Friday, September 30, 2011

Paolo Bandini: The story of the Toronto paperboy who became Mazzarri’s confidant at Napoli

There has been a buzz around Serie A’s latest US import, Michael Bradley, over the last two days after he provided both an assist and the pass that would set in motion another goal during Chievo’s 2-1 win over Genoa, but there has been rather less comment on the first Canadian footballer ever to grace the Italian top flight. That might be because, unlike Bradley, he’s already been in the job for a year. It might also be because he retired from playing the game in 1994.

The Joy of Six: Merseyside Derby Moments

From Roger Hunt's scrambled winner to Kevin Sheedy's Kop salute, here are some of the best Merseyside derby moments.

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

An inspired Inter Milan host Napoli on Saturday evening looking to end a successful week on a high note. AC Milan, who also celebrated their first Champions League win this season in last night's 2-0 triumph over Viktoria Plzen, will be bolstered by the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sunday's trip to Juventus.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview & Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

Real Betis striker Ruben Castro admits his side face a tricky proposition against Levante on Sunday. Betis are one point clear of Barcelona at the summit with 12 points from five matches although Pep Guardiola's reigning champions are looking ominous and are basking in the glow of their Champions League romp against BATE Borisov on Wednesday night.



England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

There are massive derbies at the beginning and end of this weekend's action, while in between Manchester United and Manchester City will jostle for superiority at the top of the table.


Everton vs. Liverpool

Preview I
Preview II
Phil McNulty: Kenny returns to where he left off

Tottenham vs. Arsenal
Preview I
Preview II
Preview III

Team News

Paul Merson's Predictions

Lawro's Predictions


Bosnia: Players chased off pitch in cup clash

Zrinjski and Velez represent opposite sides in the ethnically-divided town of Mostar, which is split into Croat and Muslim-run sectors.

UEFA Europa League: Thursday's Review

Juanfran's late equaliser saved Atlético Madrid from another dispiriting defeat as they claimed a 1-1 draw at Rennes in Group I of the Europa League.

Udinese are alongside them on four points, as they left it even later to claim a 1-1 draw at Celtic.

In the evening's later matches Tottenham Hotspur scored three goals in five minutes as they came from behind to beat Shamrock Rovers 3-1 and go top of Group A.

Sporting Lisbon held on to beat Lazio 2-1 and maintain their perfect start in Group D.


Amy Lawrence: Five things we learned from the Champions League this week

Roberto Mancini has gumption in spades, the little men are on the rise and could Barcelona be getting boring?

Jon Carter: Rewind to 1971

Current Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is known to favour two things above all else for his club. Firstly, the Russian billionaire wants the Blues to play attacking football, while he is also keen for them to pick up European silverware. In 1971, the Blues must have been a vision of perfection in his eyes as they had landed the European Cup Winners' Cup and began their defence of the trophy by beating Jeunesse Hautcharage 21-0 over two legs, with the second an incredible 13-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

Man United goalie David de Gea caught nicking £1.19 doughnut

The Spaniard, 20, was quizzed by security staff after he scoffed an Original Glazed ring treat from a Krispy Kreme cabinet at a store in Altrincham, Greater Manchester. De Gea was hauled up after being captured on CCTV helping himself to the treat.

The sticky-fingered stopper — thought to be on £70,000 a week — wolfed down the doughnut in the magazine aisle.

But as he headed for the exit without paying, he was tackled by security staff — one of whom spoke fluent Spanish.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sam Kelly in Argentina

The eagle-eyed may have noticed quite a big match on Wednesday night that has gone relatively unheralded by media outside South America. Brazil v Argentina, on a night when there's top European football? Surely some mistake? Well, it was Brazil v Argentina, but not as we know it.

Match Report

UEFA Europa League: Thursday's Preview

Tottenham and Lazio will both be looking to record their first wins in the Europa League group stage when they take to the field on Thursday. Italy's other representative Udinese travel to Glasgow to play Celtic in Group I, while La Liga outfit Atletico Madrid will hope to bounce back from last weekend's 5-0 loss at the hands of Barcelona when they travel to play Rennes. Stoke, Fulham and Birmingham will also look to fly the English flag on Thursday in their respective groups.


Forget Pastore and Hazard: Four stars you might not know of making a splash in Ligue 1

With so many great team performances and moments of individual brilliance it’s been a wonderful opening two months. And it's not just the established likes of Javier Pastore and Eden Hazard who have hogged the headlines, here are four other Ligue 1 stars who have shined so far:

UEFA Champions League: Best and Worst of the Week

Save of the week - Joe Hart

Manchester City may have found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich on Tuesday, but the finger of blame could not be pointed in the direction of Hart. The Blues' first-choice stop-stopper proved why he is number one for club and country with a string of fine saves at the Allianz Arena. Unfortunately for Hart and City, his luck was out. Bayern broke the deadlock on 38 minutes through Mario Gomez after Hart had pulled off a remarkable double stop to deny Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller. The England international was at it again moments before the interval, as he kept Daniel van Buyten at bay, but once again the ball broke kindly for Gomez to bundle home. The burly Bayern striker almost completed his hat-trick in the second half, but Hart was able to tip a powerful header away from the target, out of Muller's reach and around the post.

The Rest

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Review, Reports & Analyses

A brave Arsenal side held on to their half-time lead to record a 2-1 victory over Olympiacos in their Champions League Group F encounter on Wednesday. Chelsea did not enjoy such luck at the Mestalla against Valencia in Group E, after Frank Lampard's second-half strike was cancelled out three minutes from time by Roberto Soldado from the spot. Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona claimed their second consecutive 5-0 win and three points in Group H after outclassing hosts BATE Borisov in Minsk. Also in Group H, AC Milan had to work hard to dispatch Viktoria Plzen at the San Siro, waiting until the 53rd minute until Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally broke the deadlock from the penalty spot.


Valencia 1 - 1 Chelsea
Kevin McCarra at the Estadio Mestalla
Jason Burt at the Estadio Mestalla
Jamie Jackson: Lampard shows his worth

Arsenal 2 - 1 Olympiakos
Henry Winter at Emirates Stadium
David Hytner at Emirates Stadium
John Brewin at Emirates Stadium
Amy Lawrence: Ox in the box shows potential

BATE Borisov 0 - 5 Barcelona

AC Milan 2 - 0 Viktoria Plzen

Manchester City suspend Carlos Tevez for up to two weeks

Manchester City have suspended Carlos Tevez after it was alleged he refused to appear as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat by Bayern Munich. Tevez, 27, who said the dispute was a "misunderstanding", is banned until further notice for a maximum of two weeks while the club investigate.

"The player's suspension is pending a full review into his alleged conduct," said a City statement.

"The player will not be considered for selection or take part in training."

Norman Hubbard: Wenger can take heart from Fergie

An illustrious manager teeters on the brink. Questions surround a man whose decisions once brooked no debate: is the revolutionary yesterday's man? Have his players lost their belief in him? Has his Midas touch in the transfer market deserted him? Is his future a depressing routine of diminishing returns before he retires, possibly not of his own volition, with his reputation reduced?

For Arsene Wenger in 2011, read Sir Alex Ferguson in 2005.

More bad news for Stuart Holden

Holden made his first appearance in club colours since rupturing knee ligaments in March during last week's Carling Cup victory over Aston Villa.

However, a routine follow-up operation has since revealed cartilage damage which will keep the USA international sidelined for an extended period.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Previews

Arsenal go in search of their first win in this season's UEFA Champions League group stages when they host Olympiakos, while Chelsea face what on paper looks like a difficult match in Valencia. Arsenal's group rivals, Marseille and defending Bundesliga champions Dortmund, meet in France, with Didier Deschamps' home side grateful for the chance to ignore domestic form which has taken just one win in eight matches. Barcelona began the defence of their European crown with a 2-2 draw against old rivals AC Milan and Pep Guardiola's men will now expect to collect their first three points in Group H when they travel to BATE Borisov. Following their draw at Camp Nou, Massimiliano Allegri's Italian champions, Milan, host Czech minnows Viktoria Plzen at the San Siro.


Arsenal vs. Olympiakos
Ray Wilkins: Olympiakos just right for an Arsenal side still rebuilding
Arsenal face injury crisis

Marseille vs. Borussia Dortmund

Valencia vs. Chelsea
Rafael Benitez: Valencia can hurt Chelsea

Jonathan Wilson: Chelsea's vertical evolution is good news for Torres, bad for Lampard

The two key figures in Chelsea's 4-1 win over Swansea City on Saturday weren't on the pitch at the final whistle. They weren't even in sight of it, Fernando Torres having been sent off and Frank Lampard having left the bench a couple of minutes from the end. In their respective narratives is bound up the story of the new Chelsea that is beginning to emerge.

Carlos Tevez: All the Mayhem

ESPNsoccernet understands that confusion over Carlos Tevez's warm-up was at the crux of the issue that sparked manager Roberto Mancini to claim the striker will never play for Manchester City again under his stewardship.Link

Tevez refuses to play

Carlos Tévez: I did not refuse to play

Alan Smith: Tevez should hang his head, it was pathetic

Daniel Taylor: City must back Mancini

Souness: Tevez is a bad apple

City fans react with disgust
Link Top 10 Tevez Excuses

Real Madrid's Stadium to Get Facelift

Images on Madrid's website show the stadium completely wrapped in a neon blue cover folding over the top - leaving an open rectangle matching the shape of the pitch.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Review, Reports & Analyses

Carlos Tevez refused to play for Manchester City in their UEFA Champions League defeat at Bayern Munich as Ashley Young saved Manchester United in a six-goal thriller against Basel. Real Madrid and Lyon enjoyed comfortable victories in Group D, while Napoli overcame Villarreal and Benfica defeated Otelul Galati. Inter Milan continue to thrive under Claudio Ranieri after victory away to CSKA Moscow, with Trabzonspor and Lille sharing the points in their Group B meeting.


Manchester United 3 - 3 Basel
Andy Hunter at Old Trafford
Phil McNulty at Old Trafford
Paul Hayward at Old Trafford

Real Madrid 3 - 0 Ajax
Sid Lowe at Santiago Bernabéu

Bayern Munich 2 - 0 Manchester City
Henry Winter at the Allianz Arena

Mayor Urges Spurs: Build stadium in riot-hit area

London Mayor Boris Johnson urged Tottenham on Wednesday to press ahead with plans for a new stadium, saying the project would help revitalize an area torn by last month’s riots.

Tottenham was recently given local planning permission to build a new stadium on an industrial site just north of its current ground at White Hart Lane.

Hope Solo dances in Sepp Blatter’s ideal women’s kit

"Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. ... They could, for example, have tighter shorts." -Sepp Blatter, FIFA President

Titus Bramble Arrested

A force spokeswoman said: "A 30-year-old man from Wynyard has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and possession of a class A drug. He is currently being questioned by police and inquiries are ongoing."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SSN Exclusive: Arsenal vs. Bolton: The Editor's Match Report

Nick and Carol argue over a text...

I knew it was a good omen when I passed Charlie George on the bridge from Highbury House to the Emirates Stadium a few hours before the match. Charlie was deep in conversation with a couple of handlers, surely on the way to his usual game-day meet and greet with the fortunate few at the stadium. I was on my way to the Twelve Pins to meet Nick. It was a gorgeous day in North London, with temperatures in the mid-60s, a nice mixture of sun and clouds, and none of the humidity that has plagued so much of the U.S. this summer. A couple door down from the pub is a wonderful felafel joint where I like to take my pre-match meal prior to quaffing my pre-match pints. As I gobbled the delicious (always ask for extra chili sauce) fare, I spotted Nick and his son Charlie approaching the establishment. It was a pleasant surprise to see Charlie; I didn't know he was coming and had not seen him since a wedding in San Francisco a couple of years back. He told me he'd just finished university and was living with his folks whilst looking for a job. I told him I could relate to that!

A Bolton fan. They do exist...

The scene at the pub was excellent, with the punters enjoying the lovely day and the prospect of an Arsenal win. Soon Carol arrived and we got the tickets sorted. Carol had a friendly family from Bolton in tow -- she'd met them at an away fixture at the Reebok last year and was showing them around on their trip to London.

Outdoors at the Twelve Pins...

Having never met a Bolton fan before, I naturally took a photograph of the girl in the family to prove that such individuals do exist. I resisted the urge to heckle her for supporting a club that employs Kevin Davies. She was a bit young, after all.

Charlie and Andy discuss Andy's club, QPR...

At the appropriate time we set down our drinks and headed off to the ground. Once there, we met up with Alec and Simona, the two newlyweds who whose long-delayed decision to tie the knot prompted my journey across the pond. We entered the Emirates and headed up to our seats. We were quite high up, around the corner from the North End at about the edge of the area. I've never sat in that part of the ground before, and I quite enjoyed the perspective it provided.

Charlie, The Editor and Nick: 2 for £2...

The match kicked off and within moments Szczesny was forced to make a superb save from some Bolton bloke. The half continued without much real action, the exception a breakaway from Gervinho that he blew with a heavy touch.

On the way to the ground...

In truth, it was a rather boring first 45, with Bolton mainly sitting back and watching us pass around the perimeter. The whistle blew and we headed down to the concourse for some much-needed nourishment. Simona took the lead with an Arsenal 125th Anniversary Hot Dog. None of us followed her lead...

The players make nice. Plus Gunnersaurus...!!

We knew we had to pick thing up in the second half and we didn't take long to do just that. I think about a minute had passed when Ramsey played the ball out of midfield, fed RVP, and the captain shot low and hard with his left foot to beat Jussi at the near post. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Not long after, Bolton were reduced to 10 men. Theo had the ball and was headed for goal when he went down. It was impossible for me to tell if he went down too easily, but the result was a red card for some Bolton wanker.

Simona enjoys her 125th Anniversary Hotdog...

Theo was involved in Arsenal's second when he crossed for RVP to flick in. A third looked to be coming and it did, albeit from an unexpected source and in an unexpected manner. The source was Alex Song and the manner was a lovely shot from the edge of the area to beat Jussi in the upper right-hand corner.

The view...

Of course it wouldn't be The Arsenal without something going wrong and today it was the sight of Theo pulling up lame. It looked like a hamstring injury and he can join the legions of players on the sidelines. Although it was his run that caused the Bolton red card and his pass that provided Van Persie with the second (and his 100th for the club) goal, Walcott remains frustrating to watch. He continues to make odd decisions at odd times. He shoots when he shouldn't, runs into cul-de-sacs and too often fails to make use of his pace. Regardless, he's obviously a vital component of the squad and let's hope for a speedy return.

In all, it was a win the Gunners desperately needed and it was wonderful to be in the house to see Van Persie's 100th goal for the club. Not many have done it, and he should be proud.

The North Bank...

As I left the ground I was approached by a young woman from Winkball who requested a brief interview. I duly complied and you can view it here. Click on Page Three and you'll find me in the box on the far left of the third row.

Until next time,
The Editor (Sanford)

Sid Lowe in Spain

There's something about Real Betis. Whether it is the man who took his dad to every game despite him being dead, carrying a milk carton of ashes to the stadium and perching it on his usual seat; the fan who turned up with a box tied to his head that doubled as a 'cage' for a green budgie that flew back and forth; or the giant loaf of bread baked into a Betis shield and held aloft like a great big doughy trophy, there's something about them. Something special. Some will wince when they read that, rolling their eyes and muttering: "not again". Others will dismiss the populist portrayal as folklore, not fact. But even those who shun the cliches that have been imposed upon and embraced by the club on the Guadalquivir – and there are plenty of them – would claim that Betis are different.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Previews

Several top sides will face off in crucial fixtures that could decide first and second placing in various groups, with Manchester City playing Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid taking on Ajax Amsterdam in the Santiago Bernabeu. What is interesting is the fact that ten of the 16 fixtures this midweek will feature clubs facing each other for the first time in all competitions, which should make for fascinating watching for both their fans and neutrals alike.


Bayern Munich vs. Manchester City

Daniel Taylor:
Manchester City Exude Confidence
Kevin McCarra:
City and Bayern Not Happy To See Each Other

Manchester United vs. Basel

Preview I
Preview II

Real Madrid vs. Ajax

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Ten points from four games would have placed the Bergamaschi atop Serie A, were it not for the fact they started on -6.

Atalanta keep their heads held high after summer match-fixing scandal.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

'We can only beat ourselves,' reckoned Philipp Lahm after the Bundesliga leaders beat Bayer ahead of their European clash.

Bayern Munich's mean machine warm up for Manchester City with a stroll.

Carling opt out of League Cup sponsorship after 14 seasons

The owners of Carling beer have opted not to renew their title sponsorship of England's League Cup.

The Denver-based Molson Coors Brewing Company has been sponsoring English football's second-tier knockout competition for 14 seasons.

Tim Vickery in South America

This Wednesday, Brazil host the second leg of the modestly entitled 'super-classic of the Americas' against Argentina - an old tradition which has now been brought back.

The first leg in Argentina finished goalless - a result that came as a big disappointment to the Brazilians. With both sides at full strength a draw would be seen as entirely normal.

But for these games only home-based players are considered, and it is here that Brazil thought they were going into the game with a 12th player - the country's economic boom.

In-depth interview - Sir Alex Ferguson on TV, youth policy, hairdryers and more

Football's future: "I feel sympathy for the working class lad. I've always championed about ticket prices and try to equate that to people's salaries. I look at some of those London prices when we go there and it's horrendous. But I think the Premier league is a strong product because there's a tremendous honesty in our game and fans play a part in that."

The Rest

Americans Abroad

One central midfielder who is surely set to make a reappearance with the national team is Michael Bradley, who is settling into a starting role with Chievo Verona in Italy after being in limbo for the start of the European club season. After becoming the first American to play in Serie A since Alexi Lalas in 1996 (Oguchi Onyewu was with AC Milan more recently but never made a league appearance), Bradley had his most influential game in helping set up both of his team's goals in a 2-1 victory over Genoa over the weekend.

Steve Davis on MLS

Know your Major League Soccer --

Five things we learned from Week 28:

How Brighton v Crystal Palace grew into an unlikely rivalry

Most of football's great rivalries involve clubs thrown together either by geography – Arsenal and Tottenham, say, or Dundee United and, er, Dundee – or by years of high-profile, high-intensity competition for the game's biggest prizes – which explains Liverpool's ongoing ding-dong with Manchester United, or Real Madrid's with Barcelona.

The rivalry between Crystal Palace and Brighton falls into neither of those categories.

England: Monday's Premier League Report

Norwich City
2 - 1

Richard Rae at Carrow Road

Not a happy camper...

Messi business! FC Barcelona stars in a sweat over new shirts

Barça stars complain Nike gear soaks up too much sweat and more than doubles in weight in the first 45 minutes.


Roberto Gotta in Italy

As if on cue, a few days before his old adversary Sir Alex Ferguson chastised television's growing influence over football, Claudio Ranieri was striking one for the sport over the medium by relinquishing his duties as Rai - the Italian state television - analyst. The 'Tinkerman' instead, accepted Inter Milan's offer of a 21-month contract to serve as a replacement for Gian Piero Gasperini, who was forced out after only three Serie A matches, none of them a win.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Onyewu Scores For Sporting

These are from last week but I'm just getting to them now. Gooch got a big winner for Sporting Lisbon. A return to form for the Yank Abroad would be most welcome.

Cheers to our man in Lisbon Pedro "The Sullen" Santos for the images...