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Thursday, September 27, 2001

Arse

There can be no excuses for Arsenal. Panathanikos were simply the better team, Kargounis was outstanding and will no doubt be the player to watch at Old Trafford on the 6th. The home defence was excellent and far to organised and calm for Arsenal to give the raucous support too much cause for concern. A Jeffers header and Ljungberg 20 yarder apart, there was no overly encouraging signs for the Gunners.

One thing has to be said though (and not by was of an excuse). The play acting, time wasting and general poor sportsmanship from the Greek side was unacceptable. A goal up with 10 minutes to go, you'd have to be naïve to expect the defending team not to take their time with throw ins, free kicks, goal kicks etc. But diving before tackles are even made and rolling around on the floor when there was absolutely no contact is disgraceful. A referee who owned a yellow and/or red card (as S. Pereira seemed to have left his at home), may well have been sucked in to showing crucial cautions to the 'fouling' player, thankfully the Portuguese official didn't seem interested.

It's understandable that Thierry Henry was a little miffed at the final whistle, though according to his manager did not use foul language to the ref so should escape censure - to a point anyway.

Hitmanen

In the other game involving an English club, Jari Litmanen justified his manager's faith in him above Robbie Fowler with an excellent display and a goal (plus one disallowed). Will Liverpool fans now turn on Emile Heskey to justify the (flawed) thinking that golden boy Fowler should be in the first team. I'm no fan of Heskey but he is the lesser of two evils at the moment - Fowler has looked half baked, slow witted and as as sharp as a butter knife in his recent displays. At least Heskey runs.

Transfer talk..... Leeds are apparently preparing a bid of 6m for Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour. With Kieron Dyer seemingly about to extend his contract at Newcastle, David O'Leary see's Parlour as a viable alternative. I wouldn't be surprised if Parlour left, with player like Edu and Junichi Inamoto waiting to breakthrough and Parlour's form being a little stale of late - he may see the move as an opportunity to rejuvenate himself - and at 28 years old he may not have many more opportunities.


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Tuesday, September 25, 2001

United We Fall

I guess they know how it feels now anyway. I bet there were a few Bayern Munich fans not too disappointed by United's showing in the champions league tonight. Just in case you missed it....

After a stunning goal from Paul Scholes United were minutes from a narrow 1-0 victory, despite Deportivo La Coruña's pressure Laurent Blanc, Ronny Johnsen and Fabien Barthez played some excellent defensive football.

Deportivo's final ball had been lacking all night - they dominated possession for most of the game and really didn't make enough of it. The inspirational Fran was superb for Deportivo all night, but it was the second half substitute Valeron (on to replace ex-Middlesborough star Emerson) who created their first. A sublime chip over the defence in the 86th minute, substitute Walter Panandini hammered home the late equaliser much to the joy of the Riazor crowd.

Depor sensed blood though and the second goal was an instinctive snap shot from the excellent Moroccan Nourredine Naybet following a perfect cut-back.

Van Nistelrooy was poor, as was United's other big summer signing Juan Sebastian Veron. Both lacked invention, though I do have sympathy for Van Nistelrooy, left up on his own for most of the game. Veron was caught in possession too many times and he is second to Scholes in my opinion as his lack of acceptance for defensive responsibility leaves United unguarded all too often.

Just a mention for Celtic who did well to beat Porto in what seemed a fairly routine game, but a big cheer for perennial underdogs and overachievers Rosenborg Ballklub who managed a phenomenal 1-1 draw with mighty Juventus at Lerkendal. It keeps the results interesting at least.


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Monday, September 24, 2001

Owen & Out

Oh dear, oh dear. England do have other forwards, and some of them aren't that bad (Robbie Fowler, Alan Smith, Francis Jeffers). But something tells me we'll see two hornless rhino's playing on the 6th of October. Greece - meet Andy Cole and Emile Heskey. I'm sure you've heard about them, they'll run all night, mis-control 80% of near perfect passes, miss a hatful of chances put on a plate for them and generally make Michael Owen look like a cross between Pelé, Maradona and George Best.

I still think we'll win the group mind, Germany will lose (or maybe draw) to Finland in Munich and England will bore us to death with a 0-0 draw in Athens. Needless to say we will create chances and if we do score it will be through Beckham (free kick) or Scholes (30 yard drive/header from corner).

As for the rest of the weekend, stop moaning Sam Allardyce. Intentional or not - rules are rules - and Ricardo Gardener made contact (as the last man) with Dennis Bergkamp and prevented him from reaching a ball which was a clear goalscoring opportunity. Red card, plain and simple, not a case of 'I don't know what football's coming to'. He saw the incident so well that he thought it was Ray Parlour who Gardener bundled into.

The central defensive partnership of Gudni Bergsson and Mike Whitlow was not found wanting when confronted with the excellent, in form Thierry Henry and the inventive Dennis Berkamp. The show was stolen, as it seems to be every week, by the irrepressible Michael Ricketts whose finish over David Seaman from 5 yards was sublime - and so very nearly made goal of the week.

Paul Gascoigne is dry, and reminiscent of a reformed Paul Merson, he had a superb game as Everton lost 1-0 to a spirited Blackburn side at Ewood Park. Blackburn owe a debt to goalkeeper Brad Friedal stopping an excellent Duncan Fersuson header in the first half, saving a penalty and making an inspired stop from Joe Max-Moore in the second.

West Ham finally got a goal (or three) in open play this season, in a Di Canio, Hutchinson and Kanuté inspired victory the Hammers notched up a much needed trio of Premiership points by beating a poor Newcastle side, fresh from beating United, at Upton Park. The only glimmer of hope for Newcatle fans being the excellent Laurent Robert, it seems the toon army have a new hero.

Chelsea were a little unlucky to only get a draw from a Middlesborough side lacking in invention. A harsh penalty three minutes into injury time, despatched superbly by the wonderful Alen Boksic, was the point clincher and tonic for the long journey home.

For a full list of results for the weekend head on over to football365 premiership, first division, second division, third division, conference.

My favourite story of the day unfolded at Carrow Road, imagine.... you're watching a slightly above average game, Norwich are edging it 1-0 over a hard working Burnley side.... news filters through that Man Utd have gone a goal up against local rivals Ipswich at Old Trafford.... is this true? you need official, professional confirmation of the score, don't you? Just look to the scoreboard ladies and gentlemen......

Manchester United 1 Scum 0

absolutely brilliant.

Here they are... the fabulous, fantastic, finely tuned all things footie weekly awards;

Performace of the week : Bolton vs Arsenal
Player of the week : Gudni Bergsson (Bolton)
Goal of the week : Jari Litmanen (Liverpool vs Tottenham)
Team of the week :
Brad Friedal
Blackburn
Luke Young
Charlton
Gudni Bergsson
Bolton
Mike Whitlow
Bolton
Gregory Vignal
Liverpool
Paul Gascoigne
Everton
Don Hutchinson
West Ham
Harry Kewell
Leeds
Ole Gunnar Sølkjaer
Man Utd
Niall Quinn
Sunderland
Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink
Chelsea

What are your views on the weekend's matches? Think Ricketts' goal should have beaten Litmanen's beatiful finish to goal of the week? Maybe you think I should have mentioned Man United's 4-0 reserve team victory against Ipswich, I'd actually agree with you there but I can't think of anything original to say. How about the possibility of Chris Sutton getting called up for England, I wish I was joking. To get it off your chest go to the forum and have your say on the action.


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Friday, September 21, 2001

Var-teks 'em Down A Peg Or Two

UEFA Cup

John Gregory's lad's were shown that they'll have to work a lot harder if they want to progress. The big shock was undoubtably Portugease minnows Maratimo beating Leeds 1-0 in Madeira.

It is three years since David O'Leary assisted George Graham in a UEFA cup tie on the island. Squeezing through on penalties, you would have thought the English club would have learnt their lesson. Take these 'lesser' teams lightly at your peril, it's a worn out phrase but never more true than when you see arrogance in players eyes.

In other news (it's a bit late) Dino Zoff has been replaced as Lazio boss by Alberto Zaccheroni, the former scudetto winning AC-Milan boss starts his career leading the Roman giants out against his old club this weekend.


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Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Wrong Choice Mr. ITV Man

So...... the excruciatingly dull (and I mean dull) nil-nil draw or a five goal thriller? You could argue that they weren't to know but a German team? at home? against Liverpool in the form they've been in recently. Just don't do it again.

The less said about the Liverpool game the better, there's absolutely nothing I can say about it that isn't a cliché. The Germans defended efficiently, Michael Owen ran his socks off, Emile Heskey fell over a lot and didn't have one good first touch to his name. Steven Gerrard ran around a lot and played a few long ball's that were no doubt 'glorious long range passing' at it's best - sarcasm aside, his distribution was (at times) the only real highlight of the game.

On the elusive digital channel though, lucky viewers (I not being one of them despite my trip to a 'digital pub') were treated to what sounded like an incredibly open and exciting game. 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2 then a thrilling final forty minutes was all I could think about as I watched two teams try to bore each other to death. The crowd at the Westfalenstadion really should have been dealt out those little blue and grey blow up travel pillows.

Freddie Ljungberg was excellent again, and man of the match Thierry Henry took his first goal superbly and coolly slotted away a 47th minute penalty won by captain for the night Patrick Vieira. Without a familiar defence (Tony Adams, Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell all injured/suspended) the gunners were always going to concede but they held out there attacking resolve to come away with what sounded like a deserved victory.

On a side note, Arsenal have signed Greek Under-21 international Stathis Tavlaridis from Greek first division side Iraklis FC - no I hadn't heard of him either. Whatever has happened to Igor?

Surprise results in other games..... Nantes beat the mighty Lazio in the Olympic Stadium - Anderlecht held Roma to a draw in Belgium, for a full results listing for tonight see football365 results or for the latest tables see soccernet euro tables.


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Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Lucky Boys

I think it would be fair to say that United were a little fortunate to come out of tonight's encounter against Lille with all three points. It was essentially an even game, both sides had a fairly equal share of attacking play and more surprisingly - the ball in general. The only thing separating the teams being some truly suicidal defending from the otherwise outstanding back four of the French club's line up.

At either end the back lines were marshalled by fine performances, Pascal Cygan and Wes Brown standing out in particular. Wes Brown admirably held off a number of spirited attacks from the impressive Dagui Bakari, though he was skinned once (along with the unusually quiet Roy Keane - who's distribution was diabolical by the way).

Fernando D'Amico put in a considerably more impressive performance than his countryman and slightly more widely recognised opponent Juan Sebastian Veron. A large percentage of United's midfield were strangely subdued for the most part, especially for a home tie, with the incorrigible David Beckham seemingly the only inspiration.

A big word for the surprise package on the pitch though, and man of the match in my opinion, Grégory Wimbée (the Lille goalkeeper). He was most impressive as the man responsible for several great saves, the highlight being stopping a Veron scorcher that was dipping and swerving all over the place. However it was pleasing to see a 'keeper who wasn't afraid to come for dangerous balls, catch them and keep hold of the ball - are you watching Sander Westerveld.

Unlucky Bhoys

You've got to feel sorry for Celtic though. Two nil down to an outstanding Juventus team, Marcelo Salas was mesmorising for David Trezeguet's first goal and Celtic were truly at sixes and sevens. A goal later and no doubt some harsh words from Martin O'Neill and Celtic were back in it, at two all they must have thought it was their day. Lord only knows what the ref was thinking when he awarded that penalty to Juve' in the closing minutes of the game.

A high ball is lofted over, landing about 10 yards in front of Nicola Amoruso, he snags his shirt on a defender and goes down with all the grace of a sack of potatoes. Aggreived isn't the word. Juventus undoubtably have one of the best squads in Europe and a first team to rival any but whilst Serie A and the Italian game in general is plagued with players falling like card towers they won't get the respect they perhaps deserve.


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Monday, September 17, 2001

Mean Keane and Foolish Frank

It wouldn't be a weekend in the Premiership without a couple of sending off's would it? Firstly United's irritable Irishman lashes out at a nonchalant, and excellent Alan Shearer, then Frank Lampard tried to start a fight with Tottenham's Chris Perry.

Roy Keane's card was a disgrace, annoyed at his team losing and frustrated by Shearer's perfectly legitimate attempts to waste a bit of time - you can't tell me united wouldn't have done the same. Keane's fist of fury was an all too characteristically unpleasant site on a day which really should have been conducted with a modicum of respect.

Lampard on the other hand was rightly gutted to have not been given a penalty. The replay showed clear contact between Perry and the Chelsea man and however unjust Hasselbaink's penalty was, Hoddle should take into account that they were lucky to escape in that situation. Especially as Chelsea lost a man in the process - albeit for an indefensible violent reaction.

Tough at the Top

Arsenal and Leeds are setting the early pace with the meeting between the two sides the main difference (had that been a draw incidentally, Arsenal would be two points ahead of the northerners). Both teams put in professional performances over the weekend, Leeds dispatching Charlton without too much effort, though Robbie Keane's dive was shocking.

Arsenal played a good game against a determined and undoubtedly talented Fulham side at Craven Cottage. Freddie Ljungberg was excellent, and Lauren Biscan Etame seems to have solved the worrying right back problem for the foreseeable future with a superb display. Once again, Sol Campbell looked very nervy, pulled out of position for the lively Steed Malbranque's goal and skinned on more than one occasion, Wenger seriously needs to address this problem. I've always said Arsenal's strongest defensive pairing is Keown and Adams and I have not changed my mind on the evidence so far.

Manchester United's lack of defensive rigidity, and Laurent Blanc's shortcomings in particular, are the reason they aren't looking down on the rest of the premiership - for it certainly isn't a lack of attacking ability.

The biggest problem I can see is the difficulty in finding a place for Paul Scholes, he certainly doesn't fit in to the 'man behind the lone striker' position. With Ferguson (understandably, given his recent displays) preferring Juan Veron to partner thug Roy Keane in the centre of midfield, Scholes seems a little peripheral. Not good enough for a player of his ability, and United do seem to lack something without the lad in the team. Veron doesn't work as hard for the defence. Scholes has shown - particularly in recent international displays - that along with the flair side of his game he can provide valuable defensive cover too. Something that in United's time of trouble cannot be underestimated in value.

The truth is that Giggs, Scholes, Veron, Keane and Beckham cannot fit into one team - without a serious change of position or team formation.

Tougher at the Bottom

Leicester and Southampton have finally got some points on the board, Dean Richards and Dean Sturridge in particular can be given a fair slice of the credit. Sturridge was excellent for Leicester, a few nifty touches and two well taken goals proved the difference between them and a hard working Derby team. As for the Robbie Savage incident - I thought he was touched, just - but went down like a ballerina and you can understand why the Derby players and fans were aggrieved at his rather exuberant celebration. That was not necessary and he deserves everything he gets the lucky boy, he wasn't going anywhere anyway.

Dean Richards put in another fine performance for the Saints and is doing more every week to justify Southampton's lofty valuation. It does look like he'll be off this week though, with Spurs allegedly upping their offer to 7.5m and Rupert Lowe seemingly willing to do business at that price.

It's that time again...

Performace of the week : Newcastle vs Man Utd
Player of the week : Laurent Robert (Newcastle)
Goal of the week : Steven Gerrard (Liverpool vs Everton)
Team of the week :
Nigel Martyn
Leeds
Lauren
Arsenal
Dean Richards
Southampton
Gareth Southgate
Middlesborough
Wayne Bridge
Southampton
Freddie Ljungberg
Arsenal
Emmanuel Petit
Chelsea
Steven Gerrard
Liverpool
Laurent Robert
Newcastle
Alan Shearer
Newcastle
Dean Sturridge
Leicester

What are your thoughts on the action? think Lampard should be handed a three match ban? think Ipswich really should have won yesterday after a perfectly good goal was disallowed? go to the forum then, see you there.


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Thursday, September 13, 2001

Nothing to Say

Well, what can you?

Condolances to all and don't forget the minutes silence at 11:00am, friday.


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Monday, September 10, 2001

Bo-owwwww-teng

Now I've seen everything - defending Steven Gerrard's horrific challenge on George Boateng is inexcusable - especially after seeing a replay (presumably in slow motion so he could see the full leg bending, bone twisting extravaganza). Houllier should be ashamed of himself as much as his player. Superb performace from Villa though who retain the Team of the Week title after making a mokery of Liverpool's claim for the title (I stand by my prediction that a team with only one class midfielder won't do that well).

Leicester were lucky to get a point from a poor performance against Ipswich. Marcus Stewart's excellent finish against a nervy looking Ian walker should have sealed the three points for the visitors, but a (far too) quickly taken free kick allowed Leicester, and Dean Sturridge in-particular an opening. How much time has this bought Peter Taylor? Probably not enough to save his job from (and here's a tip for you) Craig Brown. I could be wrong, but we'll see.

A superb performance from Juan Sebastian Veron and some neat finishing courtesy of the rejuvinated Alan Shearer were other notable highlights of yesterdays programme. Lowlights were dominated by the 5 red cards shown, especially the inequality of the punishments dealt out to Mark Schwartzer and Shay Given which were unacceptable.

The defence of the ref says that Given didn't see red as there were three covering defenders, the replay clearly shows there was at least one covering defender when Schwarzer went for the ball (an important point also). Given's foul was a cheeky clip of heels which was deserving of punishment - Schwarzer on the other hand was undoubtably going for the ball, taking the quickest route, nothing unsporting about it whatsoever.

Enough moaning - once again I present the infamous All Things Footie weekly (Premiership) awards.....

Performace of the week : Aston Villa vs Liverpool
Player of the week : Juan Sebastian Veron (Man Utd)
Goal of the week : Marcus Stewart (Leicester vs Ipswich)
Team of the week :
Jussi Jaaskelainen
Bolton
John McGreal
Ipswich
Nikos Dabizas
Newcastle
Ozlan Alpay
Aston Villa
Ashley Cole
Arsenal
Paul Merson
Aston Villa
George Boateng
Aston Villa
Juan Veron
Man Utd
Boujewin Zenden
Chelsea
Niall Quinn
Sunderland
Alan Shearer
Newcastle

I'm sure some of you disagree, probably think Veron should have got goal of the week. Probably want to make your feelings known. Then your best outlet for fury and slagging me off is the forum, see you there.


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Thursday, September 06, 2001

Alpainia

I suppose we needed a decent scrap against someone, though England's insistence on hurrying everything and failing to slow the pace of the game at crucial points was worrying. There were times when instead of passing it around and frustrating the Albanians, something that worked admirably against Germany on Saturday, we were lumping it forward for everyones favourite Welshman to chase. Just about everyone was guilty of it, Beckham, Gerrard, Ferdinand, Campbell, in fact the only players not to adopt this newly discovered Wimbledon-ness were our lively pair of full-backs Gary Neville and Ashley Cole.

Once again Sven employed the tactic of telling the pair to run with the ball as much as possible - something that worked better for Neville last night but frightened the life out of the visiting North African defenders on both sides. They coped well with the threat however, snubbing out most attacks down the flanks and frustrating England into slightly more hit and hope tactics.

That said, Beckham and Gerrard's passing was sublime at times - though I still can't work out why Beckham can't take corners. On more than one occasion he played a short corner which all to quickly extinguished the momentum - a waste when set pieces seemed our most likely route to the back of the net.

Owen's finish was the only thing sweeter than Scholes' through ball before half time and the second half was notable mainly for a string of superb saves from David Seaman. Eat your words everyone who's spent the last 6 months saying he's past it.

Sol Campbell looked to have improved on Saturdays performance, his tackling was better timed and he got stuck in well in a couple of sticky situations. He was still caught ball watching on more than one occasion though and his awareness will have to improve if he wants to hold on to a tag of 'world class defender'. Rio Ferdinand's performance was disappointing though, for much the same reasons as Sol, the pair didn't seem assured in the air and were both beaten to balls that they should have won with ease against a poor Albanian forward line.

Left in the Cold

It seems no one likes Steve McManaman after an indifferent performance from Nick Barmby on Saturday, I though Macca might be given at least 45 minutes, especially against opposition that someone of his talent should be able to make fools out of. Not so, Eriksson stuck with Barmby who gave us an even poorer performance from Saturday, indifference being replaced by incompetence as the Liverpool man missed a glaring header and later failed to play a simple killer ball. McManaman hardly covered himself in glory when he did come on though, looking his usual lazy, half asleep self - executing his perpetual step-over 'trick' whenever he could. The left is still a problem.

Emile Heskey, as predicted, looked out of place in a team not winning 4-1 and despite trying hard could not impose himself on the game at all. His replacement Robbie Fowler, missing his nose plaster, was less than impressive until his goal, his touch and finishing deserting him at crucial moments - notably the weak shot from six yards that Strakosha tipped away without too much trouble. You can't have that much of a go though, his goal was a superb piece of individual skill and I for one would be surprised if Heskey undergoes a bit of a reputational down-grade in the next few weeks.


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Monday, September 03, 2001

New Rant

The England vs Germany rant is uploaded, check it out here - mighty whites.


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Monday, September 03, 2001

We're Gonna Score Four More Than You

The full match report/analysis will be up tonight so I won't say too much now apart from to wish my best to Kurt Völler, father of Rudi, who suffered a heart attack during the game.

Liverpool took me by surprise yesterday when I found out they signed Chris Kirkland and Jerzy Dudek, both pricey deals (9m and 4.8m respectively, though I think the first one will be appearance dependant). Who will be first choice? head says Dudek, more experienced and provisionally better but bank balance says Kirkland.

The youngster surely can't be first choice though - Dudek won't have it for a start, it's a lot of money to pay for a sub though and Kirkland must have had some kind of assurances from Houllier - it's not like Dudek is approaching the end of his career.

And finally...... On Saturday one of football's most loved commentators and personalities sadly passed away. Condolences to the friends and family of the wonderful Brian Moore a man who was always my preferred guy to 'shout the names out' as he once said. A great commentator and I've never heard a bad word said about him, there's not a lot more you can say.


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