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Manchester United 7-1 Roma – UCL – 10 Apr. 07 April 11, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Sports.
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chmps.JPG Manchester United’s display of power against humble Roma yesterday only sealed my conviction in a fact all football enthusiasts know but try to ignore: Like it or not, Manchester United are the strongest football team on the planet. So what makes the Red Devils work ike clockwork?

   

1-      Employment of both experienced players and young blood. Unlike a few Italian clubs that depend on experienced players (Milan for eg.) and clubs like Arsenal who have teenagers running all over the place, Manchester United employs and uses both experienced players (Giggs, Scholes) and youngsters (Rooney, Ronaldo) effectively.  

2-      Not too many stars, but not too few! Unlike star studded teams (like Chelsea and Real Madrid) and teams that do need a few major signings (my team Liverpool for eg.), Manchester united again employs from all ranks of players (I’ve only heard of Vidic this season), it keeps costs down, squad rotation easy, and provides little bad publicity (keeping stars on the bench is bad propaganda, ask Cappello!).  

3-      Work ethic! Nobody tolerates fiascos at Old Trafford (ask Jaap Stam and Ruud Van Niestelrooy), elsewhere; stars are sometimes recruited without the manager’s full support (Shevshenko and Ballak maybe and prospective club presidents now promise recruiting stars as part of their election campaigns (Real Madrid, Barcelona).  

4-      Finally and most importantly, the perfect blend of attacking flair (the beautiful game) and solid defense Unlike most Italian clubs that are well known for their solid boring defense (Juventus, Inter) and other Dutch and Spanish clubs that entertain but always seem to end up loosing (Valencia, and now Barcelona), Manchester United get it right most of the time, they rarely fail to entertain but are consistent enough to win trophies.

Hats off to Sir Alex!

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Reading 1-2 Liverpool – EPL – 7 Apr. 07 April 8, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Liverpool FC, Sports.
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badgelogo.JPGA relatively dull game from Liverpool! They were actually quite lucky to get all 3 points against a good Reading team. Benitez fielded a weaker side (quite expected) that was at first surprised by Reading’s resilient attacking. The Reds only managed to stabilize the game after 15 minutes when Arbeloa scored a nice goal from a counter attack. They then dropped back and the game died. After half-time Reading were again on the attack and were rewarded with a goal. Only then did Liverpool push and finally got the winner through Kuyt a few minutes before the final whistle. Interesting results were witnessed elsewhere in the Premiership; Manchester United lost while champs Chelsea won leaving the title race open between the top two, Arsenal lost agin while consolidating Liverpool in third place ahead of Arsenal about a month before the season ends.

PSV 0-3 Liverpool – UCL – 3 Apr. 07 April 7, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Liverpool FC, Sports.
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chmps.JPGA terrific performance from the Reds against an inept PSV side virtually guarantees them a spot in the semis. The well taken away goals from Gerrard, Riise, and Crouch make PSV’s task of salvaging a comeback at Anfield next to impossible. 

Benitez’s lineup worked interestingly well again; with Sissoko out suspended, a more vibrant Mascherano seemed to partner Alonso better at the center of midfield (both of them being accurate passers as well as tough defenders), and although Gerrard started the game on the right of midfield, he seemed to have the freedom to roam around and never left his favorite spot behind the strikers (that’s where he got his goal from). However, the void created on the right was duly filled by the energetic Steve Finnan who had a great game and created two of the goals. On the opposite side, another excellent performance from Riise channeled most of the play and got Liverpool another goal as well.  Up front, the strikers had an average game (as usual!).    

Will this slightly unstable lineup hold up against a team with more title aspirations than PSV? Maybe not, but Benitez’s unpredictability is what makes him the good tactical coach he is!

Liverpool 4-1 Arsenal – EPL – 31 Mar. 07 April 1, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Liverpool FC, Sports.
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badgelogo.JPGFinally! The Reds avenge this season’s previous meetings against the Gunners, and with style!  In this multi-goal thriller, Liverpool again showcase what they are truly capable of on a good day. 

    

Too bad I didn’t get to watch the first half, but when I saw the half-time score-line of 2-0, I was thrilled. I honestly expected a boring second half but to my surprise I got an unexpected treat! The Reds played openly and did not fall back; they did concede a goal and two crossbars in the process, but got two goals of their own. This game again proves a couple of points I tirelessly reiterate once and again; an inform striker (Crouch –with his hat trick- this time, although he and the other forward’s are not always consistent, that’s why Liverpool need a class A striker) backed by a superb Gerrard in the middle of midfield constitute a lethal weapon capable of wonders, add the solid defense (fronted by only one defensive midfielder) and terrific wingers for support, you’ll get a title challenging squad! Benitez may also field his otherwise more defensive lineup every now and then to change pace; like he did against Barcelona.  

      

What a great morale boosting victory against Arsenal’s youngsters especially before this week’s Champion’s League encounter with PSV. The Reds are now a step closer to finishing (deservedly) 3rd place in the premiership, and will surely receive an “honorable mention” in the Champion’s League if the season ends trophy-less.

Yes – Yes Acoustic: Guaranteed no Hiss March 23, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Movies/DVD's, Music, Prog Rock.
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yes-ac.JPGIt is very difficult to judge a recorded live performance because a large portion of the charm and ambience encountered in a live show is impossible to convey on CD or DVD. It is even more difficult if you’re judging technical virtuosos YES, especially in an Acoustic set! I was first worried that the quality of the music (not the recording quality!) would be damped by the attempt to convert all their technical genius into un-amplified grand piano aided ballads! But oh boy how happy I was when all my doubts were proven wrong! The DVD is terrific, especially classics ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Good People’ which ironically –as ballads- may very well be the best two versions of the songs I have ever listened to! In addition, I have never imagined hearing Jon Anderson sing so beautiful and deep on stage, the guy now rates No.1 on my best vocalist list, surpassing greats like Roger Daltrey, Freddie Mercury, even most of my favorite jazz singers.

      

The DVD I got has seven wonderful tracks, but ‘Good People’ and ‘Roundabout’ just stand out! They are both ingeniously arranged for an acoustic set, and played flawlessly. The line-up is the second best (second to the one in ‘Fragile’ and ‘Close to the Edge’, in my opinion at least) that yes have ever had, the same one we saw in ‘Tales from Topographic Oceans’ and ‘Relayer’. All this reassures the fact that technical geniuses like YES will have no problem adapting to any environment, be it classical or groovy. This DVD is a must!

Aston Villa 0-0 Liverpool – EPL – 18 Mar. 07 March 19, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Liverpool FC, Sports.
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badgelogo.JPGIn one of the duller matches of Liverpool’s season, Benitez again starts with his defensive minded lineup that did well against Barcelona 11 days ago. However, with both sides disorganized and playing safe, the outcome was an awful game in which the goalkeepers were never tested. I really do hope Liverpool do vary their tactics from time to time especially against very weak sides (like Aston Villa!) giving the players more freedom to score goals. Luckily Liverpool’s neighbors Everton beat Arsenal 1-0 at Goodison Park keeping the race to the automatic Champions League spot interesting!

Roundup – Uefa Champions League – 7 Mar. 07 March 10, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Sports.
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chmps.JPGIn a livelier set of matches than the away games, Manchester United beat Lille 1-0 to follow Brits Liverpool and Chelsea into the quarters, AC Milan had to wait to extra time to manage a 1-0 win against Celtic, Bayern Munich beat Real Madrid 2-1 to make it through giving Roy Makaay in the process the record of scoring the fastest goal in the competition’s history (10 seconds was it!), and finally, a never duller Arsenal side only managed a 1-1 draw with PSV and are now out of all cup competitions.

Roundup – Uefa Champions League – 6 Mar. 07 March 10, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Champions League, Liverpool FC, Sports.
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chmps.JPGIn an exact replica of their game against Manchester United 3 days ago, Liverpool lost 1-0 in a game they once again dominated! However, this time they did get to their objective, and they are through to the Champions League quarters at the expense of the defending champions. With a defensive minded lineup, Benitez once again showed what a terrific defensive job the Reds could put on. It was total containment! The Catalans did not breathe until the last 15 minutes or so when they got the goal! Putting all my admiration of the performance aside, I have to voice my concern once again about the lack of attacking firepower! Liverpool’s strikers once again ceased to cause any major trouble in the visitor’s box. A defender and a defensive midfielder were the two who hit the Catalan woodwork. I can go on and on! I’ll just wait until the summer transfer window opens to see if Misters Hicks and Gillett are going to cash in on a major striker, the only path to winning ways!  

Elsewhere, Valencia drew 0-0 at home with Inter to make it through, Chelsea beat Porto 2-1 in London to advance as well, and finally, the surprise of the evening, Roma won away 2-0 against title favorites (in my opinion at least) Lyon to thwart the French’s hopes of a championship title once again.

Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United – EPL – 3 Mar. 07 March 4, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Liverpool FC, Sports.
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badgelogo.JPGThe extent to which football is sometimes deemed a heartbreaker was clearly demonstrated at Anfield yesterday! What a disaster! If I’m not mistaken, it was 11 Liverpool corners to Manchester’s 2 (not to mention all the other statistics in their favor) at the 90th minute when a scramble in the Liverpool box gave John O’shea a last minute winner! I have never seen anything like it; just take a look how high Sir Alex Ferguson jumped when Manchester got the goal.    

However, blaming fate is never a reason for a loss like yesterday’s. If a world class striker was on Liverpool’s side, at least one of the tens of chances would have been converted! The prolific defensive work by the Reds might justify Benitez’s decision to play Gerrard on the right (a subject of continuous controversy) and two defensive minded midfielders in the middle, but the strike force (except for a good Bellamy performance) failed again, and a finisher of the calibre of Henry or Shevshenko is a basic requirement now for a good scoring record! Let’s hope the loss will not affect Tuesday’s clash with Barca. 

Liverpool 4-0 Sheffield United – EPL – 24 Feb. 07 March 3, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Liverpool FC, Sports.
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badgelogo.JPGA good performance from the reds got them a win against a weak Sheffield United side by a whopping 4 goals to nil. 2 goals by Robbie Fowler, a rare one by Sami Hyppia, and another from Steven Gerrard got Liverpool another three points to consolidate their third place position as well as giving them a moral boost before next weeks thriller with Manchester United. Let’s see what happens then!