Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mourinho vs. Pep -- Round One

photo by Claudio Gennari via PhotoRee

Correspondent Scott checks in with a remarkably neutral view-- for an avowed Royalist -- of Round One of "El Crapico":

Santiago Bernabeu Stadium – April 27, 2011
Real Madrid 0 – 2 Barcelona

The pre-game, profanity-laced verbal fisticuffs in the press room set the stage for Guardiola to add a little more pep than usual to his motivation speech, and for the media to read more than usual into Jose Mourinho’s black-on-grey sartorial ensemble.  Although recent results have trended toward Real Madrid, Barcelona had Pique’s Shakira shaking for them, not to mention a league-dominating, hyper-passing, goal-scoring machine.  So the Lord Voldemort-like Mourinho (I really wish I had come up with that myself) would attempt to work his magic against the nearly-Griffindor-hued Catalans for European bragging rights.

From the game's start, Madrid continued their aggressive, pressing style from the previous match, with similar success as it was not until the 5th minute that Barcelona managed to play a little keep-away, short-lived as it was.  The Blaugrana did start to click around the 10th minute when David Villa ripped one just wide of the upright.  Then, in the 15th minute, Barca showcased some brilliant passing in tight quarters which foreshadowed their first real shot on goal, in the 24th minute, when Xavi was put through only to see his effort parried by Iker Casillas.

Curiously, precious few fouls were called early on in the conservative but hotly-contested match, until Pepe’s apparently electrified hand touched Dani Alves in the 29th minute, producing the game’s first yellow card.  Then, in the 38th minute, la familia Espanola erupted in a squabble over elbows and ever-increasing theatrics.  Depending on your loyalties, either Pedro ran straight into a retreating Arbeloa who didn’t shy away, or Arbeloa stepped into Pedro’s path and Pedro just made sure the ref saw – which suspicion was confirmed by a yellow for the Real defender.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Memo

photo by Jeffrey Beallvia PhotoRee

Hi all -- this is Correspondent Ed, hacking into the company's back office IT system.  I'm fairly certain I shouldn't be doing this, but seeing that I'm already on suspension, I've decided to push my luck and expose the seamy underside of work here at farlieonfootie.  I'm often asked what’s it’s really like to work at the world’s most exciting internet site.  Well, perhaps this memo will give you some insight:


TO:         All Employees
FR:          His Em. Farlieonfootie
DT:         4/26/11
RE:          Year End Incentive Program
While finishing up the record-setting 900-man "Thriller" dance at Dragon Con this past weekend (for those of you who are curious, yes that was me was dressed as a Battlestar Galactica (old series) Cylon), it occurred to me that part of the vision of farlieonfootie is creating the incentive for each of you to self-actualize.  So I’ve run it by legal, and from this day forward we will refer to each other in the titles that I think we’ve earned for our efforts this year. 
For me, well that’s easy.  My glorious Red Devils are closing in on the Double (the EPL championship and the Champions League championship), I’m pretty close to wrapping up the office’s fantasy league championship, and of course, my steadfast leadership has literally put this site on the map.  Therefore, in light of my heretofore described “deafening awesomeness,” I would like all of you to refer to me in all your correspondence, emails, and conversations as “Your Eminency.”  Also, as I’ve said before, I’ve heard some of you mutter the term “Ayatollah” at or near me, and that term remains off limits.
Correspondent James, your Spurs' recent tie to West Bromwich Albion (West Bromwich Albion!!) was pretty much the last whimper of a Spurs team that really had no business being in either the Champions League or the top four.  Looking to their last five games it would seem that they must beat either Chelsea or Liverpool AND they must beat the second best team in Manchester.  You can Gareth Bale me all day, but it looks like your boys are out.  Plus you underwhelmed in the fantasy league.  Therefore, henceforth you will be referred to as “Duchess,” after my third spaniel of the same name, a dog that was cute and pettable but ultimately not the winner I am.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cat Fight

Barca and Real Engage in Yet Another Chapter of Their Very Heated Rivalry
photo by Endlisnisvia PhotoRee

Notes on El Clasico, numero tres:

Well, I guess Pep's outburst at the press conference on Tuesday had its intended effect: His team came out bitch slapping, cat fighting and play-acting like champions, with even their scrub goaltender Jose Pinto managing a massive accomplishment, recieving a red card send-off without ever setting foot on the pitch.

The game opened with a massive yawn, though, as the two sides basically played knockabout for the first 35 minutes.  At one point early on, I watched as Barca completed 15 consecutive passes without leaving their own half.

Without Real Madrid pressing them in the slightest.

Is that really the Beautiful Game, or just the boring game?

Things soon hotted up though, as the two teams began to fight like teenage girls who've had their boyfriends stolen. Which leads me to the following obeservation: Screw the game.  This contest was something ripped straight out of Correspondent Ed's wildest dreams:  it was like watching teenage girls have a pillow fight at a slumber party, albeit without the negligees or sexiness.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Carved Open

photo by stevendepolovia PhotoRee

So, the Bundesliga and (by association) the Serie A were exposed today, shown to be fraudulent, second rate leagues that can't play with the same tempo, energy, attacking style and panache as the best team in England.  If this sounds offensive, untruthful, or a gross generalization, I advise you to go back and review the carnage that occurred tonight in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.  Manchester United absolutely and unequivocally tore apart Schalke 04, bit by bit and limb by limb.  Although the final scoreline read a flattering 2-nil in favor of the once and future English champions, the margin could have easily been double or quadruple that amount -- the Reds were just that good.

In perhaps their most dominant, mature performance of the entire season, United could do virtually nothing wrong this evening at the Veltins Arena.  They dominated the German side right from the opening whistle, controlling the ball a Barca-like 66% of the game, and shaking Schalke like a headless rag doll for the full ninety minutes.  Only a master class in goalkeeping from future Bayern Munich star Manuel Neuer kept his side in the game.  Looking very much overmatched by the occasion, the Germans were rarely able to threaten United's goal, and looked a different class and breed of footballer than their rivals in red.

Virtually every single Manchester United player looked superior to their opposite on the pitch, with United dominating the midfield and springing repeated attacks on their hosts.  Michael Carrick looked back to his best form of two to three years ago, pulling the strings in midfield and orchestrating a passing clinic that left the Germans chasing shadows.  United almost doubled the number of passes Schalke completed, 754 to 386, and were allowed so much time on the ball that it wouldn't have been surprising to learn post-game that the Germans were playing with only nine men.  On the other side of the ball, I lost track of the number of turnovers the Reds created, causing constant mayhem and disrupting any sense of rhythm the hosts tried to create.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Game Day Beer Bar Review: A New York State of Mind

photo by Bernt Rostadvia PhotoRee

The other night while in town on a business trip, I walked into Vol de Nuit, a Belgian beer bar located the SoHo area of New York City. More of a lounge than a restaurant, I was lured there by the promised collection of Belgian taps, but even more so by a hunger to sate myself with the supposedly world class pomme frites. You can imagine my disappointment when I plonked myself down at the bar, perused the beer menu, and placed my order for a Corsendonk avec frites, only to be told that they were OUT of fries that night. Major downer.  Especially when that's one of the only two food items Vol de Nuit has on their menu (the other being moules, or mussels, naturally).

In any event, I trudged onward and redoubled my efforts to concentrate on the beer menu. The place was about a quarter full, clearly not prime time there, but that was okay with me as it meant there were seats available at the bar. Naked red lightbulbs hung from the faux copper-paneled ceiling, creating a hipster vibe that matched the New York University undergrad clientele.

Monday, April 25, 2011

One Down, One to Go

photo by Gibson Claire McGuire Regestervia PhotoRee

Some thoughts on the title chasers.  And Arsenal:
  • I can't tell whether Chelsea are really playing better football, or if they're just playing worse opposition. They've suffered only one loss in their last nine games on the trot, I think, but some of their victories have been less than impressive, like a 1-nil home "thrashing" of Wigan.

  • It was more of the same in the first half on Saturday against West Ham, with Chelsea creating chance after chance amidst the downpour, but lacking the composure necessary to put the final ball in the net.  And Chelsea looked less than convincing when the ball was played into their own box, with the Hammers spurning two great opportunities to take a first half lead.
  • To be fair, the rain didn't really help anyone yesterday, making the pitch as slippery as a billiard table. Demba Ba looked like Bambi on ice as he slid his way past a midefield ball, his long body sprawling in about three different directions at the same time.

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    The Late, Late Show

    photo by Jonas Bvia PhotoRee

    A few thoughts on Manchester United's big 1-nil win over Everton on Saturday, offered in the spirit of both gratified relief and constructive criticism:

    • Sir Alex clearly had one eye on Tuesday's Champions League match with Schalke 04 when making out his lineup card, opting to rest Vidic, Evra, Giggs, Rafael, and Carrick at least initially, feeling he had just enough talent to see off an Everton side which had been playing the best football in the EPL over the last five games.
    • I thought Anderson improved as the game wore on and offered some nice through balls, but in the game's early going he was more than a bit careless with possession. On defense he often seeks to clear his lines with a quick hoof downfield, rather than having the composure of a Scholes (even as I make it, I know the comparison isn't fair) to keep his senses and see where he might be able to usefully play the ball.
    • The boys in Red were more than a bit lackadaisical to open the game, and it appears as if the hectic schedule may be catching up with them at exactly the wrong time of the season.  It was at least 10 minutes before they tested Tim Howard even once, and the slow pace of the game suited Everton well.  The only saving grace for United was that the Toffees lacked any sense of ambition in the first half, showing absolutely nothing going forward.

    • That changed with the introduction of Tim Cahill into the game after the break. Everton's talisman made an immediate impact on the game: all of a sudden the Toffees had a spring to their step, began pressing much higher up the pitch, and looked considerably more dangerous with the ball. 

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Notes on the North London Derby

    photo by Svadilfarivia PhotoRee

    I had to do something while watching Arsenal jump out to a two goal lead at the Lane on Wednesday, so I just started typing.  Herewith, my notes:
    • It's nice to see the FA rewarding competency in handing the reins to Martin Atkinson for both the Spurs - Arsenal game, as well as the FA Cup final. After all, it's not like he's made any high profile mistakes this season. And when the beady-eyed Englishman somehow managed to miss Abou Diaby's bone-crunching tackle on my man-crush, Luka Modric, it only further solidified my opinion that he's incompetent or corrupt.  So take that FA.
    • Apparently Uncle 'arry forgot to tell his boys to play defense in his pre-match instructions, as they gave away acres of space to the Gooners on their way to conceding a couple of goals in the opening 12 minutes, and three in the first half.
    • The more I watch the game tonight, the more I think the PFA awards are a total freaking joke. Samir Nasri up for player of the year?  If he wants to win he should score more than once every 15 games, which was the length of his drought before he finally figured out how to put it past the 'keeper tonight. And although Rafael Van der Vaart also scored in the game, his productivity has declined steeply since he first entered the League. How many goals does he have since January?  I'm unsure as to the exact total, but I'm certain the answer is in the vicinity of not many.
    • And PFA player of the year?  C'mon down, Gareth Bale, and bask in the collective adulation that's coming your way for one assist this season. That's one, as in 1 -- and as a winger, you would think assists would be one of his main responsibilities. And was that Young Player of the Year Jack Wilshere riding pine for the first half of this most important game? You don't think there's a chance the London-biased media influenced the awards' outcome, do you?

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Twelve Steps

    photo by Kevinvia PhotoRee

    My name is Correspondent Scott and I am a closet Real Madrid fan.  It’s been 18 years, 7 months and 4 days since I first gulped the purple Kool-Aid. 

    I say a “closet” Real Madrid fan because, in contrast to my other team, Liverpool, which hasn’t won anything since shortly after Flock of Seagulls were on the radio, Real Madrid, except for a very recent drought, have accumulated an embarrassment of riches over the past two decades, and it’s a trite cliché to be a fan, so I avoid it in certain company.  Unlike the hordes of bandwagon Manchester United fans, my team predilections are not predicated on being able to say that I am a fan of the champions (and no, I really don’t mean you, boss-man). 

    You see, I came about my fandom honestly.  Living with a family in Madrid for two weeks in 1992, I was heavily swayed by their allegiance, but what sealed the deal was the first time I beheld the teenage Raul play so fearlessly and score seemingly at will.  Living again in Madrid from 1995 to 1996 only reinforced my choice of Real over Atletico (although I have mucho respeto for the in-town rivals). 

    If my feelings for the former Liverpudlian, Fernando Torres, can be described as a man-crush (which they were in these pages), then I’m going to move back to Spain with a life-size poster of Raul, and start lobbying for same-sex marriage.   Hell, I’ve even started looking up the Schalke 04 scores since he was put out to pasture there.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Not the Best, But Far From the Worst

    photo by machernuchavia PhotoRee

    April 19 / St. James Park / Newcastle, England

    It's back to the Chicharooney partnership to provide offense tonight in front of 50,000-plus Geordies looking to rain on United's victory parade. Sir Alex prefers ex-toonside star Michael Owen to Dimitar Berbatov for late offense, if needed, and Owen is joined in reserve by Antonio Valencia. Chris Smalling partners Vidic in central defense, and Anderson is granted a rare start alongside Michael Carrick in the engine room. VDS, Evra, O'Shea, Nani and Giggs round out the squad.

    United are looking to bounce back immediately from a rare weekend loss, and Newcastle will be seeking to add to the Reds' short list of woes.   The game begins with a bang, as Newcatle 'keeper Tim Krul moves quickly to deny a certain goal when Rooney picks out Chicha with an immaculate cross, but Krul's left arm is up to the forceful challenge. It would have been an ideal start to the game for a team looking lively from the get go, but Newcastle quickly bounce back and only Joey Barton's inability to pull the trigger, a blocked shot on a Jonas Guttierez effort, and Van der Sar's quick reflexes to deny Shola Ameobi keep the contest equal.

    United's defense is at sixes and sevens in the early going, and Newcastle control the ball more than 75% of the time as they take the game straight at the visitors. United weather the initial storm, and it appears unlikely either team will be able to keep up the electric pace over the full 90 minutes. Michael Carrick nearly repeats the giveaway trick he pulled off during the FA Cup semi-final versus City, but Newcastle are unable to take advantage of the local lad's generosity.

    Game Day Beer Review: Brasserie de Brunehaut Abbey St Martin Belgian Brown Dubbel Ale

    (8.00% ABV) Poured out of a bottle into a tulip glass, Abbey St. Martin Brown is the color of richly-steeped iced tea, with a thick, off-white head that leaves behind little to no lacing. The smell is malty, with overtones of chocolate and just the barest hint of sweetness -- maybe molasses?  Abbey St. Martin Brown's first taste is rich, roasted malts, followed closely by dark fruits, which are relatively restrained. The beer has a decent mouthfeel, and is refreshing for a dubbel, with moderate carbonation.  It's eminently drinkable, and the alcohol is extremely well hidden. If it's been around since 1096, it's got to be good. Run out and get yourself some today: A-.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011


    photo by gnatvia PhotoRee

    Columnist Ed marks his return to our pages with an attempt at a light-hearted joke:

    So there I was at the bitter end of the so-called “Fleet Review” at the seaside offices of our obnoxiously profitable sister site (I'm seriously starting to hate those guys), and I’m pretty much just floating like the rest of the fleet from all the vodka-somethings, when I decide it’s just a great time to tell a little joke that I like to call “the Magician and the Hot Tub.” 
    And so there I am in my handsome new seersucker pants, churning and crunching my way through the build up and brushing aside some winces and “ughs” and “ewws,” and I’m about to just drop the hammer on the punch line, when out of nowhere he (the unmentionable) stands up, loudly kicks his white folding chair aside, and screams it out himself in what can only be describe as an hysterical bleat:  “Ta Da!!!!!!” – and then turns and runs from the scene in tears.
    I mean, talk about ruining a killer line!!
    And so afterward, the boss-man himself calls me up and tells me that while he kind-of “liked” the joke, and that while he was as surprised as anyone at what happened, that Mr. "So and So" has a fracking lot to do with our fracking bottom line, and so unfortunately HR has once again requested that I be banned from the corporate offices for five days.Five days. 

    Game Day Beer Review: Brouwerij Corsendonk Abbey Brown Dubbel Ale

    (7.30% ABV). Served on draft in a Corsendonk tulip glass. Corsendonk pours dark brown, with a thick, three fingered head that leaves behind lacing as thick as shaving cream -- just look at that head! The beer smells slightly sweet and malty, with some belgian candy sweetness also apparent. Corsendonk tastes mellow and refreshing, and lightly maltish with some slight hints of chocolate and unidentifiable spices. It's not overly complex, but it's very easy to drink. In fact, you could drink this one all night long, but it might come back to haunt you the next morning: B+.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    An Orderly Cosmos

    photo by frankpiersonvia PhotoRee

    Columnist Scott returns to our pages, this time with a neat description of Liverpool's never-say-die comeback at the Emirates on Sunday.

    April 17 / The Emirates / London, England

    Liverpool has never beaten Arsenal at the Emirates, and that did not change today.  What did change is everybody’s mind who thought that Arsenal had a chance in hell of topping Manchester United in the league this year.  A flurry of penalties after the 98th minute all but ensured that Arsene Wenger’s men will remain without silverware yet another year.  Sir Fergie, beaming from the stands (or was that just his ruddy nose?), surely suppressed a round of chest thumping as he saw the only team that could catch him in the standings tap Dirk Kuyt on the shoulder a bit too roughly, thereby sealing their doomed fate.  But there was a game before the final spot kicks…

    After starting with 10 minutes of conservative yet probing back and forth play, Arsenal settled into their home and ratcheted up the intensity.  A swerving shot from Walcott, followed by a header off the crossbar by Koscielny, were separated by several free kicks won just outside the Liverpool penalty area.  Then it was Reina snatching a Nasri cross from the salivating Walcott’s path.

    The situation didn't improve for the Reds when the injured Fabio Aurelio was forced off and replaced by the teenage Jack Robinson, the second Liverpudlian defender with just shy of 2 decades’ worth of lifetime experience - experience that seemed to be lacking when the other chronologically challenged defender, John Flanagan, picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle.  Perhaps feeling a bit paternal and not wanting the youngster to feel too bad, the impeccably inked Skrtel followed suit three minutes later and left half the Liverpool defense on caution.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    A Mexican Stand Off

    photo by Mild Mannered Photographervia PhotoRee

    April 16 / Estadio Santiago Bernabeu / Madrid, Spain

    Real Madrid met Barcelona on Saturday for the 162nd time in time in La Liga, and for the first of four meetings in 18 days' time. Four Classico's in two and a half weeks: better get yor hair gel out.

    I'm not sure you would have realzied this when La Liga's schedule was first released, but Saturday's match was actually the least important of the matches coming up, if they can be ranked that way. Barcelona entered the game with a fairly insurmountable lead in La Liga, while the next three matches between the two sides include the final of the King's Cup and the two-legs of the Champions League Semi-finals.

    Commentator Ray Hudson was in all-star form for the game, waxing lyrically, melodramatically and majestically about the end-to-end action on the pitch. When he's on, Hudson can make watching grass grow sound exciting.  Phil Schoen also did a great job bringing Ray back down to earth, providing context and play-by-play in-between Ray's rhapsodic utterances.

    Sunday, April 17, 2011


    photo by walknbostonvia PhotoRee

    There's a funny thing about this game called football.  Just when you think you've got it all figured out, just when you think you know what's going to happen, just when you get pretty sure of yourself, it's got a way of humbling you.   And in a way, that's what happened to United today.

    The first half of United's FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City was relatively even. I shaded the first 20 minutes of the game on my scorecard to United, as they created several great chances, and should really have gone into the half up a goal. Particularly painful were minutes 14 through 16, in which Dimitar Berbatov missed not one but two great chances in quick succession.  Passed through into goal all by himself, the Bulgarian failed to beat City 'keeper Joe Hart with the first chance. With Hart beaten on the second opportunity, Berba was unlucky not to score on a tap in resulting from Nani's inch-perfect cross. Thwse two misses would come back to haunt the Reds as the day wore on.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    There's No "i" in Berbatov

    photo by gordonflood.comvia PhotoRee

    Just a quick note, to get you pumped up for the Manchester Derby later today:

    I noticed a brief but beautiful thing the other day, something that goes a long way toward explaining Manchester United's success this season.  The inicident I'm recalling occurred directly after Javier Hernandez scored the opening goal against Chelsea at Old Trafford in the second leg Champions League tie on Tuesday.  Cue pandemonium in the stands and on the pitch -- this time, Chicharito's goal counted, and the fact that it occurred right before half-time made it an especially vicious hammer blow to the Blues' already wobbly title hopes.

    But I was less impressed by the celebration on the pitch -- Chicha always looks happy when he scores, so this time was no different -- than I was with what occurred on the Manchester United bench immediately afterward: the first player to his feet to celebrate Chicharito's goal was none other than the languid Bulgarian, Dimitar Berbatov, not typically someone noted for his quickness by friend or foe alike.

    But this time our Dimi was quick to his feet, and the fact that he was celebrating Chicharito's opener as much as anyone tells the tale in an of itself.  Let's examine his action for just a moment: this is the same player who's been relegated to a ringside seat of the action at the start of eight of the team's last 10 games, solely due to the performance of the very man who scored the goal.

    This, despite the fact that Berbatov is not only the team's leading scorer this season -- no, he's better than that.  He's also the leading the league in scoring this season, and with Carlos Tevez' recent hamstring injury, chances are very high that Berba will win the Golden Boot this season, as well.  (As a side note, making his status even more impressive is the fact that not one of Berbatov' goals this season has come from the spot -- where Tevez, the league's second leading scorer, has racked up a considerable number of his tallies).

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    We Have Lift Off!

    photo by Kenny Millervia PhotoRee

    I find myself chortling (yes, chortling, and not chuckling) of late, amused at how the English press is suddenly "discovering" the team Sir Alex has fielded this year is not a bunch of bumbling, drooling, middle of the road footballers.  Amused because that's how it felt in the mainstream press when I wrote this column, at a time when United were widely deemed as "unworthy" of bearing the cross of being undefeated, and derided as the "crap invincibles" by their foes.  A team lambasted across the news media for being composed of old, past-their-prime retreads, and ultra-ordinary footballers, whose one true superstar was accurately perceived to be going through a tough patch.

    But oh what a difference a few weeks makes.  Seven wins after a brief mid-season stumble (to Wolves, Chelsea, and worst of all, Liverpool), the famous Manchester United are back, causing fear in the hearts and minds of opponents both foreign and domestic, and the media are lining up to pay them homage, talking about the treble, and gushing wondrously about what a magical mixture of veteran and young blood Fergie has assembled this season.  As if they could fool us into believing they've felt this way all along.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Me Harry, You Crouchie

    photo by Mafuevia PhotoRee

    columnist James reflects on Spurs' magical run in the Champions League, which came to an unfulfilling conclusion last evening:

    April 13 / White Hart Lane / London, England

    Leading up to Spurs' second leg Champions League tie with Real Madrid, I had the following vision of a pre-game conversation between Harry and Crouchie which took place just prior to the first leg:

    HARRY:  “Crouchie, a moment?”


    HARRY:  “Ah, yes, Crouchie.  Well, as you are no doubt aware, we haven’t a snowball’s chance of winning this tournament and qualifying for it next year by going that route, eh?”


    HARRY: “Right.  Because even if we are able to beat Madrid – and we really have a reasonable shot of doing so, barring some colossally stupid combination of events involving our lone striker getting sent off inside 20 minutes, and/or the manager sticking Jenas on left wing and moving Bale to the right – no one, and I mean no one, is beating Barca anyway. Eh, Crouchie?”


    HARRY:  “Right.  So, see here Crouchie, I need you to go ahead and get yourself sent off inside the first 20 minutes – I’ll take care of the Jenas/Bale part – but really, make it look believable and not intentional.  You know, bone headed to the point of endearing sympathy – you’re just the man for it!  Then, we can forget about Champions League, and focus on capturing fourth and qualifying for next year, which is what we really need to be doing anyway, seeing as 47% of our current club revenue is based on Champions League-related receipts.  And then I'll play the C-team in the second leg and get everyone focused, rested and ready for the Gooners the following week.”

    CROUCHIE:  “OK Boss. Crouchie just pawn in game of life. Crouchie stay in Madrid and see special friend.”

    And so, it appeared that all aspects of my vision were correct, except for Spurs tanking the second leg, which became apparent this evening when the likes of Gallas, Bale, Modric, Van Der Vaart, Pav, etc. walked onto the pitch.  To Harry’s credit, the decision was to stay true to Audere Est Facere and "have a go." And rightfully so, as a culminating reward for an exciting and historic year for Spurs, and for the idea that history could in fact be made.  After all, Spurs scored seven in one half last season against Wigan.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    The Right Stuff

    photo by BooWowvia PhotoRee

    ACT I


    (A small bar buried off a back alley, deep in the heart of the South Florida urban jungle.  A stranger wearing a pair of black sunglasses, jeans, Adidas' Samba classics, and a black jersey (2010 edition) with the number 10 on the back and the word "Rooney" emblazoned on the top, is sitting by himself in the corner of the bar, staring intently at one of the newish televisions hanging from the wall. The smell of cigarettes and cheap beer assaults the senses.)

    How 'bout a beer, Robbie?

         (Glances up from drying some glasses)
    What'll it be?

    None of the piss you served the last guy.  Give me a Malheur.  I drank it the other night at a tailgate with some friends.  I'll take the big bottle.  I have a feeling I might be celebrating tonight.

    You like it?
    Yeah.  It's kinda like a wheat beer, but with a little sweetness at the end.        
    You turn the volume up?  And what are those guys in the other room watching Celtic for?  Don't they know United's on?

    (fade out)


    (Inside the Press Box at a festive Old Trafford.  A loud and energized crowd can be heard in the background, lustily singing, chanting, clapping, stomping their feet, and showering the home team with unbridled love.)

    I tweeted it earlier, and I still believe it: I fancy Chelsea to win over two legs.

    As long as Drogba stays on his feet, I agree. 

    Drogba's on the bench, Ray.  That's an awful decision.  Drogba's still Chelsea's best striker.  Only reason Torres is in is his price tag.

    I wonder if Torres will stay on his feet this time...

                           If Chelsea go out, this'll be the key decision.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Christmas For Carroll

    photo by giraffebaconvia PhotoRee

    farlieonfootie woke up this morning to discover a Christmas-like miracle: Two columns -- make sure to read them both! -- and the latter one by our debut correspondent Scott, a red of a different color than we're used to here at corporate headquarters.  A died-in-the-wool Liverpool fan, Scott is still trying to shake his man-crush on Fernando Torres in favor of newboy Andy Carroll:

    After a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, a different type of tragedy struck Mancini’s Man City, in the form of a debut brace by Andy Carroll and a brilliantly poised strike (unlike his later header “attempt”) by Dirk Kuyt, for good measure.  Despite a ridiculous possession statistic supplied by ESPN Deportes around the 40 minute mark showing Man City with 72% of the ball in the previous 5 minutes (which proved to be an anomaly), Liverpool dominated this contest throughout.  From Carroll’s finishing, to Suarez’s relentless pressure, Spearing’s (where did he come from?) well-timed tackles and Carragher/Skrtels’s solid defense, it was Liverpool’s day.

    The pace of the game was of the usual, frenetic EPL variety.  Suarez’s shot is tipped onto the post by Hart, Carroll rips a zinger from outside the box, Kuyt skillfully ruffles the inside of the side netting before Carroll muscles a header/own goal – all within the first 35 minutes.  As a Liverpool fan, it was a dream come true (with the exception that I have Suarez on my fantasy team, and not Carroll).  Still, thinking of the greater good, I applaud the efforts of a team that is rallying so well after the disheartening loss to West Bromwich Albion (and their former, sacked manager) only a week before.  Perhaps hearing me say this out loud to myself, the nearly prepubescent John Flanagan muscles the beefy Mario Balotelli off a long ball played up the middle.

    Even the deluge that slickened the field couldn't damper the work rate of the Reds – Miereles and Kuyt were indefatigable in the midfield.  Although maybe the rain played a factor in the mythical injury to Balotelli’s upper side buttocks....  Grabbing the body part that many in the viewing audience were calling him, the theatrical Italian lay on the pitch until a gentleman in red kicked the ball out of bounds.  Even my 7-year-old son knows not to waste time when you are down by 3 goals.

    It should be noted that the industrious and multi-talented Carlos Tevez was sadly forced from the game in the 17th minute with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.   His spark was clearly missing tonight from the Man City offense, which hardly ever threatened until the introduction of David Silva midway through the second half.   The dual offensive threat of Carroll and Suarez, however, seems to be proving John Henry and Kenny Dalglish an owner/manager team of considerable foresight. 

    Up 3-0 with only 20 minutes to go, the Carroll/Skrtel conga line that formed during each Liverpool corner seemed more of a celebration of the inevitable than any offensive maneuvering to slip clean of their respective defenders.

    Such imagery must be excusable given that, in the waning minutes, even the perpetually-scarved Mancini seemed to admit not only defeat but also his own poor management, as he yanked the petulant Balotelli, who had earlier come on for the injured Tevez, in favor of the mercurial De Jong (he of Stuart Holden-broken-leg infamy), perhaps thinking his henchman might inflict some damage to one of the gentlemanly  Liverpudlians.  Alas, and fortunately, De Jong proved as ineffective at this task as the balance of his team at scoring and, despite Man City’s 8 point superiority in the table, they were clearly inferior to the spirited Liverpool squad tonight.

    This is farlieonfootie for April 12.

    Swallowed Whole

    photo by dorena-wmvia PhotoRee

    Correspondent Ed returns to our pages, this time infiltrating behind enemy lines to report from Anfield.  This is the first of two posts today at farlieonfootie, affording those of you who work another excuse to delay doing whatever it is that you do:

    April 11 / Anfield / Liverpool, England.  

    When in the 34th minute Andy Carroll rose in the air, thrust aside defender Alexander Kolorov and bludgeoned the ball with his head past a sprawling and shell-shocked Joe Hart to give Liverpool a 3 to 0 lead, I half expected him to turn to the cameras and belch loudly from the tasty meal he had just made of a very expensive Manchester City side.  Carroll had fired in the first goal on the volley – his first for Liverpool -- and not long thereafter parried a ball back in play that led to the second. He was too much to handle for City all evening, and reminded the EPL why a throwback with size and power can still roam the front lines with success in the modern game.

    Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s other big pick-up in January, also played extremely well, putting constant pressure on City’s defense and tracking past an out-of-position Julian Lescott with ease early in the game and slamming one off the fingertips of Hart and the right post.  Lescott at left back remains a mystery to me.  He’s a B+ center back who’s pretty much C- against fast wingers on the outside.  Yet Roberto Mancini, the beautiful one, insists on putting him outside only to see him beat and beat and beat some more.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Like a Woman Scorned

    photo by Prairiekittinvia PhotoRee

    A relatively normal weekend in the EPL is a strange occurrence in and of itself.  The top teams won, and the bottom teams lost.  What a concept:
    • Roberto Martinez managed to commit professional hari kari this weekend, pulling Wigan's only two offensive threats off the pitch with almost a half an hour to play at the Bridge on Saturday. Locked in a nil-nil bore-fest, if Martinez was pinning his slim hopes in Wigan staying up on holding Chelsea to a scoreless draw, he was soon disappointed. And his team had no way back in the contest after Chelsea's lone goal, with both Hugo Rodallega and Charles N'Zogbia seething on the sidelines. Judgment like that will end up getting you fired.  And rightfully so.
    • In the same game, referee Howard Webb refused to cite Fernando Torres for his interference which led directly to Chelsea's only tally, despite the fact the Spaniard was clawing at Wigan 'keeper Ali Al-Habsi's eyes like a woman scorned. Even Florent Malouda couldn't miss the rebound from point blank range, and nailed his first goal in 15 league games. Although this may be difficult to remember, the Frenchman actually led the league in scoring through the season's first few weeks, back when Chelsea was in first place.  A long time ago, indeed.
    • Wolves crumbled under the relegation pressure Saturday morning, and managed to lose a game they dominated for long stretches of the early going. Everton made the most of its few opportunities, and led 3-nil at the half, despite having little of the ball or the opportunities.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    A Day in the Sun

    photo by Nanagyeivia PhotoRee

    Sir Alex gives Dimitar Berbatov a rare start up top today, putting him at the sharp end of a three-man attack that also includes Nani and Valencia on the wings. United's midfield also includes the returning Anderson, Gibson and Scholes, while the defensive core of Vidic and Smalling is partnered by Evra and O'Shea, with the Pole in Goal, Tomas Kuszczak, returning for one of his final appearances at Old Trafford before his expected departure this summer. 

    It's a lineup that includes eight changes to the team that played Chelsea on Wednesday, and one that showcases United's extraordinary depth, with the bench consisting of Owen, Carrick, Chicharito and more. Rio Ferdinand is given the day off, and Wayne Rooney is suspended -- what freakin' what!! -- so two of United's most important players should be rested and raring to go for the big match on Tuesday.

    It's the visitors, though, who are first to test the 'keeper, as Scholes is guilty of an early giveaway, and although Kuszczak spills Gael Kakuta's shot, he's able to quickly gather the rebound and snuff out the threat. United 's first test comes a few minute's later, as Valencia nearly picks out Berbatov, and Nani's blast of the rebound is deflected well over the bar.

    The game is wide open early on, as players on both sides refuse to close down the opposition, and the midfield offers plenty of space.  Moussa Dembele and Bobby Zamora both have decent chances for Fulham, and the United defense looks a bit shaky in the early going.

    Game Day Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Brewing's Glissade Helles Bock

    (6.40% ABV). Served on draft into a goblet, Glissade pours a lustrous, deep gold color, with a head so thick you could cut it with a knife. The retention is pretty strong, too.  The beer's predominant smell is malts, with some citrus in the form of lemons and orange coming through, too, kind of like the first hint of  Spring. Some light hoppiness is also vaguely apparent. The beer is medium bodied in the mouth, with a crisp, bready flavor, and nicely carbonated to keep your interest piqued. I'm a fan, and could easily drink more than one of these -- and plan to!: B+.

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Dropping an Egg

    photo by stevendepolovia PhotoRee

    We finally allowed Columnist Ed to watch another Spurs game, as regular Columnist James was traveling:

    April 5, 2011 / Santiago Berbabeu Stadium / Madrid, Spain

    Well the Spurs really dropped an egg last night against Real Madrid.  Awful stuff.  Crouch’s yellow cards may have been deserved, though if I were officiating I might not have given the second one.  Unfortunately, Crouch's early red (as well as a weak first goal) ruined what might have been an interesting game.  Regardless, it was a poor showing by Spurs across the board, from execution to coaching to lineup selection.  Here are some thoughts from the match:

    -          Why Jenas out wide?   He’s a central player and was nearly non-existent during the game.  Losing Lennon and Pienaar (hah!) for the game was big blow, but Kranjcar is the natural replacement.  He’s not much (if any) of a step down from Pienaar, and he might be the freshest guy on the roster.

    -          Putting Bale out right was also an obvious mistake, which fortunately Uncle Harry ultimately changed.

    -          To Crouch’s credit, he’s been a force in the Champions League.  But not only did he lose this game, his two yellows put them out of reach for the round.

    -          Dawson is solid, and Assou-EKotto has played well in every Champions League game.  The problem is that Gallas is running on near empty, and at right back Corluka is a level below.  Hutton’s injury has also hurt the team.

    Friday, April 8, 2011


    photo by Andrey Belenkovia PhotoRee

    It took quite some time for Columnist Ed's blog entry to reach my desk this week.  I'll have to ask him to stop sending them to me via Pony Express:

    Another weekend of alcoholic debauchery, and another week-long of recovery.  This time from what can only be described as "Hill-a-Palooza," a weekend with our long lost friends “the Hill’s” that started on Thursday morning and ended Sunday evening.  I don’t remember much from all the parties, though I do recall putting out some lady-killer nostril flares and, of course, that one moment when the boss-man stood shirtless – yuck -- on the top of a table and proclaimed “Render the Salad Unto Caesar!!!,” before flopping belly first into a swimming pool.

    I’m not sure it had the desired effect, though I’m not sure what the desired effect really was meant to be.  On the flip side, I learned something new this weekend: Namely, if you’re going to mix hot wings and vodka, it's best to have eye-wash handy.  And some waders.  And a pipe scowl.  This may not make sense to you now, but believe me it'll help you greatly if you find yourself in a similar predicament.

    But hey, this is a football column, right?  So if we’re going to talk about partying we should really start with Spurs, a team that must have been livin’ it up this past weekend considering how poorly they played against last place Wigan.  Even Uncle Harry had a bad day, putting Van der Vaart wide right and Luka Modric wide left, only to find them consistently cozied up together in the middle of the field alongside the two guys that were supposed to be playing in the middle of the field.  It got crazy how many Spurs decided to occupy this small strip of central pitch.  I recall at one point there being about six or seven at the top of Wigan’s goal box, all of them looking and waiting for a pass.  As for the right and left flank, you could lie there and read some federally subsidized Cowboy poetry and no one would have come close to you.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Breaking the Duck

    photo by ansikvia PhotoRee

    I'm a bundle of nerves pre-match, as United get set to face Chelsea at the Bridge for the first leg of the two-legged Champions League tie. Sir Alex opts to rest Nani, and keep Berbatov pinned to his customary seat on the bench, while Rooney and Little Pea get the start, the former with rumors of his two game ban increasing to three in the pre-match banter. Rio Ferdinand makes his return to the lineup to partner Vidic in central defense, so there'll be no excuses for not having our best side available today.  Pre-game, I find myself wondering whose side the referee is on, though.

    Surpirsingly, it's a mixed bar at which I'm watching the game, half United fans and half Chelsea fans. Normally I'd seek to watch this game alone in the quiet of my own home -- better to concentrate -- but I'm once again on the road for work as gameday rolls around. No matter, there's always a bar nearby, but I'm surprised to see this one on the list of Red-friendly US bars after seeing so many patrons in blue.

    The game opens with a bang, Fernando Torres picked out in on goal, requiring Ferdinand to come to the rescue and boot the ball away. A minute later and United's main man, Wayne Rooney is rolling around on the pitch howling in pain as Michael Essien attempts to surgically remove the Englishman's ankle with his boot.  Although Sir Alex is immediately up on his feet and asking for a foul, Rooney is quickly back to his feet, as well, and the United faithful can collectively exhale. 

    United appear to have caught my case of the nerves to start the match. They're more than a bit sloppy in the early going, with both Carrick and Valencia guilty of easy giveaways. Torres looks quick early on, and Chelsea have lots of room on the pitch, particularly down Evra's side.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    End of the Road

    photo by corinne.schwarzvia PhotoRee

    Some brief, random and not very funny thoughts on Spurs' unfortunate 4-nil loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League last evening:

    • Ray Wilkins may have been a helluva Assistant Coach during his time at Chelsea, but I found myself spending long periods of time while listening yesterday wondering if it's possible for him to be any more annoying as an announcer. If I heard Wilkins say "Stay on your feet" one more time during the early action, I was going to have to throw up. It was almost enough to make me want to see him return to Stamford Bridge, just so I wouldn't have to worry about listening to him anymore (other than in my nightmares, of course). "Keep the ball, enjoy the ball and have some fun with the ball," was another pearl of wisdom Ray dropped during the game.  I knew exactly what he meant, sort of.

    • Peter Crouch was, in the wise words of his coach, a very "silly boy."  I don't know what the skinny giraffe was thinking, but he clearly wasn't using his head when he managed to collect two yellow cards in the game's first 15 minutes, putting Spurs in a bit of bother from which they never really recovered.

    • Crouchie's dismissal made a tough task virtually impossible, compounding the early double hammer blows of Lennon being ruled out pre-game, and Spurs gifting a 4th minute goal to the home side. The result?  Uncle 'arry's gamebook was thrown completely out the window. I can't remember a single threat Spurs created, as they were forced to expend virtually every ounce of their energy in trying to keep the early 1-nil lead from being extended -- which worked to a point. Although it's unfair to say given the previous comments, Bale was largely ineffective, VDV and Modric mostly invisible, and I can barely recall Jenas' name being mentioned.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    What Freaking What?

    Rooney Says Hello to His Friends at the FA
    The blithering idiots who run the FA have decided to charge Wayne Rooney for his recent swearing escapade. For those of you who've been hiding under a rock for the past three days, Rooney engaged in a foul-mouthed tirade into a conveniently placed camera after scoring his third and final goal in a remarkable hat trick on Saturday at Upton Park. Unable to control his excitement, or find a more genteel way of expressing his rebuttal to the slew of venom directed in his direction from the West Ham faithful, Mount Rooney erupted in a spew of words beginning with the letter "F."  And the chaps who run the FA (including it's Chairman, former Manchester City Chairman David Bernstein) pretend to be shocked and outraged, as they're spurred on by so-called dispassionate journalists who clamor on about their absolute outrage at the offensiveness of it all.  These, mind you, the very same journalists whose publications fill their pages with stories of cheating, lying, swindling and murder -- and that's just in the television review section.

    The double standard of both the FA and English journalism is readily apparent here. As pointed out in a shockingly well reasoned and thoughtful article by Sam Wallace of the Independent, the FA and Sky Sport want their football to be raw, passionate and full of fight. The public demands it in this day and age. Authentic, I think they call it. But one need look no further than the customers in the stands watching the action to know that the swearing heard on television Saturday morning (afternoon in England) isn't confined to the pitch -- it's inherent in the game, it's in the stands, it's one of the sounds of football.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Reflections on the Weekend That Was

    I had a keg of Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock delivered to the house on Wednesday in anticipation of some good friends from out of town arriving.  My first draw from the tap was a disaster, though: way too much foam and much too little beer. At first I chalked it up to the keg rolling around on it's trip to my house, but as it sat overnight I began to form a clearer idea of the problem: the coils in my outdoor kegerator had become clogged with leaves, and as a result the kegerator wasn't cooling enough, thus allowing the beer to be warmer than it should have been.  The result?   I was looking at pouring much of the keg down the drain, the very same place that Arsenal and Chelsea saw their title chances go this weekend. 
    Arsenal's Draw had Samir Nasri Looking as if He'd Had One Too Many Sierra Nevada Glissades
    Blackburn put up a brave fight against Arsenal, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Gunners in the process of gaining a vital point at the Emirates. Rovers' midfielder Martin Olsson best personified the giving-everything-they-had performance Blackburn turned in, throwing his body to the ground in an effective -- if painful -- lesson on how to block a point blank shot.

    I thought referee Phil Dowd had a pretty good game on Saturday, with the exception of the red card on Steven Nzonzi, which was overly harsh. Blackburn was giving as good as they were getting to that point in the match, and Dowd's decision effectively condemned Rovers to hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-their-fingernails status for the game's final 20 minutes.  That they were able to hold out against an Arsenal side at home shows just how deep a tailspin the Gunners are in at the moment.