Football Weekend….in the UK

It’s more often than not I wish we lived in the U.K. where the nation’s sport was football. No, not the American kind you find owners locking out players over their collective bargaining agreement and not being able to agree on $9 billion. That’s the NFL for you. This weekend kicked of the action in the English Premier League. Unfortunately being stuck at work on opening weekend I was only able to catch parts of about 4 games, along with highlights from the day.

For me the match of the day was Liverpool v. Sunderland. After the frustrating 2010-2011 season for L’pool it started off on the wrong foot with a draw against the Black Cats. After missing a penalty shot, Luis Suárez redeemed himself with a 12′ goal. That lead would last until 57′ minute when a beautiful volley found the far side of the goal from Sebastian Larsson. An early season goal that could end up being the goal of the year.

Not too surprising to see four games end in draws on Saturday, including the Gunners v. Newcastle and Joey Barton. Barton was deliberately stepped on by Alex Song, the officials missed it and that incident led to a later disagreement that involved Barton and Gervinho, who was red carded.

Today we will see how Manchester United starts against West Brom and Chelsea against Stoke City. Monday we will see other big off-season spenders, Manchester City v. Swansea City. It looks to be another great season in top flight football in the EPL. I plan to be very involved watching this season, as well as Serie A and the battle at the top in La Liga! Also great to know the Mexican League is very early to watch on Saturday afternoons. Viva Cruz Azul!

Futbol Kicks Off

While the Community Shield match usually kicks off the start of the new English Premier League, today started with big names, big teams and big money headlining the weekend matches. While my horse in this race is actually in the Championship League, I have been a supporter of Liverpool over the last 5-7 years.

Today was a enjoyable start to the EPL with Villa putting the smack down on West Ham, 3-0 as Robert Green (England National Team member) looked terrible. On the other hand at least he got a start, unlike Shay Given was was upstaged by youngster Joe Hart. Way to go Roberto Mancini, not quite sure what spurred that move. I guess you can make a few million selling Shay to Arsenal now, since they have no good keepers, but need one in order to compete.

It was a great day for Blackpool supporters, who made their debut in the Prem and came off a highly impressive spanking of Wigan, 4-0. Roberto Martinez must have talked tactics too much during the 2010 World Cup because his squad was downright terrible today. Another loser was Everton, not sure why David Moyes can’t get his boys to start quick, since they finished last season so strong.

It was Spurs and Man City that got things started with a 1-1 draw, but it should have been a match that Spurs took all 3 points, if it were not for the play of Joe Hart. Even though Hart saw no time on the pitch during the World Cup, he played like a veteran today. I still think Given should have started. Hart spent all of last year at Birmingham on loan from Man City, where he played very well.

How about Chelsea, 6-0 over WBA! Welcome back to the Premiership, not quite the return West Brom had in mind. Oh yeah, Drogba netted a hat trick. Chelsea looked good, but West Brom looked bad.

I am participating in only one fantasy football pool this season, sponsored by www.premierleague.com where I finished strong last year, but have gained some more experience and think I am ready for a better year. As for my game predictions, I did not do very well. But it is early and I know I will fair much better in that department this season.

Finally The Super Cup is next weekend between scudetto winners, InterMilan and runner-up, AS Roma. The following week starts the actual Italian Serie A. The beautiful game is back.

What Does it Say?

I am sure the sportswriters all across the globe all have similar topics regarding the state of Italian football. What does it say, when three of the top Italian teams, in Inter, Juve and Roma all go down in defeat over the course of two days in UEFA Champions League play? Does this mean English football is that much superior to the game the Italians play?

I watch plenty of footie from the UK and Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal are much like their Italian counterparts in terms of quality of football on the pitch and their positions in the table every year. Of the three Italy v England matches, two of them were scoreless draws in the first leg. Only Arsenal managed a lone gone, courtesy of a penalty kick, after dominating Roma for much of the match. Arguments can be made for the other matches, as Mourinho defends his team’s play against the Reds, while Juve came close numerous times versus Chelsea, but came up short in the end.

Of the three Italian team, Inter’s exit is probably the most shocking, come up short in a 2-0 loss to SAF and the Red Devils. Seems only fitting though, that in his years at Chelsea he was at the top of his game, only to lose another match to Man U. This was the real title that Jose was after, not the scudetto in Serie A. Mourinho last won the CL in 2004 with Porto and exited in the semifinals twice while at Chelsea, so while his track record is proven, his team just did not have enough to finish off SAF’s Red Devils.

The Roma match was a roller coaster of emotions, being down 1-0 AGG heading back to the Olimpico for the second leg. After a dominating performance by the Gunners, it was talked about pregame to be much of the same. Yet Roma is always resilient and a tougher team to play in Rome and they proved it yesterday. It only took 9 minutes when Juan found the back the net, after a pass came through the box and was slotted past Almunia.

This was a big goal goal for Roma and their fans, as it allowed them to draw even on aggregate goals. Roma proved to be the stronger side much of the match and produce quality chances in front of Almunia, but could never finish. As with most matches, there was a controversial no-call by the Spanish referee on Matto, as he appeared to have his jersey pulled from behind by Clichy, causing him to go to the ground. Yet nothing was rewarded and game play continues.

Baptista had a horrible showing much of the match. He came on late in first period as Juan exited due to injury and seemed to be a step behind and a pass off. He did have a chance to seal a victory for Roma on a beautiful cross which was flicked on my Totti, but Baptista tried for the one-timer and it was for not.

Arsenal showed some prowess late in the second half and much of two, 15 minute overtime periods, but the score remained 1-1 as the match went to spot kicks. Dona was riding high after he saved the first attempt, as Roma converted. Unfortunately, Roma’s season would come crashing down after 7 penalty kicks when Max Tonetto stepped up and put the ball over the crossbar. While I don’t lay the blame on him, I do put some of the responsibility on the shoulders of Mirko Vucinic, who half assed an attempt right at Almunia, evening up the PKs after the second round.

So where does that leave Italy football? Sure, Inter will go on with win their third scudetto in Serie A, while Juve and Roma will both finish in the top five and be back in the Champions League next year. What does this say about the World Cup, upcoming in 2010? I don’t believe England has a better squad than Italy and now with many players imported to play in countries like England and Italy it’s more difficult to judge the on field talent when its brought together. The 2008 Italy squad was unique, in that all the players played in country. Not the case any longer. I do think Italian football will need to look within, in order to have better showing next year. Here is to Man U winning the Champions League, as well as the Premiership, the FA and the League Cup, which they have already completed.

Beckham the Primadonna

LOL! It has only been the better part of three games in Serie A with Italian powerhouse, AC Milan and Beckham is already talking about his desire to stay in Italy. Wow, guess that comes as a real surprise *sarcasm*. This guy is a beauty, going where the money is. I compare him to record setting players in the NFL who are trying to hand on to the glory and stardom they once had. Beckham, while not the same player he was when at Man U has started all three games for the Rossoneri, but I for one am shocked he is in the starting eleven.

With names like Kaka, Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf, Emerson, Ambrosini and Flamini its obvious team management is playing to Beckham and his once famed skills. I will grant him this, he is still a good player, but not the same caliber as some of the aforementioned midfielders already playing full time with AC Milan.

Of course come March 9, the Los Angeles Galaxy will let Beckham walk from his contract, as he has never lived up to the reputation that preceded upon his arrival to Hollywood (or is that Carson?) His “little experiment” in the MLS (formerly known as the NASL) has failed, just like many other big name players before him; Giorgio Chinaglia, Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, to name a few.

So Beckham bow out to North America, take your big bucks and bitchy wife and move to Italy. There is only one reason you want to hang on to football…actually two. First to be noticed by Fabio Capello in order to be selected (God forbid, captain) England’s national team in World Cup 2010. Second the selfish bastard wants to break Bobby Moore’s record of 108 appearances for the national team. So go on being the “team player” you are. I hope Capello keeps you off the national team, you are no longer one of England’s best.

We Go As Roma Goes!

Okay, so the adult soccer…err…football league I am involved is not Serie A. Not even college caliber. I am sure 15-20 years ago some of these players were good college players. I have noticed a few standout midfielders and strikers the past three weeks. This week it was great to see AS Roma notch their first Serie A victory of the new campaign. Sure, they are still trailing the likes of Juve and Inter, but they will move up the table after this week.

Our outdoor team moved up this week with our first win after drawing the first week and loosing a tough game last week. Hurts when you let in only one goal, but the offense cannot muster quality shots on goal. Thankfully this is NOT the indoor team I am on and our midfielders and strikers have good touch and control and know how to find the back of the net. That was the case on Sunday, where a late second half goal was enough for us to pull out a victory.

Nine weeks remaining in the season and we are not doing too bad. From what I was told we are doing much better than the last time we were in the top flight. I guess they had no dedicated goalkeeper, which made things difficult and there was no such thing as a close loss.

What makes this league enjoyable, aside from winning, is the group of individuals involved. Many are married with kids and it turns into a family affair each Sunday for a few hours. After the game, there is beer and soft drinks, as well as food. We have a BBQ one time during the season as well.

Another two games this week, indoor action on Wednesday, which I assume will be a lose unless our field players can actually find the net and not the one that surrounds the boards of the pitch, but the one hanging in the back of the goal. I am looking more forward to the early outdoor game. Should be a great time.