Chelsea, Werder Bremen Enjoy Cup Final Success

30 May 2009

Cup finals saw the conclusion of the club season in both England and Germany today. In the FA Cup Final, Chelsea came from behind to beat Everton 2-1. In the DFB-Pokal final, captain Frank Baumann retired in style as Werder Bremen will see Europa League football after defeating Bayer Leverkusen 1-0.

History was made in today's FA Cup final. No, not the commentweeting Jon Champion did, but by Louis Saha's opening goal twenty-five seconds into the match. There was a massive hint of offsides in the buildup, but when you don't clear your lines properly, expect to get burned. Saha's finish was worthy of any goal for any final as his volley was simply sensational. It also validated David Moyes decision to include Saha in the starting eleven.

It was what the final needed, Everton scoring first. It rattled every cage (mine included) and forced Chelsea into life. The only problem was it took Chelsea fifteen minutes to remember they were in a game of football. Then tragedy struck Everton. Florent Malouda was left unmarked on the wing and the back four were completely flat footed. When given the time, Malouda won't screw up the cross and Didier Drogba made sure he finished the job, running right though the center backs to level after twenty minutes.

For the quality on offer in the first half, the second half made us all long for the first final at the New Wembley Stadium. It was just that dire. Sure there were a few chances, but between all the bad passes and shambolic crosses, it started to resemble an AYSO game. Then Frank Lampard finished the job. For Lampard there are plenty of people to thank. He can thank Phil Neville for over running that ball. He can thank the rest of Everton's side for not closing him down even after slipping on the Wembley turf. But most of all, he can thank Tim Howard for being on the wrong foot and not extending as much as he could in saving the ball. Let's not discount the goal though, it was quality and was worthy of any game winner.

I feel bad for David Moyes. He had to manage his ass off in order to get this side where they were, and even then were only a forty-five minute side. The pieces are there, it's just going to be a matter of going out and finding players that can stay fit. For Chelsea, it's going to be about who they can get in as manager. Then it will be about starting the process of getting rid of some of the age and replacing them with fresh faces.

The DFB-Pokal final was not good fare. Yes, the game was technically sound, but both sides constantly fell to pieces in the final third. Both sides needed to win to qualify for Europe next season, and it was mostly one way fare throughout...for the green and white of Werder Bremen.

In a first half that lacked chances (only one off a Diego free kick late in the half), the second half wasn't much better. The lone goal in the match came just before the hour after Bayer failed to win a header and then fell to pieces at the back. Again it was Diego who was key in the goal, his pass to Mesut Ozil giving him the angle to shoot. His shot took a deflection, and put Rene Adler on the island. In all honesty, it was more of a fluke goal that came from Bayer mistakes than a goal of skill.

Bayer pushed for a goal, but three times had the ball go across the frame of goal. Bayer never looked in the game as Bremen came out the more determined side, wanting to win this for their captain. Diego, in his last match before leaving for Juventus, put in a man of the match performance and was very committed to leaving having helped Bremen into Europe next season. No one from Bayer Leverkusen can say that about their performance.

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Chelsea v Everton: FA Cup Final Chat is Live

Join The Third Half Chat for all things FA Cup final. From fun banter to all my reactions during the prematch build, full match, and post match celebration; it promises to be one hell of a day!

Note no registration is required to take part in this chat.

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Here's to a fun FA Cup Final day!

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The Third Half Podcast RETURNS!

29 May 2009

I can safely say that The Third Half is back. On this debut episode, I speak with Kim Bowen of Region 3 of the USASA talking about the challenges from US Open Cup qualifying from this past weekend.

The conversation then shifts to the end of the Bundesliga season. I am joined by the most honest German on earth Jens, and Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Kartik Report as we wrap up the Bundesliga season.

If you would like to download the podcast directly, you can do so from here.

Feedback is always welcome either here, or at thethirdhalf@thethirdhalf.org!

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Chelsea v Everton: Plans for FA Cup Final Day

28 May 2009

First off I apologize for not having this up sooner. But after doing a bit of soul searching and a lot of 'why the hell did I ask two close friends for their opinion on this matter', I've finally decided why not and will just roll with the punches.

So for starters, THE THIRD HALF CHAT WILL BE BACK IN IT'S OLD GLORY. Sorry, no camera will be pointed towards the TV, so I have to admit it's been tricky trying to figure out an angle for this one. But I think I have found an angle that will at least bring a curious crowd.

Since Setanta US has decided to air all the pre-match build in full, I have decided to start the chat at a grand time of 4 am Eastern time. To make it even better, since just about everyone who knows me knows I'm a Chelsea fan, I have decided that I will be treating this final day like no other final ever.

Back in a time when I was more infamous as the man of a million meltdowns and not the over opinionated blogger/podcaster I am today, I have decided to no longer fight it. Since I have three neighbors next to me, I will be a little muted in my approach. However I don't know how much control of my actions I will have come kickoff.

That's because at about 5 am, I intend to go on a proper lash. Yes with a fully stocked liquor cabinet and a case and a half of beer in the fridge that needs to go away, I will drinking plenty of booze and having a right old time. If I look like I'm going to pass out during any of this time, all I ask is you get on your microphone and yell at me to wake up. The camera will be pointed my way so you can see me in full debauchery. I can't promise you if the audio from the TV will be picked up.

So for FA Cup Final day, if you're going to be around the TV and computer, stop on by The Third Half Chat. With my club in the final, things could get very interesting.

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Tweeting the Champions League Final

27 May 2009

For this year's Champions League final, I will be tweeting my thoughts on the game. You can follow me from here.

Please return later this evening as the relaunch of The Third Half podcast will occur.

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The Third Half Notes: The Podcast and Chat Returns

25 May 2009

Just a few notes from today.

Congrats to Burnley who are Premier League bound. Reason I haven't written on the final day of the Premier League season...nothing of note happened. The status quo at the top and bottom reigned supreme.

I am happy to announce that The Third Half Podcast will return this week. My plan is to have this up on Wednesday and the show will recap the Bundesliga season.

As for the FA Cup Final, the chat is back! Look for details on Wednesday what my plan is for the FA Cup Final. I'm even questioning my own judgment on this one.

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US Open Cup Qualifying Region 3 Matchday 3: Making the Mark

24 May 2009

The last time I had a right buzz about football, Chelsea had just knocked Liverpool out of the UEFA Champions League last year at the Semi-Final stage. Today's Lynch's FC v Baton Rouge Classics game gave me an even bigger one.

Today's USASA Region 3 US Open Cup qualifiers were interesting to say the least. Group one saw Lynch's FC needing six goals to guarantee advancement; group two saw a potential hell on earth scenario should Rocket City beat Atlanta FC by a 1-0 scoreline. For those wondering what would have happened had we seen that scoreline, we would have seen a three way sudden death penalty shootout where coin flips would have determined the order.

Atlanta FC v Rocket City FC started under partly cloudy conditions and for the most part, evenly balanced. If there was any advantage, Atlanta FC had it based on chances alone. The first half though was somewhat uneventful and they headed into the interval 0-0.

Cometh the second half, cometh the torrential downpour that had me heading for the shelter of a tree. It was during this downpour that saw Rocket City take the lead. A ball into the box ended up taking the lovely wet turf skip right past the keeper and into the far post. Hell scenario on.

It was at this point Atlanta FC woke up and turned the screw they were trying to do in the first half. Five minutes after Rocket City scored, Atlanta FC equalized. From there, the game was never in doubt. Atlanta added another goal just for good measure. Full time result, Atlanta FC 2 Rocket City United 1. Due to the result Atlanta FC advances to the US Open Cup and to the USASA Region 3 Final.

Baton Rouge Classics took to the pitch down three first team players and with a limited bench. Lynch's FC looked a determined team knowing what they needed to do. This in all honesty was a one sided match. Baton Rouge only threatened goal four times in ninety minutes, and spent the rest of their time defending for their lives. Despite Lynch's FC dominance, however, they went into halftime still needing six to advance.

The second half was pure madness on every level imaginable. Pumas FC, the side who's fate was in Lynch's goal scoring capabilities, had shown up about half an hour into the first half and were now very excited Baton Rouge Classic supporters. On the other hand, myself along with a core group of four others were cheering on the local boys with every fiber of our beings. It must have paid off, Lynch's scored a goal roughly 30 seconds into the second half.

It was about 8 minutes later before Lynch's scored again, and then there was the long agonizing wait for the third, which came about 15 minutes later. 24 minutes into the second half, Lynch's were halfway to their target, but time was beginning to run out.

The fourth came about 7 minutes later and, in my mind, that was when Baton Rouge just folded. About 5 minutes later came the fifth. With nine minutes to go, Lynch's FC still needed one more goal to advance.

I cannot remember a time when I was so nervous for any time period in any game than I was right after kickoff. Baton Rouge had a point blank header saved, but that was the last time the ball threatened Lynch's defensive half. Lynch's pushed for the golden goal with two agonizing chances. The first came from a shot from ten yards that missed by inches and the second being when a ball played central was whiffed right into the keeper's hands. The third time however, was lucky as a ball similar to the second miss in the sequence was played in and the keeper frozen on his line. This time there would be no whiff as Lynch's just put it to the opposite side the keeper was leaning. The 89th minute goal was enough to see Lynch's FC pull off the dramatic. The noise the five Lynch's FC fans made when the ball hit the back of the net to me was just a lovely a sound as anything I've seen from Europe this season. Full time result, Lynch's FC 6 Baton Rouge Classic 0. Based on the six goal win, Lynch's FC advances to the US Open Cup and to the USASA Region 3 Final.

Tomorrow's game is all about who represents Region 3 in the USASA tournament later this summer. But for Lynch's FC and Atlanta FC, their US Open Cup dream remains alive. Congrats are in order to these two teams. Maybe they will be able to do better than what Dallas Roma FC was able to do just a short few ago. That's the beauty of the Open Cup, anything is possible.

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US Open Cup Qualifying Region 3 Matchday 2: Seeing Red

23 May 2009

The last 24 hours have been very interesting at Casa de Third Half. After being hell bent on getting out to the Region 3 US Open Cup qualifying, I was unable to attend Friday. Then a conversation with Chief Editor Jeffrey Hash made Friday night even more fun.

With him linking me to the US Open Cup page on the Region 3 qualifiers, I noticed one major difference to my plans. I had already printed my Google Maps directions to get out to Eagle Harbor Soccer Club, so to say when I saw the venue on the page as Fruit Cove Middle School was a minor shock. Making a judgment call, I decided to call Kim Bowen to confirm the switch. My guess is she saw an unusual number and then threw her phone in disgust. An email later, I was breaking out a new set of directions.

To set up the greater Jacksonville area weather the past week would take forever, so here's the cliff notes version. The meteorologists are calling it a nor'easter, I call BS on that. This week has felt like a constant tropical depression, at times tropical storm. The area has had more rain than we got with Tropical Storm Fay last season, in plenty of areas by more than foot. That turned Eagle Harbor Soccer Club into the largest Olympic swimming pool, and the reason a new field was needed. With Fruit Cove Middle School having a full size pitch for use, and bone dry, the US Open Cup matches were switched.

Enough about the back story, onto the matches on offer. The first match up saw Rocket City United take on Legends FC. About five minutes into the match, you guessed it, the floodgates opened wide. It stayed that way for what seemed like half an hour. Once the rain stopped, one Rocket City player lost his breakfast which prompted the assistant referee to look at me and the gentleman I was sitting next to and go 'remind me not to step there'. Rocket City controlled the first half, but their keeper denying a goal scoring opportunity led to Legends FC winning 1-0, Rocket City ending on 10 players.

The second game was virtually meaningless. Atlanta FC was taking on Dynamo New Tampa. It was 4-0 at HT that I got involved in a rather interesting conversation. Finally getting a chance to meet Kim Bowen, someone from Atlanta FC came over and asked if the game would mean anything due to the protest filed yesterday that Dynamo was fielding an illegible player. All that was said was 'the game will revert to 3-0' and the meeting was left at that. It didn't matter to Atlanta FC, they ran out 8-0 winners. Dynamo tonight was thrown out of the tourney.

The final game of the day saw Pumas FC play Baton Rouge Classics. Baton Rouge fought hard in the first half, but once going down 1-0, the wheels came off badly. A red card for serious foul play before halftime didn't help matters. A red card for a defender thinking he was Paul Scholes made the scoreline 2-0. A quick third for Pumas turned to a fourth as the Baton Rouge keeper was then ejected for shoulder charging a Pumas player in the gut and the penalty converted. While Baton Rouge can cry about ending on eight players, the referee got each call correct. Full time result, Pumas FC 4 Baton Rouge Classics 0.

Sunday makes for an interesting day. In group 1, Lynch's FC needs to win by more than 4 goals to advance through. If Lynch's FC wins 4-0, then a coin flip between them and Pumas FC will decide who advances. If Lynch's see Baton Rouge score, then a four goal victory will see them advance based on goals scored.

Group 2 is even more exciting. if Rocket City United beats Atlanta FC 1-0, we have a three way tie at the top of the standings. If that is the case, a coin flip will decide who advances. How they decide the order of coin flips, don't ask me. If Rocket City wins by more than 2 goals, they will advance. All Atlanta FC needs is a draw.

On the whole it was a fun day out. A special thanks has to go to Kim Bowen for being very prompt in her emails back to me. Now if the weather would only cooperate.

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The Third Half Making the Podcasting Rounds

22 May 2009

The Third Half has been pretty busy over the course of the last week doing a number of various podcasts.

This first one was with Kevin Walker of the Own Goal Network as I talk who I think will go down, my feelings on Liverpool's title hopes, what Liverpool may do this summer, and much more.



I was also on Mad About Futbol as we discussed La Liga, how it compares to the Premier League, and much more. This show is always a blast and is always a must listen. Just be advised of the language.



Stay tuned to this website as I will be making an announcement over the return of the Third Half Podcast

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Hell Freezes Over: ESPN360 to Comcast

19 May 2009

The joke is way too obvious, it took ESPN losing the Champions League rights before making a deal with Comcast over ESPN360.

In a press release today, ESPN announced a deal has been reached to place ESPN360 on Comcast's high speed internet service. While the press release reads like ESPN360 should be available now, my feeling is it will be made available about the time ESPNU moves to its new home on Comcast. It's no coincidence both deals were announced in the same press release.

Make no bones about it, this was the big fish ESPN has been trying to catch. For frustrated soccer fans, many will be wondering what's the point now? Why should we care that ESPN360 is now available when the product we wanted it for is no longer going to be available on it?.

It all boils down to being able to follow more leagues, without having to pay for an extra subscription. Just looking at the ESPN360 calendar now for the next week, the Serie A, Portuguese League, and Football League (Championship) are all slated to air on ESPN360. Looking at what is available on 360 now, the Copa Italia, the DFB Pokal (German Cup), and the Dutch League are available for viewing. When the World Cup comes around next year, those will be on 360 as well (along with any FIFA sanctioned tourney ie U-20 and U-17 World Cups, Confederations Cup, and the Women's World Cup). Oh and let's not forget about Major League Soccer.

Just because the Champions League is gone from ESPN, having ESPN360 will give us access to leagues/competitions we wouldn't normally have access to, along with an opportunity to catch a peak at FIFA competitions while at work. Just be weary about not hitting up against Comcast's 60GB of bandwidth for use a month. However, it would take quite a bit of viewing for you to hit up against that sort of cap.

A special thanks to Jeffrey Hash for sending me the info on this news story.

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Funniest English Football Headlines: May 18 2009

18 May 2009

I've had a rethink of this blog and decided why bother with limits? I've also decided that if the headline isn't exactly all that funny, but I can have some fun with said headline, I will still use it. So here we go.

Sky Sports has a brilliant headline 'Allardyce - Robinson is best'. Yes Sam, Paul Robinson is good at one thing, allowing goals for the England National Team after having the ball bounced right in front of him!

The Guardian goes with this headline 'Arsène Wenger challenges critics to ponder life without him'. Ponder life without Wenger, sure I'll give it a try. Arsenal may finally win the title again. Sorry pal, but your invisible free ride is over.

The Daily Mail runs with 'Desperate Newcastle boss Shearer puts his faith in Bassong card appeal'. Yes, Alan must be really, REALLY desperate. I mean for all his bad mouthing of the FA on Match of the Day; he expects them to do him a favor? I guess the FA will be impartial in the matter...oh what am I saying.

The Independent has some fun with this one, 'Tevez stays away on club's awards night'. Sure this will show Manchester United Tevez! Why bother with United when you've felt like you have been on the island of misfit toys this season. At least you'll get an official winner's medal, or would you be willing to give it to someone else?

On a side note before closing out the blog; thank you to all of those who had positive feedback to the new site design.

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My American Soccer Arrogance

14 May 2009

This is difficult to admit, but until I heard Steven Cohen ask Seattle Wolves General Manager Andrew Opatkiewitz what was below the PDL in the American Football Pyramid, that the PDL was it. Anything else would be the local pub league that was only worthy of a good way to stay fit.

Maybe I should have actually looked when I was curious back then, because not only was I dead wrong, I found out something that was coming to my area this weekend that has got me excited.

Once I finished listening to said interview, a simple Google search of 'American Soccer Pyramid' showed how wrong I had been all my life. In fact, the PDL wasn't even the only game in town as the fourth division. There was the NPSL and PCSL to go along with the PDL. A small shock for my system. However it was the fifth tier that completely opened my eyes.

The United States Adult Soccer Association, USASA for short, runs the fifth tier of American soccer. Looking at the list of leagues, seeing the Florida Elite Soccer League caught my eyes. Finding the league's website, Lynch FC of Jacksonville immediately made me realize that if I had only looked around for soccer in my fair town (minus the two local colleges), there was a club that played not far from where I lived.

The kicker came when I found out that the Region 3 final rounds of qualification for the US Open Cup were being played in town. With this weekend being the Memorial Day weekend, along with the fact the only things in Europe that are interesting right now is who wins the Bundesliga and who gets promoted to the Premier League on Monday, it was the perfect time to host such an event. I know I will be spending as much time as I can there and next Monday night will have a full report on my thoughts from a weekend seeing which clubs would have an opportunity to lift the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

I know where I'll be this weekend, at Eagle Harbor Soccer Club in Orange Park. I would also encourage everyone to see if there is any football within the US Soccer Pyramid and support it. Yes it may not be glamorous, but it's local. And as most who care for US Soccer know, soccer in this country is already on shaky enough ground to not support it, regardless of level.

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Top Five Funniest British Headlines: May 11, 2009

11 May 2009

I'm trying out something a little different today. On the advice of quite a few people to lighten up, a light went off in my mind. Why don't I have a little fun with the British papers? Admit it to yourself, whenever you see some of the headlines coming out of England, it takes every fiber of your being to stop from laughing so hard and coming back with a sarcastic reply of your own.

My goal is for this to go up first thing in the morning. Please over the course of the next few days let me know what you think. If there are ten, I'll use ten, but most of the time their will be five.

So tonight's top five funniest British headlines are:

Number 5 from the Telegraph: "Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner 'set up' in pants pictures says Arsene Wenger". Oh sure it's so easy to set up a depressed striker who loves pink boots after a match. Free limo to a night club, free flowing booze until you're drank your body weight in the liquor. And for good measures, you feel like making a bigger ass of yourself after Arsenal was humbled by Manchester United in the Champions League.

Number 4 from the Daily Mail: "Arsenal boss Wenger admits he must spend to succeed". This was updated late Sunday night. I'm going to take a stab and say that Wenger, as the last human on earth to see this, has finally realized he needs to mix wisdom and experience with youth and exuberance.

Number 3 comes from the Telegraph: "Tottenham captain Ledley King apologizes following allegations of assault". Maybe King should have learned the lessons of Bendtner earlier in the week and not been out for too long after a paltry draw with Everton. Oh and I'm sorry doesn't cut it either.

Number 2: this one from the Telegraph: "Joey Barton fears Newcastle could sack him and try to seek compensation". You wouldn't know from the headline, but this was suppose to be the Telegraph's preview of the biggest match in Newcastle United's history. Yea, the Telegraph decide to discuss a player who can't even play and make him the headline of their news story. As for Barton himself, shouldn't he be paying teams to let him play for them?

And number 1, this priceless gem from the Daily Mail: "Robinho: I want Golden Boot, Premier League and World Player award". That would mean you would actually have to look like you're trying. Just because your Brazilian no longer gives you any God given footballing right to have everything handed to you on a silver platter.

Looking up, I'm shocked I didn't use a tabloid headline. Maybe I should keep a tally of what paper gets the most headlines used. Again, all feedback on this is welcome.

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Chelsea/Barcelona Semifinal Marred in Controversy

07 May 2009

Barcelona's trip to Stamford Bridge should have been a simple affair. Barcelona needing a draw, Chelsea needing a win. Chelsea knowing they would have to open up more and expose themselves to the killer instinct that has all but wrapped up the La Liga title for Barca. The knife's edge was sharp as ever...all that was needed was a decent game.

Instead this game will be remembered for the train wreck it became, and the disgraceful reactions of Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba.

Let's make no bones about it, Chelsea's performance at the Nou Camp made us all clamor for Greece's work ethic during the 2004 Euros. At least they attempted to counter attack after sitting back for ninety minutes. Chelsea's only legit chance went right to the body of Valdes and that was that. If they thought a performance of keeping everyone behind the ball was going to work, they were going to be humiliated right out of the competition.

One thing that needs to be made clear; just because you dominate possession does not mean you are completely in control of a match. For all of Barca's first half possession, they failed to test Petr Cech in any serious nature. Chelsea neutered Barca's ever potent attack and by using Malouda as a fulcrum to their attack (and taking advantage of Alves playing too far up the park), Chelsea were able to create more threatening attacks. However Valdes was up to the challenge, and it took a Michael Essien deflected volley in the 9th minute to finally break the goalless deadlock in the tie.

Then the game gets hairy, very hairy.
* Twenty-third minute Malouda v Alves and everyone is screaming penalty. However, I'll give the referee the benefit of the doubt and say he felt the initial foul occurred outside the penalty area. Here, it took a great Valdes save to prevent the score becoming 2-0.

* Three minutes later, Drogba is taken down in the penalty area by Yaya Toure and every Chelsea fan inside of Stamford Bridge is screaming bloody murder for a penalty. Again, I think the ref got this call right as Toure was shoulder to shoulder with Drogba and Drogba went down like a fairy princess.

* 56th minute, Drogba is again screaming for a penalty after a Toure challenge. Drogba even hits the ground in frustration when he doesn't get his way. Sorry Didier, that was never a penalty.

* Ten minutes later, the moment that was the fuse to the subsequent fireworks. The Norwegian ref should have NEVER sent off Abidal after Nicolas Anelka tripped over his own two feet. The fact he never even considered talking to his assistant was even more comical. The replay showed there was at least 2 feet of space between the two players when Anelka tripped over himself.

* 79th minute, Anelka goes begging for a penalty that was never going to come. He was already a third of the way to the ground when Toure shoved him to the ground. That was never going to be called.

* Three minutes later, Anelka's ball in and Pique's extended hand gets a good whack of the ball. Sorry, but the referee got this call dead wrong as well. This should ALWAYS be a penalty with the exception of this game. Had the referee done his job properly (which in this game was always a doubt), Chelsea would have had a chance to make it 2-0. With the form Valdes was on, that wasn't a guarantee.

* 93rd minute, the moment of Barcelona truth. Thanks to a poor Michael Essien touch, Messi was able to keep possession inside their attacking penalty area. A quick pass to Iniesta finished off this tie for good. Barca's only shot on target in the second leg was all it took to score.

The finish to this game could be the biggest sham of them all. Instead of the four additional minutes the scoreboard showed, it ended up eight. During the extra four minutes, Michael Ballack had a shot deflect off the shoulder of Eto'o and like a stark raving madman decided to berate the referee on a fifty yard sprint complete with hitting the ref (I'll assume to just get his attention...but you could never know). For starters he should have never been screaming at the top of his voice at any official in that manner, and when it was all said and done he should have left the ground in the back of a police car. His booking could just be the start of his troubles.

Then the full time whistle. Didier Drogba, who had been subbed off in the second half due to a knee injury, seemed perfectly healthy when he launched his verbal assault on the official that resulted in stewards having to surround him and resulting in Drogba's infamous look into the camera and cuss the official moment. While he was booked for his trouble, there will more than likely be more to come.

Both sets of fans need to stop their bitching full stop. Barcelona fans need to stop their crying for the way Chelsea played football at the Nou Camp as it cramped their expansive style and for the fact Ballack wasn't sent off in that game. Chelsea fans need to quit their bitching because quite frankly they were lucky Barca had to end on 10 men and because they couldn't convert on their chances from open play. Drogba had three golden chances, Lampard had a couple, and Malodua and Belletti each had one of their own to make sure the game went 2-0 long before Iniesta broke all of Chelsea's hearts (mine included).

But above all, everyone needs to quit bitching about the official. Let the British media go crazy at how bad he really was. This was 180 minutes of tense football and Chelsea nearly got their tactics right. Just one major problem, Michael Essien couldn't clear the ball out of his own defensive penalty area.

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Does Hull City Want to Stay Up

05 May 2009

Here's the fundamental problem with this season's Premier League, five teams should be relegated...the bigger problem is, only three can go down.

Watching Aston Villa/Hull City tonight was, simply put, torture. A game that was worse than all but one MLS game this weekend (that would be LA Galaxy/New York Red Bulls) and you know my feelings on games played on the green concrete known as artificial turf (I loathe it with every fiber of my being). Aston Villa were by far worlds better than Hull City, yet got stuck into Phil Brown's tactical game plan. That physical gritty side of football on display Monday night was miles away from the wonderful football that had everyone, myself included, praising the Tiger spirit. However I'm wishing I would have stuck with my prediction all along...relegation fodder.

After ninety minutes that saw Hull City have only one real opportunity on goal, I am seriously starting to question if Hull City want to stay in the Premier League. Yes I know this season for them was playing 'with Monopoly money; considering it's the first time they have ever played in the top flight. My problem with Hull City right now is they are playing like they just don't care. It's almost like they have it mentally ingrained in them that the three teams below them in the table just aren't going to win again this season, despite what they are saying in the press.

There is just one problem with that; Newcastle United have at least two winnable games. Okay, two winnable games is a massive stretch, but should they beat Middlesbrough next Monday night and Hull City lose to Stoke City (which is a major possibility), they are sitting eighteenth on goal difference. Knowing Hull's away form, I don't see them beating Bolton at the Reebok, and let's not forget about Manchester United on the final day of the season. Newcastle have Fulham at home in the penultimate round before finishing the season away. Newcastle won't win at Villa Park so it's up to these next two games for Newcastle to earn enough points to stay safe. Sunderland realistically need one more point to stay safe, and unless they get it this weekend at the Reebok, I don't see that happening.

When it boils down to the brass tacks, I don't see any side in the bottom five winning another game this season. It's just bad when the only reason you stay up in the Premier League is because you are only just better than the teams below you. In this case, Hull City are just lucky the old adage is true: No team is too big to go down.

Other Thoughts
* Boaz Myhill will be in the Premier League next season. The only question is will it be as Hull City's first team keeper or as a back up keeper with someone else. He's the only reason Aston Villa didn't name their own scoreline.

* This Villa/Hull city game has typified the type of drab football we've seen on Monday nights this season. If this is how Premier League clubs are going to treat this game, the Premier League chiefs need to do us a favor and just stop this nonsense. It'll save all our retinas.

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Weekend Preview: Will The Relegation Battle Sort Itself Out?

01 May 2009

This weekend in the Premier League for me is seeing if we will see those relegation spots sort themselves out. With the top four locked in their places, again the Premier League is only interesting at the bottom. So let's take a look at my thoughts.

On Setanta Sports from 7:45 am Saturday morning is Middlesbrough v Manchester United from the Riverside. Gareth Southgate claims he is safe even if Boro go down, I am not so sure about that. They will be without Pogatetz and will have to rely on a striker in Alves that has simply gone ice cold up front. Wes Brown returning for Manchester United will be a major boost for a side that will make a few changes to keep players fresh for their Tuesday night Champions League return leg. Middlesbrough are good for a top four shock at home a season...and they already have it against Liverpool. Expect Boro to close shop and hope for a draw and won't have a prayer in doing so. My Prediction: Middlesbrough 0 Manchester United 2

Setanta Sports will be airing Tottenham's 10 am clash with West Brom at 8:30 Saturday night. Jermain Defoe will make an emotional return after the death of his half-brother. Add Roman Pavlyuchenko who's back has healed to a Tottenham side taking on a very weak West Brom back line that will be without Meite and it spells disaster. Don't get me wrong, I think West Brom will put up one hell of a fight, but watch Scott Carson make a bigger mistake than Gomes to cost his side three points. My Prediction: Tottenham 2 West Brom 1

Setanta Sports airs Newcastle United's visit to Liverpool live Sunday morning at 8:30 am. Forgive me for not spending too much time on this one. Newcastle United have no chance. In fact I would recommend sleeping in or even going to church. My Prediction: Liverpool 4 Newcastle United 1

Fox Soccer Channel screen's Everton's trip to the Stadium of Light Sunday live at 11:00 am. This is a tough one to honestly call. Everton haven't won a match away in 2009, Sunderland were just taken behind the woodshed by West Brom of all teams. Yes it will be tight and cagey, but I don't expect to see a goal. My Prediction: Sunderland 0 Everton 0.

Setanta Sports airs Hull City's trip to Aston Villa Monday at 3 pm. Nothing much for me to say about this one except Hull City stays out of the relegation places because those below them are worse. Villa could probably sleep though the second half. My Prediction: Aston Villa 3 Hull City 0.

Quick Thoughts On The Other Games
If you're a gambling man, bet on Fulham to get a draw against Chelsea (Live 10:00 am on Setanta Sports). I think Chelsea will have their minds more drawn to their midweek Barcelona clash. My Prediction: Chelsea 1 Fulham 1.

I know the public are saying that Stoke City are safe, however I don't think Pulis thinks that way. With that in mind, I expect them to finish their quest to safety and beat West Ham at home this weekend (10 am Saturday, on Fox Soccer Channel at noon Saturday). My Prediction: Stoke City 1 West Ham United 0.

My gut says that Arsene Wenger will rest key players in their clash against Portsmouth live on FSC Saturday morning at 10:00 am. Even still, I only expect Portsmouth to get a point out of the battle. My Prediction: Portsmouth 1 Arsenal 1.

Setanta Sports Xtra airs Manchester City's home tie with Blackburn Rovers on Saturday at 10 am and on Setanta Sports at 6:45 pm. Call it a guy feeling, but I'm picking the mild upset. My Prediction: Manchester City 1 Blackburn Rovers 2.

And Finally, wake me when the highlights from MOTD are over between Wigan and Bolton's 10 am Saturday clash that will air on Fox Soccer Channel on Saturday 4:30 pm. My Prediction: Wigan Athletic 0 Bolton Wanderers 1.

Here's hoping to an exciting weekend of football!

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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