116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

Location: New York, New York

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Matchday Madness

As much as we here on 116th Street enjoy a Barnsley upset over Liverpool, the Champions League is the undoubted source of our football happiness. The FA Cup might be useful for exciting upsets and the occasional knockout spectacular (not to mention those incredibly useful lessons in English geography), but there is nothing like seeing the masterful play and contrasting styles on display in the premier football competition in the world. The return of the knockout rounds is probably our favorite time of the soccer year (it seems no small coincidence that it usually occurs right around the time we start noticing that daytime is getting longer again), and the intrigue and magical moments fuel our hunger for the game. Is it any wonder that some terrific storylines have already emerged?

Since when did the fans and players at Inter become such sore losers? One title after 16 seasons (and no, I'm not counting that "championship" they were awarded in '06 by virtue of finishing third but not cheating; it wasn't earned), and now their fans are confronting the team at the airport for losing at Anfield? Gratitude fades quickly, I see. Speaking of fickle behavior, how about Zlatan Ibrahimovic publicly blaming Marco Materazzi for the loss? For a squad that has now lost twice all season, they certainly seem to be surrounded by acrimony. Meanwhile, Liverpool continue their astounding run of European form, causing me to wonder whether they should consider having two managers - Rafael Benitez for Champions League matches and someone else for the Premiership games? When it comes to continental football, Rafa is a certifiable genius; how come he can't seem to figure out the English game? I suppose this all just proves the old adage about football - "one day you can lose to Barnsley, the next you can beat Inter."

Which would you rather be, allergic or impotent? That was the choice presented as Arsenal squared off with Milan. Arsenal, the paradigm of zippy geometric fury (and yes, that was really fun to write), created opportunity after opportunity, only to come out shooting blanks at the end. It is to their credit that after being shellacked by Manchester United over the weekend, they attacked with spirit against the defending European champions. Nevertheless, as the legendary Ronaldo once said, "Dude, the ball is supposed to hit the net not the bar, ok?"
Of course, had the legendary Ronaldo not blown out his knee recently, Milan might not have played as if going near the Arsenal goal would result in severe rash. The AC came out in a 4-3-2-1 formation that basically led to Alexandre Pato running around fruitlessly, often chasing the ball away from the direction of Jens Lehmann. I expected the Rossoneri to eventually mount an attack in search of that all-important away goal, but maybe they really were allergic to the Arsenal onion bag (hey, stranger things have happened, after all).

How electric was the crowd at Parkhead? They nearly willed Celtic to victory against Barcelona, were it not for, well, those annoyingly brilliant Barca players. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Barry Robson certainly did their part, putting the Hoops up 1-0 and 2-1, respectively. Barcelona's skill can be overwhelming, however, and did you see what Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry did to them? Scintillating...


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6:53 AM  

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