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
Van Persie 84
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...