Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Review: So Close To Perfection,
But 2 Out Of 3 Ain't Bad

Man, today was so close to being epic, at least one the all time great days for me on 3 hours sleep. I damn near got that troika after all, but a last minute surprise ending rained on the parade just a bit.

"One-Nil Down, Two-One Up!"
Arsenal 2-1 Manchester United
Rooneh 53
Van Persie 84
Henry 93

Highlights (9:52)
Henry post-match interview

Titi celebrates yet another nail in the "Henry doesn't play big in big games" coffin

I drive out to the Abbey Tavern and the first thing to notice is that after almost 2 weeks of record cold here in SF is it going to be a beautiful warm & sunny day. Sunroof open, life is good. I find a parking spot right in front of the pub, life is better.

After a week's worth of buildup it's time to get it on as Arsenal & ManUtd meet for the 200th time. As predicted this match was a cracker - the first half was one of those Exhibit A matches for people who think that a 0-0 by definition has to be a boring snoozefest. Neville tripped Henry in the box on one of those 50/50 penalty calls where if you are an Arsenal fan you surely think it was a penalty because there was definite contact, but if you are a United supporter you think no way is it a penalty because it was soft and Henry went to ground too easily. Could have gone either way but in this case United escaped. Then at the end of the half Mats made two absolutely world class saves and it was scoreless at the half.

More of the same in the second half - both teams playing well. Then on 53 minutes United scored a beautiful goal set up b a great one touch cross by their overlapping left back Evra, Kolo Toure gets a head on it but unfortunately it goes right into the path of Rooneh who slots it home. Not much to say or complain about- it was a good goal that was well taken by them. United has a good spell after that but then Arsenal began asserting themselves and Van Persie came on for Hleb. 10 minutes to go and it looked like the first loss in the new stadium was to be at the hands of their worst enemy, but then Arsenal created a beautiful goal of their own. Eboue made a good run and put in a great cross towards Henry, who was marked in 6 yard box. Sensing RVP was behind him at the back post he jumped up as if to do a scissor kick and kind of flicked it directly behind him with the bottom of his boot towards the far post. Van Persie met it at the far post and blasted it into the roof of the net. 1-1 with 6 mintes to go: jubilation.

Arsenal were dominant after that as they looked for a winner, and Ferguson tactically decided to play for a draw and the 1 point which would move them from 6 to 7 clear of Chel$ea when he brought on Heinze, a defender, for C Ronaldo, an attacking winger whose pace is always dangerous- certainly moreso than his never-ending stepovers and tendency to fall down (the look on his face when he got booked today was truly hilarious). Referee Bennett calls for 4 minutes of added time, and damned if Arsenal doesn't work a beautiful cross into the box in the last minute that Henry buries into the back of the net, amazingly with his head (he so rarely scored with his head - I think something like 6-8 of his 235 goals for Arsenal have been headers). Jubilation squared.

TH14 headed goals: even rarer than Georgia gear in SF

An amazing turnaround, grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat over your biggest rival while doing the double over them and taking the full 6 points (beating them in both league encounters this year). Not only that, but they won 1-0 at Old Trafford earlier this year without Henry and then they won today without Gilberto, arguably their MVP this season, thanks to Rob Stiles the terrible referee and Robbie Savage the wanker. So Arsenal continue their outstanding record against the big clubs; now they just need to sort out the likes of Sheffield and Boro and they'll be set.

The lads celebrate their amazing victory as the world watches
and Heinze is left to contemplate the cruel irony that he came
on for Ronaldo near the end to ensure that Utd got at least 1 point

The one bit of bad news is that Van Persie, scorer of 6 goals in his last 6 matches, fractured his foot today. Fortunately Adebayor is playing great and Baptisa looks like he is more capable than ever to step up and play striker now.

Stadiums develop their legacy, mystique, and character over time as big wins in big contests occur in them. Today was certainly the first huge win for Arsenal in their new digs, and will hopefully be the character/atmosphere primer upon which many, many layers of varnish will be added in years to come.

Naturally I'm high as a kite as I drive home, and by now it is apparent that it is not only clear & sunny, but damn near 70 degrees: a perfect day to be outside. Which is perfect, since at noon I head over for my soccer match with the Red Stripes. Long story short: we win 1-0, with none other than your boy netting the only goal of the match. Now I'm as high as two kites. Went to a great Cuban cafe and has a great lunch and visit with some friends, then back to Chez Kanu to clean up for the Colts-Pats.

Up 21-3 It seemed like NE was about to go for the deathblow when they made a 1st & 10 around the Colts 18, but a penalty erased the first down, backed them up, they got no points, and the Colts scored on both their final drive of the first half and their first of the 2nd half: game on. It truly was a great football game that had a little of everything - passing TDs, running TDs, a pick six, a receiving TD by a defensive lineman, and not one but two TDs by offensive lineman recovering fumbles. Both Viniateri & the heir to his Patriots throne were perfect, and in the end the Colts did it 38-34, which is pretty impressive considering they were down 21-3 not long before halftime.

A couple of random thoughts:

1) I realized today that I like it better when Reche Caldwell does something great to help the team yet leaves me a bit conflicted that he is a Gator then when he completely fucks up and I am left with only the thought "thanks alot... fucking Gator". He dropped 2 balls that anyone reading this could have caught then seemed to run the wrong patter on the first play of the Pats final drive.

2) I really hate the pass interference rules in the NFL - I think the 15 yard penalty in college is much more fair, but that isn't what got me today. On I think 2nd & 7 from the NE 19, Pats CD Hobbs was flagged for interference and Nantz and Simms allege that it was simply because he was face guarding the receiver and that he didn't turn and look for the ball. I'm pretty sure that what they failed to notice is that this is only a factor when there is contact. In this case Hobbs never touched the receiver, but nevertheless he was penalized (according to the announcers) because he was not facing the ball. This makes no sense - he didn't make contact with the receiver, and it sure as shit wasn't his fault that P Manning underthrew the ball and it hit Hobbs in his turned round ass. I'll never understand why that was pass interference, and instead of 3rd & 7 at the NE 19 its was instead 1st and goal which they scored from, a possible but obviously not certain 4 point play (difference between the TD and a FG). Later in the game there was a much more obvious pass interference on the Colts against a Patriots receiver in the end zone that was not called. In this case there was definitely contact, yet Nantz and Simms said nothing, and the Pats kicked a FG instead of having a 1st and goal from the 1 of their own. For me those two plays were very key and will be overlooked my most of the media covering the game. Now I am not saying that these 2 calls that seemed to favor the Colts absolutely determined the winner, and yes - I know, I know: if my aunt had nuts she's be my uncle. This was one of those games with any number of critical if plays. I am just saying that those two plays make me feel like Jock Ewing: they really stick in my craw.

It would have been so sweet to see the Pats get a chance to avenge the unbelievable ass-kicking they received from the Bears in the Super Bowl 21 years ago, but such is life. Now I have to choose between I QB I don't care for (Grossman the Gator who never lost to UGA) and a QB I really don't care for (Manning the Volunteer who was 4-0 against UGA) . Damn. Time to start scouring over the roster looking for Bulldogs to support...


moin said...

Aye, indeed, my hatred for the Pats is borderline psychotic in that it doesn't make much sense one way or another. I attribute it to my hatred of Bill Simmons' fellatin' of Brady. I'm very ambivalent towards Simmons, in that he provides great commentary on the Celtics and the Red Sox, and in my opinion, he is a very good basketball analyst. But he knows squat about football of all kinds. And it infuriates me that he, somehow, still has a chip on his shoulders when it comes to the Pats. Seriously, 3 SB in 5 years and he still want to play the "dis-respected underdog" card when in reality he is just playing the homer card? What really send me over the edge was the hypocrisy of his article earlier this year about where he spews endless venom at the Colts and Manning for having the gumption to have a decent team that tries to beat the Patriots. His basic arguments reduces down to because the Pats always beat the Colts and the Colts get some hype as a possible winner, they are to be hated. It was all I could to not shoot back him an email calling him out on the Yanks/Sox comparison. How can a guy who has cheered against the Yanks all these years on a moral basis be THAT ignorant of the parallel? Whichever.

Congrats on the Arsenal victory. I think United had the better of the play until they went up and took their foot off the pedal, but it was a well deserved win. I'm also quite surprised that Van Persie is hurt in that he popped right back up after the goal and jumped around to celebrate, and did so again after Henry scored with nary a limp to be seen. So maybe he injured it celebrating? It is just as possible. Lehman was brilliant mostly, but the play-acting at the end was typical of him as well. The guy likes to rub it in.

By the way, Henry dove against Neville, attempting to draw a PK. Just thought I should rehash that one up again. :)

Solon said...

Moin, in many ways you are the man, but you are off on this...again.

The ball rolled into the area, Neville kicked at it and whiffed, and in so doing, clattered into Henry--quite clearly--with his legs, and knocked him over.

Of course, on the replay, you can see that Neville did just slightly hit the ball--given this, of course, it wasn't a penalty--but, if he hadn't touched the ball, there's little doubt that he caught Henry.

But I can't imagine it was too obvious to TH14 that Neville had touched the ball, so he was confused as to why a PK wasn't given--which was perfectly understandable, even if not correct.

moin said...

Obviously, I take a slightly different view on this.

I agree that Neville missed the ball and I agree that Neville might have ran into Henry. But the point is that Henry easily could have skipped by that, in fact, I have seen Henry brush off much harder challenges/contacts as if they were nothing, just look at the Liverpool goal. Had this been in the center of the area (which well, would have been moot since Neville wouldn't have been in that position had it been the center of the area, but I digress), I'm fairly certain that Henry would have kept going, as it would put him pretty much one-on-one vs. Van der Sar (Van Dersar? van Der Sar? My knowledge of Dutch is appalling). However, since this was the corner of the area, add on top that Rio has been effective at quelling Henry up until that point, Henry went down at the first sign of contact, hoping to draw a PK. To me, that's a dive. I use that term a little more liberally than most but that fits it. Henry went down when he could have kept going in hopes of drawing a PK. Had the contact taken 2 yards before or after that point in his run, he would have surely shrugged it off (as it would have happened out of the box). Does that necessarily make Henry a dirty player? No. But it's more evidence of my original point, everybody dives.

moin said...

Actually, did Neville get the ball? I didn't really notice on the replay because I was concentrating more on whether their legs tangled, the only reason why Henry could fall as if his legs have been taken out (they didn't tangle, by the way). Either way, my original point stands, it was the type of challenge that Henry frequently and easily shrugs off as they were nothing, and this time, well, he didn't, for obvious reasons.

Kanu said...

IMHO you're both right, you are just arguing different points.

I agree with Solon's definition of "dive", which is going to ground when there is no contact, or before contact is made. For example, Xavi Alonso in the Liverpool-Arse FA Cup match was booked for diving even though there ended up being contact.

(last 2 replays show it best, starting at 0:57)

Why? Because he jumped up off the ground with both feet before the contact arrived. Anyhow, I agree with Solon that Henry did not "dive" against Neville using the strict definition of the term.

But you are right as well Moin. The players know the rules, and they are smart enough to know that if they are hit in the box in a way that would make them fall, sometimes they could use their athletic ability to overcome that and recover to stay on their feet, but they allow themselves to be felled by the contact. For me this is completely different than "diving" and lumping this in with the true divers who go to ground when no contact is made in an effort to con the referee into thinking there was contact is wrong, but that's just me. I would call what you are describing as "allowing yourself to go to ground when a defender hits you when it is possible to use your athletic ability to recover", and I would argue that this is different than a dive, but I understand where you are coming from.

The term "simulation" is thrown around alot, and I think that is the difference between the two: in a true "dive" the striker is attempting to fool the referee by simulating a foul that never existed. In the other instance a player is not simulating the foul; the foul occurs, and the player simply allows it to happen rather than making a huge effort to overcome said foul.

Kanu said...

Now then, whether or not Henry was truly fouled by Neville causing him to fall or whether he was fouled and allowed himself to go to ground without trying to recover, I don't know.

He was running full speed and there was contact, so it is hard for me to definitively say one way or another, but I can see where it could be interpreted either way.

moin said...

Kanu, I do agree with you and Solon, but to a point. And it's a pretty big point. If what Henry did was not a dive, meaning that allowing oneself to be felled by contact and thereby exaggerating the degree of contact, then very few Italian or Argentine ever dove. It's a very small step from allowing oneself to be felled by contact to rolling around on the ground from being breathed on to emphasize the contact.

moin said...

Because, a lot of times you'll hear divers say something to the effect of "there was contact, I just fell to make sure the ref saw it".

Kenny said...

Everyone knows Peyton can't beat the Gators. I'm sure Alex Brown won't waste any time in reminding Peyton of this. It's definitely a tough time to be a Dawg and I can empathize. The Zook years brought many proud Gators to their knees and humbled us... I mean, how do you lose to Ole Miss at home, but somehow beat FSU at their place, on the day they're enshrining Saint Blobby and his newly renovated Cathedral of Football? By having a complete moron coaching your team, a lucky moron...