Old Futbol Buffet–Footy Feast

If you read my Weekend Warrior post for this week you knew that Saturday was chock full of good footy games. With this in mind, I dutifully got up and started Operation Leaf Rake 2011. I made a lot of headway, got the go ahead from the missus and left to get some pizza and beer before the first match, which I must say was an ordeal. Little Caesar’s really found a niche in the economic downturn a couple of years ago by starting their Hot n Ready program, which was a large cheese or pepperoni pizza for $5 that was always available. Walk in, plop down $5, get a pizza and off you go. Lately the Lansing stores have not met expectations, sometimes not even having one pizza ready to go. The promotion is supposed to do two things: provide value and provide efficiency. When I walk in and have to wait almost 15 minutes, the speed aspect is not hitting the mark. This has now happened on several occasions, and I don’t know if it is a Lansing thing or a Little Caesar’s taking the sting out of the program. Time will tell. But I digress.

I chose Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund over Swansea City v Manchester United for a couple of reasons. One, the Reds have been grinding lately and I didn’t feel they would blow the doors off Swansea, especially after an International Break. (I was proven right as an early Hernandez goal was all the Red Devils needed.) Two, I never watch the Bundesliga. It’s a time management thing but this is usually a big fixture, so I figured I would give it a go. Three, I wanted to get a read on Bayern Munich because they have gotten off to a great start this season and could be Champions League contenders in the spring.

Bayern Munich 0  Borussia Dortmund 1

An energetic start to the match became cagey as the first half progressed. Ribery missed a golden opportunity on the half hour, while at the other end Rafhina cleared off the line as Neuer missed a cross. At halftime both teams were canceling each other out and looking for a moment of magic.

The second half started a little chippy before Lewandowski mis-directed a header with the German No. 1 stranded. Clever interplay between Lewandowski (who had a decent game up top on this own) and Kagawa put in the Japanese international but Neuer was up for it. About halfway through the second stanza, a sloppy exchange outside Bayern’s penalty area resulted in Boateng losing track of the ball which allowed Gotze to poke in from close range. After that the game became ragged, until Bayern made a double switch and the hosts turned up the pressure with Gustavo forcing a save from 25 yards and Ribery denied after being released on the left hand side. Die Roten kept the pressure up, Petersen’s effort just went wide, but no dice. Klopp’s men left the Allianz Arena with three crucial points and opened up the Bundesliga race.

Zonal Marking posted their usual thorough breakdown, including these quotes in the conclusion:

Neither side played their best football here, and a 0-0 wouldn’t have been an unfair result. Dortmund did little more than Bayern to merit the win, although it’s fair to say that Lewandowski played the lone striker role better than Gomez, and Gotze was more involved than Robben – his moves inside eventually proved important in the goal.

Both lacked creativity from midfield, however. There are both tactical and personnel reasons for this – tactically, those midfielders were all pressing each other and denying their opponents time on the ball, and in personnel terms, Dortmund still miss Nuri Sahin, and Bayern are not the same without Schweinsteiger.

Current standings:

1

Bayern Munich

13

28

2

Borussia Dortmund

13

26

3

Borussia Monchengladbach

13

26

4

Schalke 04

13

25

After that I watched FCB v Real Zaragoza and Valencia v Real Madrid and will put comments up in my Morbo Minute post.

Sunday rolled around and my wife wanted to sleep in so I left to watch the Juventus game. With the Napoli game being cancelled and the International Break occurring, it had been a while since I had seen the Black and Whites play.

Juventus 3  Palermo 0

The Old Lady started with their typical high work rate but Palermo were dangerous on the counter with Ilicic forcing Buffon into several great saves. Juve’s opener came from a Chiellini cross that Pepe headed home. Halftime came with Juve needing a second goal to create a little breathing room, which Matri delivered three minutes after the restart. Lichsteiner played him in and he picked his spot at the far post with great aplomb. Once that goal went in, the Bianconeri went from strength to strength with some delicious football being played. Vucinic had several good chances before being subbed on 65’ and set up the third goal as Matri dummied his firm ball across the six for Marchisio to bury. From there, Conte subbed and the minutes ticked away toward full time. The fans were in full voice and Juventus are now top of the table, with big matches away against Lazio and Napoli in the coming weeks.

Juve are working really hard all over the pitch and when their creative players hit the heights, they become a formidable team. There were some worrying moments in the first half in the rearguard and those will need to be fixed if this campaign is to be successful, but for now they are well worth watching and have a real chance at some success this season.

For Serie A in general, Napoli and Lazio finished in scoreless draw, which keeps things bunched up at the table of the table.  Paolo Bandini assesses Napoli’s tough month ahead.

Chelsea 1  Liverpool 2

This was only my second time seeing Liverpool this season (the other was the first half against Man United), and I wanted to see how they would do against the Blues, who were up against it after losing to Arsenal a couple of weeks ago. An entertaining first half saw both sides threaten before Liverpool made the breakthrough after a terrible turnover from Mikel. I thought Bellamy made one pass too many but Maxi finished his chance to put the visitors up. Chelsea’s attack looked very blunt and, with David Luiz trying to play attacking center mid from center back, things did look good for the London team.

Liverpool went into a defensive shell to start the second half, sending Bellamy out wide left and their lack of pressure allowed Chelsea back in the match. Chelsea took advantage and were rewarded after Sturridge turned in a scuffed shot from Malouda. Liverpool made a couple of changes to try to stem the tide but it seemed as if the Blues would turn things around . . until Charlie Adam found Glen Johnson on the right wing with just minutes remaining. His magnificent first touch set him off on a run that resulted in the winner, a sucker punch if there ever was one. The Blues are in real trouble heading into the Champions League game on Wednesday. As for Liverpool they keep up their fight to get back into Europe.

All in all, a great weekend of footy, which started slow, but from the second half of the Valencia/Real Madrid game, it was full steam ahead. The binge was good but I’m not sure often I will be able to (or want to) to do this. Having said that, next Saturday is looking pretty tasty (he says teasing his Weekend Warrior post).

————–

During the interlull there was plenty of information floating out in cyberspace . . .

Graham Hunter had a few choice words for Ibrahimovic and his recently released autobiography. If you have not read excerpts, the big Swede has some pointed statements about Guardiola and Barcelona.

Based on a recommendation, I listened to the Men in Blazers podcast from Grantland. Pretty good I have to say. Felt like I was back listening to World Soccer/Football Daily, with two ex-pats going on about football with a healthy dose of pop culture references thrown in. I enjoyed the depth that they went into about the English National Team. Many of the pods I listen to do a cursory job of this but Michael and Roger drilled down on the Three Lions. I will definitely give them another try and may even add the pod to my rotation.

The Forza Football pod is part of my rotation, and I usually mention them in my Morbo Minute posts, but recently they had Simon Kuper on to talk about his new book, Soccer Men. From the pod notes:

This book profiles the interesting and the not to so interesting football figures who have graced the world of football. Our interview was mostly focused on the contents of this book.

They also wandered into some interesting topics including Messi v CR7 and Messi v Maradona, and Cruyff’s legacy.

Grant Wahl appeared on Beyond the Pitch to talk about the recent US friendlies and early thoughts on World Cup qualifying next year. Anto and Grant also touched on Blatter’s ridiculous comments, the MLS Cup Final and DC United possibly moving. Have to say that would be a pretty stupid move but what do I know?

————–

I finally got around to spending my birthday money and hit Amazon pretty hard in a pre-Christmas shopping frenzy. I found several soccer related books pretty cheap so picked those up. I usually try to get books at the library but I don’t see these ever hitting the CADL shelves. Here’s the list:

  • FC Barcelona Badge Beanie
  • Damned Utd by David Peace
  • Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson
  • Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner
  • Premier League Greatest Goals 3 DVD Box Set
  • Calcio: A History of Italian Football by John Foot
  • Morbo: the Story of Spanish Football by Phil Ball (updated version)
  • Seeing Red by Graham Poll

Items should start arriving this week and I’m excited.

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