Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Random Thoughts while Watching Arsenal-Liverpool

For all the bitching we all do about sports coverage these days, if you told me when I was a kid that I would be able to watch a recorded soccer game from England while writing an online journal, keeping track of the Braves and Hawks games, and monitoring my work messages, I would have been pretty impressed by the future.

We're 19 minutes in and nothing has happened other than a mistake by each keeper. Did I mention that Liverpool is playing? Or that I hate them?

I am seriously trying to find a single hardcore college football fan who thinks that Matt Ryan should be a top ten draft pick. Just one.

Bergkamp would have scored on that long ball, Robin.

Good for Emmanuel Adebayor. Other than the fact that I'm rooting for Arsenal to save the world from another 180 minutes of shit on a stick, I'm happy that Adebayor scored because he looks better with the new hairdo and I don't want the new style to be blamed for an extended goal drought.

Did I really just say that nothing was happening? 1-1. These styles do mesh nicely with one another.

A reminder for people who don't think that English football is crap: in this game between Arsenal and Liverpool, there are two English players (Carragher, Gerrard), as compared to three French players (Gallas, Flamini, Clichy), three Dutch players (Kuyt, Babel, Van Persie), and five Spaniards (Fabregas, Almunia, Alonso, Torres, Reina).

I'm liking the first four innings of the Jair Jurrjens era. I also like his name.

Am I the only one who watches pitchers pitch from the stretch and immediately thinks of that one year when the umpires went nuts calling balks for not coming to a complete stop at the belt? I'm imagining what would happen if SEC refs suddenly called 15-yard penalties every time a coach got a toe over the sideline.

I h8 Xavier Nady. We have put him on pace for a triple crown.

Is it me or has Mike Bibby single-handedly turned the Hawks into a Western Conference team? Even when we lose (as we're losing tonight to the slumping Raptors, but a four-game winning streak does buy you a little grace), we do so in high-scoring, entertaining fashion. Speaking of the local pro basketball collective, one of their ticket reps e-mailed me the other day to tout the Hawks being on the verge of their first playoff "birth" in "centuries." Atlanta Spirit, you inspire confidence with every e-mail your minions send. I'm going to check out the end of the Hawks game...

The last four seconds of regulation of the Hawks game were CRAZY. Mike Bibby hits a three to tie the game with a half a second to go after pump-faking. The Hawks then allow T.J. Ford to get an unmolested alley-oop for the win...only the ball sits in Ford's hand for sixth-tenths instead of five and the basket does not count. As best we can tell from the replay, Josh Smith was supposed to switch to protect the front of the rim and he just stood at the foul line, doing absolutely nothing. J-Smoove then makes amends with a "no, no...yes!" three to give the Hawks the lead with two minutes to go in OT. I'm quite captivated right now. Bibby hits another three for the lead after Bosh had a three-point play, then Smith hits another three for a four-point lead. There can't be many people watching, but this has been a fantastic game. 127-120! Five in a row! Boston, beware! We might not get swept!

Opening segment of Baseball Tonight: extended highlights of the Blue Jays-Yankees game that had just been broadcast on ESPN2, followed by highlights of the final out of the Angels 1-0 win over the Twins, followed by extended highlights of the Mets' 11-0 win over the Marlins, followed by extended coverage of Pedro Martinez's hamstring. Paging Captain Louis Renault...

I accidentally caught the final score of the two matches today on ESPN's bottom line, so here are my thoughts after watching the second half of Arsenal-Liverpool and all of Fenerbahce-Chelsea on fast-forward:

1. Typical Liverpool. They get their goal 26 minutes in and then don't create a chance the rest of the game. Naturally, one of their "forwards" was in the box to foul Alexander Hleb for a penalty that everyone at the Emirates save the ref saw. I can't tell you how much I dislike this Liverpool team.

2. I like Arsene Wenger and all, but what does it say when you put Nicklas Bendtner on as a sub and that sub not only fails to score, he clears off the line...the opponent's goal line. Tommy Smyth insists that Bendtner was offsides when there was a Liverpool player behind him on the line and a second over the goal line. (Can we get a ruling on whether a player out of bounds can keep an attacker onside?)

3. ESPN, I was most looking forward to the Fenerbahce game because of the atmosphere, so you naturally pulled a GolTV and took all of the crowd noise out of the feed. Great move.

4. If you love footie, sports, or screaming Turks, then please watch this clip:

Wow. If all it takes to produce successful, attacking football is signing a bunch of Brazilians and appointing a member of '82 Brazil as manager, then what's the rest of Europe waiting for? Where is Falcao, anyway?


LD said...

Of course he's certainly Spanish, but I believe Almunia has dual-citizenship and could play for England.

The point remains solid though. It is not a good time for actual English football. Arguably, the best player in the England lineup right now is actually a Canadian.

peacedog said...

Jair's outing was encouraging. Especially since they kept him to 88 pitches. If we're smart we're planning on using the bullpen extra with him over the course of the season. He's so young. . .

Kanu said...

Yeah I still dont get the NB26 offsides call, but he somehow managed to prevent a goal anyways so I suppose it's moot. With Hyypia standing on the goal line, how could he be offsides? The only rationale I can think of is that the rule is worded that there must be 2 defenders between you and the goal {1 being the keeper} and in this case Hyypia was in the goalmouth but the keeper was out near the 6 year line. Truly bizarre, but again moot. If on the other hand that play resulted in a goal then there would have been a shitstorm.

Fear not, you'll get your shit on a stick. I'm sure Arsenal will play Liverpool off the park but either go out 0-0 after failing to score, or The Pool will score some fluky ass goal or win on penalties. Sorry in advance for not putting them to the sword yesterday when we should have.

Here's hoping you beat the shit out of ManUtd in the semi.

I have a funny feeling that Fenerbache are not only going to get a goal at the Bridge and win, but that they are going to make it to the final as well- Arsenal or Liverpool aren't that great at the moment, and that insane home field advantage, plus their style, suits them well in a two legged tie against either Arse or Liverpool.

Michael said...

My one concern about Jurrjens is that his breaking pitch got whacked every time he threw it. Time for Smoltz to teach him the slider.

Kanu, even if you need two players behind the attacker, there was a Liverpool player behind the end line after having challenged the cross. Wouldn't he keep Bendtner onside or does he not count when he's out of bounds? I agree with you on Fenerbahce. I had them upsetting Chelsea and I do love to be right. They also have the best crowd and the best style of any team in the tournament. Something tells me that the Liverpool fans will create an incident if they go to Turkey and the English media will blame the Turkish police for not knowing how to handle their hooligans.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for hijacking your comments, but I can address a few things here.

First, for those still mis-speaking, it's OFFSIDE. Not OFFSIDES.

In soccer there must be two defensive players between the player receiving the ball and the goal at the time the ball is played to him. Usually one is the goalkeeper, but that is not always so. You cannot be played onside by a defender who is not on the field of play. However, common interpretation is that if the player has backed into the goal, or is coming out of the goal during an unbroken sequence of play they are "in play". Otherwise we'd have a lot of bookings for "leaving the field of play without the permission of the referee".
In short, the ruling is: Technically you can't play somone onside while you're off the pitch, but referees and their assistants allow some flexibility for the flow of the game. Similarly, stepping back into the goal to put an opposing striker in an offide position will not be called.

I have no idea who Id is talking about - Owen Hargreaves, the only England player with ties to Canada, is rarely in the Man Utd team, and is neither regularly in the England team, nor anywhere near the best, no argument.

English coaching and team management is in a bad place now, the team is just fine. The reason England didn't qualify for the Euros is because the ill-equipped former coach, Steve McLaren, stripped Beckham of the captaincy and dropped him from the squad after the 06 World Cup, refusing to reinstate him until it was too late to help.

Kanu, there is no home field advantage in a 2-leg aggregated game. While many people suggest that it is better to play the second leg at home, many teams have had success by winning a home first leg with a convincing scoreline and then playing defensively away from home in the return fixture. Since BOTH teams play only one home game and one road game apiece there can't be said to be a home-field advantage.

As for the big-brains who thought that Chelsea would capitulate at home against a poor Fenerbahce team, I have to wonder if you've been watching the tournament this year.

The United/Barca semi will be tense and not as free-flowing as you'd think, since both teams are fast and strong with skills to spare. Neither one will want to get hit on the break and I think that we'll be lucky to get two goals between the two games. Now, keep up with this...Chelsea have lost both of their goalies this week (Cech to a face injury and Cudicini to a hamstring) and, add to that the fact that Chelsea need to beat Man Utd when they play later this month if they are to reclaim the league, (and *that* game is sandwiched between the two Liverpool games) and also by that time Liverpool will have nothing to lose (they will either have clinched fourth or they will be behind Everton), so they're gonna roll the dice and hope to get to the final, where winning the whole thing will get them Champions League football again next year at the expense of Everton. Chelsea will be tired because Jose didn't build a big squad and Grant hasn't grown it, either. The time has come for Rafa to reap the benefit of his squad merry-go-round.
The final will be Liverpool v Man United.

Again, sorry for the hijacking.

Michael said...

Good stuff, Duncan. A few thoughts:

1. You are understating England's problems in terms of personnel. England have no keeper (you think that might have contributed to not qualifying for Euro '08?) and no true striker (assuming that Rooney is a 9 and not a true 10). You also have central midfielders who cannot coexist. Personally, I think a Hargreaves/Gerrard pairing would work, but that's just me. Capello is going to have to figure out what to do with Gerrard and Lampard. Hargreaves was England's best player when they got knocked out by Portugal in '06; I think you're selling him short. You'll get no argument from me that he's brittle.

2. I doubt you're going to see Rijkaard be cagey with a home first leg against United. Personally, I'd be perfectly happy with 0-0 and 1-0 Barca would be a dream come true, but Rijkaard usually goes for broke at home and I can see Barca conceding at least one on the break. His public statements aside, Fergie is usually cagey on the road and will be doubly so if Messi is playing. He can watch Barca's home matches against Real for the past two years to realize that he just needs to play nine behind the ball and then have his players break forward when Barca turns the ball over. He'll end up with a bunch of four on fours. I'm guessing 1-1 or 2-2 in the first leg and then 2-1 ManUtd in the second leg.

3. Liverpool-Chelsea: who the hell knows who will score the one goal in 180 minutes?