Monthly Archives: February 2011

Non-League Videos of the Week: Blue Premier Special

“This morning’s non-league videos of the week come from the Blue Square Bet Premier. Last weekend saw the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy, which involved a number of clubs from the fifth division, all of which left clubs that had already been eliminated from that particular competition to get on with the important job of accumulating points in the league.” twohundredpercent

Giovanni Hernandez – from mediocre to maestro

“There is no doubt about my favourite performance so far in this year’s Copa Libertadores. It is that of veteran Colombian playmaker Giovanni ‘The Prince’ Hernandez for Junior Barranquilla against Gremio of Brazil. The 34-year-old may have run out of puff in the second half, while Gremio tightened up their marking, but Hernandez took control, giving an exhibition of old style number 10 play after the Colombian side had gone behind to an early goal.” BBC – Tim Vickery

An Unfortunate Mishap

“After Arsenal’s loss in the Carling Cup final, I decided to open the second canister in that mysterious stack of dusty old D.W. Griffith films that were apparently never released in the 1910s and ’20s. I don’t know what this means, but I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to feel safe keeping these in the basement. I wonder whether that renegade antiques dealer is still doing business in Chinatown, and whether he’d take them back.” Run of Play

Football Weekly: Birmingham’s Carling Cup joy

“We begin by hearing from Tom Lutz about Birmingham City’s victory in the Carling Cup final. Blues will be competing in Europe next season – lucky Europeans get to savour the delights of Mr Egg as a result – but what now for Arsenal: just how badly will this defeat destabilise the rest of Arsenal’s season? Also in the podcast, we discuss Wayne Rooney’s elbow, Ashley Cole’s misadventures with an air rifle, the malaise at Plymouth and various battles on and off the pitch involving Port Vale, Wycombe and Macclesfield. Finally, we get up to speed on all the action in Ligue 1; James Horncastle brings us his inaugural Serie A round-up; and we hear all about Uli Hoeness’s magnificent sausages.” Guardian – James Richardson

Barcelona too strong for Mallorca

“Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez were all on the scoresheet as Barcelona saw off Real Mallorca 3-0 to power on at the top of the Primera Division standings. Messi gave Barca a first-half lead with his 26th league goal of the season before second-half strikes from Villa and Pedro helped Barca provisionally move eight points clear of second-placed Real Madrid, who play Deportivo La Coruna later this evening.” ESPN

Three great goals sink Mallorca (0-3)
“FC Barcelona may have been without Valdés, Alves, Puyol and Xavi in Mallorca, but they again demonstrated the depth in talent that Guardiola has at his disposal. Messi, Villa and Pedro were on target in the 3-0 win and Montoya made his debut.” FC Barcelona

Mallorca 0-3 FC Barcelona – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats
The 90th Minute

West Ham United 3 – 1 Liverpool

“West Ham today produced arguably their best display of the season to haul themselves back off the bottom of the Premier League and all but kill off Liverpool’s faint Champions League hopes. Goals from Scott Parker, Demba Ba – rapidly developing into one of the signings of the January transfer window – and Carlton Cole secured all three points at Upton Park and kept the pressure on the Hammers’ relegation rivals.” ESPN

West Ham firepower undoes Liverpool
“West Ham United’s season continues to hint at revival. The Londoners hoisted themselves from the foot and up amidst the clutter of clubs on 28 points either side of the cut-off by bringing to a juddering halt Liverpool’s eight-match unbeaten run here. This was a notable success, achieved in the knowledge that Wolves’ thumping win the previous day had demanded a response. Avram Grant’s team provided just that.” Guardian

West Ham United 3-1 Liverpool – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats
The 90th Minute

Wolfsburg 2-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach

“Wolfsburg defeated relegation rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach to move into 13th place, and more importantly, three points above the drop-zone. The stakes couldn’t have been higher before this one. Fifteenth-placed Wolfsburg, who knew a loss would set a new club record of five straight defeats, faced bottom-placed Gladbach, who won against Schalke last time out with a new coach in charge.” Defensive Midfielder

Cantona as Anti-Hero

“In classical literature the anti-hero is an evil misfit. In cinema he is a violent loose cannon. Yet we perpetually root for the bastard. From Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost to Schwarzenegger as the profoundly conflicted Terminator, cheering on the bad guy has never felt so delightful. And in football the anti-hero is Eric Cantona. The controversial Frenchman has just landed the job of Director of Soccer at New York Cosmos, but as far as I can see, America is blissfully unaware of Cantona—the footballing assassin sent from the past to wreak havoc on the Land of the Free. Let me explain: I’m an Englishman marooned in Hollywood, so it’s now my raison d’être to think of football as a beautiful narrative rather than a beautiful game. And Monsieur Cantona is an anti-hero straight from Central Casting.” Run of Play

Schalke 1-1 Nürnberg

“Schalke again flattered to deceive as this mid-table tie between two middling sides ended in a draw. Nürnberg came into the game looking to make it five wins in a row, after an impressive run of 14 points from the last 18 available. The Bavarians are as good as safe from relegation, and travelled to the Arena AufSchalke in a buoyant mood, perhaps seeking revenge for their DFB-Pokal exit at the hands of Felix Magath’s men last month.” Defensive Midfielder

Off the Field, a Woman Tames Brazil’s Soccer Fans

“As the gregarious Ronaldinho, one of the world’s best soccer players, emerged this month from the locker room in his black-and-red Flamengo club jersey and pulling at his trademark ponytail, fans erupted in applause. But a group of shirtless men in the seats below had their sights on someone else, turning toward a private box above and chanting.” NYT

Bayern 1-3 Dortmund: Schweinsteiger tries to play deep, but Dortmund don’t let him play

“Dortmund ended Bayern’s faint hopes of winning the Bundesliga with an impressive victory. Louis van Gaal kept the same XI that started the midweek win over Inter. Luis Gustavo played at left-back, whilst Danijel Pranjic was in the centre of midfield. Jurgen Klopp made one outfield change, welcoming back Neven Subotic in place of Felipe Santana, and also gave a debut to Mitchell Langerak in goal.” Zonal Marking

PSV 0 – 0 Ajax: Goalless but not shy of excitement

“Just three days after overcoming a deliberately weakened Lille side, PSV faced the perfect opportunity to create a definite gap with title rivals Ajax in this home game. Ajax, playing a 4-3-3 system, just like Lille did in Eindhoven a few days ago, looked to reduce the gap with PSV to just two points, aiming to keep their title ambitions alive, as was reflected in Frank de Boer’s words, going into this game: ‘It’s D-day!’.” 11 tegen 11

1940s Month: Zamora, Franco and Atletíco Aviación

“The Second World War caused severe disruption to formalised footballing competition throughout Europe, but Spain was left relatively untouched as it recovered from Civil War and remained neutral and non-belligerent under the leadership of General Francisco Franco. While the majority of the continent’s leagues were suspended during the conflict, La Liga ploughed on during the 1940s and produced some fascinating narratives, not least of which was the success of Atletíco Aviación.” The Equaliser


“But of course you already knew that. The fireworks displays and speeches at Buckingham Palace would have been hard to miss, and even outside London and Birmingham the TV coverage was relentless. Here in America, the usually reserved and modest Colin Firth interrupted his six hundred and forty-seventh Oscars interview to cry a little and hum the first two verses of ‘The Roast Beef of Old England”.” Run of Play

Five lessons from Europe

“With the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 done and dusted, here are five things we’ve learned…” ESPN

Braga 2-0 Lech Poznań

“Lech blew a 1-0 lead from the first leg of this last-32 Europa League tie to limp out of the competition and miss out on a money-spinning tie against Liverpool. Spanish coach José María Bakero set his side out in a 4-2-3-1, albeit with a striker playing on the left wing and a full-back on the opposite side. Thus, the 48-year-old tried retaining the system which brought them that crucial first leg win last week, but didn’t have the performers to make it work a second time.” Defensive Midfielder

PSV 3 – 1 Lille: A controversial incident decides the fate of the game

“The surprise comeback to a 2-2 result in the first leg meant that PSV had quite an advantage going into this match. But the main advantage for PSV was created by their opponents themselves as Lille clearly proclaimed their Europa League campaign to be their lowest priority target, ranked behind their aim of qualifying for Champions League football next season and defending their first place in Ligue 1. PSV, on the other hand, fielded a full strength squad to face this reduced Lille side, where big names such as Gervinho, Hazard and Sow were left out of the starting eleven with the match against Lyon in mind.” 11 tegen 11

From the Coffee House To the Pub

The Grapes pub in Liverpool
“Public houses have long been a strong hold for patriarchy, a place where the working class can convene to discuss the dynamics of everyday existence. My local is called the Village Inn. The word Inn conjures notions of rustic-chic décor; of horse-brasses, oak beams and roaring fires. Banish these. The walls of this particular pub are adorned with a variety of ephemera relating to the two local clubs; one side with Liverpool clutter and the other with Everton tit-tat. Amongst the discussions flitting in and out of earshot, the talk is resolutely of football, tits or a combination of the two. Conversations rarely err to socio-politics.” In Bed With Maradona

What Pundits Get Wrong About Goalkeeping, Part I: The Near Post

“I know I promised fun-filled clangers, but those will have to wait while I tackle something a bit more serious: the persistent misunderstanding of goalkeeping by well-paid pundits, commentators, and other assorted football experts. I say this without malice or snobbery. None of them actually were goalkeepers, and so it makes sense that they all, be it Andy Gray (once upon a time), Craig Burley, or Jamie Redknapp, tend to trot out well-worn cliches in absence of more in-depth knowledge.” The Goalkeepers’ Union

Thanks for nothing, Becks

“Great news, everybody: David Beckham is back! Remember when those words meant something? When the thought of Becks stepping onto an American soccer field made your heart soar because he was going to transform the Los Angeles Galaxy into the second coming of the Cosmos? When it was presumed he would spread the gospel of MLS around the world, just as Pelé did with the NASL back in the day? Yeah, I remember those 20 minutes too.” ESPN

Italian teams remain wedded to tactically narrow formations

“In terms of tactics, the most important factor in Tottenham Hotspur’s victory over AC Milan last week was that its wide players were able to exploit the width left by Milan’s narrowness. As a corollary to that, Spurs had the pace and energy to ensure that its numerical disadvantage in central areas didn’t mean it had to cede control over possession. Milan’s only three league defeats this season have come against sides who play with attacking width — Cesena and Juventus — and Roma, a team that usually deploys a 4-3-1-2, but deployed its trequartista, Jeremy Menes, in wide areas in that game.” SI

Man United, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs: The 5 La Liga Superstars Your Club Should Sign

“Borja Valero. Midfielder – Villarreal – Pass-master, dead-ball wizard, no hair. In an alternate universe, a happy Borja Valero is the king-pin playmaker in the centre of West Brom’s midfield, guiding the Baggies towards a top six finish and all the footballer-lusting floozies the squad could ever need. Unfortunately, the real world is largely a sucky one which is why Valero couldn’t be tempted back to the West Midlands, last summer, after a loan spell with Mallorca after the apparent horrors suffered in England in the 2008-2009 season and WBA are facing relegation. And maybe one or two nights too many for the players with just naughty magazines for company. …” Sabotage Times

The Future History of the Cosmos

“1990* : The philosophical inquirer Francis FUKUYAMA appropriates and reconceives the defunct notional entity known variously as The New York Cosmos, The Cosmos, and Pele’s Studio 54 Fantasia. As an actual football team, this construct played its final match in 1985, but Fukuyama—working in clandestine concert with the business operative Peppe PINTON, whom rumours nominate as a fugitive from international justice—reinvents the Cosmos as the world’s first post-historical soccer club.” Run of Play

Inter 0-1 Bayern: Gomez nicks it at the end

Antoine Jean Gros – La bataille d’Eylau
“Mario Gomez struck very late to give Bayern a crucial first leg lead. Leonardo was without Diego Milito (injured) and Giampaolo Pazzini (cup-tied). He played Dejan Stankovic and Wesley Sneijder off Samuel Eto’o. Louis van Gaal played the same XI that started the weekend game against Mainz, though had to make a change towards the end of the first half when Danijel Pranjic got injured. Breno replaced him, with Holger Bastuber going to left-back.” Zonal Marking

Inter Milan 0-1 Bayern Munich – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats
The 90th Minute

Marseille 0-0 Manchester United: stalemate
“A lack of goalmouth action resulted in the only goalless game of the Champions League second round first legs. Mathieu Valbuena was only fit enough for the bench, and Andre-Pierre Gignac was out completely, so Didier Deschamps used a patched-up 4-2-3-1 with Brandao as the lone forward. Sir Alex Ferguson fielded Wayne Rooney on the left of a 4-1-4-1, with Darron Gibson surprisingly starting over Paul Scholes in the centre of midfield.” Zonal Marking

Marseille 0-0 Manchester United – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats
The 90th Minute

1940s Month: While Europe burned

“On Saturday 2 September, 1939, the day after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland, Britain woke up to a full Football League programme. Blackpool went top of Division One with three wins from three after defeating Wolves 2-1 at Bloomfield Road, Sheffield United and Arsenal were one point behind, both also undefeated. Luton Town headed up Division Two, while Accrington Stanley and Reading led Division Three North and South respectively.” The Equaliser

Borussia Dortmund v St Pauli

“Borussia Dortmund v St Pauli at the Westfalenstadion (Signal Iduna Park, if you must) was the first game I looked for when the Bundesliga fixtures were announced last summer. The Westfalenstadion was ‘The Big One’ (© Tony Pulis, probably.) Anyway, it was the one I desperately wanted to tick off my list of German grounds visited. I’d tried a couple of times to combine a trip to Dortmund en-route to watch St Pauli when we were in 2.Liga, and often played on different days to the Bundesliga, but the fixtures had never fallen for me. But to go there with St Pauli – that would be something else.” European Football Weekends

Lyon 1-1 Real Madrid: all square in tight game

“Karim Benzema scored on his return to Lyon, but Bafetimbi Gomis netted a late equaliser. Claude Puel fielded a 4-2-3-1 system, making just one change from the weekend game. Jimmy Briand’s spectacular bicycle kick against Nancy wasn’t enough to keep him in the side, so Brazilian Michel Bastos played instead. The only minor surprise from Jose Mourinho was at left-back. Marcelo was left out, Alvaro Arbeloa started.” Zonal Marking

Style Over Substance

“The orchestrated crescendo of Parisian boos that greeted Kasabian front man Tom Meighan as he walked onstage at the L’Olympia in the French capital. Adorned in the red of England’s latest away shirt, the stunt on the surface appeared to be little more than a brazen example of jingoistic marketing, designed to appeal to the white-van-driver that lurks deep within every England fan.” In Bed With Maradona

Copenhagen 0-2 Chelsea: 4-4-2 v 4-4-2

“Chelsea eased past a disappointing Copenhagen side with two goals from Nicolas Anelka. Ståle Solbakken changed his side from the formation that had served him well in the group stages – using two strikers with Jesper Gronkjaer played out on the left, rather than just off the frontman. Carlo Ancelotti left out Didier Drogba and brought in Anelka and Fernando Torres. Copenhagen put up a good fight in the group stages, drawing at home to Barcelona and progressing ahead of Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos, becoming the first Danish side ever to qualify for this phase of the European Cup.” Zonal Marking

Sensational Cavani signifies rebirth of Uruguay as a soccer power

Edinson Cavani
“Before they used to say “You were the champions? Sure, when football didn’t even exist, but today they’re looking at us in a different light,” Edinson Cavani said in an interview in El Pais this month about the impact of Uruguay’s World Cup campaign, which saw the country reach fourth place after decades of absence from center stage.” SI

Bob Marley’s footballer tells his story

” A book called The Bob Marley I Know is planned for publication later this year. It’s possible that a copy will be sent to FIFA headquarters as Sepp Blatter presented an award to the writer, Alan ‘Skilly’ Cole, in September 2010 in recognition of his contribution to Jamaican football. A month later the appeals courts in Kingston quashed an 18-month prison term for drugs offences which had been hanging over Cole since 2007. As you may have gathered, Skilly Cole was not a run-of-the-mill professional footballer.” WSC

Olympiacos 2-1 Panathinaikos: Olympiacos take commanding lead after controversial victory

“A stoppage time winner from Rafik Djebbour gave Olympiacos a huge victory in a crucial derby. The headline news from Ernesto Valverde’s teamsheet was his decision to play Francois Modesto in the holding midfield role, rather than Dudu or Moises Hurtado, who were not considered 100% fit. Jesualdo Ferreira started Sotiris Ninis ahead of Sidney Govou on the right of midfield – the rest of the side was as expected. As so often the case in the Derby of the Eternal Enemies, the game was scrappy early on, with the referee having to award lots of free-kicks. Consequently, the game took a while to settle down into any kind of rhythm.” Zonal Marking


“Den Haag is located in Zuid-Holland and is the third largest dutch city after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Despite being the home of dutch government, Den Haag is not the Netherland’s capital. For any pub quiz regulars amongst you, that is Amsterdam. Den Haag is the capital of the province of Holland. Direct trains from Amsterdam Central Station take about 50 minutes and a day return will set you back about 20 euros.” Budget Airline Football

Good Day, Bad Day: A Marvellous Messi and a Golden Goalkeeper

“Little Leo was insanely good in spells in Barcelona’s 2-1 win against Athletic Bilbao that should steady a few nerves in the Catalan capital without the need to resort to a swift drink or two. With the Sunday night score at 1-1 after an early David Villa goal and penalty converted by Iraola – and the headline writers in Madrid about to release ‘Hay Liga!’ onto the world for a second weekend running – Messi popped up with a winner in the second half and it was just reward for a spell of pressure on Athletic where Messi was truly sublime.” FourFourTwo

Debutants in the Libertadores spotlight

“Of the field of 32 teams in South America’s Copa Libertadores, only two have not yet been in action in the group phase – and the pair are among the most famous names in the competition’s history. Independiente of Argentina have a record seven titles to their name. Uruguay’s Penarol are five times champions and were winners of the first version back in 1960. Neither club have lifted the trophy since 1987 but they have won nearly a quarter of all the Libertadores titles between them. And they meet on Thursday.” BBC Tim Vickery

Children at Play

“Sometimes I find myself walking home from work around the time the local elementary school dismisses its charges for the day. When this happens my daily journey becomes a little more interesting and a little more complicated, because children don’t walk the way adults do. Children will run past you, then stop and squat to look at a slug on the sidewalk, then run past you. Even when no stimulus, sluggish or otherwise, presents itself, they’ll slow down and dawdle for a while before hoofing it again.” Run of Play

Paranormal Activity: SPL-Style

“You’ve probably heard of the Bermuda Triangle. It’s a patch of water in the North Atlantic Ocean where scores of ships and planes have mysteriously vanished. Some put it down to the area’s unpredictable weather. Others say that it’s magnetic variations meddling with navigation equipment. While some, the genuine believers, say that it’s a supernatural phenomenon. But what’s this got to do with football? Well, Scottish football has its own Bermuda Triangle, a sequence of mysterious events that are hard to explain.” In Bed With Maradona

Celtic 3-0 Rangers: Celtic better all over the pitch

Gary Hooper
“Celtic extended their advantage at the top of the SPL with a dominant performance. Neil Lennon left out Anthony Stokes, and brought in Georgios Samaras to play upfront. Walter Smith again used Kyle Bartley ahead of the back four, and played El-Hadji Diouf and Steven Naismith either side of the midfield (whereas in last weekend’s 6-0 over Motherwell, Diouf played just off the striker in a 4-2-3-1).” Zonal Marking

Celtic 3 – 0 Rangers
“Gary Hooper grabbed a double as Celtic strengthened their grasp on top spot in the SPL with a 3-0 win over Rangers. Kris Commons was also on target once again in the Old Firm derby as the Hoops moved eight points clear at the summit. The victory puts them beyond the reach of Rangers for now, regardless of the outcome of their rivals’ two games in hand.” ESPN

Celtic 3-0 Rangers (Old Firm derby) – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – SPL
The 90th Minute

Chelsea 1-1 Everton (AET): Everton through after shoot-out

“Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole missed penalties as Chelsea crashed out of the FA Cup. Carlo Ancelotti left Nicolas Anelka and Michael Essien out. Paulo Ferreira started at right-back. David Moyes played his expected line-up. Tim Cahill played off Jermaine Beckford upfront. The game had two phases – first Everton shut Chelsea out and the game was neutral, before Chelsea dominated after half-time.” Zonal Marking

Chelsea 1 – 1 Everton (3 – 4 PKS) – FA Cup Replay Review
“The 4th Round replay of Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge needed penalties to decide the outcome, with the Merseyside club pulling out the upset. I chose to cover this match because Chelsea had a dilemma; they have a midweek Champions League match at Copenhagen. How much would Chelsea play their first team? Everton has been abysmal for much of the season. Would David Moyes go all out to keep their hopes for a title alive?” EPL Talk

Anderlecht 0 – 3 Ajax: Impressive away victory with smart tactical moves

“Frank de Boer’s Ajax managed a second impressive European away win in a row. After defeating Milan at the San Siro 0-2 in De Boer’s first match in charge of Ajax, Ajax added a second consecutive away win by defeating Anderlecht in their Constant Vandenstock Stadium. Although the second half penalty miss by Anderlecht was an important determinant for the match result, and perhaps even for the outcome of this tie, Ajax deservedly won on the basis of a series of smart tactical moves that gave them the upper hand for most of the game.” 11 tegen 11

Television and the Form of the Soccer Match

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa FINAL Game
“Television is not ruining the game of soccer. That said, it is important to understand the effect that watching a soccer match on a television has on a spectator’s cognition, as a match on a screen is fundamentally different from a match taking place in front of the spectator’s eyes. At worst, the effect can create an unbearable narrative that is pressed upon the viewers against their will (Favre, Beckham). At best, TV can allow the audience a much more nuanced look at the game, complete with close-ups of players that leave no emotion neglected.” Run of Play

Deconstructing Twitter Accounts: New York Red Bulls vs. Manchester City

“Twitter. All the kids were doing it. And then, all the adults were doing it. All the corporations decided they would do it. Then people decided to use it to overthrow dictators. And at some point during this process, all of our beloved sports teams caught Twitter fever. Today, if you’re a sports team without Twitter, you might as well be in black and white. That may explain why practically every professional team in a major sports league is ‘utilizing Twitter as an effective means of connecting with fans,’ or something like that. It’s probably not a stretch to think that in 2011, every team communications plan has a page dedicated to Twitter in the ‘Social Media’ section.” Nutmeg Radio

La semaine en France: Week 23

“One by one, the pack closed in and Lille could do nothing but watch. The fixture computer having scheduled their home game with Toulouse for Sunday night, the league leaders had no choice but to watch as first Marseille, then Lyon and then Rennes whittled away their lead. By the time Lille took to the field at Stadium Lille-Métropole, they were just two points clear.” Football Further

Champions League, Charlie Davies to DC United, and Other Observations

“Three thoughts on the week that was for your Friday morning, with a Puck’s Friday Happy Hour I think you’ll find excellent and a weekend preview piece coming on a big Friday here at The Yanks Are Coming. Let’s not delay—there’s plenty to get to, and there is no place to start than the Champions League, which has returned after the winter hiatus.” The Yanks Are Coming

Roma 2-3 Shakhtar: Shakhtar counter-attacking unlocks a disjointed Roma side

“An impressive display from Shakhtar gave them a clear advantage going into the second leg. Claudio Ranieri omitted Marco Borriello, with Rodrigo Taddei playing on the left. Philippe Mexes and Nicolas Burdisso started at centre-back, so Marco Cassetti moved out to the right-back spot. Mircea Lucescu played his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with few surprises in personnel.” Zonal Marking

A Rain of Flowers

“Those of you who’ve been wise to this site since the early days, or who just really like reading mastheads, will be aware that for lo these many years I’ve been running RoP in conjunction with two colleagues, Dr. Chesapeake Marchpane and Vandal-prone. And sure, they may not have been around too consistently, or seemed to have anything to do with the daily operations of the enterprise, but one thing’s for sure: They definitely do exist.” Run of Play

Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona: Arsenal turn it around

“Great goals from Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin gave Arsenal their first-ever victory over Barcelona.
Arsene Wenger was able to welcome back Samir Nasri from injury on the left. The rest of the side was as expected. Pep Guardiola also named the predicted side, with Eric Abidal in Carles Puyol’s place, and Maxwell at left-back. Crucially, Arsenal made a good start without the ball. Having been battered in the first ten minutes in this fixture last season, there was a much better attitude without the ball from the beginning this time around. The pressure on Barcelona’s midfield meant Arsenal forced Barcelona to give the ball away after 16 seconds, and though the away side had spells of clear dominance, they didn’t enjoy the ludicrous level of control they exerted a year ago.” Zonal Marking

Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona
“Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin struck as Arsenal staged a brilliant late comeback to claim a 2-1 win and give themselves a real chance of progressing in the Champions League. David Villa fired Barcelona, hailed by Arsene Wenger as the world’s best team, ahead in the first half after combining with Lionel Messi. But their superiority faded after the break when Arsenal took control, with Van Persie starting the comeback in the 79th minute before Andrey Arshavin smashed home a superb winner.” ESPN

Més Que un Hipster
“Of all the Guardian’s football writers, Barney Ronay is my favorite. His writing is raffish and superbly intimate. His is the voice of an older brother come home from college to tell you glib and exaggerated tales of the secret lives of girls, why Coldplay is insufferable, and why your parents are all too bourgeois. Like a protagonist in a Nick Hornby novel, Ronay chooses his words carefully even when he makes a mess of things. I feel the same way about reading Christopher Hitchens, whose endlessly quotable and cutting prose is substantiated by trenchant observations about the crassness of some seemingly unassailable public figure. For Hitchens even Mother Teresa is fair game.” Run of Play

Arsenal 2 Barcelona 1: match report
“Lightning rarely strikes once against Barcelona. Here it struck twice. One-nil down to the best team on the planet, struggling to see the ball, let alone the goal, Arsenal responded in sensational style, scoring twice in five minutes late on. This was a turnaround born of resilience, a victory rooted in character. Arsène Wenger made some tactical tweaks, setting Barcelona new tests with the introduction of Andrei Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner, but what happened between the 78th and 83rd minutes stemmed from a simple refusal to surrender.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Arsène Wenger promises Arsenal will ‘go for it’ in Barcelona second leg
“Arsène Wenger believes a vital psychological barrier has been breached with the defeat of Barcelona. Wenger, who will take his Arsenal team to the Catalan capital next month with a 2-1 lead, said: “We are not favourites. We believe we have a chance. Barcelona are still favourites and we know tonight that we can beat them – which we did not know last year.” Guardian

Modern football reaches a pantheon as Arsenal prevails in attack vs attack
“This was a match where every detailed seemed to matter just that bit more. Every pass was stressed. Every shot was scrutinised. Every contested challenge, dribble and interception was crucial. Every bounce of Lionel Messi’s hair. The timing of Theo Walcott’s runs. Refereeing decisions. Pep Guardiola’s catwalk struts down the touchline. Every unscrewing of Arsene Wenger’s bottle cap. Every inch Victor Valdes left exposed at his near post. Every substitution. Each moment of ascendancy had to be taken. Those were the margins and fortunately enough, a huge dose of Lady Luck went Arsenal’s way also.” Arsenal Column

We did it to ourselves, we did. And that’s why this really hurts: Arsenal 2, FCB 1
“If Barça Nation was a nail-biting, hair-pulling, edge-of-its-seat sitting bunch before this match even kicked off, well, now we’re collectively curled up in a ball of self-loathing. And rightfully so. Because, for all Arsenal’s determination – and let’s take the hats off our rapidly balding heads and salute them for wanting the match more than us – this was a mostly self-inflicted wound.” The Offside