Archive for January, 2013

Over the Weekend: Barça Slip, AFCON for Sleep & Sharapova Rips

You know a team is very good when its lost matches make the headlines and Barcelona, following an unbeaten streak in the Spanish Primera Division from April 2012… 10 months, finally succumbed to defeat.

The manner of the Catalan cruise control footballers’ loss however was the surprising bit, letting go of a two-goal lead earned through goals from Zeus incarnate and Pedro in the opening 25 minutes and losing 3-2 at Real Sociedad.

Indeed Sociedad’s remarkable comeback, completed with an injury time winner, was much aided by Gerard Pique’s sending off just before the hour mark and Javier Mascherano’s ‘zzzz’ moment soon after but even a man down, Barça usually wouldn’t crumble as it did on Saturday night.

But like I said, the very good teams have their losses making headlines hence, with Barcelona now without a win in two successive matches – having been held by 10-man Malaga to a 2-2 draw in the quarterfinal first leg of the Copa Del Rey – it is only natural that ‘something is wrong’.

At least Atletico Madrid would hope so, taking advantage of Sociedad’s unlikely win with a 2-0 win at home to Levante. Unfortunately, leading scorer Radamel Falcao limped off ‘hamstrung’ to leave the task of cutting Barça’s eight-point lead at the top to Adrian and co.

As for Barça, I honestly hope Malaga actually get the required result in the return leg, just so sanity can be within the reach of Real Madrid that, in the event of Malaga not getting the required result, would have to play three El-Clasicos along with the two legs against Manchester United in the Champions League at a stretch.

Besides, it is too early in the year for more recycled reasons, arguments and analysis of who’s ultra-better between Zeus incarnate and Cristiano Ronaldo… Achilles if you may… right? WRONG! Who am I kidding? I hope Malaga get thrashed out of the Copa so Barça sets up that fortnight of godly football to look forward to, something Madrid would likely prefer to avoid!

AFCON 2013 Begins
Before then we may have endured an insufferable African Cup of Nations. Hopefully we wouldn’t but following the opening matches on Saturday, it did seem like it would be an absolutely dull Nations Cup as both Group A matches between hosts South Africa & debutantes Cape Verde and Morocco against Angola later on ended in goalless draws.

It flooded us with dark memories of Mali 2002 where goalless draws were the full time scores in about 33% of group stage matches, with a further 30% ending in dire lone goal wins; that’s seven goals scored in 15 out of 24 group stage matches! Never again oh Jesus, please!

And matchday Two on Sunday livened matters a bit, with DR Congo coming from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw against Ghana in Group B’s curtain raiser, while Mali left it rather late before edging Niger Republic by… a lone goal. Typical ’02 behaviour.

Underdogs Nigeria meanwhile get their campaign underway with a clash with Burkina Faso in a Group C match, preceded by Ethiopia squaring up to defending champions Zambia. Hopefully, the goals will come in these matches to further light up this Nations Cup.

Otherwise it would be just as the Premier Soccer League of the host nation is, good looking playing surfaces at the stadia along with cool ads for the competition, which itself is far below the standard it is packaged as.

Sharapova, Djoker Stay Unstoppable in Australia
On another continent down under, in another sport, the billings are being lived up to with some stunning displays coming from the players vying for the first grand slam of the year at the Australian Open.

Maria Sharapova at this moment looks the sure bet to get the slam in the female section, easing into the quarterfinals with a 6-1 6-0 stroll past Kirsten Flipkens.

That result meant the pretty Russian has won all four of her matches so far in straight sets, winning five of eight sets contested to love and losing just five games in those eight sets played so far.

Such beastly form from a beauty who will next face compatriot Ekaterina Makarova, after the 19th seed defeated fifth seed Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-4 in her last 16 encounter.

Over in the men’s draw, defending champion Novak Djokovic needed five hours to overcome talented Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka in five sets, winning the deciding fifth set 12-10 and setting up a last eight match with Tomas Berdych.

The epic win was the Djoker’s 18th consecutive win at the Australian Open and keeps him on course to become the first player in the Open era to win three successive Australian Open titles. Just three more matches DjokerNole!

Before then, two French men went at each other for almost five hours before Gilles Simon overcame Gael Monfils and set up what likely will be the end of his time down under in the hands of world number three Andy Murray.

Roger Federer continues to be a maestro on the court but world number four Rafael Nadal watches on, probably with a tight fist as he edges closer to his return from injury.

Bavarians March On, Red Devils Freeze Up
The Bundesliga resumed from its winter break with Bayern Munich maintaining its charge towards an umpteenth league title in a routine 2-0 win over bottom side Greuther Fürth while Bayer Leverkusen kept pace, albeit nine points adrift, with a 3-1 win over fourth placed Eintracht Frankfurt.

Champions Borussia Dortmund remain in third place, a dozen points off the top, but back in good form after demolishing Werder Bremen with five unreplied goals away from home.

In Spain, Real Madrid posted the same result from their trip to Valencia with Achilles and Mary’s Angel getting a brace each after Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring… and all five goals came in the first half.

With Barcelona losing, that display left the Merengues 15 points behind their bitter rivals still while still trailing their neighbours Atletico by seven points. Jose Mourinho’s getting the boot at this rate.

In Italy, Juventus got a 4-0 win with Paul Pogba scoring a spectacular brace to help Lega Calcio’s Old Lady open a five point gap on Napoli that drew 1-1 at Fiorentina and Lazio that could only manage a 2-2 draw at lowly Palermo.

Thankfully for those two (Napoli and Lazio), Inter Milan played a 1-1 draw at Roma in Sunday’s late kick-off, leaving Nerazzurri on 39 points, four points behind the sky blue duo and thus, allowing city rivals AC Milan come within five points of them after a 2-1 win at home to Bologna.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 19th league goal helped PSG return to the top of France’s Ligue Un with a lone goal win at Bordeaux, with Lyon dropping to second on goal difference after a goalless draw with Evian while Marseille is now a point behind in third place.

Finally from the Premier League, Robin van Persie’s 18th league goal proved not enough as fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur stole a point with a stoppage time equaliser at home to the Red Devils on Sunday.

That saw United’s lead at the top cut to five points as a David Silva brace had given champions Manchester City a 2-0 win at home to Fulham on Saturday.

Chelsea came out 2-1 victors over misfiring and misguided neighbours Arsenal, Loic Remy scored on his debut but had to settle for a point in QPR’s 1-1 draw at West Ham United and Osaze Odemwingie rescued a point for West Brom in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Midlands rival Aston Villa, before becoming a father on Sunday.

On that cheery note, it’s a wrap. Nigeria plays Burkina Faso later today, the first time I’ll see the Super Eagles play in months while the Australian Open enters its home run this week.

Hopefully, the DjokerNole gets the male title while Radwanska is also looking in championship form in the female section, which looks set for a competitive semi-final as defending champion Victoria Azarenka is also through to the last eight.

Have a productive week ahead. Till Saturday.

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During the Week: Lance Owns Up, Pep Shows Up & Venus’ Beat Up

Lance Armstrong opened up to being dope to mother confessor Oprah Winfrey, if only he meant it same way Wiz Khalifa would. That dopeness thus ended what was a glorious era that saw him ride to victory at seven successive Tour de France.

Like Marion Jones, another champion looked up to by many millions… *poof* just like that, down the truth drain. So, since he ‘confessed’ (to) it rather than being made a scapegoat as the US Cycling body was about to do, he will likely get reprieve from ‘those who matter’ and become their puppet per se, complete with a severance pay.

My issue now is, why would a man, who fought and won a battle against cancer then rode on a prestigeous path to seven victories, and who vehemently denied being dope of the Ben Johnson kind… own up just like that? Smokescreen entertainment for the media and by extension, the world?

Pep Makes Move
Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. One play the world certainly didn’t see coming was Pep Guardiola’s pre-appointment as Bayern Munich manager, to the utter surprise of god Wenger and silent relief of Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez (in some way, seeing as he’s an “interim manager”).

It’s not often that a manager becomes more sought after than a footballer. Footballers get paid high-end five figures (at least) every week to play (crap or otherwise) or be benchwarmers, or be deadwoods… or be Florent Malouda. Managers get paid to win or get fired! (Ed. note: Arsenal’s god is an exception. Well… okay… Man. United’s too. Everton’s as well).

Some managers however see the tactics formulate against them and leave when appropriate, as Guardiola who had won it all at Barcelona did before taking a year long hiatus from the game.

Pep’s pre-appointment by Bayern exuded a number of facts, including “some people still can’t be bought” since he could well have chosen £15m/year at Chelsea or something similar at Man. City and the Bundesliga will (hopefully) finally get the attention and coverage it deserves.

Much as the battle of philosophies by Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp of B.V.B Dortmund is an exciting prospect, I honestly don’t see Guardiola’s imminent arrival there as a battle of such for while it is glorious to be Bundesliga champions, I believe the German clubs are out to dominate the Champions League just as the Premier League did for a while.

And it most certainly isn’t about what ex-Barça manager is doing better though you have to spare a thought for Frank Rijkaard who got fired in Turkey about the same time Guardiola signed with the Bavarians and barely made ‘breaking news’ almost two days after.

Indeed the matter of racism in stadia is treated as passive though the president of football’s world governing body admittedly has a hard time managing such behaviour in this sport of ours.

While mostly, but not entirely against players walking off when racially abused as AC Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng did during a friendly match, he has suggested handing clubs of erring racist fans a points deduction punishment.

Obviously such action will not make a racist to stop being one but it could reduce drastically the occurence of racist abuse of footballers from the stands. But whatever happens outside the stadium therefore becomes out of FIFA’s jurisdiction.

Complicated as Blatter’s stand on the matter really. An example, though not borne of racism, comes with the attack of Serie A footballers’ close ones on the streets. Imagine then a racist attacking one of KPB’s close ones on the streets of Milan? What could FIFA do?

Proudly Aussie
The first tennis grand slam of the year began and home player Lleyton Hewitt set a record by appearing in his 17th successive Australian Open. Unfortunately, he lost his first round match.

That loss, which came after three keenly contested sets, marked the end (officially, for me) of players from my favourite ‘era’ of tennis that featured players such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Marat Safin, Cedric Piolin, Pat Rafter, a Chinese-American, Goran Ivanisevic, Tim Henman and many more.

Back to the present, the usual suspects have eased through the first week, most especially Maria Sharapova who hadn’t lost a game so far ahead of an enticing third round clash with former number one Venus Williams.

By the end of that ‘heavyweight’ clash, Sharapova has now lost just four games on her way to reaching the last 16, beating the ranking points well out of Venus in straight sets of 6-1 6-3.

Venus meanwhile joined Samantha Stosur as the major names shown the exit from the Open down under… this weekend and most likely next week should see more high profile names fall aside as the year’s first grand slam draws to a close then.

With that, it’s a wrap. The African Cup of Nations begins later today in South Africa with a match between the hosts and debutantes Cape Verde. As always, the Ivory Coast are favourites to be crowned champions but hey, I’ll be rooting my fatherland and (this time) underdogs Nigeria.

Out in Brazil meanwhile, Sao Caetano of the second division there has completed the signing of former World Footballer of the Year… Rivaldo. Yes, 1999 World Footballer of the Year Rivaldo.

Now 40, the midfielder who won the World Cup in 2002 joins the Sao Paolo club following a spell in Angola. Yes, the oil rich east African nation Angola. Rivaldo certainly loves to travel.

Elsewhere, the Bundesliga returns this weekend and Schalke and Hannover already provided the world with a goal glut on Friday night. And in the Premier League, leaders Man. United face Tottenham Hotspur at the Lane while Arsenal make the short trip to face Chelsea at the Bridge, a day after Theo Speedo finally signed da ting!

It promises to be an eventful weekend, which I’ll mostly spend reading for my exams… that’s the plan anyway.

Have yourselves a fabulous weekend then!

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Over the Weekend – Jon le Miserable, Game of Cards & Barça enroute Invincibility

The weekend in football proved quite eventful, with Lucas Moura’s debut at PSG overshadowed by a straight red to Thiago Motta for a reckless challenge as PSG only managed a goalless draw at home to Ajaccio.

However, the Brazilian’s delight at being a Parisian couldn’t be dented as he declared how he is enjoying life in one of the world’s fashion capitals barely over a week after arriving. That’s his first weekly wage paid talking I presume.

While Moura’s enjoying life at the moment, Jonathan Walters must however be feeling miserable still following a stellar performance for Chelsea against Stoke City. The problem is, Walters plays for Stoke.

Having been bullied throughout the first half; Ramires and Eden Hazard have testimonies I’m sure, Walters’ diving header under pressure from Juan Mata gave Chelsea the lead just before half time.

It was most unfair on Begovic then when Walters extended Chelsea’s lead with a cushioned glancing header early in the second half. The Stoke keeper twice denied Frank Lampard superbly from close range, but could do nothing to keep the veteran from the penalty spot – and uncle Frank never misses those.

Hazard scored a peach to wrap up a sublime second half for Chelsea but Walters, on the contrary, had the chance to get a consolation for Stoke and indeed himself from the penalty spot. He missed. Watching his spot kick crash off the crossbar and out of play, thus completing what was a sordid afternoon for Rugby FC.

Visitors from España
Still in the Premier League, Vicente del Bosque was at Merseyside to watch Michu do onto Everton what he’s recently done to high profile opponents alas, the closest he came was a lobbed effort which Tim Howard tracked back to tip onto the crossbar and out for a cornerkick.

Swansea’s bargain buy was substituted soon after Del Bosque had seen enough, and you could tell señor Michu wasn’t quite pleased, most probably at his inability to score. He did have a good game although it was his manager that oddly got more press afterwards.

Michael Laudrup’s stock keeps rising and the former Danish international, who is aging well by the way, felt Michu would get a call from Spain… and even suggesting teammate Chico Flores could get one as well in place of Carles Puyol.

But that’s not why he got more press afterwards, it was the fact that Madridistas had voted him to third in a poll to ascertain who they would like to see as Jose Mourinho’s successor.

Quite the impression really made by a manager in only his first season in the Premier League but then again, he once was a Real Madrid player so they’d know. Who knows, could be their Guardiola. Suddenly, keeping Michu may not be Swansea’s only headache at the end of this season, more so if they got to dump Arsenal of the Cup this midweek.

That said, the pressure piles on Mourinho more and a below-par goalless draw at relegation threatened Osasuna left the champions 18 points behind archrivals and runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona.

Two polls with Madridistas, first to know if they still want Mourinho at the helm before that to ascertain who his successor should be, clearly indicates Mourinho’s days are numbered at the Bernabeu.

And frankly, even if he won the Champions League – which would be an impessive feat considering the quality of competition ths season – it wouldn’t save him from being fired by Madrid’s high echelon who have done so for managers that did better than Mourinho has done.

While Real Madrid dabbles in internal squabbles and on-field debacles, Barcelona stay smooth sailing their way to the league title, easing to a 3-1 success at Malaga and setting a record for best half season ever.

The Catalan side have now gained 55 points out of 57 points contested for; 18 wins and one draw at home to Real Madrid, and look scaringly unbeatable in Spain at the moment. Advice, consult Celtic for a Scottish remedy.

Otherwise Tito Vilanova’s side look good to go the season unbeaten, though it actually is still early to imagine they would. I hope they do, as Juventus did over at Italy last season. Wonder how special Arsène Wenger would feel after that…

Game of Cards
And Wenger wonders a lot. From how he knew Robin van Persie would be a huge success at (a direct rival in) Manchester United to reckoning that Cesc Fabregas would one day return to play for Arsenal, Wenger stays being… not exactly delusional but… let’s just say he hasn’t outrightly lost his marbles.

He did look very flustered after Laurent Koscielny’s romantics on Edin Dzeko earned the Frenchman a straight red; which I still feel is harsh considering how early in the game it came, and pretty much screwed Arsenal’s day.

Starting Diabytes didn’t help matters as well as that Frenchman was out of pace throughout his time on the field, having only regained fitness from a three month injury layoff. So why Wenger rushed Diaby back instead of going easy as he did with Wilshere? I don’t know.

Wilshere could’ve played the holding midfield role instead of Diaby or Francis Coquelin. Maybe Aaron Ramsey even, maybe. That said, only Coquelin is a natural defensive midfielder out of the five mentioned which begs the questions “why not get a natural DM?” and “Must you always convert a player to what he isn’t?”

Many would easily tell of Thierry Henry’s success, Kolo Toure’s as well and perhaps, Theo Walcott soon but let’s be honest, it fails more times than it succeeds when he tries to convert a player. Wenger indeed may sadly have lost his marbles afterall.

If he hadn’t, Yann M’Vila would be with Arsenal about now to put some stability from that holding midfield position. Alas, this Frenchman could be at another side of London pretty soon with QPR reportedly set to get him for around £8m.

From a lofty fee of £24m during the summer transfer window, that’s quite a crash of value but M’Vila’s ability cannot be overlooked that easily and it would be Wenger’s and Arsenal’s major loss should he join the Royals.

With that, it’s a wrap. The Australian Open commenced earlier today, a much welcome ‘distraction’ from football if you ask me. Would be interesting to see if an upset can be pulled off in this first week.

There’s also the FA Cup replay at the Emirates between Arsenal and Swansea. Thankfully tickets won’t be from £62 [N16,000] like against City but still, prices would be more than what’ll obtain for the FA Cup final… Arsenal sha!

Hustle good to afford such tickets and have a great week ahead.

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During the Week: FIFA’s a Messi, Michu Messes Chelsea & Sahin’s Forever a Loan

For a fourth year running, the human incarnate of Zeus’ godfather Lionel El-Messius was honoured as the winner of the Ballon d’Or award for Player of the Year, much to everybody’s surprise *yawn* and not too few pundits’ dis(pleasure)/(gust).

Till he wins a World Cup or a Copa America at least, the latter set of football lovers/followers will not right away agree with those already resigned to referring to Messi as the GOAT over all others.

And indeed, 91 goals scored in a calendar year is no mean feat. Then again, all those goals managed to earn just a Copa Del Rey triumph while CR7, with his three scores and some of goals, won a league title; which is more prestigeous.

In the end however, both phenomenal, uber ultra-footballers each won a trophy with their respective clubs and if Ronaldo wanted a clear shot at the award, he should have done just a bit more than lead Portugal to a last four finish at the Euros.

Therefore, and bringing the matter to a closure (which will last till the next El-Clasico is played), congratulations to Messi for an unprecedented fourth Ballon d’Or triumph. Hope dinner later in the week with the Dolce & Gabbana designers went tastefully?

As for Ronaldo, being Messi’s escort at the awards has to be killing his nerves and white blood cells. Then Pep Guardiola had to rub it in and push the ignore button when CR7 came round to him? What’s “Aye ma ni’ka o…” in Spanish or Portuguese please?

Not to be outshone by one person however, football’s world governing body, in all its exalted, overpampered bereaucratic and extravagantly nonplussed false sense of esteemed justification, named a World XI comprising players from two cities in one country.

So much for a ***WORLD*** team that it was devoid of talents such as Neymar who unfortunately lost with Brazil at the Olympic Games football final, Robin van Persie who scored many crucial and well executed goals for Arsenal and Manchester United and Andrea Pirlo who orchestrated an unbeaten title winning season for Juventus with sumptuous through passes and celestially graceful poise (yes, the tautology’s worth it).

Since we’re talking of a World XI, Chris Katongo could well have made that list having led Zambia to a historic, dramatic, memorable and highly emotional first African Cup of Nations triumph.

Yaya Toure could as well have made that list, leading Manchester City – along with Hart and the rest of the Kompany – to the English Premier League title and going so close with Cote D’Ivoire at the AFCON.

Manuel Neuer certainly deserved a spot too and Didier Drogba wouldn’t have been out of place though a host of strikers did much better than he did; he just happened to score crucial title winning goals.

In the end, squashing whatever faint hopes the likes of Edinson Cavani, Fernando Llorente, Mario Götze, Mario Gomez and Gianluigi Buffon among others may have had, five players each from Real Madrid and Barcelona were named in the World XI, with Radamel Falcao being (sort of) the exception… since he plays at Atletico Madrid. Ridiculous!

I’d put Falcao with van Persie upfront, dump CR7 and Messi in midfield either side of Pirlo and Yaya Toure with Kompany showing up at the back.

Would be quite a gesture to have Sergio Ramos earn a career ending red card by tackling FIFA, in its nonplussed entirety, the *censored* *censored* out of the beautiful game. Gosh!

Math Gone Wrong
Beauty at times can be a complication and football is a beautiful game, so beautiful that it makes values become distorted so that £2m becomes so much more valuable and benefitting than £50m ever could.

So was the tale of two Spaniards when Chelsea hosted Swansea in the first leg of a Capital One Cup semi-final match, with Miguel *can’t remember the rest of his native name but thankfully we all can simply call him… * Michu did damage as the Swans ran out 2-0 victors.

Fernando Torres on the contrary was, to be kind, lethargic and one knew from the 10 minutes Demba Ba got when he replaced El-Zero was the result would have been much more competitive.

And for Chelsea, Torres remains a loss they’ll have to live with as no club, logical and even most of the financially illogical ones, will bid even £13m (I reckon) for him and pay him an outrageous weekly wage. Not even on Football Manager.

At this rate, Michu would replace Torres in the Spanish national team and it has been widely reported the Armadas coach and winner of the Ballon d’Or coach of the year Vicente del Bosque will be at Goodison Park to watch the Spanish Swan come up against the Toffees.

So… that’s how Michu will get a cap with Spain ahead of Mikel Arteta… this is too emotional for me, let’s move on.

Seems Arsenal got round to settling the contract issue with Theo Speedo, as well as Bacary Sagna so it’s looking like the Gunners won’t have to part with yet another key member of their team after the likes of Cesc Fabregas, van Persie, Samir Nasri and more.

Elsewhere in France’s Ligue Un, PSG’s Nene reportedly agreed terms with a Qatari club, ensuring one more payday for the 31 year old Brazilian who’s place has been taken by a younger Brazilian in Lucas Moura.

Moura made his debut last night as Ligue Un resumed from its winter break, but things didn’t go as planned with Les Parisiens managing a goalless draw at home to lowly Ajaccio, playing an entire half with 10 men after Thaigo Motta was sent off just before half time.

And another high profile transfer will see Wesley Sneijder earning well after Inter Milan shipped him off to Galatasaray for about £8.5m. Why Turkey for a player of Sneijder’s reportoire? Well it’s said that the income tax on players there is just 15%, compared to about 40% in most of the other top European leagues.

But if you asked Wesley himself why, be sure to get the ‘need to play regularly’ or ‘seeking a new challenge’ speech because ‘it is never about the money.

One player’s transfer that does seem not for the money is Nuri Sahin’s. It however is farcical how he has completed a circle back to Borussia Dortmund, the club he moved from to join Real Madrid which in turn loaned him to Liverpool only six months ago.

Dortmund is still a good team, perhaps even much better than when he left thanks to a host of players such as Götze, Robert Lewandowski, the exciting Marco Reus, Neven Subotic, Lukasz Piszcek (spell check) and Sven Bender.

Sahin, on a six month loan deal, should fit perfectly in to the current BVB set-up and even get right to the starting XI since Ivan Perisic has left the club. Hopefully, he’ll rediscover the form that made him one of Europe’s best passers of the ball.

And with that, it’s a wrap. It’s a week to the start of the African Cup of Nations, which promises to be exciting with the Ivorians ready to have another go at the trophy that keeps eluding them while Zambia won’t get the underdog treatment this time around.

Ghana comes into the tournament all pepped up, as always, while underdogs Nigeria will be out to make the last four a 14th time in their 17th appearance. And each time Nigeria makes the last four, they come away with at least the bronze medal.

Morocco and Algeria are other nations to look forward to though, without doubt, the footballers from the island of Cape Verde will get the most attention as they make their AFCON debut, even set to opening the tournament in a match against host South Africa.

Till then, there’s the rival’s match between Manchester United and Liverpool on Sunday, to be followed by Manchester City’s visit of the Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal.

Hopefully the weekend lives up to its billing. Have a pleasant one.

P.S: Got the Sahin bit in the headline from a tweeter (I think is) known as “TheNarcisist_”.

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Jade and the Scorpions

“How’s it feeling today?” Jade asked Bolu. It had been just over a month since he was stabbed by the young man in the church, with what turned out to be a poisoned dagger.

Bolu tried to hold a gun with his right hand, “Grip’s better… ” he responded, before taking aim. His arm felt an involuntary twitch as his finger went for the trigger. “… or, maybe not.”

They were in Jade’s living room, a unique place as Toba put it a fortnight after they first arrived. Bolu’s right arm then was still swollen, with pus drooling intermittently from the wound.

It had healed considerably since Jade had had to cut open the wound the night they came, leaving him with the souvenir of a scar there, surrounded by a blot… another souvenir, from the poison. “Give it some time, it’ll be fine.” Jade assured.

After some time she stood, “You must be hungry.” she said on her way there. “I’m hungry too.” Toba spoke up. “”you” meant both of you… ” she said as she left the living room. “… and my shoulder’s fine.” Toba retorted.

Bolu would’ve asked what all that was about but with Toba and Jade, he now knew better than to do so. Instead, he took a look around at the living room with no windows.

“How are we breathing?” he finally asked. Every room in her place had no windows and instead, the walls had surreal wallpapers of intriguing landscapes; a multitude in and around the Basilica at the Vatican was the living room’s wall and in it, Bolu saw a pickpocket.

He was standing in front of the pickpocket now when Toba replied from his sit, “She has a twisted sense of humour eh? The people are random by the way, except a few.”

“Like the pickpocket.” Bolu caught on. “Yes, like the pickpocket.” said Toba, now standing beside Bolu, admiring the pickpocket who was between two people going opposite her. She had long hair, most of which was covered by the maroon scarf she wore.

The scarf also went across her face, covering all but her eyes and nose bridge. The narrow, brown eyes seemed to stare at Toba who, mug in hand, seemingly staring back, told Bolu “Spirit probably was the best among us.”

Silence ensued with Bolu checking other faces and Toba lost in thought as he stared blankly at Spirit. “I did only ask for how we’re breathing… ” Bolu said after a moment. “Yes, that.” Toba began, “Honestly have no idea how it works. Only three people know how this place works, one of them is dead.”

Bolu’s countenance indicated interest and Toba obliged. “Now what she told me… “, Bolu raised an eyebrow, “… just listen. Even I don’t know much about this place except the obvious, which is she’s one of the three.”

Toba continued, “Now, the dead one let slip to a group that called themselves the Scorpions – five fellas with what I must say were surreal looking tattoos on them – so he could get the place for himself apparently.”

“What happened to them?” Bolu asked, catching the past tense. “Killed them. Sent them a contract with herself as the mark. Even paid them half upfront.”

“She’d asked the dead one to meet her at a hotel two hours prior, same place she was to be the mark for the Scorpions. Dead one got there, she stabbed him in the neck soon as he’d closed the door behind him.”

“Then she dabbed the door knobs with vanadium before cutting herself on the left cheek, lower belly and a bit of her left palm when she was done. Reluctantly made a wound on her right thigh too.”

“What the bloody hell for?” asked a perplexed Bolu. “Meeting her bloodied would throw them off, more so after she would tell them the dead one was going to kill them after they did her anyway.”

“And it did ruffle them.” continued Toba, “They were a bit annoyed to meet their prey in such state but the leader apparently had a hunch she was behind their contract, so he began trying to play smart with her.”

“Being three moves ahead of the Scorpions, she just sat on a table with a window behind her. That’s where I came in, waiting for her signal so I’d take ’em out if she couldn’t.”

Bolu’s eyes narrowed. He imagined one of the Scorpions going down soon after as a result of the vanadium while she stabbed the nearest one to her and Toba then taking out three others.

“And that’s the advantage with her, she is always underestimated!” Toba said, reading Bolu’s face. “You’ll imagine she wouldn’t be able to throw a knife, let alone get a killing stab… ”

“… actually, I imagined her stabbing one close to her after the vanadium had got to another, then you taking out the rest.” Bolu interjected.

“Well that’s modest.” Toba said smiling. “What happened was that three went down as a result of the vanadium. The other two had knives in their necks before they could get a grasp of themselves.”

Bolu was surprised. “Three? How?” he asked. “One opened the door, a second closed the door. That’s the two knobs gone. One of the two that got enough vanadium from the knobs passed a syringe to the leader.”

“There mustn’t have been enough to pass on through that” Bolu thought aloud. And “True.” Toba agreed. “So,” he went on, “she took out a glove and wore, took the syringe from the leader and looked him in the eye before injecting him in his chest.”

Bolu had a smirk on him. He was very impressed. “I presume the syringe had scorpion’s venom in it.” to which Toba nodded in agreement. “That would’ve been one excruciating death.” Bolu said.

“Indeed it was. And looking right at him I hoped he’d tell the others in hell what lesser demons they were.” said Jade, emerging suddenly with an apron and gloves.

“You’re grilling their leftovers?” Bolu said, stopping her in her tracks. “Told you you’d like him around.” Toba broke the sudden silence. Jade smiled.

“But I’d have to let you know, even if you haven’t figured so, I’ll kill you if you spoke of this place with another not hearing my words now.” Jade said, still smiling.

“Of course.” Bolu said. “Just one thing… ” moving on quickly from the serious matter she had just touched, “… how are we breathing?” he asked.

Toba laughed at the question. Jade shook her head at Toba. Bolu sighed, ‘not again.’ he thought. “I’ll tell you some other time.” Jade finally answered, “But now, I’m going to make sure you two become far more lethal. That day at the church was pathetic.” she said as she made her way back to the kitchen, “bought your house and demolished it by the way.” she said at the door out of the living room.

“Bought our house?” Bolu asked no one in particular, confused. “That upfront payment for your last contract… ” Jade called out. Bolu gaze, wide-eyed in shock rested on Toba who, uninterested in attending to Bolu’s shock, sighed before having a sit and taking a sip from his mug.

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Over the Weekend: Dream Debuts, Big Italians Lose & Tito Wins One

The FA Cup began proper in England as clubs from the Premier League joined in the third round action, while a couple of the major leagues returned from the mid-season break with Cavani, CR7 and El Messius still banging goals in and Tito Vilanova back in the Catalunya dugout as he recovers from cancer… and Casillas showing just why The One would rather not start him.

FA Cup
The oldest competition in football witnessed its third round over the weekend, traditionally the stage where the elite clubs – the Premier League clubs – begin their quest for the Cup.

But there’s a reason the FA Cup is so revered by all who play and who watch the competition, the giantkilling. And Brighton & Hove-Albion set the third round going with a well earned 2-0 humbling of what has lately been a rather appalling Newcastle United (one club from the elite, down! Next!)

Yes, yes, the pitch there wasn’t Ashburton Grove sleek or Old Trafford inspiring but the early kick-off on Saturday gave little indication that the Toons deserved to get even a replay from the encounter.

On the contrary, the Cup’s most illustrious clubs and landlords of the exemplary pitches in the previous paragraph, managed to trigger yet more twitter banter between both set of their loyalists along with nosy spectator fans of other clubs.

First, on Saturday, Manchester United took a Cleverley lead, then fell behind to DeJoe vu moments as Joe Cole (on his second West Ham debut) fed James Collins twice, only for Robin van Persie to come on, take down a long ball from Ryan Giggs under pressure and strike low (with his right foot) for a 90th minute equaliser.

With that goal, gooners yet again opened the book of Lamentations on the world though it sounded more like the Songs of Solomon to the red devils.

And on Sunday, Arsenal, typically, fell behind to a Miguel Michu strike, before well taken goals by iPod, who came on for the much loved Ramsey, and a well struck left foot venom by Kieran Gibbs off a sumptuous one-two put the Gunners ahead in the closing stages.

But that’s merely dramatic and Arsenal love the drama only when it’s extremely so hence, some very absurd defending allowed the Swans to get a late equaliser and earn a replay next week at the Emirates with Brighton & Hove-Albion awaiting the winner of that.

Elsewhere, Demba Ba settled in quite quickly to being number 29 at Chelsea, getting a brace on his debut as the Blues came from behind (sexual) to trounce Southampton 5-1 at St. Mary’s.

Then Daniel Sturridge, sold to Liverpool for 12 mlllion quid by Chelsea, got a goal as the Reds beat Mansfield 2-1. He lived up to expectation of course, failing to convert when one-on-one with the opposition keeper.

Why Liverpool got Studge for a dozen million quid when it would’ve cost a bit less to get Ba… well, it’s done. Liverpool have done better in these sort of matters ala Henderson and Downing.

The club did spend good money on Luis Suarez, a very talented player that. Problem is, the Uruguayan always has controversy trailing him and this weekend was no exception as he clearly controlled the ball with his hand just before scoring Liverpool’s second.

La Liga
Lionel Messi scored his 27th league goal of the season.. pause… I’ll take that again. After 18 matches played, Zeus’ godfather incarnate Lionel Messi scored his 27th league goal as Barcelona eased to a 4-0 win over neighbours RCD Espanyol.

More embarrassingly for the neighbours, all four goals were scored in the first half while Pedro was denied a hattrick by an offside flag. Neighbours, the closest Espanyol will get to being at Barcelona’s level.

That said, Barça now holds an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid after the latter was held to a 1-1 draw at Real Mallorca. Real Madrd meanwhile remains ♫super sweet 16♫ points adrift of their arch-rivals after coming out of an eventful seven-goal encounter victorious.

Iker Casillas again started from the bench and after Karim Benzema had put Real ahead in the second minute with a goal that continues to render Gonzalo Higuain surplus to requirement, Real keeper Adan was sent off for conceding a penalty in the sixth minute.

On came Casillas but Prieto levelled for Sociedad. No problem there, goalkeepers hate facing penalties. But Casillas twice lapsed in concentration and you have to ask, is the man still motivated to be Real and Spain’s number one? Reina, De Gea and Valdes keenly watch on.

Real at the other end spared Casillas blushes and, thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo brace, claimed a fortuitous 4-3 win over Sociedad that later had a man sent off themselves.

In the end, what matters is the count in the 2013 golden boot, they-score-when-they-want race. Radamel Falcao isn’t off the mark yet, CR7 has two and Messi has one no thanks to Pedro’s stray foot and the crossbar.

Robin van Persie though has three goals so far and was joined by the very fit Edinson Cavani who got a hattrick as Napoli bullied AS Roma to a 4-1 defeat.

Serie A
Cavani now has 16 league goals and a total of 99 goals in his Serie A career, helping Napoli rise to third on a weekend that saw Juventus, Fiorentina and Inter Milan fall.

Juventus’ lead had been cut to five points by Lazio in a 2-1 win over Cagliari in Saturday, but the Old Lady certainly was still on her mid-season break as 10-man Sampdoria came from behind – after being reduced to 10 men – to claim a 2-1 win at Turin’s Stadio Olimpico.

Antonio di Natalie meanwhile orchestrated Inter Milan’s 3-0 loss at Udinese while Fiorentina fell 2-0 at home to lowly Pescara but remain ahead of Inter on goal difference, with both still nine points behind leaders Juventus.

It’s a Wrap
Here’s wishing Tito Vilanova a recovery as smooth sailing as his club’s La Liga form. Barcelona, after 18 matches, have won 17 and drawn one and look very well on course to break the records Real set in winning the title last season.

Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever run a series of posts to schedule over a stretch of time on here so “Over the Weekend” and possibly “During the (Mid)Week” will help this cobweb clogged blog clear up.

Have a productive week then.

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