Manchester United 1-2 Real Madrid: red card allows Real to take control

March 6, 2013

“Manchester United’s starting strategy nullified Real Madrid’s main threats, but Jose Mourinho reacted quickly after United went down to ten. Sir Alex Ferguson left out Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa, favouring Nani and Ryan Giggs on the flanks. Tom Cleverley started in place of Phil Jones, while Jonny Evans dropped to the bench as Ferguson favoured the old-school Ferdinand-Vidic partnership. Jose Mourinho named his expected side. Gonzalo Higuain was upfront rather than Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane continued at centre-back. Sadly, we were denied a chance to see how the 11 v 11 game would play out – Real had looked impotent until Nani’s red card, and it would have been fascinating to see how they tried to break down United in the final half hour.” Zonal Marking

Controversial red card changed complexion of Madrid-United tilt
“There was no doubt about the moment that changed the game. Manchester United had been leading 1-0 on Tuesday night, 2-1 on aggregate, and was winning the tactical battle when, 11 minutes into the second half, Nani leapt to try to take down a dropping clearance from Rafael. His raised foot caught Alvaro Arbeloa in the stomach, and Turkish referee Cunet Cakir decided, to widespread surprise, that he was guilty of serious foul play and showed a red card.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Manchester United red with rage after referee wrecks Champions League dream with Nani red card against Real
“When Manchester United’s devastated players finally emerged from the dressing room, they would not, probably could not talk. The club had advised them to stay silent over Cuneyt Cakir’s unspeakable decision to send off Nani. Their inner fury, the anger in the eyes said it all.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Wins over Man. United and Barcelona give Mourinho an exit strategy
“There is a phrase, borrowed from bullfighting, which the Spanish use a lot: por la puerta grande. Out through the main door, triumphantly. Maybe even on the shoulders of supporters while a crowd gathers at your feet, holding the trophy in the air — a bloodied bull’s ear, in this case, the cup with the big ears if we’re talking football. There are different ways to depart after the fight, many ways to leave, and departing victorious is always best.” SI (Video)

Newsstand: British Tabloids Aflare After Man United’s Controversial Loss To Real Madrid
“Real Madrid eliminated Manchester United from the Champions League today with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford. The English champions led 1-0 after an own goal by Sergio Ramos, but the turning point came when Turkish referee Cuynet Cakir sent off Nani for a studs-high challenge.” SI (Video)


England’s World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore: 20 years gone, but never forgotten

February 24, 2013

“Across town at Wembley, setting for Moore’s finest hours, the flag of St George will fly at half-mast. A skilled surgeon operated on Moore’s colon in 1991 but the cancer would not yield. It spread to the liver. Moore never complained. He simply set about delaying its pitiless impact. Eventually, on Feb 15, 1993, England’s World Cup-winning captain released a statement, revealing his illness was terminal. Two days later he was at Wembley, commentating on England’s game against San Marino for Capital Radio, his collar turned up to hide his paleness. A week later, on Feb 24, 1993, Moore passed away. He was only 51.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

David Beckham needs to beware the motives of Qatar moneymen behind his move to Paris St-Germain

February 1, 2013

“Good old Paris, always the city of romance. David Beckham and Paris St-Germain fell into each others’ arms, smitten with a short-term passion from the Englishman’s perspective and an amorous long-term game-plan devised by the club’s Qatari owners.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Africa Cup of Nations qualifying is a rushed mess – but fascinating

September 4, 2012

“The qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations reach their climax this weekend. For 16 teams, the qualifiers also start this weekend. There surely can never have been a hastier, more flawed qualifying process for any tournament that presents itself as major. The result is that Ivory Coast and Senegal will pay each other on Saturday and then again on 12 October and, whoever wins over the two legs goes through. Whoever loses is out. Neither side has played any qualifiers before now. Both qualified for the Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon earlier this year, beginning the tournament as first and third favourites. They’ve done nothing wrong; just been unlucky with the draw.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Liverpool owner John W Henry offers some laughable points with his letter to fans

September 4, 2012

“If Lennon’s hymn of homage was to Mia Farrow’s reclusive sister, Henry’s homily was a love letter to the similarly elusive soul of financial restraint. Henry’s open missive to the Kop sought to justify the contentious actions of his Fenway Sports Group in the newly-closed transfer window. Admirable in his intent, namely communicating with the club’s lifeblood, Henry provided a window on the owner-manager-player-supporter dynamic in the modern game. Some of Henry’s observations defied belief. Others introduced some welcome perspective in the ‘Greed Is Good’ world of the Premier League.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Roberto Mancini may be frustrated over Manchester City’s transfer policy but the buzzword is sustainability

August 28, 2012

“In the background will be the clinking sounds of yachts, Champagne flutes and roulette wheels, making Monaco a slightly surreal setting for a discussion on tightening belts and balancing books. Marwood, though, does not need any advice from Platini’s Financial Fair Play document or any prompting on the need for fiscal restraint. Contrary to popular perception, the buzzword ‘sustainability’ has long been heard within the corridors of power at City.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Spain cements its place in history with unprecedented title run

July 2, 2012

“Three thoughts after Spain’s 4-0 win over Italy in the Euro 2012 final: • Let’s call Spain what it is: The most accomplished international soccer team of all time. What more could you ask for? On a glorious summer night in Ukraine, Spain played a spectacular game against the four-time world champions, carving up the Italian defense with speed and precision to leave no doubt that this Spanish team’s accomplishments deserve to be in the sport’s pantheon ahead of Brazil (1958-62, 1970), France (1998-2000) and West Germany (1972-74). In doing so, Spain becomes the first country ever to be a two-time reigning European champion and World Cup champion at the same time. Just as importantly, Spain turned on the style more than it had at any point in this tournament, giving us brilliant passing sequences that led to goals by David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata. The highlights of their goals — the motion, the imagination, the beauty — will live on in the history of sports, and for that we can all be thankful that we got the chance to witness it.” SI

Spain 4-0 Italy: Spain win Euro 2012
“Spain produced by far their best performance of Euro 2012, and won the final with ease. Both teams were as expected. Vicente del Bosque made a single change – Cesc Fabregas returned upfront in place of Alvaro Negredo. Cesare Prandelli also made one change, bringing back Ignazio Abate at right-back, with Federico Balzaretti dropping to the bench. Giorgio Chiellini continued at left-back, although didn’t last long before Balzaretti replaced him. Spain were the better side by a considerable distance. They didn’t settle for mere dominance of possession, and instead attacked with speed and determination to produce a wonderful display of football.” Zonal Marking

Spain 4 Italy 0: match report
“This was so much more than a stunning Euro 2012 scoreline conjured up by one of the most magical collection of footballers in history. This was a statement by Spain, a thrilling 90-minute advertisement to the world over how the game should be played, with skill, movement, bursts of unstoppable pace, with pass after pass after pass. This was simplicity and beauty, golden football leading to silverware. This was history in the making, Spain recording an unprecedented three trophies in a row. Vicente Del Bosque’s side of all the talents were good from back to front. Iker Casillas made some important aerial interceptions. Jordi Alba was all shimmering class at left-back, Xavi and Andres Iniesta controlled midfield as if they had been presented with the title deeds while Cesc Fabregas was immense in attack.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Euro 2012: Reign of Spain goes on as Italy trail in their stardust
“In the end, Spain were the best team in Euro 2012 by a considerable distance. They turned the final into a procession and, when they reflect on becoming the first nation to win three major tournaments in succession, the sense of jubilation should be greatly enhanced by this being the night when they were rewarded for having absolute conviction in their principles. They never wavered in the face of great scrutiny and Vicente del Bosque’s formation, however unorthodox, was shown ultimately to be based on the strongest of foundations, to the extent it feels bizarre in the extreme that a team of this brilliance could ever be accused of not entertaining.” Guardian

Euro 2012: Spain v Italy – five talking points
“Spain are not boring. They are unstoppable … Vicente del Bosque’s side are history-makers, their hat-trick of major trophies secured here in such scintillating if characteristic style. They were also, quite clearly, the best team at these finals. Others have attempted to stifle them, some relatively successfully, but Spain cannot be out-passed or unpicked: the statistics suggest as much, but a glance at their fluid approach-play is more revealing. Rather, it is awe-inspiring.” Guardian

Spain makes history against Italy
“In a bravura display of creative, free-flowing, tactically nimble football, Spain made history with a 4-0 victory over Italy. With a performance fitting of champions, Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain became the first team to win three straight major tournaments and the first to repeat as Euro champions. After their campaign had been stigmatized by allegations their possession-hungry style of play had become “boring,” La Roja summoned an extra gear in this final to elevate their game and eviscerate their critics.” ESPN (Video)

Euro 2012: The Final – Spain 4-0 Italy
“Football writers the world over will be frantically thumbing through their thesaureses this evening, desperately searching for new superlatives for a performance from Spain that we may well one day look back upon as the definitive of our age. Over the last few days a frankly tedious circular debate has been raging on the subject of whether Spain are ‘boring’ or not. It’s an argument that was rendered suddenly and startlingly obsolete this evening by a complete football performance which rendered a previously impressive looking Italian side bloodied and broken. If this match had been a boxing match, it would have been stopped long ago. Had it been a horse race, they’d have shot both the horse and the jockey.” twohundredpercent