Posts Tagged Newcastle United

Over the Weekend: Undereagles Soar, Révolution à Chateauneuf et Balotelli à Milano


What is an African Cup of Nations? One in which a west African nation will defend the Cup in north Africa two years after winning it in South Africa where a southern African nation was dethroned? That would be it, mostly, as the east African nations basically put up a no show.

Following a slow start to the 2013 AFCON, the goals started coming and perhaps more importantly, we were gradually served up largely entertaining matches and now, an all west African semi-final.

Ghana was first into the last four, ending a fairytale that came from the mediterranean cape to its maiden Nations Cup appearance at the expense of Lions made domitable, before coming from a goal down to get a late winner and make the last eight from a group it contested with hosts South Africa, the unfortunate Moroccans their neighbour and a desperately disappointing Angola that isn’t even close to being as good as the shadow of the side that was an an Eagle’s cryptonite on their way to the 2006 World Cup.

Cape Verde impressed many with their football, proof of them being cousins with the Portuguese – and indeed Manchester United’s midfielder Nani has a cousin in the Blue Sharks team – and after a nervous first half against Ghana, they succumbed to a penalty; which sparked perhaps their best football display all tournament, and a stoppage time goal off a punt forward with the goal unguarded.

A painful exit yet a most admirable maiden appearance from the Blue Sharks who without doubt are one of AFCON 2013’s highlights. There focus now will turn to the second round of qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup, where ironically they lie bottom of Group B without a point after two matches; a group led by Tunisia that didn’t go past the group stage of the ongoing AFCON.

Next after Cape Verde’s heroics was undereagles Nigeria’s downing of the mighty Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire, overly overwhelming favourites for the Cup only to, yet again, fall short just as Spain used to and the Netherlands still do.

Ivorian goalkeeper Barry did not see Emenike’s incoming bullet for Nigeria’s first goal and though the Ivorians equalised minutes into the second half, Nigeria to my surprise was not entirely outplayed, as both sides created chances to get a winner.

And what a winner it was, magnificent solo effort from Sunday Mba who gliding past a number of Elephants from midfield and sent a shot past Barry, with the help of a slight deflection but who cares, it was the match winner, a worthy one too.

Two things I got from that match, however pessimistic one is about something that is a part of you, you’ll end up still hoping for that thing’s best. Secondly, Mba’s goal was great advertisement for the Nigerian Premier League; where a new season should kick-off mid-February barring any more trivial administrative raucous.

Okay there was a third, which is the grace in defeat shown by the Ivorian team who wished their Nigerian counterparts to go on and win the Cup. We’ll first have to go past Mali to accomplish that.

Right… there was a fourth lesson from the match, which is @TheRealEboue is not the real Eboue. Or maybe folks on twitter just enjoy… never mind.

I’ll be damned but… there’s a fifth thing I got from that match, and I’m not particularly elated by it, by Gervinho’s imminent return to the Arsenal set-up earlier than scheduled for he had promised to make up for his penalty miss in last year’s AFCON final by scoring the Cup winning goal this time.

Arsenal may well do with his return, as the Gunners currently lie in sixth place on the Premier League table but just five points off third placed Chelsea that lost to le révolution de France à Châteauneuf.

Newcastle United, Châteauneuf Uni in a fairly rough sense, are a team reborn with the influx of French nationals to the team and though it was Argentine Jonas Gutierrez that headed Alan Pardew’s side ahead on Saturday, a brace from Moussa Sissokho earned the Magpies a last minute 3-2 win in a highly thrilling affair that saw the Blues score two early second half goals to overturn Gutierrez’s opener; Mata’s goal still setting nerve ends in my brain loose with the sheer finesse he scored it with. Gosh.

Another revolution set in motion meanwhile heralded in the Serie A where Mario ‘why always me?’ Balotelli marked his debut for AC Milan with both goals in a 2-1 win over Udinese. Last time someone got a brace on their Milan debut, he ended up being prolific for the Rossoneri. That person was Oliver Bierhoff.

As it is a new start for Balotelli in a city he knows very well, it seems also to mark a new era for Milan, notoriously known for being the club of pensioners. With Mario, El-Sharwama and Niang however, the Rossoneri blood is being freshened and a second round tango with Barcelona in the Champions League is just about an appropriate test of that.

On that young shall grow note, it’s a wrap. Going on a break here was hard but necessary and today, I’ll write my last first semester paper; French. Rather than be a show-off I’ll keep it simple and bid you au revoir jusqu’à samedi matin.

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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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An Imploding Cannon


I feel Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has become too engrossed in bringing out the best or making the most out of the talent(s) of the players at his disposal; most of whom he still regards as ‘youngsters’, as well as looking out for their interests first rather than the team’s that he now finds it quite difficult to win a trophy. The Frenchman; unfortunately for Arsenal, has allowed his emotions toward the Cannon badge side cloud his much better judgment.

For me, the 2010/11 season ranks as the highest level of impotence the Gunners have shown since its unenviable trophy-drought run began after that pyrrhic victory on penalties at the 2005 FA Cup final. Moreover, the north London side has only itself to blame for not winning at least one trophy this season having lost the League Cup final to rank outsiders Birmingham City; no thanks to a lack of communication between a French defender and his Polish goalkeeper, and then allowed a few results to be such as:

Arsenal 0-1 Newcastle United >>> the Toons won with perhaps one of two forays towards the Arsenal goal that day, blessed with a bit of eccentricity on the part of Lukasz Fabianski. Some misfortune for Arsenal at the Newcastle goal meant a sure three points failed to materialize for the Gunners at a time Newcastle was in poor form.

Arsenal 2-3 Westbromwich-Albion >>> With the Gunners in good form, the Baggies were no match for their hosts on paper and Arsenal duly obliged by resting a number of the regular starters. The visitors on their part duly took advantage by racing to a deserved 3-0 lead earned through some breathtaking football by them and it wasn’t till Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri were introduced that the score was made a bit less embarrassing. My failing ego as a Gooner fell a few notches that day though.

Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur >>> It is like a stone forced down the throat losing to one’s fiercest rivals, worse still when the match is lost on home turf with a capacity crowd watching on and gravely worse so when such match is lost having ended the first half leading 2-0. The Lilywhites, much credit to them, picked up and took their game to a level the Gunners; by then too cozy to keep the rampaging second half Spurs at bay, couldn’t cope with thus seeing Spurs record a famous win at the Emirates. Another low blow to my Gooner ego.

Newcastle United 4-4 Arsenal >>> Took me five minutes to start typing this part… absolutely indescribably ludicrous result for Arsenal that couldn’t have asked for a better first half display that resulted into a 4-0 lead by half time. A lack of team discipline generally and individual discipline from Abou Diaby meant what shouldn’t have been… became. Thus allowing Newcastle United to prize four points from Arsenal this season. Champion material… not!

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool >>> Unfortunate injury to Jamie Carragher in a clash of heads with teammate Flanaghan meant eight minutes of added time was given at the Emirates with the game still goalless at 90 minutes. Dutchman Robin van Persie; whose impeccable form in 2011 came to nothing unfortunately, scored a 98th minute penalty and seemed to have earned three points that would have boosted Arsenal’s shot at overturning Manchester United’s lead in the title race. Alas, Arsenal conceded a penalty converted by another Dutchman Dirk Kuyt in the 102nd minute. Both teams did not deserve to lose in all fairness with Arsenal producing another attacking master class on the day and Liverpool doing likewise with their defensive display but when you take the lead after 98 minutes in a game of 90 minutes, you don’t just lose!

Tottenham Hotspur 3-3 Arsenal >>> Even though the two-goal lead began dissipating after just three minutes, it remains on record that Arsenal led 3-1 at some point at White Hart Lane and oh the joy Gooners were feeling right then. It was no doubt a great game of football for the purists but it was the fans of the Lilywhites that enjoyed the final outcome, a result that meant Arsenal missed out on being just four points behind league leaders Man. United and hence remain in firm contention for the league title with four matches left of the season then. Instead, it allowed Chelsea replace Arsenal in second place on goal difference, six points behind the Red Devils.

It was after this match at White Hart Lane that Arsenal’s window to realistically catch-up with United in the title race closed and yet again, Gooners are left with the cliché “we’ll see next season” being uttered… shut it!

Wenger needs to toughen up and be ‘axed’ to leave. It’d be a win-win situation as Arsenal needs to return to being a real football club and not an avenue for family gathering on the weekends and the occasional weekdays and Wenger could do with a break from football though I’m sure it’s far from his mind, hence a new atmosphere under which he can manage. He is a very good manager so getting another high profile, Champions League assuring job shouldn’t pose an obstacle as winning a trophy has been since 2005.

Arsenal needs a leader, Francesc Fàbregas is an exceptional talent and a world-class supplier of passes and team creativity but with so much at stake, it takes charisma and firm composure to lead a football club of Arsenal’s stature and Fàbregas is only just assuming these qualities as a player.

Finally, at least one more defender in the mould of Thomas Vermaelen would greatly shore up the backline and give a viable alternative in the event of Vermaelen missing virtually the whole season as he did this season.

©ð.òÁ

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Wolfsburg, Bordeaux Begin Daunting Defence of League Titles


This weekend will see the start of the French Ligue 1 and German Bundesliga with Girondins Bordeaux and Vfl Wolfsburg under much pressure to replicate or improve the form that saw the duo win its respective league titles.

First in France and Bordeaux will have mainly Olympique Lyon; winner of the seven previous league seasons, and Olympique Marseille to contend with this season as well as the likes of Paris St. Germain and OSC Lille.

Bordeaux manager Laurent Blanc has kept the core of his team for the season with the main player being Youann Gourcuff along with fellow midfielder Youann Gouffran and strikers Wendell and Fernando Cavenaghi while Marouane Chamakh could remain with the club till January owing to the protracted transfer saga with him, Bordeaux and Arsenal.

While Blanc can be confident of going for the Ligue 1 title having finished runner-up two seasons ago but holding off Lyon this season may be much harder than it was last season.

Lyon may have lost top scorer Karim Benzema to Real Madrid but the money from that transfer has been used to orchestrate the arrival of Lisandro Lopez from FC Porto, Spanish striker David Guiza and Bafetimbi Gomis from local rivals St. Etienne.

The third main challenger for the French title is Olympique Marseille that have former French national team captain Didier Deschamps at the helm following the resignation of Eric Gerets after a good season.

Marseille have retained top striker Mamadou Niang, talented midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa and Nigerian left back Taye Taiwo; the trio named as the key players ahead of the season by Deschamps. The Veldrome club have also strenghtened with the arrival of defender Lucho Lopez from title rivals Bordeaux but the key to Marseille’s title challenge would be thoroughly improving on its home record and keeping the away record of last season.

PSG, Toulouse and OSC Lille have kept the core of their team with PSG favoured to be the outside fourth challenger after running close last season, despite finishing 6th after a final day slip-up allowed Lille and Toulouse to overtake the Parisiens.

At Germany, Wolfsburg finds itself under even more pressure to retain its first league title just as its strike partnership will have all of Germany and not a few in the rest of Europe watching for a repeat of last season’s record goal haul.

Grafite and Edin Dzeko scored 54 goals between themselves to win the league for Wolfsburg and the addition of Obafemi Martins from Newcastle United will help a long way in easing that pressure of the Wolves.

Wolfsburg however find itself up against Bayern Munich that has brought Dutch tactician Louis van Gaal as manager and added prolific club scorer Mario Gomez to its ranks to bolster an already potent attack that has Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni.

By a mile, Bayern as always enter the season as favourites for the title but if last season’s close competition is to be taken into account, the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen would be rank outsiders for the title.

But the strongest looking challenge to the title is Schalke 04 courtesy of the capture Felix Magath who has won the Bundesliga title at Stuttgart, Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg last season.

Magath has, along with his experience in Europe’s highest scoring league, he has the core of last season’s team to work with at Schalke.

Both leagues begin their season this weekend with champions Bordeaux starting at home to RC Lens back from Ligue 2 while Lyon travel to Le Mans, Marseille will be at Grenoble and PSG also away at newly promoted Montpellier.

In Germany, Wolfsburg ironically face former boss Magath when Stuttgart visit the Volkswagen Arena on Friday while Bayern is away at Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi’s TSG Hoffenheim that has top scorer Vedad Ibisevic back from injury.

culled from http://www.mynaijanews.com

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