Monday, March 28, 2011

Adidas F50 Adizero Synthetic Warning/Black/White Preview

Adidas are the speed kings, there's no other way to put it. When they released the original F50 Adizero, everyone was speechless at how the German company managed to trim so much weight while maintaining a comfortable boot. Now Adidas have revamped the F50 Adizeros, making changes to the upper, visual design, and releasing the Prime version which is now the lightest boot in the world.

I'll have a chance to review a pair of the Adidas F50 Adizero as SoccerPro is kindly sending me a pair. First of all, I chose to review the synthetic version of the cleats. While many professional players decide to go with the leather version which is slightly heavier, I'm interested in seeing how the lighter synthetic version plays.

At 5.8oz (about 165 grams), these boots are only surpassed in lightweight by the Puma V1.10 SL and Adidas's F50 Adizero Prime. What enables these cleats to be so light is the Sprintskin technology, a single-layer synthetic upper which is very light. The upper is covered in thin textured lines, used to improve first touch and control on the ball. Whether these actually do make a difference compared to just a smooth upper, I'll find that out in the review.

Adidas also utilizes internal TPU support bands to keep the upper well supported. There's also a bottom frame "for increased stability and abrasion resistance" which from what I've heard is actually a very useful part of the boot. It helps increase the durability of the cleats, in an area which is often the first to fall apart.

The outsole features Adidas's innovative Traxion technology, the firm ground triangular studs which offer strong grip in all directions. Among all the statistics of increased acceleration and performance, the eleven studs placed on the bottom seem to offer very solid traction. Of course, I'll share my thoughts on the studs and how they perform once I've reviewed the cleats.

Overall the Adidas F50 Adizero look like a fantastic pair of cleats, but I've yet to get my hands on them. The cleats are supplied by SoccerPro, and if you're interested in buying soccer cleats or any other type of soccer gear, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

England Comfortably Defeat Wales 2-0

Bent celebrates after scoring the second goal for England

As this international break drags on, the enigma that is England defeated Wales 2-0 at the Millenium Stadium. While the English media fretted regarding Fabio Capello's captaincy decisions, none of that ultimately mattered as England played as a collective.

After all of the criticism aimed at Fabio Capello, the Italian coach who had been depicted as a rigid and unwavering man, England played in a very fluid 4-3-3. A midfield trio of Lampard, Wilshere, and the hardworking Scott Parker supported the front three of Rooney, Bent, and Young. Just five minutes in, Ashley Young is brought down in the box earning a penalty which Frank Lampard tucked away. Looking at the build-up to the penalty, it was John Terry who started it all with a winding run before playing Young through into the Wales penalty area.

England didn't sit back on their lead, instead they pressed in a frenzy leaving the Welsh players no time on the ball. It was a great display which culminated with a second goal in the 15th minute, when a well worked attack finished with Ashley Young squaring the ball for Bent to tap-in. The two goals eased any possible nerves which might've creeped their way into the English, and England went on to dominate the rest of the first half. The front three were dynamic and providing movement, the midfield was well balanced with Parker sweeping up any rare mistakes by Wilshere and Lampard, and the defence was strong and fluid with Johnson and Cole providing width with their runs up the line.

Scott Parker was energetic and hardworking
It really was a fantastic display from this England team which flourished thanks to the fairly disorganized Welsh side. While the new captain Aaron Ramsey tried to be inventive, all he could manage were a few stray and misplaced passes. Craig Bellamy wasn't very noticeable either, providing few bursts of danger for the English defence. It was a half to forget for Wales, and one to build on for England.

The second half saw a more lively Welsh team, beginning to edge out of their half of the field as England didn't seem as determined as they had in the first 45 minutes. Little by little Wales began to string passes together, and began creating a few good chances. Bellamy and Ramsey began to click, freeing up the rest of their teammates to be a bit more incisive in their forward pushing.

Yet England were still able to put Wales in some bad situations. Jack Wilshere played Darren Bent through the middle of the poorly shaped Welsh defence, but the Aston Villa forward was unable to score. In the 64th minute Wales decided to substitute King and Morison, replacing the pair with Vaughan and Evans. Capello responded about five minutes later replacing Wayne Rooney with James Milner. Before being substituted Rooney had earned himself a yellow after a couple of reckless challenges and therefore won't be playing in England's next Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland.

Arsenal teammates Wilshere and Ramsey
Wales continued to grow in confidence during the second half, occasionally forcing England to defend against repeated corners. But England wasn't too fazed, and the defence did its job without too many difficulties. The clock continued ticking, and Capello made his last two substitutions replacing Wilshere with Downing and Parker with Jagielka. The final whistle sounded as Wales were beginning to give Joe Hart some work to do.

It was a fairly comfortable 2-0 win for England, which helps them rise up to the top of Group G. Both England and Montenegro have 10 points, yet the three lions have a five goal lead in goal difference which gives them first place for now. Wales on the other hand still haven't collected any points in the group, and qualification to the European Championships held in Poland and Ukraine seems near impossible.

What are your thoughts on England's win? Was it the poor display from Wales in the first half which allowed England to win so easily? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Spain and Italy Closer to Euro 2012 Qualification

Thiago Motta and Cassano celebrating Italy's goal

As this international friendly week has rolled around, I'm doing my best to follow nations as they struggle to qualify for the European Chuampionships of 2012. But struggle isnt really the proper term for some nations, as Italy and Spain, are one step closer to the Euruopean tournament. Here is a quick look at their most recent result, and how the teams are looking as the still very distant European Championships approach.

Slovenia - Italy

Italy defeated Slovenia 1-0 in a fairly entertaining match. While Italy were creative and dangerous in the first half, they weren't able to find the back of Slovenia's net, which was well defended by Udinese keeper Handanovic. Cassano and Pazzini were doing their best to be a dangerous pair, while the midfield needed a bit of time to properly get into the match. Aquilani and Montolivo were especially ineffective in the first minutes, slowly becoming more confident as the minutes passed by. Chances were created and wasted, and while Slovenia were dangerous at times it was Italy which was coming closest to scoring.

The blonde samurai, Balzaretti
While the creative and attacking forces in the Italian midfield were meant to be Montolivo, Aquilani, and Mauri, it was the more defensive midfielder Thiago Motta who provided the necessary goal. A quick couple of passes the "blonde samurai" Balzaretti (Palermo's very attacking left-back) was finished with a low diagonal shot which left Handanovic flat-footed. After the 73rd minute goal, Italy held on to the lead, only slightly faltering on the Slovenian counter-attacks which ultimately didn't produce an equalizer.

With this win Italy have a very solid six point lead over Slovenia and Serbia in Group C, and qualification for the Azzurri is looking a lot simpler than it had when it began. Cesare Prandelli's rebuilding of the national team has been well orchestrated, breeding through the newer generation of players who were left out in the cold by Marcello Lippi. Now let's wait and see how Italy approaches the rest of their matches, and if they can manage to hold onto their first place and qualify for the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Spain - Czech Republic

Unlike Italy, Spain had the comfort of playing in their own country against a well-organized Czech Republic. Yet things took a strange turn for the world champions when Plasil fired a wonderfully precise strike onto the post and in. And as the tiki taka tried to break down the Czech defenses, it was 1-0 for the Czech Republic at halftime.
David Villa scored twice in the 2-1 comeback

In the second half you could say that things got a little bit nervy for Spain. The tiki taka wasn't ticking, and as the clock ticked away, the home crowd got a bit restless. Long range attempts were the main option for Spain, as cutting through the thickly placed banks of defenders was provimg to be difficult. That is until David Villa decided to produce a moment of magic, a low shot across Cech in the 69th minute. Three minutes later, Spain were awarded a penalty when Iniesta was sliced from behind in the Czech box. David Villa placed it well, with plenty of power which carried the ball through Cech's outstretched fingers and into the net for the winner.

With all of Spain breathing a sigh of relief after the 2-1 win, David Villa has become the country's outright leading scorer in international competitions with 46 goals. Yet it wasn't easy sailing for the Spaniards, this match showing that they won't waltz to a second consecutive European Championships in 2012.

What are your thoughts on these two victories? What about the matches being played tomorrow? Share thoughts, predictions and more below in the comments!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ramires and David Luiz Score to Defeat Manchester City

David Luiz scored the opener against Manchester City

Unless you hit the ground running, life can be very difficult as a new signing. At Chelsea we saw two Brazilians join, Ramires in the summer and David Luiz in January, and they've both had very different stories with the Blues so far. But recently they both proved very useful to an underachieving Carlo Ancelotti when they both scored to defeat Manchester City.

It was a very tight affair at Stamford Bridge. Roberto Mancini had set out Manchester City to defend and counter, giving Chelsea the majority of possession and goalscoring chances. Chelsea eventually scored in the 79th minute when David Luiz flicked Drogba's free kick past Joe Hart. The Brazilian defender had played a dynamic and lively match, defending well with a youthful energy, his header culminating his excellent performance.

Having seen his side go a goal down, Roberto Mancini decided to try and change the course of things. He substituted Yaya Toure and James Milner with Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson, in hopes that the young pair of substitutes could conjure up something. While this move allowed Manchester City to press forward more, it opened up holes for Chelsea to take advantage of. And in the 90th minute Ramires skipped past the Manchester City defence (like a hot knife through butter with delightful Brazilian flair) before banging in the second goal of the match.

Two goals scored by two Brazilians, winning an important match for Chelsea. With these three points Chelsea leapfrog over Manchester City into third place, solidifying their hopes for a Champions League spot. Manchester City on the other hand are in a slightly precarious position to remain in fourth place, with Tottenham just four points behind them. To make things even tighter, Spurs have a game in hand which if won, can bring them just one point behind Manchester City.

Ramires celebrating his second goal for Chelsea 
But back to Chelsea and the Brazilians. While David Luiz arrived in January, playing well from the start and scoring important goals against Manchester United and now Manchester City, it was a slightly different story for Ramires. David Luiz came to Chelsea as a central defender with skill, Ramires came to Chelsea as a confused midfielder.

Ramires never managed to identify himself in a proper position. He isn't a winger, although his endurance and running ability could suggest that. He isn't an attacking midfielder, because he lacks the invention and spark which one needs. Yet he isn't a defensive midfielder either, his small and wiry frame unable to give many brutish forwards a physical challenge. One could probably describe him best as a complete central midfielder.

Full of energy and vivacity to chase down opponents, Ramires has the bit of Brazilian skill needed to produce moments of magic, and a hardworking attitude which has helped him earn respect at Chelsea. While Ramires is a fantastic utility player, he shouldn't be lumped into that group (a group which is too often under-appreciated). He certainly isn't a player to discard, because he has a tactical understanding which when accompanied with quick thinking makes an underlying difference, often not noticed by the masses.

Now Ramires has begun to acclimatize himself in the Premier League. He has found the right physicality to fight for the ball while incorporating elements of skill into his game at the right time. It all culminated for him against Manchester City, when Ramires was strong throughout the game and he eventually scored a brilliant goal with his Brazilian feet.

A picture perfect Brazilian moment ruined by Lampard
David Luiz and Ramires were truly key players against Manchester City, and it seems like the pair's importance will only grow. David Luiz still has much to learn, especially regarding reckless challenges, but with time he will become an iconic defender. Ramires on the other hand has become adept at learning quietly at his own pace, and now that he's comfortable, he is an important piece in Chelsea's midfield.

The question is, will these players be enough to keep Chelsea in the top four? What are your thoughts on the two Brazilians? Share your thoughts about the match, Chelsea, Manchester City, and anything else below!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Inter Milan 2011/12 Home Kit Leaked

Nike have had their designs leaked again. Around this time of year all of the kits of the upcoming season somehow finish on the internet. Nike's possible latest design for the Inter Milan kit of 2011/12 has been leaked, similarly to Barcelona's, Manchester United's, Arsenal's and Juventus's.

Nike's latest designs seem to offer this idea of having thin stripes which diagonally thicken. We saw this before with Barcelona's 2011/12 home kit which was leaked some time ago. It should also be noticed that the sleeves and collar are completely black, offering contrast to the white Nike and Pirelli logos.

Many Inter fans don't like the new design, saying that they prefer thicker stripes. In my opinion it's a nice kit, but then again I'm rarely picky regarding kits.

This is the only photo which has been circulating around on the internet, and it looks like it could very well be next season's design for Inter. I'm curious to see what Nike are going to do with Inter's away kit, mainly because this past season's was exceptionally well designed with the dragon up along the side of the kit.

Here's the same picture of the kit below, except slightly larger:

So if Nike are deciding to go with this diagonally thickening pattern on their striped kits for next season, are you gonna buy them? Do you like this new design by Nike? What technological advancements do you think will come with this kit? Share your comments about it below!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Kevin McCarra Talking About the Champions League Draw

I'm a very big fan of the Guardian's football section, mainly because they offer excellent insight into soccer/football from around all of Europe. Of course, being an English newspaper they tend to focus a bit more regarding English clubs and the Premier League.

Here's a short video of Kevin McCarra, the Guardian's chief football writer talking about the UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw along with Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and Jose Mourinho. If you're interested in more insight from the Guardian's expert panel of football writers and correspondents, I suggest you try listening to the Guardian's Football Weekly podcast.

What do you think, could Jose Mourinho be sacked if he fails to win the Champions League this season? I'd personally give him at least two years to work his magic, but maybe Florentino Perez has other ideas. And what about Chelsea, could this be the year that Abramovich's big spending pays off? Share your comments below!

UEFA Champions League 2011 Quarter-Final Draw

As this season approaches crunch-time, we're seeing some teams really step up their game for the Champions League. The holders Inter Milan knocked out Bayern Munich after a well-fought 3-2 victory in the return leg at the Allianz Arena. Real Madrid finally broke their seven year curse of never managing to reach the quarter-finals. And Tottenham magnificently overcame a staunch AC Milan side in their debut season of the European tournament. It has truly been a thrilling competition.

Many say that while the semi-finals and the final are extremely important, it's the quarter-finals which are often the most exciting. And so, after the UEFA draw in Nyon, we have the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and semi-finals. The team on the left  (Real Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, and Inter Milan) will play the first leg (which takes place April 5th or 6th) at home, and the return leg away from home. 

Real Madrid - Tottenham Hotspur

Barcelona - Shakhtar Donetsk

Chelsea - Manchester United

Inter Milan - Schalke 04

The semi-final draw looks will be the winner between Real Madrid v Tottenham against the winner of Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk, and the winner of Chelsea v Manchester United will face the winner of Inter Milan v Schalke 04. This sets us up perfectly for a possible Barcelona v Real Madrid semi-final, which would truly be a spectacle. Share your thoughts regarding the draw below!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Real Madrid Knock Out Lyon 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu

A strange look on Benzema's face after scoring
against his former club, Olympique Lyonnais

The curse is finally broken for Real Madrid, it had been seven years in which the club was unable to proceed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. If there was a man who would've broken the curse for Real, it was going to be Jose Mourinho. He ended Inter's nearly 50 year Champions League trophy drought last season, and now he looks ready to win the European competition with Real Madrid this season.

While Jose Mourinho's presence on the Madrid bench was important, there was work on the field for the players. While Real Madrid enjoyed possession in their home stadium, Lyon were always ready to spring from their rigid defence to a surprise counter-attack. While there was an apprehensive feeling in the Bernabeu, when Marcelo combined with Ronaldo and then finished past Lloris, a large weight was lifted off of the Real players's shoulders. A goal up in the 37th minute and the tie in their hands, Real Madrid could be a little more relaxed in their play for the rest of the first half.

The second half saw Lyon begin to commit more men forward in attempt to score. Yet this opened the French side up wonderfully for Real Madrid to counter-attack and exploit space on the break. Real's second came in the 66th minute, when Marcelo pinged a long ball through the sleeping Lyon defence, allowing Benzema to gather and coolly finish through Lloris's legs. And from that goal came the third just ten minutes later. Another counter-attack with Ozil flicking a header through for Di Maria to speed past the Lyon defence (yet again caught asleep) and dink the ball into the goal.
At the end of the match both teams showed their support for Barcelona
player Eric Abidal who was recently diagnosed with a liver tumour

After having scored the first goal, Real Madrid merely let Lyon destroy themselves as the French team pushed too far forward in an attempt to score. What followed was classic Mourinho counter-attacking, earning Real Madrid a place in the quarter-finals.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bundesliga Opening Up With Dortmund's Loss to Hoffenheim

Renato Augusto celebrating his goal for Bayer Leverkusen

A couple of months ago I wrote about Borussia Dortmund, and the way that they had been dominating the Bundesliga. While Dortmund still have a strong lead of nine points over Bayer Leverkusen, things aren't looking as solid as they were back when Jurgen Klopp's team had gone 15 games without losing. Borussia's latest 1-0 loss to Hoffenheim gave the perfect chance for Bayer Leverkusen to gain some ground on the table leaders. And amidst the chase, Bayern Munich's 6-0 victory over Hamburg stands out as a possible resurgence from the Bavarian club.

Borussia Dortmund's third loss of the season was an unfortunate one for the team. Like usual, Dortmund played with astounding speed and simplicity. Their idea of keeping the ball on the ground, moving it forward with every pass is one which slices through defences with ease. Although Borussia cut through Hoffenheim many times they were unable to definitively put the ball into the back of the net.

Hoffenheim on the other hand were fast with their attacks, quick to spring and often forcing Weidenfeller to make acrobatic saves. Ibisevic was waiting for golden opportunities, and when Beck squared a perfect ball to him, Ibisevic promptly shinned it in. The 63rd minute goal was invigorating for the Bosnian who flashed two close headers over the bar, and then struck the woodwork with a fantastic shot. Dortmund on the other hand were fairly stunned, unable to get back into the game and losing the match 1-0.

Robben was majestic in Bayern's 6-0 win over Hamburg
Second placed Bayer Leverkusen took advantage of Dortmund's loss, defeating fifth placed Mainz 05 in a tight 1-0 win. While both sides created plenty of well worked opportunities, hitting the woodwork and forcing both keepers to make some fine saves, the goal was a combination of distraction and quick thinking. Mainz played a short pass from the keeper to a defender, and Leverkusen's Renato Augusto was quick to steal the ball from the Svensson, and fire a screamer into Mainz's top corner. It was a fatal distraction from Svensson, one which cost his team's seventh home defeat of the season.

While Leverkusen are still nine points from Borussia Dortmund, there are  still eight matches to play. And along with Bayer Leverkusen gaining ground, there was also Bayern Munich who were victorious over Hamburg. Robben scored three in his team's 6-0 win which included goals from Ribery, Muller, and an own goal from Westermann.

Is there enough time left for a revival from Bayern Munich? The Bavarians are 16 points from Dortmund, and the title is still mathematically in the club's possibilities. And what about Borussia Dortmund, can Klopp manage them back onto the right track? Share your predictions and thoughts regarding the Bundesliga below!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Harry Redknapp Looking to Keep Pre-Season Promise

Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp

At the start of the season, Harry Redknapp told Tottenham fans that despite the obvious potential for distraction which comes with participating in the Champions League, his mission brief was simple: to finish in the top four and to continue the club's development from mid-table also-rans to genuine title contenders. So far his plan is almost going to plan as they currently occupy fifth-spot, but are well-placed to take advantage of any slip-ups by either Manchester City, or by their main rivals Chelsea.

The fact that Spurs are still in Europe will actually act as a boost – both for the fans and for the playing squad – for the duration of their Premiership campaign. Belief is absolutely sky-high in the camp at the moment, and although defeat against a side as seasoned as Milan wouldn't have been catastrophic for morale, the euphoria that was felt around White Hart Lane come the final whistle on Wednesday night was exactly the sort of sight you'd expect to see at the ground. This is a team of players who are becoming a real force to be reckoned with, and anyone looking to bet on football should remember this.

Dawson and Gallas celebrating
The season that Spurs are enjoying – described by manager Harry Redknapp as being like an "impossible dream" – does not solely revolve around their adventures in Europe of course; they are still also excellently placed to finish fourth. Such an occurrence would be a fitting end to a landmark campaign in which they proved to all the doubters that it is not only the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea who can balance both domestic and continental demands. Something the Betfair football predictions suggested they may not do.

Spurs finally possess the strength in depth to cope with either injuries or suspensions – a point highlighted by their defence's ability to shift and evolve as they accommodated lengthy spells on the sidelines for the majority of their household names. The signings of both Rafael Van der Vaart and Steven Pienaar this season have only strengthened an already impressive attacking unit which already featured a vast array of talented players. Spurs will have to treat every game from now until May as a virtual cup final if they are to claw back the three point lead held over them by Chelsea, but they finally have the quality and the belief needed to make up the yards.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Barcelona Progress Past Ten-man Arsenal

Messi's flick over Almunia before scoring was pure genius

If there's one thing this tie has provided, it has been excitement. While Arsenal were victorious in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, Barcelona turned it around in the return leg winning 3-1. Yet Arsenal will feel unlucky as a strange sending off made the game more difficult than it already was for the Gunners.

The match started (and continued) as you'd expect it to: possession play by Barcelona. The home team kept the ball wonderfully, and in 15 minutes they created three notably dangerous chances. One of which, a searing free kick from Dani Alves, dislocated Szczesny's finger, forcing Arsene Wenger to bring on the substitute keeper Manuel Almunia in the 19th minute. The first half continued as it started, passing by Barcelona as Arsenal did their best to make clean interventions and take the ball away. While Diaby was played as a sort of defensive midfielder, it was Wilshere who did the majority of tough tackling for Arsenal.

Yet among all of Barcelona's possession, they weren't the piercing team that we're used to seeing. Much more sideways passing, with occasional bursts of brilliance which created chances. With chances come goals, and Messi scored in the final minutes of the first half's injury time after Fabregas gave the ball away with a very silly backheel in front of the Arsenal defence. This allowed Iniesta to play Messi through, and the Argentine flicked the ball over Almunia and coolly volleyed into the Arsenal net.

Robin van Persie was incredulous when he was sent off
The second half had an initial flurry of activity, with Arsenal getting an equalizer just eight minutes in. A rare corner for the Gunners was headed past Victor Valdes by Sergio Busquets, making for a uniquely comical own goal. But just three minutes later Arsenal were the unlucky ones.

Robin van Persie was sent off because of taking a shot after the referee had blown his whistle for offside. Looking at things, the decision was a preposterous one; never have I seen a decision like this executed with such conviction by the referee. The referee, Massimo Busacca, was fearless in his distribution of a yellow card, the Arsenal striker's second, therefore forcing van Persie to leave the field.

From there, Barcelona's passing pressure increased. Arsenal held out for 13 minutes in which Djouoru made a great last minute intervention as did Almunia between the sticks. Yet Barcelona's second goal came and it was their usual work of art. Languid yet rapid passing, with Xavi played through for a fairly simple finish to make it 2-1. Two minutes later, the quiet Koscielny brought down Pedro in the box, giving Messi the chance to complete his brace and kill off Arsenal. The Argentine scored, leaving Almunia flat-footed with his precise bottom-corner placement.

Xavi and his teammates celebrating after the second goal
3-1 for Barcelona, and Pep Guardiola's side continued to pile onto Arsenal. Hundreds if not thousands of scoring chances were created (alright, maybe I'm exaggerating a little), all either poorly finished or stopped by an inspired Almunia. Yet in the final minutes of the match, Arsenal came close to giving all of the Camp Nou a heart attack. Wilshere played a great ball through for Bendtner, yet the Arsenal forward was clumsy in front of goal. A poor first touch along with strong defending from Mascherano stopped what should've/could've/would've been the away goal of all away goals.

A truly exhilarating match in which Barcelona were victorious. The Catalans deserved to win the match, yet I can't help but feel bad for Arsenal. Arsene Wenger was right in saying that the referee's decision to send off van Persie killed off what could've been a fantastic game. Barcelona fans on the other hand will be celebrating, as this historic team progresses into the next round of the Champions League. Share your thoughts regarding the game below!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson Red-Faced at Media Black-Out

Written by Pete South. Follow Pete on Twitter@Peterwsouth.

Sir Alex Ferguson tested his relationship with the media, refusing to speak after his team’s 3-1 defeat to the hands of Liverpool on Sunday. While still refusing to speak to the BBC after they aired a documentary on his football agent son seven years ago, Ferguson also declined the offer to speak to host broadcaster Sky Sports, radio rights owner TalkSport, and Manchester United’s official TV station MUTV.

The Scot’s actions came after he was reprimanded for remarks made about referee Martin Atkinson after the 2-1 loss against Chelsea last week. The Scot said he “feared the worst” when Atkinson was put in charge of the game at Stamford Bridge, and went on to criticise the decision to award Chelsea a late penalty.

Ferguson said this regarding Atkinson:

“You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway - and we didn't get that."

He would have also been unimpressed with the decision to let Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher off with a yellow card after his tackle which left a horrific gash on Nani’s leg. A tackle which should've warranted with a straight red.

Ferguson still has a two game suspension for comments he made about referee Alan Wiley last season, which is likely to be taken into consideration when his personal hearing for improper conduct takes place later this month. The 69-year-old also cancelled his pre-game conference with the media prior to the game against Liverpool in protest of the coverage of Wayne Rooney’s elbow to the head of Wigan’s James McCarthy last weekend.

His on-going boycott of the BBC contravenes Premier League rules and he faces a fine for each game he refuses to speak to them, but has so far gone publicly unpunished. His latest refusal to speak to the media came after his side lost their second Premier League game in a row for the first time since 2009.

A Dirk Kuyt hat-trick defeated an under-par United side as Liverpool managed to put the brakes on United's 19th title aspirations. The Hernandez United Shirt will be one of the only shirts worn with pride by fans after the games as “Chicharito” managed to secure a late consolation goal for his side - his tenth Premier League goal already.

Now, with Arsenal just three points behind the league leaders with a game in hand, the title race has come alive once more. Manchester United looked to be cruising in the Premier League, but now things could be getting a little trickier for a red-faced Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

No Snood For You!: FIFA Bans the Snood

Tevez will have his snood ripped off personally by Sepp

The snood was a symbol. It was omnipresent in the Premier League, with just about every Manchester City and Arsenal player wearing the warm neck circlet. As I write in mock outrage regarding FIFA's lightning-quick decision to ban the snood (and all evil which comes with the piece of clothing), there's a part of me which writes in actual outrage. What are these people doing at FIFA?

Thinking about it, it must be a dream job. Watch soccer/football, meet up every once in a while to chat about how you're not going to allow video-technology, and make irrational decisions regarding things like the snood. Is there a better job? It seems like Sepp Blatter has little on his mind other than the "dangers" which accompany the snood:

"There was not even a discussion because this [the snood] is not part of the uniform and it can be dangerous,"
There's more, not only did FIFA and IFAB have a few chats regarding the snood, but there were also decisions made regarding tights or shorts. This is FIFA's full statement regarding snoods and other things they probably should care less about:

"In other business, it was unanimously agreed by the board that the wearing of snoods will no longer be permitted from July 2011. Mr Blatter said: “It was not even a discussion because this is not part of the equipment and it can also be dangerous”. While the IFAB also agreed that the colour of undershorts or tights worn must be the same colour as the shorts."

Finally FIFA have made this rule regarding the tights. Praise Sepp Blatter, the fans's prayers have been answered! No more tights or undershorts which are a different color as the shorts! Phew, that's good.

I'm not sure if many remember, but a season ago Arjen Robben was in a strange situation. The Dutch winger had a lucky pair of grey tights, which he wore underneath his shorts and socks to keep himself warm during the chilly games. Yet the German federation was not happy with the color of the tights, telling Robben to either dye them red (in order to match his kit colors) or get a new red pair.

So what was the point of all this? There was no point! All of this bureaucratic and systematic control over fashion on the field has no point! The tights! The snood! What will it be next? Will FIFA ever run out of ridiculous things to talk about? And someone please explain to me how can a snood be dangerous?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Police Brand Old Firm Violence as “Disgraceful”

Diouf had something to say to Celtic manager Neil Lennon

Written by Pete South. Follow Pete on Twitter @Peterwsouth.

The Old Firm game between Rangers and Celtic has been branded “disgraceful” by the Police officers’ union after a series of confrontations on the pitch between both sets of players and coaching staff marred their Scottish Cup replay last night. 34 supporters were also arrested for various offences, including sectarian and racial abuse, as well as breaching the peace at Celtic Park in Glasgow.

Three Rangers players were sent off in Celtic’s 1-0 victory, While Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist and Celtic boss Neil Lennon also clashed after the final whistle. Amongst all the confrontations, almost everyone sees Celtic as favourites for the competition after last night’s fiery encounter.

Steven Whittaker and Madjid Bougherra were sent off during the game for two bookable offences while El Hadji Diouf got his second caution after full-time for an off-the-pitch altercation with some of the Celtic players and coaching staff.

Over 200 people were arrested before the Old Firm game in February, and Police had hoped to reduce the amount of alcohol-fuelled violence ahead of the cup replay last night. Now the union has called for a ban on Old Firm games in Glasgow all together, saying they believe the games cause too much violence, and that the behaviour of both clubs was “nothing short of disgraceful".

 The Chairman of the Scottish Police federation, Les Gray, said the following regarding the Old Firm derby:

“What happens on the pitch is replicated throughout the streets, the pubs and the clubs and the houses within Scotland. Something needs to happen, I'm realistic enough to know that they'll probably never stop it but we need to have a serious look at it... It may well be that they'll have to look at playing the game behind closed doors for two or three times just to see how it goes because people may say it's a great advert for football, a great advert for Scottish football. That wasn't much of an advert last night."

Celtic now face Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup, and remain favourites to win the Scottish Premier League this season. Yet what will happen regarding the Old Firm derby? Will this violence be tolerated again? I certainly hope not.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chelsea Defeat Manchester United In 2-1 Comeback

This victory was slowly being formulated in Chelsea's subconscious. After the 2-0 victory in Copenhagen, things were starting to turn around following an arid spell of poor play from the English champions. And while there have been off-field altercations, Ancelotti's men stepped up and faced Manchester United with heart.

The first half wasn't the best for Chelsea. Manchester United created chances thanks to a vivacious Rooney supported by a strong midfield. In the 30th minute the English forward completed his own personal comeback, a low and sizzling shot from out of the box flew into the back of the net. It's Rooney's first goal from outside of the box since February of 2008 (thank you OptaJoe), and it helps to answer the omnipresent question, "Has he returned to form?".

But Chelsea weren't to be undone in front of their home crowd, and a much more convincing display was put on by Chelsea in the second half. Just under ten minutes into the second half, Chelsea found a way to score an equalizer. David Luiz was in the United penalty box and when the ball dropped to him, the Brazilian fired a wonderful volley into the near bottom corner. It was a truly wonderful piece of skill from the defender. One which highlights ability to deliver when he decides to move up the field and in front of goal.

Chelsea were slightly aided by the referee, Martin Atkinson, who awarded a relatively soft penalty for the home side. While maybe by the rules it would be a penalty (Zhirkov was impeded on his way to the goal), it didn't seem like a proper goalscoring opportunity was improperly halted. Yet Atkinson awarded his 11th penalty of the season (more than any other referee in the Premier League. Thanks again OptaJoe), and Lampard smashed it into the roof of the Manchester United net.

A comeback complete, yet there was more to come. In the final minutes, Vidic earned a second yellow card when he dragged down Ramires. While the suspension of the captain isn't a good one, Sir Alex Ferguson was still seething regarding the penalty awarded to Chelsea. On the other hand, when asked about the penalty Carlo Ancelotti simply said, "It was a penalty".

A great victory for Chelsea, which could spur them onto a strong run in the Premier League. Manchester United will be without Vidic when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool. Could they concede more points to Arsenal on Sunday against Liverpool?


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