Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Reds return to Wembley

It's been 17 years since Liverpool last lifted a trophy at Wembley. It was a League Cup final against Bolton where two goals from Steve McManaman sealed the deal for the Reds.

It's somewhat ironic that that Liverpool's return to Wembley nearly two decades ago will take place at another League Cup final (Note: the Reds actually played one more time at the old Wembley in 1996 at an FA Cup final against Man Utd which they lost 1-0 to a late Eric Cantona goal).

Inconsistency has been the club's Achilles Heel over the last two decades and the return of a club great and fresh new faces this season has done little to change that. If anything, Kenny Dalglish' Liverpool seems adamant in carrying on this tradition. Consider the fact that the Reds have beaten Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal this season but don't seem any closer to sealing a top four position let alone mount a title challenge.

Nonetheless, tomorrow's match-up against Cardiff is a chance for Liverpool to put their season (or what's left of it) on track. Moreover, it's been nearly six years since the club won a trophy and tomorrow's final gives them a chance to prove that this side is capable of winning silverware.

Finally, I'd like to leave you with an interesting video I stumbled upon not too long ago. It's tradition for FA Cup finalists to record a song before the big game and here we have Liverpool doing a rap number before the 1988 FA Cup final against Wimbledon. It's pretty hilarious stuff. Too bad they don't do this for the League Cup.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tevez says he's sorry

So, after what seemed like half a season , Carlos Tevez has finally apologised to Man City and is ready to play for the Blue half of Manchester (and current league leaders) once again.

But isn't it just too late?

Will City ever forgive Tevez, a paid employee, for just packing his bags and jetting off to Argentina for three months mid-season when a simple apology to Roberto Mancini back then would have settled the matter?

Or would City be inclined to welcome a player who a month ago (or for that matter, a week ago) didn't seem all that keen to return to the Eastlands club? Is it merely a coincidence that Tevez wants to patch things up City after proposed moves to AC and Inter Milan fell through?

Better yet, does Tevez think Mancini's going to welcome him back into the team after accusing the Italian of treating him like a dog?

To think that all this stemmed from a refusal to warm up and you start to wonder if City should send Tevez for some serious psychiatric testing.

No, in my opinion, Tevez' days at City ended the minute he walked out on the club like a child. And it's a shame for such a gifted footballer.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Best (own) goal of the season!

You know it's a bad day when your team scores three own goals (that has to be some record, right?) but it's downright terrible when one of those was caused by a defender who tried to juggle the ball to safety two feet away from an open goal.

But Lewis Carl Dunk's awful day (during Brighton's 6-1 defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup) is great viral video and is certainly something destined to be repeated all season. And don't be surprised if there are a few jokes along the way about his name. You can watch his sensational howler in the video below right around 3:23.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mutiny at the Bridge!

To say that Andre Villas-Boas' brief tenure at Chelsea has been a tumultuous one is no exaggeration. Yes, the Blues are in fifth place in the league and have a genuine chance of finishing in the top four or, dare I say it, in third place.

It's been sometime since the Blues celebrated over a third place finish, which is why billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, decided to step in to hold a summit with his manager and players to root out the cause of the decay at Stamford Bridge.

And as if taking a cue from the media, several Chelsea players were reported to have pointed the finger right at Villas-Boas.

The reports don't indicate which player led the mutiny except to say that they included several senior players. According to the reports, the players blasted their Portuguese manager's tactics - or lack off - when Villas-Boas decided to give them a dressing down in front of Abramovich.

It's hard to tell just what Abramovich will do next. His history would suggest a sacking is in order but as Villas-Boas himself has pointed out, it cost the Russian tycoon EURO 15 million to bring the Portuguese manager to Stamford Bridge from Porto. Sacking him would then lead to hefty compensation package.

All in all, it makes absolutely bad business sense. But this is pocket change for Abramovich who may have initially wanted to give Villas-Boas until the end of the season to prove himself. But this new episode with the players certainly suggests the fact that he's lost the confidence of the squad. And if they don't believe in him, expect more defeats to come Chelsea's way.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Much ado about nothing

In a week where England lost its manager, you would think that the narrative dominating the media over the weekend would've focused on the country's prospects for this summer's EURO in Poland and Ukraine.

Instead, a handshake - or the lack of one - seems to have sent the English media in a frenzy. One only wonders what they would do with themselves without a sensational non-issue to blowup.

Seriously, a handshake? In case you're from a different planet, here's what happened. Liverpool's Luis Suarez, who had just served an eight-match ban for racial abuse - one that he still denies was intended to be racial but we'll get back to that later - refused to shake hands with Man Utd's Patrice Evra, who accused him of said crime prior to the kickoff of Saturday night's league encounter between the two sides.

That handshake snub has now rocked the very foundations of English football if you believe what's been written in the media over the last 48 hours.

Was Suarez acting immaturely and perhaps a little stupid by snubbing Evra who extended his hand? Sure. If anything, the Suarez-Evra saga's gone on too long and it's time (for everyone) to move on.

But surely, one can see why Suarez wouldn't have wanted to shake hands with Evra. After all, Suarez still insists he wasn't trying to racially abuse Evra during the Premier League encounter between both sides at Anfield earlier in the season.

Nonetheless, in spite of the many protests on his behalf by his manager and the club and a lack of witnesses or video footage to the alleged crime, the Uruguayan forward still ended up serving an eight-match suspension and was fined GBP40,000. So, yeah, he might've been holding a grudge.

Still, it's odd that all this fuss is surrounding the refusal of a Liverpool player to shake the hand of a Manchester United player. Gary Neville, are you serious? There's very little love lost between the two sides and pretending otherwise is plain stupid. Don't forget there are players on both teams who have professed their desire at obliterating the other on many an occasion.

No prizes for guessing correctly but for the uninitiated, you want to check Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney.

But as trivial as this episode has been, I can only hope it doesn't deteriorate into a fiasco similar to the one unraveling at the English FA. In case you missed it, Fabio Capello resigned last week due to his disagreements with the FA's manner in handling another racial abuse allegation concerning John Terry.

The FA, in an unprecedented move, stripped Terry of his captain armband following allegations of racial abuse by the Chelsea defender at QPR's Anton Ferdinand. Unlike the Suarez case, this one's landed in court and could have harsher consequences on the Blues' captain if he's found guilty. But that's still an if. Nonetheless, the FA decided to take it upon themselves to preempt any court decision by stripping the England captaincy from Terry.

Capello was right to have come out and defended his man. Italian wasn't condoning racism but merely asking the FA to grant Terry the same rights meted out to individuals who have carried out crimes that are far graver: innocent until proven guilty.

But more than that, Capello was right to go public with his views when the FA decided to override his authority in the dressing room by making a unilateral decision on Terry. Even if Terry is found guilty, Capello, as England manager, should have had the responsibility in deciding the best course of action for his club.

And while we are on the subject of racist English footballers, does the Terry decision mean footballers who have been convicted of a crime will never play football for England again? As I recall, Johnathan Woodgate, who was found guilty of attacking an Asian student in Leeds in 2000, has featured several times for the Lions in recent years.

Speaking of Terry, the FA canceled a pre-match handshake between Chelsea and QPR when the two sides met recently to avoid what happened at Old Trafford on Saturday. Ironic huh?