Old Futbol Buffet–Thanksgiving Feast
Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and family. Even though I had a lot to be thankful for and was surrounded by my entire immediate family, I gorged myself on football, both association and American, for several days. Saturday was another slice of heaven: Manchester United v Newcastle United, Arsenal v Fulham, Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid, Lazio v Juventus, and Getafe v FCB. Games started at 10am and went to 6pm. AWESOME!!
Manchester United 1 Newcastle United 1
Saturday started off with a thrilling encounter at Old Trafford. The Red Devils came out of the blocks firing but Newcastle was able to weather the storm and give as good as they got. Chances were created at both ends but halftime arrived with no goals. Manchester United were gifted a goal early in the second half as Ryan Taylor cleared the ball and it rebounded off Hernandez. The Reds tried to finish the match off but did not bring their finishing boots, and their profligacy in front of goal was punished as the AR gave a dodgy penalty kick to Newcastle which evened the scores. From there United poured on the pressure but could not score, with nearly every outfield player missing a chance. Krul and the Newcastle rearguard defended desperately and made several key (and amazing) saves, leaving the Theater of Dreams with a vital point.
United are in a funk. In the league, they could be seven points down by Sunday afternoon (note: City drew so they remain five points behind), and they still have work to do in the Champions League. Looking at United’s lineup and bench against the Magpies, you have to wonder about Fergie’s strategy. With Macheda and Valencia the only attacking options, I’m not sure what he planned to do if he was down. Then he only brought Macheda with three minutes and stoppage time remaining. United have more points than they did at this point last year so it seems plausible that they could still win the league, but I’m not sure.
Arsenal 1 Fulham 1
After breaking for lunch, my brother and I watched Arsenal and Fulham. Again the visitors came to play, and the result was an entertaining match that ended in a 1-1 draw. Arsenal clearly got the same supply of finishing boots from Nike, adidas, etc, as Manchester United did, as they could not find the back of the net despite several clear cut chances. The Cottagers hung in there and were rewarded in the second half when Riise’s run caused confusion in the Arsenal defense and Vermaelen put it in his own net. The Gunners laid siege to the Fulham goal and finally equalized eight minutes from time as Vermaelen made amends with a well placed header.
After a hard fought European performance in mid week, the Gunners probably didn’t have quite enough to turn the match around. Their five match league winning streak ends but they continue a great run up the table. Walcott had several nice moments and RVP was quite good as well except for his finishing.
Towards the latter stages of the Arsenal game I fired up the Madrid Derby, which I’ll talk about in this week’s Morbo Minute post.
Lazio 0 Juventus 1
The final game of the triple header was Lazio against Juventus, which was a game full of fire, with crunching tackles, quality scoring chances and red hot intensity. Both teams could have scored a goal or two in the opening period, but only the Black and Whites converted their chance, countering quickly and Matri played a fantastic ball that Pepe put away. Lazio dominated the second half, pinning Juventus back and firing away at Buffon, who responded with several good saves. The team held firm, closing the Lazio players down and blocking as many shots as they could, with the post stopping the one they couldn’t. Conte made a couple of subs to stem the tide, and these moves paid off with a little more possession and several half chances.
Again the work effort and commitment of the Bianconeri was something to behold. Their win sets up a cricial game with Napoli on Tuesday. Napoli must win to get their league campaign on track, currently nine points behind Juventus, while a win for the Old Lady would put them four points up on Udinese. Each game gets the fans more and more excited about the prospects of the season.
Here are some post match comments from the gang at Juventiknows. Obviously the excitement level is building with each hardworking performance. Marco does put the match in context though:
This wasn’t as good a performance as the Fiorentina or Palermo games, but a bit back to the other wins like against Inter. A few defensive mishaps, a lot of good efforts on goal, and generally, the team deserved the win and that is impressive away against a solid team like Lazio Conte’s Juve is unbeaten and in 1st place (with a game in hand) and has just picked up a 4th consecutive win. That is beyond any of our wildest dreams from the summer. As Tandredi Palmieri said on Twitter, Conte has done a remarkable thing with Juventus. The team now is expected to win, not expected to not lose.
Paolo Bandini spared a thought for the Old Lady and two veterans leading their resurgence: Pirlo and Buffon. Plus he commented on the Palermo v Fiorentina game and discussed the kerfuffle between Osvaldo and Lamela at AS Roma. Ouch.
The day ended on a down note as Barcelona lost for the first time in any competition since April. A day later and I’m still kinda stunned. Hopefully I’ll be able to put some thoughts together for Wednesday’s post.
Another great day of football, filled with goals and passion and drama. Juventus continue their fight for the title, while Manchester United and FC Barcelona may have seen their title struggles come to an end. United are five points down to City and FCB are six points behind Real Madrid. I know it’s only November but championships can be won this early.
I was not able to keep the feeding frenzy going on Sunday as I had to drive back from Ohio. I missed Liverpool nicking a point off City, Bilbao going down for the first time in a dozen games, Bayern losing again, Milan crushing Chievo, PSG getting thrashed by Marseille, and Levante scoring four past Sporting Gijon. The league races in France and Germany are shaping up nicely. Something to look into over the coming weeks.
Looks like Michael from Men in Blazers is a Chelsea fan, so they spent the a majority of the opening section talking about last week’s Chelsea/Liverpool game before moving on to other EPL action. They had Ian Darke (excuse me, Sir Ian Darke) on from ESPN to get his thoughts all the footy he has seen in recent weeks (EPL, US friendlies, MLS Cup). This is a highly entertaining pod and I recommend it.
Off the Ball had a phenomonal series of podcasts last week. Simon Kuper, Sid Lowe, Raphael Honigstein, Roberto Gotta and others. I suggest listening them to all to get insights into La Liga and the Champions League games. The guys had Grant Wahl and Graham Hunter on Thursday, who talked about where Becks might end up and the enjoyment of the Champions League Group Stage respectively.
Finally, Beyond the Pitch had Dutch International and current Ajax coach Frank de Boer on to talk about Ajax’s season thus far. He feels they are on the right path and hope to surge up the table to defend their domestic title while making the knockout stage of the Champions League.
Adam Digby took a look at the naming rights for stadiums of Newcastle and Juventus, and how each club is going about in very different ways.
Grant Wahl posted on si.com a couple of weeks ago about Fox winning the World Cup rights for 2018 and 2022. I’m very skeptical. A lot can change in the next 6 years or so, but hopefully the Fox team will go more towards sophisticated coverage instead of the dumbing down, robot filled JV squad that viewers have been getting. If Michael Strahan or Curt Menafee or any other American Football personality is any where near the telecast, we may have an #OccupyFox movement. And no more explaining plays on a small field. Really demeans the people involved and doesn’t actually communicate anything. Perhaps you have heard of ESPN Axis?
That’s it for now. Next weekend is shapely up nicely for another football watching binge. More to come on this on Thursday. TEASE!!