Montenegro 1-1 England: Montenegro start timidly but introduce attackers effectively

March 28, 2013

“Branko Brnovic surprisingly started with a lone forward, but ended up with four outright attackers as Montenegro deservedly claimed a point. Brnovic’s selection was hampered by injuries and suspensions – Miodrag Dzudovic, Mitar Novakovic and Simon Vukcevic all came into the side. Roy Hodgson made significant changes from the side that comfortably defeated San Marino on Friday evening, with Danny Welbeck, Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick, James Milner, Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson returning. A game of two halves – England dominated against an oddly passive Montenegro, but were unable to deal with the increased attacking threat after half-time.” Zonal Marking

England manager Roy Hodgson needs to wake up to some harsh realities as spectre of World Cup play-offs looms
” England are in a dark place, a potentially damaging and hugely expensive place. They trail to bullish Montenegro in the race for automatic qualification, face the possibility of a play-off against France and risk losing out on the 2014 Brazilian bonanza of £26m to the FA and £100m to the nation’s economy. Hodgson is confident of overtaking Montenegro, who lead Group H by two points, but the spectre of the play-offs should really focus his thoughts sharply. November’s two-legged examination of psychological, tactical and technical strengths must be avoided. Hodgson needs to stop clutching at draws and start winning, instilling a more assertive culture in his players and his own response to difficulties.” Telegraph – Henry Winter


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