Friday, September 30, 2011

Motty: 40 Up

Love him or loathe him, John Motson is just about the most experienced football commentator on British television right now. Saturday 1 October 2011 sees Motty celebrate the 40th anniversary of his first appearance on Match of the Day, so we thought it was worth taking a look back at some of the high points of his BBC career to remind ourselves of just what a career it's been...

"Radford again... Oh what a goal! What a goal!"
Ronnie Radford's goal helps Hereford United dump Newcastle United out of the FA Cup as Motty audibly immortalises the 1972 BBC Goal of the Season...



"A chance on here... and Pearson is the scorer!"
Motson finally wrestles the Cup Final microphone from David Coleman's grasp to give us his take on the climax to the 1976-77 campaign.



"Armstrong!"
Northern Ireland give 1982 World Cup hosts Spain the shock of their lives by beating them 1-0 to top the group. Motson wasn't really expecting Gerry Armstrong to score, but then again, who was?



"Chipping it in... and a posbilmnhra... oh Rossi!"
More tongue-tied brilliance from the 1982 World Cup as a whipped-in cross catches out the entire Brazilian defence and Motty with it...



"This is getting better and better and better!"
Motty allows himself to be anything other than neutral as England come from a goal down to beat Germany 5-1 in a qualifier for the 2002 World Cup.



"Beckham... YES! YES! He's done it!"
Despite humiliating the Germans, England still managed to nause up their qualifying campaign to the point where they needed a draw in their final game against Greece. 2-1 down and three minutes into injury time, Motty was ready to commentate on the most dramatic of outcomes...



"Van PersEEE!"
Boxing Day 2008 and we witness the weird phenomenon of a man's voice momentarily reverting back to its 8-year-old self as Arsenal aim to go 3-0 up at Villa Park.

Weekend TV Preview: 1 - 2 October 2011

Saturday 1 October

12.45 Everton v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
Everton should feel optimistic about this fixture, Liverpool are defensively stretched at the moment and clean sheets have been hard to find; recent results calming the optimism from the early fixtures. Expect Gerrard to come off the bench again with minimal impact.
15.45 Prestatyn Town v Llanelli AFC, Welsh Premier League, S4C
Llanelli are by far the League's top scorers so far (thanks in no small part to a 9-2 mauling of Newtown). They've won their last four games but the home team are only two points behind them.
17.20 Leicester City v Derby County, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
This is not a derby.
17.30 Hertha Berlin v FC Koln, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Three good wins in their last four have made Koln's league position look a lot healthier. Hertha have proven to be tough opposition on their return to the top flight - all their games so far have been drawn or settled by the odd goal.
19.00 Valencia v Granada, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Granada return to the top flight after 35 years away and having survived going to the wall a few seasons back. They've had back to back promotions thanks in no small way to a deal with Italian side Udinese - their squad currently containing five on loan Udinese players.
19.45 Inter Milan v Napoli, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Probably Napoli's best chance to end a run of eight consecutive defeats away to Inter. A run that goes back to 1994.
21.00 Malaga v Getafe, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Early days still but Malaga can boast the meanest defence in La Liga. Should prove enough to ensure all the points against a stumbling Getafe side.

Sunday 2 October

12.45 Hearts v Celtic, SPL, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Celtic have finished with 10 men in three of their last four visits to Tynecastle. Expect more fun and larks in this one
13.30 Bolton v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Worrying times for Bolton could get even more concerning unless they find something here. Defeat against Chelsea shouldn't put pressure on Coyle - although the manner of it could.
14.00 Fiorentina v Lazio, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Good chance to see Miroslav Klose, back in scoring ways with four goals in his six games for Lazio. La Viola have comfortably won both their home games while Lazio's only win this season was against strugglers Cesena - a game they had to come from behind to win after an opening goal from former Fiorentina hero Adrian Mutu.
16.00 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
While faring similarly in Europe midweek results-wise, you can't help but feel Spurs' comeback against Shamrock Rovers took more out of them than Arsenal's win against Olympiakos. Spurs must start as favourites though - something that doesn't usually sit well with them. The world will be waiting for Adebayor's goal celebration - hopefully Arsenal fans won't sink as low as to steal any Tottenham songs about him.
16.30 Hamburger SV v FC Schalke, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Hamburg finally secured their first win of the season last week away to Stuttgart but still remain rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga. Schalke's coach, Ralf Rangnick, stepped down this week, citing health reasons, and has been replaced by the returning Huub Stevens - who many had tipped to become the new coach of Hamburg.
19.00 Sporting v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Barca looked in frightening form when destroyed BATE in the Champions League this week but are still looking for their first away win in La Liga after 2-2 draws at Valencia and Sociedad. Racing have had an awful start to their season with just one point to show from their first five games.
19.45 Juventus v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Juve share top spot in the early table with Udinese, while Milan have only just registered their first of the campaign last time out - a less than convincing 1-0 against Cesena (yeah, everyone's beating them).
21.00 Espanyol v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Is Kaka back? This game could tell us more.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #208

Diego Maradona and other 'rodents'
12 Football Players That Were Born In The Chinese Year Of The Rat

1. Darren Anderton (formerly Tottenham and England)
2. Franco Baresi (formerly Milan and Italy)
3. Eyal Berkovic (formerly West Ham and Israel)
4. Igor Belanov (formerly Dynamo Kiev and USSR)
5. Rui Costa (formerly Milan and Portugal)
6. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (formerly Chelsea and Netherlands)
7. Diego Maradona (formerly Barcelona and Argentina)
8. Pavel Nedved (formerly Juventus and Czech Republic)
9. Wesley Sneijder (Inter and Netherlands)
10. Jaap Stam (formerly Manchester United and Netherlands)
11. Fernando Torres (Chelsea and Spain)
12. Zinedine Zidane (formerly Real Madrid and France)


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Football Americana Week 28: Four each for De Ro and JPA

This week in Major League Soccer has been jam-packed with action and goals as the playoff picture begins to take shape.

DC United and Chivas USA each began a two-game week with a 2-2 draw at RFK Stadium. Dwayne De Rosario gave DC a first half advantage, scoring with a free header from Andy Najar's free kick amid shocking defending. Ethan White pounced just after the break to make it 2-0 with his first United goal, but Chivas had a Colombian ace up their sleeve. Juan Pablo Angel scored both of the Goats' goals, the first a towering header and the second an easy finish after he showed good strength in the box. In stoppage time De Rosario squandered the chance to win it, his penalty saved by Dan Kennedy.

Chivas' second result of the week was a somewhat surprising 3-0 win over Toronto FC. Angel added another two goals to his impressive purple patch either side of a goal by Justin Braun. Angel squeezed in his first in the 12th minute and his second, a deliciously taken turn and shot, quickly followed Braun's header in the final 20 minutes.

Real Salt Lake went to Red Bull Arena and came away with three points after beating New York Red Bulls. All three of RSL's goals came in the first 25 minutes. Alvaro Saborio headed home the first at an unmanned near post from a corner, and in the 11th minute it was 2-0 after an awful error by Tim Ream and Fabian Espindola's finish. Espindola broke clear and prodded in the third, sending shockwaves around the stadium that would be felt long after the game. Joel Lindpere had hit the crossbar when his superb effort was tipped away by Nick Rimando, but his goal was even better. Rafa Marquez's delivery was turned in with a brilliant bicycle kick for New York's consolation goal.

De Rosario made amends for his earlier penalty miss with a hat-trick as United defeated Salt Lake 4-1 thanks to a magnificent first half performance. The Canadian set up Najar's opening goal and then took control himself with a hat-trick in under ten minutes. He headed home Najar's cross for his first, struck a wonderful shot from 25 yards for his second and swinging in a brilliant free kick for his third, taking him to 13 goals this season and making him the league's top goalscorer. Saborio's late blast past Bill Hamid was scant consolation.

It was a 1-1 draw when San Jose Earthquakes visited Portland Timbers and shared the points for the second time this season. Kenny Cooper was again the Portland goalscorer, calmly sweeping in Darlington Nagbe's neat cut-back during a thrilling first half. Khari Stephenson scored the equaliser with a pea-roller into the corner 20 minutes from time.

With Marquez dropped in the fallout from their midweek defeat, New York's second game of the week came at home against Portland and was much-improved. They got their reward with a 2-0 victory, the goals coming through a finish from a tight angle by Dane Richards in the middle of the first half, and a thumping penalty from Luke Rodgers in the middle of the second. Rodgers goal came in the aftermath of Khalif Alhassan's dismissal for handball on the goal-line.

One goal apiece was all that was on offer as the Earthquakes drew with Colorado Rapids. Chris Wondolowski fired the Quakes in front by knocking in the second attempt after Stephenson's effort was saved, but the Rapids equalised in the second half through Pablo Mastroeni's scrambled finish.

Both teams really needed three points as Philadelphia Union faced Sporting Kansas City, but both had to settle for one. The two goals arrived in the second half, Omar Bravo's goal from close range putting Sporting in front and Sebastien Le Toux's strike reinstating parity after superb work by Michael Farfan.

The Lonestar State derby looked to be going to a stalemate between FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo. Dallas started excellently but were unable to break the deadlock in a first half in which they were clearly the better and more incisive side. A disallowed goal and a header off the crossbar were distant memories by the time Geoff Cameron's header secured daylight robbery for Houston in the dying minutes. To make matters worse, Dallas had also hit the woodwork twice in the second half.

The clash of the table-toppers resulted in a 1-0 win for Western leaders LA Galaxy against the East's Columbus Crew. The winning goal took even longer to materialise than it had in Dallas, sub Chad Barrett following up to knock in a rebound from Landon Donovan's shot in the 93rd minute. Josh Saunders had kept LA in the game with a string of late saves prior to the winner.

In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle Sounders were triumphant with a 3-1 win at Vancouver Whitecaps. Davide Chiumiento set up an easy finish for Camilo to put Vancouver in front, but the rest of the game belonged to Seattle. Brad Evans made it 1-1 from the spot after a clear handball by Jay Demerit, and two quickfire goals from Fredy Montero killed the game in the second half. The Colombian's first was a stupendous combination of composure, control and finishing, and his second altogether more fortuitous thanks to a hefty deflection.

The week concluded with a match between Chicago Fire and New England Revolution. The Fire burst out into a first half 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Sebastian Grazzini, Dom Oduro and Patrick Nyarko, but they very nearly imploded in second half stoppage time. Ryan Guy scored twice for the Revs but the dream comeback was a goal too far.

With around 30 matches played apiece, LA, Seattle and Salt Lake are now assured of a playoff spot from the West. In the East it's Houston, Columbus and Kansas City that occupy the all-important top three positions.

At present, the four wildcard positions are held by Dallas, Colorado, Philadelphia and New York, but DC are primed to jump in with games in hand.

You can see those tables here.

The Almost Random A-Z of Dubious Football Knowledge: A

In this new feature, we trawl the world of football to compile the ultimate A to Z of dubious football knowledge. Each entry covers a different letter, so let's start at the beginning...


A is for...

Advertising boards

First spotted in the British game during the early 1970’s, the ‘A-board’ has mutated from plywood eyesore into electronic… eyesore. Early versions promoted companies and products that today seem unthinkable such as Double Two Shirts, Gola sportswear and Wrigley’s Spearmint before Chelsea took the niche approach of advertising recently released feature films including ‘The Exorcist’ and several epics in the ‘Emmanuel’ series. A capable barrier against the celebrating Gordon Strachan, the modern advertising board today provides an animated video distraction for the most boring of games, and, sadly, many of the exciting ones too.

Andorra

Joint worst team in Europe at present and possibly always will be. Reached a high point in the FIFA World Rankings of 125 in 2005. Only ever beaten three teams in their history; Albania, Belarus and Macedonia. Only ever scored two goals in a single match on one occasion – the World Cup qualifier in 2000 at home to Cyprus which they lost 3-2.

Arbroath FC

Football team located on the east coast of Scotland. Famous for their 36-0 victory over Bon Accord in 1885 and wrongly so on account of the fact that Bon Accord were in essence a cricket team that had received an invitation to play in the Scottish Cup by complete accident. Among their current squad is Gavin Swankie, a former Scottish League Division 3 Player of the Year whose name we’re hoping to see on Final Score just once with the ‘s’ moved before the space rather than after it. Yes, we are childish.

Arthur Albiston

Former Scottish international defender who was a regular number 2 in the Man United team of the late-70’s and early-80’s. Struggled to secure a regular first team place until Arsenal caretaker-manager-to-be Stewart Houston was injured on the eve of the 1977 FA Cup Final. Albiston took his place in the team, earned a winners’ medal and offered it to Houston who subsequently declined, although in our opinion he should have grabbed it with both hands with a gleeful lack of regard for his fellow professional. Went on to play for West Bromwich Albion, Dundee and Molde (briefly) before becoming a junior coach at Man United and a summariser of reserve team games on MUTV.

AFC

...or ‘Asian Football Confederation’, the body which administers football for over half the world’s population. Formed in 1954 by twelve nations, only three of which have ever played in the World Cup Finals even to this day (Indonesia/Dutch East Indies, Korea Republic and Japan). Of its current 46 member nations, Australia were members of the Oceania confederation until 2006, while Guam has always been in the Asian section despite technically being located in the Oceania region. Five countries that are Asian by geographic location (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel and Kazakhstan) are actually members of UEFA, thereby making the whole thing about as shambolic as Mohammed Bin Hammam’s recent spell as President of the AFC.

Next time we'll be covering the letter B, so if you have any suggestions for what we should include, drop us a line to carnies [at] footballfairground [dot] com or leave us a comment below...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Midweek TV Preview: 26 - 29 September 2011

Monday 26 September

20.00 Norwich City v Sunderland, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
To the football aficionado, this fixture immediately recalls memories of the 1985 Milk Cup Final, the only major Cup Final in England where both teams got relegated in the league at the end of the season. Thanks to the improbably named David Corner failing to boot the ball out for a corner, Norwich ended up scoring the only goal of the game to win the Cup. And to think Norwich would have been in the UEFA Cup the following season...

Tuesday 27 September

17.00 CSKA Moscow v Inter Milan, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Claudio Ranieri made a winning start at Inter over the weekend with a 3-1 win at Bologna. Now for the big challenge - getting his side’s Champions League campaign back on track after the defeat at home to Trabzonspor a fortnight ago. Sadly he’ll have to make do without Wesley Sneijder, Diego Forlan, Maicon and Dejan Stankovic for this match. Looks like some tinkering will be called for...
19.45 Kidderminster Harriers v Grimsby Town, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
A great 3-0 win for The Harriers at Mansfield on Saturday should put them in an ideal frame of mind to do a job on The Mariners here. Current form for the visitors suggests they’ll be going home with no points.
19.45 Bayern Munich v Man City, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Bayern’s record from their last nine games reads: Won 9, Lost 0. Scored 26, Conceded 0. Man City, on the other hand, have lost only one game since May 7th, and that was the Community Shield match against Man United. Tough one to call.
19.45 Man Utd v Basel, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Even though they’re playing well in the Swiss Super League at the moment and knowing Rooney will be missing through injury, Basel still won’t have the wherewithal to even polish United’s boots here. ‘Home Win’ somehow seems too short a phrase to describe the likely outcome of this one.
19.45 Real Madrid v Ajax, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
When these two met in the Group Stage of the same competition last year, the aggregate score in their two meetings was 6-0 to Real. Given that Jose Mourinho’s side banged in six against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, there could be more frustration on the cards for Ajax here.
19.45 Napoli v Villarreal, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Villareal may well have to do without Giuseppe Rossi after he picked up a knock against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend. Napoli, meanwhile, earned a creditable 0-0 draw against Fiorentina to stay third in the Serie A table.
19.45 Lyon v Dynamo Zagreb, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Both teams are leading their respective domestic leagues at the moment, but while Zagreb have a 7-point lead over Split, Lyon are level on points with PSG and Toulouse. Crucially the visitors have lost only two of their last 25 games, and one of those was against Real. Impressive stuff.
19.45 Oţelul Galaţi v Benfica, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Look, how was I supposed to know the home side was Romanian, not Belgian? It was a dodgy ink cartridge, OK?
19.45 Trabzonspor v Lille, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
It’s four draws on the trot now for Lille. Wouldn’t mind betting this could be a fifth against an inconsistent and unpredictable Trab side.

Wednesday 28 September

17.00 Zenit St Petersburg v FC Porto, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Porto threw away the lead twice against Benfica in the first Classico of the Primeira Liga season. No such worries for their hosts: Zenit enjoyed a 4-0 win at the weekend over Tom Tomsk - not, as you may think, a Russian sat-nav manufacturer.
19.45 Valencia v Chelsea, Champions League Group Stage, ITV1/ITV1 HD
One wonders how Torres will hit the self-destruct button in this match. Our money’s on the Spaniard scoring a hat-trick before defecating in the Valencia dug-out.
19.45 Arsenal v Olympiakos, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2/HD2
If RVP continues the form he showed against Bolton, this should be a comfortable win for The Gunners. That said, the visitors did inflict a 1-0 defeat on Arsenal in Decemeber 2009, so let’s not count our chickens or anything.
19.45 FC BATE v Barcelona, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Barcelona put five (CINCO) past Atlético Madrid at the weekend, thereby giving us the statistic that they’ve now scored five goals or more in four of their last eight games. BATE, meanwhile, got a 1-1 draw at Belshina - not, as you may think, a popular brand of metal polish for campanologists.
19.45 AC Milan v Viktoria Plzen, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
To answer the question everyone’s been asking, you pronounce that word ‘PULL-ZINE.’ Got it? Viktoria PULL-ZINE...
19.45 Marseille v Borussia Dortmund, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Two teams that have been distinctly slow getting out of the traps this season, but both are back to better form, we’re pleased to report. BVB grabbed a 2-1 win at Mainz on Saturday while Marseille let slip their lead only in the 90th minute against lowly Valenciennes to draw 1-1.
19.45 Bayer Leverkusen v Genk, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt was only too happy to admit his side were beaten by better opponents in the 3-0 defeat to Bayern at the weekend. It’s doubtful he’ll need to use that excuse after this match.
19.45 Shakhtar Donetsk v APOEL, Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
The current leaders of the Ukrainian and Cypriot leagues meet, but its APOEL who have three points in the bag from their first UCL match following a great 2-1 win over Zenit. Shakhtar will be hoping to bounce back from their 2-1 reverse at Porto.
01.45 (Thursday) Brazil v Argentina, Superclasico de las Americas, ESPN/ESPN HD
A resurrected excuse to see who the best team is in South America, even though on current form it’s Uruguay. This is a two-legged load of puff; the first leg finished 0-0. Watch if you feel you must.

Thursday 29 September

18.00 Maribor v Birmingham City, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ESPN Classic
Both teams lost their first game in Group H (Birmingham 3-1 to Braga and Maribor 2-0 to Club Brugge) but the home side must start as favourites here. Maribor currently lead the Slovenian top division while Birmingham drew 1-1 to Barnsley last weekend.
18.00 Celtic v Udinese, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ESPN/ESPN HD
Group I is a tough one for Celtic and it’s difficult to know where their best chance may lie to grab some points. Even a point at home to the current Serie A leaders would be a fair achievement, one would think.
18.00 Odense v Fulham, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ITV4/ITV4 HD
Looks like a good time for Fulham to be playing OB. Five defeats in their last seven games is nothing to write home about, yet Martin Jol’s men are hardly putting out the bunting themselves at the moment. A win for Odense could see them go four points clear at the top of Group K, so an avoidance of that outcome will be vital for The Cottagers.
20.05 Stoke City v Besiktas, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ITV4/ITV4 HD
Much admiration for Stoke after they fought back so determinedly against Man United last time out. That same spirit, coupled with Peter Crouch’s height advantage may well be the key to unlock a mean Besiktas defence.
20.05 Tottenham Hotspur v Shamrock Rovers, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, Channel 5/Channel 5 HD
Shamrock had a torrid introduction to the Europa League Group Stage last time around, losing 3-0 to the ever-impressive Rubin Kazan. A morale-boosting 5-2 win over Bray Wanderers in the league, however, might just give them hope of taking a point home from the Lane.
20.05 Athletic Bilbao v Paris St Germain, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ESPN/ESPN HD
The clock must surely be ticking now for Marcelo Bielsa. His Bilbao side has now failed to win in its first five league games for only the fifth time in its history and are currently floundering third from bottom in La Liga. PSG, meanwhile, are level on points with the leaders in Ligue 1 and are showing that wealthy investors really can make a difference.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 23 - 25 September 2011

Friday 23 September

19.45 Brighton & Hove Albion v Leeds United, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Brighton boss Gus Poyet faces one of his old clubs at the Amex on Friday evening. The Uruguayan was assistant to Dennis Wise at Elland Road before heading back to Tottenham Hotspur to work under Juande Ramos.

Saturday 24 September

12.45 Dunfermline v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 4/HD4
The Gers' last SPL outing was a 4-2 Old Firm derby win over Celtic, giving them the edge in the annual two-horse race in a league that we all know is dead behind the eyes. Steven Naismith was the two-goal hero last weekend.
12.45 Manchester City v Everton, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
Both teams negotiated midweek visits from Midlands outfits in the Carling Cup this week. Goals from Mario Balotelli and some lad named Owen Hargreaves saw off Birmingham at the Etihad, while Everton needed extra time to beat West Brom.
17.15 Watford v Nottingham Forest, Championship, BBC2
Steve McClaren's Forest have lost three consecutive matches in the league, deepening the early question marks over his future at the club. They face a Watford side unbeaten in four under Sean Dyche, who came through the Forest youth ranks before signing professional terms with Chesterfield.
17.30 Stoke City v Manchester United, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Stoke's thumping by Sunderland last weekend leaves them in no shape to face goal-happy Manchester United, who sit atop the Premier League with maximum points and a remarkable goal difference after five matches.
19.45 Napoli v Fiorentina, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Napoli's customary defeat to Chievo took the shine off their fantastic win over AC Milan, in which Edinson Cavani scored a superb hat-trick. Wednesday's fixture saw Walter Mazzarri weaken his side, which he might not do again in a hurry.
21.00 Barcelona v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Barcelona had to settle for a draw at Valencia on Wednesday, a result that took their opponents top. Meanwhile, Atleti turned on the style with a 4-0 battering of Sporting.

Sunday 25 September

12.00 St Johnstone v Hearts, Scottish Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Both these sides were victorious last Saturday, with St Johnstone defeating Motherwell by a handsome margin of three goals to nil, and Hearts winning 2-0 at home to St Mirren. Random fact: both benefited from own goals. But if you care about this match, you already knew that.
13.30 Cardiff City v Leicester City, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The Foxes look to leapfrong the Bluebirds as they visit South Wales on Sunday lunchtime. Cardiff have only lost once this season, falling to Brighton five games ago. Leicester's most recent Championship game was a win against the same opponents.
16.00 Queens Park Rangers v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
All hail Alex McLeish, for Aston Villa are both unbeaten and boring, surely a record time for managers imposing their own style on a team. Get your money on a draw for this one; the visitors have drawn four out of five so far.

16.30 Werder Bremen v Hertha Berlin, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
High-flying Werder face a Hertha side unbeaten since the opening day. Claudio Pizarro is leading the way from the top for the Bremen side, with three goals already to his name.
17.00 Granada v Osasuna, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Granada returned to the top flight after 35 years and have found the going tough so far. A win over Villarreal was the only high point, the victory arriving courtesy of a single goal. Osasuna have fared better so far, losing only once.
19.00 Sporting v Racing, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Sporting's hiding by Atletico was their fourth defeat out of four, leaving them rock bottom of La Liga with only two goals to rub together. Racing, meanwhile, picked up a point each from draws with Levante and Real Madrid.
19.45 Parma v Roma, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
AS Roma are yet to win this season under Luis Enrique, drawing with struggling Inter and losing to Cagliari. Parma's only win so far came against Chievo.
21.00 Zaragoza v Malaga, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Moneybags Malaga lost to Sevilla on opening day but have roared into life with wins over Granada, Mallorca and Athletic Bilbao. Santi Cazorla has three goals so far.

Friday List of Little or No Consquence #207

Two of a Kind?
13 British Football  Teams And The Clubs They Are Linked With Based On Their 'Twin Town' Status

1. Bolton Wanderers and Le Mans FC (France, Ligue 2)
2. Bournemouth and FC Luzern (Switzerland, Super League)
3. Coventry City and Vitesse Arnhem (Netherlands, Eredivisie)
4. Exeter City and Rennes (France, Ligue 1)
5. Hull City and Albirex Niigata (Japan, J-League)
6. Leeds United and Borussia Dortmund (Germany, Bundesliga)
7. Newcastle United and Nancy (France, Ligue 1)
8. Norwich City and TuS Koblenz (Germany, 3.Liga)
9. Southampton and Le Havre (France, Ligue 1)
10. Sunderland and DC United (USA, MLS)
11. Swansea City and Cork City (Ireland, First Division)
12. Watford and Mainz 05 (Germany, Bundesliga)
13. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Venezia (Italy, Serie D)


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Football Americana Week 27: Eastern Conference tight at the top

LA Galaxy continue to find wins easy to come by in Major League Soccer, seemingly unlike the whole of the Eastern Conference. Here's the Week 27 action.

The match week got started with the ten men of Columbus Crew sharing the points with Houston Dynamo. Emmanuel Ekpo lasted only 10 minutes before shoving an aggressive hand into the face of Adam Moffat right under the nose of the referee. Jevaughn Watson furthered Houston's advantage by heading in the opener but it was the Crew who led as the game entered the final minutes. Both their goals came from Andres Mendoza and both were penalties, the first being clipped in calmly after Cam Weaver's handball, the second rolled into the opposite corner after Watson was harshly deemed to have fouled Dilly Duka. But a twist remained, and it arrived in the shape of Calen Carr's shot into the roof of the net in the 86th minute, which earned a point for the Dynamo.

The Crew's hold on the East weakened when they were beaten by Philadelphia Union, the only goal of the game coming from Sebastien Le Toux. He latched onto a pass over the top from Roger Torres after half an hour and coolly beat Will Hesmer to secure maximum points.

Houston's second game was a 2-1 defeat of San Jose Earthquakes in a fixure that to me always feels like a ghost playing against its unexpected living offspring. Khari Stephenson put the Quakes in front with a lovely volleyed finish after a quick break by San Jose down the right. Brad Davis had been denied a penalty in the first half, but won one in the first minute of the second. He took the spot kick himself and equalised. The winner came with 10 minutes left on the clock, rookie Will Bruin showing awareness and strength before finishing neatly.

Portland Timbers cruised against New England Revolution, winning 3-0 at Jeld-Wen Field. Diego Chara finished off the fortuitous first in the ninth minute, and on the half hour Kenny Cooper made it two by knocking in Mike Chabala's powerful cross on the line. Darlington Nagbe sealed the deal in the middle of the second half, heading past a stranded Matt Reis.

Resurgent Toronto FC made it three defeats in a row for Colorado Rapids, who were beaten 2-1 thanks to a Danny Koevermans (pictured) double at BMO Field. The first was a tap-in and the second a flicked diving header, his fifth and sixth in MLS. Sanna Nyassi scored the Rapids' consolation goal, firing high into the net after a scramble that initially resulted from his own run into the box from his own half.

An old-fashioned slobberknocker between Chicago Fire and Chivas USA resulted in a 3-2 win for the Fire. Cory Gibbs headed the first home from a corner for Chicago, and the second was an unfortunate own goal by Juan Pablo Angel before Gibbs' over-the-top tackle earned him a red card. Angel made amends with a goal at the right end after the break, racing across his man and blasting it into the bottom corner to make it 2-1. Two minutes later they were level through Nick LaBrocca's delightful finish with the ball loose after a corner, but ten-man Chicago earned all three points with Dominic Oduro's late goal with Chivas shouting desperately and wrongly for offside.

New York Red Bulls won for the first time since 6th July, beating FC Dallas by a single Luke Rodgers goal. Dallas started much more brightly, but Juan Agudelo broke onto a long ball in the 36th minute and squared for Rodgers, whose finish was scruffy but effective.

One goal was enough to see Real Salt Lake past Sporting Kansas City. Nat Borchers got it, heading in Kyle Beckerman's free kick ten minutes into the second half.

Seattle Sounders consolidated in second in the West, thumping DC United to the tune of three goals to nil. Mike Fucito slipped the ball past Joe Willis for 1-0, and two from Alvaro Fernandez either side of half time made it an easy win for the Sounders. He finished after Fredy Montero had pounced on poor defending for the first, and he scored again on the hour to polish off the victory.

LA Galaxy eased themselves to a 3-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps. Mike Magee opened the scoring, turning the ball home from Robbie Keane's cross, and the Irishman made it 2-0 with a header from six yards in the second half. Magee's second put the cherry on the icing, a header of his own.

Those results leave LA seven points clear of Seattle at the top of the West, wth Salt Lake in third and Dallas slipping out of the automatic playoff positions. Vancouver remain bottom.

In the East, Columbus and Kansas City are separated by one point at the top, with both Philadelphia and Houston now two points off the top.

You can see the tables here and watch all the Week 27 action here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Best Foot forward

The French, it is said, are renowned for their sense of style, panache and sex appeal. Though their equivalent to Match of the Day isn't brimming over in any of these categories, it does still knock the British TV legend into a cocked hat in these and pretty much every way.

Foot! is a 50-minute show that's broadcast every Monday evening just after 8pm on TV5 Europe and is everything that the BBC show is not. There are two co-presenters rather than one, there are no former players to reduce the show to a snail's pace and the running length of the programme is a full half-hour shorter. Oh, and they show top flight football highlights from France rather than England, but you probably already worked that out anyway.

Foot! is a valuable televisual resource for anyone wanting to see French football from this side of the channel. With live coverage practically impossible to find here, it's an absolute treat to see any kind of footage (no pun intended) of what's going on in Ligue 1.

The presenting team is something of a curiosity. Taking the lead in guiding the audience through the show is France Pierron, a Gallic equivalent to Sky Sports' Georgie Thompson but with a cleaner driving licence. A slight, blonde-haired twenty-something with the natural grace of Kate Moss, she's a more than competent presenter. Such a shame, then, that she should have to contend with Didier Roustan for almost an hour every week.

Actually, that's a little unfair. Roustan is something of a well-known face where football TV is concerned in France. He's been presenting and commentating on one channel or another for several decades along with the occasional spot of column-writing here and there too. Being someone of such high standing, he's naturally given equal billing with Pierron and takes every opportunity to chip in with some well-judged dialogue – often while his female counterpart is talking too. An unfortunate habit on his part but one which, in a weird way, adds to the informality of the programme.

As far as looks are concerned, it's difficult to know what to make of Didier Roustan. With his receding Brylcreemed hair and thick black eyebrows, he has something of the failed French cabaret performer about him. Just as well, then, that he negates this to a large extent with a quirky, animated persona that adds life to a humble little football highlights show such as this.

Ah yes, you cry, what of the football itself? Well Foot! gives you less in the way of recorded action than Match of the Day, but what you do get has more punch. Whereas MOTD shows nearly every notable chance on goal, injuries to players and talking points a-plenty, Foot! merely shows a small selection of goal-scoring opportunities plus, of course, the goals themselves. It doesn't leave you feeling short-changed either, which is quite an achievement.

Highlights are shown for individual matches or pairs of matches and are interspersed with the occasional post-match interview or, more likely, some studio chat between Pierron and Roustan. Sometimes, Roustan is even allowed to talk us through a key sequence from a game with the aid of a computer simulation shown on the big screen behind him. Think 'Jimmy Hill-meets-Pro Evolution Soccer' and you're more or less there.

But what does all this add up to? Is Foot! a worthy adversary to Match of the Day? Is it fit to walk in the shadow of Lineker, Hansen and Lawrenson?  In short, yes. Foot! is an understated piece of worthwhile television, even if I, with my CSE Grade 2 certificate in French, can barely understand a word of it.

For those wanting to see only the high points of all the big games every weekend, plus a little bit of light-hearted chat, it delivers exactly that. It's not boring because it doesn't have time to be, nor does it have any sense of tradition to abide by, thereby allowing it to be simple and concise while retaining its own distinctive identity. Foot! quite simply is a perfect little package of football entertainment that doesn't take itself too seriously and is all the better off for it.

Match of the Day – take note.

(Foot! can be seen at 8.05 every Monday night on TV5 - Sky channel 799 and and Virgin Media channel 825.)

This article is also available via FrenchFootballWeekly.com.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #206

Island record
8 Football Figures That Have Appeared On The BBC's 'Desert Island Discs' And The Luxury Items They Chose To Have With Them On The Island

1. Tony Adams - A football (2010)
2. Danny Blanchflower - Golf clubs and balls (1960)
3. Trevor Brooking - Golf clubs and balls (1982)
4. Jack Charlton - Spy glass (1972) and Fishing rod (1996)
5. Gary Lineker - Bowling machine (1990)
6. (Sir) Bobby Robson - Sun lounger with canopy to protect him from the sun (1986 and 2004)
7. Sir Stanley Rous - Field glasses (1966)
8. Bill Shankly - A football (1966)


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 16 - 18 September 2011

Friday 16 September

19.30 SC Freiburg v VFB Stuttgart, Bundesliga, ESPN / ESPN HD
Freiburg got absolutely honkered malonkered at Bayern last week and welcome Stuttgart with open palms screaming "Not the face! Not the face!" The visitors notched up a pretty impressive win against Hannover last week so it could be more pain for Marcus Sorg and his men.

Saturday 17 September

12.30 Dunfermline v Hibernian, SPL, ESPN / ESPN HD
A disastrous start to the campaign leaves Hibs rock bottom of the table after six matches. However, newly promoted Dunfermline have lost their last two after making a decent start.
12.45 Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Despite conceding that last minute goal in Dortmund, The Gunners can be pleased by their resilience against the German champions.If they they go to the Westfalen and draw, they should be reasonably confident they can win at Ewood Park.
19.00 Barcelona v Osasuna, La Liga, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
After Barca dropped points at Sociedad, there is talk that the LagerLiga title is not as closed as it seems. This talk is from those in the league anxious to maintain the financial status quo in the face of a growing movement looking for greater parity when it comes to TV deals. Normal service should resume this weekend.
19.45 Inter Milan v Roma, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Only the second round of the Serie A season and already both clubs are in crisis. Roma are out of Europe and lost to Cagliari last week. Inter were on the wrong end of a frankly daft 4-3 scoreline and lost to Trabzonspor in the Champions League. Tense.
21.00 Sevilla v Real Sociedad, La Liga, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
Dumped out of Europe, Sevilla can concentrate on the League. They welcome Sociedad, fresh from that moral-boosting draw with Barca and with high hopes of a good season.
22.00 Sao Paolo v Ceara, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
The home side were upset slightly against Gremio, last round. Ceara may be nine places below their opponents but have won four from their last five.

Sunday 18 September

11.30 PSV Eindhoven V Ajax, Dutch Eredivisie, ESPN / ESPN HD
Big Dutch Classico to start your Sunday. PSV are fifth in a table where only three points cover the top six. Ajax are top.
12.30 Rangers v Celtic, SPL, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
So difficult to call are the Old Firm games. In terms of form there's a piece of paper between them, but Celtic had that trip to Madrid on Thursday which gives Rangers the advantage to my mind.
13.30 Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
Both clubs have been talking a good game of late but need to live up to their billing. Saying that, this has all the ingredients to be an open attacking game of football with lots of shooting straight at the goalkeepers.
16.00 Manchester Utd v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
The Big One.The first real chance for City to demonstrate their credentials against a Chelsea team with tons of pedigree despite their misfiring striker. Lots of intrigue and, hopefully, lots of goals.
16.30 FC Schalke v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, ESPN / ESPN HD
Manuel Neuer returns to Gelsenkirchen in what promises to be a toxic atmosphere at the Veltin's Arena. That is a mere side show, however, as free scoring Bayern Munich look to breach a better organised Schalke defence.
18.30 Levante v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Real already have nine goals to their name in their first two games although they made hard work of Getafe last week. Levate are also unbeaten but have yet to notch up a W.
19.45 Napoli v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Napoli were well worth their Champions League point at City, as were Milan at Barcelona. With each passing season the dull, negative stereotypes that have afflicted Italian football since Sky bought the Premier League look increasingly daft.
20.00 Athletic Bilbao v Real Betis, La Liga, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Marcelo Bielsa has yet to work his mojo at the Basque club who traditionally play a far more direct style of play than the former Chile coach's brand. Having said that, they managed their first win of the season against Slovan Bratislava in the Europa League. Betis have a 100% record in the league but that was against Granada and Mallorca, so they don't count.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Football Americana Weeks 25 and 26: Davies hat-trick revives DC hopes

In a period overshadowed by the tragic death of Bobby Rhine, Major League Soccer has provided much to cheer about.

Way back, Real Salt Lake defeated Philadelphia Union 2-1 at Rio Tinto, all three goals coming in the first half. Kyle Beckerman's excellent strike from 25 yards gave Salt Lake the lead, which Chris Schuler doubled with a header in the 26th minute. Sebastien Le Toux's well taken volley a couple of minutes later concluded the scoring.

The Union returned to action against New England Revolution in a phenomenal 4-4 draw. The Revs ripped out into an early 3-0 lead, the goals coming from AJ Soares' head, Rajko Lekic's cheeky penalty and Monsef Zerka's headed finish at the far post. Roger Torres quickly gave the Union a lifeline, curling it beautifully from the edge of the area into the top corner. Benny Feilhaber took New England in at the break with a 4-1 lead, however, with a superb low drive from 20 yards. The second half was all Philly. Freddy Adu threaded the ball home to make it 4-2 after Danny Mwanga's pass, and then a double from Sebastien Le Toux earned the Union a point. He was fouled by Pat Phelan and scored the penalty in the 80th minute, and in the 91st he smashed in a volley for 4-4.

Philly's next match was a far less exhilarating encounter: a 0-0 draw with Portland Timbers. Le Toux came close for the Union in the first half but they had to settle for another single point.

Salt Lake's next outing was to CenturyLink Field, where they beat Seattle Sounders 2-1. Salt Lake took an early lead when Kasey Keller spilled a poor cross into the corner of his own net. A few minutes later Robbie Russell was punished for tripping Seattle's Mike Fucito, but Mauro Rosales sent his penalty wide. Tony Beltran of RSL picked up his second yellow card in the 35th minute for a reckless tackle on Rosales but the referee removed the one-man advantage by wrongly sending off Jhon Kennedy Hurtado for an elbow. Fredy Montero equalised in first half stoppage time, flicking a boot out and powering his seventh goal of the season into the roof. A fortunate ricochet allowed RSL designated player Alvaro Saborio to score the winner ten minutes into the second half.

The Revs's second game resulted in a 2-0 win over FC Dallas, Shalrie Joseph heading in the first and Lekic grabbing a second with a left-footed finish after Ryan Cochrane's flick-on.

LA Galaxy thumped Sporting Kansas City in May, but the two shared a 2-2 draw back in the truncated Week 25. Sean Franklin kept his cool to finish for LA in the 25th minute with Aurelien Collin playing him onside. Julio Cesar equalised mid-way through the second half, but parity lasted just a few minutes before Franklin got his second with a simple finish from David Beckham's pass. Collin's late header was controversially ruled out but KC did get their equaliser. Frankie Hejduk handled the ball in the 90th minute and Omar Bravo swept in the penalty.

Sporting went one better in their next game, dishing out a 3-0 beating to Houston Dynamo. Teal Bunbury opened the scoring inside the first ten minutes with a composed finish, but the game was put beyond Houston 19 minutes after half time, when Carlo Costly was sent off for a sickening two-footed assault on Chance Myers. Bunbury made them pay by scoring the second, and rookie CJ Sapong added a third by applying a simple tap-in with ten minutes to go.

LA's second game was a 1-0 victory over Colorado Rapids at the HDC. Landon Donovan scored the game's only goal, finishing crisply off an assist from Franklin to finally beat Matt Pickens who was having a stormer in the Rapids goal. The victory confirmed LA's spot in the 2011 playoffs.

Toronto FC surprised Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew with a 4-2 win at Crew Stadium. Nick Soolsma pounced when Torsten Frings' mishit volley found him eight yards from goal to make it 1-0, and Ryan Johnson headed home Joao Plata's cross for 2-0. Sub Tommy Heinemann pulled one back by knocking in Robbie Rogers' pull-back with his first touch after coming off the bench in the middle of the second half, and the final ten minutes were frantic. Julian De Guzman made it 3-1 to Toronto with a shot into the bottom corner in the 82nd minute, Andres Mendoza pulled another back to make it 3-2, and Danny Kooevermans confirmed a two-goal win by beating stranded Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer 35 yards from goal and finishing calmly.

Faltering New York Red Bulls drew yet again, this time with Vancouver Whitecaps. Davide Chiumiento gave the Caps the leader after Camilo had had a goal disallowed early on, but it was worth waiting for. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, Chiumiento flicked it up, turned and volleyed past Bouna Coundoul and in off the crossbar. Jan Gunnar Solli's incorrect red card for a professional foul made matters worse for the Red Bulls but they got their point thanks to Juan Agudelo's easy finish in the 68th minute.

In California, DC United put three past Chivas USA without reply. Charlie Davies (pictured) scored all three, sliding in Chris Pontius' low pass/shot in the 11th minute, firing a second past Dan Kennedy off Pontius' second assist in the 15th, and securing his hat-trick from CP13's third assist in the middle of the second half. United lost Pontius to a broken leg just moments later; David Lopes did himself damage in the challenge and was given his marching orders.

San Jose Earthquakes got back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Chicago Fire. The first goal was a typically ruthless poacher's finish from Chris Wondolowski, the second a subtle finish by Ramiro Corrales. In between, the Quakes were awarded a penalty but Wondo's poor spot kick was blocked by Sean Johnson.

So, time to switch to the playoff standings, I think. LA have now clinched a playoff place and remain on course for the Supporters Shield. Behind them above the Western Conference dotted line are Seattle and Dallas. In the East, Columbus, Kansas City and Philadelphia are the three teams that would qualify if the season ended tonight.

The four wild card positions are currently occupied by Salt Lake, Colorado, Houston and DC.

Midweek TV Preview: 12 - 15 September 2011

Monday 12 September

20.00 QPR v Newcastle United, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Football philosopher Joey Barton gets his first opportunity to put one over on his old club as he sports the blue and white hoops instead of black and white stripes at Loftus Road tonight, where Shaun Wright-Phillips' uncontrolled touches will send the ball far and wide around another new home ground.

Tuesday 13 September

19.45 Chelsea v Bayer Leverkusen, Champions League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
ZOMG the Champions League is back! Yes, if the billions and artifice of modern football is your thing then you'll be welcoming the tedium of the group stage with open arms. London's first match sees Chelsea welcome Leverkusen, last year's Bundesliga runners-up.
19.45 Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal, Champions League, Sky Sports 4/HD4
BVB held their nerve to keep Leverkusen at bay and win the title last season and are rewarded with a return to the Champions League and a group with Arsenal. Pundits are rightly looking forward to this one, and Dortmund's football is more attractive than Arsenal's pass-pass-dismissal-pass-cockup style.
19.45 Barcelona v AC Milan, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
In what would undoubtedly be the tie of the round in a proper two-legged knockout European Cup, the champions of Spain and Italy meet in Barcelona; unfortunately, both will expect to cruise through the group regardless of their games against one another. Still, Zlatan should add a little spice.
19.45 Porto v Shakhtar Donetsk, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Two of the last three UEFA Cup and Europa League winners meet in the Champions League. Both have an excellent chance to progress, but face a significant threat from Zenit in a winnable yet potentially tricky group.
19.45 Olympiakos v Marseille, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
The other half of Group F (alongside Arsenal and Dortmund) kick off their challenge to the 'big two' of the group with a match in Piraeus. For the Greek champions to progress, one suspects this one is a must-win.
19.45 Genk v Valencia, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Valencia have started the La Liga season in impressive form, winning both matches against Racing and Atletico Madrid. They'll be looking to start positively against Genk in a group that also pits them against Chelsea and Leverkusen.
19.45 APOEL v Zenit St Petersburg, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Zenit start their Group G campaign against APOEL, who currently sit second in the Cypriot first divsiion. Zenit top the Russian Premier League on goal difference from CSKA.
19.45 Viktoria Plzen v BATE Borisov, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Two of the Champions League minnows (on a continental scale at least) go head to head in Group H. Viktoria are in the UCL courtesy of their first domestic title, and face the Real Tractor Boys on matchday one.

Wednesday 14 September

19.45 Benfica v Manchester United, Champions League, ITV1/ITV1 HD
Alex Ferguson's Manchester United are Lisbon-bound and will open their group matches with a clash against Benfica. This is a fixture that evokes many great European football memories and should get the group off to a quick start.
19.45 Manchester City v Napoli, Champions League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Two teams with little (read: none since the days of the European Cup) recent Champions League experience meet in arguably the most exciting group of the round. Napoli came out swinging as Serie A began over the weekend, while City benefited from a hat-trick from Sergio Aguero, the son-in-law of etc. etc.
19.45 Dinamo Zagreb v Real Madrid, Champions League, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Dinamo's visitors head for Croatia in fine fettle. Real Madrid have predictably won two out of two so far in Spain, but all the more worrying for Dinamo will be their ability to score freely. Cristiano Ronaldo already has four as Jose Mourinho's side put four past Zaragoza and Getafe.
19.45 Villarreal v Bayern Munich, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
If Real are scoring for fun, then goals for Bayern Munich are a serious business. They head into Champions League action after a 7-0 thumping of Freiburg, a big result to add to the five they put past Hamburg. Mario Gomez scored four to double his excellent early tally.
19.45 Ajax v Lyon, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Ajax's chance to make suprise progress arrives early, with Lyon heading for the Amsterdam ArenA (yep, uppercase A) on matchday one. With Real Madrid to contend with along with the French outfit, Wednesday's clash is of huge importance to the Dutch.
19.45 Internazionale v Trabzonspor, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Trabzonspor had a fair amount of good fortune in arriving in the Champions League group stage, but landing in Group B has done them no favours whatsoever. After Wednesday's visit to San Siro, the Turkish side will face CSKA Moscow and free-flowing French champions Lille. Good luck with that.
19.45 Lille v CSKA Moscow, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Lille get underway against CSKA and are, like Dortmund and Napoli, a much anticipated and most welcome competitor this season. With so many teams in this season's competition who play pretty football, perhaps the tide is turning against pragmatic defensive-mindedness.
19.45 Basel v FC Galati, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
I've marked Basel as my dark horses to get out of the group stage. With Manchester United in scintillating form, the Swiss team must topple Benfica in order to escape the group. I don't think it's beyond the realms of possibility, but in order for it to happen this one will need to be a comfortable win over the
Belgians
Romanians.

Thursday 15 September

18.00 PAOK v Tottenham Hotspur, Europa League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Spurs begin their Europa League group campaign in Greece. It's a slippery trip but in truth it should be three points for the visitors, who should also have little trouble grabbing at least second spot in Group A. Rubin Kazan are the major obstacle.
18.00 Dynamo Kiev v Stoke City, Europa League, ITV/ITV4 HD
You read that correctly: Dynamo Kiev v Stoke City. It's a fantastic tie to get Stoke's Europa League season proper moving, a visit to vintage European opponents. A surprise win here and the Potters would be in great shape.
20.05 Atletic Madrid v Celtic, Europa League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Reprieved by FC Sion's ongoing "issue", Neil Lennon's Celtic have been placed in a stupendously difficult group. After Atleti, it's Rennes and Udinese - Scottish football's European lifeline may well be short lived.
20.05 Birmingham City v Braga, Europa League, ITV/ITV4 HD
The author refuses to acknowledge the presence of Birmingham City Football Club in European competition.
20.05 Fulham v Twente, Europa League, Five/Five HD
2010 finalists Fulham host Dutch side Twente Enschede, for whom manager Martin Jol played over 70 league games. Steve McClaren long departed, Twente are now managed by Co Adriaanse, who replaced Michael Preud'homme in June.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #205

Our survey said...
9 Things We've Learned From Football Surveys Over The Last 8 Years

1. 62% of over-16s in a BBC survey said they didn't object to football fixtures being moved from the traditional Saturday 3pm kick-off. (2007)

2. 45% of people surveyed by the Football League specified 'parental influence' as the reason why they chose their favourite club. (2010)

3. 90% of fans surveyed by the Football Supporters Federation wanted the choice of sitting or standing at a match. (2009)

4. 10% of fans in an FA survey said they'd stopped playing football on a regular basis due to 'pressure from their partner.' (2011)

5. 59% of fans that responded to the Football Fans Census said they would miss their club's main rivals if they weren't there. (2003)

6. 20% of people responding to a survey for Zoo magazine and Football Fancast said their second favourite team was Tottenham Hotspur. (2011)

7. 40% of Premier League and Football League clubs responding to a survey by Mishcon de Reya believed their players had been approached by agents and other clubs in the last year. (2011)

8. 1% of fans surveyed for the Football League Supporters Survey said national newspapers were their main source of information about their club. (2010)

9. 28% of Manchester United season ticket holders surveyed for Virgin Money's Football Fans' Inflation Index said they were not planning on renewing their season tickets for the 2011/12 season. (2009)


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 10-11 September 2011

Saturday 10 September

12.30 Dundee United v Rangers, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
Nine goals scored and none conceded for Rangers in their last four SPL games. They lead the table on goal difference ahead of Motherwell and must be looking forward to this trip to Tannadice. United have only won two of their last ten at home to Rangers.
15.45 Bangor City v The New Saints, Welsh Premier League, S4C
No-one ever talks about The Old Saints, do they? Were they ditched in favour of an ill-advised revamp like they did with The Avengers in the 1970's? Do The New Saints play like a load of Gareth Hunts? Answers to the usual address, please...
17.00 Real Sociedad v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Only one win for Sociedad over Barcelona in their last ten meetings, but it happened on the last time both teams faced each other in April. The Basques, however, won't fancy their chances of securing back-to-back wins against Barca following the latter's 6-0 win over Villareal in Week 1.
17.15 Mansfield Town v Newport County, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
Just one win from seven so far indicates the direction of travel for lowly Newport. A trip to fourth-placed Mansfield Town will only serve to sustain their agony.
17.20 Coventry City v Derby County, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Things are looking pretty bleak for Andy Thorn and his Sky Blues. Yet to score at home, yet to win anywhere and now facing a Derby side that’s won four of their last five whilst also having the meanest defence in the league. City fans - it’s either this or Rugby World Cup highlights for you this evening: your choice.
17.30 Bolton v Man Utd, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Assuming that you’re not going to be watching the semi finals of the Beach Soccer World Cup on Eurosport 2, here’s a chance to witness United’s latest impressive display for those nice people at the Singapore Stock Exchange.
19.00 Real Madrid v Getafe, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored seven goals in his last three games against Getafe. Real as a whole have only scored eleven. Another in-no-way-subtle betting tip from your friends at Football Fairground.
19.45 Cesena v Napoli, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Napoli did the double over Cesena last season - in fact to the best of our knowledge, Cesena have never beaten Napoli full stop. Hardly the best of season openers for The Seahorses, but that’s what you get with player strikes.
21.00 Valencia v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Valencia were made to work for their first three points of the season last week. Against Racing Santander, they went 1-0 up, then 3-1 behind, then won the match 4-3. Two of their latter three goals were scored in the last two minutes of normal time, too. Could be hi-jinks here...
22.00 Santos v Cruzeiro, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
13th v 12th. Santos were floundering badly but are now on an unbeaten run of five games. A win for Cruzeiro, however, will see them go up to 9th in the table.

Sunday 11 September

11.30 Juventus v Parma, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Both teams pulled up a bit short last season and will be looking to find a little extra in the tank to push on for a Europa League spot this time. Parma have won the last three games between these two and should be a good bet for an away win.
13.30 Norwich City v West Brom, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
It’s all aboard the Roy Hodgson Managerial Indifference Bandwagon once again and this time it’s Norwich’s turn to bang another nail in the coffin of the former Fulham manager. At least The Baggies can leap half way up the Premier League table if they do win.
16.00 Fulham v Blackburn Rovers, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Both teams are in the bottom five, but Fulham at least know they can play better by virtue of their Europa League form of the past couple of months. All they have to do now is pretend Blackburn are from some far-flung exotic corner of the continent and they’ll be well away.
16.30 VFL Wolfsburg v FC Schalke, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
The decision by Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath to fine two of his attackers for being “lazy runners” in their 4-1 defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach really focused the minds of his squad. The resulting 3-0 defeat to Frieburg last Saturday just goes to show that if you’re in a really big hole, all you need is a bigger shovel.
19.45 Palermo v Inter Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Despite the Serie A strikes, Palermo have already begun their season (albeit disappointingly) with a defeat to FC Thun in the Europa League. Inter, on the other hand, travel to Trabzonspor next week, for which this match should be the ideal preparation.
20.00 Espanyol v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Bilbao finished a great season by finishing sixth in 2010/11 - just two places above Espanyol. Matches between these two are very difficult to predict with the historical head-to-heads reading 14 wins to Espanyol, 10 to Bilbao and 12 draws.
20.00 Fluminense v Corinthians, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
It’s sixth v third but the former are on much better form at the moment. They’ll need to keep it up if they’re to retain their league title from last season.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Midweek TV Preview 5 - 8 September 2011

Monday 5 September

19.00 England U21 v Israel U21, International Friendly, ESPN / ESPN HD
England got their European Championship qualification off to a flier with a 6-0 spanking of Azerbaijan. Next up, a friendly against the tournament hosts, Israel. Given how precious these youngster are to their managers, expect a few changes at Oakwell. Also, "Freedom For Palestine!" banners will be confiscated.
19:45 Charlton Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday, League 1, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Two straight wins has settled the nerves at Hillsborough and taken a modicum of pressure off the ever-popular Wednesday coach, Gary Megson. A real feather in the cap would be three points against unbeaten Charlton at The Valley.

Tuesday 6 September

16.00 Russia v Republic of Ireland, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Sky Sports continue their reluctant coverage of the European qualifiers. The satellite dish retailer knows its bread is buttered firmly on the Premier/Champions League side so tends to scale back on the hoopla for these games. Some may argue that that is a good thing. Big game, this one, between the top two. A chance for Russia to get some breathing space from Ireland or a chance for Ireland to top the group ahead of the penultimate round of fixtures in October.
19.15 Denmark v Norway, Euro 2012 Qualifier, ESPN / ESPN HD
A tasty Scando derby for contrary types like me. Norway are second, level on points with Portugal. Their opponents are three points behind. Norway have been slowly climbing up the rankings and are in a good place to return to a major tournament, albeit via a play-off if need be.
19.30 Estonia v Northern Ireland, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Sky Sports 3 / HD3
Marko Pantelic's winner at Windsor Park has left Northern Ireland with it all to do, but a win against fourth-placed Estonia could give them hope. Who knows with this team, they're capable of anything...
20.00 Scotland v Lithuania, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
A controversial penalty given by Kevin Blom on the stroke of full time has given the Scottish media the chance of prolonging the delusion of their situation a little further. The truth is that Scottish football is not what it was and they are not going to Poland or Ukraine because they are not good enough. Best thing is to give Lithuania a good hiding and locate the drawing board.
20.00 England v Wales, Euro 2012 Qualifier, ITV1 / ITV HD
A nice British derby with Wales' impressive win against Montenegro giving nervous England fans pause. Could be a famous or infamous night at Wembley, depending on which end of the Severn Bridge you live.

Thursday 8 September

20.30 Juventus v Notts County, Friendly, ESPN / ESPN HD
Juve open their new stadium with a game against a club that sorted them out for kits back in the day. Pure class.
23.10 Velez Sarsfield v Argentinos Juniors, Copa Sudamericana, Premier Sports
Two domestic rivals meet in the second leg of a pan-continental competition. It's 0-0 from the first leg. Sarsfield are the better league side so will be favorites to win the tie.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 2 - 3 September 2011

Friday 2 September

19.15 Bulgaria v England, Euro 2012 Qualification Group G, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Slightly early kick-off for England, so it shouldn't creep too much into your Friday night. Fabio's promising some new faces - whether that brings a new attitude as well, we'll have to wait and see. For Lothar Mattheus's side, only Ivelin Popov has managed to score for them in the last 11 months.
19.45 Spain v Chile, International Friendly, ITV4/ITV4 HD
Chile disappointed in this summer's Copa America, knocked out in the quarter finals by perrenial whipping boys Venezuela after finishing top of their group ahead of eventual champions Uruguay. With their World Cup 2014 qualifying starting in just four weeks time away to Argentina, games against the World Champions here and against Mexico on Sunday should provide the perfect preparation for a campaign without Brazil to worry about.
19.45 Germany v Austria, Euro 2012 Qualification Group A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Germany have already qualified and anything less than a win for Austria will almost certainly see their campaign finished. Only watch this until someone mentions that 1-0 in 1982.
19.45 Northern Ireland v Serbia, Euro 2012 Qualification Group C, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Make or break time for Nigel Worthington's men. Still very much in the hunt for the play off place, they sit a point ahead of today's opponents - though Serbia still have the Faroe Islands at home to come.
19.45 Republic of Ireland v Slovakia, Euro 2012 Qualification Group B, Sky Sports 3/HD3
It's all so tight in Group B with these two and Russia all on 13 points with four to play. Ireland face the Russians on Tuesday at the Luzhniki, but even after that we propbably won't be much closer to working out who'll get through from this group.
19.45 Wales v Montenegro, Euro 2012 Qualification Group G, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Wales, still without a point in this group, could do England a huge favour here. Don't hold your breath England fans.
19.45 Stockport County v Luton Town, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
These two last faced each other in League One in 2005. Luton will hope to continue where they left off, having won their last three games at Edgeley Park.

Saturday 3 September

12.15 Swindon Town v Rotherham United, League Two, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The pressure is on Paolo di Canio already having lost their last four. They welcome a Rotherham side undefeated so far and top of the early table.
15.00 Scotland v Czech Republic, Euro 2012 Qualification Group I, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
Despite only registering four points from four games in this group dominated by Spain, victory here will see the Scots perfectly placed to take the play-off spot from today's opponents. Difficult but certainly not impossible.
15.45 Llanelli AFC v The New Saints, Welsh Premier League, S4C
Both teams have one win, one draw and one defeat from their first three games. That's pretty much all I can tell you about this one.
19.00 Braintree Town v Lincoln City, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
A promising start for former West Ham favourite Alan Devonshire's Braintree Town in their first season at the National level - with plenty of goals in their matches so far . The Essex side have made smooth and steady progress through the pyramid since being in the Third division of the Isthmian League in 1996
22.00 Figrueirense v Sao Paolo, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
Sao Paolo's title chances could be slipping away having not won in their last five league games (nothing at all to do with the arrival of on-loan Arsenal midfielder Denilson). The perfect opportunity for newly promoted Figrueirense to get their first win against Sao Paolo since 2005.

Sunday 4 September

20.00 Santos v Botafogo, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
Two games from Brazil this weekend Premier Sports? My, you are spoiling us. My sources say this match isn't going ahead though so you may find they switch to another game.
22.10 Independiente v Boca Juniors, Argentinian Primera Division, Premier Sports
Boca have made a good start to the season unbeaten in four, Independiente have started slowly and will not want a repetition of last season which saw them finish bottom of the Apertura.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #204


Something completely different
The 11 Players Making Up The German Team In Monty Python's 'International Philosophy' Sketch

1. Leibnitz
2. I. Kant
3. Hegel
4. Schopenhauer
5. Schelling
6. Beckenbauer
7. Jaspers
8. Schlegel
9. Wittgenstein
10. Nietzsche
11. Heidegger

Beckenbauer obviously a bit of a surprise there...


Life without Brian

Despite the euphoria of England’s emphatic 5-1 win over Germany in a World Cup qualifier ten years ago today, it was something of a bittersweet victory for me. As television coverage of the match ended, I remember watching the news bulletin that followed where it was announced that Brian Moore, one of the finest TV commentators there’s ever been, had died earlier in the day.

It’s strange to think ten years have passed since then. Somehow it seems like longer to me, but then Brian Moore had been retired from football commentating for three years at the time of his passing. I recall my thoughts at the time, feeling sorry that we wouldn’t hear his voice in accompaniment to live games on TV anymore. That said, Moore followed the pattern of many commentators who forged a television career back in the 70’s: a bright and shouty start, a progression into steady familiarity before a tail-end where the ability to quickly pick out incidents and player names seemed more of a struggle.

I choose not to remember the last part of his career. I don’t have to. Brian Moore lit up far too many football matches with his sincere, warm vocal tones to render that an insignificance. He was gloriously shouty in his early days though. As the main commentator on LWT’s The Big Match in the late 60’s, he adopted the delivery of a man clearly intent on losing all self-consciousness while immersing himself in the joy of watching football during a particularly brilliant era here in England. This he did well into the 1970’s before reining in his commentating style, but continued to remark on the events unfolding before him with reverence, conciseness and intelligence.

What provided an extra dimension to his persona, however, was his ability to present TV programmes as well as commentate on the football matches within them. As the front man to The Big Match for many years, he showed professionalism and composure in bringing together the component parts of each show. For the first few years, that meant co-presenting with Jimmy Hill with whom Moore enjoyed a friendly on-screen relationship. Much later, Jim Rosenthal joined the show to convey minor news stories when The Big Match shed the last of its early innocence, but Brian Moore rightly retained top billing throughout.

He was, to me, a perfect broadcaster. Able to accentuate the elation within football or showing compassion and dignity when the moment requested it, Brian Moore was someone who brought out the very best that the game had to offer. The internet thankfully ensures that his legacy lives on and his contribution to TV’s presentation of football should never be overlooked or forgotten. He remains sadly missed.