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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 – Sunday Recap; Milan, Udinese, Cavani, Ronaldo – WOW!

Written by on January 9, 2011 | 11 Comments »
Posted in General

Last nightI looked at the Sunday schedule again and thought that this was just going to be one of these special days. That was one of the motivators for posting a special Saturday edition of the Rear View Mirror – otherwise the post was going to easily crack 3,000 words. As it turned out, I was right it was a fantastic day of football.

The Good

Nine days into the New Year and I don’t know if I will see a more exciting game in 2011 than the one Milan and Udinese served up at the San Siro.  Shifts in momentum, both sides committed to attack from every position on the field, eight goals and final second dramatics – it had everything.

Alexis Sanchez sat in behind lone striker Di Natale but when Udinese attacked it came from every direction. Full backs, centre backs, midfielders – all had a license to get forward and support. Udinese swarmed Milan for most of the first half but still went in at half time tied with Milan’s equalizer very much against the run of play at the whistle.

Milan started the second half strongly but this it was Udinese’s turn to score against the run of play. Sanchez with a brave header – he also started the move around the half way line – and then Di Natale with the simplest and most brilliant of finishes. On the break Di Natale simply checked back and cut inside on Bonera and literally passed the ball into the Milan goal.

Milan responded with Cassano on for Seedorf and going with three at the back. And it was Thiago Silva – one of the back three – who played a major role in Milan coming back to tie the game. First Silva’s cross was put into his own net by Udinese defender Benatia. It was followed by Silva feeding Cassano who threaded the most delicate of passes to Pato to make it 3-3.

But there was still more. German Denis who had come on for Di Natale held his run beautifully until Isla played him in (3-4) but Ibrahimovic stole in to equalize with the match in injury time.

Breathe taking stuff it was.

Prior to his appointment one of the knocks against Kenny Dalglish was that it had been so long since he sat on the bench that the game had passed him by. Time will tell if this is or is not the case but it was encouraging to see Dalglish do something that the majority of managers are reticent to do. And that is to inject some youth into a time of crisis.

Years ago it was common for managers to give younger players a chance when a team needed shaking up but in times of trouble nowadays managers are far more likely to opt for the players of experience. The introduction of Shevley, N’Gog and Babel (although I am not sure that he should still be considered a youngster) and starting Martin Kelly was a sign already that Dalglish will go about the business very differently than Rafa Benitez and Roy Hodgson.

Leicester City were a much brighter side than I expected – and by the reaction of Manchester City they were caught of guard as well. Leicester caused the Manchester City defence all sorts of problems at corner kicks and the City defenders will be glad they don’t have to deal with new signing Bamba each week. I haven’t received any reports on his performances for Hibs this season but he was mentioned in dispatches on a number of occasions the season before.

The Ivory Coast World Cup Finals player was described as a player who was comfortable on the ball, could play centre back or in midfield but needed a good talker or organizer beside him to get the very best from him. A favourable impression was also made by  another World Cup player lining up for Leicester – Yuki Abe. He covered well, his distribution was consistently good and he looked like a player who would not be out of place in a higher league.

Edinson Cavani has been getting rave notices for his goals for Napoli since arriving during the summer from Palermo. He added another three goals to his Serie A total to bring his tally to 13 already this season. His hat trick all came from headers and each was a perfect illustration of movement, cunning and intelligence – with bravery tossed in for the third one. Juventus could not deal with speed of thought or foot.

Real Madrid v Villarreal gave us another fantastic game of football. Great goals, a bit of nastiness in the second half, controversy over the third Real Madrid goal and no doubt Mourinho will get more than his fair share of headlines. Villarreal’s goals were wonderfully constructed and executed by Cani and Marco Reuben who nearly landed at Wigan Athletic last year at this time.

Ronaldo was outstanding and potted another hat trick. There was controversy over the third goal but if we truly believe that the attacking side should receive the benefit of the doubt then the officials were correct to allow the goal.

And what about Alonso’s delivery that led to Real and Ronaldo’s second goal  –wicked.

The Bad

Juventus left 2010 behind with realistic thoughts of hauling in Milan and making a run at the Serie A title. But with only two games of 2011 played Juventus’ dream has held up as well as 99% of New Year’s resolutions – poof and gone. A traumatic Thursday loss to Parma 4-1 at home was followed by a 3-0 thumping by Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday.

One of the major reasons for Juve’s resurrection has been an improvement in their defending and the resultant reduction in the goals against. A team that had given up on average a goal and a half a game had cut that to a goal a game. Seven goals against in two games seem to indicate that it is back to the drawing board for Luigi Delneri.

I have already mentioned the problems the Manchester City defence had from Leicester’s corner kicks but there was also a horrible error by Joe Hart. Hart had a lapse in concentration as he mishandled a routine cross from Paul Gallagher and Andy King took full advantage to get Leicester back to 2-2.

For Roma it was case of the old Juan-two against Sampdoria. Unfortunately for Roma it was two catastrophic errors by substitute Juan that turned the tide in Sampdoria’s favour. The first was a short pass back and goalkeeper Julio Sergio was forced to dive in on Palombo – penalty kick (scored) and a red card for Julio Sergio. With only five minutes remaining Juan made a hash of a simple clearance and Guberti slid home the winner.

That was a sickening collision that saw Villarreal defender Angel’s straight leg make contact with the goal post at speed after he had collided with Diego Lopez his goalkeeper. Angel made his way back onto the field but only a minute or so later he collapsed in a heap with no player close to him as he planted the leg again. This time he was stretchered off and did not return – it looked very nasty.

Stats Facts

Spurs cruised to a 3-0 win over London rivals Charlton and it means that they made it the 4th round of the FA Cup for the last five years. Leicester City won 3-2 against Spurs back in 2006 in the 3rd round.

It is now 11 years since Juventus last won a game in the Stadio San Paolo.

Liverpool last won the FA Cup in 2006 but they have also lost in the 3rd round in four of the last seven seasons.

There have been 35 goals in the last six meetings between Milan and Udinese.

When Villarreal took a 7th minute lead at the Bernabeu it was the first time Real Madrid had trailed at home under Jose Mourinho. And after the 4-2 win Mourinho is now within touching distance of 150 home league games without a loss. The streak started in February 2002 and now extends to 145 matches.  (A 3–2 loss to Beira Mara as I know you wee going to ask.)

Of the top eight clubs in Serie A only Inter and Napoli came away with full points. Milan and Udinese drew with each other; Palermo played out a scoreless draw with Chievo; the two teams from the capital city Roma and Lazio lost to Sampdoria and Lecce respectively; Juventus lost to Napoli.

From Opta Jose (not that Jose) – The penalty miss by Juan Mata of Valencia was the first by Valencia since 2007 and brought an end to 19 successfully taken spot kicks in La Liga. Mata did however score the only goal of the game against Levante with seven minutes left to play.

At 2-0 up and with less than twenty minutes to play Brescia must have felt that they were on their way to a first away win against Fiorentina since 1970.  Three Fiorentina goals in the space of quarter of an area turned the game upside down.

A team coached by Claudio Ranieri has never beaten Sampdoria – that is a total of ten games.

Upset
If you had correctly predicted a draw between Leicester and Manchester City you would got four times your money back.

Player of the Weekend nominees

Robert Snodgrass (Leeds United)

Lawrie Wilson (Stevenage)

Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)

Bamba (Leicester City)

Cristian Zapata (Udinese)

Edinson Cavani (Napoli)

Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

The winner to be announced on Monday’s Fox Soccer Report. However, I must admit I am torn on the selection this week.

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11 responses to “Rear View Mirror – Sunday Recap; Milan, Udinese, Cavani, Ronaldo – WOW!”

  1. Wenger's Love Child says:

    Mr. Bobby,

    How does Mourinho get away with “that”? Did he not leave his technical area, not once but twice, after Madrid goals? On top of that he deliberately provokes the Villarreal bench. How does the match referee not send him off to the stands or down the tunnel? Last year my father got sent to the stands at Old Trafford for a far less egregious act (kicking a water bottle). Jose got a water bottle thrown at him that sadly missed the mark. The man is a brilliant manager but his classlessness knows no bounds. Barça was justified giving him the sprinkler treatment last year. Shouldn’t the Spanish FA sanction him (fine or match ban) for this latest display?

    My vote for player of the weekend is Ronaldo. For me, it’s a no brainer and that’s hard for me to say since I’m a Barça fan (please don’t tell my father). The man gets a hat trick in a critical match (2nd v 3rd) for The Evil Empire’s title bid. The real worry for Madrid is that he accounts for far too many of Madrid’s goals this year. If he goes down … Barça’s goal distribution is far more varied.

  2. AntonioSaucedo says:

    Great recap, Bobby.

    Plus, the best 3 goals of the weekend:

    3) Cani

    2) Vučinić

    1) Cavani (the third one)

  3. Ursusarctos says:

    Bobby:

    I believe, IIRC, that Dalglish personally scouted and recruited Shelvey for LFC, so he would have a good idea of his abilities and potential (Dalglish also has been working with the Academy for the past 18 months, and so knows what talent is there, not that anyone that young got on the pitch … yet …).

    Still takes the belief and the nerve to play the Shelveys et al in a pressure match, as you point out.

    And Martin Kelly continues to impress every start he gets. There is chatter on LFC boards that he should be the regular RB (a RB that can actually defend … imagine that?), while looking at recasting Glen Johnson as a winger. I haven’t worked that one through its implications yet – just mentioning it in case you had any thoughts.

    In any case, no matter the result, the FA Cup tie at OT was the first time in a long while that I was happy to watch LFC play. And it was refreshing to hear Kenny use his familiar “Fergie”, not Woy’s groveling and obsequious “Sir Alex”.

    As an aside, by a seat-of-the-pants count, I make it now 6 Scottish managers in the PL …

  4. Rossoneri Red Devil says:

    Bobby,
    Im interested to hear what it was that stuck out to you about the play of Lawrie Wilson? I thought Bostwick deserved the nomination for Player of the Week.

    As for the winner, its got to be Cavani. Unlike Ronaldo, there was no controversy surrounding any of the goals in his hatrick. Perhaps it is an old sports cliche, but this win over Juve had “statement game” written all over it. Napoli seem to be rising to the Scudetto challenge as Roma and Juve fall back.

    Have to say, I thought LFC looked pretty damn good on Sunday. Its a shame that the most overrated referee in the world had to call that soft penalty, and rob us all of a more competitive cup tie.

    Side bar: Does anyone know the rules about kit selection in FA competitions? I found it strange that Liverpool were wearing their European kits in an FA Cup tie. I always remember the font of the numbers/names on the back of team’s shirts being the same in the FA Cup ties as the shirts they wear in their FA sanctioned League games, and assumed it was in the rules.

  5. Gus Keri says:

    UA:

    I agree with you on Kelly. he looked good when he played.

    Like you, I Also wonder for how long Glen Johnson will be used as right back. He fits better as right midfielder in 4-4-2 or right winger in 4-3-3.

  6. Arshavin and a Brasilian ... Pretty Smooth says:

    Bobby,

    Cavani over Ronaldo? Really? OK, they both had hat tricks. Fine. And all of Cavani’s were headers. Fine. But Ronaldo also got a key assist on the Kaka goal to put the game to bed. Also, the Italian game ended 3-0 and Juve didn’t offer much resistance. The Spanish game was in the balance until the 80th minute. That was until Ronaldo scored the game winner through sheer will and tremendous athletism (this goal was the best of the six in question). RRD’s point that it was controversial is a red herring. You’re either pregnant or you’re not. A goal is either awarded or it is not. In addition, the Italian game was between 2nd v 6th in the table while the Spainish game was between 2nd v 3rd in the table. Therefore, the Spanish contest was a more critical match-up.

    I wish Fox Soccer Report (FSR) would spend more time on La Liga. I assume the reason that FSR focuses almost exclusively on the EPL and Serie A comes down to the fact that your network televises these games (in the USA anyway) while GolTV televises La Liga.

    Cheers

  7. I think we need to differentiate between the Best Player of the Weekend and the Player of the Weekend.

    I wouldn’t take my Player of the Weekend picks to seriously – after all where else would you find Lawrie Wilson of Stevenage nominated with Messi and Ronaldo?

    Sometimes it is just a chance to highlight a player that rarely gets the limelight – after all when you get down to it Messi and Ronaldo would be pick almost every week if it was the best player.

    Sometimes it is just my whim.

    It also a matter of time in terms of what gets covered – we have an hour (less when you account for breaks) and I only have so much time I can put in as well and so something has to give I am afraid.

  8. Ursusarctos – Struck me yesterday that Kenny Dalglish is the only manager in the Premier League that carries no psychological baggage in terms of SAF.

    I have said in the past that there are only three managers who have faced SAF and fought to at least a draw during a protracted period of Fergie’s career – Jim McLean (Dundee United), Jose Mourinho (Porto and Chelsea) and Arsene Wenger (Arsenal). It should really be four with the inclusion of Dalglish.

  9. Arshavin and a Brasilian ... Pretty Smooth says:

    Bobby,

    My pick of Ronaldo over Cavani is based soley on the merits of the performances over the weekend. Ronaldo (3 goals and an assist) v Cavani (3 goals and 0 assists). I get your point that you could give it to Messi and Ronaldo almost every week. But this week, if it wasn’t for Ronaldo, I would have voted for Cavani over everybody else (even Messi). We should not exclude the likes of Messi and Ronaldo just because they are Messi and Ronaldo. It should not be a mark against them for the pick for player of the week. Anyway, maybe it’s all in the eye of the beholder (like the beauty of a lady).

    Last night your program led off with LFC and KD. No disrespect to KD but I do believe that FIFA Ballon d’Or and FIFA XI are a much, much, much bigger story seven days of the week. The reason FSR emphasizes the EPL and Serie A has to come down to the network’s contractual obligations and not the merits of these two leagues over La Liga and the the Bundesliga. I know everyone has an opinion, like noses or arses, and that many will disagree with me but for my money La Liga is the best league in the world (especially technically). I do watch a lot of the EPL but that league, sadly to say, is full of “kick and hope” with an unhealthy dash of leg breakers in it (the incidents against Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey come to mind). The only EPL club that truly believes in possession football and building the ball from the back is Arsenal. I can only hope, wishfully I unfortunately know, that your FSR would spend more time on La Liga. Just take a look at the awards ceremony last night: 8 of the 11 FIFA XI, all three Ballon d’Or finalists, and all three coaches are currently via La Liga (or the Spanish national team). Also, the current World Cup and Euro champions are Spain. I’m just saying …

  10. RRD – I thought Wilson set the tone with some driving runs in the first half and it lifted Stevenage.

  11. Arshavin and a Brasilian ... Pretty Smooth says:

    Gareth Bale says that Dani Alves is a better right back than Maicon. Dunga take note. Oh, too late for that. Reports out of North London say that Bale believes it highly unlikely that he can do to Alves what he did to Maicon. In fact, Bale said that if he can pull a ‘Maicon’ on Alves that he would retire from football and concentrate on monasterial activities in the highlands of Tibet.

    If Bale every were to visit the highlands of Tibet here’s hoping that he takes Dunga along with him. Praise the Lord he no longer steers the ship for Brasil.

    As a side note, what is it with Brasilian names and their fascination with feces? First the Dunga and now with the Kaka? An Italian might say, “Mama mia”!

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