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The Importance of Sport (NEW CONCEPTS)
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Mick Harper
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Refwatch (Sky Sports)
Sky bloke: Antony Martial, penalty?
Dermot "O" Gallager: Definitely, the whole match was a refereeing master class

Justice Cocklecarrot: Are you sure, Dermot? In one fluid movement Martial took the ball, turned with it and advanced between the two City defenders in close attendance. I've slow-moed it down to where you can see individual electrons moving across the screen (equipment supplied on licence by Ministry of Culture, Sport and Communications watchdogs) and I still can't find a Martial-sized space between the defenders. So either they had to dive out of the way in anticipation that Martial might try a sub-Cruyff turn on them or Martial should be penalised for assault since he knew he was going to bash into them.

If it was a pen, Dermoline, both City players should have been red-carded for jointly preventing a chance on goal and we might have had a decently competititve match.
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Mick Harper
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Chelsea 2 AC Milan 0

It says it all when two of the biggest beasts of European football, playing their most important game of the season so far, start with Arsenal rejects up front. Neither Giroud nor Aubameyang did anything to suggest we didn't do right getting rid of them. See you next year, old pals, if you haven't moved on to Tranmere Rovers and Belmarsh respectively.
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Mick Harper
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Arsenal vs Liverpool (on Sunday)

We will discover what is real and what is blowhardry in this nascent season. If the game was being played at their gaff, the lads would stand no chance. At the Emirates there is some prospect of 'a result' as people say when a draw is no bad thing.

Arsenal are (finally) pretty well set up to steamroller lesser sides but whether they are in the same ballpark as Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea has yet to be decided. Man Utd and Spurs are in the Arsenal boat. Actually it has yet to be conclusively decided whether Liverpool and Chelsea are in the Arsenal boat as well, but that is another story.
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Mick Harper
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Watching matches involving Chelsea, Spurs and Man City -- and it will doubtless be true after watching Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal in action today, the difference is obvious to see. They all play variations of ticky-tacky football, they are all faced with opponents trying to upset ticky-tacky football by pressing, but only one of them does it with an air of ordered calm. The other five scurry about like ninepins losing possession all the time.

So what is Man City's secret? It does not appear to be the quality of the players, budgets are comparable even allowing for Haaland being somehow acquired for about 140 million pounds less than his market value.(UEFA Fair Play committee please investigate.) (Unless it is the UEFA Fair Play Committee that needs investigating.)

Suggestions are required, and no saloon bar tripe e.g. "It's Pep." Unless it's "It's Pep because he.."
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Mick Harper
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Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

It says it all when two of the biggest beasts of English football start with Arsenal rejects up front. Neither Kane nor Wellbeck did anything to suggest we didn't do right getting rid of them.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Pep hit on the idea of signing and actually playing a striker this season rather than rotating folks in the position of a false "9". The guy's a Genius.
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Mick Harper
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Everton 1 Man Utd 2

It says it all when two of the biggest beasts of English football start with Arsenal rejects up front. [Caveats: strictly speaking, Iwobi wasn't up front, Ronaldo wasn't playing at the start, isn't an Arsenal reject and Everton are not a big beast.]
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Mick Harper
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The BBC website wrote:
Liverpool, who felt they were denied a penalty when defender Gabriel handled in the first half, felt a further sense of injustice when Thiago Alcantara was penalised for a challenge on Gabriel Jesus with 14 minutes remaining, with Saka coolly converting from the spot.

The two events were (a) decisive and (b) highly suspicious. It is good to see Arsenal back where they belong, at the top of the We Scratch Your Back League.
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Mick Harper
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Dermot Watch (Sky Sport)

He introduced a totally new concept today. This was re the running battle between the West Ham forward and the Fulham defender at a corner. After warning the defender twice for jostling the attacker, the ref awarded a pen even though when the ball did finally come over, it was clearly the West Ham man assaulting the Fulham man. And Dermot agreed!

So, we all said to one another sagely, "Dermot is going to side with us for a change and not the ref." No chance. It was still a pen because, announced the Great Adjudicator, "It serves as a deterrent for the future." Against what we shall no doubt discover in the fullness of time.
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Mick Harper
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Cincinnati Bengals 17 Baltimore Ravens 19

So it's the (compulsory) after-match news conference with the Bengals head coach and I say to myself, "Why is he talking in front of a backdrop advertising Betfred, a small-time London bookmaker? Are they now able to engineer backdrops to people's actual televisions?" One second later, cut to studio of Football Talk Live

Mike Florio: Hey, why are they advertising some betting firm? I looked 'em up. There actually is a Fred and he really is a bookie. From London, England.
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Mick Harper
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What a delicious way for the new round of Eurofootie to start. It's the first minute of AC Milan vs Chelsea and Mount lays off a routine ball just as some thuggio milanese comes steaming into him. Mount lurches slightly sideways on impact and throws an arm out to balance himself. Signor Cheat, seeing an arm coming within a foot of his face, but no closer, falls pole-axed to the floor. Where he lays apparently at death's door while the ref blows for a foul (by Mount!). The ref and Mount stand anxiously over him and then as if awakening from a deep sleep the latest product of the Commedia dell'Arte groggily extends an arm for the ref to help him up (who refuses) and then to Mount who reluctantly obliges.

And there's an AE aspect too! Both Chelsea and Milan are composed of pretty much identical casts of characters so why can this sort of scene play out routinely in Italy but is (virtually) unknown in England? I like to think it is because of a marked difference between the characters of our two great nations. They cheer at the audacity, we disapprove of the knavery.
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Mick Harper
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EuroCocklecarrot here. Two v strange penalties in the PSG vs Benfica game for you today. ("Good-oh, let's hope he's as obsessive as his English counterpart.")

Numéro un: it's a pass to a PSG man in the box but before it reaches him, i.e. it's a loose ball, a Benfica man reaches it. PSG man collides with Benfica man and falls over. It's a pen. It's replayed. "Ooh, yes, he's got that all wrong," says Rio Ferdinand (what does he know about defending?). Nobody expresses the least doubt. No protests, nothing from VAR. Ladies and gentleman (and Rio): it's not a pen. It's either an interception or it's a tackle but it's never a pen. All day or not.

Número dois: Benfica awarded a pen. No complaints here. Benfica penalty-taker starts his run-up, stops, sends keeper wrong, resumes his run-up, slots it in. Go-o-o-o-ol! No, it isn't. You're not allowed to stop in mid-run. You can slow down, you can stutter, you can do cartwheels, but you're not allowed to stop. Laws of the Game. Again, not a pipsqueak out of anyone. Who'd be the only man in the world who knows the Laws of the Game? Britain and Europe.
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Mick Harper
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Rangers 1 Liverpool 7

"Rangers have more English players in their side than Liverpool." BT commentator.

More fool them.
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Mick Harper
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Fab new twist, literally, on the arm in an unnatural position law. Napoli striker shapes up to volley a ball goalwards. Ajax defender, not a yard distant and desperate not to give away a pen, twists his body backwards, with his arm held rigidly into his side. Consequently the ball misses the arm and continues to career onwards towards the goal. Only it strikes the defender's other arm which is not held rigidly against his side on account of him having to turn his back rapidly with the other other arm held rigidly to his side. It's a pen. If they don't get you coming, they'll get you going.

The guilt-stricken ref is then presented with a golden opportunity to even the score. This time it's an Ajax forward, waiting to receive the ball on the edge of the area, who puts his arm backward round the waist of the Napoli defender marking him. As soon as the defender makes a move to free himself from this grisly embrace, the Ajax man throws himself to the ground, inevitably taking the Napoli man with him in a tangle of arms and legs. It's another pen!
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Mick Harper
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Bodo Glimt play on an artificial pitch on the wrong side of the Arctic Circle. They are unbeaten at home since Bodo Bluetooth brought a football home with him after a thousand mile voyage looking for an NHS dentist. Including a 6-1 drubbing of Roma. I tell a lie. Arsenal just thrashed them 1-0 though in truth it should have been a 6-1 drubbing, so shockingly bad were the Bodo strikers. Or how shockingly susceptible to backhanders they are, if you listen to Tottenham cynics.

Pshaw. Here are two more we launched onto the Eurostage to add to the list: Sporting Lisbon 0 Marseille 2 (Guendouzi, Alexis Sanchez).
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