The Comebacks & 5 Other Things I Learnt from #FootballThisPastWeek

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Let me ask you a question: “What is football to you?” Ever thought of it?

I bet you might end up saying, “Depends on which side I’m on.” Smart answer if you said that. If you didn’t, don’t feel bad. Football has been crazy – has gotten even crazier these days – enough to make people have “mixed feelings” with every game.

To the Bayern fan who saw his team make a comeback from 2 goals down to win the game against the Italians 4 – 2 and qualify for the quarterfinals of the Champions League, football could be overwhelming. On the flip side, to the Juventus fan, football could be painful. Football is that crazy!

And we had plenty of crazy this week.

First,

The Curse of the “Away Goal”
Valencia, after going down a goal to Ath. Bilbao in the first leg of the Europa League, managed to score the first two goals in the return leg at home. Superb! Then came the 74th minute and they conceded the “highly dreaded” away goal – after trying so hard to finish off the game earlier by trying to score more goals, all to no avail. The end result? Valencia 2, Athletic Bilbao 2. But here, some goals are more important than the others. Bilbao had scored one of those goals. Bilbao marched on. Valencia fell out… despite the game ending in a draw.

Bus-stop. Hearts broken.

Welcome to European Football.

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The Champions League and Europa League Draws
UEFA, as if to put the icing on the cake of what had already been a breath-taking week of European football, released the quarterfinal draws of the UCL and EL. It was more like dessert.

Atletico Madrid was picked as the side to face Barca. Who better to dare the MSN gang than Diego Simeone’s Daredevils?

PSG was paired with Man. City. Talk about the Clash of the Super Rich Titans

Then, Klopp was handed a return ticket to Dortmund and Athletic Bilbao got Sevilla.
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Talk about icing on the cake!

Saido the Mané

Saido the Mané


The Comebacks!
First it was Bayern Munich that came back from 2 goals down to win the game 4 – 2. Then Espanyol reaped the fruit of being persistent as they scored two against Athletic Bilbao after conceding the first goal of the game. Southampton was next.

The Saints needed only the 2nd half of their game against Liverpool to reply the Reds’ first two goals and then score the match winning goal while Villarreal forced Barcelona to a 2 – 2 draw after going down 0 – 2. Napoli also enjoyed a comeback win against Genoa as they won 3 – 1 after conceding first.

To the weekend and…

Gigi Buffon stole the show in the Italian Serie ‘A’. The legend became more of a bigger deal than he already was before. The Italian became the first goalkeeper in the history of the league to go 974 minutes without conceding a goal. That’s approximately 11 games. Titan! Legend and some more.

And then..

The EPL Top 10 is buzzing
Leicester has started dreaming and want to run away with the Premier League. Tottenham is hot on their heels. Arsenal is 11 steps behind, Man. City is playing like they prefer the Europa League to the Champions League while West Ham obviously wants some European football. Man. United just beat their cousins – big deal! Bragging rights too! Southampton climbed at the expense of Liverpool – the lion’s Mané was messed with – who have two games in hand, Chelsea remain unbeaten and I’m still totally unsure of Stoke City.

Worthy Mentions
Sounds like Mourinho is going to Old Trafford afterall. Heard a pre-contract has been agreed. Looking forward to the future Manchester derbies already!

I don’t know what it is but there’s something obviously wrong with Ikorodu United of Lagos. The players, in their game against Giwa FC, “hugged the ball” too much, made irrational decisions – and passes too – and looked sloppy. Little wonder they lost at home again. The new coach sure has a lot on his plate. He needs to promote this team to the NPFL because they seem to be stuck in the league they came from.

Imagine you’re a goalkeeper. Your team concedes two penalties in a game. You’re so good, you saved those two penalties but you and your team lost the game 3 – 0. Ironic right? Well, that was the situation in the game between Philadelphia Union and New England in the MLS.

The international break is in town. I hope Nigeria’s Super Eagles gets the better of Egypt. I hope I can write about the games too.

Cheers to a great week ahead my friend! ♡

Your comments are highly welcome. Little, next to nothing, delights a writer more. I’d like to hear from you. What do you think?

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a full time footballing polygamist that loves watching football and is in love with writing about the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and engage him on Facebook (Rotdavdara) on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

PSG vs Man. City? Money, Pride & Entertainment. It’s the EL CASHICO!

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Most would usually say, the Champions League “starts” at the quarter final stage -you probably think so too. Imagine: These remaining eight clubs have gotten this far, and the game is just about to begin? Well, that’s why this league belittles the rest. And UEFA, when it comes to making the draws, VERY RARELY disappoint.

PSG vs Man. City, very easily, could be the most underrated of all the quarter-final clashes of the UCL but then again, do not be fooled. If there’s nothing to fight for here, there’d be a lot of pride at stake – at least a lot of cash is involved).

The draw in itself was expected, and apart from Benfica, this two teams are the most underrated at this stage of the competition. However, this tie has a lot of promise plus entertainment too and here are 5 reasons why:

Hello again England. #DareToBeZlatan

Hello again England. #DareToBeZlatan


1. El Pinochio is Coming to England… Again!
As regards speculations about Zlatan’s future, one thing seems certain: “the nosed one” is on his way to England. Even though Zlatan claims to not do auditions, this is his English audition. The only difference? No one is in doubt of what Zlatan can add to a team despite his age. He has been in simmering form for PSG all season scoring 36 goals and making 14 assist for club and country this season. Arsene Wenger’s failed targets have a way of rubbing salt on his injuries and Zlatan will make a point to be no different especially at the Etihad.

2. It’s the “El Cashico”!
From the el classico to the Madrid Derby to the derb berceloni to the riverderbies to the Bavarian derby to Der Klassiker to the North West Derby, the London Derby or the inter regional derbies, Europe’s biggest games find a way naming themselves. And I’ve found a name for this one game which will be played over two legs and might end up being the most expensive football game of all time – in terms of players on the pitch of course – with billions ($) of spending between them.

They’ve attracted some of the world’s best footballers and could do more than that if they wanted. Afterall, they’ve proved money can buy league titles. Why not the Champions League title?

Mar 15th 2016 - Manchester, UK - MAN CITY KIEV DYNAMO - Kompany injured Photo credit: Ian Hodgson/Daily Mail

Mar 15th 2016 – Manchester, UK – MAN CITY KIEV DYNAMO –
Kompany injured
Photo credit: Ian Hodgson/Daily Mail


3. Man City are in New Waters
This is the first time they’ve qualified to this stage of the Champions League. City must be proud of themselves and rightly so. However there’s no margin for error at this stage and every timidity will be punished. This is no English Premier League and as thus, City will have to come dressed as men to this party. They’ll need to step up and do this Champions League business like champions would do it. It’s not that hard to dream and the Citizens can do it if they play up to the levels that they are capable of. A good game in Paris and they might have a leg in the semis which would be an amazing achievement considering they are the only English team left in the competition.

Football Soccer - Paris St Germain v Troyes- French Ligue 1 - Stade de l'Aube stadium, 13/03/16. Paris St Germain players celebrate their French Ligue 1 title after winning against Troyes. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Football Soccer – Paris St Germain v Troyes- French Ligue 1 – Stade de l’Aube stadium, 13/03/16. Paris St Germain players celebrate their French Ligue 1 title after winning against Troyes. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer


4. Absence of Competitive Games: A Blessing or a Curse?
This season, PSG have proved that they deserve to be in a different league. They just told everybody, “We feel insulted playing in this league, there are no worthy teams!”. They had 20 points more than the second team in December and recently wrapped up the league with 8 games to spare meaning even if they lose 8 games on the bounce (24 points), they’d still have the league! And somewhere in Europe, other leagues are set for a photo finish or needing at least two or three games to the end of season before there can be a crowned winner. Bloody hell!

They’ve been amazing BUT this might mean a lack of competitive games before the big one and hence a diluted competitive spirit against a City team still fighting for the league title which can in turn be dangerous as no team can afford to be complacent at this stage. Winning a league in such ruthless style can mean either PSG is really good or the league is really bad. If it’s the latter, that would mean they aren’t as good as we make them out to be and they’ll find out by crashing out. If it’s the former,  City should be very afraid. On the other hand, low-intensity games mean fresher legs, no complaints of tiredness or accumulated injuries which will be a big plus against the Citizens that play in a league with tightly scheduled fixtures.

The Ones that made it through

The Ones that made it through


5. It’s the Champions League
Every coach (not sure about Wenger though), player and even fan – for the bragging rights – wants to win the highly coveted UEFA Champions League trophy. It is why the best teams splash the cash. It is why the big players are big players. It is why the young footballers dream. It is what we look forward to on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And here, these two teams have a unique opportunity to progress to the semis and in these kind of competition, you can never tell. They might be underdogs but once in a while the under dogs go all the way and win big in Europe.

One thing is certain, there’s everything to play for and it will be explosive!

Predictions
PSG to edge it over two legs no thanks to fresher legs, the quality in midfield and their attack which will be a bit difficult for Man City to contain especially as they have struggled at times this season to play like real champions.

Don’t forget to share this good read with your friends. They’d be thankful to you for helping them learn a new phrase: El Cashico and you’ll be the Smart One 😉

You can catch up with Kolawole on twitter @Kopainzy

Abia Warriors vs Enugu Rangers: Meet Chikatara, a Beautiful Pain in the Ass… and other talking points

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It was Match Day 6 in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL). This stage was in Umuahia, Abia State: a quite wet football field that looked like a rodeo. Well, can’t blame anyone. It had rained not too long ago (I think) and the water-logged pitch was now divided into tiny little patches of green which provided even more entertainment as the players miscalculated passes, could not stop slipping and falling and got past each other very easily. Hilarious right? I know!

Enugu Rangers, a side amongst the top 4, was guest of an unbeaten Abia Warriors side. Rangers wanted to “keep keeping up” with the clubs the top. The Warriors wanted to remain unbeaten – after this match at least. And guess what? It was an Oriental Derby! (that’s what Mike and the other commentator called it.) Should be super fun right?

4 goals were scored in this high-tempo, no-dull-moment game – most of them beautiful goals. Although Abia Warriors were a bit too wasteful and should have won the game by a stretch, the match ended in a draw. Spoils shared. But, as can be compared with a movie, a game usually has it’s Actors (the Good Guys) and the Boss (the Bad Guys). But what if a player was both the good guy and the bad guy at the same time? What if he was the Flop of the Match and Man of the Match at the same time? Impossible? Let me explain…

But before I do, let me quickly mention that:

– There Were Vocal Fans…
Which is a sign of the increasing love that Nigerians are showing towards their own. Was nothing close to the kind of noise that the WestfalonStadion (not sure about the spelling) usually experiences every weekend but, for Nigerian football, this was good. There were drums – and trumpets too just in case you were wondering. The home fans voiced out whenever the referee made a decision against their team or whenever their team lost a beautiful scoring opportunity.

There were fans rocking their club jersies and those who couldn’t get into the stadium watched either from the comfort of their homes close to the stadiums or from the top of on-going constructions around the stadium. There were beautiful ladies that came to watch the game too! Talk about being a fan! You should pick a club too you know and pledge your allegiances. Join the train!

Moving on…

– … and Beautiful Goals on Display
Not that beautiful goals have been scarce in the NPFL – see last season’s highlights for proof – but when players are good enough – and calm enough and smart enough too! – to score beautiful goals in derbies where tension is high and bragging rights are at stake, then those goals – and their scorers – are worthy of mention. The pick of the bunch was Chisom’s freekick. It was a combination of smartness, taking advantage of the opponent’s error and exquisite finishing. Even the poor-looking pitch had nothing on this one!

Lol… it was that good.

Just outside the 18-yard box of their opponents, Enugu Rangers were awarded a freekick. As usual the Warriors’ goalie arranged his wall and… chose to position himself behind it! Chisom noticed this, swiftly curled the ball past the wall, made sure it was far enough from the goalkeeper’s left hand and precise enough to kiss the post and slide in. Talk about a beautiful goal. The NPFL players serve that kind of dish too!

There was Bobby Clement’s goal too! You’d have thought Messi was on the pitch. The build up to the goal was all African. The goal itself looked like something out of Europe. Clement, inside the opponent’s box, faked a kick, switched the ball to his left foot – “deleting” an Abia Warrior player in the process – and curled the ball into the far left corner of the goal. Another beautiful goal for a great game!

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– Chikatara: A Beautiful Pain in the Ass…
Or neck – or any part of the body you prefer. Wondering why? Well let me put it this way:

When an attacking player has team mates that constantly supply him passes and crosses and continually open up defenses for him, that player should end up scoring a lot right? Not Chikatara. I mentioned earlier that Abia Warriors were wasteful in front of goal right? Well, to be more specific: Chikatara was more than wasteful in front of goal. And SELFISH TOO!

The kid kept throwing away the chances that came his way! It was like he was trying so hard to be the Flop of the Match. To cap it all, he kept trying to dribble past every player… and kept falling short with almost every attempt.

But…

What happens when this same guy, after he has missed all the chances that came his way, kept trying and later scored a crucial goal that saved Abia Warriors’ unbeaten run?

I’ll let you decide. (I choose #BitterSweet)

To divert a bit…

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MFM FC is turning heads with the way they play their football. They’ve been touted to play like Arsenal, score like Barcelona and defend like Atletico Madrid. For a side that’s a rookie in the NPFL, they’ve done well so far. Their fluid play makes them a beauty to behold. They won again this past weekend, beating El Kanemi Warriors 3 – 1 in Agege. They have now only lost a game since the league started and are RIGHTFULLY top of the league table. Well done boys!

Plateau United and their terrible defending is flirting with relegation. They were beaten 2 – 0 by Awka United and the two goals they conceded showed a lack of concentration and inability to man-mark.

At least, Enyimba did Nigeria proud in their continental game with a comfortable win. Giwa FC also got their first win of the season. A 1 – 0 win over Sunshine Stars was enough.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a full time footballing polygamist that loves watching football and is in love with writing about the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and engage him on Facebook (Rotdavdara) on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

What Next for Arsenal? Zlatan, Adebayor and more from #FootballThisPastWeek

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What a week!

It’s been a fantastic week of football and I’m sure yet again the beautiful game has not ceased to entertain – and surprise you. I don’t know about you but I definitely did not expect to see Edwin Van der Sar “come out” of retirement… to play for a fourth division side in Holland.

You didn’t know? That and more happened during the week.

There was the case of Ibrahimovic seeking revenge against Chelsea – you should have seen his pre-match and post-match interviews; he looked like revenge before, during and after the game! Then there was Benitez, the Saviour of the Toon Army. Then the Biters – or not? And a certain club that won the league… with 8 games to spare! Cue: I love Paris!

So, who else?

Oh yes!…

– Adebayor’s Refusal to join up with the Togolese National Team
Was more like a rejection if you ask me. Whoever the coach of the West African side is, he must have felt Adebayor was important to Togolese football, important enough to be called up to the squad.

But Adebayor had other plans.

So he called their bluff and rejected their call. Wondering why? Well, he claimed to want to focus all his energy on helping his clubside, Crystal Palace. How loving! The love for a club paying his wages. Can’t blame him though but I don’t think efery other Togolese will share my view. I mean I’d want his head on a plate if I was from that part of the world; for making a club more important than my country – even if the country is Togo. WTF bro?! You could have given a “smarter” reason for not coming; feign an injury or something!

But then again, that’s how smart Emmanuel Adebayor is.

Moving on

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– English Football is a Dying Specie… In European Football
The English Premiership is currently a beauty to behold (has always been). No other league in the world – I stand to be corrected – would have a team like Leicester top the table… and lead the pack with 5 points! Only the Premiership can serve that kind of dish. It’s that crazy there.

Step out of England and into European football, the chef stops cooking and the servers stop serving. The “crazy ones” bend to the will of both the big boys and, sadly enough, the small boys. They can’t seem to find a way to survive the onslaught on the big stage and get to the final – the Champions League or the Europa League – at least not since Chelsea.

Want proof?

PSG has knocked Chelsea out – welldone Zlatan. Arsenal has stepped out of the competition already – with a game to spare! Tottenham too! Liverpool and the Red Devils, at the end of the day, will remain just one. Man. City’s still in there… for the main time. English football in Europe?

Oh please!

– The Coach’s Twitter Account was HACKED… by his Wife!
Interesting right? I know! So Sam Collins, coach of Hartlepool United, an England League 2 side, was having an affair, despite being married. He probably thought his wife did not know – tough guy! – until he saw his own Twitter TimeLine. See:

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Drama: Hell hath no fury...

By the way, his wife, Claire, admitted to being the hacker. Story of the week if you ask me!

Worthy Mentions
Was nice to see Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah talk.about his club, one of the four privately-owned football clubs currently in the Nigerian Professional Football League. He spole about how his club has players from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali and even Brazil! Talk about a local club with international standards

Have I mentioned how weird it is to have Wolfsburg and Benfica in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals? The Europa League has invaded the Champions League!

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Another addition: Zlatan and his match ball after scoring 4 goals

Zlatan, after scoring a nine-minute hattrick and helping PSG win another league title – with 8 games to spare lol – wants to leave PSG, but will stay if the Eiffel Tower is replaced with a statue of him. Only Zlatan can say that right? #DareToBeZlatan

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Huge impression. Lasting impression? Photo credit: Goal

Now to the questions (make sure your answers are as honest and as crazy as possible):
– Benitez or not, is it now TOO LATE for Newcastle?
– What next for Arsenal? Now that the FA Cup is gone, is it finally time to win the Premier League title? Or let me, like @ireteeh, ask: Can Arsenal beat Barcelona?
Drop your crazily honest answers in the comments section. Looking forward to it!

P.S: If you haven’t seen Guedioura’s goal against Arsenal for Watford, you should see it. Will be a great way to start your week! – if you’re not a Gunner of course.

Cheers to a great week ahead!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a full time footballing polygamist that loves watching football and is in love with writing about the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and engage him on Facebook (Rotdavdara) on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Liverpool vs Man. Utd: Van Gaal CAN’T Beat His Chest, His Children or Around the Bush!

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Liverpool beat Man. Utd 2 - 0 in the first leg of their Europa League clash. Photo credit: SkySports

Again and again and again it had happened. It had become the norm. Everytime this season Liverpool came up against half decent teams (no offense Fergie), their opponent’s goalkeepers turned out to be the best player of the day.

Thursday night in the Europa League was not going to be different. The trend would continue. De Gea was in goal – and you know how good the Spaniard is. Another goalie and Liverpool would have won by four of five!

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Saviour of the Day but not Man of the Match

Liverpool was in control of the game from the first minute (the Anfield effect). They played brilliant football and their first goal of the game was a testament to that. Some intricate passing left Depay no better judgement than to foul Firminho in the box, after which Sturridge stepped up and put Liverpool one up from the spot.

Manchester United was absent in this game. It was like as if they didn’t show up – more like they were chased out by Liverpool… lol). Even when they sought to settle into the game, Liverpool controlled it some more. Who to blame? I’m not even going to mention Louis Van Gaal’s name.

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One loss in my last 5 against Liverpool? Not bad eh? Let Ferguson and Ferdinand catch you

Marcus Rashford smarting from his Arsenal and Mitdjelland heroics could only contribute to this game by throwing himself at Sakho and falling to the floor whilst Sakho held the ball unperturbed. Praise is deserving for the entire Liverpool team as they stepped up to the plate.

Talk of Clyne who was in lethal form,  bossing his position and throwing in wonderful tackles whilst Moreno kept stealing the ball when United decided to switch flanks. Sakho and Lovren were solid at the back in what is fast becoming a lovely partnership whilst Mignolet only had routine saves to make. Firmino and Coutinho were a class act that was constantly dribbling, passing and wrecking havoc while Henderson and Emre Can bossed the entire midfield (and to think Uncle Louis spent that much buying midfielders…)

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*sips maltina*

The second goal came from an intricate passing (intricate again!) and pressing game which saw Firmino continue his fine goalscoring form. Liverpool got Anfield bouncing on one of the glorious nights that usually makes its history while United’s contribution was the same sorry displays they have been associated with in the English Premiership since Sir Alex decided to retire. For Liverpool fans, Klopp defeated the flop in front of the Kop.

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Never a dull moment!

My good friend @Kopainzy, a Liverpool fan, said before the game: “Van Gaal can’t beat his chest, his children or around the bush…” and Uncle Louis did not disappoint. As usual he saw something wrong with the game’s officiating and claimed – correctly though because Henderson, in the build up to the goal, was offside  –  that Liverpool’s second goal should have been cancelled. But then, what’s that compared to your team being completely outplayed? Maybe I should not talk about playing Baby Rashford against an eternal rival. I’d leave the Man. Utd fans to decide that.

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Act like Van der Saar and come out of retirement Paul! Save us!

Another friend of mine, Akanji Olakunle, rightfully predicted on the blog’s Whatsapp group, before the game: “Van Gaal doesnt know how 2 beat any1… Moreover Klopp seems 2 b a better cup manager”. Two fantastic predictions! (Maybe I’ll start asking him for some betting tips.) And Klopp showed just that. Liverpool fans are in good hands. Can’t say the same about Manchester United.

P.S: Wondering about this group? Want to join a group where you can express yourself footballically and talk all day long about football, even all night long sef? You can hit me up on twitter @rotdav. I’ll add you to the group and you can meet the football guys.

Ikorodu vs MFM FC: What I Learnt

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This was the Lagos Derby. Lagos state had not had one in years. These two teams that had just been promoted to the Nigerian Professional Football League set Lagos football fans on the edge again – at least the ones interested in the NPFL. Ikorodu United vs MFM FC. It was a physical game.

It started with the players, from both sides,  clobbering into each other, trying to outpace each other and the goalies not exactly having so much to do. Of course that’s why the game ended in a draw – an interesting one if you ask me.

So, since there were no goals, how about some talking points from the derby?

Ikorodu United need to work on their set-piece plays FAST!
And I mean every word up there. You should have seen their free-kicks (if you luckily missed them). They were terrible! Most of the kicks were nothing to write home about. It was as if they rarely practised anything like it in their training sessions. Maybe they were not expecting to play any in this game (how outrageous). Lucky (the guy that took the free-kicks for Ikorodu) kept making the kicks seem harmless everytime he tried. It was that bad – except for the one time he forced the goalie into.making a save. Well, for a team that just gained promotion to the top flight of Nigerian football, maybe they can’t be blamed. Maybe they’re still stuck in the lower division they came from and can’t wait to go back.

Just maybe.

MFM FC Can be the Barcelona of the Nigerian Professional Football League
This was the first time I’d see them play fully (saw bits of their match against 3SC in Ibadan) and their ball-passing skills were obvious! They tried to move the ball around fast, especially when they were in their opponent’s half and they sometimes succeeded in leaving their opponents (the not-so-stubborn ones) in the dark.

But sometimes they played the ball around too fast; too fast to even keep up with it!

But in all, they passed better than their counterparts. Exchanges between Onuwa and Ifeanyi reminded me of something that I would have usually seen somewhere called the Nou Camp in Barcelona, Spain. It’s a huge comparison I know but then again, why not if not eh? The Catalan giants started from somewhere too!

Nigerian Referees DON’T KNOW JACK About Refereeing
Let me ask you: Imagine you saw a poorly dressed, dirty-looking employee of a certain bank (just imagine) who, to make matters worse, did not have the best attitude in town and behaved very rudely towards you, – outside the bank of course – you’d almost judge the entire bank and even its banking system by this employee right?

Now you can understand the reason why I’m choosing to say Nigerian referees WILL CONTINUE to lag behind their counterparts in the world, especially if they keep officiating like the man who was the centre referee for the Lagos Derby. When you have a referee that gives two yellow cards, to the same player, in the space of 5 seconds – and this was in the minutes after regulation time and added time combined – then you can already predict where the NPFL currently stands as regards match officials and the pit they’re dangerously headed for.

Worthy Mentions
Was good to see bulky defender Nedum of Ikorodu United move swiftly and keep up with the pace of MFM’s Olatubosun and co. Although this man looked like something that would usually be competing for the NFL Super Bowl, he blended in perfectly on this football pitch and was a pain in the neck of MFM FC. So much for being the captain of the team and leading by example.

Talking of captains, the MFM FC captain deserves loads of credit too. Okpara Austin put up an excellent 2nd half performance and put at bay everything that the boys from Ikorodu threw at his team while being the marshall of a 10-man team. Round of applause

Oh! Before I forget, there was a lady amongst the match officials. Her name is Felicia. She was one of the games’s linesmen – we can call her lineswoman right? Boy did she have some eagle eyes. She just dey catch offside anyhow! – correctly though. She even had “balls” enough to ask a player to back off and quit arguing her decision.

How sweet!

Well done Felicia! Looking forward to seeing you officiate more games!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a full time footballing polygamist that loves watching football and is in love with writing about the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and engage him on Facebook (Rotdavdara) and on Twitter @rotdav

Liverpool vs Manchester City: The Carling Cup Final Story

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Willy the man: Manchester City's Willy Caballero being tossed into the air by teammates after a superb performance

Final games are always weird. There’s tension in the air, a full-capacity stadium and players, looking like gladiators, waiting to get on the pitch and start bumping into each other – or dribbling past each other as the situation may require. This final was no different. Klopp, Liverpool’s coach, before the game kicked off, looked like a geek waiting for his pet project to blow the Science Fair away as he stood in front of his men, waiting to lead them onto the pitch. Pellegrini looked… old. And worn too. It’s been a “very long” season and another trophy would do more than a Thank You note at the end of the season would. But with the old ones you never know right?

The game started with Liverpool being the better team. There was Firmino getting the better of Otamendi and the Liverpool calvary charging at Man. City’s defense in the first few minutes of the game. And then there was the lovely, Ronaldinho-like pass from Coutinho. Pellegrini played his usual 4-2-3-1 formation (still waiting for Pep to come around and try something crazy) with Fernandinho played at the right of the 3-man midfield placed behind Agüero. Yaya Toure and Fernando were the two holding midfielders, with the former still lacking accuracy in his passing skills but showing a few signs of revival from the dead whilr the latter’s ebulience is still of legend.

After ten minutes, there were already power contests, speed contests, strikers vs defenders contests (Sterling vs Clyne) and the game was already evened up with both teams getting their fare share of the ball possession. It was quiet until the 22nd minute. Liverpool’s defense gifted Agüero a goal-scoring opportunity. Sahko most-notably slipped and gave the Argentine the chance to go one-on-one against the Liverpool keeper.

Well, Kun did not convert that chance.

The shot he tried to curl past the goalie was parried by Mignolet onto the base of the goalpost. Sahko was found guilty of still suffering from the aftermath of his head-collision with Emre Can and was subbed off, against his will. Jurgen was taking no chances in this final. This was in the 24th minute. And so the not-so-interesting, not-so-boring first half ended.

The second half started with Man. City getting the first goal of the game, in the 49th minute. Agüero got a lovely pass from Silva, ran towards the Liverpool goal and was confronted by two defenders. The usual Agüero would have tried to dribble his way into the box.

But this was an unusual Agüero.

He kept these two defenders engaged, kept them imagining what he would do, waited for Fernandinho to make his run, passed the ball to the Brazilian who converted the opportunity. Manchester City one goal up! Now Liverpool was chasing the game hard and Man. City was now on the backfoot – a usual these days when Man. City takes the lead – but taking advantage of Liverpool on the counter, especially utilizing the sudden ‘free zone’ around Liverpool’s Left Back area.

Oh I almost forgot!

During this Man. City-dominated period, Sterling had a golden chance to silence all the Liverpool fans that had been booing his every play since the start of the match but failed to put the ball past Liverpool goalie. Nothing exceptional happened again until the 83rd minute.

Liverpool had made two substitutions. Defenders were subbed off for attacking players. Klopp was looking for a goal. More like desperate for the equalizing goal. Liverpool was getting more into the game. And they got their goal. First there was a goal-mouth scramble, with the ball flying back and forth across the Man. City goalpost. Then a shot that hit the post. The ball rebounded off into the path of Coutinho who had been quiet for too long.

But this was time to scream.

He slotted home like it was a penalty kick. The game was now level. Game on!

In between the first goal of the game and the other goal of regular time, there were players who played exceptionally. They bossed their own patch of the pitch and put on a display. First up, * drum roll* step up Simon Mignolet. This was, by miles, the Man of the Match. He made no less than two saves just inches away from his goal line. Though he was at fault for letting Fernandinho’s shot slip past him, he made up for his early error by keeping everything else Man. City threw at him at bay. He made point-blank saves. He made reflex saves. He was on top of his game. Then there was Sterling. He was way ahead of the other contestants (Henderson and co.) competing for the game’s Flop of the Match. He seemed to make sure that he lost every opportunity as quickly as they came. He failed to convert the flood of opportunities that came his way, especially the player-against-keeper chance he had.

And so the game dragged into extra time.

The 1st half of Extra Time went by fast with both teams playing with tired legs. It wasn’t exactly eventful and this was made even more obvious by the fact that Pellegrini’s substitutions (Zabaleta and Navas for Fernando and Sagna) and another save by Mignolet were the only highlights of the 1st half. The 2nd half was a total contrast. The chances were coming around more now and they all seemed to be going Liverpool’s way. But somehow, the scoreline stayed the same: 1 – 1.

Then some of the players got tired of playing football – can’t blame them, 120 minutes is a long time right? – and decided to get involved in a wrestling contest. Plane take off from Wembley. Touchdown at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Yaya Toure and Lallana were the fighters. The African shoved the European off like he was nothing. Then lifted him off the ground like the Englishman was the thing before nothing. Yellow cards each for the drama. Good referee

2nd half of Extra Time ends.

Curtain close.

Penalties.

Emre Can took the first one and it was a paneka. Goal! First blood drawn! Then Fernandinho stepped up and kicked his against the post. Then came Lucas. His was stopped by Caballero. The Man. City bench was jubilant. Up next? Navas. He converted. 1 – 1. All the while, Klopp kept his cool. How weird. Along came Coutinho who lost his while Agüero converted his.

The tables were turned. 1 – 2 Man. City.

Caballero, meanwhile, was the man of the moment. He was enjoying himself. He had just denied Lallana’s penalty from going in. That was his 3rd stop of the four spot kicks taken by the Reds. Step aside Mignolet! A new sheriff just strolled into town! Yaya, by the way, converted his penalty, and won the game for the Citizens.

Another trophy for Pellegrini. Sad to see Klopp finish trophyless. He was the most interesting figure on the sidelines. But, as usual, football is already naughty, without penalties. Add penalties to the equation and what do you get?

You guessed right!

About Author:
Rotimi Daramola is a full time footballing polygamist that loves watching football and is in love with writing about the beautiful game. You can engage him on twitter @rotdav and catch up on his other article