Recent Comments

Hugo on Eurosport beams Nations Cup matches: Really hoping Nigeria do well in this tournament b ...
Delivery Hero on England, France paired in Euro 2012: Can't wait for Euro 2012! ...
Wes on 2011/12 English Premiership Preview: Thanks Sybil, I think Man City cannot easily be di ...
Wes on 2011/12 English Premiership Preview: Thanks Bambo for the comment. I think its going to ...
Phil on 2011/12 English Premiership Preview: Good post, this looks like a very unpredictable se ...

Archive for November 2007

A drawn round

Last week's A-League's round 14 had all the matches drawn with just four goals scored and this was the first time in the short A-League history that all the matches for a particular round have been drawn.

Previously the highest number of drawn matches in a round has been three and this has happened three times before, twice this season in the first two rounds and once in the inaugural season in round 2.

The drawn round means that the number of draws this season so far is 23 out of 56 matches played so far which is just over 40% of the matches. To me that looks like a big percentage of drawn matches but I think it is to be expected from teams which are nearly of equal strength.

A quick comparison with the English Premier League will show that so far this season there have been 37 draws which is 26% of all the matches played. It will be interesting to see the comparison at the end of the season and if I get the time I could add some graphs to the analysis.

The draws meant that the league ladder did not change at all in terms of positions which I think could benefit the teams near the bottom of the ladder as the points difference has remained the same.

For Melbourne Victory, unfortunately instead of seeing more goals, what we are witnessing are more red cards. The match against Wellington Phoenix was a good chance to get all three points and overtake Sydney FC on the ladder but with Kevin Muscat's red card, the task was made harder and it now looks like its going to be tough reaching the finals.

Last week I said that it was important to get four points from the matches against Phoenix and Perth Glory and now it looks very hard because in order to do that the team has to win in Perth and thats not going to be easy against a resurgent Glory team which may include returning Stan Lazaridis.

Thankfully Muscat will be back for the crunch match against Adelaide at the Dome and assuming there are no reds in Perth, Victory could have a strong line-up for the grand final rematch.

Change of guard

The weekend Federal elections saw the Labor win and Kevin Rudd elected and has Labor has won the federal elections for the first time in 14 years.

I am not going dwell so much on that but what has happened in the aftermath especially on the Liberal side has been very interesting. I was surprised to see that Peter Costello was not going to contest to take leadership of the Liberals from outgoing Prime Minister John Howard.

Of the people who have up their hands and they say they will contest I think Malcolm Turnbull will have a good chance compared to the two other contestants Brendan Nelson and Tony Abbott.

Turnbull already agrees with the idea of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol which is good and backs the Labor Government's moves to say "sorry" to Indigenous Australians as reported here.

The nationals are also looking for a leader Mark Vaile announced that he will step down from his post the Nationals' dismall showing at the elections. Instead of a coalition I think its time the coalition just combines and form one party.

England fall short as Russia progress

England this morning lost to Croatia and with that failed to qualify for Euro 2008 to be jointly hosted by Austria and Switzerland.

After Israel's surprise win over Russia at the weekend, England only needed a draw to qualify for next year's Euro championship but the loss means England will miss a major tournament for the first time since the 1994 World Cup.

I never thought England would fail to get a draw they needed to get through to the Euros especially against a team that had already qualified but performance on the night was so poor I could not believe these were top premiership players playing for England.

I thought that it was a good idea by Steve McLaren not to play Paul Robinson but I think he should have opted for more experienced David James instead of the inexperienced Scott Carson. It was also a brave decision to drop Robinson especially as he had not let in a goal at home throughout the campaign and all his famous blunders were away from home.

But I think its early in the campaign when McLaren messed up when he decided not to play David Beckham especially when he was in very good form that time at Real Madrid. He then recalled him but by then the campaign was not going too well already.

England's failure to qualify is more painful given the fact the team that is going in their place Russia has not been playing any better. They could not get a point in Israel and could only beat Andorra by an odd goal but the fact now is that they are going to the Euros and I think by the time they start Guus Hiddink would have made them a better team.

Now I am keen to see who will replace McLaren who said he is not resigning but I think the Football Association will have to replace him with somebody who can give England a better chance to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

No surprises in Hobart

There were no surprises in Hobart in the second and final Test between Australia and Sri Lanka as Australia went on to win by 96 runs.

Kumar Sangakkara scored a superb 192 and gave hope to Sri Lanka for an unlikely victory but I think that in the end Australia were by far a better team and deserved to win the series. It was also sad to see that Sangakkara was wrongly given out because it would have been good to see where he would have taken his innings.

I think Brett Lee had a great series and he took eight wickets in the second Test. I still think that the new Australian bowling line up was not tested very much by Sri Lanka and I am keen to see what will happen in the next Test series against India.

The much talked about Muttiah Muralitharan's record attempt came to nothing as he only could get four wickets in the entire series but he now needs just four runs to pass Shane warne's 708 haul. Possibly the good news is that he will be able to do so before his home fans in the upcoming three match Test series against England.

The next Test series for Australia is going to be against India and I am looking foward to that one. On paper it should be competitive but many teams have come here and just looked ordinary and I hope India will not do that.

Crunch time for Victory

After last weekend's loss to Queensland Roar, the next two matches are against Wellington Phoenix at home and Perth Glory away and these matches have to be won or at least get four points from them if the season has to salvaged.

Wellington should have got four points from last week's match against Sydney some moments of madness in the dying moments of that game made sure they could only get a point. So against Victory I think they will be fired up to get a win to tie the points tally with victory.

A few weeks ago I said that it was too early to write off a top four finish for Victory but since then the team has collected just one point after losses to Central Coast Mariners and Queensland Roar and then the goalless draw against Sydney.

At this moment in time there are twenty four points to play for but the most important thing is start winning some matches. Apart from the Roar match were Victory were pathetic in the three previous matches I thought that team played well but its up front where there are problems.

Danny Allsop and Archie Thompson are lacking the supply from midfield and therefore the goals have suddenly dried. Also the team doesn't seem capable of scoring from set pieces and that is something that I think Ernie Merrick should work on.

Elsewhere there are some interesting match ups this week with Newcastle Jets playing the Mariners and the Roar going to meet in-form Sydney. The later is a clash between two teams playing very well at the moment and it will be interesting to see if the Roar can pull an away win.

If the Mariners win against the Jets then they will open a seven point gap at the top if the Roar lose to Sydney. I think that could set them on their way to the finals.

Federer too good for Ferrer

Roger Federer has beaten David Ferrer in straight sets in the final of the Masters Cup in Shanghai to hand Ferrer his first defeat at this tournament.

Ferrer making his debut had a very good tournament winning all his matches in the group stage and easily beating Andy Roddick in the semis but Federer was just too good for him.

I think Federer has been exceptional especially in the last two matches against Roddick and Rafael Nadal whom he beat so convincingly. Although Nadal gave a fight in the first set he had nothing to say in the second.

Its interesting to see that at one stage Federer needed to win against Roddick in order to reach the semis although Fernando Gonzalez's loss to Nikolay Davydenko made sure that he had qualified before the match against Roddick started.

In the final Federer made sure that Ferrer did not play his natural game which had given him some excellent results and in doing so he dominated Ferrer.

Now the season has finished and the next major tournament will be the 2008 Australia Open and I look forward to see if Federer can successfully defend his title again at the Rod Laver Arena.

Scotland miss out

Scotland missed out on the Euro 2008 qualification when they lost to Italy at Hampden Park and now France and Italy qualify from Scotland's group B.

It has been a dream run for Scotland who earlier in the campaign looked all set to qualify for Euro 2008 especially after beating Ukraine at home but the result that made things a bit difficult was the one against Georgia four days later when Scotland lost 2 nil at the Lokomotivi Stadium.

When the draw was made it looked to me like it was going to be a straight fight between France and Italy but Scotland shook the group especially with the away victory against France which will long be remember for James McFadden's spectacular shot for the only goal of the match.

At Hampden Park I thought Italy deserved their win and I think that the referee's assistant made a mistake in disallowing Italy's goal in the first half.

I now hope that Scotland will be encouraged by this campaign and be there in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. The team should be more experienced then and more confident knowing that they are a very good team and can pull out results even in difficult matches.

Elsewhere I was surprised by Turkey's win over Norway and that gives them given a huge advantage to join Greece and qualify from Group C.

Also now England know that anything other than a loss will see them at Euro 2008 and this is something that looked very unlikely before Russia surprisingly lost to Israel.

I will also be interested to see what happens between Portugal and Finland where a win for Finland will block Euro 2004 finalists from going to Austria and Switzerland.

Gilchrist shines in Hobart

Sri Lanka are continuing to struggle in the second and final Test in Hobart and with all eyes on Muttiah Muraritharan beating Shane Warne's record it was Adam Gilchrist who came with a record of his own.

Gilchrist became the first player to get 100 sixes in Test matches when he hit two consecutive sixes off Muralitharan's bowling in Australia's first innings. That was probably the highlight of the second day as captain Ricky Ponting declared at 542 for five wickets.

Sri Lanka has been very poor with the team all out for 246 in its first innings despite Mahela Jayawardene's century. Credit to Brett Lee for taking four wickets and with no follow-on imposed this time Australia are doing very well at the end of day three with 111 runs for just one wicket.

Murali's tally is now on 704 and lets see what the fourth day will provide.

Brawn for Honda Challenge

Ross Brawn is going to join Honda as team principal after a one-year sabbatical.

I expected Brawn to go back to Ferrari where he had spent ten years before the sabbatical but he thinks Honda will give him more of a challenge compared to Ferrari.

Honda didn't do very well this season with Rubens Barrichello failing to score a single point and Jenson Button scoring just 6 points. So in terms of a challenge there is a really a challenge at Honda.

Compared to the 2006 season, Button got 56 points and Barrichelo got 30 to make a formidable 86 points which earned Honda an impressive fourth place in the constructors title. In that same season Button got his maiden win.

So Brawn will join Honda as Team Principal with full responsibility for designing, manufacturing, engineering and racing Honda’s Formula One car and he will work alongside Nick Fry who will continue as Chief Executive of the team according to Honda website.

Brawn will find a familiar face at Honda in the form of Barrichello. After a disastrous 2007 I think Barrichello will be hoping that Brawn's input will bring a better 2008.

Easy run at the Gabba

Australia coasted to victory winning by an innings and 40 runs after Sri Lanka were forced to follow on after their first innings of 211 which was 340 runs short of Australia's total.

Only the rain that stopped the match twice in the last two days could have made it a draw.

I was keen to see how many wickets Muttiah Muralitharan would take to edge closer to Shane Warne's record of 708 wickets but with Sri Lanka losing by an innings, Muralitharan only managed to get two wickets to get to 702.

He will now need seven more wickets in Hobart if he is to overtake Warne's total on Australian soil. After Hobart, Sri Lanka next Test will be against England at home and I am sure he will be able to break the record then if he doesn't in Hobart.

But it was good to see Phil Jaques get his maiden Test century when he opened the match. Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke were the other Australian batsmen to notch centuries.

A discussion of this Test will not end without talking about Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press who did not cover the Test due to a dispute with Cricket Australia. I wonder when this dispute will be resolved.

This was Australia's first Test without Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer and lets what happens in the second in Hobart.

Indiscipline costly to Victory

Melbourne Victory has received three red cards in the last two matches to players Steve Pantelidis, Joseph Keenan and Rodrigo Vargas and these could prove costly in the next few matches as all three players are defenders.

Victory's next match is against arch-rivals Sydney FC and its a kind of a match when you need all players to be available but Victory will have to make do without three important players and will have to operate with a makeshift defence.

The losses in those two matches have added pressure on the champions to win some games. I think its too early to start talking of missing the finals because the points difference between the top team and sixth placed team is just six points and I think even the seventh placed team which is nine points adrift still has a chance with thirty points to play for.

Round 11 of the A-League was an interesting round with the away teams winning the first three matches 1-nil and it was Victory who couldn't continue the trait when they lost away to Central Coast Mariners.

Despite the red cards I think Victory have played some of their best football in the last two rounds and its been good to watch. Carlos Hernandez has been more involved and is beginning to show some class.

The next match against Sydney is an interesting one because unlike last season there is only one match against Sydney at the Dome. Sydney are on a high at the moment winning their two matches so far under the new coach John Kosmina and they should give Melbourne a tough match.

Former Leeds star Michael Bridges is playing well and scored last week and I think he can only get better as he adjusts to the A-League. Juninho is expected to take some part in the match despite failing to play the full match in the last round against Newcastle Jets due to injury concerns.

Perth Glory now have a new coach in Dave Mitchell but I think they have a lot of work to do in order to start climbing up the table. They need to start scoring goals and once they score the goals defend well to keep that lead. The Jets will be the first test for the new coach.

In the other matches the Mariners can increase their lead at the top if they can beat Adelaide at home whilst I think Wellington Phoenix will be very fortunate to get a point against the high flying Queensland Roar.

Nalbandian Master's run continues

David Nalbandian has won two Masters titles in a row after beating Rafael Nadal at the Paris Masters Open in straight sets.

Last month at the Madrid Masters Nalbandian beat Roger Federer in the final to win that tournament and this time he has beaten the world number 2.

I think his good run has come at the wrong end of the year because had he been having this form at the start of the year he surely would have challenged for one or two grand slam titles. He will need to pick himself up again next year and continue to rise to the top of the tennis rankings.

One thing for sure is that he must be enjoying his good run of easily beating the top ranked players. In the second set such was Nalbandian dominance that Nadal failed to win a single game.

Whilst in Madrid he managed to beat the top three players on his way to the title in Paris he only had to beat the top two because the world number 3 Novak Djokovic lost to Fabrice Santoro in the second round.

Alonso, McLaren part ways

Two time world driver's champion Fernando Alonso has left McLaren after just one season full of drama.

To me this is not very surprising because I just felt Alonso and Lewis Hamilton couldn't be in the same team for another F1 season and its good that Alonso and McLaren have decided to go their separate ways.

At the end of the 2006 season it looked like it was a perfect match when McLaren announced that rookie Hamilton was going to partner Alonso. At the time it looked like a perfect match because here was the current world champion partnering with a rookie with 'all to learn' but Hamilton then proved he was more than just a rookie.

As the season continued it looked more and more like Hamilton could challenge for the title in his own right and I think thats where the problems started and provided some drama to make the just ended season one of the most entertaining both on the track and off it.

Now the question is where will Alonso go? By all accounts he would have gone to Ferrari but Ferrari has their full complement of drivers for next season and so maybe he will go back to Renault.

There is also the question of who will join Hamilton at McLaren but I think once Alonso finds a new team there will be a chain reaction leading to movement by other drivers. It looks like everybody was waiting to see what was going to happen with the McLaren drivers before making any moves.

Looking forward to the 2008 season, it should be interesting to see Alonso and Hamilton fighting it out from two different teams and I think there is more drama coming but at least this time it will mostly be on the track which is good.