Sunday, 28 October 2012

Referee Debate

The game of the weekend was an easy one to choose, but apparently a difficult one to ref.  EPL's top team Chelsea took on Manchester United (T2) in the most anticipated game early in the EPL season.  The game was a thriller, at least until the official decide to turn the game around.  Manchester United game out flying, scoring two early goals.  It looked as though the game may end up 5-0 for Man Utd.  Chelsea brought the game back by scoring two goals of their own, tying up the game.  The first controversial call came when Man Utd's Valencia was on a break and taken down by Chelsea's Ivanovic.  Though it looks like their legs become slightly tangled as Valencia went to ground, the rule is clear: If you player takes out their man on a breakaway, it is an instant red. This left Chelsea down a man.  Only a few minutes later, with Chelsea's Torres, on a partial break, was taken by a Manchester United player.  It looks as though as thought it was going to be a Chelsea free kick within range, but instead Torres received his second yellow for diving, resulting in a red card.  Two men down, Chelsea didn't stand much change, except to try to keep the game tie at 2-2.  Another blunder by the officials would ruin Chelsea's chance at that.  Man Utd's Javier Hernandez scored a goal, putting Man Utd up 3-2, from a clearly offside position.  It is unfortunate that the ref decided to call the game the way he did and ruin one of the most exciting games of the season.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

UEFA Champions League

FC Barcelona came awfully close to letting 2 points slip to Celtic in today's UEFA Champions League match, a match that resembled last year's semi-finals draw against Chelsea a little too closely.  Barcelona absolutely dominated possession for most of the game, but couldn't put a ball in the net (Possession was 76% to 24%). With the game tied at 1-1, Barcelona stuck to their guns, passing the ball and hovering just outside of Celtic's 18-yard box without being able to get too close to goal.  This was due in large part to some stellar defending by Celtic.  It can be argued - and Barcelona will do it adamantly - that they should have had the lead far earlier in the game, but wasn't the case.  It wasn't until the 94th minute that Jordi Alba was finally able to get the ball past Celtic's Foster.  

Tomorrow's game of the day is definitely the Borussia Dortmund v. Real Madrid.  Two fast counter-attacking teams with a ton of skill. It is bound to be a great match. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Playoff Bound!

I was fortunate enough to get tickets to tonight's White Caps match (4th row at center!) against the Portland Timbers before knowing the game would mean anything.  The game failed to deliver on all fronts.  It was simple, win the game to clinch a playoff birth.   The White Caps came out flat and lost the game in a low-action 1-0 affair.  This gave the Portland Timbers their first road win of the season and the Cascadia cup (given to the team with the most points out of Seattle, Portland, Vancouver).  However, the White Cap's fortune turned around later in the evening thanks to a 3-1 Seattle victory over FC Dallas.  This loss officially eliminated FC Dallas from the playoffs, making the White Caps the first Canadian team to make the playoffs in MLS history.  This isn't such a big feat since this is Montreal's first season and Toronto being Toronto, suck.  This is obviously not the White Caps would have envisioned themselves making the playoffs, but sometimes you just have to accept the luck you were given.  They have not played well since around the middle of July, and probably did not deserve to even make the playoffs, but all of that is moot, because they are in now.  They have a clean slate and can hopefully turn that into a long playoff run.  It won't be easy, obviously, with their first coming challenge coming on November 1st with a one and out game against David Beckham and the LA Galaxy, a team they have never beat, in LA.  So with that, let's hope for some more luck to come the White Cap's direction!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Saturday Soccer: FC Barcelona vs. Deportivo La Coruna

After tying Real Madrid in their last game, Barcelona was looking to keep up their 8 point lead.  Barcelona broke the game open quickly, coming out to a 3-0 lead after the 17th minute.  They received goals from Jordi Alba, Messi and Tello. Deportivo started their comeback with a penalty kick goal which shouldn't have been called - it was a foul, but it was outside of the box.  By half time, Deportivo brought the score back up to 3-2, before Messi made it 4-2 at half time.  Only 2 minutes into the second half, Deportivo's Pizzi scored a beautiful free kick just a few yards outside the box to make it 4-3. Shortly after, Barcelona's Mascherano received his second yellow for hitting Deportivo's Ricky with an inadvertent shoulder.  With a completely make shift back line (Puyol, Pique, Alves, Mascherano all out), Barcelona was forced to try to run the clock out, playing conservatively until Messi, completing his hat trick, gave Barcelona some breathing room with a 5-3 advantage. Barcelona's joy didn't last long.  Two minutes after Messi's goal, it was Jordi Alba with an own goal to bring Deportivo right back into the game.  Luckily, Barcelona was able to hold on to secure the win and keep their 8 point lead over Real Madrid.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is arguably the best player in soccer, even of all time.  Every year, Messi seems to set record after record at the club level.  Last year, he set the record for most goals in a La Liga campaign, most goals in a season across all competitions, and became the first player to score 5 goals in a Champions League match.  He finishes last year with the more goals and the more assists than any other player across all competitions.

One area that Lionel Messi has lacked is in his play with his home country of Argentina.  Compared to his 0.8 goals/game ratio with FC Barcelona, he has only scored at a pace of 0.4 goals/game with Argentina.  This is the last area where Messi needs to show his dominance in order to be among the best players ever in the game.  This may soon be coming to fruition.  In his international play in 2012, Messi has scored 11 goals in 7 games played, an impressive feat.  However, some of these goals have been scored against some underwhelming countries.  We will see how he holds up in the upcoming 2014 World Cup.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

International Week

I can't say that I ever get excited for soccer's international breaks.  I have to go an entire week without being able to watch the Whitecaps or FC Barcelona or whatever decent game is on (and not at 5am) in the English Premier League.  I might care a little more about international week if any of my associated countries were any good.  Those two countries are Canada (where I live, obviously) and Malta (where my mother's family comes from) and they are ranked 61st and 153rd respectively in FIFA's world rankings.  Needless to say, I will not be holding my breath for a World Cup appearance anytime soon.  However, I did actually get to see Malta score a goal against the Czech Republic on Friday in a qualifying game, which is a rare sight.  They unfortunately went on to lose 3-1.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

White Caps Playoffs

As it stands the Vancouver White Caps are in a playoff position, and look like they might just hang on to keep it.  Only a few months ago, it seemed highly unlikely that they might drop out of playoff contention, but a terrible terrible run of 5 or 6 games has made these last few games far more interesting.  If they do hang on to a spot, they will become the first Canadian MLS team to make it to the playoffs. Its not really that big of a feat.  If anything, it just shows how bad another Toronto sports team is.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Classic Clasico

With Barcelona leading Real Madrid by 8 points heading into today's Classico, it was bound to be good. The game started out with a bang with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the early goal in the 23rd minute.  It was a low hard shot to Victor Valdez' near side post, a shot that Valdez would probably like to have back.  Barcelona struck back twice, taking a 2-1 lead after two goals by Lionel Messi.  The first goal was a fluky one after Pepe botched header left Messi 1 on 1 with Iker Casillas.  Messi's second goal was a beautiful free kick goal from about 25 yards out.  The shot soared over the wall and dropped right past Iker Casillas' outstretched hands.

After Ronaldo hurt his shoulder on what was an absolutely ridiculous bicycle attempt (the ball was well out of his reach, what was he thinking?), it looked like the game might be in Barcelona's favour.  But then, in classic Ronaldo fashion, he ties the game back up at 2-2 on a patented Ronaldo breakaway.  Final score, 2-2.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Carles Puyols

Every Vancouver sports fan knows just how frustrating a never ending series of injuries can be from watching the career of Sami Salo.  It seems as though every year, he struggled through a different injury, often of the incredibly odd variety (a pulled buttocks, bursted testicle and spider bite comes to mind).  Carles Puyol of FC Barcelona's current run of injuries could be worse (though not nearly as odd) than those of Sami Salo's.  At the end of last season, Carles Puyol had knee surgery on an injured knee that caused him to miss out on Spain's 2012 euro winning run.  When he returned from that knee injury this year, he was quickly sidelined again with a broken cheekbone.  Upon returning from the cheekbone injury, he again was sidelined with a knee injury.  Then finally, in today's UEFA Champions League matchup against Portugese Benfica, Carles Puyol was bit again by the injury bug.  After jumping up for a header, Puyol crashed awkwardly to the ground with one arm trapped underneath this body causing the elbow to bend in ungodly manners.  Here's to hoping this is the last of Puyol's injury worries.

Monday, 1 October 2012

FIFA 13, Hands-on

I finally had time this weekend to try out the new FIFA Soccer 13 and it did not disappoint.  The new first-touch engine was impressive, causing lesser skilled players to cough up the ball more often and putting a bigger emphasis on player passing. The career mode feature has some improvements, including international duty for players and managers, Champions League (called Champions Cup) and improved player signing engine (you can now offer players and cash for transfer fees instead of just cash).