Posts Tagged ‘ Europa League ’

Walking Through the Storm, Ken Kendra

Walking Through The Storm: Watching the 2015-16 Liverpool Football Club season at the North American pubs their clubs call home

Ken Kendra is the founder of Raleigh Reds, the Official Liverpool Supporters Club in Raleigh, NC and traveled around the States during the 2015/16 season to follow the Reds, meet fellow fans and write a book. The result is Walking Through the Storm.

The book is several things: a series of match recaps, an assembly of memories and stories, and a look into the life of a fan and supporter group organizer. Liverpool’s season was not boring with a managerial change, frustrating results and two cup finals. The account of the second leg against Borussia Dortmund is quite good which feeds into the trips down memory lane for both the author and the fans he meets along the way. From the most recent fan to the lifelong supporter, everyone has a story to tell. Finally, the Official Liverpool Supporter Group (OLSC) covers the entire US and the book gives insights into not only match days around the country and the fellowship created by gathering to watch games week after week but also into local drinking laws and how to start a local chapter.

The book is an easy read and a must read if you a Liverpool fan, especially in America. If you’re not a Liverpool fan, still worth the read as Ken recaps the season and recounts stories that every fan can relate to.

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For more book review, check out my Recommended Reading page.

Walking Through the Storm

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Walking Through the Storm

Liverpool fan Ken Kendra came back on the SoccerNomad pod to update listeners on his book Walking Through the Storm, which chronicles the 2015-2016 season for the Reds.

Learn more about his project at his website and facebook and follow him on twitter @walking_storm. Check out the LFC Raleigh website and on twitter @LFCRaleigh. LFC Atlanta is online and on twitter @LFCAtlanta.

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Thanks for listening! You can also subscribe via iTunes and please leave a rating and review. Follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Old Futbol Buffet–Long Live the King

Eric Cantona signed 20 years ago for Manchester United.  I wasn’t even following football at the time, so my first real memory of him was the 1994 FA Cup Final against Chelsea, with my favorite recollection of the Frenchman being the 1996 FA Cup Final goal struck in the dying moments against Liverpool.  Watching the match on replay at my parents, I screamed in ecstasy as the ball found its way into the back of the net.  Props to Anton Alfy for putting a video of all 82 goals that Cantona scored for Manchester United.  Well worth 15 minutes of your time.  Viva Le Roi!!

Robert Meakin led the tribute to Cantona on last week’s Manchester United Redcast.  After breaking down the win over QPR, he looked at possible winger replacements as Nani will surely be off in January and Young has struggled to find form.  Cantona’s impact on the club was discussed before moving on Fergie and how long he has at the club and who could replace him?  (Pep and Mourinho were mentioned.)

Speaking of Fergie, Roger Bennett posted on ESPN FC regarding the recent Harvard Business School report on Sir Alex, noting that the secrets to his success are building a foundation, maintaining control, evolving with the times, and evaluating talent.  Would love to get a copy of that.

As for the current United team, a crazy first half saw seven goals in 34 minutes, as the Red Devils went into half time up 4-3.  That ended up being the final score in a game that was full of incident.  Due to supporting my kid’s school, I was working in a concession stand and missed the brouhaha.

Daniele at Red Rants watched another sloppy performance from the United rearguard, and only a strong and swift response from the team earned the Reds the three points.  As he pointed out in his post game notes:

Sure they score goals for fun and they’ve mastered the old club tradition of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – United have fallen behind 14 times in 22 games this season – but thinking that the “you score four, we score five” approach could possibly lead to a title, is at best naive and at worst downright deluded.

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MLS Cup Final

After watching a couple of La Liga games, I was able to see the second half of the MLS Cup.  The Galaxy took the game to the Dynamo, with Gonzalez equalizing and then LA taking the lead after Clark handled in the box.  Donovan converted and eventually the breakaways paid off as Hall tried to haul down Keane, who kept his feet but the referee pointed to the spot again.  The Irishman scored the spot kick this time to give the Galaxy a 3-1 win and second MLS Cup win in a row.

A couple of thoughts:

  • Ricardo Clark is awful.
  • Not sure if Lalas shaving his mustache at halftime is the grossest or awesomest thing ever.
  • Houston’s jerseys looked like they were claimed from a Goodwill sale.  I thought sublimation was left back in the 90’s.  SB Nation’s Dynamo page posted the particulars on the shirt.  (Rays and energy. Seriously?)
  • Mad props to Donovan for dedicating his goal to a Make A Wish family.  No way I would have even thought of that in the aftermath of a Cup victory.
  • The MLS ball reeked of bargain bin quality.
  • Tally is not a name.  It’s a hunting cry.

The panel on the SI Soccer Roundtable (11/29) discussed the chapter that is ending with Beckham’s farewell and the future of the league as a whole.  Really brought the last five years of the league into the focus.

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Articles and Podcasts

Bira Brasil was Beyond the Pitch in the aftermath of Mano Menezes being axed as Brazil boss.  Bira handicapped the challengers and thought that Tite and Ramalho would be chosen ahead of former coach and World Cup Winner Luiz Felipe Scolari.  In the end Big Phil was chosen.  Can he regroup the team ahead of a home World Cup?  Watch this space.

Tim Vickery was on the Off the Ball last Wednesday to discuss the dismissal as well, blaming politics for the departure of Menezes.  Brazil is at a crossroads, having to choose between reclaiming their heritage or continuing with the current over physical, counter attacking approach.  With the reappointment of Scolari the latter has been chosen, and his task will be build another “family” and lead the Seleção to glory on home soil.

News of an expanded 64 team Champions League hit the interwebs last week leading to the usual moaning and groaning from fans and media.  I think Iain Macintosh’s post on ESPN FC was spot on, identifying the old adage—follow the money.  The loss of the European Cup, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup has brought the game to the point where undoing the last 20 years is impossible.  The fact that this year’s Champions League Group Stages have been interesting just masks the fact that usually they aren’t and that 16 groups of four teams will be super tedious.  If only the group winner progressed, there might be some value, but inevitably the current 16 team knockout will morph into the 32 team knockout, which will start earlier and earlier into each new year, packing the fixture list even more.  This is a horrible idea and will hopefully kill the golden goose, so that real reform can happen.  Doubt it.

Staying with Europe, Christoph recounted German football during the 1970’s on his blog, An Old International.  He recapped the bribery scandal early in the decade, which affected the image of the emerging league but also allowed the country to move forward.  This release led to unprecedented success for clubs and the national team.  Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach dominated the league, winning eight of the 10 domestic titles, and also conquered Europe with Die Roten winning three European Cups and BMG winning two UEFA Cups.  Plus the Nationalmannschaft won the 1972 European Championship and then claimed the 1974 World Cup before losing out to Czechoslovakia in the 1976 European Championship Final.  Great read and thanks to Peter Alegi for the link.

Finally, Matt Reece, a fellow member of Mid Michigan United shared this amazing freestyling video on my Facebook timeline.  After watching it, a couple of things struck me.  1. Mind blowing skills, but it does sort of come across as someone with too much free time.  2.  I only take my clothes off for the ladies and never in public.  3.  What the Michael Jackson song???  Anyway give it watch and see if you can even do one thing that guy did.

Morbo Minute–Manitas All Around

Looking back at La Liga teams in Europe last week. . .

The gang at Forza Futbol pod reviewed an incredible MatchDay 3 for Spanish teams in both competitions.  In the Champions League, FCB snagged all three points at the end; Soldado scored a hat trick for Valencia; Malaga have a 100% record and no goals against; and Real Madrid fell to Borussia Dortmund.  Over in the Europa League, Atletico kept cruising while Levante got three vital points in their campaign.  Poor Athletic lost and only has one point thus far.

Sam Thompson analyzed the Malaga/Milan game for his site TTT Football.  The Spanish side started in a 4-2-3-1 with Joaquin behind Saviola and Isco and Portillo coming inside for combinations and allowing the fullbacks to overlap and provide width.  Milan played an unusual 3-4-3, which defended as a 5-2-3 before becoming 5-4-1 towards the end of the match.  Watching the game, the Italians were constantly pinned back and looked blunt coming forward, with the Spaniards living if lacking the final ball.  Joaquin secured all three points with a difficult effort, having missed a penalty in the first half.

Continuing with Malaga, Graham Hunter wrote a wonderful piece on Los Boquerones as they dismissed Milan and look set to qualify for the knockout stages.  After a summer of disorder and scrambling, the team has stuck together and is reaping the dividends—top of the group and fourth in the league.  How far can they go?

Zonal Marking examined the clash of the Spanish and German champions and called the match more of a “German” game, based around pressing and quick transitions, than a “Spanish” game, which tends to be focused upon ball retention.  And what a match it was.  I told several people after watching it that I felt it was a like a game of FIFA on fast speed.  Eventually Dortmund was able to overwhelm Essien who isn’t a LB by nature, plus he wasn’t assisted by CR7.  A big three points for the Germans which should enable them to qualify for the knockout stages.

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Round Nine

I watched Rayo Vallecano v FCB on Saturday afternoon.  David Villa opened the scoring for the visitors and after a tightly contest affair of about an hour, the Blaugrana took absolute control, eventually winning 5-0.  The hosts went down and responded by pushing forward which left them more and more exposed.  Have to admire the fact that they did go for it but it was all for naught.  Leo Baptistao was starved of service and I didn’t see much in the attack.  As for FCB, I am really starting to wonder about Song and Sanchez.  Song was moved into central midfield to support Cesc and Xavi and seemed to be well placed but I don’t know.  Something is still missing.  As for Sanchez, he is channeling his inner Bojan and trying so hard and not getting the results.  On as a sub to grab an easy goal or two and build his confidence, he went the other direction, making things worse, constantly straying offside and usually picking the wrong pass or not delivering the correct one.  Aggravating to watch.

Kxevin of Barcelona Football Blog is seeing a different squad emerging this season: Those days (tiki taka and endless possession) are gone, replaced by a different kind of match control, in which brilliant players crawl through a sliver that someone leaves, and put the knife in.  He focused on Fabregas, noting his passing, runs and energy but is reserving judgment to see if he can do it the whole season.   In the end, Rayo ran out of steam and were put to the sword.  It happens.

What happened to Los Leones?  Sid Lowe asked that question for his weekly column in the Guardian.  He correctly states that There is little of the intensity, the sense of mission, that there was last season.  In its place a soap opera:

First there was the fight. Then came the failed escape bid, Martínez going to Germany, Fernando Llorente failing to go to Italy. Then the break in. And then the worst part of all: the secret recordings.

Athletic could be following the Yellow Submarine into the Segunda.  Sitting just above the relegation zone, everyone keeps waiting for the run that will take them to safety so the club can rebuild for next season.  It never came for Villarreal. It may not come for Athletic.

Kieran Canning, writing for Football Espana, brought me up to speed on Levante.  After a slow start in the league Los Granotes have won five in a row and have climbed up to sixth, plus they have six points in the Europa League.  Obafemi Martins is scoring for fun right now and maybe the Nigerian has finally found a home.

Madridista Mac examined a possible plan B for Real Madrid.  With a rash of injuries in the defense combined with the loss of Khedira, Mourinho rolled out a variation of the formation he has built in this time there.  Problem: Madrid’s injury problem at fullback created a two-fold problem: less dynamism on attack in the flanks and lack of depth in the midfield muscle department. Solution: put CR7 and Di Maria on their natural sides and put creative, technical players in the middle.  With the wingers stretching the play wide rather drifting centrally, the dynamic players had time and space in the middle to exploit.  As Mac rightly says, The true test will be if we can play such a system successfully against a team with a very good #10 or with the meanest, baddest, nastiest combo of physical midfield destroyers.

Finally, Phil Ball paid homage to the grizzly old veterans bringing their experience to teams around La Liga.  I remember Juanfran and Valeron from my early days watching the league and here they are still getting a game.  Great column for its personal insight and brief history lesson.

Old Futbol Buffet–European Silverware Thoughts

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Don’t know what to think about the draw.  Guess it’s the usual, with most groups having two favorites and a possible wild card that could progress and the one dud to make up the numbers.  For me, the most intriguing groups are B, D, and E.

Group B

A very balanced group, or looks to be.  Arsenal will progress due to their experience, but even though Montpellier (French champs) are debutants, surely they will have a chance against the third German team, Schalke, and Greek champs Olympiacos.

Group E

Juventus return to the Champions League after a long absence and got a favorable draw.  Chelsea will provide stern opposition but I think the bianconeri will find their feet against Ukrainian champs Shaktar (although the trip in December will be tough) and Danish champs Nordsjælland.

Group D

Group of Death does not even begin to describe this selection.  Four team, four domestic champs, four teams that surely will feel that they can progress and do damage.  Ok, Ajax can only hope to not do a Villarreal and lose every game.  Real Madrid against ManchesterCity is mouth watering on every level and means that if they progress, they couldn’t meet again until at least the quarters.  Dortmund are the outsiders.  Can they perform at the highest level, learning from finishing dead last in 2011-12?

Moving on . . .

Manchester United’s group is straightforward.  Yet another year with Portuguese opposition but the Reds should be fine in this group.  (That’s what everyone said last year).  Six points against Cluj, an away draw against Gala and we’ll see how they do against Braga.  They need to win the group, which would keep them away from Barca, Real, and Bayern.  That combined with City and Chelsea progressing should give them a Round of 16 tie they can manage.

As for the other Spanish participants . . .

Valencia should progress behind Bayern Munich in a group with Lille, third in France, and the Belarusian champs BATE.  To be fair, Los Che will need to beat Lille at home and get at least four points against Borisov to be sure.  Don’t see them getting anything off Die Roten and any slip will allow Lille to sneak in.

Barcelona will be fine, with yet another trip to the frozen tundra of the former Soviet Republics ahead of them.  I think the most entertaining games will be against Benfica, while the games against Celtic will be one way traffic.

Finally, first time participants Malaga have a chance but I’m worried about Pellegrini’s men this season.  Los Boquerones could have gotten a much tougher group but can they cope with two games a week after having been decimated in the summer?  Zenit has strengthened by adding Hulk and Witsel, which could tip the balance in the group.  A good start is needed in order to progress (home against Zenit and away to Anderlecht) before the doubleheader with Milan, but I think a third place finish is the best they can hope for.

The panel at Revista on Sky examined the groups involving Spanish sides ahead of the tournament kicking off.  Also Ravi and Elisa from Forza Futbol spend the opening portion of their latest pod talking about the draws for the Spanish teams.

A couple of programming notes: MatchDay 1 will be impossible to keep up with (unless you take time off): Real Madrid/City; Bayern/Valencia; Chelsea/Juve; and United/Galatasaray, while MatchDays 3 and 4 will showcase Real Madrid/Dortmund; United/Braga and Bayern/Lille.

EUROPA LEAGUE

Skimming the twelve groups for the Europa League, a couple of groups jumped out at me.

Group A

Udinese dramatically crashed out in the Champions League qualifiers while Anzhi will bring their petro dollar all star team into Europe, where Liverpool will be waiting.  The Reds will be tested but should they come through this, I think this might be catalyst that sparks them in 2013-14.

Group F

PSV and Napoli could provide fireworks in both fixtures and these two teams will set the tempo for the group.  A year on from having Chelsea on the ropes in the Champions League, I think Napoli will want to at least make the knockout stage.

Group J

Spurs should progress this year.  I think AVB will take this a little more seriously due to his desire to bring success to the London side and the fact that they strengthened just before the transfer window closed.  The away games will be rough but Spurs should be able to get 7 to 9 points at White Hart Lane.

Looking at the Spanish teams . . .

Athletic’s European adventure will end much earlier than last year.  Lyon is the class of the group and I could see Sparta knocking out Los Leones, which is probably for the best as they may be fighting for survival in La Liga.

Levante have a legitimate chance of advancing . . . if they want to.  Tricky proposition.  Maintain domestic momentum or try for a cup run.  There isn’t a team in the section that is overpowering.  If Los Granotes can keep it tight and grab the odd goal they can make it.

I’m drafting this post hours after Atleti’s annihilation of Chelsea Super Cup.  This group should be a breeze and after that, perhaps only an unfortunate draw or injury to Falcao can stop them from defending their title.

Old Futbol Buffet–#SurvivalSunday

Survival Sunday was all that Fox could have asked for.  Goals, tension, flashpoints, a constantly updating table and a title that was literally won with the last kick of the last game.  Hours after the final whistle, I am still emotionally spent.

We set up a Watch Party at the local Buffalo Wild Wings so that we could watch all of the games at the same time on several TV’s.  Keeping track of five matches was much more difficult that I had imagined, especially as one game affected another.  Spurs scored early, Arsenal immediately responded.  Then the Gunners went behind as did Newcastle.  United took the lead at Sunderland, and then minutes later City were gifted a goal by poor goalkeeping.  And so on.  Next year, if we get this lucky, I need to do a minute by minute to show how circumstances changed throughout the two hours.

I had conceded the title after the Everton draw but when QPR scored to go up 2-1 with ten men, I actually started to believe.  I was screaming for United to get a second to give fans (namely me) some breathing space, and as the minutes ticked away, I told a fellow United fan, we’re almost there.  And then the most unbelievable two minutes since the United Treble happened.  I knew that City would score a second so when Dzeko scored I was concerned that time was still on the clock.  Time for the shift, the shift from the red half of Manchester to the blue.  When the ball was hoofed into the box, everything slowed down.  Super Mario couldn’t quite control the ball so he just prodded it along.  Aguero started dribbling, slowly fooling defenders and creating just enough space to agonizingly wind up and send a laser that found its way, frame by frame, into the back of the net.

Having just finished Fever Pitch (again), the thrill of a last minute goal to win the title was fresh in my mind.  As I told my friend moments after the game, in between disappointed sobs, this is as close as we will get to the 1989 Championship moment.  James Tyler at soccernet tweeted it perfectly: Aguero is the new Michael Thomas.  And then it was over.  City were champions and the disappointment and the pain and the taunting and the second guessing and the what ifs could begin in earnest, fueled by beer and whiskey.

My best friend, who is a United fan, called moments after the final whistle and we commiserated.  Fergie was so close to his greatest coaching job ever.  He lost Vidic and Fletcher yet patched a team together, dusting off Paul Scholes in midseason, to get United within goal difference of the title, finishing with the most points by a second placed team in the history of the Premier League.  What now for the Reds?  For the first time in five years, the Red Devils finished the year without a trophy.  I don’t have a coherent plan right now.  Maybe in time it will come to me, and hopefully this is just a blip and not the end of an era.

Man City

38

28

5

5

64

89

Man Utd

38

28

5

5

56

89

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After all that, the Philadelphia Union hosted the New York Red Bulls, the first MLS game I had watched this season.  I had planned to do two things during the match: one, watch Thierry Henry because I had heard he was off to a great start, and two, take a nap, so that I was well rested for the La Liga games.  Well came to find out that Henry was hurt and may be out for the season.  As for the nap, I had to park further away than I had planned so I couldn’t sneak out to the car and I couldn’t really take a nap in a sports bar.

New York scored early but the Union was able to equalize pretty quickly with a nice header.  Then came the game changer.  Adu received the ball in the box, tried to split two defenders, was tripped and went down.  Whistle goes.  Penalty to Philly right?  Wrong.  Yellow to Adu, which was his second and he was sent off.  The card was harsh.  There was contact and the ref may not have given a penalty but you can’t give a card.  When Adu emerged from the locker room to watch the second half, he was given a standing ovation by the fans.

The Union came out firing to begin the second half, scoring a fantastic goal through Pajoy.  The ten men from Philly were able to hold out for another twenty minutes before the Red Bulls equalized.  Then a defensive mix up ten minutes later allowed the visitors to score their third.  Philly had a chance to win it at the end but couldn’t quite put it in.

Next up was the remainder of La Liga games, which I will get into later this week.

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Adam Digby examined a couple of stats in Juventus’ run to the championship for Who Scored.  How did they win?  Here’s a couple of reasons: tops in Italy in possession percentage, passing accuracy, and shots, combined with an ironclad defense—least amount of goals conceded and shots allowed.  Adam also noted that Pirlo was integral to the team, proving that he still had gas in the tank.  Forza Juve.

Football Italia posted comments from Antonio Conte in the aftermath of Juventus’ scudetto clinching win, and he expressed his belief in himself and the squad, noting that getting buy-in from Buffon, Del Piero and Pirlo was key at the beginning.

Last Wednesday, Off the Ball talked to Xavier Rivoire about the French squad preparing to train for the Euros, and the curious process of calling up players in phases.  As for the squad itself, core players from the disastrous 2010 campaign are out—Henry, Anelka, and Toulalan.  Xavier also mentioned that Trezeguet may be back in the frame.

Jonathon Wilson looked at the prospects for Athletic and Atletico the Europa League Final for Fox Soccer.  Economics are likely to heavily influence the futures of both clubs, as fantastic performances from players such as Falcao, Diego, Muniain, and Llorente mean that bigger clubs will come calling.  He also talked about the impact of both managers—Simeone’s fierce intensity and Bielsa’s attacking verve.

Grant Wahl wrote a piece on Giuseppe Rossi’s change in fortune from the 2009 Confederations Cup to this season, which was devastated by 2 ACL injuries.  He also addressed some of the vitriol expressed by US fans toward the player. The next chapter for this player should be very interesting.

Doron Salomon examined Manchester United’s season for Stretford-End.com.  Among the issues he looked at: Fergie slipping regarding tactics and mind games; finances (it’s worth pointing out that United have had £500m drained out of the club by their American owners (who’ve not put a penny in)); United seemed not ruthless enough and their fans are not giving them the fervent support that is needed; the squad will need improvement, perhaps a marquee signing, as City will upgrade.

Paolo Bandini looked back at Alessandro Del Piero’s emotional farewell at Juventus Stadium, commenting that Del Piero’s career is not to be expressed in statistics as much as memories.  His departure, added to those of Nesta, Inzaghi, Gattuso and Seedorf, will leave a big hole in Serie A next year.

The Guardian crew put together a review of the Premier League season, including comments on great goals, great matches and the frantic last moments of the season.  Worth a watch.

In the same vein, Off the Ball’s podcast on Monday recapped the last day, cutting together audio commentary from half a dozen sources to give the reactions of broadcasters, fans and players.  The first half hour of the pod is epic.

Old Futbol Buffet–Blues, Yaya & Third Star

Originally I had May 5th all worked out.  Get up, go for a quick run, then head over to the pub for the FA Cup Final, and back to my house to get ready for a community event.  Plan the work; work the plan.  Then the FA decided to move the game to 5:15p local time, which threw off my finely constructed plans.  So I got up, went for my run, checked the score of the Arsenal game (HOLY COW!) and started my media blackout.  After the event, I took a nap and headed up to the pub to watch the replay.

I should have taken a longer nap or drank more at home or done something else because the first half made me want to poke my eyes out with a fork.  LFC were awful, playing 60 yard balls to a striker who is like 5’8”.  The Reds also could not play down the middle and constantly pinned themselves in the channels which led to turnover after turnover.  But Chelsea were not exempt from criticism either despite heading into the interval up 1-0.  Cech’s distribution was terrible as over back pass to him ended up as a throw-in at midfield.  Drogba had obviously been working on passing with his chest during training as that was only the way he could connect a dot.  Finally, I know Mikel does something, I just don’t know what it is.

The second half was a little better as some good build up play led to Drogba’s goal, with Skrtel and Reina very unlucky as the ball went through the Slovakian’s legs to give the goalkeeper no shot.  Carroll was immediately introduced and thought he played well.  I missed his goal.  Why? Liverpool played another wasted ball into the channel, so I immediately went back to my beer.  I looked up to see the big Englishman celebrating. After some more Liverpool pressure came the controversial non-goal.  To be honest, I still don’t think it was a goal.  Between the freeze frame and how the ball came out, just have to give Cech kudos.

In the end, Chelsea got the measure of the game right, doing just enough to ease past a poor Liverpool side.  And did I mention that Jose Enrique is shambolic?  Wow! What a bad game at the end of a poor season for the Spainard.  No way he’s getting a ticket to Poland and Ukraine.

John Brewin summed up the game for Soccernet, noting that Chelsea now has four FA Cups in six years, with four different managers.  As for the Reds, he focused on their poor start and a lack of presence from Suarez and Gerrard.

Zonal Marking saw the game as basically two completely separate games – Liverpool before Carroll, and Liverpool with Carroll, with Chelsea following their game plan and getting the result.

As for the league, Villa secured Premier League football next season (despite only winning seven times) and put a real dent in Tottenham’s chances for the Champions League.  Yaya led the way for City against Newcastle, scoring both goals to give every advantage to the Citizens next week.  United rebounded with a home win against Swansea(entirely predictable) and will now need a favor from former United great Mark Hughes next week.

The panel on the Manchester United Redcast tried to get excited for a final day in which the Reds are not in control.  They looked ahead to next season and identified five players to get rid of: Park, Anderson, Berbatov, Owen and the twins.  Funny as always, we’ll see how Sunday shakes out.

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What a day in Serie A.  After the Buffon blunder in midweek, which I feel partially responsible for*, things were tense as Juventus travelled to Cagliari for Match 37.  The game was moved to the same time as the Milan Derby, so that the league leaders played at the same time to increase the drama.  Juve took care of business, winning 2-0 while Milan fell 4-2 to Inter, results that meant the Old Lady was crowned champion officially for the first time since 2003.

Giancarlo Rinaldi tied this success back to the 2003 victory in his post for Football Italia, noting the presence of Conte, Buffon and Del Piero threading throughout both triumphs.

Paolo Bandini commented on the proceedings as Conte delivered the title for Juventus through a mixture of man-management and tactics.  Plus he hit the highlights of a crazy night at San Siro.

Juventiknows.com assembled some great videos and pictures of the celebrations.

The celebrations of Juventus’ scudetto game continue to hit the web, including this great video compilation from Sky Italia of the build up, dramatic moments at the end and raucous scenes afterwards.  Plus Del Piero wrote a letter praising the fans and the players who supported the club through thick and thin.

*I haven’t watched a Juventus game since mid-March and they have been winning almost every match, barely giving up a goal.  I tune in for the last 15 minutes of theLeccematch and watch in horror as Buffon loses the ball in front of the goal.  Had they lost the title, I may had to into hiding.

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Pods

Ken Early interviewed Roy Keane for Off the Ball and they discussed Keane’s future while also revisited the Irishman’s bust up at World Cup 2002.  Things get frosty.

The panel at the SI Soccer Roundtable wrapped up the Manchester Derby and looked at the battle at the bottom going into the weekend.  Plus they discussed Hodgson’s hiring for the England job.

Another great pod from the World Football Phone In.  Couple of highlights:

  • The legacy for Poland and Ukraine after Euro 2012 especially as Ukraine are struggling with infrastructure.
  • Status of Brazilian league and the CBF and possible call ups for 2014.
  • Anderson trade for James Rodriguez from Porto.
  • Great venues. Vallecas, Velodrome, La Bombonera, etc.

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Article

A friend on Facebook and twitter posted this article.  It struck me as interesting because of the political and ecopinomic comparisons that seem to be ignored by the uniformed.  I really don’t care if you hate soccer.  That’s fine.  I don’t enjoy other sports but I don’t go around railing against.  There are dozens of games; you can’t like them all.  Just keep your opinions to yourself, especially if you have a platform like Beck orRome or Kornheiser.

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Europa League Final

To be honest I missed first 15 minutes of the match, getting my son situated and all that at the pub, so didn’t even see Falcao’s opener live. After that Bilbao had plenty of possession but lacked the necessary quality in final third. The second goal was a stupid turnover and then an amazing finish from Falcao. To be fair Los Leones were slipping all night with both goals indirectly caused by defenders playing on roller skates.  Bielsa went right to the bench for the start of the second half, but it didn’t do much to change game. Eventually Diego completely killed the game off with the third goal minutes from the end.

Overall, Simeone’s side got everything just about right.  An early goal, disciplined defending from all players and a quick, dangerous counterattack.  For Athletic, Muniain had a good game but wasn’t able to influence the game enough; Ander was poor; Llorente was isolated; and Amorebieta struggled all match.

Zonal Marking assessed the game, noting that Atleti’s early goal set them up perfectly to sit back and counter.  With Bilbao having a hard time breaking through the middle and also not being able to stretch the play wide, the winners were able to absorb pressure and get forward quickly, with special praise given to Falcao.

Billy at AtletiFans.com reveled in the fine performance of Los Colchoneros, appreciating the actions of the rearguard, Diego and Falcao.  Their twelfth win a row in this competition saw Atleti raise a European trophy for the second time in three years.

Meanwhile, at the Athletic Bilbao Offside site, the title of Jack’s post match wrap said it all—Heartbroken. Maybe the occasion was too big for Los Leones as their sharp, incisive game was blunted by an organized Atleti team.