|photo by woodleywonderworks||via PhotoRee|
Before we turn our (fleeting) attention toward a feast of Spanish football, let's at least touch on the latest Wayne Rooney conspiracy theory: anyone else thinking it's slightly strange that Manchester United have chosen to send our formerly beloved striker all the way to Beaverton, Oregon to undergo physical therapy on his damaged ankle? First, Rooney's rehab included a week of poolside cocktailing in Dubai. Next, his suggested routine includes flying 10 hours to the west coast of America, and spending Saturday to Saturday (missing two more game days) in splendid isolation. Does this remind anyone of trying to keep the crazy uncle locked in the closet upstairs when entertaining guests? Okay, maybe that's just my family, but I think you get my point.... Can it be that Roo is on his way out, and that they are trying to keep him out of sight until the deed is done? Who knows, but it's an awfully suspicious therapy routine he's undergoing at present -- just sayin'.
Let's move onto bigger and better things, as La Liga giants (okay, that may be a slight exaggeration) and farlieonfootie favorites Atletico Madrid take on Norwegian worldbeaters (okay, that's a definite exaggeration) Rosenborg in Europa League action. Welcome to autumn football in Norway, where even the hardy Norwegian fans are bundled up and shivering in pre-game crowd shots. I did take particular pleasure in seeing one fan attempting to keep warm by wearing a NY Mets ski cap -- that would be a collector's item even in Queens these days, but due to it's one-of-a-kind status here in Norway, would fetch a eye-popping value estimate on Trondheim's version of Antiques Road Show.
Atleti in their blue and red outfits look slightly Superman-ish tonight, which may or may not be a fitting description depending on which version of the Madrilleños decide to turn up.
Atleti's season to date has been another of their typical Jeckyll and Hyde affairs, as they veer crazily back and forth from title contender to pretender with each passing performance.
Some of Los Rojiblancos' lesser performances, shall we say, can reasonably be blamed on the absence of Sergio "El Kun" Aguero, Atleti's diminutive Argentine assassin. Just returning back from a prolonged absence, Aguero provides Atleti with much needed inspiration and imagination on the offensive end.
It has to be noted, however, that not all of Atleti's problems can be blamed on the doorstep of El Kun's absence. Certainly, teammate and fellow striker Diego Costa has performed admirably in his role as substitute. Costa is a wonderfully talented Brazilian striker who is currently third on the team's offensive depth chart. Above him in the pecking order -- in addition to Aguero -- is another Diego, this one with the same last name as the guy who won the World Cup Golden Boot award. Unfortunately, this Diego Forlan has born no resemblance to date to the guy who performed so well in South Africa this past summer.
In a way, this is a bit of a cheap shot on my part, because I happen to love Forlan, with his golden locks and lethal boots. But he, like several other leading players around the world -- Patrice Evra, anyone? -- seems to be suffering from a World Cup hangover, and has yet to resemble the player he had been as recently as three months ago.
The unfortunate result of Forlan's struggle to find form is that he, and his alter ego, Aguero, have yet to really click this year. It's like Butch Cassidy without the Sundance Kid, or the Lone Ranger without Tonto. I would add Laurel without Hardy to my string of analogies, but I'm thinking that may not strengthen my point, so I'll leave it at that; in any event, you get what I mean.
|photo by Pearlmatic||via PhotoRee|
So Forlan starts on the bench tonight, meaning Costa will partner Aguero up front on the attack. Four minutes in and it's an ideal start for the pair, as El Kun taps easily into the back of the net to provide Atleti an early lead on the evening. To be fair, the visitors had already given the Norwegians ample warning with a second minute cross that skidded across the goal mouth untouched, begging for a tap in. This time, though, it's Aguero on the end of a fine Simao cross, and it's a start that coach Quique Sanchez Flores must have dreamed about as recently as last night, Atleti 1 - Rosenborg nil.
Atleti squander two other point blank chances midway through the half, the first from Portuguese midfielder Tiago and the second from Costa, leaving me certain they will be required by Sanchez Flores to spend their halftime break writing "I will not miss the goal from this close ever again" 100 times each.
Shortly after the half, though, it's Rosenborg making amends for their first half performance, and it's the result of a mistake by Atleti's much praised goaltender that equalizes the game. After a through ball to Markus Henriksen finds the the teenage midfielder all alone inside the 18 yard box, his shot should really have been parried by goalkeeper De Gea, who instead finds it slipping awkwardly through his legs and into the back of the net. In truth, it's no less than the Norwegians deserve for their efforts on the evening, Henriksen boogeying on the sidelines and Rosenborg turning up the pressure on the visitors.
In response, it's Diego Forlan himself who is thrown into battle by Atletico, but in a surprise move it's Aguero and not Costa who gets the hook. The game is ultimately decided by Tiago, though, who demonstrates how quickly he takes to halftime lessons by unleasing a goal of absolutely breathtaking quality. The Portuguese midfielder shucks and jives his way past three defenders in the 83rd minute before uncorking a venomous strike from 25 yards out that leaves burn marks on the back of the Rosenborg goal netting before entering orbit. Atleti 2 - Rosenborg 1, and farlieonfootie happily saying "Hasta Mañana" for November 6.