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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


TANGENTS

Rear View Mirror – Nerves Abound and Dreams Shatter

Written by on April 17, 2011 | 11 Comments »
Posted in General

Saturday may go down as the day when nerves were the big winners.

Mistakes and errors abounded as Mr. Cock Up made stadium calls around England. Blackpool conceded two first half goals to Wigan after giving the ball away needlessly.

Charlie Adam played like the man that Walter Smith said used to get booed on to the park at Ibrox rather than a player of the year candidate.

At Upton Park Mark Noble decided that dribbling in his own penalty box was a good idea…..for a moment anyway. Heskey got a tackle in and within seconds Bent had scored.

It does not seem so long ago that Scott Carson was tagged as England’s next great goalkeeper.

However, it is fair to say over the last few years he has struggled to even perform as a reliable first team keeper. He didn’t receive much support from his day-dreaming defenders but nonetheless he failed to deal adequately with two routine efforts on Saturday against Chelsea that led to goals.

Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet and Phil Bardsley could not figure out who was going to clear and it allowed Sebastian Larsson to nip and score the opener for Birmingham goal.

Manchester United succumbed to another flawed double act.

Van der Sar made a mess of a clearance only for Carrick to make things worse by having Ya Ya Toure intercept a pass on the edge of the United area.

A couple of touches later and the ball was in the back of the United net.

Perhaps not unexpectedly el clasico left us with more than a few points to ponder and with more than a few contradictions to debate.

For example, Real Madrid played their best football after being reduced to ten men was on account of having nothing to lose or down to Mourinho’s adjustments?

There were the substitutions after Albiol’s red card. Ozil came on for Benzema and Alonso was replaced by Adebayor.

In the case of Barcelona they looked to have another gear but they often looked nervy when Real Madrid broke and there was little excuse for the penalty Alves gave away. It was the accumulation of a series of mistakes.

Eight points remain the gap between the two sides at the top of La Liga which is a chasm given Barca’s remaining schedule.

Next up is the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday. And after that what are the odds that Jose Mourinho puts out a skeleton team against Valencia next week in La Liga?

With ninety-six minutes already played nobody could have possibly predicted what was to unfold in the next five minutes at the Emirates Stadium.

Up to that point the game had been unnervingly predicable – Arsenal dominating possession, Liverpool maintaining their shape and looking to frustrate the home side at every turn while also hoping to take advantage of any counter-attack or set piece opportunities.

When Spearing brought Fabregas down in the box it looked as if Arsenal were only a successful penalty kick away from securing all three points. Van Persie – who up to that point had not enjoyed one of his better days – struck a beauty and did his part.

However, faced with the reasonably straight-forward task of kicking the ball as high and as far as possible down the park Arsenal were found wanting.

A free kick inches outside of the penalty area was blocked by the Arsenal wall but set in motion an incident that would result in an ill-advised push by Eboue in the box.

As the ball rolled into the corner Lucas invited contact from Eboue and the Arsenal right back did not disappoint. Another excellent penalty, this one from Kuyt, and the teams finished with a point a piece.

Don’t try and tell Stoke fans that the FA Cup is not important. After 148 years Stoke will going to Wembley to play in a FA Cup Final for the very first time.

And they secured their place in the final with one the most emphatic semi-final wins in the history of the competition. Two goals down before twenty minutes were on the clock and 3-0 down after half-an-hour Bolton were never in the game. Stoke’s transition game was excellent they were ruthless in their execution.

Just as in Germany (Bayer Leverkusen losing heavily to Bayern Munich) and in England (Arsenal dropping two points), in Italy it was a bad weekend for the second place team – in this case Napoli.

In facing an Udinese side that had lost their last two matches and were missing the strike partnership of Alexis Sanchez and Antonio di Natale the task before Napoli did not look as daunting as it might have done a few weeks ago.

A scoreless first half would not have caused Napoli great concern but the tide turned against the home side in the early stages of the second half. A spectacular strike by Inler from around 30 yards gave Udinese a 1-0 lead.

Then a few minutes later German Denis (allowed to leave Napoli last summer) finished in exquisite style as he hit the ball on the drop and it rocketed past Napoli keeper Morgan De Sanctis.

As the minutes ticked away Napoli’s situation looked increasingly forlorn.

Nonetheless Napoli were offered a route back after Udinese defender Domizzi decided that holding substitute Cristiano Lucarelli in the penalty box was not enough – a crack to the jaw was also needed.

Lucarelli crashed to the floor, the referee saw the incident, a penalty was awarded and Domizzi sent off.

All that was needed was Cavani to slot home goal #26 for the season and Napoli still might have a chance.

But Udinese keeper Handanovic leapt to his right to make a fantastic save and although Mascara did score for Napoli deep into injury time it was not enough. This was a major setback for Napoli but a big win for Udinese.

They stay within four points of Lazio who are currently 4th in Serie A.

Upsets

I went 0-2 in picking the FA Cup semi-finals while on Friday’s Fox Soccer Report Michelle picked the opposite and so got both of the finalists right. Manchester City and Stoke were the underdogs at 11/10 and 15/8 respectively.

In the Barclay’s Premier League the most unexpected outcome according to the bookies was Liverpool drawing with Arsenal at the Emirates. The odds on such an outcome were 5/2.

Two late goals from Hernandez helped to provide Palermo with a 3-2 away win against Roma. You would have received 6/1 against the struggling Palermo side beating Roma.

A draw in el clasico was the most surprising result in Spain – 23/10.

Two red cards were issued to Rennes as they suffered only their third loss at home this season and Lorient recorded only their third away win. The decisive goal in a 2-1 win was scored by Francis Coquelin, currently on loan from Arsenal.

The odds against a Lorient win were 7/2 and this result combined with a loss by Lyon at PSG means that Ligue 1 looks to have taken on the look of a two-horse race between Leaders Lille and defending champions Marseille.

An 88th minute equalizer by Wolfsburg salvaged a point against St. Pauli in a relegation battle.

The result leaves Wolfsburg and St Pauli in 16th and 17th spots and both on 29 points. It was 3/1 against a draw.

Finally DC United’s emphatic 3-0 win away to Toronto FC was 11/4 before the match.

Player of the Weekend Nominees

Charles N’Zogbia (Wigan)

Ya Ya Toure (Manchester City)

Pepe (Real Madrid)

Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)

Jonathan Walters (Stoke City)

Gokhan Inler (Udinese)

The winner to be announced on Monday night’s Fox Soccer Report.

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11 responses to “Rear View Mirror – Nerves Abound and Dreams Shatter”

  1. Bret says:

    For me, I had to give Pepe Reina the nod for best player in that match. With Lucas and Robinson close behind, the nerves that kid must’ve been feeling locking that side down against Walcott…

  2. Ossie says:

    No Drogba in the POTW list? WBA Away was his best performance since the malaria struck. Goals, assists, goal line defense and a couple of his Beast Mode runs that instantly get defenses to stay two paces further away from Chelsea attackers. The diagonal thirty yard run that led to the second goal in particular gave the back two rows of Albion’s lineup a fright that they never really recovered from.

    Here’s hoping Torres was paying attention. That’s how you get after them!

  3. Soccerlogical says:

    Time for Inler to join Arsenal.

    *Unsung hero = Charlie Davies

  4. Gary says:

    I am wondering how many friends Arsene Wenger has among his fellow Premiership managers? I know it was cruel for the Gunners to only come away with a point on Sunday in a game that meant so much in their attempt to catch United.As a manager you are supposed to rise above your immediate anger and frustration after a match and shake your fellow manager`s hand with some display of dignity and grace.Dalglish or any other manager does not deserve to be treated in such a manner as Wenger frequently does to his peers. He comes across to me as always being a sore loser.

  5. Bryan says:

    Now THAT’s what you call a Super Sunday.
    Two highly entertaining games ,and for completely different reasons.

    Can’t remember seeing an ending to a game like that before.
    And I thought it should have been a penalty when the free-kick was given.Another of those fouls when the attacker was on/over the line in the air.
    Dalglish has definitely got Liverpool on the way back.Didn’t think he would be up to it after his long absence ,but he’s still got it.
    To put in a fighting performance like that when ending up with four teenagers on the pitch and without Gerrard ,and I think they look better without him ,and still get a result.
    I loved his response to Wenger’s usual whining at the final whistle ,”ah piss off!”

    You have to feel for the Bolton supporters ,all six of them.But that was still twice as many as showed up for the Motherwell/St.Johnston s/f at Hampden.
    Great scenes after the game with the Stoke supporters ,especially when singing Delilah. Tom Jones never sounded that good.
    They made me want to be there.

    And well done to Michelle for picking both finalists. She’s in good company.

  6. CDNGooner14 says:

    What is Arsenal’s problem? Do they forget all their training in the last 5 minutes of games? They calmly hold possession for 85+ minutes then play hail mary clearances the last few minutes of games. Unfortunately, no-one can get it past the half-way line and the ball comes right back in. It’s something we see so often that it’s become a joke.

  7. houyhnhnm twit says:

    overall, great overview, I loved this past saturday, watched the chelsea win, the mancity victory, the begining of Milan’s scudetto raise, the first of the classico’s, and of course my DC playing better.

    To be fair, I think ManU without Rooneyis like Chelsea without Drogba or Inter without Eto’o, a good team, but those players, they have that drive and that utilitarian aspect which pushes all those teams above.

  8. Gillian says:

    Did anyone else see the Leverkusen/Bayern match? Was this a case of Bayern being really good, or Leverkusen being really dreadful?

  9. greg mclauchlin says:

    Leverkusen were dreadful. They essentially gifted Bayern 3 goals. On the third goal, Vidal tried a backheel pass just outside his own six yard box!

  10. rdm says:

    I wonder if he and Fabregas are close friends?

  11. Seattle_Loon says:

    Arsene Wenger’s on-going histrionics bring to mind what the excellent Tim Vickery (BBC blogger on S. American soccer) said about Dunga as Brazil’s coach when they got eliminated by Holland especially the last sentence.

    “Dunga has shown good man management, creating a healthy spirit of sacrifice in his squad. But in his biggest game he was way too hysterical, obsessed with swearing and protesting at the referee, uptight at every decision that went against his men. Uptight coach, uptight team.”

    What was Eboue thinking? Loved what Kenny Dalglish said about his team at the end: “You will find teams that play better football but not a more committed team”.

    Still a long way to go for Liverpool but with 4/5 first-team players missing in the last week delighted to see them take 4 out of 6 points from Man City and Arsenal.

    Result of the weekend? Hats off to Stoke – what an amazing win. I feel really bad for Owen Coyle. He’ll have a hell of a time lifting his players off the floor after that defeat.

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