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Archive for November 2006

Focussing on God's purpose

I was reading Acts 4 which from verse 23 to 31 tells how Peter and John return to their companions after being questioned by the Sanhedrin and report everything that had happened to them (Acts 4:23). Having heard the report, the church immediately called on the Lord in prayer.

Considering what they had been through and the threats they had received(v. 21), we may well have expected them to seek God for comfort and protection. We may even have expected them to ask God for understanding that they would now – faced with such adversity - have to “tone things down” a little. After all, their lives and the lives of their families were at stake.

These men and women of God, however, focus their prayer not and themselves and their situation, but on God and His purpose. They begin by proclaiming that their Lord is God, the Creator of all things (v. 24).

Next they focus on God’s purpose in sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross. They understand that their own suffering is merely an extension of the persecution suffered by the Son of God himself. He had repeatedly warned them that they too would be hated by the enemies of God (Matt. 10:24-25; Jn. 16:1-4). Mindful of this, they pray not for their own comfort, but for boldness to continue doing what they know to be their calling as followers of Jesus: preaching His word.

Finally, they ask God to stretch out His hand to heal through the name of Jesus as a confirmation of His word. As soon as they conclude their prayer, the place shakes by the power of God and the Holy Spirit comes upon them, granting them boldness to proclaim Jesus irrespective of all persecution.

What an amazing seven verses!

Australia draws first blood

Australia won the first Ashes Test today at the Gabba in Brisbane and I wasn't very much surprised by the result especially after the first day but what surprised me is that the Test went on to the fifth day.

This could be attributed more maybe on Ricky Ponting not enforcing a follow-in after England 's first innings tally of 157 plus of course the mini England fightback led by Kevin Pietersen on day four.

That fightback England helped not make this Test a one-sided encounter and spill into the fifth day and had the rain come who knows it could have ended up in one unfair draw.

Back to the cricket, England's bowling was at its worst with declaring both innings helping them get Australia out. Australia scored a total of 804 runs for just ten wickets and that says a lot about the English bowling.

Maybe Monty Panesar is now needed for the Adelaide Test but there isn't much time to decide with the second Test starting Friday. Harmison could only manage just one wicket in 42 overs.

But hats off to Australia for an excellent start to the Ashes Test and I hope the team will be consistent and get another victory in Adelaide to go 2 nil up.

Hamilton gets McLaren drive

Sometimes there isn't much news in terms of driver movement in F1 during the off season but this time there has been a lot of speculation as to who was going to partner reigning champion Fernando Alonso. Alsonso joined McLaren after he moved from Renault and the previous McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen is now with Ferrari.

So the news is Lewis Hamilton has now been given a chance to drive for McLaren next year. I cannot say I was really surprised but I had thought Pedro de la Rosa was going to be given the drive being a McLaren test driver and with F1 experience but it seems that Ron Dennis has decided to give Hamilton a chance and see what happens.

I expect Lewis to at least get some points because he would have the advantage of a not so bad McLaren car plus Alonso in his team but I still think Ferarri and Renault will still be up there in terms of the championship with everybody else playing catch up.

AFL free for all

According to an article in The Age all eight AFL games are likely to be shown on free-to-air television after talks reportedly broke down between the rights holders and Foxtel who could have shown up to four matches per week.

This will be good for AFL fans because they will be able to watch all the AFL matches without the need for pay TV but at the same time I think that will mean just too much footy on those two channels, 7 and Ten.

I actually don't know whether over-saturation of a good thing is any good but I will waiting to see how the two channels will manage the eight match load without adversely affecting their other programs.

The winners in this case could AFL fans and ironically Channel 9 who lost the rights early this year. This is because all those not much interested in the AFL will just turn to Channel 9 to watch alternative programs.

UEFA Champions League reaches climax

Its one more round to go in the UEFA Champions League and for teams who have qualified for the next round it will be a question of securing top spot if that hasn't been already been achieved but for some teams the chase continues.

In Group A Barcelona know what they have to do, beat Werder Bremen at home and they will be in. Anything else they will drop into the UEFA Cup. Although Werder Bremen are a good team, I think Barcelona will win that match and progress to the next stage and I think Chelsea will easily top that group.

In Group B, after a stuttering start, Inter Milan have ensured qualification to the next stage by winning three straight matches. In their first two matches, they failed to score a single goal and were pointless and now they go to play Bayern Munich fighting to top the group.

In the end Group C was a straight fight between Liverpool and PSV Eindhoven with Liverpool taking the honours. Galatasaray have been disappointing with just one draw and in the process conceding ten goals and will now say bye to Europe with Bordeaux getting the UEFA place.

Valencia are home and dry in Group D leaving Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk to fight it out for second place. Olympiacos still have a chance to get third place but they have to get their first win of the campaign to do that.

As predicted, Group E was a tussle between Real Madrid and Olympic Lyon, a tussle which the French team. For the second year running Lyon got the better of Real Madrid netting four points from their two matches and winning the group.

I was happy to see Celtic qualify for the knockout stage for the first time after four unsuccessful attempts. Manchester United will now have to make sure that Benfica will not go away with full points from Old Trafford or else they will drop into the UEFA Cup in Group G. I expect that match to be a tense one given that last year Benfica ousted Man U from the competition and three years ago another Portuguese team Porto also knocked them out of the competition.

And still talking about Porto, their win over CSKA Moscow means they can decide their fate and could easily knock Arsenal out of the competition. This group has been very competitive despite Hamburg being winless so far and I should add that I was very disappointed with Hamburg.

In Group H, as expected AC Milan have qualified for the next stage but there is a very interesting contest for the other place. I think AEK Athens have a better chance of qualifying because they play still winless Anderlecht and Lille have to go to Milan for their last match. It would be good for Greek football for AEK Athens to qualify for the knockout stage and all they need to do that is win their last game.

So it will interesting to see whether Barcelona and Manchester United will progress to the next round or whether it will be Werder Bremen and Sporting Lisbon. In two short weeks we will know the answer.

Federer finishes year in style

Federer finished his 2006 tennis season on a high by winnning the Masters Cup in Shanghai. He beat James Blake in straight sets.

But if you think of it for the whole year he has been on a high wining three grand slam titles and nine other tournaments. He played 97 matches and only lost five of them. The five matches were lost to only two players, four to current world number 2, Rafael Nadal and one to British rising star Andy Murray. That's a feat in itself. Take Nadal out from the equation, in theory he could have lost just one match and won sixteen title!.

Looking forward to next year his sights must be on the French Open the only grand slam he didn't win. He will have to fight very hard to wrestle it from Nadal. Nadal is the only player who has given him some tight competition during the year and that and I expect that duel to spill over into next year starting with the Australian Open.

I wish he could play more for the Swiss Davis Cup team. By having him in their team they would have a good chance of winning at least two singles matches and then fight out to win just one more match from the remaining three rubbers.

Thorpe calls it quits

Ian Thorpe announced that he is retiring from swimming at the age of 24.

I was a bit surprised that Thorpe decided to quit and I hope he has taken the best decision for himself and wish him all the best in his new adventures.

There has been a great debate over the last two days whether he would retire or just miss the 2007 FINA World Championships being held in Melbourne and I was more or less swayed by the argument that he would be back in time for the Beijing Olympics.

I think he found out that there was nothing more for him to achieve in swimming and hence the need to look for new challenges.

Mowbray gets first win

I should say I was relieved over the weekend to see West Bromwich Albion gets its first win under manager Tony Mowbray..

Since Mowbray took over some five matches away, the Baggies had failed to win a single match and the only highlight if anything was the heart-breaking 3 all draw against QPR. I say heart-breaking because the Baggies were leading 3-1 with six minutes to go and then QPR scored two goals to draw the match.

During that same period the team exited the Carling Cup after a 2 nil loss to Arsenal. The team wasn't playing badly as such but a lot of chances just went begging. Ironically, before Mowbray took over the reigns at the Hawthorns the team had a four match unbeaten run.

So when I looked at the weekend fixtures last Friday and I realised it was going to be against Burnley who themselves were enjoying an excellent run I just thought it was going to be another bad result even though it was a home match.

So all in all it was a weekend of good results for West Brom because Cardiff the league leaders lost and Birmingham drew with Wolves although Preston and Derby both won away.

Now with this win its now imperative to get at least four points from the next two away matches against Stoke and Sheffield Wednesday before the December 2 match against Derby.

Local State election issues

This coming Saturday Victoria goes to the polls for the Parliamentary elections.

Well, in the campaigning there have been a few promises here and there and in my actual constituency there hasn't been a real issue or promise given but some few kilometres away at South Morang there is a real issue of the South Morand rail extension.

This issue has dominated the local papers for a while and it has now to a head with the state election. The Liberals have promised to extend the rail line spending $12 million on the project while Labor says that up to $300 million will be required and that amount would include necessary alterations to the Epping line.

I think the residents of South Morang deserve that rail extension and maybe the way to go about it would be to adopt both methods and extend the line in phases starting with the actual extension and over time making those alterations to the Epping line.

You would first built a simple line to South Morang and when that is finished continuously work on the other parts to the rest of the line. This phased approach would possibly satisfy everybody.

This is probably the only result I will be watching closely come the announcement of the results.

England suffer Trescothick blow

England opener Marcus Trescothick left for England last night after suffering a stress-related illness.

This is a big blow to England as they have lost one of their best performing batsmen in the last Ashes series. I think its also not good for the series as I would rather have both Australia and England field their strongest sides and I hope there will be no more withdrawals from either side with the Ashes series starting next week in Brisbane.

Trescothick is a key and experienced player for England and there are times when he has been the stand-in captain and England will now have to make do without him. Earlier this year he didn't take part in the proceedings in the test series in India and England drew that series but I am hoping that this time England will be able to cope better without hime and make this forthcoming series as competitive as ever.

Black Stars, Socceroos share spoils

The Black Stars and the Socceroos this morning played out a one-all draw in an international friendly at Loftus Road, London. The Socceroos are using these matches to prepare for the Asian Cup next year whilst the Black Stars, as hosts of next edition of the Africa Nations Cup in 2008 are using these friendlies to prepare for that tournament.

It was good to see the Socceroos play so well, especially in the first half where they dominated possession, despite not having players like Lucas Neill, Mark Viduka and Tim Cahill. Ghana on the other hand had a full strength squad with the likes of captain Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien and Sulley Al Muntari all present.

The Socceroos scored first through a penalty scored by John Aloisi in the first half and the Black Stars responded with just a quarter of an hour to go to full time when Junior Agogo was quick to respond to a spillage by Mark Schwarzer.

It was a game of two halves with Australia dominating in the first half and making a number of forays into the Ghana half which kept Ankaraspor based goalkeeper Richard Kingston busy despite some pain from what looked like a bad knock to the head early on in the match.

It took some time for the Black Stars to find their feet but once they did they had a fair say in the second half with their star players like Essien and Asamoah Gyan coming more and more into the game.

At the end of the day a draw was a fair result but for me it was good to see players like Patrick Kisnorbo and Luke Wilkshire come in and slot well into the Socceroos squad. Such strength and depth is what you need at the international level because you are not always going to have your first eleven players available.

The next international friendly for Australia will be against Denmark and for Ghana it will be against Argentina.

Van Nistelrooy hits four

I decided to watch the La Liga match between Osasuna and Real Madrid this morning on ESPN and I was impressed by the Real Madrid striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy who scored all Real's four goals against Osasuna's one. Just last week Real Madrid lost to Celta Vigo at home but this time they were in top form scoring three goals before the break.

This is good news for the Real fans who want their team to win and win in style but I don't think its exactly good news for Ronaldo who has just come out from an injury and is fighting for a place in Real's starting eleven. Ronaldo featured in the midweek Copa del Roy match and scored one goal he but was not even on the bench for this match.

Its also good news for England defenders who are not going face Van Nistelrooy on Thursday morning in a friendly international against the Netherlands unless he gets a last minute recall like the one AC Milan's Clarence Seedorf got. Van Nistelrooy has not been picked up by coach Marco van Basten since the end of the World Cup.

Van Nistelrooy is now joint top goal scorer with Real Zaragoza's Alberto Diego Milito and Sevilla's Fred Kanoute with eight goals. Its interesting to note that Ruud's eight goals have been scored in just three matches - against Barcelona(1), Levante(3) and this morning's four against Osasuna.

Cup goes to Japan

Yesterday it was Melbourne Cup Day and a well deserved holiday in Melbourne as we focused on the race that stops the nation.

As usual around the big race time we gathered around the television to watch the race and yes, what a race. The Japanese horses Delta Blue and Pop Rock took the first two places and the interesting piece for me was soon after the race when the Channel 7 reporter went to conduct the post race interview with the winning jockey, Yasunari Iwata.

For a moment I think the Channel 7 reporter did not realise that Yasunari did not speak a word of English and was probably mystified as to why there were no responses to his questios from the winning jockey but later he went instead to interview the jockey who came second, Damien Oliver.

Australia crowned champions

Australia won the ICC Champions Trophy for the first time after dismissing dissapointing West Indies in the ICC Champions trophy final in Mumbai, India early this morning.

The west Indies went on to a flying start reaching 49 runs for no wicket but it was downhill after that thanks to Nathan Bracken who started the Windies collapse.

after five overs the West Windies had scored 49 runs but for the next twenty five overs they they could only add a further 89 runs and that sums it all.

On the other hand Damien Martyn and Nathan Bracken starred with the bat for Australia with man of the match Bracken scoring an unbeaten 57.

Its very hard to tell whether the Champions Trophy victory has any bearing on the Ashes test but it should give the Aussies that bit of extra confidence.

Spurs break Chelsea hoodoo

Tottenham Hotspurs beat Chelsea for the first time in the English Premier League early this morning. To me this was the most outstanding result together with wins for Watford and Sheffied United who beat Middlesborough and Newcastle respectively.

Spurs last beat Chelsea in the league in the old First Division in 1990 when Gary Lineker scored and that was at Stamford Bridge but the last home win over Chelsea was in 1987.

So for my Challenge Lawro predictions I had no problems giving Chelsea a win and coupled with Spurs having played in the UEFA Cup during the week I thought they wouldn’t be able to break the hoodoo.

Spurs have improved very much under Martin Jol and are now able to at least stand up to the big four of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and high flying Manchester United and they are cruising well in the UEFA Cup. To me they still seem to have problems with the 'smaller' teams like the draw last week against Watford.

Chelsea on the other hand are not playing like the Chelsea of last season and may have to up their game if they are to come with anything from Old Trafford later this month. That match is critical because assuming both teams win their matches till then, them a win for Man U would open a formidable six point gap. But somehow Chelsea are able to rejuvenate themselves and I can see them coming back strongly with the squad that they have and they better do.

Elsewhere, Arsenal fired yet more blanks as they lost to Tevez and Mascherano-less West Ham. West Ham have won their last two matches and they have done so without the two Argentineans but relying more on in-form Teddy Sheringham. That seems to be a working formula for them and maybe worth keeping to continue the climb up the ladder.

Good to see both Watford and Sheffield win and more importantly for Sheffield it was an away win and that became only their second win of the season. Newcastle could be heading for a relegation battle if their form doesn't change soon but they have a good squad which if it clicks they should see off most teams easily.

But all in all the weekend belonged to Spurs!

Bigger squads for A-League

Sydney FC has got only 13 players available for Saturday night's match against Newcastle Jets with the rest of the players not being available either through injury or suspension.

This to me raises the question of whether the 20 man squad limit is not enough in a demanding A-League season spanning a minimum 21 normal season games without including the pre-season tournament and finals.

Technically I think an A-League club can have up two 22 players with the other two being a four week guest player(remember Kazu) and the other a marquee player.

Given that a team like Sydney FC is having to go to a match with just 13 players and with the number 2 goal-keeper Justin Pasfield being touted as a possible outfield player if need be I think the salary cap must be raised and the number of squad players increased to at least 23. This will also enable teams to have three goalkeepers compared to the current two.

Recently Perth Glory lost their first choice goalkeeper Jason Petkovic to injury and they had to scramble around to find a replacement. The situation would have been better if they had had three goalkeepers in their squad to start with.

Injuries and suspension especially given the pace of the A-League will continue to mount and I hope we won't have a case where a team will go to a match with just eleven players.

I am hoping that the salary cap will reviewed upwards at the end of the season to allow for bigger squads going into next season especially given that two of our teams will also be involved in the Asian Champions League

Australia face West Indies in final

Australia will play the West Indies in the ICC Champions Trophy final on Sunday in Mumbai, India after the West Indies dismissed South Africa's challenge winning by six wickets in the semi-finals.

The West Indies have been in top form in this tournament losing to Sri Lanka in a pre-qualifying match and then to England after they had already qualified for the semis. This makes a mockery of the need for them to go through the pre-qualifying tournament in the first place but maybe that gave them more preparation for the tournament proper.

Chris Gayle shone for the West Indies scoring an unbeaten 133 and on the South African side Herschelle Gibbs top scored with 77 runs but it is their bowling that let them down. South Africa could only take four wickets in the match with Shiv Chanderpaul retiring because of injury.

Australia/West Indies match should be an intriguing one and their group match is still the only match that was played over the full one hundred overs in the tournament. Its difficult to see where this final will go but but given their form, I think the West Indies will be slight favourites to me.

Australia dismiss New Zealand

Australia early this morning beat New Zealand by 34 runs to reach the ICC Champions Trophy final for the first time.

Australia had a poor start in its innings having been sent by New Zealand to bat first and for a while I thought New Zealand were on fire but Australia managed to hold on and score 240 runs.

New Zealand were let down by their top order batsmen with the top five batsmen scoring a paltry 23 runs and fifteen of those 23 runs were scored by the captain Stephen Fleming. But this was also due to the fact that back in form McGrath took three wickets.

In the end 206 all out was a respectable score especially for a team that at one was 35-6 thanks largely to the middle order batsmen and in particular Daniel Vettori who scored 79 which was the highest score of the match.

Now Australia awaits the winner of the West Indies/South Africa match in the final on Sunday.