Sunday, September 30, 2012

Insipid and Uninspired: Manchester United 2 - Tottenham Hotspur 3

photo by jbcuriovia PhotoRee

Q. So, United lost an early goal to Spurs on Saturday?

A. Yup. How'd you know?  Has this been happening a lot lately?  It's not down to the fact that the Reds look nervous as a whore in church when opposition players run at them, is it?

Q.  Any other nerve wracking moments in the first half?

A. None more so than when William Gallas crunched RVP's ankle, leaving the United striker in a heap and the home fans' hearts in their mouths.

Q. Did United land any retaliatory blows in the first half?

A. Unfortunately, the most effective blow any United player landed this week was the punch Nani threw at reserve team member Davide Petrucci.

Q. When did the RVP equalizer occur?

A. Actually a Gareth Bale goal came next, to the surprise of just about no one watching the contest. United appeared to be going through the motions in the first half, as if they were trying to set up Spurs before surprising them with the introduction of a 2009-era Cristiano Ronaldo and a five goal second half.

Q. What was wrong with the team's first half performance yesterday?

A. Beside a complete and utter lack of passion, urgency and a stalwart defense, the only other thing noticeably lacking in the first 45 minutes was a midfield that could deliver a decent ball to the lone forward.

Q. Any changes in the second half?

A. Yeah the second half was different, all right.  First off, Wayne Rooney was in and so was the ball -- in the Stretford End net after Luis Nani put it there. Unfortunately Clint Dempsey quickly did the same at the other end to restore Tottenham's two goal cushion. And then just to make things really interesting, Shinji Kagawa scored again for United -- and this all in the space of just three minutes.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Left Hand Brewing Octoberfest Marzen

If it's Fall, that must mean thing: it's time to head to the refrigerator and pull out a delicious craft beer.  True, we know we could say that Fall means just about anything, but it always feels nice to have an excuse to pop open a brew, and Fall gives us just that.  So if you're trying to figure out what to drink as the leaves begin to turn, you may want to follow this tip: Left Hand Octoberfest was one of the better tasting marzens we've had the opportunity to drink this month.

Brewery:  Left Hand Brewing, Longmont, Colorado

ABV: 6.00%

Mood: Snappy pop-ska mix in the air, as Save it for Later by The (English) Beat blares from Correspondent Ed's iPhone at the Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Smell: All malt, all the time.

Taste: It's not as sweet as the other marzens we've been drinking, with malt and mellow notes of toasty caramel, followed by a slightly metallic twang. I like it, though.

Overall: A pleasant beer, not too complex. Perfect for kicking back and watching a game.  Or sitting at the beach, as the case may be.  B

Friday, September 28, 2012

Being: Disappointed

photo by Ben Sutherlandvia PhotoRee

Correspondent Ed's take on the curremt state of Liverpool FC

We're now five games into the season and two episodes into "Being: Liverpool", and they don't yet have a win.  Granted, their schedule has been tough.  And granted they've been somewhat unlucky, but as Bill Parcells used to say: "You are what your record says you are."  

So if they are that bad, the question is why.  I think the reasons are the same as for any club performing poorly:  (1) talent, and (2) their system. The reality of Liverpool is that their best player, Steven Gerrard, is a bit old and still plays a hollywood long-ball system more suitable to his abilities and more comfortable to his eyes.  After Gerrard, there is Luis Suarez, the striker who simply can't score.  The wingers include a 19 year old with promise as well as an Italian named Borini who seems to be cut from the same cloth as the other guy who couldn't make it in the BPL, Alberto Aquilani.  Even 'keeper Reina has been mistake prone and for the most part awful.

The blame for the personnel is largely the past, but Brendan Rodgers also deserves some of the blame for mistakes like Borini.  In addition, not unlike Spurs' AVB, Rodgers is forcing his system on many players that just aren't comfortable with it, and severing some of his better talent simply because it doesn't fit.  In politics they say that personnel is policy; the same goes on the pitch.

As for the system -- the possession game -- I would suggest it's the best in the world when mastered, but takes tons of time to master.  I suspect Liverpool is still in the understanding phase of learning, and is far from the final stage when the knowledge is executed reflexively.  As of now, Swansea plays the system far better than Liverpool with inferior talent.

So my case set out against him, do I blame Rodgers?  Do I think he should change directions?  No and no.  The system will be a winner in a few years, and could potentially change the BPL.  My reasoning is that if Swansea can do as well as they did and continue to do with subpar talent, a team with Liverpool's ability to attract and pay top tier talent has the potential to dominate.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Return: Manchester United 2 - Newcastle United 1

photo by halighalievia PhotoRee

It was a young and inexperienced Manchester United side that welcomed Newcastle to Old Trafford for the Capitol One Cup on Wednesday night, albeit one significantly buttressed by the return of forward and team talisman Wayne Rooney, as well as heavyweight Brazilian midfielder Anderson. For their part, the visitors featured a young side as well, one that included ex-United man Gabriel Obertan among others. On a night featuring several notable returns, however, none was more celebrated than Darren Fletcher's inclusion in the United starting lineup after a ten month absence for health reasons. And so it was in a rather spirited mood that the game's kick off was greeted despite the fair number of empty seats which oversaw the players on the pitch below.

If the game began in spirited style, once the action was underway things quickly became rather more subdued. Anderson had the home side's best opportunity in the contest's opening twenty minutes but somehow contrived to miss his opportunity, as if to remind the Old Trafford crowd that he was still in need of regular games to shake off any rust resulting from his long-term layoff. For their part, the visitors' first half attacking efforts were led by Shola Ameobi, with Alan Pardew's decision to omit both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse from the starting lineup in advance of the weekend's League contest telling you all you really needed to know about the Magpies' true commitment to the League Cup.

Tom Cleverly should certainly have scored prior to the break after Javier Hernandez single-handedly carved his way through the Newcastle defense with a scything run, but the Englishman's shot fell inches wide of its intended target. If Cleverley's effort was close, Anderson did him one better just a few minutes later, curling his effort In between the Newcastle keeper's outstretched arm and the post to give the home side a deserved 1-nil advantage heading into the break.  Watching from the Directors' Box, Sir Alex would have been pleased not only with his team's lead, but even more so with the tempo control that his midfield trio of Fletcher, Anderson and Cleverley managed to impose on the evening's affair.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Letting it Flow: Week Five in the Barclay's Premier League

photo by rappensunclevia PhotoRee

o Two things we learned while watching Everton tear Swansea apart limb-by-limb on Saturday: 1) The bloom may be off the rose for Manager Michael Laudrup and his boys from Wales -- the Swans' second loss in a row has seriously stalled their momentum and called into question just how strong the squad actually is; and 2) No such questions are being asked of David Moyes and Everton. Liverpool's top club looked fantastic once again this season at the Liberty Stadium, and only poor refereeing has managed to stop the Toffees from reaching 12 points after their first five games. So much for Everton's traditional slow start....

o Chelsea appear to be morphing into a La Liga side before our very eyes. Pretty to the eye -- except if you're Roman Abramovich, who appeared as if he was watching paint dry from his customary seat at Stamford Bridge -- but lacking a certain directness that is a hallmark of the English game, Chelsea step-overed and back-heeled it with best of them on Saturday but were less successful at finding goal -- only second half substitute Victor Moses seemed the least bit intent on blazing a path toward net for the Blues. On a bright note, however, along with their slim 1-nil victory over Stoke, Chelsea appear to have mastered the art of the Spanish flop, with Branislav Ivanovich and Oscar displaying perfect form in their attempts to con the referee.

o Note to future opponents: please make certain to mark Javi Garcia on set plays. I've lost count of the number of headers the City newcomer has managed to put on-target over the past three outings, and he just may be the most dangerous set piece player in the game right now.

o Like the turning of the leaves, one true sign of the nascent fall season was spotted this weekend as Le Professor broke out the sideline puffer jacket for the Gooners' game at Eastlands on Sunday. If only his counterpart Roberto Mancini had deemed the weather cool enough for his natty blue and white scarf, we could have officially declared the new season to be in full swing.

o Kudos to American Clint Dempsey for his first start in front of the home fans at Whitehart Lane on Sunday. Our view was that the midfielder looked energetic and dangerous against QPR, but may have been trying just a bit too hard to find the net. Here's some advice, Clint: relax and let it flow. The goals will come.

o While we appreciate that Hatem Ben Arfa and the rest of the boys at Newcastle were attempting to restore Papiss Cisse's confidence by letting him take a penalty at home against Norwich City on Sunday, man oh man, we wonder how far the resulting miss may have set back the Senegalese striker. While Cisse may have made the Geordies wonder if his fellow countryman Demba Ba was expendable with his form in the latter half of last season, the shoe is now firmly on the other foot. And that's the same foot that brought about a moonshot of a penalty that should be passing by the International Space Station any day now....

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Burgled then Buggered: Liverpool 1 - Manchester United 2

photo by Simone Lovativia PhotoRee

According to Columnist Scott, Liverpool would be on 20 titles if only it wasn't for those damned referees:

On a day that should have only been remembered for the solidarity of rival fans, a long overdue handshake and the symbolism of 96 red balloons, Referee Mike Halsey first burgled Liverpool FC, then buggered them thoroughly. Manchester United was dominated when the home side had 11 men on the field and was still outplayed when facing only 10. With overwhelming possession and a finally-on-fire Steven Gerrard, the better Reds utterly controlled the first 39 minutes of play, creating multiple chances and providing opportunities for Lindegaard's highlight reel.

Gerrard found his passing touch and Raheem Sterling was stellar once again. And Suzo impressed when he came on while the team worked tirelessly and cohesively . But this game will long be remembered for 2 calls made by Mr. Halsey. The first, in the 39th minute, was a straight red card for Jonjo Shelvey's tackle with Evans. Notice I didn't say "on" because that would imply that Shelvey was the only perpetrator. Yes, Shelvey went in hard and rashly. But it was as if he slid into a mirror because that is exactly what Evans did. The only difference was that Shelvey was the sturdier of the two in the tackle. Given the way the game was being called to that point and the identical actions of the two subject players, the ejection of Shelvey was ludicrous and tantamount to larceny. I hate to agree with Eric Wynalda's commentary but he got it exactly right. It should also be noted that Robin Van Persie (who I only first noticed was on the field in the 24th minute) saw only yellow for a studs up, reckless challenge in the 84th minute.

Still, down a man, Liverpool fought on bravely and continued to be the better team. Gerrard's calmly taken volley at the beginning of the second half was nothing other than what was deserved for the better team. It was bad luck, then, that mere minutes later Rafael da Silva scored on an improbable left-footed shot off the post. Credit, however, must go to the defender as his strike was brilliantly taken.

And yet Liverpool responded admirably, continuing to be the better team. In the 57th minute, Luis Suarez went down easily in the box but the replay showed he did get caught on the foot by the defender. Still, I had no problem with the no-call as it had been a hard fought and rough game to that point and there was minimal contact. Further, I am not naïve as to the Uruguayan's deserved reputation. But my understanding turned to indignation 20 minutes later when Antonio Valencia (who was already in the act of diving because he had lost the angle!) was barely touched by Johnson. Halsey pointed to the spot and buggered the previously burgled Liverpool team.

Bad calls happen. But bad calls that are inconsistent with other calls are what sully a game and, justifiably, anger fans. If Shelvey sees red then so should Evans (and probably Van Persie too). And if Valencia was "fouled" during his swan dive then Suarez was fouled too. Not to mention Daniel Agger getting mugged, full-nelson style, in the box in the first half.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Being: Red Carded -- Manchester United 2 - Liverpool 1

photo by Môsieur J. [version 3.0b]via PhotoRee

Q. Did Manchester United's starting lineup meet the pre-game predictions for this most important of games?

A. Not by a long shot. We don't believe there were too many people who would've predicted a start and the team's Captaincy for Ryan Giggs, Jonny Evans filling in for Nemanja Vidic, and Anders Lindegaard being preferred to David De Gea -- again. But Sir Alex apparently did, and that's all that mattered.

Q. Who was most impressive for United in the early going?

A. The away fans, who were in fine voice. Unfortunately, they were much sharper than the away team, who offered up repeated opportunities to the home side, giving them way too much space and time on the ball.

Q. Was that the United game plan?

A. We hope not, although it was difficult to determine exactly what the visitors' game plan was, as the eleven men in white seemed intent on playing as individuals who seemed only vaguely acquainted with each other rather than as a unified team. United appeared content to sit back deeply and give away possession cheaply, as if offering their own kindness to Liverpool on a day which saw the Hillsborough 96 remembered in the pre-game ceremonies.

Q. Was there a defining event of the first half?

A. If there was it was Jonjo Shelvey's rash challenge on Jonny Evans, which resulted in a straight red card for the Liverpool midfielder. Sir Alex thought so, too, as he and Shelvey exchanged verbal volleys as the hairless scouser took an early walk toward the home locker room.

Q. And so a man up, United must have dominated the second half.  Correct?

A. A funny thing happened on the way to an easy victory at Anfield. Steven Gerrard came up with yet another goal against United before the clock had even ticked off three minutes of the second half. Once again, a Liverpool player found himself in acres of space in front of Lindegaard's net; this time the home team took advantage.

Q. Did RVP step up to level the game?

A. No. This time the equalizer came from a rather unlikelier source: Rafael. The Brazilian right back found the side post and received a friendly bounce to beat an outstretched Pepe Reina from an extremely tight angle. His defense may be a bit suspect at times, but the kid has turned into quite an attacking weapon this season.

Q. How did Liverpool respond?

A. The Russian judge handed Luis Suarez an average score of 8.0 for his dives in the box, while Raheem Sterling finished a very close second in the competition.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Carton Brewing Monkey Chased the Weasel Berliner Weissbier

Brewery: Carton Brewing, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey

ABV: 3.90%

Scene: Hanging with family as the New York Giants pummel the Carolina Panthers on television in the background.  In need of a sessionable beer.

Appearance: Poured on draft at the Cloverleaf Tavern in Caldwell, New Jersey. The beer was a deeper brownish/gold than I would have thought for the style, but it was still an attractive looking brew. The serving had a thick white finger of foam on top, composed of large bubbles and soft white foam, which left behind some serious lacing. 

Smell: There was a sour citrus smell noticeable. 

Taste: Monkey Chased the Weasel began with a slightly tart, lactic sourness that transitioned into a citrusy sweetness before finishing with the taste of fresh berries.  It was light bodied and refreshing. 

Overall: One of my favorite styles of beer, and Carton just about nailed this one. B+

What's In a Name?

Columnist Ed is on his high horse.  Again:

Champions League......CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.....ChAMpionS LeaguE.....oooh oooh AHHH AHHH!!!  Can't you just here that crazy Champions League anthem tune when you read that?  He wait, does anyone like that anthem ?  I don't.  To me it  sounds like national anthem of one of those countries you've  never heard of that somehow sneaks a gold medal at the Olympics in the three-legged race: “And now, the National Anthem of the Republic of Smerzagrovnia, and a hearty congratulations on their first ever Olympic gold....” 

Here's a suggestion – and don't just say “no” in a knee jerk way – how about going a different direction and trying, say, the theme from Shaft?  Come on, give that hickuppy guitar and playful background keyboard a listen:


And speaking of spectacular, I don't know what was better, that amazing second goal of Oscar (talk about swerve and dip), or that amazing first touch he took to put the ball behind Pirlo before he spun around him and took the shot.  Wow. 

My only issue with Oscar is the dead horse I've been beating about many footballers playing in Europe, but particularly Brazilian footballers:  What's up with the first name only on the jersey?  It just screams “egomaniac” to me, as in “I am THE Oscar! I'm so fabtacular (look at my hair!) that everyone just knows me by my first name!  I'm just THAT popular!!” 

Well, Oscar, I'm sorry to say it but I find it painful that your dropping your last name when your first name is “Oscar.”  Sorry kid, but it's not exactly lyrical or original or tough.  More muppet garbage dweller to me.  And dude,  you've just started playing!!! 

I think if I owned a soccer team, I'd put an end to that whole thing.  I'd start by appointing Ray Lewis as my Ego Enforcement Officer and instruct him to go all Terry Tate on anyone who gets ahead of himself.

"Hey Oscar, baby!! If you don't stitch on your Last, I'm goin' to kick your . . . .!!!  Wooohhh!!!”

Anyhow, Chelsea looked the better team in the game even though they ended up with a draw.  Plus, I'm not sure if the boss man is right that Chelsea isn't that good.  Hazard, Oscar, Ramirez, Lampard – they all looked pretty good to me.  Even Fernan....nah, he looked pretty ordinary, really.

The game that shocked me the most was the Manchester City v. Real Madrid game.  I have never seen such speed as Madrid's.  For most of the game, it seemed like Real was playing with 12 or 13 players and City had 8.  Even Tevez looked pretty pedestrian against Real's fast defense.  As a famous commenter on this site said, only Ya Ya looked fast enough to handle the speed.  He was absolutely in full warp mode when he was taking the ball up the pitch on breaks. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happily Breaking Red Ducks

photo by Jessica.Tamvia PhotoRee
Columnist Scott wants to put a smile on the faces of his favorite scousers -- and on your face, as well.  So after reading this and smiling, be sure to check out our bonus blog entry for the day, discussing farlieonfootie's Anniversary -- it's shown directly below:
Fresh after reading the first four chapters of The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, in which the author convincingly puts forth scientific studies and evidence that happiness increases success rather than the reverse, I am choosing to happily view Liverpool's most recent league outing as another step in the right direction for Brendan Rodgers and the players. With two-thirds of the possession and lots of chances, it seems we are only a goal-scoring streak away from hitting stride and moving up the table to a more appropriate place in the Top Four.
Alas, the Reds were thwarted twice early on, once again, by that scientific anomaly in which the leather ball is somehow magnetically attracted to the goal posts and cross bar. Perhaps Mr. Achor might unearth a scientific study to explain how Glen Johnson's booming, curling effort fell victim to this phenomenon.
While Johnson looked dangerous all game and gave the Black Cats fits each time he pressed forward in attack, Joe Allen was off his game. In addition to surrendering the ball more often than normal, he did not seem to be able to control the game as he has recently. Still, with a smile, I acknowledge that it was only one game and that the former Swansea youngster will bounce back admirably for the clash with the titans of Manchester United.
Two other players in need of a bounce back are Steven Gerrard and Pepe Reina. Gerrard has just not been himself this season. Yet again I am forced to point out that the captain repeatedly coughed up the ball through errant and usually overly aggressive passes. Plus, this time, he missed his team’s best chance when he should have at least put his side-footed shot on frame. I may need to send Stevie a copy of Achor’s book.
And Reina, for his part, once again failed to get to the ball once committed to coming out for it. Granted, Johnson should have done better to prevent the cross in the first place, but the Spaniard's indecision allowed Sunderland's goal.
Happy thoughts return, however, when I reflect on Raheem Sterling's magnificent performance. The 17 year old was the best player on the pitch, beating defenders 1v1, creating chances, tracking back and winning balls. Not only is he a star in the making, he has also, as Rodgers points out, boosted the hopes of every Academy player in the Liverpool system. It is little wonder that Jamaica have been doggedly pursuing him for their national team and Roy Hodgson gave him a call up as a substitute for England.

Happy Birthday (to Us)

Columnist Scott at our recent second anniversary celebration
photo by the_moogvia PhotoRee

farlieonfootie enters its third year today -- we're out of the terrible two's and well into our toddler stage now -- a fact that may be on the face of it very hard for you to believe.  That's okay, because it's hard for us to believe, as well. 

Not the quick ascent to the top of the internet football blog listings, the private jets, the women, the booze, the parties -- that part was all rather easy to imagine.  Rather, it's the pure unadulterated drudgery that is associated with running this enterprise day in and day out, as well as the curmudgeonly cajoling that is necessary to get the minimum amount of work required out of our below-par staff of football scribes.  If you had told me more than two years ago that this is what running a website focused on the self-proclaimed world's most exciting League, I would never have believed it, let alone have started out along this journey.

In any event, here we are -- two years down and how many more to go....?  If we ever brighten up your day with our pithy postulations, or bring a smile to your face with one of our wacky witticisms, thank you.  Thank you for being generous with your time, and thoughtful with your reactions.  It gives us no insiginificant amount of ecstasy to bring you this blog on a near daily basis, and will give us even greater pleasure to do so over the next 365 days.

This is farlieonfootie wishing you, and us, a Happy Anniversary.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Five Things We Learned While Watching Manchester United vs. Galatasaray

Photo by Woodleywonderworks on Flickr

o There Are No Easy Champions League Games: Sure, there are some Champions League matchups that are easier than others -- would you rather play Galatasaray or Barcelona? -- but there is no such thing as an easy night in Europe these days. The teams -- yes, even the Turkish ones -- have too many international players, and the contests are too cagey to lead to many 5-nil romps, even for a team with the quality of Manchester United. Last night's game was a perfect example: for much of the game the Turks held the ball, gave as good as they got, and were unlucky not to have scored on at least two occasions.  After a fast opening by the home side, the contest quickly turned into a nerve-wracking affair, with one key difference: this time the home side managed to find a way hold on. Which just goes to show....

o A Narrow Win is Still a Win: United open the Group Stage with three points this year -- they now likely need only seven more from their next five games to move into the knockout stage of the competition. With two more home games, United would now appear very likely to better last year's effort. In the end, it will not long be remembered that last night's victory was ugly in spots, that United spurned multiple scoring opportunities, and that the home side looked vulnerable on defense.  Instead, the United faithful will remember a game that counted as a win -- hopefully one in a series of them in this year's Champions League -- and that the home side banked all three points.  Which they got because....

o Sir Alex is Not Fooling Around: Take a gander at Wednesday's starting lineup: Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, Antonio Valencia, and Nemanja Vidic, among others, graced the pitch for the men in Red.  The only "big name" players missing from a squad which might start a Champions League Final were Wayne Rooney (injured) and Rio Ferdinand (rested). Gone is the conservative, rest-the-stars approach used to such ill effect last season. Names such as Bebe, Gibbo and Pogba stood no chance of seeing the light of day this time around, and not only because most of them have moved on -- but because the Boss is not so ill-informed as to realize he vastly underestimated the competitiveness of last year's competition. And Fergie could have been forgiven for taking a chance on this particular game, especially with the Liverpool derby coming up on the weekend.  But he didn't, and we knew Sir Alex was serious last night, because....

o When the Black Coat and Sweater Come Out, Things Are Starting to Get Real: Everyone knows the sun shines in Manchester about as often as it snows in Miami, but there's something special about Old Trafford when the weather turns cooler, and there's nothing like a European Night to bring it out. And when Fergie busts out the Marks & Spencer jacket with the zip-up sweater underneath it can only mean one thing: the weather's begun to turn, and real English football is on display. Save the sunny day games for the pre-season and August. This time of year we want the real thing -- raw, cold, dark and hard hitting -- with only one exception....

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No Walk in the Park: Manchester City 2 - Real Madrid 3

photo by berevia PhotoRee

Tie askew, Jose Mourinho looked slightly disheveled as Real Madrid's first round Champions League matchup with Manchester City got underway last night at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Sitting slumped in the shadows of his black leather sideline chair, his face partially obscured, the Only One looked as if his team's poor early season performance was weighing significantly on him. The Madrid Bossman's agitated state contrasted sharply with the suave visage of his opposite City number, Roberto Mancini. But while Mou may have appeared unsettled, it was the neatly coiffed Italian coach's defense which began the game looking completely unhinged, as the home side took the attack straight at the visitors from the opening whistle.

Cristiano Ronaldo made Vincent Kompany -- no less than the all-consensus best defender in the BPL last year -- look average at best in a one-on-one situation in the game's opening ten minutes, and only a fine save by City 'keeper Joe Hart kept the Spaniards from taking the early lead. When Ronaldo beat Maicon again a few short minutes later, flashbacks of Gareth Bale must have been running through the City fullback's mind even as Joe Hart bailed him out -- this time managing to deny Ronaldo's effort despite the misdirection afforded by Gonzalo Higuain's headed touch immediately in front of the City goal.

If the Spaniards were unable to take advantage of their early dominance, City found it difficult to maintain even the slightest scrap of possession in the game's first half. It was only through one of Ya Ya Toure's trademarked rampages through the middle of the pitch that City sent a brief reminder that there was more than one team intent on scoring for the evening.

Even the normally industrious Carlos Tevez was reduced to a mere spectator by City's conservative gameplan, a development Mancini sought to alleviate by switching to three at the back as the second half began. As the game clock hit an hour, though, the result was more of the same: City struggling to leave their own end, and Marcelo's missile just the latest development to tease the Madrilleno fans: almost, but not quite good enough.

It was when bodies began bouncing off Toure like cartoon bullets off Superman that the crowd finally sensed something special in the offing -- an event confirmed by recent sub Eden Dzeko's fine finish that handed City a stunning 1-nil smash and grab lead.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Flying Fish Summer Farmhouse American Blonde Ale

Although the calendar says summer officially ends this week, the weather outside down in South Florida says differently.  In the land of Endless Summer it's okay to drink summer ales all year 'round, so we feel fairly justified in our next selection.  It's from a South Jersey brewer that we don't see alot of down this way, but on the strength of this offering we wish we did:

Flying Fish Summer Farmhouse Ale poured from the bottle a bright, crystal clear yellowish/orange color, adorned with a fluffy white head.  The beer smelled lightly of yeast, with a very mild citrus scent also apparent.

Summer Farmhouse Ale began sweetly, with the taste of citrus and green apples dominating the middle, before the spicy yeast made itself evident on the aftertaste. It was crisp and clean tasting, and a nice beer to have on a sunny Florida day, whether it's summer or not.  B

Monday, September 17, 2012

May Day: Week 4 in the BPL

photo by SliceofNYCvia PhotoRee

o Chelsea and QPR may have drawn 1-1 this weekend, but the least surprising development of the day was Ranger's left back Fabio limping off the Loftus Road pitch after less than 18 minutes. You didn't think switching teams would somehow make him sturdier, did you?

o We may already have had a soft spot in our heart for Ji-Sung Park, but our respect for QPR's South Korean Captain grew by leaps and bounds when he refused to shake John Terry's hand prior to the game against Chelsea this Saturday. Taking a stand for principled people everywhere, Parky reminded us all of what's important in life: respect, a word the Chelsea Captain likely can't even spell.

o Two goals by Dimitar Berbatov in his first 90 minutes for Fulham, and let's see.....  Maybe someone could tell me what he was doing on the bench for the last year and a half...?!  And just because we can, we're handing Dimitar our Player of the Week honors to pay homage to his brace.

o Arsenal may have cruised to a 6-1 victory over Southampton on Saturday, but for us the most touching part of the entire afternoon was Wojciech Sczcesny's loving tribute to teammate Lukasz Flappyhandski, in which the younger Pole managed singlehandedly to end the Gunners' shutout streak at more than 300 minutes, all in a style all too familiar to Arsenal fans. It's nice to know that while Fabianksi may be gone, he's definitely not forgotten.

o It may only be the fourth game of the season, but all of Manchester United's pre-season signings have found the net as of Saturday -- are you reading this, Olivier Giroud? -- with both Alexander Buttner and Nick Powell adding their names to the scorer's sheet. They've joined Shinji Kagawa and Robin Van Persie, which leaves us with only one question: when will Angelo Henriquez get his first start..?

o By the way, do you think there may have been any celebrating going on in gypsy caravan party camp when Alexander Buttner scored his goal...?  Just askin'....

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Revelation: Manchester United 4 - Wigan 0

photo by izarbeltzavia PhotoRee

Q. How much tinkering did Fergie do to Saturday's starting lineup?

A. A fair bit, truth be told, choosing to rest RVP and Shinji Kagawa in front of the mid-week Champions League clash with Galatasaray, and replacing the dynamic duo with Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, two strikers that have never showed much chemistry between them. Also notable was the Gaffer's decision to stick with Anders Lindegaard in goal, suggesting that the benching of David De Gea may not be a limited move. The home fans also got their first look at left back Alex Buttner, who was filling in for a rested or injured Patrice Evra, depending on who you believe.

Q. With all those changes, who had the biggest impact on the game's opening minutes?

A. Referee Michael Oliver, who missed a clear yellow card on Jean Beausejour before calling a rather soft penalty on Wigan 'keeper Ali Al-Habsi.  Apparently even Chicharito believed the penalty was undeserved, kindly agreeing to offer up a tame roller that never threatened net in the slightest.

Q. Anyone else look lively in the first half?

A. Welbz played like a man possessed, creating chance after chance in front of goal.  The English international played almost as if Fergie had told him his regular starting position could be in danger due to the arrival of a certain flying Dutchman.

Q. Loads of goals as a result?

A. Not quite, at least not before the interval. The first half was another example of United's frustratingly slow-to-develop offense, as the Reds once again played at a speed better suited to the departed Dimitar Berbatov than the starting Chicharito.  The game was fairly narrowly divided after the first 45, with both sides squandering opportunities.

Q.  Was it one of the youngsters who finally broke the deadlock?

A. A youngster only in Fergie's eyes: Paul Scholes scored to celebrate his 700th game for the club.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Apt Cliche: US 1 - Jamaica 0

photo by Hazel Motesvia PhotoRee

Scott returns to our pages with some thoughts on the USA's Crucial 1-0 victory over Jamaica earlier this week:

A Tale of Two Halves may be a cliche but cliches are popular because they are apt and last Tuesday night's game between USA and Jamaica was the epitome of this one. Determined to avenge their loss in Kingston just four days earlier, the Americans unequivocally dominated the first half, declaring open season on Jamaica's woodwork and 'keeper, the latter responding brilliantly and the former repeatedly bouncing away scoring hopes. The second half, on the other alternate-universe hand, saw those same Americans, in the waning minutes especially, playing grade-school kickball.

The seismic shift in this game can be directly traced to the 56th minute when Herculez Gomez scored off a freekick because Dwayne Miller picked that moment to be human and botch the save. Almost immediately, USA began to play more cautiously.  Whereas before the US players would patiently string together tens of passes, now they began to get nervous and boot the ball up field, presumably with one eye on the clock. Whereas the first 55 minutes were filled with possession dominance and multiple chances on goal, the Red,White and Blue now seemed to turn yellow, afraid to continue in that same style. 

Jamaica, for its part, was now the team passing and pressing, with such sudden style change clearly affecting the Americans, contributing to their ever-increasing reticence to continue what had worked so well in the first period.  Ultimately, a fine late save by Tim Howard preserved the unnecessarily narrow victory, but not before Jamaica threw the kitchen sink at us. 

On the night, Graham Zusi, in particular, impressed. He was consistently dangerous on the attack and useful on defense. For not having played much with the National Team, he dictated an unusual amount of the proceedings in a positive, creative fashion. 

Also impressive was one of Stoke City's newest signings, Geoff Cameron. An imposing figure in the central defense, he poked away balls, muscled forwards and otherwise thwarted what counterattacks the Reggae Boys concocted. My biggest compliment for this youngster is that I rarely cringed, as I so often do, when our opponents had possession in our final third. 

Also ameliorating my cringes was the ageless Steve Cherundolo who effortlessly snuffed out potential dangers by plucking the ball away from Jamaica's left forward after seemingly tapping him on one shoulder and stealing from the other side.  All this, of course, was in between incessant, skillful runs forward during which he juked, passed and crossed like a veteran winger.  We can only hope that Stevie continues to belie his age, at least through July 2014. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The State of the States

Correpondent Ed on the current state of soccer development in the United States:
In the '80's, soccer training was trapping and passing. It was full 11 v 11 games from the earliest of ages. It was not having coaches who played the game or understood the game. It was rigid positioning, and tactics – poor tactics – only. We never saw soccer on television. We had no heros, no posters on the wall, no teams, no players to emulate. In short, we didn't know what we were doing.

I know twin boys that are seven. One can juggle a soccer ball off the ground. Both can do scissors, step-overs and Cruyff turns. The boys and their team train almost exclusively on footwork. At the end of each practice they engage in one v. ones. Sometimes many of the boys have to be told to stop laughing during the competitions because they are having so much fun. For most of the boys this is their 4th year and 10th season. Many have jerseys of their favorite international players; some play fantasy soccer online. These boys are just a few of the millions.

America beat Jamaica one to nothing in a must win game on Tuesday. They dominated the pitch for most of the first half. Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley did not play. Graham Zusi from the MLS was a game changer. Two big, strong defenders with international experience, Geoff Cameron and Carlos Bocanegra, dominated the center of the pitch. America won the game one to nothing, but hit about a half a dozen posts on the way there.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown Ale

Continuing with our Fall beer reviews while football's international break drones on...and on...and on...we present you with Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale:

Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing

ABV:  5.50%

Mood: Enjoyed at the beach, while listening to Talk Talk "It's My Life," from Correspondent Ed's iPod mix of the Essential 1980s.  Drunk from the bottle.

Smell: N/A. It's virtually impossible to smell anything from the bottle.

Taste: Decent earthy hop bitterness, tempered by mellow roasted coffee and chocolate and sweet toffee notes.  The beer has a much lighter mouthfeel than expected.

Overall: A very nice Fall beer.  Candidly, I would have enjoyed Tumbler even more if I had drunk it prior to the several sweeter marzens I also taste tested the same afternoon.  Coming after the marzens, though, the bitter notes seemed as if they were emphasized just a bit too stridently. Still, these guys don't really know how to make a bad beer.  B+

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


photo by Robert Scoblevia PhotoRee

o Anyone feeling sorry for new Spurs 'keeper Hugo Lloris, who has already asked for crisis talks with Manager Andre Villas-Boas about his role as Brad Friedel's backup...?    Here's a hint: No.  Play a game first, Hugo, before you start crying.  Or at least go to a single freaking practice.  It's the least we should expect from a thoroughly modern footballer.

o How about Nani?  Was he right to take his dissatisfaction with his contract negotiations straight to vox populii, the London tabloid press?  Almost certainly not.  As a matter of fact, we can't imagine a quicker way into the Manager's doghouse, although maybe the Portuguese winger is hoping that Sir Alex missed the whole controversy while he was in the States hanging with Agent 007 and watching Andy Murray's historic win at the US Open.

o Does anyone care what a fat Spanish waiter thinks about the Hicks and Gillette ownership period at Liverpool?  We'll go out on a limb here, but our guess is no.  The whole topic is about as relevant to Liverpool these days as is the Champions League.  Stop living in the past, Rafa, and move on.

o What's the funniest thing to happen on Merseyside the past month or so? Meditation, strangely enough.  And we'll wager you thought we were going to make a crack about Liverpool's record.  Or Manager Brendan Rodgers' predilection for hanging larger-than-life portraits of himself in his own Living Room....  But note that we didn't....

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Dark Day

photo by slagheapvia PhotoRee

We're not big on political statements here at farlieonfootie (okay, maybe we are, but that's in our spare time and not on the blog), and we don't think this will qualify, either.  But even if it does, there is no way we will ever forget a moment, eleven years ago today, which is still chillingly fresh in our collective memory, still disturbingly close at times, and something we will never forget: when the civilized world was attacked by those wishing to destroy our very freedom, loves and lives.

The victims of September 11th will always be remembered here.  May God bless them all, now and forever.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Sam Adams Octoberfest Marzen

If it's Fall (or almost Fall), it must be time for a marzen-style beer.  One of the most widely distributed, and conveniently one of my annual favorites, comes from Samuel Adams.  This one should be available pretty much wherever you are in the US.  My review is below:

(5.3% ABV)  Drunk at a farlieonfootie company-sponsored picnic on Fort Lauderdale beach, during a Sunday pig roast, while listening to a cartoon frog sing "Hello, My Baby!" from Correspondent Ed's iphone.  Apparently, it's on his regular playlist.  Enough said about that....

Sam displayed sweets malts and a little bit of fruit, balanced by just the right amount of hop bitterness. There's a slight lingering toffee and fruit taste on the finish. This is a very drinkable beer, much better balanced in my opinion than last year's version.  Great Fall-themed packaging, too.  I'll give it a B


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dread in the Land of Dreadlocks: Jamaica 2 - US 1

photo by Fabian Bromannvia PhotoRee

If one were searching for subtle differences between the Bob Bradley era and the Jurgen Klinsman era in US Soccer there are plenty of signs apparent to the observant viewer -- the US' recent friendly victories in Italy and Mexico to name just a couple -- and last night gave us yet another: when's the last time you remember the Nats grabbing an away goal in a World Cup qualifier before the contest was even a minute old?  Strike another first for Klinsman and US Men's soccer, as Clint Dempsey took the scoring honors, receiving a surprise start and the ball at his feet in front of a gaping net within the same sixty seconds.

But as evidence that the team remains a work in progress one need look no further than minutes two through ninety of the same game.  The US allowed the Jamaicans to boss the midfield, and although the game was not decided in open play, the US never generated enough scoring opportunities to deserve a win -- or even a draw for that matter.  The resulting 2-1 loss puts significant pressure on Klinsi and the Nats to rebound with a win over the very same island nation side in only four day's time -- that the second game will be played in the slightly friendlier confines of Columbus, Ohio has to be counted on as a significant advantage.

Although Jamaica equalized halfway through the first 45, their opening goal was not due to a total US team breakdown, but rather two Kyle Beckerman gifts: the first when he committed a weak attempt at a tackle just outside of the 18 yard box, and the second coming as he deflected the resulting free kick past a flummoxed Tim Howard to give the home side their equalizer. By this point in the action US fans were likely asking if Beckerman -- he of the rastafarian dreadlocks -- was momentarily confused as to which side he was playing for.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Picking Up Where We Left Off: More Thoughts on the Season to Date

photo by Crunchy Footstepsvia PhotoRee

Picking up where we left off yesterday, some mildly entertaining and slightly insightful analysis of the action in the first three weeks of the Barclay's Premier League season:

Chelsea are Not as Good as They Appear: We could ultimately be proven wrong on this, but we don't think so.  The Blues clearly have a friend in the FA scheduling department, as this is the third straight season in which they've started out with a very user-friendly run of games.   While playing softies at home may lead to a bulging net and high degree of confidence in the season's early going, we remember when Chelsea started out like a house-a-fire last year, too -- and we all recall how that one turned out.  We've plowed this ground in an earlier post, but the Blues appear to be as leaky as Correspondent's Ed's nose during allergy season, and we're big believers that Champions are built from the back up.

It's Difficult to Gauge Just How Good Man United is: It typically takes Sir Alex's men a few games to really get rolling, and a woeful return of goals in the pre-season would seem to indicate that the new players on the squad have yet to really bed in.  Combine this with the fact that Nemanja Vidic -- United's most reliable defender -- hadn't played competitively in almost eight months, and he and the oft-injured Rio Ferdinand have started exactly one game together this season, and you have a recipe for a very murky defensive outlook, too.  Our guess is that the Reds will turn it on at some point -- they always do -- likely after Sir Alex is able to establish a more regular rotation of his players.  We believe that it will only be after the injury list begins to shorten that we'll have a true bead on United's prospects.  We're certain they've ultimately got plenty of goals in them, but how will the midfield and defense stand up to the best in the League?

City Look a Bit Shaky, Don't They?: Despite two wins, the Citizens have not exactly stamped their authority on their opponents to date, and look on par with United defensively.  They appear to have withstood the early loss of El Kun through some wicked play from frontman Carlos Tevez, but there's another significant question hanging over the heads n Eastlands: Can they win the League without David Silva hitting the heights he reached last season?  The Spaniard clearly looks overwrought, as we indicated he would here.  While we have no idea how Maicon and Garcia will adapt to English League play, the guess here is hat the former will be an improvement over Mancini's current choices, and the the latter will offer City more bite in the middle of the pitch -- the combination of Toure and Garcia should provide some real bite -- even if he does have very questionable judgment.