Archive for the ‘Football’ Category
Saturday 10th April 2010
A football dream come true! El Classico between rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona, at the Bernaneu, is probably the biggest game in club football.
I’ve been to the Nou Camp in Barcelona, albeit to an empty stadium. I was then fortunate enough to visit the Mestalla, when Valencia entertained Real Madrid. Whilst collecting the tickets, a lack of security enabled us to go pitch-side. Surprising highlights included running out of the players tunnel and grabbing a tiny amount of grass from the side of the pitch. No doubt 80,000 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu for El Classico was going to raise the bar even further.
Tickets for the game were sold out within 10 minutes from going on sale. Therefore, we arrived in Madrid with little hope of seeing the game. With a few touts hanging around the stadium, my friends managed to secure three tickets. The main downside was that the seats were in different parts of the stadium. A couple of tickets in the 1st tier in the South Stand and a ticket in the 4th tier of the North Stand. Slightly more concerning was the actual quality of the tickets, looking like cheap colour print-outs on poor glossy paper.
There was a nice buzz walking towards the Bernabeu, but it was hard to feel excited, as we feared the tickets may have been fakes. After splitting up, I walked around half the stadium until I found Torre D. It turn out to be one of four huge towers, similar to those at the Mestalla. Up the initial steps, past security and inserted the ticket into the machine. Thankfully, or maybe miraculously, it came out the other side and I was allowed in!
The bird-eye view itself was right behind the goal. Absolutely, perfect for anyone interested in the strategy of the game. To be fair, whilst it was difficult to see any expressions on the players faces, it was a great view. With the Barcelona fans chanting to my left and the Real Madrid fans berating them, Nessun Dorma (see video below) was played into the stadium. It was an incredible 3 mins that will live with me forever.
The match itself had moments of brilliance, but overall it was a disappointing affair. Barcelona controlled the play throughout, whereas Real Madrid were hoping for something to happen. Both teams passed the ball around, at times trying to out-trick each other. But there was only going to be one winner. Barcelona moved around the pitch so well, it was almost like watching the Harlem Globetrotters of Football.
The breakthrough came in the 33rd minute. After a quality one-two with Xavi, Lionel Messi chested the ball down, before slotting the ball past Iker Casillas. Real Madrid seemed devout of any quality ideas, long before Xavi opened up the defence again in the 56th minute, with Pedro running on and eventually placing the ball past the now frustrated Casillas.
With all the subs on, the home side’s effort increased, but Barcelona held on. In the last few minutes, with defeat on the cards, late tackles by the Real Madrid players seemed the only way they could get one up on their opponents. Ronaldo was off the pace and Kaka may have made a difference had he played. However, Barcelona came to the Bernabeu with a point to prove, passing the ball, creating chances and ultimately finishing those opportunities. Real Madrid, given another 90 minutes, were unlikely to break down the away side’s defence. Hats off to Pep Guardiola for a great game plan.
There is no doubt though that El Classico was an absolutely fabulous experience!
Saturday 26th December 2009
With a superb run of 14 games unbeaten, Forest have climbed from 19th up to 3rd in the table. A Boxing Day clash away to Watford will provide Forest with another tough test.
In a match of few chances, the home side were slightly on top without really threatening. Watford did have a shout for a penalty in the second half, but the referee waved the appeals away. Forest had a good chance to steal the win through a Blackstock chance late in the game, but the keeper made a great save to deny the striker.
The match ended in a 0-0 stalemate keeping both Forest’s chances of automatic promotion alive and Watford’s hopes of pushing for a play-off place. The large Forest faithful amongst the 17,086 were probably happy with the point. Now it’s 15 games unbeaten and no Forest fan would have thought that possible after bad start to the season.
Saturday 24th October 2009
Forest’s season is going from strength to strength and have won their last 5 games in the Championship. A tough away game at Crystal Palace was the next task as Forest aim to keep climbing up the table.
It wasn’t that long ago since Forest were hovering around the relegation zone, but thankfully my Forest shirt arrived in the morning of the match at home to Derby and we’ve not looked back since. In fact, I didn’t wear it at home to Blackpool and that is the only time we have been beaten in the last 9 league games.
Sadly, our seats had a large column in front of us and some dangerous scaffolding above our heads, so it wasn’t the most comfortable of viewing areas. Luckily though it was a bright sunny day and both sides looked like they were up for an attacking game. However, after 40 minutes, Darren Ambrose scored a delightful free-kick to give Palace a 1 nil lead.
Just before the stroke of half-time, Paul Anderson was elbowed in the face by Palace defender Clint Hill, which sparked a brawl involving players and staff from both sides. The incident was right in front of the dugouts and you could tell from the reaction of the Forest bench that it was pretty serious. Nevertheless, I never expected the tannoy to come on, with what sounded like a commentator on Radio Palace telling Billy Davies to sit down and stop getting involved. I’ve never heard anything like it, and by the bemused reaction of the large Forest following, nor did they.
Forest came out fighting, well not literally, in the second half and were rewarded by a goal from David McGoldrick 3 mins after the break. The game could have been won by either side but in the end a share of the spoils was probably a fair result.
Whilst finding the ground from the station was pretty simple, the opposite can be said on the way back. No idea how, but for some reason, one wrong turn and lack of football shirts meant it took an extra hour to find the station. In any case, a crowd of 15692 had a nice day out in the autumn sunshine. Even the cheerleaders as half-time entertainment managed to bring some nostalgia back to football or is that a recent idea?
Tuesday 15th September 2009
Forest and Ipswich have yet to set the Championship alight. Both teams were expected to perform well this season, but poor results have left them near the foot of the table.
It didn’t take much to convince me that a trip to Ipswich on a Tuesday night would be a good idea. Especially, when your mate tells you, he’s been given a route confirmed by at least 2 people guaranteeing us to get there in just over an hour.
I left around 5pm for a 30 minute drive near my mate’s place, as it was a good starting point for the journey ahead. On the motorway for about an hour and without yet seeing any signs to Ipswich, I began to ask some questions. The questions continued around 7pm as kick off was nearing. In the end I had to call up another mate up who re-directed us. The madness didn’t stop there, when almost 2 hours after setting out, I was 10 minutes away from my place.
Anyway the game had kicked off and I was following the it via a GPRS connection. It turns out Ipswich scored in minute 0. Not even sure that is possible. So whilst stuck on the motorway, I had no idea if Forest allowed Ipswich to have a goal start, but the fact remained Forest were losing 1 nil.
Eventually, we made it to the ground and the second half was already underway. Finding the way into the ground was still proving tough though. Finally we got to our seats in the 53rd minute. The scoreboard confirmed it was Ipswich 1, Forest 0. Robert Earnshaw was coming on as sub, just as we were getting comfy. Amazingly, 5 minutes after taking our seats, super sub for the night, Earnshaw equalised with probably his first touch of the ball.
Difficult to give a report on a game when you miss the first 53 minutes, but Forest did well in the last half an hour or so. Forest nearly came close to snatching a victory, but Ipswich prefered to go down to 10 men, than allow Dele Adebola to break free with just the keeper to beat.
All in all, it was definitely an experience and a memorable one at that. It probably would have been less memorable had we caught the whole game. I’d like to thank the two truck drivers for the directions to Cambridge city centre.
Saturday 22nd August 2009
A strange start to the season, has seen Forest dominating games, but with minimal points to show for their effort. A lack of goals has left Forest with just 1 point from the opening 3 games.
The sun was out on a glorious day and amongst a crowd of 13,058, the Forest faithful were hoping that a strong performance against QPR would kick-start their season into action. QPR on the other hand were expecting to be promotion play-off contenders, especially with the Formula 1 moneymakers at the helm.
Unlike last season, Forest came out firing and were unlucky not to take the lead. But the usual story of missed chances lead to Forest being punished once again when QPR took the lead in the 25th minute, from a long-range shot by Mikele Leigertwood. Forest hit back in the 57th minute, with David McGoldrick putting away a close range effort after a great knock down from Dele Adebola.
In an open game with many chances, neither side were able to find a winner. Surpringsly, Forest and QPR have yet to register a victory this season, but the feeling is that both will improve and furthermore, play a major part in the Championship race.
Tuesday 10th March 2009
The honeymoon period tasted by Billy Davies since taking over from Colin Calderwood had already come to an abrupt halt. Lying just outside the relegation zone, Forest needed something out of the game against Watford, in their pursuit of Championship survival.
On a run of 3 games unbeaten, Forest seemed to be turning the corner once again. However, Forest have a tendency to allow teams to dictate the style of football, especially away from home. True to form, this was not going to be any different, with Watford’s long ball approach, becoming the style both adopted.
The pitch may take part of the blame, but there is no point trying to play a style of football for 90 minutes, especially if the opposition is far more experienced at it. This was emphasised whenever Forest had a goal kick. Not since watching under 11s play football had I seen 20 players move across to same side of the pitch waiting for the tallest person to either head it on or head it away. With so much space on the other side of the pitch, it baffles the mind why the footballing side never tried to exploit it.
Watford started the game positively and a Grzegorz Rasiak header in the 5th minute gave them an early lead. Probably against the run of the play, Forest managed to equalise from a Matt Thornhill shot in the 17th minute. Then a neat one-two set Tamas Priskin free who managed to slot the ball home 2 minutes before the break.
At 2-1 down at half-time, Forest were still hopeful of getting back into the game. However, at no point in the second half did it actually seem likely. Hit and hope is not the Forest way, and once again, I feel sorry for the Forest fans amongst the crowd of 14,730. More quality is required if Forest are to avoid a return back to unthinkable depths of League 1 football.
Tuesday 6th January 2009
Whilst in Melbourne for a wedding, it was a great opportunity to catch a game between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United. The top of the table clash at the Telstra Dome, pitched the two bitter rivals against each other.
The Telstra Dome is a spectacular stadium with a capacity of over 50,000 and is mainly used for Australian Rules Football. In the summer months, Melbourne Victory use the sporting venue until their new stadium is completed in 2010. A crowd of 27,196 turned up against Adelaide United which is pretty impressive for a ‘football’ match on a Tuesday night.
The teams were equally balanced and there was one name we all recognised instantly. Kevin Muscat, the captain of Melbourne Victory, played for a decade in Britain for Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Rangers and Millwall. He had a nasty reputation on the pitch, with a more than a handful of dangerous tackles.
After a goalless first half, Melbourne scored in the 58th minute from a header by Nick Ward. The game ended 1-0, putting Melbourne Victory 2 points ahead of Adelaide United at the top of the table with a game in hand.
Overall, it was a great experience, even if the quality of football was similar to the level of teams in the 2nd/3rd tiers in England. But to put things into perspective, the A’ League was only its 4th season, so taking that into account and with the exodus of Australia’s best players to Europe and beyond, I have to say it’s pretty good progress and long may it continue.