Saturday, October 30, 2010

Like Taking (Halloween) Candy from a Baby

photo by lovelypetalvia PhotoRee

Feeling strangely nervous today, in large part because most of my Spurs-leaning friends, including James, are not expecting much out of today's match at Old Trafford. Concerns about Spurs' defense (which I wrote about last weekend)  and their terrible track record away to United is mostly what I've been hearing. 

I'm also slightly undone, though, by the confidence my friend Mike has shown in the Reds today for his fantasy footie side, starting Berbs and Chich up top. I pondered that formation over a beer or two, but ultimately didn't have the guts to go with it. Instead, in a very low moment, I went with the weaselly diver Chamakh up top with Berba, and I already am full of self-loathing and regret over my choice of the Gunners' striker. Sure, I like the matchup, Arsenal at home and all, versus my friend Paul's Hammers, but this guy has disappointed me to no end whenever I've picked him to date, and I had sworn off him as of about Gameweek 5. Oh, well -- onward and upward.

[Ed. Note: Or maybe not. Chamakh on the board with his typical one point fantasy performance AT HOME today. This guy is just unbelievably bad. Please, someone tell me never to pick him again. Seriously; I mean it. He's terrible.]

Now onto the big game: Sir Alex goes with a mixture of youth and experience today, confirming my gut sense by picking Rafael to mark Gareth Bale, while leaving the rest of the defending to Vida, Rio and Evra.  It's Chicha and Berba up front, with Fletch, Carrick, Park and Nani getting the nod in midfield. The bench also contains some young guns, with both Bebe and Smalling having seats near the sideline. Contrary to my suspicions, Rooney is at the game today, watching from the sidelines with some of his fellow teammates.

It's Park clanging the post inside the first two minutes, with United on the front foot right from the get go. Early on, it's Park and Nani causing Spurs problems on the offensive end of the pitch, while Spurs counter with some threats and a goalpost of their own, a rocket off the foot of Van der Vaart that has VdS beaten.  Although it's a bright start for both teams, if Park had only the slightest ability to finish the Red Devils could be in the lead. This one could be frustrating.

Modric and Bale are little to be seen through the match's first 15 minutes, but I don't expect that to last. The OT crowd is in full throat tonight, probably fueled as much by the pre-game anti-Glazer protests outside the stadium as the beer inside it.  

Chicharito makes a cameo appearance in the game's 20th minute, almost pouncing on a spilled Carrick shot, but the Mexican, too, has been largely absent from tonight's proceedings. At the other end, the assistant referee almost gifts Spurs a goal, somehow missing a ball that goes clear over the end line, but VdS bails the defense out, and comes to Ferdinand's (and the referee's) rescue.

Midway through the half, Nani offers a piece of mesmerizing skill that should've led to the game's first goal, hypnotizing two Spurs defenders as he moves slow motion into the box before sliding a ball that had "assist' written all over it through the middle, but Fletcher can only direct it right at Gomes. Score tied still, nil-nil, and the tension continues.

Despite all the attacking talent on the pitch, it's Vida who finally open up the scoring, connecting smartly on a fine Nani free kick. The Serbian uses his head to thump the ball past Gomes for a 1-nil United lead.   Both teams create plenty of chances before half in an end-to-end game that is not disappointing the neutrals.

[Ed Note: why does FSC show so many Proactive commercials before, during and after every EPL game?  Do they really think that lots of acne-pocked teenage girls are watching their EPL broadcasts? These commercials may be slightly more appropriate on the Disney or Lifetime Channels than on FSC.]

The second half begins under a cloud of smoke, as halftime fireworks cause generally cloudy conditions to prevail on the pitch. The smoke clears as both clubs struggle to find their second half footing, with the pace of this half feeling much flatter than where we left off. United seem unable to generate much of a offensive threat other than that provided by Nani, with both Berbatov and Chicharito having relatively weak games to this point in the action. The midfield, ex-Nani, also seems poor again today, with even Fletcher struggling to make much of an impact on the game.

Spurs blink first, substituting Roman Pavlyuchenko for Robbie Keane in a bid to change the outcome. Fergie counters with Scholesie and Wes Brown for Berbatov and Rafael.    Strange substitutions, to be sure, but in SAF I trust. Also makes me wonder if Wes Brown has finally started to work his way out of the United dog house....  Mrs. Palacios, too, should be well pleased to see her son enter the fray as a replacement for Jermaine Jenas, as the game devolves momentarily into a battle of substitutions, as both coaches seek to alter the final outcome.

Fergie seems strangely determined to see out a 1-nil lead, as if proving to himself and others that United can hold a lead at home, even against one of the league's top sides. While it's dismaying seeing the Red Devils go into a defensive shell at home, my guess is that Fergie is more concerned with the three points today than being stylish in victory.

Van de Vaart, who has looked most likely all afternoon for Spurs, pulls up lame with 15 minutes remaining in the contest, bringing the Britsh Flamingo, Peter Crouch, onto the pitch. The crowd at this point is dulled into silence by a lack of action at either end; even a watching Ryan Giggs looks bored to tears by the lack of on-field action.

It's a bizarre incident (shown here on video) that ends the game, reminiscent of  Dirk Kuyt's goal against Sunderland earlier this season, with Nani being fouled in the box but no call forthcoming from referee Clattenburg. Although Spurs goalie Heurelho Gomes is under the impression that a free kick has been given, it hasn't, and as he puts the ball down in front of the goal, Nani steals it -- like taking candy from a baby -- and steers it into the back of the net before Gomes can stop him.  As @rioferdy5 tweeted after the game: "...gotta play to the whistle - harsh but true."

The freak goal stands because no free kick was ever signaled, Spurs furious and United with the three points. Game over, 2-0, and farlieonfootie with the candy from the baby for Halloween on October 31st.

Game Day Beer ReviewDogfish Head Sahtea (9.00% ABV). Pours a murky orangish color with just a small amount of head that leaves behind virtually no lacing. Up front aroma is dominated by chai tea spices.  Taste is chai tea spices, with distict a distict clove undercurrent, and a slight hint of orange that fades into a crisp, clean finish. The alcohol in this beer is extremely well hidden. Unusual: A-

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