Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hanging By a Thread: Manchester United 2 - Southampton 1

photo by chefrandenvia PhotoRee

Two minutes in and a massive defensive blunder greets both a capacity-filled Old Trafford and surprised Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez. The shaky United defense, including the infamously flappy version of David De Gea, rears its ugly head once again, as Michael Carrick offers a backpass with all the conviction of a French General ordering his troops into battle, and the United 'keeper reacts to the mistake by appearing hoppier than a West Coast IPA. Rodriguez is quick to roll home the easy tap in to give his side a shock early lead, and although the game is only three minutes old, it's already time to ask the inevitable question: is the home side's leaky start an aberration, or a sign of things to come....?

Luckily, the evening's clash is against Southampton. Within six minutes, the Reds are level, after Wayne Rooney is put in by Shinji Kagawa and finds himself with only 'keeper Artur Boruc to beat, calmly dispatching the ball into the back of the net to even the scoreline. Less than two minutes later and the home side is nearly in front, as Rooney returns the favor by laying a delightful ball off for Kagawa, but the Japanese international is slightly off the mark and bangs the ball against the frame.

Close calls become the momentary theme of the evening, as Robin Van Persie adds his name to those who are only inches away when the Dutchman's swerving shot is deflected just over the Southampton net. Momentary is the operative word, however, as the two teams are soon separated once again: Patrice Evra offers a brilliant diving header to meet Van Persie's free kick, and it's Wazza with an easy tap in for his and the team's second goal of the evening. The Reds continue to have their way, as their fancy passing and quick ball movement repeatedly unlocks the visitors, while Southampton remain eager to go forward and look threatening on their intermittent opportunities against an uncertain United back line.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Don't Let The Door Hit You On the Way Out

Mario Balotelli
Photo by DrabikPany on Flickr

Question of the day: Do we care that Mario Balotelli is leaving Manchester City?  Putting aside our anti-Blues bias for the moment, the answer is still the same: Not really.  Balotelli hasn't been much of a factor in the League this year -- and that's being generous on our part -- and has repeatedly failed to live up to his much vaunted potential. 

Sure, he gave us highlights during his brief stint in England, including this and this, but he never seriously threatened to become the next coming of Cristiano Ronaldo, as he was originally billed.  And as good as he was -- which was quite good, at times --  Manchester City and most other clubs in the world have figured out  the following lesson: he's just not worth the aggravation.    

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Game Day Beer Bar Review: The Menger Bar

If it's Monday, it must be San Antonio. Or that's the way it's seemed lately, what with the chock-full-o-meetings farlieonfootie corporate travel schedule. And since we found ourselves in Texas last week in between football games, we decided to check out the semi-famous Menger Bar, located right on Alamo Plaza.


It wasn't the rich selection of craft beers that attracted us.  In fact, the beer selection was average at best -- and it was still better than the food selection, which is not saying much.  But what did draw us -- like a moth to the flame -- was the overwhelming sense of history the bar holds.

As we sat in the Menger Bar, the very same place that Teddy Roosevelt recruited many of the men who went on to fame and greater accomplishments as the Rough Riders, we were drawn inextricably back into our nation's past -- the bar as community center. The Menger is the oldest continually operating bar in the State of Texas, and supposedly an exact replica of London's House of Lords pub. Built in 1887, the bar showcases a rich cherry wood paneled ceiling and beveled mirrors from France. Dark and full of atmosphere, we gladly traded off the lack of a decent craft beer for ceiling fans spinning slowly round and Linda Ronstadt keeping time with "Love is a Rose" on the jukebox.

Teddy Was Here

We did indulge briefly -- that's why we went to the bar, of course.  But back in Texas, we easily returned to old habits, and ordered a particularly Texan favorite: the Chelada.  Served over the rocks in a glass rimmed with salt, the chelada boats a jigger of fresh lime juice, a cold beer (the brand isn't that important), celery salt, and a dash of heat.  The earthiness of the celery salt is a perfect foil for the sweetness of the lime, and the heat is only marginally offset by the coolness of the beer over ice.  The salted rim keeps you coming back for more, which we did time and again.

Did we mention we liked this place?

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Passive Agressive Cup

photo by Stephen Fulljamesvia PhotoRee

The fifth round of the FA Cup produced some spectacular results, with non-league side Luton ousting top flight Norwich City, Aston Villa being ejected from a second cup competition in three days,  Chelsea nearly being dismissed by Brentford, and Liverpool falling at the hands of League One side Oldham.  And who says quality is down this year in England...?  As a matter of fact, we do.  

Although -- rather untypically for us -- we don't say much more.  Other than the following:

o Could someone please explain the theory behind coaching in the FA Cup?   The latest craze seems to be putting out your best 10 outfield players plus your backup goalkeeper. Why the backup goalkeeper?  If you're going to put your best team out, put your best team out. Otherwise, it's just a passive aggressive form of football.

o Meanwhile, the backup 'keepers played their parts to perfection, with Chelsea's Ross Turnbull and Liverpool's Brad Jones being cast as the fumbling boobs. If their performances this weekend weren't so funny, they would have been hilarious. In fact, if that was Rafa's intention, it makes one wonder why Hilario wasn't in the net this weekend Sunday for the Blues....

o With Manchester United racking up the sponsorships, here's an idea for Merseyside to even things up: Liverpool's Cup run this season could have been sponsored by Butterfingers.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Thoughts from Twitter: Manchester United 4 - Fulham 1

o Giggs with the PK.  Finally, someone who knows how to take 'em...

o United 1 - Fulham 0 inside of three minutes. This game is #Over.

o Can we have an easy game for once, please?  I've worn a path in the carpet pacing back and forth these last few weeks.

o It appears that sunny #Qatar helped. This team looks #Energized today.

o The Old Trafford pitch looks terrible, kinda like a goat patch.

o Chicharito just knocked over Schwarzer as if he was made of paper. Has the Little Pea been bulking up?

o Surely that's a second hand ball?!  Clattenburg's got to be blind not to see it.

o Fulham's defense makes United's look like world beaters. Hot knife through butter doesn't begin to describe how easily United are going through their back line.

o The Welsh Wizard still has his moments of pure brilliance. You can't hide class.

o It must be wonderfully easy to be a football commentator.  If only Fulham had a bit more "belief" they'd be in the game. Who knew it was that #Simple?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reds Rising: Liverpool 5 - Norwich City 0

photo by futureatlas.comvia PhotoRee

Correspondent Scott is setting himself up for massive disappointment:
Norwich City has traditionally been Luis Suarez’s whipping boy, but last weekend he only scored once against them, instead of the usual hat trick.  Unfortunately for the Canaries, there were others who picked up the lash, and even Ryan Bennett joined the party with some self-flagellation in the form of an own goal.  As much as it hurt to see my second-favorite team get thrashed 5-0 by the ascending Reds, it was a well deserved result for a team that -- after several fits and starts so far this season -- finally seems to be gelling.  Beginning with the final 30 minutes of the Manchester United game last week, they have seemed unstoppable, now only needing to put together complete games against the top opponents.

Of course, it all could have gone horribly wrong after only seven minutes when Liverpool “conceded” a free kick to the particularly unbalance Grant Holt, who tumbled due to a slight breeze.  Poor marking on the ball played into the box left a wide open header for the Canaries and Gerrard and Co. could have been down a goal were it not for the good fortune of said header being directed straight at the waiting Brad Jones.

Gerrard has been on fire lately and I believe I am ready to say he has been restored to his prior playing prowess.  After setting the tone for hustle in the game with two successive crunching tackles in the 6th minute, he played tirelessly throughout, displaying the necessary Gerrard leadership we have come to expect.  And his 66th minute long-range strike that tucked in off the left post was vintage.

On the other end of the spectrum, Andre Wisdom, while generally solid defensively, needs to improve his offensive play in order to continue to get regular first-team action.  Wing defenders for Liverpool are expected to have deft touch, get forward easily and provide sumptuous crosses while otherwise wreaking havoc in the forward third, before tracking back.  Unfortunately, the 19 year-old needs to work on his crosses, bungling his efforts in the 15th and 24th minute, to name just two.  Then, in the 53rd minute after a sublime control on a cross-field pass, he hurtled into the box before…muffing his shooting lines again and not even hitting the target.  Still, at 19 years-old there is plenty of time for improvement and an ocean of upside.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Few Things...

Inside the Mind of Correspondent Ed

...from inside the mind of Correspondent Ed:

Much has been written on this site about the Manchester United versus Spurs game this weekend, but a few points are beingmissed.  First, in light of how many goals have been given up by United this year, it is possible to say -- as someone did -- that United without RVP might very well be a mid-table team?  They simply are not very good in the back as Vidic is not near his form (and seems to have lost a few steps), Evra seems pretty mediocre against tough competition, and Ferdinand also appears a bit long in the tooth.  Only one of the most annoying players in football -- Rafael -- is having a good season.

FOF is half right regarding  David De Gea.  Half because he is correct that he was in a tough position for that first punch.  Incorrect because those first two saves were largely good fortune.  The first being a ricochet that was going to hit him in the feet regardless of what he did; the second, a shot by Dempsey, was poor and pretty much right where he was standing before he jumped the wrong way.

Most telling about United was their setup: triple up on Bale, cede possession, and hope for a counter.  This against a team that United shouldn't consider at their level -- this is not Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.  The fact that it almost worked for United was largely the result of good fortune, as United could've and probably should've been down big in this one considering the enormous advantages in possession (60%) and shots on goal (15 to 4).  In particular, the midfield of Moussa Dembele and Scott Parker simply outclassed their opponents.  Strange days at United and not, as Sir Alex has said, one of his best teams.  I suspect if things don't change the table will, and soon.

#    #    #

Well, everyone loves an underdog, and it was exciting to see League Two's Bradford City get past Aston Villa (after getting past Arsenal) to get to the Capital One Cup Final.  They didn't look that good at times, but it does prove that the levels down to the fourth division are not always that different, and that in a one or two game series virtually everyone has a chance to win.  Hope BC come to play in the finals….

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kicking Them When They're Down: Swansea City 0 - Chelsea 0

photo by Seattle Municipal Archivesvia PhotoRee

Only 10 years removed from nearly dropping completely out of the Football League, Swansea City found itself in an extremely enviable position Wednesday evening against a visiting Chelsea. Still shorn of John Terry, the Blues defense featured Branislav Ivanovic at center back -- the one and same Branislav Ivanovic who was almost singlehanded responsible for his side's 2-0 deficit heading into last night's second leg of the Capital One Cup Semi-Final. Somewhat tellingly, despite trailing by two goals, the Chelsea lineup also failed to include a certain Spanish striker -- with Demba Ba sitting at the tip of the Chelsea spear rather than his club compatriot Fernando Torres.

While the traveling fans from London loudly sought to remind the hosts of their club's reigning status as Champions of Europe, it was the Swans who opened the game looking like world beaters, as Wayne Routledge and Michu both gave the Chelsea back line fits in the opening ten minutes. For their part, the most effective Chelsea goalmouth action came when the aforementioned Ba stepped into the box with the ball at his feet and attempted to "invent a foul," to borrow a traditional Uruguayan phrase. Referee Chris Foy, perhaps unaware of this customary South American gesture, looked distinctly unimpressed as he waved play on and chose to ignore the striker's protestations.

While the Swans raced around the pitch like extras in an Energizer Bunny commercial, the Blues appeared stuck in second gear for most of the match's opening half hour. As the half stretched toward its conclusion, however, there were ominous signs that the Chelsea train was finally beginning to rumble into life. All fanciful footwork and no end product to be sure, but the home crowd definitely began to sense that the game's momentum was in danger of swinging to the visitors. That lingering sense of danger, along with yet another nearly leg-snapping tackle delivered by Chelsea's resident expert, the Brazilian Ramires, left a rather indelible impression as the two teams jogged off the pitch at the break.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Movement and Light: Round 23 in the BPL

photo by pingnews.comvia PhotoRee

o While everyone's talking about Clint Dempsey's late late show against the League leaders, we prefer to focus on the goal that handed United an early advantage at White Hart Lane on Sunday -- and not just for the obvious reasons. What we saw was stupendous movement by Robin Van Persie, the kind you don't see from any other player in the League at the moment. One minute the Red Devil striker is carefully marked by Spurs' defensive pairing of Walker and Vertonghen, and the next -- don't blink or you'll miss it -- he's standing in acres of space, lit up all by himself. The striker is in imperious form right now and this week's goal demonstrates it clearly -- he's playing an utterly different game than the many mere mortals who surround him, and the timing of his runs is pure magic.

o And while a bunch of people were only too happy to criticize young David De Gea for his weak punch on Sunday, check out the replay before you make the accusation: the Spaniard was completely taken out of the play by his own Captain. Nemanja Vidic rushed straight into De Gea and basically submarined him - and not many players in the world are capable of surviving a collision with the big Serb.

o We're not big fans of whining Frenchmen here at farlieonfootie, but we have to admit that Arsenal bossman Arsene Wenger had a point on Sunday. Not a point from the game -- it was a toothless Arsenal side he sent out to meet the Blues at Stamford Bridge, after all -- but instead a point about Referee Martin Atkinson missing a clear foul by Ramires on Francis Coquelin (the former a dirty player if ever there was one) immediately preceding Juan Mata's opening goal. Compounding matters that involved the same parties, Atkinson doubled his gifts to the home side by awarding Ramires a penalty -- when the Brazilian clearly tripped untouched over Arsenal 'keeper Sczcesny's outstretched leg. We've harped on it time and time again on this blog -- Atkinson is a poor and obviously biased referee who is either not up to the task or on Roman Abramovich's payroll.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Shipyard Brewing Export American Blonde Ale


(5.10% ABV) Shipyard Export was poured on draft at Miller's Ale House and enjoyed during a recent NFL playoff game.

The beer was a pale yellow color, clear as a bell, and showcased a fluffy white head of foam.

It was mild smelling for sure, with notes of sweet grain predominating.

The beer was toasty upon tasting, with an ultra dry finish. The hops were apparent, and made this beer less sweet tasting than we would have guess upon smelling it. The carbonation was cranked up to maximum, and bubbles tickled the tongue as it went down. B-

Monday, January 21, 2013

Heartbreaker: Manchester United 1 - Tottenham Hotspur 1

photo by Dyannavia PhotoRee

Spurs steal a point at the final whistle, as a determined United defense was finally breached.  Here's how a thoroughly gripping game unfolded:

Minutes 0-10: The snow is falling, but so far the players are managing to stay upright. Both teams look decent in possession.

Minutes 11-20: RVP heads it on goal at the 12 minute mark, but the soft effort is easily held by Tottenham 'keeper Hugo Lloris. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon test David De Gea at the other end, but the latter is correctly judged to be fractionally offside. Nemanja Vidic takes yet another knock on the head, and Spurs begin to take a slight edge in possession.

Minutes 21-30: Michael Carrick sees yellow as a cautious, cagey opening quarter continues. RVP gives United a one goal advantage with his second effort on goal, easily beating Lloris at the near post after Tom Cleverly whips in a cross from the opposite side. De Gea beats away Jermaine Defoe's low strike at the other end to preserve the lead.

Minutes 31-40: The ball moves freely around both sides of  the pitch, but neither side shows much ambition going forward. De Gea is forced into a foot save after Bale's shot glances off Rio Ferdinand, but United throw their bodies around the box with reckless abandon to shut down the threat.

Minutes 41-45: Danny Welbeck begins to make an impact playing from the left wing. Clint Dempsey forces a corner just before the half time whistle, but the ensuing corner goes out of bounds.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Long Trail Brewing Hibernator Scottish Ale

Tasting notes on Long Trail's Hibernator Scottish Ale:

Pours a tannish-red color, with a decent off-white head. It's crystal clear, and shows amber highlights.
The beer has a mild herbaceous smell, but nothing too distinct. 

It's well carbonated and offers biscuity and malty flavors before ending with a muted finish. B

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Three Teams: Thoughts on QPR, Spurs and Chelsea

Photo by Hub on Flickr

Ed liked yesterday's column so much, he thought he'd stick with the theme of three:


So Uncle Harry doesn't know much about tactics, huh? He just says "Go on."  Not surprisingly, QPR has looked pretty good the last two weeks. First they defeated Chelsea, and then they nearly stole one from Spurs, finally ending up with a point. Over at Zonal Marking, my favorite website behind both farlieonfootie and farlieonfracking, Michael Cox is providing some great insight into Harry's tactics against Spurs. First, they played with Taarabt as a false nine, basically coming back to help in midfield and then playing as a holding player on offense. Second, their defensive discipline was terrific. Third, Fabio really nullified Aaron Lennon and played what I think was his best game ever as a pro. Fourth, but perhaps most importantly, M'bia was able to wing he physical battle against Dembele, who without any space to operate in the middle was never able to take control of the game. Oh, and Gareth Bale really wasn't able to do anything either, though I'm not sure that was all the fault of tactics.

But of course in addition to tactics, Harry has already brought in a good striker in Marseille's Loic Remy, who he somehow stole from under the nose of Newcastle. I find it amazing that he was able to bring in someone from a top tier team (in its league) to the bottom of the BPL. But Harry's done it, and clearly QPR was in desperate need of someone at that position.

It will still be very difficult for QPR to stay up, and if they don't who knows what will happen with Harry. I imagine that he won't be willing to coach in the Championship Division, but who knows? If they do stay up, though, I would not at all be surprised to see an overhauled lineup make it to the top half of the division next year.


As for Spurs, taking only a point at QPR was disappointing. That said, the player I'm most disappointed with on the squad is Emmanuel Adebayor. While he definitely changes games due to the very threat of his pace, he often seems to be playing at half speed. He also stumbles over the ball in the box more so than you would think a world class striker should. Adebayor undoubtedly has the ability, but I suspect he loses interest for large spells in what he's doing out there, which is simply not good enough.

Gareth Bale also, I think, needs to find more of an identity. Against the lower tier teams and talent, the top players usually shine and take over the game. Bale didn't do that against QPR, and seems too streaky for me for someone with his talent. He should be a threat -- and look like a threat -- every week. Spurs need him to be in order to take a Champions League spot.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Three Stages: Manchester United 2 - Liverpool 1

Three Years
Not one, not two, but....

As might be expected, Liverpool-loving Columnist Scott has a rather different take on his team's 2-1 loss at the hands of the League leaders:

When Liverpool traveled to Old Trafford last Sunday for another shot at the League leaders, Manchester United (having lost the September home fixture, 2-1, after being Burgled then Buggered), hopes were high.  Unfortunately, on the way to an identical score line, the game exhibited three distinct stages with the result directly attributable to the length of each part.

First, during the “Warmup”, neither side seemed able to do anything dangerous.  For the first 20 minutes the players seemed to be simply having a jog around the pitch and stretching a bit.

But then, as if United heard the starting gun and Liverpool did not, in the 20th minute, Patrice Evra centered the ball to Robin Van Persie whose first time, side-footed shot, and resulting goal, looked all too familiar.  The goal was most impressive to me because (1) it seemed to come out of nowhere and (2) Van Persie was marked pretty closely but only needed the half yard to work his magic.

That goal touched off the next stage of the game, Manchester United’s dominance, which would last, agonizingly, until the 57th minute.  During that time, Liverpool lacked creativity in the final third, Steven Gerrard played too deep, United always seemed to get a foot on a pass or dribble and, in general and in every way, United was the better team.

First Andre Wisdom then Glen Johnson failed to deliver their crosses into the danger area.  But it didn’t really matter because Luis Suarez was the only one there, surrounded by defenders, as Liverpool was not getting bodies into the box.  The final deft touch was sorely lacking.  In the 37th minute, Suarez turned on Rio Ferdinand but put his volley way over.  Two minutes later, during a rare foray forward by Gerrard, there was hope of a magical combination with Suarez but the horrible return on the give-and-go ruined the trick.

Meanwhile, at the other end, only luck was keeping United from scoring again – in the 26th minute a wide open Van Persie seemed to be uncomfortable with the space he was gifted and fired over the bar from a routine cross.  In the 33rd minute Joe Allen made a horrific back pass that was pounced on by Danny Welbeck and only some heroics by Daniel Agger saved the day.  And in the 41st minute, Tom Cleverly put his volley wide when Allen’s clearing header was not clearing enough.  All this before, in the 45th minute, Van Persie’s clever flick behind got cleared by Martin Skrtl only as far as Pepe Reina who then collided solidly with Shinji Kagawa.  And, yes, I agree with those who say that either Liverpool should have played the ball out of bounds to let their ‘keeper recover or Howard Webb should have let play continue once United regained possession.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Narrow Victory: Five Thoughts on Manchester United 1 - West Ham United 0

photo by Mozo Manvia PhotoRee

Five thoughts on the Reds' victory in the FA Cup replay:

o Ch-ch-ch-changes: Swapping ten of the eleven men that saw off Liverpool over the weekend, Sir Alex saw fit only to hand Rafael a repeat start. As stated, the Gaffer may want to win the FA Cup, but clearly he wants to win the Premier League even more. Fortunately, Sam Allardyce entered the contest in a similar frame of mind, preferring to save his veteran heads for matches in which the Hammers stand a better chance of emerging victorious, and came to Old Trafford with a weakened side that featured neither Joe Cole nor James Collins.

o Wazza-licious: It didn't take Wayne Rooney long to begin making up for lost time, tapping a slick Chicharito pass into an empty net to record his ninth goal of the season inside of the 10 minute mark.  If Rooney can use the three week rest to his advantage -- saving his legs during one of the season's most energy-sapping periods --  and come out firing rather than shooting blanks, look out. Robin Van Persie, Chicharito and Wayne Rooney all hitting form at the same time would be a very scary proposition for the rest of the League.

o Turnabout: For large portions of the match the two sides took turns attacking, with only one club at a time showing they were intent on finding the net.  The other side played largely in a defensive shell, as the two teams appeared to rotate which one would take its foot off the pedal. After United scored the opener, West Ham refused to press forward, dropping deep and ceding acres of space on the middle of the pitch to the home side. In the second half the shoe switched feet: it was Allardyce's men who displayed the attacking intent, and United who lost their way and looked happy just to hold onto their one goal lead.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Designed by Santa Claus: Week 22 in the BPL

Correspondent Ed models Swansea City's 2013 Away Kit
photo by albany_timvia PhotoRee

o Fulham looked tired, flat-footed and completely uninspired at Craven Cottage on Saturday. If Martin Jol's men can't beat a bottom of the table Wigan side while playing at home, they're a mid-table team at best this season.

o And speaking of bottom of the table, congrats to Uncle 'arry for eking out another point at home versus his old club in Saturday's early kickoff. A fancy over-the-shoulder ball flip from Shaun Wright-Phillips proved the most notable play of the game, with both the veteran midfielder and his teammates beginning to find some form. The question remains, though: will it be enough, or have Rangers saved it for too late?

o They may have been shut out on Saturday, but one of the hottest teams in the League also kept the home side off the score sheet, as Swansea City and Everton battled to a scoreless draw. The Swans have hit form again these past few weeks -- ask Chelsea and Arsenal for their thoughts on the matter -- and holding the home side to nothing at Goodison Park is a much better result than most teams have managed this season.

o We only have one question about the game, though: Who designed the Swans' away kits? Santa Claus?

o Referee Mike Dean grew his fan club this weekend, adding legions of haters from North London and new ones from Manchester to those he causes to see red. Used to being at the forefront of controversy, Dean's performance made us realize it's not just Manchester United he screws: it's United, City and Arsenal.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: William's Orchards Sir Perry Berry Cider/Perry

(6.00% ABV) Sir Perry Berry poured a Shirley Temple-like rosé color, with a thin white head that fizzled out like a cheap firecracker on the 4th of July.

Made primarily from pears, this beverage is a perry and not a cider.  Nevertheless, the dominant smell was of artificial strawberries.

The taste was all sweet strawberries and pears. It's refreshing a a complete changeup, but it would be difficult to drink more than one of these at a time.  B

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hold Out: Manchester United 2 - Liverpool 1

photo by Dee'litevia PhotoRee

Manchester United held off Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday, 2-1, in a tense match that lacked most of the nasty venom the series has recently showcased.  Here's how it went down:

Minutes 0-10: Both sides warming into the match, and putting lots of pressure on the ball. Neither side with a true chance in the opening ten.

Minutes 11-20: The pitch is beginning to open up a bit, with Liverpool appearing menacing on set pieces, and the home side offering quick passes and darting runs. Evra to Van Persie is as easy as it looks for the game's first goal on 19 minutes, with the Dutchman's one-touch finish absolutely devastating.

Minutes 21-30: United outworking their arch rivals at both ends of the pitch, buoyed by the opener. Ashley Young goes down in a heap after a collision with Daniel Agger but remains in the lineup, at least for now.

Minutes 31-40: Danny Welbeck's pace is giving the visitors fits, as Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley direct traffic in midfield. Liverpool work hard to get back in the match, and slowly begin to narrow the possession gap.

Minutes 41-45: Cleverley volleys just wide, and Liverpool survives  a backfooted scare from RVP. Controversially, Referee Howard Webb allows Liverpool's attacking  play to continue as Pepe Reina lays motionless after a collision with Shinji Kagawa, but blows the whistle as soon as the home side regain possession.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Credit to Mansfield Town

Stadium FA Cup 2010
Photo by Flawka on Flickr

To get us in the mood for the United - Liverpool derby, Correspondent Scott takes us back to Liverpool's FA Cup game against Mansfield Town:

Fresh from a 3-0 thrashing of Sunderland, Liverpool FC traveled to Mansfield Town of the 5th-tier Conference National league for a game that ultimately almost lived up to its giant-killer potential.  The stadium, designed for 10,000 but currently only able to accommodate a little over 7,000, housed a pitch in about the same shape as the one my 6-year-old daughter played on last weekend – soggy, choppy and barren in spots.  The pitch, combined with the ambiance of the Stags’ home, only served to increase the romantic notion that a humble mining town team from the 5th level of English football could slay the 18-time first division champions visiting from Liverpool.  This was the very essence of what the FA Cup is all about.

But only 7 minutes into the game, Jonjo Shelvey’s excellent through ball allowed new Liverpool signing Daniel Sturridge to calmly slip the ball past the onrushing Mansfield ‘keeper, ensuring all parties were abundantly clear as to their position in the football caste system.  However, in true FA Cup fashion, the underdog Stags continued to fight hard, scrappy and, yes, rough and dirty at times, despite the Reds’ overwhelming dominance of possession and multiple chances on goal.  The Mansfield ‘keeper, who I now know is named Alan Marriott, singlehandedly kept his team in the fight with a  series of brave and spectacular saves.  Such was his effectiveness that, at halftime, Sturridge had only managed to convert that one goal out of 4 clear opportunities, including a 1v1.  But with 70% of the possession and all but one of the shots in the first half, it seemed only a matter of time before Liverpool hunted down the Stags for good.

Mansfield Town, however, was of a different mind.  As if having shot up with adrenaline during halftime, they ran rampant in the second half right from the whistle, with their first real scoring chance coming within the first minute.  Was this the same team that had worn the blue and gold uniforms in the first half?  Looking far more likely to score with relentless pressure, they tested Brad Jones several times within the first 10 minutes.  Shortly after Sturridge put another chance wide, this time from a COUNTER attack after a melee in front of the Liverpool goal, he was replaced by Luis Suarez in the 56th minute (and Suso was replaced by Jordan Henderson).  Clearly Brendan Rodgers was taking no chances.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Just watching this next video is guaranteed to make you tired.  Tipped off to it by our friend @abbeystmartin, we invite you to watch one of the more amazing football videos of the young new year. 

You'll definitely want to celebrate the goalkeeper's heroics with a delicious beer from the Abbey, a Belgian Brewery w/1000+year tradition, and while you're at it, give them a Twitter follow, as well:

This is farlieonfootie for January 12.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The farlieonfootie Halfway-To-Home BPL Team of the Season

photo by (3)via PhotoRee

With half of the BPL season now done and dusted, it's time to announce our editors' picks for the all-BPL starting XI.  This may be a slightly unbalanced side with no pure wingers, but these guys are so good they may even give the all-Spanish FIFA XI a run for their money.   Interestingly, only two sides (Manchester United and Everton) managed to get more than one player in the team, and Arsenal got no one at all:

o Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic, Stoke City. The big Bosnian narrowly edges out Sunderland's Simon Mignolet for our pick in the nets.  Ably assisted by his well organized defense, Begovic has been stingier than Scrooge in conceding opposition goals this season.

o Right Back:  Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City.  Not only is he a fine defender, but the Argentine shoots like a cannon and is capable of popping up on the scorer's sheet when you least expect him.

o Center Back: Ryan Shawcross, Stoke City.  Shawcross just re-upped his contract with the Saints, and you can see why Tony Pulis and the Stoke fans love him: big and rangy, the Englishman has become one of the more complete center halfs in the League today.   He's also a threat on set pieces in the opposition box.

o Center Back: Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham Hotspur.  He plays with such ease that it's easy to forget that this season is the Dutchman's first in the League.  He's currently holding only the narrowest of advantages over Norwich's Sebastian Bassong in our minds, but if we were forced to pick between the two of them we'd take the Tottenham man.

o Left Back: Leighton Baines, Everton. The Fifth Beatle may have started the season slowly, but he's come on like the freight train force of his free kicks and penalities.

o Midfield: Michael Carrick, Manchester United.  Criminally underated for much of the past few seasons, the Englishman's standard has been so high this season that he's impossible to ignore.  Pinpoint passing was only one of the many outstanding facets of Carrick's play in 2012.

o Midfield: Michu, Swansea City.  The Spaniard is the buy of the season, and he just can't seem to stop scoring.  A wonderful addition to his team and the League, Michu's fine club form may even see him force his way into the Spanish national team -- and that's saying a lot.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Bell's Winter White Wheat Ale

Bell's WInter White Ale
Photo by cursedthing on Flickr

Winter White poured a murky golden color with a thin white head that left behind almost no lacing. Active carbonation was visible in the glass.

The beer smelled of yeast and citrus, especially oranges.

The yeast and a white pepper spiciness were the first two flavors we noticed upon tasting.  The taste then went all citrus all the time in the middle, before ending with a long, mellow finish. It's not our favorite from this Kalamazoo-based brewery, but it's not bad, either: B

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thoughts from a Cup-filled Weekend: FA Cup Round Three

photo by Matthew Wilkinsonvia PhotoRee

Thoughts from a Cup-filled weekend:

o If you dropped in from outerspace, or were watching, say, from the United States, it may have been difficult to tell which was the top flight team when Newcastle fell to Gus Poyet's Brighton Hove and Albion on Saturday. Then again, if the Magpies keep up their current form, the two squads may be playing each other again next year -- twice -- in the Championship.

o Somehow the all-Premier League ties just don't carry the same type of "magic" as the David vs. Goliath contests.  No doubt West Ham vs. United was an excellent game -- how could you not admire Joe Cole's inspiring return to where his career began, and Robin Van Persie's artful catch and release in stoppage time -- but for our money we'd much rather be watching Liverpool vs Mansfield Town any day of the week, especially when the "bigger" team has to travel to the smaller side's ground.

o And speaking of Liverpool vs Mansfield Town, did you take a look at that pitch?  That's what this FA Cup thing is all about.  That pitch was pure goat patch, and Liverpool had to go in there and make the best of it.  Tiny Mansfield almost pulled off the upset of the round, but a helping hand from Liverpool's Uruguayan superstar was enough to see off the Stags and put the Reds through to the next round.

o Of all the parties involved in the latest Suarez brouhaha, however, it was ESPN which managed to embarass themselves the most -- quite a feat, this, given that both Luis Suarez and the Liverpool FC press office were involved.  After ESPN commentator Jon Champion  branded Suarez' latest piece of handiwork "illegal," "nefarious," and the "work of a cheat," the political correctness police pressured ESPN into disciplining their announcer for offering his forthright opinion on the matter.  Compounding their error, ESPN then went on to extol their right to free speech, as follows: 
"We take our responsibility to deliver the highest standards of coverage to our viewers," said an ESPN spokesman. "ESPN's editorial policy is for commentators to be unbiased and honest, to call things as they see them (italics added). Inevitably this can involve treading a fine line on occasion, especially in the heat of the moment."
o To which we say, we guess you can call 'em as you see 'em, as long as you're not being critical of Liverpool FC.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Brouwerij De Ranke Père Noël Belgian Strong Pale Ale

De Ranke Père Noël
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Tasting notes from the holidays, during which time we sampled this delicious small production beer:

(7.00% ABV) Père Noël is the color of toffee, with a thick white head, much the same color as Santa's beard.

Smells of yeast and citrus.

Very yeasty and lemony upon swallowing.  Peppery spices noticeable, too .  Extremely dry, muted finish, with virtually no aftertaste.

Bubbly, and medium bodied. B

Monday, January 7, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Wychewood Brewery Hobgoblin Extra Special Bitter

(5.20% ABV).  Hobgoblin poured a reddish amber color, which was darker toward the top of the pint glass. The beer was served on tap at Yard House in Hallandale, and drunk outside in glorious 80 degree sunshine.

Hobgoblin had a thinnish, watery off white head, and smelled of malt and sweet sugar.

The beer was bitter up front, with a strong malty backbone. It displayed a slightly floral hop undertone throughout, which became more apparent in the middle of the taste. 

Hobgoblin was medium bodied. It turned out to be a decent thirst quencher -- not overly complex -- that did the job. B

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Twenty Questions: Manchester United 2 - West Ham United 2

20 euros
Photo by Lore & Guille on Flickr

20 questions (or thereabouts), to celebrate goal number 20 for United's number 20:

o If De Gea starts in the Cup, when does Anders Lindegaard play?  Or is he still in Sir Alex's doghouse from his last performance?

o With Chicharito scoring 11 goals in his last 14 games, does Rooney automatically go back into the lineup when he returns?  If so, for whom?

o If Danny Welbeck can't score more often than once in 23 games, how long will Sir Alex keep the faith?

o Is Joe Cole's fancy footwork at a predominantly kick-and-run West Ham side the football equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig?

o If a striker such as Chicharito can cross the ball like he did for Tom Cleverley's goal, which gave the visitors a 1-nil lead after 22 minutes, why have United's wingers had such difficulty putting in deliveries of similar quality this season?

o Why is it that, despite Vida's return, the United defense still looks weaker in the air this season, as it did for James Collin's equalizer just before the half hour mark?

o Did it ever dawn on the United midfielders that they should stop giving away free kicks to West Ham, as it appeared the only way the Hammers were capable of threatening the United goalmouth?

o Did Welbeck's lack of goals this season cause him to be more selfish than usual when he chose to shoot rather than pick out a wide open Chicharito on one of the Red Devils' typical lightning quick counterattacks?

o Was Shinji Kagawa actually on the pitch in the first half, or did someone from the stands borrow his kit and jog around in his stead?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Bear Republic Brewing Racer 5 American IPA

Racer 5 was poured into a Manchester United pint glass, a vessel of real distinction to match a beer of similar quality. The beer poured a brilliant gold with a hint of orange, with a thick head of pure white.

Racer 5 smelled of piny hops and tropical fruit, including pineapple.  It's mellower on the taste than you might expect, given the reputation for American-style IPAs . The beer offers a very nice mixture of hoppines -- but not overly aggressive hops -- and a clean biscuity flavor. It finished with a just right mixture of fruit and hops.   Drink it: A

Friday, January 4, 2013

Something to Behold: Rounds 20 & 21 in the BPL

photo by maessivevia PhotoRee

o Led by their wantaway striker Demba Ba, the Newcastle offense is something to behold: seven goals in its last three games, and against top opposition at that. The only unit currently more adept at putting the ball into the back of the net is whichever team happens to be playing the Magpies on any given day.

o Dimitar Berbatov looked like a chess Grand Master against West Brom on New Year's Day. Gesturing where he wanted the ball passed -- and not alway to him -- Berbs was thinking three to four moves ahead of anyone else on the pitch. And warping the time /space continuum, Bebatov seemed to float above the game, consistently popping up in the most unexpected places for a man who is reputed to move at very leisurely pace.

o Resting Ashley Cole, Ramires, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard at the same time may not have been the smartest decision by Rafa Benitez, but the real dope of Round 22 was Referee Lee Mason, who chose to flash only a yellow card at Chelsea's Marko Marin for his clear-as-day red card offense, which could easily have resulted in a broken leg for Stephen M'Bia.

o Player of the Week Javier Hernandez bagged a brace against Wigan on New Year's Day, but that's not what won him the Award -- or else his Flying Dutchman teammate would have been in contention, too. No, instead it was the Little Pea's superb movement off the ball and stunningly quick reaction time -- in which the mexican appears to speed up just as others slow down -- that gave Chicharito the honors and have made him one of the most lethal predators in the League today.

o The shirt message thing hit a new low when Edin Dzeko took a yellow card to display the latest words hidden under his kit. And for those of you wondering what's happened to City's offensive creativity this term, the answer, it seems, is written on the shirt. Last year was all about Super Mario's "Why Always Me?" display. But apparently the best a City striker could come up with this season was "Happy New Year...?!" We guess Dzeko's not the imaginative type.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Critics Corner: A Book Review of The Anatomy of England

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

Ed pops in with a book review:

Having found Jonathan Wilson's "Inverting the Pyramid" both enjoyable as well as an extremely informative account of the history of soccer via the change of formations (really, it's that good despite telling the tale in that manner), I went back for more and just finished Wilson's follow-up, "The Anatomy of England." Anatomy is an interesting book, not just for what it tells us about the history of English football, but also because of what it tells us about the English people themselves.

It's always be fascinating to me how a nation such as England have sunk from intense "rule the world" self-confidence down past humility into full self-loathing. Wilson picks up on this from a different angle. To him, England falsely believes that they should and historically were the best in the world at football, England falsely believes they are the best because of their rah-rah spirit, and England ultimately could be the best (or at least much better) if they played in more of a continental, possession style instead of just booming it up the field and running hard. These themes run through Pyramid as well, though obviously the first book is not nearly as thick with them.

Wilson looks back at England's performances through the years and cycles through 10 games in particular, beginning with a loss to Spain in 1929, moving through their defeat at Wembley in 1953 by Hungary, through three games of the 1990's -- highlighted by what could be considered a peak inflection point in England's 4-1 thrashing of the Dutch, and finally to the crash and burn of the "Golden Age" team's defeat in 2007 to Luka Modric's Croatian side. The Epilogue then speaks of Fabio Capello, the author's initial belief that he might end up the most successful of England managers, which belief was of course dashed by what the author believes were the result of bad luck, injuries, and, well, who knows what else. But ultimately, it would seem that the author thinks one of the toughest things that England has to push through is its own culture -- the impatience of not allowing for development, combined with a carnivore-like press, and finally with their constant return to their roots as a boot it and run it team.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Statement of Intent: Manchester United 4 - Wigan 0

photo by kevindooleyvia PhotoRee

Manchester United began the New Year with a clear statement of intent -- here's how it went down....

Minutes 0- 10: The opening ten was even steven, with Wigan giving as good as they got, maybe even having the slightest of advantages. There were no real chances for either side as they both eased their way into the New Year's Day contest. Lots of open space on the pitch.

Minutes 10- 20: Chicharito had an offside goal overturned, but the striker's clean finish showed the Little Pea has hit the same sparkling vein of form he displayed in the 2010/11 season. Otherwise the action was slow to develop, with both goalkeepers acting largely as spectators.

Minutes 20-30: An Ashley Young penalty shout was denied as both sides settled into the match. United struggled to create opportunities in the Wigan box, with Van Persie and Chicharito reduced to bit roles. A fizzing Giggs' cross was the first sign that the Reds were beginning to turn up the heat, while only a full pitch sprint from Jonny Evans saved United from a dangerous Wigan counter. Just before the half hour mark Giggs was unable to turn in a Van Persie cross, but the eagerly anticipated opener appeared to be getting closer.

Minutes 30-40: Wigan 'keeper Ali Al-Habsi appeared as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, as United sought to sustain their first period of real pressure in the match. The corners mounted, and after Wigan bungled a clearance, Chicharito -- right place, right time, yet again -- turned in a deflected Patrice Evra shot for a deserved United lead on 35 minutes. Wigan continued to offer their own offensive efforts, but the United defense -- led by Ferdinand and Evans -- appeared exceptionally solid.

Minutes 40-45: Chicharito to Robin Van Persie was as good as it gets for the game's second goal. Unlike the rested Antonio Valencia, the Dutchman didn't even need his left foot, controlling the Mexican's pass and shuffling it to his "less good" right foot before curling it past Al-Habsi.  Despite taking a half hour to warm up, the visitors appeared good value for their 2-nil lead when the teams headed off the locker room.