Posts Tagged Venus Williams

Over the Weekend: Elegant Fergie, Mancini Out and More


I’m terribly sorry if the quote comes across as very inappropriate but “It never hits you till it (casket) goes down” was how it hit that last Sunday, in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last match at Old Trafford as Manchester United manager, after 27 years at the helm.

The stadium was red throughout, players from both sides minus Judas-tendencies gave the 71 year old a guard of honour and appropriately, goals in each half from Javier Hernandez and Rio Ferdinand’s first in five years ensured the wily Scotsman’s Old Trafford reign ended on a high… complete with the league title presentation that followed the match.

Ferguson, who before the match came out of the tunnel chewing on a gum after greeting members of the youth team, acknowledged the crowd for the years, implored them to support “the new manager” as they’ve done him, praised the team for the league title and convincing manner it was won, honoured Paul Scholes who (finally… for the second time) retired and… didn’t hug or spend more than a moment with Wayne Rooney upon the latter’s turn to receive his championship medal.

The cold treatment resonated around the stadium whose spectators neither booed nor more importantly cheered the 27 year old that handed in a transfer request last week right after Fergie announced he’d retire end of this season.

Indeed Rooney’s timing of his request couldn’t be more off and considering that, unlike the first time when he tried forcing the club’s hands with a transfer request years ago, Rooney no longer is arguably United’s most important player. Would be interesting if he joined Arsenal but the French capital seems a more likely destination at the moment in which all are just rumours.

Word also is that Radamel Falcao is potentially going to play in France next season for principality club AS Monaco, which only returned to the Ligue 1 but is owned by yet another Russian billionaire who, coupled with the (French Football Federation challenged) tax exempt the club enjoys from being based at Monte Carlo, is bent on spending the club’s way to the echelons as the Qataris at Paris St. Germain are doing.

The spending at the French capital yielded some fruit on Sunday night when a lone Jeremy Menez goal early in the second half gave PSG the win it needed at third placed Olympique Lyon to claim its first league title in 19 years and third in its young, 41 year history.

Whether it marks the start of a dominant period; similar to that of Lyon in the last decade, for PSG predicted by many when the money came to town remains to be seen, especially with the fact that PSG’s win makes it a sixth consecutive season a different club has won the Ligue 1 (Lyon in ’08, Bordeaux in ’09, Marseille in ’10, Lille in ’11 and Montpellier’s first ever last season).

All that without mentioning Monaco’s coming to the big boys circle, a coming which would pretty much be stamped with Falcao’s arrival, confirmation of which is reportedly being held back till after Atletico Madrid’s Copa Del Rey final match against Real Madrid which holds on Friday at the Bernabeu.

That match would be fundamental to both Madrid clubs’ season after a disappointing 1-1 draw at Espanyol by Real confirmed Espanyol’s city rivals Barcelona as La Liga champions on Saturday, only for Barça to come from a Falcao goal down to claim a 2-1 win at Atletico on Sunday, rubbing it in on the clubs from the Spanish capital.

Though they may have become much less glamorous than their Spanish capital club counterparts, the Italian capital clubs had contrasting fortunes over the weekend, with Roma managing an eventful goalless draw at AC Milan in a match that saw Francesco Totti get sent off and Mario Balotelli get racially abused by Roma fans; earning the Giallorossi a £42,000 fine.

Lazio meanwhile fared better in getting a third win on the bounce at home to Sampdoria earlier on Sunday. And with both sides to face off for the Coppa Italia in June, sixth placed Lazio went two points clear of Roma with a game to go, but remain two points behind Udinese that occupies the last Europa League spot in fifth place after a 2-1 win over Atalanta.

Further up the table, Napoli sealed second spot and group stage qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League with a 2-1 win over relegated Siena while Fiorentina closed the gap on third placed Milan to two points with a lone goal win over Palermo, a result that sent Palermo down to Serie B while Fiorentina and Milan’s fight for the last Champions League spot will be settled on the final day this weekend.

In England, Tottenham Hotspur occupy that spot thanks to a comeback 2-1 win at Stoke City, which put them three points behind Chelsea that guaranteed a top four finish with same result as Spurs, earned through second half goals midfielder Frank Lampard who as a result became the club’s top scorer of all time with 203 goals.

Chelsea now lead north London rivals Arsenal by four points, though the Gunners can reduce that gap to a point in Tuesday night’s crunch match at home to Wigan Athletic. The Latics visit the Emirates desperately needing a win to keep fading hopes of sinking with the relegation ship alive.

And they go into the match on a skyhigh following a not so shocking 1-0 win over Manchester City to win the FA Cup on Saturday via a 91st minute Watson header. That result inevitably led to the sacking of Roberto Mancini who was relieved on Monday night from his job there. Fair? Arguably, yes.

Whatever the case is, Mancini’s availability adds to an increasing number of high profile managers who will be available for appointments ahead of next season and hence, makes the ‘manager transfer market’ far more interesting to follow than that of the players… moreso after PSG blocked Real Madrid from approaching Carlo Ancelotti to replace Jose Mourinho.

Maybe Los Blancos will turn their focus on Mancini now, or interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez. Certainly not Arsene Wenger whose Arsenal side meanwhile also desperately need a win against Wigan to get back into the top four and keep the chances of qualification to next season’s Champions League entirely in their hands.

Back home, it’s still early days but results from match-day 11 fixtures played over the weekend has seen competition at the top of the Nigeria Professional Football League become intense, with the top 10 clubs separated by just three points.

Kano Pillars remain top of the log with 19 points from 10 matches, despite a crushing 3-0 loss against a ‘motivated’ Enyimba side whose players were last week put on half pay following a string of poor results.

Rangers and Sunshine Stars failed to take advantage of the reigning champions loss at Aba, with Rangers held to a 1-1 draw by fifth placed Bayelsa United in Enugu while Sunshine drew goalless at home to third from bottom ABS of Ilorin.

Ilorin’s bigger club Kwara United recorded a 2-0 win at home to El Kanemi Warriors to rise to fourth on the league table with 18 points, behind Rangers and Sunshine respectively on goal difference while Shooting Stars of Ibadan dropped to ninth with 16 points following a goalless draw at Port Harcourt against Sharks.

Heartland got a 2-1 win at home to Akwa United and is now seventh with 16 points, a point behind Bayelsa United and Nembe City that both occupy fifth spot due to their identical record so far, while Wikki Tourists of Bauchi remain bottom of the league with nine points despite a 1-1 draw at Nasarawa United.

Rounding up, Serena Williams claimed her 50th singles title in tennis after beating world number two Maria Sharapova to win the Mutua Madrid Open barely a fortnight to the French Open Grand Slam in Paris.

While winning that, older sister Venus Williams continued to show signs of “maybe it’s time I do a Fergie” at the Rome Masters as she was beaten in the opening round by Laura Robson.

In the men’s section of the Madrid Open, Rafael Nadal overcame Swiss man Stanislas Wawrinka for his fifth title in seven tournaments since returning from injury, losing in the final of the other two and putting him in the best form possible ahead of his favourite grand slam on the calendar.

And in Formula 1, another Spaniard claimed victory as Fernando Alonso of Ferrari won the Spanish grand prix in his hometown Barcelona ahead of Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen amd Ferrari mate Felipe Massa, while world champion Sebastien Vettel could only finish in fourth ahead of his RedBull mate Mark Webber.

Vettel however still leads the drivers’ championship with 89 points, though Raikkonen is now just four points behind in second place while Alonso managed to cut Vettel’s lead on him to 17 points.

That’s the bit from here. Would be very interesting to see if Arsenal confine Wigan to relegation or Wigan seriously dent Arsenal’s Champions League ambitions in Tuesday night’s highlight match.

Also in Tuesday night, a sulking Manchester City visit Reading while on Wednesday Chelsea will look to win a European cup in successive seasons when they play a Benfica side smarting from a stoppage time 2-1 loss at archrivals FC Porto in the Europa League final, a loss that put Porto a point ahead of Benfica atop the league with a game to play. Painful.

Anyway, here’s to an Arsenal win on Tuesday (a loss would definitely jolt Wenger et al to life but… ), a Benfica win (just because… ) and a productive week to you wherever you are.

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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.

Racism
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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