Thursday, February 02, 2012

Henry Winter: Appalling loss of life in Port Said needs investigating by Fifa, no game is worth a life

No rivalry, however stoked to fever pitch by national events, should be allowed to descend into the darkness of stampedes, violence, stone-throwing and chasing opposing fans, leading to countless deaths from suffocation. So let the mourning begin and the inquiries follow suit discreetly. Where were the police? Where were the security forces? The appalling loss of life in Port Said needs investigating by Fifa, not just by the local authorities. Somebody needs to cut through all the tense politics seizing Egypt, establishing exactly what happened and ensuring a repeat is prevented.

Premier League Football at 20: 1992, The start of a whole new ball game

In 1992, the English Football Association met the power brokers of the domestic game at their headquaters in Lancaster Gate, London. The meeting ended with an announcement that a historical deal had been struck, allowing the top teams to form a new tier of football called the Premier league. With the new season scheduled to kick off in August of the same year, TV companies needed to move quickly to tie the Premier League clubs into a multi-million pound deal. In return for exclusive broadcast rights, the clubs would now get an unprecedented windfall, which would help them lure some of the best footballing talent to the Premier League.

Uli Hesse in Germany

So far, almost all of these weekly reports from the Bundesliga have dealt with teams in the title race or a relegation fight. Which is only natural, as mid-table mediocrity rarely makes for heated debates. Sometimes, however, being average can be interesting.

First XI: What a Waste of Money

A year on from the Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll deals, ESPNsoccernet puts together a selection of some of the other Premier League transfers that, for one reason or another, will be remembered as dismal failures.

Italy: Wednesday's Serie A Round-Up

Milan wasted a chance to take the Serie A lead with an uninspired 2-0 loss at Lazio on Wednesday, while Diego Milito scored four goals in Internazionale's 4-4 draw with Palermo in the snow at San Siro. With the Italian league-leaders Juventus' match with Parma on Tuesday postponed owing to snow, Milan needed only a point to go level at the top of the table.


Spain: Barcelona draws 1-1 at Valencia in Copa semifinal

Lionel Messi missed a penalty on Wednesday as Barcelona was held to a 1-1 draw at Valencia in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. Brazilian goalkeeper Diego Alves dived to his left to stop Messi’s 56th-minute spot kick after Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara had been fouled inside the area.

England: Wednesday's Premier League Review, Reports, Table

Another goal for Clint
Newcastle United moved into fifth place, as Arsenal were held at Bolton and Djibril Cisse scored on his QPR debut. Arsenal had the chance to move above Liverpool into fifth, but they could not find a way past Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium as they drew 0-0. The Gunners now find themselves down into seventh, after Newcastle climbed into fifth courtesy of their 2-0 win at third-from-bottom Blackburn Rovers. West Bromwich Albion came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw with Fulham at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers had gone ahead with just 20 minutes left when Clint Dempsey converted after a great reverse pass from Bryan Ruiz.


Arsenal 0 - 0 Bolton
Richard Jolly at the Reebok Stadium
Andy Hunter at the Reebok Stadium

Aston Villa 2 - 2 Queens Park Rangers
Stuart James at Villa Park

Fulham 1 - 1 West Brom
Jamie Jackson at Craven Cottage

Blackburn 0 - 2 Newcastle
Paul Wilson at Ewood Park

Sunderland 3 - 0 Norwich City
Louise Taylor at the Stadium of Light

2011-12 Table
 Manchester City23173354601941
 Manchester United23173354562135
 Newcastle United2311663934304
 Stoke City23869302335-12
 Norwich City23788293239-7
 Aston Villa236107282831-3
 West Brom237511262332-9
 Queens Park Rangers235612212439-15
 Wigan Athletic FC233614152048-28

African Cup of Nations: Wednesday's Reports

Ghana 1 - 1 Guinea
Black Stars reach quarters

Mali 2 - 1 Botswana
Keita strikes to send Mali to quarters

'At least 73' die in Egypt football clashes

Ugly clashes at a football match in Port Said have left at least 73 people dead and more than 1,000 injured, according to Egyptian state television. Al-Masry claimed a rare 3-1 victory at home to Al-Ahly but shocking scenes followed the final whistle, with hundreds of the winning team's fans pouring onto the field wielding sticks and stones. A security official claimed the supporters attacked players and opposition fans, cornering the travelling Al-Ahly faithful on the field and around the stadium and throwing stones and bottles at them. A medic at a morgue in Port Said said some of the dead were security officers, and that most of the deaths were caused by concussions, deep cuts to the heads and suffocation from the stampede.

Crowds are gathering in Cairo as tension rises after riots in the city of Port Said on Wednesday which left at least 74 people dead.

Manuel Jose, coach of Cairo club al-Ahly, has returned home to Portugal following the riots which erupted at the end of the game against al-Masry in Port Said on Wednesday. "I was beaten with fists and kicks to the neck, head and feet," said Jose. "I saw our fans die before us and we were unable to do anything."

Egypt's prime minister has dissolved the Egyptian Football Federation's board and referred its members for questioning by prosecutors after post-match clashes that left more than 70 of the club's fans dead.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

England: Wednesday's Premier League Preview

Arsenal travel to Bolton, Blackburn entertain Newcastle, Sunderland host Norwich City, West Brom go to Fulham, and Villa host QPR.


American Player Rankings: Oguchi Onyewu moves back into the top group

Oguchi Onyewu will back in the top 10 in the rankings this week. The big defender notched a brace over the weekend with two towering headers. The goals were a reminder that Onyewu can be a very real threat in the air when he's at his best, and of just how much he's been missing that part of his game recently. There's plenty of reason to be optimistic about Onyewu's return to form over the last five or six months. He has been playing regularly at a high level in Portugal and seems to be as good on the ground as he's ever been. The question remaining was whether or not Onyewu could still be a dominant aerial threat. If these two goals were any indication, that question could already be answered. His move back in, combined with some slow starts to the year, will see some major movement at the bottom of the rankings. Landon Donovan also had a great week with three assists in two matches. Everton went out and splashed in the transfer market, and it's a shame that Donovan won't really get a chance to benefit from the new signings.

Italy: Serie A Midweek Preview & Postponements

Parma vs. Juventus did not happen...
Typically, yours truly loves when Serie A hands us some mid-week action, but at this point, this vesuviana would rather be poked in the eye with sharp sticks than have to watch Napoli falter, yet again, against opposition they should easy conquer. Fortunately this week they host relegation-dwelling Cesena, so...maybe?


Matches postponed due to snow

Paul Wilson: Defeat at Everton shifts the title focus to Manchester City frailties

This season's Premier League title race is no longer about what Manchester United can do, but about what stuttering City will do.

England: Tuesday's Premier League Review & Reports

Another assist from Lando
On a day when what happened on the field appeared to be almost a sub-plot to what was happening off it, Manchester United were the big winners as Sir Alex Ferguson's side moved level on points with neighbours City at the Premier League summit. While United were cruising to a 2-0 defeat over Stoke City at Old Trafford, Manchester City continued their miserable recent run against Everton by falling to an eighth defeat in their last ten matches against David Moyes' side. Liverpool continued their good form with the easiest of 3-0 wins at Wolves, while Tottenham were similarly comfortable in seeing off Wigan 3-1 at White Hart Lane. Over at the Liberty Stadium few would deny Swansea deserved all three points at home to Chelsea but a last-gasp own goal from Neil Taylor ensured they had to settle for just one.


Everton 1 - 0 Manchester City
Richard Jolly at Goodison Park
Daniel Taylor at Goodison Park

Tottenham 3 - 1 Wigan
Kevin Palmer at White Hart Lane

Manchester United 2 - 0 Stoke City
Paul Wilson at Old Trafford
Jason Burt at Old Trafford

Swansea City 1 - 1 Chelsea
Stuart James at the Liberty Stadium
Jeremy Wilson at the Liberty Stadium 

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 - 3 Liverpool
Kevin McCarra at Molineux

January Transfer Window 2012: Club-by-club guide to Premier League deals

Club-by-club guide to all the latest completed deals in the January transfer window, which shut at 11pm on Jan 31 2012.

Transfer Deadline Day: Oh What a Circus

However you see the coverage of the final day of the transfer window, Sky certainly know how to make a good show of it.

Police charge 'handcuff man' after protest at Everton-City game

The 46-year-old, named locally as John Foley, forced the referee to halt play for around five minutes at Goodison Park. The bizarre incident occurred shortly before 8.40pm, five minutes before the end of the first half, with the match goalless.

In a statement, Everton said: "Bolt-cutters were used to remove the offender, who was roundly booed as he was escorted from the ground. It transpired that the supporter is a known professional protester, allegedly protesting about an airline's recruitment policy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sid Lowe in Spain

Sporting Gijón's 5-1 hammering by Sociedad raises real questions about the future of La Liga's longest serving manager.

Even great survivor Manolo Preciado may not be able to ride out this storm.

England: Tuesday's Premier League Preview & Predictions

Manchester City return to Premier League action against Everton on a key night in the title race, with Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea also taking to the field.


Paul Merson's Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

Americans Abroad

Landon Donovan, M/F, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and assisted on two goals in Everton's 2-1 victory over Fulham in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday. Donovan delivered a left-footed cross from the right side that found Denis Stracqualursi in the 27th minute, and the Argentine striker headed it in from the center of the box to level the score. Donovan then sent in a right-footed cross from the right to find Marouane Fellaini, who headed home the winner in the 73rd minute. SEASON: 6 games, 6 starts

Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sporting Lisbon -- Started, played 90 minutes, picked up a yellow card and scored both goals in Sporting's 2-0 victory over Beira Mar on Sunday. Onyewu scored on nearly identical plays in the 18th and 27th minutes, first heading home a corner kick from the edge of the 6-yard box and then doing the same off a free kick taken from the same side of the field nine minutes later. SEASON: 23 games, 23 starts, 5 goals

The Rest

Ben Lyttleton: Support Henry finds at Arsenal remains missing at home in France

Despite the celebration in England, his words rang hollow in France, where he is admired for being France's best player when it won Euro 2000; rated for scoring more international goals, 51, than any other France player; and respected for marking the history of the Premier League with his record 226 (now 227) goals for Arsenal. But he is also seen as manipulative, image-obsessed and arrogant. In fact, Henry might be unique in sports for the total disconnect between his perception at home and abroad. Take the minor story of his tears at that statue unveiling; in England, it was seen as honest emotion out of love for the club; in France, a calculated ploy to further cement his place in the history of Arsenal and English football.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The Nerazzurri's streak of form had some talking about a push for title but the wheels came off at the Stadio Via del Mare.

Crazy Inter's unbeaten run ends at lowly Lecce.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Michael Ballack is a legend who has become a pariah at Bayer Leverkusen – a club who are now desperate to sell him.

Pride, pig-headedness and glee: Leverkusen's Project Ballack fails.

Tim Vickery in South America

I have often mentioned the single greatest pleasure of covering South American football -spotting a future superstar on the way up, spying on the early steps of someone with the talent to become a household name all over the world. Another pleasure comes from following some of those big names at the end of their playing days, when they come back from Europe to wind down their careers. One of the fascinating aspects here is that they can fit into so many different categories.

African Cup of Nations: Drogba's mother dishes up for Ivory Coast fans

While Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba is on the football pitch, his mother is cooking for Africa Cup of Nations fans. Clotilde Drogba's makeshift kitchen is at a dusty stadium on the outskirts of the Equatorial Guinea capital of Malabo, the Associated Press reports. She serves up chicken and fish with rice, plantains and spicy sauces to fans, while her Chelsea star son eats at the hotel with the other players.

The Mill + ++

Tuesday's Rumours



Roberto Gotta in Italy

While even well-funded scientific researchers have apparently not been able to find out what the best thing before sliced bread was, you got the impression on the week leading up to the Milan-Inter derby on January 15 that this latest chapter of the intercity rivalry would certainly be the most compelling event since the dawn of the sandwich.

African Cup of Nations: Sudan in quarters for first time in 42 years

Sudan reached the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations for the first time in 42 years on Monday, beating Burkina Faso 2-1 to end an 11-game winless streak at the tournament and edge out Angola on goal difference.

African Cup of Nations: Jonathan Wilson: A wonderful spectacle for both host and fans

Equatorial Guineans celebrate...

and celebrate...
and celebrate...
This has been a tournament that has restored the joy to African soccer. Without the traditional powers of Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, it is as if a great weight both of expectation and fear has been lifted. Only Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana are playing with the albatross of favoritism around their necks, and both have been notably cautious in their opening matches; everybody else seems liberated, as though the subconscious dread of humiliation at the hands of one of the great names has gone (Botswana, who lost by a record 6-1 to Guinea, might regret that). It has been a tournament of fluid, constant attack.

African Cup of Nations: Senegal left soul-searching

Papiss Cisse and  Demba Ba = No Goals
For some, a road without any obstacles can be just as tricky to travel on as one that is punctured with potholes. Some like Senegal. Without record-breaking continental giants Egypt, heavyweights Cameroon and Nigeria in the ongoing African Nations Cup (ANC), the path was considered clear for the likes of them, Ghana or Ivory Coast to emerge champions. But, Senegal will not get anywhere near the trophy after finishing Group A in last place. They limped out of the tournament without a single victory, despite being FIFA ranked the highest of the four teams in their pool, 20 places above the nearest challenger, Libya.

Phil Ball in Spain

On Sunday afternoon I attended the Real Sociedad v Sporting de Gijon encounter, which finished 5-1 in favour of the home side. However, I'd like to share a personal record with you. During many years of watching live football, I don't think I've ever managed to miss fifty-percent of the goals. The first miss came courtesy of a quick trip to the loo, just as the half-time break was drawing to a close. Why not go at the beginning, you ask? Well, I had been delayed in conversation with the legendary Alex Calvo-Garcia, who sometimes sits behind me in Anoeta. Now retired, he famously scored the winning goal at Wembley to promote Scunthorpe United via the play-offs in 1999, upon which he ripped off his shirt to reveal the Ikurrina below (the Basque flag), a point missed by almost everyone in the stadium that day. You can check it out on YouTube. He has a bar named after him now, at Scunthorpe's ground, but it was his fault entirely that I missed Sporting's first goal, netted in the opening minute of the second half. Lovely bloke though.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Phil McNulty: 'Tormented' De Gea a great concern for Ferguson

Patrice Evra's ordeal concluded with his Manchester United captain's armband tossed away in the despair of defeat on the Anfield turf. For David de Gea, the torment shows no sign of ending.

The Mill +

Monday's Rumours


England: FA Cup Weekend Reviews, Reports, Team of the Weekend, & Fifth Round Draw

Rafael Van der Vaart's 30-yard strike proved just enough for Tottenham Hotspur to see off a spirited Watford side 1-0 in their FA Cup clash at Vicarage Road and book a place in the fifth round. Headers from Denis Stracqualursi and Marouane Fellaini sent Everton into the fifth round of the FA Cup as they came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 on Friday night. Friday

Liverpool remain on course for a cup double this season after Dirk Kuyt's late winner secured a 2-1 victory in their FA Cup fourth round clash with Manchester United at Anfield. Gus Poyet once again ended the FA Cup hopes of Newcastle as Championship side Brighton pulled off a shock 1-0 win. Juan Mata's penalty secured Chelsea's place in the fifth round with a 1-0 win against West London rivals Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. Saturday

Arsenal came thundering back from two-down at half-time to record a pulsating 3-2 victory over Aston Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup, with captain Robin van Persie netting a brace. Fraizer Campbell emerged from his latest bout of injury misery to keep Sunderland's FA Cup dreams alive with a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough. Sunday

Everton 2 - 1 Fulham
Andy Hunter at Goodison Park

Queens Park Rangers 0 - 1 Chelsea
Jason Burt at Loftus Road
Dominic Fifield at Loftus Road

Liverpool 2 - 1 Manchester United
Kevin McCarra at Anfield
Duncan White at Anfield

Arsenal 3 - 2 Aston Villa
Henry Winter at the Emirates Stadium
Kevin Palmer at the Emirates Stadium
Amy Lawrence at the Emirates Stadium

Five Things We Learned

Team of the Weekend

Ties will be played on the weekend of February 18-19.

European Round-up: Real Madrid surge, Barca slump, Juve and Bayern still lead

Real Madrid jumped seven points clear at the top of La Liga with a comeback victory as their title rivals dropped points, while Juventus maintained a one-point lead in Serie A at the weekend. Ligue 1 leaders Paris St Germain kept up their 100 percent record since the arrival of new coach Carlo Ancelotti and Bayern Munich stayed just out in front with three teams level on points at the top of the Bundesliga.


African Cup of Nations: Updates & Previews

Zambia beat already-qualified Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in the African Cup of Nations on Sunday to snatch first place in Group A and join the co-host in the quarterfinals.

Ihaab Boussefi's two goals weren't enough to send Libya through to the quarterfinals at the African Cup of Nations despite a 2-1 win over Senegal on Sunday. Boussefi struck in the fifth and 84th minutes to give Libya victory at Estadio de Bata, but Zambia's 1-0 win over co-host Equatorial Guinea in Group A's other game in Malabo - which was played at the same time - saw the Zambians progress. Senegal slumped to a third straight loss at the tournament and a humiliating end to its Cup of Nations after being tipped as a possible contender.

Ivory Coast, Angola in top-of-table showdown

The Fifth Official


Few of us like a Monday morning, but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Daniel Taylor: Carlos Tevez paying a heavy price for living in his own universe

In the real world, if Carlos Tevez worked for a company the size of Manchester City and disappeared for almost three months he would get sacked and his belongings would follow in a crate.

Fantasy All-Time Soccer Draft

Imagine you and nine rival managers/sporting directors are putting together soccer teams from scratch. Every current or former player is available to draft, each in the prime of his career. How would you construct a 16-man squad? Would Pele be the surefire No. 1 player on your draft board? If you had a full list of forwards from which to choose, how would you decide among Pele, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Johan Cruyff and Alfredo di Stefano? Where would you slot Franz Beckenbauer and Franco Baresi? Zico and Michel Platini? How would you balance stars and role players, or pioneers versus today's greats? These were just some of the questions facing the 10 writers -- Jen Chang, Steve Davis, Raphael Honigstein, Ben Lyttleton, Iain MacIntosh, Gabriele Marcotti, Rob Smyth, Georgina Turner, Grant Wahl and Jonathan Wilson -- who participated in's Ultimate Soccer Draft. Below you can see the pick-by-pick results of the draft. You can view a complete analysis of each team by clicking on the writers' pictures or on "TEAMS" above. Disagree with the picks? Weigh in with your thoughts on the draft's hottest debates. Who drafted the best team? For one answer to that question, asked Sports Interactive, creators of the best-selling Football Manager simulation, to design a realistic representation of what might occur if these 160 players all played at the same time in this 10-team league. We present the standings, league leaders and player-by-player stats from the balanced, 18-game regular season. (A recap of the season is chronicled here.) Each former player’s best season and overall career performance was used as the foundation for creating his data ratings for the simulation, with current players assigned their default ratings in the latest version of FM2012. A group of writers convened (Wilson, Marcotti, Lyttleton, Chang and Honigstein) to reach a consensus rating for each of the former players and assign the values for their individual attributes. Players are geared toward a starting lineup based on the writers' preferences, but playing time and number of starts are handled by the automated computer coach in the simulation, with each writer assigned a well-known current manager as his assistant. Injuries come into play like in real life, as does the possibility that some players will have off years or exceed their usual productivity. Now, on to the draft ...

Steve Davis: Jones and Cameron impress for U.S. team in pair of January friendlies

Always, always keep in mind: Results in January friendlies don't mean a thing in the big picture. They can, however, tell us something about personnel, once properly strained through all the relevant filters. So, allowing for watered-down opposition and for the difficulties associated with performing alongside other "B" and "C" team types, here's how the U.S. player pool may have shifted based on recent 1-0 wins over Venezuela and Panama.

Dominic Raynor: Off the Ball

Keeping Prince off the pitch...?

Off the Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories. This week, AC Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng is sidelined by too much sex, a Brazilian goalkeeper turns up "too drunk to move" at his new club, the video fake that fooled Liverpool's top brass before Stewart Downing's £20 million move, Bayern Munich's "spectacular" own goal and full-contact 'bubble football'.