Monthly Archives: September 2011

Valencia – On The Road To Recovery?

Roberto Soldado
“Despite losing to Sevilla last weekend, Valencia have made a very promising start to this season, most evidently when they led reigning champions Barcelona twice before securing an unexpected draw. On the one hand, this should not be too much of a surprise, as Valencia have finished third in La Liga in each of the past two seasons, though admittedly they were a hefty 25 points behind Pep Guardiola’s superlative team last year. On the other hand, this represents a hugely impressive achievement for Los Che after all the upheaval they have faced both on and off the pitch.” Swiss Ramble


Hope Solo, on her toes

“Could they please just let her dance in flats? That’s what I thought as I watched Hope Solo fight her way through a jive in high-heeled converse sneakers. Letting Solo dance in flats would make this whole Dancing With the Stars thing less anxiety provoking. Who isn’t worried about her turning her ankle? Those joints are of national importance! I have been so preoccupied by her feet I’ve scarcely noticed this season’s gender drama.” From A Left Wing

Scotland, Despair and the World Cup Final

“Sport, and perhaps most predominantly football, is one of the few facets of society where men can be unabashedly emotional and not be frowned upon for being so. The TV cameras love identifying a fan showing their feelings at the end of a big game. Whether it’s the ecstatic character celebrating a title win or a weeping child commiserating relegation, football and emotions are inexorably linked and I, like any other fan have experienced every single one over the years.” In Bed With Maradona

2000s Month: Istanbul

“It was the night which saw Liverpool born again. The 25th of May 2005 is now synonymous with the European Cup’s most marvellous and fairy tale. Despite the great lustre and rich history surrounding Liverpool, the side were a distant second best to Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan boasting some of the best world’s greatest talents. Indeed, the route to Istanbul for Liverpool contained enough twists and turns for the Kopites to perhaps feel it was their team’s destiny to march on and claim their fifth European Cup.”The Equaliser

2000s Month: The Power of Anfield
“In the UK in the early May of 2005, there was a clash between two different ideologies, cultures and backgrounds as Liverpool played Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final second-leg at Anfield. A few days later there was a general election. Although it was a match low on technical excellence and even tactical nous, the drama of the night more than made up for it.” The Equaliser

The Noordwijk Experiment – Ajax and the 3-4-3

“The last time Ajax regularly played three at the back, Sandra Bullock was one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood with a bright future ahead, and the same could be said for Ajax who dined at the top of Europe’s elite table. Since those halcyon days Bullock has gone on to amass a fortune and bag an Academy award in the process whereas the Godenzonen have been in the doldrums, slowly losing their identity and barely feasting on the crumbs.” Just Football

Real Madrid 3 – 0 Ajax: Tactical trouble at Ajax from a wider perspective

“In the much anticipated replay of last year’s Champions League group stage game ,where Ajax took a true battering and ended up losing 2 – 0 at Madrid, Ajax lost 3 – 0 this time at the Estadio Bernabeu. In terms of ‘face value’ Ajax provided more counter play – in fact their amount of 19 shots registered was higher than any Champions League opponent achieved at the Bernabeu since Bayern in the 2006/07 Champions League quarter final – but the final score line and the dominance expressed by Real’s front four left little to the imagination. Ajax failed the benchmark test that was supposed to show the progress made under manager Frank de Boer in the past year.” 11 tegen 11

Valencia 1-1 Chelsea: Chelsea let the lead slip
“An open game ended with a point apiece. Unai Emery used the same outfield XI he fielded against Barca having rotated at the weekend, although there was a change in goal – Diego Alves came in. Andre Villas-Boas went with the usual 4-3-3 – Florent Malouda started on the left, and Juan Mata drifted in from the right, with Frank Lampard restored to the midfield. This was fairly evenly-balanced – Valencia were better in possession, but Chelsea probably had the better chances. Emery marginally got the better of the tactical battle in the first half, but a draw was a good reflection of the balance of play.” Zonal Marking

My Perfect 10: Francesco Totti

“Life could have been so different for Francesco Totti. ‘If I hadn’t been a footballer, I would have liked to have become a petrol pump assistant,’ he said. ‘When I was little, it was wonderful to smell the petrol fumes and see those guys handle so much money.’ Admittedly one does sometimes have to wonder whether those fumes ever went to the young Totti’s head.” FourFourTwo

Bernabeu set for a face-lift as Barça move one step closer to a ‘hidden war’

“Both Barcelona and Real Madrid can claim to have been more than entertaining in their respective weekend victories. The first 15 seconds at the Santiago Bernabeu, for example, were particularly compelling. And both clubs also delivered in their own special ways on the traditionally fusty, dusty institutional level. Normally a day spent watching pompous, boastful men in their 50s, jangling their jowls whilst talking endlessly about finances and waving voting cards is as skull-dentingly tortuous as a 2010/11 Deportivo season highlights DVD.” FourFourTwo

Bora Bahia

“The constant beating of drums, the colour, the dancing, the screaming, the singing, the joy on people’s faces; it’s all around me. Bora Bahia! Campeão Carioca! (come on Bahia, Champions of Rio) screams the guy behind me. But I’m not in Rio, I’m in Salvador in North Eastern Brazil. On the pitch, Rio side Fluminense are being put to the sword and in the stands the carnival atmosphere is in full swing. Full time score: Esporte Clube de Bahia 3 Fluminense 0.” In Bed With Maradona

Manchester City Antes Up for a Seat at Soccer’s Power Table

“Now, though, Manchester City’s players take the field in pale blue jerseys that suggest possibility as expansive as the sky itself. Or the fossil fuels beneath it. In 2008, the club was bought for $330 million by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, a member of the royal family of the emirate of Abu Dhabi who has fueled his team with an oil and talent pipeline.” NYT

Gerginio Wijnaldum: The Bargain of 2011?

“We watch a fair bit of the Eredivisie at IBWM towers and last season was a little tricky for us. We like to see the traditionally big clubs doing well and have always had a bit of a soft spot for Feyenoord. Seeing the Rotterdam club suffer a truly horrible 2010-11 by their standards wasn’t great to watch, but we enjoyed seeing how well Georginio Wijnaldum was coming along at the club.” In Bed With Maradona

Manuel Neuer a leader of Europe’s new breed of young goalkeepers

Manuel Neuer
“It must be a peculiar feeling for Iker Casillas to feel like an old crony. Here is the player who for the best part of a decade was one of football’s great exceptions. In a position so specialist, so scrutinised, that experience and proven ability to handle the pressure is preferred, the boy from Madrid was an anomaly. There was, in every sense, very little he could not handle even in his teens.” Guardian

Talking To Picksi: A Conversation With Stojkovic

“Dragan Stojković was born on 3 March 1965, and is one of the finest players ever to emerge from the former Yugoslavia. Nicknamed ‘Piksi’ after a cartoon character from his childhood, Stojković made his name with hometown team Radnički Niš before establishing himself as one of Europe’s best creative midfielders with Crvena Zvezda of Belgrade in the late 1980s. He is one of five individuals to have been named Zvezdina Zvezda (a Star of the Star).” In Bed With Maradona

Messi and Ronaldo hit hat-tricks

“Lionel Messi matched Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick as Barcelona turned on the style to dismiss in-form Atletico Madrid 5-0 at the Nou Camp. With the Rojiblancos having scored eight goals in their last two outings and Barcelona labouring against Valencia in midweek, some thought a shock may have been on the cards.” ESPN

FC Barcelona 5-0 Atletico Madrid – Spanish Primera Division (La Liga) – Saturday, September 24, 2011
Free Soccer Highlights

LUIS SUAREZ: Is Kenny Dalglish playing right into the hands of Barcelona?

“Luis Suarez was visibly upset after being substituted against Wolves yesterday, and as soon as the final whistle went, he sped off down the tunnel as quickly as possible. Players get subbed off all the time, and there’s absolutely no shame in being replaced by Steven Gerrard, so why was Suarez particularly upset? For me, the answer is obvious, and I can understand his frustration.” Liverpool Kop

Reasons to be cheerful
“What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in familiarity. As many have done before them and, no doubt, plenty of others will do in the future, the travelling supporters from Wolverhampton asked: ‘Where’s your famous atmosphere?’ Their answer came three times before the final whistle. At a club where they celebrate their bona fide heroes and castigate the false idols, it was hard to say which drew the loudest cheer: was it Steven Gerrard’s first Anfield appearance for six months, a quite stunning goal by the irrepressible Luis Suarez or the announcement of Fernando Torres’ sending-off 200 miles away?” ESPN

Manchester City 2 – 0 Everton: Tactics

“Manchester City found a way through at Etihad Stadium against a venerable Everton group, earning the 2-0 victory and a share of first place in the Barclays Premier League. City set up in the same formation they’ve used in the league since the close of the transfer window. It’s 4-2-2-2, marked by no wide players in the front 6. David Silva and Samir Nasri like to stay in tight, allowing Gael Clichy and Micah Richards to roam the flanks freely, which they do very well. Gareth Barry’s role is primarily to break up runs at the defense, while Yaya Toure is a little more fluid in moving forward and contributing in the offense.” EPL Talk

Garde’s guidance restores sense and serenity to Stade Gerland

“It is a measure of Lyon’s progress under Rémi Garde that Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss at Caen could be shrugged off as a mere inconvenience. Garde allowed himself a rueful smile during a pitchside interview after the match as he admitted he had been perplexed by his side’s sluggish approach to the game and in the subsequent press conference he was equally equanimous, likening the defeat to ‘a little kick up the bum’.” Football Further

The case for the three-man defence

“Few tactical strategies have attracted as much controversy in recent years as the three-man defence, which – in the United Kingdom at least – has become synonymous with coaching gaffes, changing-room unease and on-pitch embarrassment. Blame for England’s 2-0 defeat by Croatia in a Euro 2008 qualifier in October 2006 was widely attributed to Steve McClaren’s decision to send his team out in an untested 3-5-2 formation, with Gary Neville (author of a memorable own goal that day) revealing in his autobiography that the system had been introduced in training only ‘a couple of days before’ the match. Attempts to ambush the Premier League’s top teams by deviating from the four-man defensive norm, meanwhile, have often met with humiliating failure.” EuroSport

Seven keys to success for Bradley

“He sat behind the table in his navy blue suit and light blue shirt. Cameras flashed in front of him. Pursed lips and a sly smile occupied the face, but it was all in his eyes. His eyes took everything in: the body language of the people there, the mannerisms. The frenzied hand gestures of the people he will serve. Marco Tardelli’s appointment as Egypt boss in 2004 had crazed the nation. His exploits as an Italian legend preceded him. The expectation was huge. Fans wanted to get to the next World Cup in Germany badly. Egypt’s long search had begun after the previous African Nations Cup in Tunisia had ended with Mohsen Saleh unable to lead them past the group stage.” ESPN

Match of the Midweek: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 Liverpool

“True enough, it’s only the Third Round of the League Cup and both of the teams playing this evening, whether rightly or wrongly, may well feel that they have bigger fish to fry than this competition this season. There is, however, something in the sea air in Brighton this evening. The trains into the railway station are jammed solid and the queue for the trains out to The American Express Community Stadium snakes out of the station and around the concourse outside. There’s no hint of trouble, of course, and everybody is safely in their seat by kick-off the time of kick-off, but the sheer volume of traffic of the majority of a crowd of almost 22,500 pouring through a main railway station during the rush hour adds inevitable pressures. It all seems, however, dealt with very professionally indeed.” twohundredpercen

La Liga meeting agenda wilts when confronted by Real and Barca

“It was Fernando Roig who said it best, explaining the truth that lies behind the Spanish League or the LFP. ‘You go to a league meeting and you discuss things, you explain, you talk about your position for half an hour,’ the Villarreal president told the radio station Cadena Cope, ‘and then it turns out to be completely worthless. There you are making proposals, analyzing the situation and it means nothing because the decision has been taken by in some restaurant the day before the meeting. You can talk, but the decision has been made and there is nothing you can do.'” SI

Valencia 2-2 Barcelona: Emery gets the better of Guardiola early on, but Barca fight back

“Cesc Fabregas’ goal secured a point for Barcelona, but they were the weaker side in the first half. Unai Emery tried his trick from last season against Barcelona, fielding two left-backs in Jeremy Mathieu and Jordi Alba down the left, in order to deal with the forward runs of Dani Alves. Jonas dropped out accordingly, and Bruno Saltor was replaced by Miguel. Pep Guardiola went for a 4-3-3ish shape, albeit with Alves pushed very high up the pitch. David Villa was only on the bench. Valencia dominated the first half by doing two things well – first, pressing Barcelona, squeezing the play and forcing the away side into errors in possession. Second, by attacking Barca in behind Alves and creating three good chances through this route.” Zonal Marking

CF Valencia 2-2 FC Barcelona Highlights & Goals

On Landon Donovan

“My affinity toward Landon Donovan is remarkably simple: He’s about my height and about my age. It’s enough to create a bond in my brain. I suppose if I grew up in Europe the success he’s found in athletics despite his small stature might not surprise me quite so. But I didn’t, so it does. The kids born across the pond in the early 1980s had little guys such as Baggio (five-nine) and Scholes (five-seven) to adore after Johan Cruyff (five-eleven) led the way, but American sporting heroes of the 1990s were larger than life and simply huge. Bledsoe and Barkley, the Michaels: Jordan and Johnson. Hell, even Tiger Woods was so damn good at least in part because he was so damn big.” Run of Play

Inter turns to Ranieri after 3-4-3 disaster

“It says a lot about Inter president Massimo Moratti that, despite giving Gian Piero Gasperini only five games as coach, you could see the sacking coming a few weeks ago. This is a man who has now appointed 16 coaches in 16 years. Then again, it says a lot about Gasperini that despite being given no time to settle into the job, it’s rather difficult to defend him. This is a man who guided Inter to four defeats and a goalless draw in five games, an abysmal record for a side expected to be challenging for Lo Scudetto. No one comes out of this looking good, and it is a five-game spell that both president and coach would be happy to erase from the record books.” ESPN

Embarrassing Defeats and Some Lessons From History

“So apart from losing 0-4, having two men sent off and one taken off injured, everything went according to plan at White Hart Lane then! It was a sobering defeat and awful performance alright, the sort we don’t get too often, mercifully, and on a par both quantitively and qualitively with the worst of them. But not unprecedented. And where can you look for context, for solace, other than history? How often do these heavy defeats happen and what can we learn from them? How were we doing at the time they happened – in a trough already or did they come out of the blue? – and what effect did they have on us subsequently? Can we find any comfort from heavy defeats in the past?” Tomkins Times

Fighting A Losing Battle With Calcio Moderno – This Is A.S. Lodigiani

“There’s not much open of a Sunday morning in Carpineto Romano. It’s a tiny little hill town about 50 miles from Rome, which sits high above the former malaria-infested marshland that killed Anita Garibaldi and where Mussolini constructed the nightmarish town of Latina, a Fascist township so fucked up it even has a local office for the separatist Lega Nord. Even in my neighbourhood the shutters go down, and stay down, everywhere on Saturday nights, bar supermarkets and the odd breakfast bar, so it was a relief to be able to buy a pack of fags and a couple of bottles of water, especially after the day I’d had. As I walked back down towards the carabinieri barracks the local football team eyed me up from across the street, and as I got to the locked gate Valerio was there, hands outstretched through the bars and waiting for his cigarettes.” In Bed With Maradona

Brazil in mood for World Cup hurry up

“No doubt about the highlight of last week’s friendly international 0-0 draw between Argentina and Brazil – the moment in the second half when Brazil striker Leandro Damiao produced his speciality ‘lambreta’ dribble. Cutting in from the right he ran over the ball, and then flicked it with his right foot against his left, in such a way that it did not just loop over his bewildered marker, but also fell on an ideal trajectory for him to continue his run and meet it with a lobbed volley, probably an intended cross, that looped off the far post.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Napoli 3-1 Milan: Counter-attack and Cavani hat-trick

Vittore Carpaccio – The Baptism of the Selenites
“Hat-trick specialist Edinson Cavani bagged another as Napoli confirmed their title potential. Walter Mazzarri played what his strongest XI – Andrea Dossena came in for Juan Zuniga from the side that drew with Manchester City. Max Allegri has something of an injury crisis, summed up by an extremely inexperienced bench. Daniele Bonera played at left-back, and Antonio Cassano partnered Pato upfront. Milan took the lead through a superb Alberto Aquilani header, but the pattern of the game was this: Milan get possession, run out of ideas in the final third, Napoli win the ball, break quickly, and score.” Zonal Marking

PSV 2-2 Ajax: PSV press, Ajax fight back
“PSV twice took the lead by exploiting a clear weakness in the Ajax defence, but the away side managed to claim a point. Fred Rutton made two changes from PSV’s previous league game. Wilfred Bouma and Zakaria Labyad dropped out, with Timothy Derijck and Tim Matavz coming in. Frank de Boer was without Miralem Sulejmani and chose to bring Vurnon Anita into the side as the holding player. This match was open and entertaining, largely because there were two attack-minded midfields who wanted to play the ball rather than win it back.” Zonal Marking

Rubin 2-3 Zenit: Rubin blow a two-goal lead thanks to Spalletti’s Plan B
“Danny scored twice to give Zenit St Petersburg an important win over Rubin Kazan. Kurban Berdyev changed things around after the previous week’s defeat to FC Krasnodar, with Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez both dropping out. In came Vladimir Dyadyun upfront, with Gokdeniz Karadeniz on the right. Luciano Spalletti made widespread changes after an embarrassing collapse against Lokomotiv Moscow, with four players coming into the defence and midfield, though the forward trio remained the same.” Zonal Marking

U-S-A!: A Conversation

“EDITOR’S NOTE: Someone (me) once said (just now, for real) that American soccer is a question in search of a question mark. But who asked that question, and what other punctuation might it contain? To find out, we deployed two brilliant young sportswriters, the latest in electronic-communications technology, and the copy-paste function. Here’s what happened.” Run of Play

Barcelona demolish Osasuna

“After two games without a win, Barcelona bounced back in style as they thrashed Osasuna 8-0 at the Camp Nou. Barcelona entered the game on the back of successive 2-2 draws with Real Sociedad and AC Milan, but they maintained over 80% possession on Saturday night as they threatened to run up double figures. Lionel Messi started the rout in only the fifth minute, and Barca enjoyed total domination throughout a first half in which they could feasibly have scored ten goals.” ESPN

Tottenham Hotspur 4 – 0 Liverpool

“Emmanuel Adebayor scored twice on his home debut as Tottenham hammered four without reply past nine-man Liverpool to earn a morale-boosting first home win of the season. Luka Modric opened the scoring with a blistering 20-yard strike before Charlie Adam picked up a second yellow card for a late foul on Scott Parker.” ESPN

Tottenham 4-0 Liverpool: Tottenham dominate
“A wondergoal got them going and the rest came when Liverpool had a numerical disadvantage, but Tottenham were clearly the better side in this match. Harry Redknapp used his 4-4-2, with Niko Kranjcar out on the right – Rafael van der Vaart was half-fit, and on the bench.” Zonal Marking

Well done, Kenny. We may have lost, but the long-suppressed spirit of LFC is shining brightly…
“After last weeks defeat at Stoke, Kenny Dalglish basically blamed the referee for Liverpool’s failure to win the game. After the 4-0 hammering at Spurs today, I’ll admit I was a little worried that he would again publicly blame the referee for the club’s failings on the pitch. Thankfully, King Kenny’s post-match comments are a credit to the man, as well as being indicative of the true Liverpool way of doing things.” Liverpool Kop

Inter 0-0 Roma: interesting in theory, but not on the pitch

“Two sides lacking confidence contested a fairly tame 0-0 draw in Milan. Gian Piero Gasperini reverted to a three-man defence, but went with 3-4-1-2, as expected, rather than his favoured 3-4-3. Joel Obi came in on the left, and Wesley Sneijder was the number ten. Luis Enrique stuck with his preferred 4-3-3, but made a surprise decision to start two midfielders at full-back – Rodrigo Taddei on the left, Simone Perrotta on the right.” Zonal Marking

PSV 2 – 2 Ajax: Fair result in a very passionate match

“The first of this season’s clashes between two of the Eredivisie top three teams produced a passionate match that ended in a 2-2 draw, respecting the fact that, in terms of footballing quality, both sides put in an equal share. However, during various phases of the game one of either teams dominated the other, making this an attractive match with an unpredictable outcome till the very end.” 11 tegen 11

Lost in Space

“Sometimes your team is just beaten by a better team. Sometimes the opponent is stronger or faster or more technically skilled, and you just have to take your beating with the best grace you can muster. Thus the equanimity with which Alex Ferguson accepted Manchester United’s loss to Barcelona in last season’s Champions League final: Barça was simply and obviously better. (Sir Alex trudged home and took out his checkbook.)” Run of Play

Everton – No Blue Skies

Phil Jagielka
“Football fans are rarely happy. After all, there are only so many trophies that can be won, so the majority of teams will end the season empty handed. That said, Everton’s fans seem to be particularly despondent these days, so much so that a coalition of supporters’ groups known as the Blue Union initiated a protest march before last week’s home game against Aston Villa.” Swiss Ramble

Eight points on Manchester City 1-1 Napoli

“Walter Mazzarri’s tactics should be commended after a disciplined Napoli side deserved their point at Manchester City. 1. The battle when wing-backs come up against interiores (wide players that come into the middle of the pitch) is always interesting. In theory, the wing-backs should be very uncomfortable coming inside into the centre of the pitch – they’re meant to be covering the flanks, after all – but the situation is different in a 3-5-2 to with the system that Napoli play, which has two wide forwards.” Zonal Marking

Woe Flowers of Scotland

“Scottish football is in crisis. With Scottish clubs exiting European competition even earlier than usual, fans and the media are mourning the latest ‘death’ of the national sport. Newspapers and radio phone-ins are leading the now annual debate asking ‘where do we go from here?’ There’s no disputing that change is required. League reconstruction (discussed here previously) and a massive shift in attitudes and approach are long overdue, but that’s a conversation for another time.” Just Football

Leandro Damiao: Superstar Under the Radar

Leandro Damiao
“Brazil have made a habit of producing a fine profusion of strikers in the past. Tostão, Pele and Rivelinho all graced that 1970 World Cup in a team which some have dubbed the greatest squad in the history of the game. Eight years prior, it was Garrincha and Vavá who stole the show with their fine movement and keen eye for goal that led Brazil to their second title. Fast forward to the modern era and the 2002 tournament which focused on the “Three R’s” of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, the trio working in perfect tandem that eventually landed their fifth World Championship in South Korea and Japan.” In Bed With Maradona

Dortmund press Arsenal’s full-backs and the problem with Wenger’s defensive strategy

“Pat Rice cannot wait for the return of Arséne Wenger to the dugouts – the manager still has one game remaining in his touchline ban from UEFA – and it’s easy to see why having put through a stern examination of his coaching credentials that he didn’t want. While against Udinese the comfort of the early goal dictated the encounter, he got no such assistance away to Borussia Dortmund as Jürgen Klopp sought to impose his style as quickly as possible. And they did, creating an overwhelming swirl of yellow and black around Arsenal in possession. It was a strategy that earned them many plaudits last season and while they haven’t made the best of starts this year, they aimed to put that right against Arsenal, the team that in the past, have been the model of the tireless, high-intensity and rapid passing game they displayed on Match Day 1.” The Arsenal Column

Fernando Torres’ form an ongoing concern for both club and country

“Juan Mata slotted the ball into the net, rushed across to the man who had provided the pass and leapt into his arms. Chelsea had just got its second of the night, securing a 2-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen in its opening Champions League game at Stamford Bridge and the former Valencia player had scored his second goal in just three games. Yet Mata handed the credit to someone else, pointing at the tall, blonde striker who provided the assist: Fernando Torres. The message was clear: cheer him, everyone, cheer him.” SI

St Pauli 4 – 2 1860 Munich

“For this particular match, there was no bus running for my fan club. This represents obvious disadvantages, foremost being the chance to travel as a group and catch up with friends. The one advantage however of no bus, is that suddenly I was faced with a mere 3 and half hours travel to Hamburg, as opposed to approximately 6! So as I wandered drunkenly out of a night club at 4:30am, I looked at my watch and realised that not needing to get to the usual pickup point, I could go home and catch two hours kip before travelling. Nice!” FCUM A.D.

2000s Month: The Mayfly

“The mayfly, that most romantically fated of insects, spends the majority of its life under the surface of the water. After going through several months feeding on decaying flora and fauna; moulting numerous times – going through change after change; they emerge in to the sun. After one final metamorphosis, they dry their wings and take glorious flight. Their mouthparts, however, are not functional, and their digestive system is full of air. They cannot feed. They have but one day to make their mark, to fulfil their purpose, and then they are gone. Their bodies fall down into the water again.” The Equaliser

Barcelona 2-2 Milan: Milan’s narrowness frustrates Barca (just about)

“Milan scored in the first minute and the last minute, to bookend a game otherwise dominated by Barcelona. Pep Guardiola used Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano at the back, with Seydou Keita in the holding role, in the usual 4-3-3. Max Allegri was without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so Pato started upfront, supported by Antonio Cassano. Antonio Nocerino and Gianluca Zambrotta also started.” Zonal Marking

Late Thiago Silva equaliser ensures Barcelona and Milan share spoils
“Ninety minutes of control, an hour and a half of pressure, ultimately proved worthless. A goal less than a minute from the first whistle and a goal less than a minute from the last cost Barcelona victory as they began their defence of the European Cup.” Guarian

Last-gasp Milan snatches draw at Barca
“Barcelona conceded a goal after 24 seconds and another in stoppage time, opening its Champions League title defense Tuesday with a 2-2 draw against visiting AC Milan. Arsenal played to a 1-1 tie, stunned by Borussia Dortmund’s late goal. Pato opened the scoring for Milan and, after goals from Pedro and David Villa, looked to have put Barcelona in control, Thiago Silva’s header secured a point in Group H.” ESPN

Video – Barcelona 2-2 AC Milan, All The Goal Highlights
“A cracking match at Barca’s Camp Nou, featured a sensational start with Alex Pato 24 seconds in opening the scoring for visitors AC Milan. The 22-year-old Brazilian Pato raced clear of a static Barcelona back four, and slid the ball beyond keeper Víctor Valdés giving the Italian champions the earliest of leads.” Serie A Weekly

Allure of European football still remains

“A year ago, I spoke to Brazilian midfielder Sandro a few minutes after he had made his debut for Tottenham. I caught up with him again a few days ago as, recovering from injury, he watched his international team-mates train for last Monday’s international against Ghana at Craven Cottage in London.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Porto 2-1 Shakhtar: ill discipline costs Shakhtar

“Red cards for both centre-backs didn’t help the away side, but Porto were in charge for most of the game anyway. Vitor Pereira is using the 4-3-3 system favoured by most of his predecessors. Kleber is Falcao’s replacement and James Rodriguez started on the left. Steven Defour played the right-sided midfield role. Mircea Lucescu’s XI was very similar from the side which impressed last season in the Champions League. Eduardo da Silva was used as an inverted winger on the right, with Douglas Costa on the bench and Jadson as the central playmaker.” Zonal Marking

Jones, Bradley, Holden sit and wait to play; more Americans Abroad

“What could have been a landmark weekend in the seasons of three first-choice U.S. national team midfielders turned out to be nothing more than a wait-till-next-time occasion. Jermaine Jones remained an afterthought at Schalke despite not being moved during the recent transfer window; Michael Bradley failed to see the field in his first game as a member of Chievo Verona in Italy; and Stuart Holden’s anticipated comeback to Bolton’s first team was put on hold for at least another week.” SI

Sons of Bitches: Ultras and Maradonapoli

“While the 1982 World Cup victory created some temporary commonality among Italians the cracks were still there, evident in violence among increasingly extreme football fans. As Winston Churchill apparently quipped: ‘Italians lose wars as if they were football matches and play football matches as if they were wars.’ Inter-fan rivalries pre-dated Fascism’s take-over of the game and continued after the war, with a notorious match between Napoli and Bologna, in 1955, involving a pitch invasion and an exchange of shots between fans and police. Rarely premeditated however, crowd disorder was usually an impetuous, unplanned reaction to on-the-field events. This changed in the 1960s, with pitch invasions, violence and confrontations with the police reflecting and releasing society’s accumulated tensions.” In Bed With Maradona

Man City look forward to their Champions League debut

“It is difficult to express the feeling among Manchester City fans when Arsenal’s stuttering form in the closing weeks of last season handed us third place and a spot in the Champions League group stages. For months the race had been about claiming fourth, and once achieved, the joy was tempered by the thought of a difficult qualifying round draw or, worse, a dismal August defeat in some low coefficient backwater. City’s only previous involvement in the top competition back in 1968 came to an end in two games and the guarantee that we’d be around long enough to enjoy it this time meant a wonderfully stress-free summer.” WSC

Argentines Abroad: Agüero hits a hat-trick, goals galore in Italy & more (video)

“It was another packed weekend in which Argentines around the world had a big say in footballing matters, so here’s another dose of Argentines Abroad. Sergio Agüero hit a hat-trick for Manchester City, Fernando Belluschi for Porto and Javier Pastore for PSG scored crackers (Pastore’s was his first for his new club), and there was plenty more besides. Read on for the action, and videos…” Hasta El Gol Siempre

Palermo 4-3 Inter: Gasperini’s 3-4-3 exposed

Josep Ilicic
“Palermo produced a great second half display to edge a thriller. Devis Mangia, Palermo’s new(est) coach, used a standard 4-4-2 system, a world away from the 4-3-2-1 that the club used last season. Josep Ilicic started out on the left, and Giulio Migliaccio played at centre-back. Gian Piero Gasperini used his favoured 3-4-3 system, which meant Javier Zanetti in an unusual centre-back role, Jonathan making his debut on the right, plus newcomers Mauro Zarate and Diego Forlan in the wide forward positions. Wesley Sneijder started on the bench.” Zonal Marking

Palermo 4 – 3 Internazionale
“Palermo struck twice late in the game to stun Inter Milan 4-3 in their Serie A opener at Stadio Renzo Barbera on Sunday night. With the game tied 2-2 with five minutes remaining, Fabrizio Miccoli put the hosts in front with a superb free-kick before substitute Mauricio Pinilla made it 4-2 two minutes from time. New Inter striker Diego Forlan reduced the deficit deep in stoppage time but Palermo held on for victory. Diego Milito had put the visitors ahead in the 33rd minute before Miccoli equalised shortly after the re-start.” ESPN

The Story of the Quinta del Buitre

“This is the first article in a superbly in-depth two-part look at the Real Madrid side of the 1980s by Michele Tossani. Featuring interviews with the members of the famed ‘Quinta del Buitre’ , the first instalment charts the rise of the five young prodigies from Castilla hopefuls to first-team regulars.” The Equaliser – Part I, Part II

Without Question – Kenny Dalglish for Liverpool, Celtic and Scotland

“It’s entirely conceivable that you are from a generation that never witnessed Kenny Dalglish’s first stint as manager at Liverpool in the 1980’s, not to mention his heyday as a player at Anfield and Parkhead. But the Scotsman oversaw a fine team and the 1988 vintage featuring Beardsley, Barnes and Aldridge was tremendous fun to watch. A hugely underrated side in our opinion, which was sadly denied the opportunity to challenge the AC Milan of Marco Van Basten due to a ban on English clubs in Europe at the time.” In Bed With Maradona