to end experienced centre back Daniel Van Buyten's game in favour of Holger Badstuber. Chances fell for both sides as they battled for supremacy in a closely fought match, however Bayern seemed to have the better of the chances up until Robben's substitution. Inter worked their way back the only way they knew how, through playmaker Sneijder and goal machine Eto'o. Eto'o had been troubling young Brazilian centre back Breno all match and as a long ball was played to Eto'o late on they fought for the ball. Eto'o used his body brilliantly and lost his man before shrugging off substitute Badstuber and delivering a neat pass to the flying Goran Pandev to smash home with his favoured left foot to win the match and the tie for Internazionale. Pandev looked in the mood late on in the match with chances falling to him mainly in the second half and he did not need a second invitation as Eto'o set it up on a plate for him to stroke home. An inthralling match that did not disappoint it was full of chances for both teams, but it was Inter who took the most of their chances knocking out the helpless Munich.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Brisbane Roar to Premiership

It took 120 minutes of end to end football and eight penalties in a penalty shoot out to decide the 2010-2011 A-League premiers. The 50168 strong crowd didn't leave disappointed as Australia's two best clubs went blow for blow right to the end. It was a drama filled match with referee Matthew Breeze very inconsistent with his calls, he also seemed to have left his cards at home failing to give cards out to players for indiscretions throughout the match - Amini's shirt tug before half time springs to mind. However the season finished on the right note I believe - and I'm sure many others agree.

The Match:
The opening minutes of the first half saw both teams looking very 'cagey' as most finals matches do. But the Central Coast Mariners were the stronger team, with a very industrious midfield - being both hard for the Roar to break down and superb on the attack. The Mariners passing game was sticking well with chances falling to both strikers throughout and one golden one to Matt Simon whom failed to connect strongly enough with the ball. Mustafa Amini had some bright touches and some excellent distribution early on but it was clear the Mariners lacked the usual number 10 Particio Perez. Thomas Broich was contained well by the Marniers defence, in particular Pedj Bojic in the first half, as the German failed to get the ball much and stamp himself on the game.

However the Roar came out firing in the second half with chances coming constantly throughout the half, but they were mainly half chances. Brisbane Roar really seemed to lack a cutting edge in the final third through out the match. Their build up play was excellent as always, but at times - Broich in particular - just took too many touches. In the 60th minute Graham Arnold - Mariners Manager - made a change that had many fans scratching their heads when he brought off attacking midfielder Mustafa Amini for John Hutchinson. Ange Postecoglou - Roar Manager - was not to be out done by bringing off top goalscorer Kosta Barbarouses for Brazilian Henrique. It was not the fact that he brought Henrique on that was puzzling it was why he took Barbarouses off rather than Jean Carlos Solorzano. Matt Simon's game was done in the 72nd minute when he was replaced by Daniel McBreen, who was surprisingly not in the starting eleven. Then it was local hero Mitch Nichols turn to exit in the 82nd minute for Massimo Murdocca. The final change for Mariners was more of an indicator of intentions for Arnold's men as he replaced defensive midfielder Rostyn Griffiths for 18 year old Bernie Ibini-Isei - a striker.

Extra Time ensued with Bernie having a massive impact with two chances both producing fine saves from Michael Theoklitos - the Roar 'keeper. He won a corner in the 95th minute, won the header and Adam Kwasnik was on hand to deliver the match's opening goal. Kwasnik was again involved in the second goal seven minutes later when he collected the ball from another Theoklitos save and calmly passed to an open Oliver Bozanic who slotted home what looked like the winner. The Roar's trail blazing season seemed to be coming to a desperately unlucky ending, but in a true show of that almighty Queensland spirit they had two final tricks up their sleeve. Susak - a central defender - was sacrificed once the mariners took the lead for winger Rocky Visconte. It was to prove a masterstroke by coach of the year Postecoglou. In the 117th minute, with three minutes of extra time remaining crowd favourite Henrique finished another Roar passing exhibition to swing the momentum in their favour. In the final minute a valiant, spirited run from substitute Visconte down the left flank won the Roar a corner in the final minute of play. German import Broich stepped up to the mark to provide a superb corner for holding midfielder and the Roar's tallest player on the park Erik Paartalu to head home the equaliser in what has to be one of Australian sports greatest comebacks of all time.

The match had come down to a dreaded penalty shoot out. A test of nerves and skill, a finale that had 50000 plus people on their feet in anticipation. The first penalty was taken by Mariners, with Theoklitos guessing the right way and unlucky not to save. Right back Ivan Franjic was a surprise first penalty taker for the Roar but slotted calmly into the net to level the scores. Mariners slotted their second penalty of the night wrong footing Theoklitos this time. Roar made it 2 all. It was then substitute McBreen's turn and he could not out fox Theoklitos as he saved keeping the score at 2 all before Roar captain Matt McKay gave them the lead slotting his left footed shot home. The Mariners right back Pedj Bojic had it all to do with the Mariners forth shot, but again Theoklitos could not be beaten with a world class save to deny the equaliser. Up stepped the 'slippery fish' Henrique, the man who was under a fitness cloud at the start of the week. As he approached the ball the crowd grew with anticipation on the awaiting result. He stuttered slightly in the run up putting off young 'keeper Matt Ryan - the John Marsden medallist - and slotting the winner home. A moment of pure joy for Roar supporters, the stadium exploded with the Roar of victory. Brisbane had capped an absolutely unbelievable season in which they have been undefeated in 28 matches on their way to taking the minor and major premierships and write their names in Australian football folklore. No one gave them a chance at the start of the 2010-2011 season, yet their they stood, overcoming the other 10 teams in the A-League to win the title and enjoy the right to compete in the 2012 Asian Champions League. Congratulations to Brisbane Roar for a season where they have no doubt shown Australian Football the way forward, thank you.