Chelsea likes the FA Cup – no doubt about it. A fourth win in the last six seasons and individual player records for Drogba, Terry and Cole. For at least two-thirds of the match Chelsea was cruising to a very comfortable win. Where Chelsea had a plan – no Liverpool appeared to have none.
That changed in the last half hour as Liverpool threw caution to the wind and Chelsea needed a bit of good fortune and a tremendous stop from Cech off a Carroll header to stave off extra time. If the game had gone into an extra time then the smart money would have switched to the fresher legs of Liverpool.
I don’t know if this analogy works but Chelsea over the last few weeks brings to mind the tactics of Muhammad Ali against George Foreman. When Foreman pinned Ali against the ropes Ali simply leaned back and the incredibly loose rung-ropes allowed him to avoid or least cushion the blows.
Chelsea seem to have found some very loose ropes the last few weeks and have become quite adept in using them. Can they continue their rope-a-dope tactics through May 19th in Munich?
A game that swung so many times but in the end two important points dropped by an Arsenal side that seems intent on playing in next season’s Europa League. A cohesive narrative would take up pages such were the ups and downs in this match.
So instead here goes…great start for Arsenal with a goal from Benayoun but…from Norwich’s immediate reaction and lackadaisical play from Arsenal’s midfield and defense you could see it was not going to stay 1-0…..Norwich unsettled Arsenal with the big man (Grant Holt) and little and speedy man (Simeon Jackson) and high pressing game…..Arsenal open to counter attack and Szczesny has not played well the last few weeks = equalizer….Holt scores from a big deflection – not the first like that conceded by Arsenal this season….can’t get to half time before muting ESPN’s version of the Gossip Girls……second half a story of good saves, bad defending, wasteful finishing …..just when it looks as if Van Persie has rescued Arsenal Song hits a wrong note with an errant pass after being caught in at least two minds – Morison 3-3…..claim for Arsenal penalty…….probably disallowed on account of Gervinho (far more effective on left) being in offside position when ball played across……could have been considered as being active given that the Norwich player had to play the ball before McNaughton pushed Van Persie.
Of course we would find out 24 hours later that Arsenal gained a point on Newcastle and Spurs threw away another opportunity to overtake the Gunners and take third place.
If Chelsea beats Liverpool at Anfield in midweek we will go into the final weekend with Arsenal, Newcastle, Spurs and Chelsea playing for positions three through six with nearly every permutation still possible.
Eight games into the season and eight losses in this 2012 season for Toronto FC. The natives are getting more than a little restless with the team, the coach and the management. Last season almost every Toronto-based pundit was preaching the need for patience and how time was needed for the new Dutch philosophy to pay off. Apparently there was a time-limit on the need for such “patience” because I am not hearing the rallying cry anymore.
I don’t trust fundamentalists and ideologues in any walk of life and I was never convinced that the all or nothing approach to retool Toronto FC was either needed or possible. I stand-by that view.
Sigi Schmid walked into Seattle and within a few months he was able to field a very competitive side in MLS. No one will convince me that TFC in five years time will be in a superior position to the Sounders on account of some magical Dutch technique that creates a production line of exceptional talent.
There is a reason the players in MLS are there – it is because if there were technically superior they would be be playing elsewhere and earning a lot more money. (The exception to that is TFC’s Julian de Guzman who should be charged with taking DP money under false pretenses.)
If anyone is yet to be convinced that the management of Toronto FC is completely clueless then they should be by now after ingesting the Dutch kool-aid by the gallon.
Cologne’s fans did not react well to a defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich that sealed their relegation to the second division. They set off smoke bombs that engulfed much of the stadium in thick black smoke. By the time it cleared Cologne was down and Hertha Berlin has secured a lifeline courtesy of a relegation/promotion play-off.
Hertha will be hoping to mimic the response of Borussia Mönchengladbach – last season Mönchengladbach only survived in the Bundesliga by way of the play off but this season they finished fourth and in August they will be in the qualifying stages of the Champions League.
They could yet be usurped by Bayern should they win the Champions League on May 19th but at the moment Borussia Dortmund are the big winners in Germany. Unbeaten in 28 games and a record 81 points in 34 games was a remarkable achievement for Dortmund and their coach Jürgen Klopp. A capacity crowd of 80,000 watched Dortmund’s final game plus there was another 10,000+ who watched on a big screen just outside the stadium. Next weekend Dortmund and Bayern Munich will decide who can land a double when they face each other in the German Cup Final.
According to so many that profess inside knowledge of the MLS the LA Galaxy were going to be even stronger than last season. With five defeats in just nine games it is not looking that way at the moment. Three of the five losses have come at home and the latest was a 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls. The Galaxy was facing a makeshift Red Bulls defense and although they dominated possession and applied almost constant pressure the LA side had trouble creating clear cut scoring chances. Thirty-two crosses is testament to a lack of ideas and poor execution.
After an unimpressive start the Montreal Impact seem to be finding their MLS legs. Their first away win came on Saturday away to Sporting KC by a score of 2-0. Eleven points from ten games is a very decent return but as others have learned before it can be a difficult to maintain through out a long and tiring season.
Patience and opportunism were the hallmarks of Manchester City’s 2-0 away win against a threatening Newcastle side. A win against QPR next Saturday at Etihad Stadium will mean the Premier League title stays in Manchester but with different color ribbons.
The twists and turns of late season were on full view on Sunday in the Premier League. Bolton led WBA 2-0 while QPR and Stoke were scoreless at Loftus Road with only 15 minutes remaining. If the scores had held up Bolton would have vaulted up to 16th leaving QPR to occupy the last relegation spot. But two goals from WBA and a winner from Cisse turned the tables once more and Bolton may be left to rue a golden chance to control their own fate. Wigan plays Blackburn in the Monday night game and that will surely impact the relegation battle.
Nonetheless Bolton needs to win at Stoke next Sunday to have any chance to survive while QPR knows that a point in their final game will be enough to keep them in the Premier League.
Of course there is the issue of QPR having to take the point from Manchester City.
Congratulations go to Juventus who won the scudetto for the XXth time (fill in your own number depending on your views). A 2-0 win against Cagliari combined with Inter’s 4-2 win in the derby game provided the Turin side with an unassailable lead. Under first year manager Antonio Conte Juventus have rarely been anything less than positive and if they remain unbeaten after next week’s match against Atalanta they will be the first team to go unbeaten in a 38-game Serie A season.
They will also go into next season’s Champions League with a coefficient in the mid-40s which will likely only be good enough for a place in pot 3. Don’t be surprised if Juventus and Group of Death comes up later in the summer.
Diego Milito scored his 4th hat trick of the season and brought his tally to 23 for the season in helping Inter to remain in the hunt (just) for a Champions League place next season. With one game left Inter must beat Lazio and hope that results for Udinese and Napoli go their way i.e. Udinese lose and Napoli don’t win. Milito’s latest hat trick came in a 4-2 win over Milan which put paid to their city rivals hopes of winning consecutive titles. Since 2012 rolled in Milito has scored 19 league goals in 21 games.
Lionel Messi 50 goals in La Liga and 72 on the season so far. Fill in your own superlatives while no doubt a number of Cristiano Ronaldo fans will spent their time discovering weird ways of minimizing the accomplishment.
What were you high and low points on the weekend?
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