Posts Tagged Chelsea

During the Week: Oscar Pistorius, Arsenal Precarious & More


A week after Valentine’s Day turned tragic for the blade runner, paralympian and indeed, olympian, Oscar Pistorius may well get himself a favourable verdict in his bail application over the killing of his girlfriend Reeva.

And if he is granted bail, it would largely be thanks to defense lawyer Barry Roux’s meticulous approach to the case along with the prosecution’s far less meticulous handling of it.

First, the prosecution’s case against Pistorius was looking great until they brought their witnesses in. 600 meters away? And then the witness became unsure of the distance to back up their claim of hearing screams from Reeva before she was shot dead.

For me, that was the turning point to swing the case right back in Pistorius’ favour. Coupled with Roux’s focus on Pistorius being the only (physical) witness at the crime scene and thus, focusing on (favourable) probablities based on that fact rather than conjuring allusions based on vague recounts of the incident by ‘witnesses from a distance’, Pistorius seems set to guarantee his innocence per se. He did shoot the damsel but (no) thanks to the prosecution, all he’ll have handed him is manslaughter.

Worse still for the prosecution was the revelation of the case’s chief investigator having history of being charged with seven attempted murders, along with the (distracting) history of cases where he investigated Pistorius, which would make it seem that Botha (the chief investigator) was on a personal vendetta against Pistorius. **was**, since on Thursday he was replaced as chief investigator of the case, another blow to the prosecution.

The bit when the prosecution pointed to a magazine publication in which Pistorius is said to own a house in Italy also weakened the prosecution’s case. Getting a statement from that magazine’s editors to back that claim would have been better.

After all said over what was, may have been and was not done, Pistorius’ application for bail looks to be coming to an end and if he does get the verdict in his favour, he pretty much will be a free, heartbroken and single man with a few lost sponsorship deals.

Pistorius heartbreak is heavy, Arsenal’s is serial, after being outdone by an efficient Bayern Munich side in a first leg round of 16 UEFA Champions League encounter played at the Emirates Stadium. At the end of the 3-1 drubbing though, it did seem Arsenal was the away team.

That defeat effectively ends Arsenal’s relevance in Europe unless the Gunners pull off an unlikely comeback in the return leg, like it nearly did (and really should have done) last season against AC Milan where the Gunners won 3-0 in the second leg after losing the first by a goal more.

This Bayern defeat however comes right after lackadaisically letting Blackburn Rovers through to the next round of the FA Cup, raising questions once again about Arsène Wenger’s capability as Arsenal manager.

The players, especially current captain Thomas Vermaelen and future captain Jack Wilshere believe it is the players and not the manager that is to blame for Arsenal’s current precarious state.

Then if the players are to blame, why not let go of most of them and bring in a set of players that can get the right things done at the club? Cue Theo Walcott in who reiterated the massive talent in the dressing room that only need to translate that onto the field during matches.

So, in summary, the manager hasn’t lost his marbles, the players, however very good they are, are letting this manager down big time but because these players are supposedly very good, there would be little or no need to have them replaced by new, marquee signings.

Arsenal is a peculiar club indeed and it is painful to see the club that tried to propagate the idea of a complete football club on and off the field being well beaten at it by clubs that, ironically, have perfected what Wenger keeps trying to achieve.

On one hand, Bayern Munich have reached the final of two of the last three Champions League finals and are on their way to winning the Bundesliga in record fashion, having complemented its team down the years (Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribèry and co.) with the addition of very good players (Dante, Manuel Neuer and Mario Mandzukic) along with the likes of Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller who came through the ranks.

All that comes complete with a solid financial model off the pitch that makes the Bavarians formidable both on the field as well as off it. Thus spending big when necessary, just to ensure the team is capable of playing great/efficient football at the very top level isn’t a problem for the Germans as exemplified down the years in the signings of Ribery then, Neuer much later and most recently, Mandzukic.

Then on the other hand is Barcelona that now plays the most attractive football conceivable; a title Arsenal solely held once, having complemented the core of its team (Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi) with additions down the years of Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (briefly), Jordi Alba, Alexis and Alex Song (through the transfer market) as well as Pedro, Cristian Tello and Thiago Alcantara (through the ranks, just like Messi and Fabregas initially).

Add that to the club going out of its way to allow a sponsor’s name on their jersey (now held lucratively for Barça by the Qatar Foundation), massive gate receipts and a public profile that staggers across the world, money isn’t the problem for the Catalans… at least they’ll scale the FFP hurdle set by UEFA.

At Arsenal however, the core of the team keeps changing no thanks to the exit down the years of Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Ashley Cole, Mathieu Flamini, Kyle Bartley, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy, Alex Song and most atrociously Robin van Persie among others.

Had at least four of the above been kept and got joined by Jack Wilshere, Carl Jenkinson, Francis Coquelin, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott who have come through the ranks as well as any two of Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal from the transfer market, Wenger would certainly not be so stressed at the moment.

The club’s heavy focus on the financials at the expense of the team itself has denied it being a combination of the current Bayern and Barça teams it had the immense potential to be. Now instead, Arsenal is simply a spoilt rich child accustomed to losing yet not too bothered to change that trend.

Barcelona meanwhile is that spoilt rich lad that has everything going for it most of the time. And the very sparse times something doesn’t go its way, well, the ‘haters’ come alive and basically amplify this lad’s low moment.

Indeed Massimo Allegri’s players gave him what he expected of them, to neutralise Barça’s inevitable possession prowess and possibly take the chance(s) that come their way. And among a few that propped, the Rossoneri buried two.

That defeat did show the Catalans’ reliance per se on Messi can also be made to be an albatross. Milan expertly marked Messi out as well as kept the other threats in the Barça team at bay so while the visitors had a chunk of possession – as usual – it came to nothing.

That fact was a source of overflowing glee to many who came up with ‘stats’ and analysis but as I stated at the start of a post exactly a month ago, “You know a team is very good when its lost matches make the headlines… ”

While Milan is in a much better position than the last time both teams met in the Champions League at last season’s quarterfinal stage, their two-goal lead this time is far from secure and the onslaught they will have to bear from this Barça side at the Nou Camp is better left imagined.

Last time out, Milan held Barça to a goalless draw at the San Siro before Messi scored two penalties and set up Iniesta to secure a 3-1 win in the return at the Nou Camp. Messi may have been caged on Wednesday, he may have a poor record in Italy but hardly at the Nou Camp. Milan will have to ‘play even better’ than on Wednesday to get a desired result.

Or maybe not, seeing as Liverpool and Atletico Madrid played well and got a good result but not the desired result while Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea were staring at elimination till stoppage time efforts from Belgians saved both London sides’ blushes and let them progress in the Europa League.

Atletico’s exit, shocking as it was, feels so much like a silver lining moment since now, the club can focus squarely on finishing at least above city rivals Real Madrid in La Liga just as winning the Copa Del Rey is also a possibility for Diego Simeone’s side.

Moussa Dembele and Eden Hazard’s late equalisers against Olympique Lyon and Sparta Prague respectively edged the Londoners through, much to the slight delight of fans of fellow Londoners Arsenal that lie fifth in the Premier League where the London trio chase the Champions League spots on the league table.

Other teams through in the Europa League include Lazio that beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate, Inter Milan with a 5-0 aggregate win after easing to a 3-0 win at CFR Cluj, Zenit after barely surviving a second leg barrage at Liverpool to eventually go through on away goals and Newcastle United that got its first ever win at Ukraine, a lone penalty goal from Shola Ameobi, to qualify by the same score at the expense of Metalist Kharkiv.

The biggest result of the night for me came in Napoli’s 2-0 loss at Viktoria Plzen, which completed a massive 5-0 aggregate win for the Czechs over the Italian side that previously was favourite to win the competition along with Atletico.

The Naples side have the whole weekend to drain the anguish of the Europa League exit out of their system ahead of their trip to Udinese on Monday night, a tricky trip that could further pile misery on them.

Biggest match in Italy this weekend however is the Milan derby on Sunday. AC go into that as favourites, with their domestic season on the right track having steadily caught up with the top and now occupy third spot. Inter however will go into this match in bipolar form, securing that win over Cluj in Europe either side of a hapless display in a 4-1 humbling at Fiorentina.

Another match to look forward to this weekend is at the Parc des Princes where Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint Germain host third placed Olympique Marseille on Sunday, with David Beckham reportedly to make his PSG debut in that match.

Super Sunday in Europe begins in England where second placed Manchester City host third placed Chelsea while on Saturday it’s first from top versus first from bottom when Manchester United visit Queens Park Rangers.

Weekend looks very exciting for neutrals, more so with Swansea City set to take on Bradford City in the Capital One Cup final on Sunday at Wembley. Massive day for both clubs and while it would be some story if the Bantams won, I’m all for a Swansea win, if for any reason better representation of England in the Europa League next season.

On a more personal note, I’d just be very content not to have a repeat of last weekend when all the clubs I support across Europe, somehow, lost their respective league matches… all six clubs; Arsenal, Lazio, PSG, Hearts, Werder Bremen and Deportivo La Coruña.

Latter two face Bayern Munich and Real Madrid respectively on Saturday so… I won’t even bother checking back on them till Monday morning.

Till then, have yourselves a glorious weekend!

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2011/12 Season Taught Me…


It’s How Well, Not How Long
It’s become easy for the longevity of some managers career to become inadvertently ridiculed by the exploits of some younging that’s propped from retirement from active football (a.k.a. from nothing) to become a better paid and/or a more acclaimed manager.

Depending on your viewpoint, Wenger’s greatest acclaim would be leading Arsenal through the 2003/04 season unbeaten, or leading the club to 15 consecutive appearances in the group stage of the lucrative UEFA Champions League.

There’s also the favourite of mine, his ability to ‘unearth’ such names as Thierry Henry, Nicholas Anelka, Emmanuel Adebayor and Francesc Fàbregas and make surreal profits off their departures from the club for the club. Hopefully Wenger will skip the economics this time and suceed in extending Robin van Persie’s contract.

All that said, Jose Mourinho was nobody when Wenger ruffled the established order that was Sir Alex Ferguson back in the late 90s. Now, the self acclaimed Special One has so far won the Champions League twice at two different clubs.

While Mourinho’s case is still much palatable to bear; being a ‘nobody’ in the managerial sense, here is Roberto di Matteo who was still active on the field when Wenger ruffled the established order… as was Pep Guardiola.

RDM has a Champions League title to his name, Pep has two to his along with two Club World Cup wins and as many European Super Cups. Wenger? Shishi!

Obviously one cannot discard his managerial abilities but Wenger needs to stop whatever fantasy that is making an inception seem to be the reality of his life and get dead serious with the job of winning trophies again or else, Guardiola, Mourinho et al will become the legends in the game and leave le Professeur to be just a manager respected just because…

At least, Sir Alex can say he’s won the Champions League twice. Wenger will say he lost a final… you see that? Lost? Remember that Valencia team that reached two successive Champions League finals after winning the UEFA Cup? History has them in the “ehyaa” folder, same folder that Arsenal team of 2005/06 is in.

Take Your Chances
Barcelona could have had 100% possession in either of the semi-final legs against Chelsea, yet we all know how that turned out for the Catalans as well as for the Bavarians afterwards.

It can be argued that Chelsea was most fortunate in both affairs but then again, Messi should’ve been a bit more precise with his penalty… or Robben should’ve hit his the other way of Cech.

In other words, all that possession will come to nothing if the team with the ball most of the time doesn’t take the chances when such come its way. And the danger in that is, possessive teams can become profligate in front of goal just because the players believe “we’ll create another chance… “… that’s fatal procrastination and how Real Madrid and Chelsea ‘unfairly’ pipped Barcelona in late April is good proof.

Penalty Won Isn’t Penalty Scored
Lionel Messi hadn’t missed a spotkick all season yet fate contrived to have him miss against Chelsea… Barça lost. A day later, Cristiano Ronaldo scored one in normal time only to see his spotkick during the shootout against Bayern saved… Real lost.

Arjen Robben scored two penalties that day, in normal time and during the shootout. Yet, Cech saved the Dutchman’s penalty in extra time that otherwise would likely have won the Champions League for the German club. He didn’t step up in the subsequent shootout… Bayern lost.

Juan Mata had his penalty saved by Manuel Neuer that night too but his teammates rallied well. Summarily, the very best players can miss six-yard sitters afterall. Even Stewart Downing did on the final day of the Premier League. Sheesh!

Circumstances Can Freeze Good Players Out
For various reasons, a number of exciting players became strangers to the field in the last season. Like movie like series, Jack Wilshere didn’t play a single competitive match. Remember the pre-season friendly Arsenal played against Köln? Remember his combination with Gervinho? I was looking forward to a lot of that but made do with Song’s combo with van Persie instead.

Then there’s Aleksander Kolarov at Manchester City, Stefan Savic as well. Both basically became surplus to requirement at the Etihad, Kolarov more due to Clichy’s consistency and Savic more for being far from the Kompany – Lescott quality.

But at Old Trafford, Berbatov’s quality is known but SAF preferred even Danny Welbeck ahead of the Bulgarian who plays at times like he can’t be bothered so Fergie must have thought ‘why bother the bros?’.

Alan Pardew on his part got Demba Ba FOC from West Ham, bang bang bang he went. Pardew got another Demba from Freiburg in January, bang bang bang Papiss went but at Ba’s expense.

All that banging however meant Leon Best became not the best option, coupled with some injury. Best simply slipped into the ‘memoriam’ folder at the Sports Direct Arena.

Then there’s Park Chu-Young. It’s seeming like Wenger only bought him to piss off Lille that was on the edge of signing him at the start of the season so le Professeur must’ve thought “they didn’t sell me Hazard eh?! Might as well jack their move for Park then!”.

The star of frozen out players though has to be Man. United’s Bebe! Seven million just so he can seldom make appearances… for the reserves?! Investigate away UEFA, please!!

Big Teams Can Lose Real Big
And it’s little wonder the north London clubs finished behind the Manchester ones after the former got shredded on the same weekend early in the last season, the weekend Man. City left White Hart Lane 5-1 winners while Arsenal got done 8-2 at Old Trafford.

Then Man. United lived through the massive, right from the gut spit on the face they got from Mario Balotelli and the rest of the noisy neighbour gang. The Red Devils also got the beat down at Newcastle United while Arsenal scored five to defeat city rivals Spurs and Chelsea in games that produced 15 goals between them.

In all that clash of the titans above, Liverpool instead got the wrath of the not titans in losing to opponents that really should’ve been beaten. They lost to Swansea and Wigan Athletic but those two…

Those two were a nuisance to the big teams with Wigan getting the scalp of Liverpool, Man. United and Arsenal before thrashing Newcastle 4-0. Swansea on their part beat Liverpool, Arsenal and Man. City, and left a mark on Chelsea and United.

Miscelleanous
Oil money is good please, very good. City have won the league, Anzhi stays poaching at the big clubs… they’ll get it right soon. PSG have only itself to blame for Montpellier’s Ligue 1 triumph but we all agree le Parisien is set to dominate the Ligue 1 as Lyon did not too long ago.

Chelsea’s oil money finally won a Champions League and now, I can’t but pray Alisher Usmanov buys enough shares at Arsenal! Praying for some tycoon to buy Lazio and restore the glory days of Sergio Cragnotti albeit without the boardroom troubles.

Further up the Italian league and the Old Lady is back. Unbeaten through the league season and beaten by Napoli to the Coppa Italia means Juventus went through the Italian football season with just a defeat… greatness!

While Juventus seems to be back, along with the promotion of Torino to Lega Calcio; bringing back the Turin derby to Serie A fixtures, Italy waved farewell to a number of fond names there.

Alessandro Del Piero played his final game for Juve in the Coppa Italia final loss while veterans Filippo Inzaghi, Gennaro Gatusso and Clerance Seedorf will leave AC Milan this summer. An emotional end to the Italian campaign all round.

And an emotional campaign it was,especially with the Livorno player (Piermario Morosini) that died of a cardiac arrest. May he rest in peace, amen. Makes Fabrice Muamba’s recovery from same situation all the more appreciated.

To Stay Quiet Till Full Time
No I don’t mean how City win the league in the afterlife, sort of. Someone here had wagered on a Bayern win and (no) thanks to Thomas Müller begun to brag how he’d become N30,000 richer.

We were happy for him… then Drogba equalised!

The End.

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How Chelsea Won the Champions League


If ever there previously was a team more undeserving to win a title, Bayern Munich last night went a few steps beyond such courtesy of their display in the Champions League final ‘at home’ against Chelsea.

Contrary to being abject, the Bavarians were lively for most of the two hours of normal and extra time played at their Allianz Arena, piling intense pressure that bore 34 attempts on goal with 21 of those on target along with 20 corner kicks and 55% of the ball.

Chelsea may have showed up in Munich for the final, but the players’ approach throughout invoked the spirits that made the Blues knock Barcelona out at the Camp Nou late in April.

The Londoners could only muster nine attempts at the Bayern goal, with just six of them giving Manuel Neuer something to do instead of being a spectator. Chelsea also only managed one corner kick all night. It came two minutes to full time in normal time, five minutes after Thomas Müller had given the ‘home’ side a ‘deserved’ lead.

Didier Drogba rose gracefully to head the ball past Neuer at his near post to equalise to restore belief for the Londoners and knock the tempo down from a cocaine high to a lucozade high for Bayern.

Drogba could’ve won it in normal time but he sent his freekick, the last kick of normal time, well into the stands similarly to Mario Gomez earlier in the first half after the striker had used body movement to displace Gary Cahill and have a full view of goal.

Gomez disappointed on the night, but Arjen Robben somehow went from being denied from his numerous menacing forays into the Chelsea area to being a welcome nuisance to the Chelsea defence that found it difficult to contain him yet would’ve been forgiven for feeling assured it would all come to nothing.

Robben had made some space in the box in the first half of normal time and fired hard and low at the Chelsea goal, denied by a combination of Cech’s limbs and the post.

He, along with Franck Ribery, created good chances for Gomez and Müller that went begging but the moment was in first half of extra time after Drogba had fell Ribery in the box… PENALTY!

Robben smacked his spotkick hard and low to Cech’s left but the Czech goalkeeper followed to smother and save… and knock the tempo from a lucozade high right down to the pitch itself.

This was when I believed it was not going to be Bayern’s night, with the rest of extra time ticking away for the lottery of penalty kicks.

Phillip Lahm’s kick barely evaded Cech’s gloves, but he scored. Juan Mata, enjoying a fine Cup run in his debut season for Chelsea, saw his kick saved by Neuer. Advantage Bayern.

Gomez finally found the net, Neuer also scored. David Luiz and Frank Lampard kept Chelsea in it with successful penalties. Then up came Ivica Olic for Bayern’s fourth.

Cech saved.

The Chelsea goalkeeper had followed every penalty kick taken against him on the night, and now he’d saved two of four. Ashley Cole complemented Cech’s effort by scoring Chelsea’s fourth kick. Up came Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Well… I thought it was the moment. Schweinsteiger saw his penalty calmly hit the post and he may not have, but I hoped to the gods from where I sat watching in Ilorin that the ball’d hit Cech’s back and casually roll into the net.

The gods must’ve been watching Avengers and be chuckling from the scene Loki got bamboozled at Stark Towers by the green one… I digress.

Having won League Cups and FA Cups for Chelsea, Drogba stepped up and did what John Terry should’ve done four years ago. Drogba’s winning spot kick killed a lot of demons from that night in Moscow.

It likely also signals the start of the end of Essien, Bosingwa, Malouda, Lampard and Drogba’s Chelsea careers but more imperatively, the beginning of a new era at Stamford Bridge orchestrated by Juan Mata, Ramires, Meireles, Gary Cahill, Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres and Marko Marin.

This new era will see Chelsea not whimper about missing the Special One but hopefully, keep faith in an interim manager that has taken the club beyond expectations with personnel available to him.

Roberto di Matteo has tinkered with the squad almost as much as Andre Villas-Boas did from August to March, but the Italian played his cards so much better than his Portuguese counterpart, choosing the high risk path and forfeiting a good finish on the Premier League table for the glory of the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League trophy.

*takes out Arsenal related paragraphs*

*considers putting them in another post… *

They certainly didn’t play beautiful football, they may actually not be as good as previous Chelsea teams but they have won Europe’s top club prize and after losing at home in Moscow, it was a fitting was to have Roman’s ego restored at their opponent’s home turf.

Congratulations to Chelsea FC.

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Down to the Last Laugh: Chelsea or Newcastle?


Chelsea welcomed Newcastle United to the Bridge with quite a lot of imperative side stories attached to the encounter between sides gunning for a finish in Champions League places.

Though the Blues are in the Champions League final; where a win over ‘hosts’ Bayern Munich will secure a place in next season’s competition regardless of their league position at season’s end, a win last night would put them a point off 4th place and two off third.

But interim manager Roberto di Matteo had an eye and a bit of the other on this weekend’s cup final against Loserpool as evident with the line-up devoid of Lampard, Juan Mata and the Drog from start.

Admittedly though, Chelsea’s line-up was strong enough with Fernando Torres apparently off the hook regarding whatever kept his scoring boots from him along with Mikel, the midield -eses among others.

As for Newcastle, they came into this encounter off of a thumping from my club of April Wigan. And with Manchester City visiting on Sunday, their performance at the Bridge would largely if we should look forward to a City romp or a thrilling affair.

Papiss Demba Cisse hit a drill past Cech just under 20 minutes and let Kompany and company know what to expect on Sunday. And if they missed that memo, the Senegalese bargain made sure they got the message with a speculative, moment of ‘what the sporting fuck did he just do??’ four minutes into the dozen minutes of stoppage time given.

Alan Pardew’s celebration(s) almost summed it up. Coupled with the goal against Swansea, Cisse in my opinion will get the goal of the season award… apologies to my captain vantastic, you get second place here.

So, with Newcastle coming away 2-0 winners, it’s a three-way fight for two Champions League places in the league along with Arsenal (66points) and the Sillywhites (65points) that is ahead of the Magpies on goal difference.

Here’s the juicy twist though, Chelsea on 61 points isn’t mathematically out of it from the league point of view with two games to play. But last night’s loss makes the date at Munich even more crucial for them and for the three ahead of them.

I’ve always loved Mario Gomez and his crew!

Last night’s result also set up what I hope will be an engrossing encounter between Newcastle and Man. City. I did tweet that City would win the derby but not the league and anything other than a win for City on Sunday would likely vindicate that tweet.

Other Side Stories
Cisse’s brace made it 13 in a dozen for the Senegal international, a record goal return equal with Kevin Phillips and Micky Quinn (BBC).

You have to feel a bit sorry for Demba Ba then, who was denied a goal by Cech’s bar last night to extend his goal drought past the thousand minute mark. Demba’s become a Fernando :(.

Meanwhile, we’ve witnessed a number of scary moments this season and one would’ve thought Mikel Obi had loosened the screws holding Tiote’s head last night.

So the 12 minutes of stoppage time wasn’t a ‘PDP’ move to let Chelsea back in the game (if you didn’t watch the match), though John Terry did see a goal bound effort cleared off the line just before Cisse’s fantasy strike.

While hoping Tiote’s all good, the Sillywhites were kind enough to push Bolton deeper into the relegation water with a 4-1 win at the Reebok… not minding how it’d go with Muamba’s heart.

Either way it was good seeing Muamba in the stadium, his first time in public since his heart stopped while playing same opponent couple months ago.

Over at Firenze though, hearts raged in the 2-2 draw between Fiorentina and Novara. By the end of the night, Delio Rossi had been relieved of his job as Fiorentina manager.

For a neutral, it may have been comical when the incident occured after 30 minutes of the match. With Novara 2-0 up, Rossi substituted Adem Ljajic.

The Serbian, bemused by the sub, applauded his manager’s decision. Rossi was not so pleased by this and menacingly confronted the player down the tunnel.

While it was wrong of Rossi to outrightly lose his cool, I feel the Fiorentina president should have imposed a heavy fine on the manager and player for the confrontation.

Sacking Rossi is a bit heavy handed, especially in light of the Violas sadly precarious place on the Serie A table at 15th position. Que sera…

On a final note, I thought I’d clear it up. Punkenstein is an alter ego of @_deleke, same one that writes occasionally for @goonermemoirs.

Have a pleasant day.

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CR7 Puts Matters into Perspective


Despite the efforts of Iker Casillas at redeeming his Real Madrid team’s horrid start to the six-yard lottery shots, Bayern Munich will square up with Chelsea for the ultimate prize in European club football.

A jet paced start to the match saw CR7 “not do a Messi” and give the Merengues the lead before once again being the recipient of a Mesut Ozil assist to put Real 2-0 up in the night and 3-2 ahead on aggregate.

Both goals came either side of Arjen Robben side-footing over when scoring seemed sure… before bundling himself into the Madrid net, comic consolation.

The Dutchman soon after got the ball into net from the penalty spot and level aggregate scores. The rest of the night was huff and puff really, with Mario Gomez squandering a number of chances, CR7 sending two ‘trademark’ ‘spot kicks’ straight into Manuel Neuer’s waiting gloves before poking a third well over.

And Kaká… the Brazilian was uncharacteristically below par after replacing Angel di Maria and him going off for Granero rather than Ozil wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

And indeed it wouldn’t have, as Kaká saw his penalty saved by Neuer after extra time had seen no further goals scored. Kaká’s was Madrid’s second penalty, the first had also been missed.

Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo eventually did a Messi. Neuer did very well to get down and save ego personified’s six-yard lottery shot. Thus putting Messi’s miss into perspective… “shit happens!”.

Why Kaká decided to duplicate CR7’s spot kick is a bit annoying, and Neuer obliged gladly by duplicating the save. It was Bayern’s UCL final ticket now…

Cue in the drama that had gone awol from the second half through to extra time and Casillas saved a poorly taken pelanty from Badstuber; who will miss the final suspended, before putting his left arm out in position to keep out Philip Lahm’s pelanty as well. A top draw save there.

Xabi Alonso had put Madrid on their way back between both Casillas saves, or so it seemed. Up stepped Sergio Ramos, the man who has seen red almost as frequently as the Bayern squad.

He missed, in a most woeful manner.

That left Bastian Sch… *quits trying to spell name without looking it up*… weinsteiger to send the Bavarians home, on the night, for that night, for the night.

It also left me (and I’m sure it’s not just me) wondering why Ramos when it could have been either of Higuain or Granero. Putting things to perspective, again… “shit happens!”.

All that said, this saves the world from another round of Martian Messi vs. Lord Ronaldo previews. We’ll instead have another proper final between teams that will be extremely motivated albeit differently.

Bayern will be playing in front of home fans, and be sure the beer will flow that day even before the match’s over and more so should Bayern win.

Chelsea meanwhile will play knowing it’s their best chance of making next season’s Champions League. The Blues are not out of contention to finish fourth in the Premier League but it’s not like Newcastle United would do the West Londoners a favour and sleep off at this moment, Tottenham though… *smh.

That said, it’s actually the best possible final for neutrals of the beautiful game. We’ll get to argue over theatrics by Drogba, Ribery and Robben though we’d rather a pulsating tussle for the right to be crowned kings of Europe.

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Chelsea FC: Exceeded Expectations


I’ll be honest to admit that Chelsea have far exceeded my expectations in the gruelling period the Blues have just gone through, one that leaves them on the brink of FA Cup and Champions League glory while being set to finish potentially outside the top four.

The latter bit of the reality at Stamford Bridge sets the club up for quite the thrilling climax to their season, which I’ll expatiate on right after coming to terms with what the club have achieved.

Following the draw in the West London derby at Craven Cottage, Chelsea was faced with a tasking run of matches that would see them face the Sillywhites in the FA Cup semi final before hosting Barcelona four days after, visiting Arsenal three days after and then visiting Barça in the return leg of their Champions League semi final.

A poor decision by the referee may have helped a very little in the 5-1 demolition of the Sillywhites but nonetheless it was a scoreline I least expected, as I was hoping those Londoners would rise to the occasion and serve up an intriguing semi-final that (preferably) would stretch into extra time and even to penalties.

Then came Barcelona to town and despite “gaining all the world”, it benefitted them none as Didier Drogba’s strike on the stroke of half time proved the only goal of the UCL semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge. Crucially, Barça was twice denied by the Chelsea post and more so, Ashley Cole cleared a Fabregas effort off the line.

Next up was Arsenal, my dear Arsenal at the Ems. With eight changes made; changes that meant no starting shirts for Mata, Lampard, Mikel, Ivanovic with a suspension, Ramires, Meireles and gunner-nemesis Drogba with a ‘knee injury’, Arsenal should’ve won this derby.

Alas, we were twice denied by the post but (thankfully) unlike Barça, there was no Drogba to score a match winner. Unfortunately, we neither got that. Goalless draw that ultimately left both clubs satisfied not to have lost.

At this point, it didn’t seem to me anymore that Roberto di Matteo had been riding his luck since becoming interim manager at the Bridge. He’d tinkered with the squad so much that Salomon Kalou was getting more games than the AVB-preferred Daniel Sturridge, and he was being vindicated all the way through those testy affairs.

One last tinkering needed to be done, at the imposing Camp Nou where Barcelona had won 24 successive league matches prior to effectively losing the title to mortal rivals Real Madrid with that 2-1 loss. Match winner of that night CR7 had been crowned world player of the year soon after, a move labelled immature and not well thought through…

If the first leg was dramatic, the second leg’s was gilt-edged epic as goals from Sergio ‘diving talent left unappreciated’ Busquets and Andres Iniesta either side of John Terry’s sending off meant Barcelona was cruising to another Champions League final, this time at Munich.

But just as against Real Madrid, the Catalans got pegged right after scoring with Ramires coming through with the crucial away goal for the Blues to wrap up a pulsating last 10 minutes of the first half.

Second half began in a frenzy and when the world’s beloved Lionel Messi stepped up to take that (hotly contested among fans hundred and thousand miles away) penalty, I’d have had my face, with its defeated countenance, covered by my palms if I was a fan of the Blues.

Messi missed.

That penalty in my opinion made the 2012 world footballer of the year crown that of CR7, and that’s even if Real Madrid fail to make the Champions League final. It was a ‘moment’ that would surely have set tikitaka on their way to another final and the headlines would’ve told another tale of greatness from the Leo.

Alas… Messi missed!

I cannot imagine the levels the emotions of Chelsea fans such as my oldest brother would’ve reached in the closing moments of the match, more so when Messi saw an effort come off the Chelsea post and surreally so when El Niño sealed the fate of the night with a second goal for Chelsea deep in stoppage time… and probably also a place in Spain’s Euro 2012 armada.

There’s still some way to go for the Blues though, with two matches against Liverpool in the league and FA Cup final to come along with a league match against the in-form Newcastle United… thin is the line between a glorious campaign with two cups in the kitty or what could end up being a “what could have been… ” season.

As for Barcelona, “no love lost… no love found”. Fans of the Catalan club can cqmp with gooners who know all too well what it feels like to be thrown out of contention from at least two competitions in a week.

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London Olympics: Football’s Headache in Uniting a Kingdom


At club level, England boasts of some of the world’s best football teams such as Liverpool and Manchester United, alone with eight European Cup wins to their name along with the London duo of Arsenal and Chelsea while Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City should probably have their ambitions of breaking the Big-Four’s monopoly taken more seriously based on both’s improvement over the last few seasons, culminating in Spurs reaching the UEFA Champions League quarter final in only its first appearance last season and City lifting the last FA Cup, defeating city rivals United along the way.

The rest of the British Isle lies well behind the English Premier League both competitively and lucratively with the closest competition, the Scottish Premier League, being a standard golf course apart from matching the EPL’s prowess and global appeal with some yards to spare.

While the biggest clubs from the other nations of the British Isle have been unable to match their English counterparts, those nations have actually produced quality footballers that have reached the heights, some of whom are Liverpool’s Scottish manager Kenny Dalglish who is part of Celtic’s greatest team of all time along with fellow Scot Jimmy Johnstone. Other fine footballers these nations have produced are Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale from Wales, Darren Fletcher, Craig Gordon, Kris Boyd and Allan McGregor from Scotland as well as Irishmen John O’Shea, Ian Hart, Roy Keane and Robbie Keane among many others.

Unfortunately, most of these footballers along with their English counterparts have achieved naught in their international sojourns despite their potential being capable of earning such acclaim as evident with their individual successes at club level.

Hence, the British Olympic Association’s move to have a Great Britain football team participate at the London Olympics of 2012 rather than the individual nations with the logic being to afford footballers from each nation of the Isle such as those aforementioned; and the individual nations on the side, the chance to have a taste of success at the international level.

It should be noted that the closest international success came to any nation of the Isle was at the European Championship of 1996 with England only able to reach the semi-final stage. A decade and half of underachievement at four FIFA World Cups, three European Championships and three Olympic Games have since been endured.

This gives credence to the BOA’s idea of a Great Britain football team representing at the Olympics London will host. The manner the Association has gone about bringing the team to fluid fruition may however have put the dream in jeopardy with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations claiming that the BOA only approached the English FA with the idea, and therefore cannot be seen to be in agreement with creating a football team for Great Britain.

The trio also stated that being a part of the proposal will confuse the individual identities of the nations. This is despite that FIFA has assured the BOA of each nation’s identity remaining intact in the aftermath of them contributing to the cause.

I strongly believe both sides should drop the egos and reach a compromise on the matter because in reality, none of the nations in the Isle can put up a commendable showing, let alone win Olympic gold come 2012; England’s U-21s a typical reason as to why. Having the best of each nation however may see Great Britain put up a commendable performance in front of the cheering faithfuls on home turf.

As it is now, should BOA go ahead with its plan of having a Great Britain football team for the first time since the Rome Olympics of 1960 without reaching a compromise with the trio that are being initially stubborn, then such team will likely predominantly compose of English players. Any success achieved then would not be shared!

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