Monday, April 30, 2012

Manchester City beat United to top league

The Manchester United versus Manchester City derby in the English Barclays Premier League was a tense affair from start to finish, with the hosts, City, wasting possible match winners early on. Arguero could have silenced the prouder red side of Manchester, but his finishing came from the heart rather than the boot.

It took a dead ball situation and a defender to open the goals account when a Vincent Kompany thumping header nearly tore off the nets with a minute of the referee's optional time left in the first half. It proved to be a match, and potentially a championship winner as all toiled all night for naught.

The Manchester City coach tried to match the senior and revered mentor decision for decision throughout the encounter and was rewarded for reading his master well with the vital three points,maybe the biggest of his career.

United sought parity upon the restart piling pressure and pushing forward with men and mobility, and earning corner kicks and getting into vital positions. City refused to be bullied and intimidated as they pushed forward themselves to seal the deal. They kept possession much better and were a little settled and composed.

United became content shutting the back door and thwarting any further attack thrown at them. Evident desperate reactions from both sides were the order of the night as the second half got older and the match wore on. The obvious sterile attempts to thread the ball in early to the forwards by City was matched by United's thirst to defend well and feed Wayne Rooney who dropped deep either to collect balls or evade his markers.

Danny Welbeck was introduced as a replacement for the ineffective Park Ju Sung at the 58th minute to try to pry the City defence open. Smalling and Nani found themselves committing frustration-induced fouls in the midfield unnecessarily.

The hosts turned the fuel screw of the carburretor in as they sought to penetrate a negatively defensive United defence of four defenders and five linkmen. Joeleen Lescott and captain Kompany stood resolute and repelled all thrown at them, especially given an easy task of working against Rooney who fought a tough but lone battle upfront.

With a better final ball in the offensive third, the Citizens could have silenced the Red Devils for good quite early and even much later, but they delayed the party and the erratic passing in the box kept giving United hoping for the best upto the very last minute.

Midfield duels were always the contest to win as Roberto Mancini replaced the striker, Carlos Tevez with Nigel de Jong to step-up the combative battle with Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nani and Michael Carrick in the centre of the park. It was a move meant to counter Sir Alex Ferguson's withdrawal of a midfielder by a striker, that is Park by Welbeck.

Valencia replaced Scholes as a measure of desperation. This should have increased the attacking power of Sir Alex Ferguson's side but as tackles started flying from both United and City, it was brutally going to be a blood sweat affair. de Jong and Carrick got carried away with unwarranted tackles in midfield.

As tactics became more relevant, United introduced Ashley Young for the too silent Nani as David Silver left room for right back Michael Richards in a counter-move by Mancini. At that point, the visible progress of City was too irritating for the knight in Alex Ferguson as he boxed Mancini verbally, almost physically.

With 3 minutes to go, Gael Clichy could have wrapped things up convincingly before Samir Nasri had an even better opportunity after a fine run by Yaya Toure on the left, but he took too much time on the ball. He had an option of feeding Arguero but the ball was too close to his feet making it difficult for him to release it timeously.

As would be expected in a United match, there was 5 minutes added time even though there were no injury stoppages, but that would not take away the fighting spirit out of the blue half of Manchester and it did not help. James Milner was introduced as a way to kill time and break the possible rhythm United may have been hoping for, replacing Nasri.

Patrice Evra's last minute earning of a corner gave them some hope as the last kicks involving Smalling were thwarted by Joe Hart who was fouled when the Devils hoped for a penalty.

City could never be denied their glory against United and with that, set a finale to the season-end with a potentially explosive conclusion to the title fight. The title tilted to the blue side of Manchester as all is in their hands(feet) with two matches to go.

It may boil down to how United bully Swansea and Sunderland and how brutal against Newcastle and Queen's Park Rangers will City be. Go on folks.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bosso’s forward march iced.

Castle Larger Premier league enters week five with seven games lined up.

The game that was billed to the top of the crop, Highlanders vs Dynamos has been postponed as the current champions are away in Tunisia.

 According to the premier league, any postponed match would be played mid-week.

 It is highly unlikely that the traditional rivals would play a midweek game.

However, interesting facts are emerging on how the league is shaping up.

74 goals have been scored

55 players have scored

13 players have scored more than one goal

12 goals have been conceded by a single team –Quelaton

42 players have scored a single goal

28 games have been played so far

16 cleans sheets gave been kept in games played

Of the 28 games played so far, 11 away wins have been recorded, 9 home wins and 8 draws

Struggling Bulawayo outfit Quelaton have not scored a goal at its home ground, Luveve Stadium.

Weekend Fixtures


Home Team              Away Team                Venue                  Kick-Off Time

Black Mambas  FC    Monomotapa FC     Morris Depot  Stadium       1500

Chicken Inn  FC         F C Platinum FC    Luveve Stadium                 1500

Motor Action FC        Blue  Rangers FC  Motor Action Sports Club   1500

Harare City FC         Quelaton FC           Gwanzura  Stadium            1500


Home Team           Away Team          Venue           Kick-Off Time

Gunners FC         Caps United FC     La Farge  Stadium    1500

Shabanie Mine FC   Hardbody FC     Maglas  Stadium      1500

Hwange FC              Buffaloes FC     Hwange Colliery       1500

Highlanders FC       Dynamos FC     (Postponed) 


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where did Madrid really lose it?

For starters, they were a sentimental choice, either for having lived in the shadow of Barcelona for too long or for the efforts Jose Mourinho, who had suffered a few injustices and unwarranted criticisms, had put in them or both. Little had anything to do with their victory over Barca in the El Classico as many had made their choice by then.

Let us talk football. Real Madrid were dumped out by the Frank Ribery strike last week, offside as it was. Their status remained thus until the Ozil goal which did not count them in either. Gomez strike left them in the doldrums to the point Cristiano Ronaldo banged in the spot kick at the Santiago Bernebeu. As precarious as that condition was, Real were in it given the 2-2 draw and Madrid's away goal.

Another goal from Ronaldo was far from cementing the finals. Any strike by Bayern Munich would nullify everything, as it did, and that is what gave the Spanish team the gitters.

Of interest to me was to observe how Real Madrid lived a life without defenders. Many think their arch-rivals, Barcelona, have no defenders, but in Pique and Puyol, that is all you would need. Real only have Pepe, who I would make a midfielder any day and that is all.

Facing the Piranha-fish-teeth-sharp attack of Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben spearheaded by Gomez, one needs supernatural intervention and higher powers. It was always a bet against the sun rising in the east to expect special tactics to suffice in thwarting the marauding German attack.

After the pathetic soft butter tried to block the red-hot knife, questions of how they survived Barcelona and other teams before them left me perplexed and shuttered.

The obvious truth was that Jose Mourinho believed in an outdated and wrong claim that the best way to defend is to attack. If your team passes the ball a shade too late, the ball reception gets awkward and much time is lost trying to kill the ball and initiate the thought process for the next step. With that, Madrid  were a step behind in their operation, from marking, passing, shooting and even creating space for each other.

At the moment they needed some steel in midfield, one wondered where Lassy Diarra was. He may not the Claude Makelele, but that is what that Real lacked, in the absence of true central defenders. The fluency and appetising trickery of Ronaldo fooled the club and the coach, that they were sufficiently efficient.

The beauty of football is that the wrong elements of a concept, as well as mismanaged principles of either attack or defence, may give comfort to the team if the results are coming. The same goes for unqualified and ignorant coaches. They go on with the game because they get the results and go on to command high positions, killing the game.
The early goals of the match in question showed the high tactical and technical level of Madrid, given the very difficult El Classico in preceding days. Bayern had the luxury of resting key players for the clash.

Fatigue crept in after the unfortunate Pepe penalty as the hosts needed to raise the bar. The tempo remained fairly flat for the entire second half and things picked up in extra time as Mourinho realised they would reach the shootouts.

The goals failed to come at the peak periods, supping the little energy the players had. That energy was just enough to take the clock to 120 minutes. Optional times were excessively too much. The best thing would have been Real Madrid getting the results doing as little as possible. Failing that, they laid bare for a massacre which somehow did not happen.

Not that Bayern played underpar. They were more disciplined and purposeful, looking like the home side for most of the time. Despite their commitment being drowned by the home crowd, they were more comfortable on the ball and fluid in attack.

With a little more patience and level headedness, they would have made light work of Madrid with composure in front of goal. Gustavo was the solid link that Real needed. There is more technical and tactical work that could be looked at in that game, but it is so depressing to pursue, unless you are a fan of Munich.

Bayern dump Real to reach final

Home advantage counted for nothing as Bayern Munich dumped host, Real Madrid out of the UEFA Champions League at the Santiago Bernebeu on penalties. The gruelling semi-final started with Khedira getting an early shot on target after being fed by Di Maria who went to the by-line and pushing a cut-back.

The very dramatic and fast paced opening saw a long ball from the left across the penalty box, and Alaba handled the ball to give away a penalty but was unfairly yellow carded as he was already going down with that hand. Cristiano Ronaldo calmly converted the penalty in the 5th minute.

Ronaldo was left unattended outside the penalty area and fired a low shot past the goalkeeper in the 14th minute to take control of the matters over the visitors who came in with a 2-1 lead from Germany last week.
Bayern Munich themselves created and wasted very clear-cut opportunities with Arjen Robin and Frank Ribery being chief culprits.

Lead striker, Gomez and a 19-year-old Alaba tried from a long distance in desperate attempts and with 23 minutes played, all  Bayern players looked too desperate and careless. They were not punished by the inept Madrid side that lacked a cutting edge that saw them win the El Classico 2-1 a few days ago.

Pepe, who played a blinder, brought down Gomez inside the box and Robin beat Ike Cassillas to level the aggregate 3-3 in the 26th minute. Madrid started piling up pressure and creating more chances with Benzema and Ronaldo.

It was however Marcelo who was pushing forward well on the left being complemented by Mezuit Ozil. At crucial points of the match, Gomez proved too wasteful as the Real defence was being continuously curved open in the middle.

After the half-time break, Bayern took control of the match with goalkeeper Neuer making brilliant saves including one from Benzema. Real Madrid sought in vain to stamp their authority in midfield as Ribery and Schweinsteiger probed the left wing assisted by Badstuber while Lahm contributed more to the offensive cause than the defensive collective of Bayern on the right.

Xavi Alonso provided a solid link in winning the ball and initiating attacks while the aggressive Gustavo did the same for Bayern. Gustavo rode his luck with numerous fouls committed against Ronaldo, Marcelo and Ozil. The resultant free-kicks were quite direct by Ronaldo, causing minimum threat to Neuer.

The Special One introduced Kaka for Di Maria in the 75th minute. The visitors threw caution to the wind and effectively controlled the midfield as if they were the home team, pushing Real on the back foot and causing them to rely on counter attacks.

Munich was far more accurate in passing and a little patient compared to Madrid who grew impatient. With 5 minutes regulation time remaining, Gomez lost the best opportunity of the match after being set-up by Robben, who himself had wasted a glorious chance in the first half.

Extra time started well for Madrid, with a promising corner-kick and they increased the pace of the match, taking the initiative to open the Munich defence. Pepe surged forward several times until he attracted fouls from Gustavo who finally earned himself a yellow card.

Kaka had chances to wrap it up with 8 minutes of play remaining but was too hesitant. He overdid things and lost possession at crucial times and taking too long to release the ball.

Marcelo's performance was however outstanding with his interception, dribbling and passing. His contribution in defence and attack play was so crucial and he tirelessly toiled consistently the entire match until the penalty shoot-out.

Youthful Alaba drove a hard and low shot past Cassillas to open the shoot-out account while the revered Ronaldo missed his spot kick as Neuer dived low to save a hesitantly taken kick. Gomez slotted the second one while Kaka missed exactly the same way Ronaldo did - same shot, same spot and same save.

Cassillas saved Kroos's attempt to give Madrid some hope as Xavi Alonso followed up with a cool conversion. Captain, Phillip Lahm had his penalty saved by Cassillas and Madrid were in it again. It did not last that long as Sergio Ramos took his to the rafters, ballooning it way over the bar.

Schweinsteiger faced Casillas to complete an unlikely rout to embarrass Jose Mourinho. The final kick rubbed salt into the La Liga campaign that saw Barcelona bow out to Chelsea 24 hours earlier and of course, setting up a potential thriller between the Blues and Bayern who will be hosts. Both finalist will play their respective FA Cup final matches before the Champions League final.

Bayern will face Borussia Dortmund while Chelsea will date Liverpool a week before their 19th May 2012 date. For neutrals, it will be a final of the underdogs, and probably the best thing to happen as the usual suspects will be watching the finals like the rest of us, on TV.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Post mortem: It's what Barca did not do, or not?

Suddenly, everyone think Chelsea FC are the heroes and Roberto Di Mateo the man. It is surely with good reason and man do they deserve it! A friend of mine excellently summed it up well by saying that the only time he saw a team defend with such gusto and with their lives, was way back in 1990, at the Italia '90 Fifa World Cup during the opening match when 9-men Cameroon shut out and beat the world champions, Argentina, 1-0.

I usually fore go my agreements and disagreement with fellow bloggers like Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez. I am tempted to boast about it once in a while. I went through one analysis which showed we wrote it about about the same time, but given our different geographical locations, I will not say they were copying my posts.

Without giving much detail of total agreements we had about how Barcelona lost it, it is suffice to say that the game of football is like that. The odds Chelsea faced from the first leg in London and then Barcelona were almost insurmountable, but when a team stands up to be counted, special things happen.

After the departure of one AVB, I went through his reign that faced resistance of the team's old guard. Much attention was also given to how the Blues could be a very dangerous team. At this point, all can see that they are team that have suddenly ran out games to win the Premiership.

Having said that, some coaching needs to be thrown into the works and so far, Di Mateo's philosophy has not come in to the fore. What has been exhibited is what African township footballers call a 'money game mentality'. Tactics and talent count for nothing.

Defending with one's life and body is one acceptance mode if one is devoid of necessary qualification to compete. That drove Chelsea. Al things equal and pound for pound, they knew they were no match for Barcelona.

What the Catalan faithfuls and the technical department will now defend with their lives, is the answer to the question flying throughout the media at this moment -  that they have no plan B, but then, one must understand the footballing meaning of their plan A to start with.

Those privileged to have accessed my book, The Anatomy of Football will know by now, the obvious facts that a team to score goals, they need to have the ball. The defence philosophy becomes easy to deduce, given that you must not concede if you keep it, well of course.

Barcelona kept the ball to themselves and got carried away too much in doing that. It is how keep it and what you do with it next that will matter more.

The Spanish team, despite their shining record and statistics, never passed their quarter-final status, save for 3 minutes. This was after the Andreas Iniesta's goal and the Ramirez's strike. The rest of the 200 minutes of the matches, they were either either at par or chasing the game.

Their comfort lay in sharing the deal with the Londoners before Didier Drogba hit the net at Stanford Bridge, after which they were over and out, and then at the point Busquets scored at the Camp Nou. As afore-mentioned, they only momentarily took the initiative with Iniesta's superb strike. With the magical Brazilian's deft touch, they were doomed once more, albeit permanently.

For their efforts, Chelsea were on the back foot from the front. Much of the fixture depended on what they did, and how well they would continue to do it. They needed to close down attacks and stop conceding the ball they could not have. That called for discipline and character.

Knowing how difficult that can be in real life, John Terry became human and nearly cost the team dearly when he was red-carded for an offence he really did not need to commit. Under the circumstances, it was not about numbers, statistics or tactics as already said. It was a different ball game.

While I attracted hate from Barca fans as a 'hater' of the Catalans, it may start to make sense what I always tried to put across. I love football and Barcelona. Lionel Messi is my favourite footballer and, of course, the best player ever. My point has been, and always be, the team is finished. How?

With their incredible ability to possess, pass and play the ball, they should have the ability to play in frontal lines and even more. Many saw as the only option for Chelsea to park the bus in front of the Barcelona goal, and surely, so did Barca themselves.

The Spanish giants used the same eyes to look at their own available solutions to the problems; to plummet the bus to total destruction. They wanted to ride over the flat remains of the steel heap and much over it bare-footed. They have successfully done that before against Real Madrid and other big European teams. Maybe the size of the competitions warranted it.

This one was a different kettle of fish altogether. The bus was bigger, Blue and its tyres fully inflated. Their easiest option, which I have seen them fail to implement well now than they did before, was to tow the bus away. Hook up a tow-bar and drive away the thing and slot balls in.

In football terms, instead of staying years at the edge of the Chelsea penalty box, they could have kept the ball further out, slowly and inch by inch. Players, no matter how old and how mature, they will always follow the ball. It does not have to make sense whatever they do, as seen by the red card Terry received, they always get attracted to the leather.

The obvious space created between Petr Cech and his third class central defenders in wing defenders, Ivanovic and Bosingwa, was where their money was. It is common knowledge how the fast-paced Messi intrinsically interweaves passes with Iniesta and Xavi into the box at great speed.

All Barca did, was failed to slide away a bus they tried to grind to powder when it was ready to roll. For their good part, they waited for the pounding to finish and efficiently threw precise attacks at very opportune moment with tell composure that their chief architects, Xavi, Messi and Iniesta would be jealous about.

Given 90% of the squad have Fifa World Cup medals to their well-deserved and due credit, failing to see and act on that qualifies me to tell you that they are finished. As the leading team in the world, they are done. Their history and momentum may carry them a little further, but either the coach or some key players will have to go and leave the rebuilding process to commence, the sooner the better.

(The Anatomy of Football is currently available at discounted rates at the Amazon online store.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

10-men-Chelsea embarass Barcelona 3-2

Chelsea beat Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate in the UEFA Champions League after a 2-2 draw on the night. The decorated one touch shoe-shine piano known as the tiki-taka football counted for naught when the moment to separate boys from men arrived at the Camp Nou. Chelsea entered the treacherous jungle of Barcelona under the circumstances only likened to the lion's den.

The early quick exchanges from the hosts threatened to render the match a suicidal undertaking by the Londoners as Lionel Messi ran through earlier on. The initial runs into the box promised an avalanche of goals for a potential landslide victory.

Until the moment of Barca's Busquests' goal in the 35th minute, the evidence of Chelsea being at the wrong place was everywhere for all to see. The Cesc Fabregas low cross from the left caught Ashley Cole on the wrong side of action.

The moment of craziness from John Terry dumped the English Premier League giants into the 'new buffalo mother's pen as the match took a twist for the worst for the visitors. Terry was red-card for an off-the ball incident for pushing his knee at the back of of Alexis.

The patient build-ups of the Catalans proved too powerful for Chelsea as they saw Messi flying in with an enterprising one-two with Iniesta who blasted in a goal in the 43rd minutes with a low shot past Petr Cech. The flowing exchanges continued with Barca threatening to run away with the match.

In a very rare swift counter attacking movement, Frank Lampard put a though ball that Ramirez ran onto and chipped in a wonder goal in the 45th+1 minute of the match.

The Blues defended with their lives as Barca pushed harder to restore order. A very controversial soft penalty was awarded when Didier Drogba caught Cesc inside the box. The non malicious challenge proved to be innocent as the resultant spot kick was missed by the usually magical Messi, who crushed the cross-bar.

Drogba had his chances including the rounding off of the defence and that long range speculative attempt. The Ivory Coast striker put up a man-of-the-match performance with his close ball control under tight situations and fighting a lone battle upfront.

The excellent Cech saves also proved to be the difference between Barcelona and the final as he used his legs and body to thwart the marauding Barcelona attacks. The desperate Spanish giants started to push further in characteristically Arsenal fashion.

Barca were pushing forward too hard too often too long, without re-organising by restarting the formula. They camped outside the Chelsea box and kept the visitors happy clonking the ball out with every opportunity as the coiled into a 1-6-2-1 formation.

All the Blues could do was to allow Barca to shuttle across the 18-yard-box exerting sterile pressure, as  Messi lost his running momentum as a result. In few moments that Chelsea pushed forward, there was a realistic chance of the fading La Liga giants grabbing a goal as they shunned to shoot from long range.

In that arrangement, Messi should have been sweeper, collecting the ball from deep areas and came running at the defenders, but Pep Guardiola failed to tactically re-arrange the situation to suit the developments.

As it was becoming less apparent that Chelsea would hold on until the final whistle, the football of passing the ball around with less penetrative force looked certain to win the day for Barcelona as they threw everything into attack.

The 50-million-pound Fernando Torres pounced onto a very long clearance in the 90+2 minute, rounded off Valdes and slotted the ball into the empty net to usher the death knell for the best team in the world.

For Chelsea, it was revenge for the drama of the 'disgraceful' encounter of a few years back, and without a regular experienced manager in Roberto Di Mateo and captain Terry, playing with 10 men and their conventional central defenders out and even two goals down, the English team looked dead and buried.

The referees did not seem to be helping their cause and playing at the Camp Nou in-front of that hostile crowd was intimidatory. Chelsea played with their heads, hearts and bodies, committing fully into tackles and fighting for each other.

It must be said that they rode their luck well given that their two of the three shots on target were goals, compared to the twenty two of Barcelona.

Will they face Real Madrid of the 17th of May 2012?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pirates and Swallows in a classy draw as Barca lose

After watching Orlando Pirates relentlessly press Moroka Swallows and striking the posts several times and missing clear cut scoring chances, the sudden realisation that the match was in Soweto's Dobsonville Stadium, comes with the understanding that it was African football after all.

With Barcelona huffing and puffing against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League semi-final, succumbing to a Didier Drogba solitary sucker punch, the question of juju working on white people should be revisited. In any case, that match was at Stanford Bridge, which like Dobsonville Stadium, might have been well doctored to respect the home advantage.

Real Madrid visited Bayern Munich and looked set to scrap a point until the fat lady sang. On the balance of scales, they got what they deserved despite their bargaining skills. In that encounter, any mention of wizardry should receive a death penalty. The final 2-1 result depended on the home side, who were lucky to be awarded the first goal that was offside, and scored a classy second.

Real Madrid played very poor football based a very strict and rigid structure and instruction to mark the opposition only from the centre line and launch an immediate attack by sending a ridiculously long ball to the most advanced players every time.

The aggression borne out of arrogance and the coach's psychological grilling were typical of the failed tactics they had always used in the El Classico shows. Real should have played to their strengths, one thing they will do at the Santiago Bernebeu on the return leg. Whether they will take much gamble in the match against Barca, it remains to be seen.

From experience, they do not have a solution to Barcelona, who proved to be very much beatable with their outing to Chelsea. They may claim to have seen a lion or that the goals shifted with every attack, Ike Cassillas may have been seeing double himself.

The thin advantages carried by home teams will not count for much during the return legs, only the tactics involved will be very interesting and conducive to better football than we have seen so far.

As for the ABSA Premiership, Mamelodi Sundowns' sun went down on them at home against Platinum Stars 2-1 conceding the top spot to the Buccaneers. Kaizer Chiefs lost grip of the chasing pack with the sad loss to Maritzburg United at Polokwane.

As the original Soweto derby failed to separate boys from men, it means the Gauteng teams will have to depend much on what happens elsewhere in the next 5 or 6 games. Pirates can dwell on the fact that should the season end right now, or all the teams top 8 teams lose their remaining matches, they will be champions again but some of these teams still have to play each other.

As a fortune teller and witchdoctor of your team, who is the fairest of them all?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bosso soften Hardbody(s) with a 5-3 massage

Highlanders Bosso Tshilamoya beat a determined Hardbody FC in stylish fashion playing scintillating football that reminded many of the days gone by. Amahlolanyama put 5 after going a goal down. 

Hardbody managed to net 3 times, including a gem of goal of their own. However, it was the great goals and the team attacking and creating proper chances in front goal for the strikers that was a joy to watch as Highlanders ran rings around hard bodies.

In the mix was the ever green Graham Ncube who beat the goalkeeper twice with Masimba Mambare, Simon Munawa, Heritani Masuku weighing in with other delightful goals. 

The team built an attack from the back, creating a fast paced momentum to the middle of the park and carrying the ball into the box. A relatively well attended match, entertainment was the order of the day, with the ever present threat of more goals. 

The inactivity of last weekend may have had impact on the attendance, but the spirit and the vibe was never dampened as memories of the road-show days came alive. Bosso will be expecting to visit Mutare next week and probably claim the scalp of another unassuming victim.  

Lining up as Ariel Sibanda, Atlast Musasa, Honest Moyo, Eric Mudzingwa, Innocent Mapuranga, Simon Munawa, Milton Ncube, Graham Ncube, Bheki Ncube, Mthulisi Maphosa and Peter Moyo, the attention was on Milton, the hat-trick hero of the  last match that Bosso won 4-0.  

Bosso did not play last week as FC Platinum were away on the African Safari in Sudan, and their mid-week engagement in the Independence Cup on Wednesday mean that the two teams’ anticipated rivalry will have to wait another week or two. FC poached a few talented players and are seen as a spin-off of the Bulawayo team.

Conceding first and eventually three goals will not go down well with coach Kelvin Kaindu, but then the response of five goals may appease him for a moment but he will not surely take the same in the next game. 

The flowing movement and fantastic passing coupled with the attractive build-up are surely a positive sign to build on.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chiefs and Chelsea pals?

While watching Mamelodi Sundowns dispatch Black Leopards 2-1 to reclaim the top spots, I could not help but notice and accept a fact I had refused to, about the South African football.

As I usually do not see the same match as everyone else, Teko Modise is a true reflection of South African football. For his sheer raw talent, which cannot be developed any further, sadly, the Brazilians' play maker should be the country's Messi.

At Orlando Pirates his form almost got people talking that way. Teko makes wrongs choices when it comes to execution of 100%of his technique. A friend always told me about this and I ignored it even during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, when the player could not bury the Mexican just because of that wrong choice.

That runs down the rest of the players in the league, but by contrast, the Zimbabweans seem to have their junior development structures going somewhere, if you compare with Nyasha Mushekwi and former Kaizer Chiefs talisman, German-based Knowledge Musona.

Talking of Chiefs, their parting with Valdimir Vermesovic has been in the stars for all of us to see, but the timing was wild. Unless ordered by a traditional healer, it was very bizarre. 

The club's excuse was that both parties would have enough time to prepare for next season.  At first I thought it had something to do with money, but then, whose money?

Termination of the contract at this point, a few months before the actual expiry of his 3 year deal would mean the Glamour Boys would have to pay him a substantial amount  for breach.

If that was sorted out by the technicality of next season preparation, well, maybe VV was gentleman enough to say he failed and he was leaving. In that case, he may have pocketed his pension and the rest of his benefits and Chiefs saved themselves some termination payments.

There is a chance he stuck to his guns, as I would have. Kaizer Chiefs still have a chance to win the league. They won the league several times with almost the last kick of the season. With that valid excuse, he may have stuck with his story until Chiefs agreed to a cool sum to sever the relationship.

The Naturena boys may have not payed that amount no matter what VV could come up with; unless they had assurance they were making the right decision. How right could such a bizarre decision be?

Chiefs are thinking like Chelsea Football Club of England. They are hoping for the same fortunes. While Roberto Di Matteo pulled off attractive results after Andre Villas-Boas was fired under the same cloud, Ace Khuse and Doctor Khumalo may just have as much magic touch.

The gamble may pay-off as teams always go a gear up after a regime change. In cases where that luck eludes them, the end product may be catastrophical. There may be other things we do not know, but if there is some truth in these lines, the cut and paste policy of this league will see the ABSA Premiership go down, down, down.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Orlando Pirates doing it for themselves

Matters concluded elsewhere, or at least interest lost due to the underworld gods of the game in Europe, the ABSA Premiership looks set to remain a nail-biting affair after order was restored by the events over the Easter weekend.

As hard to accept and as confusing as it may, that Manchester United are the kings of English football and will continue to rule for a long time, it is fact and unchangeable. Love them, hate them, they own the league and the title.

Orlando Pirates swept aside perennial yoyos, Jomo Cosmos to leap to the summit of the South African league 2-1, hopefully until the end of the season. Cosmos will be spending their traditional last moments in the league and all know that they will be back next season.

Mamelodi Sundowns will be looking to reclaim the spot while Moroka Swallows will seek to gain some ground and fancy a chance of something they never had in living memory.

The Dube Birds were exactly at the opposite end last season when Gordon Ingesund removed them from the relegation murky waters. How beautiful it would it be for them to claim the title.

More interesting would be Ingesund's illustrious career that will see him having lifted the championship with five different teams. 

Pirates have been in good form lately and the prospect of a photo finish will not be an ideal one as the Bucs have lost the championship several times before within the last 10 minutes of the season.

Kaizer Chiefs are a distant 6 points behind with a remote chance of claiming the prized pole. Their prayers for the misfortunes of Pirates, Sundowns and Swallows are a little too much, as they have to pray for theirs as well.

Their night vigil should start tonight as Black Leopards lay wait for Sundowns in Limpopo.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Manchester United will get it

No matter how you look at it, this one for Manchester United is in the bag. For the umpteenth time this season and for almost forever in their life time, the Red Devils benefited from from the middle man's decisions. Not that there is anything wrong with that, or that there is something they do outside football to benefit.

Teams make up their own luck and for those decisions to be given, United take the ball to the crucial areas at the right time. While other teams may feel under the same circumstances, they needed the benefit of the doubt from the referees, United are the chosen ones.

As they are largely the recipients of the all necessary mercies of the whistle, the biggest victims had been Tottenham Hotspur, who may have been title contenders to date. Queens Park Rangers may play in a different league for being unlucky and for having played United yesterday.

The most exciting layer for me in the league for the past three seasons has been Ashley Young. Young was clearly offside yesterday. He was off balance when that minimum contact was made. The referee was convinced the player was pushed off the ball and the penalty, dispatched by Wayne Rooney, was awarded and the offender sent off.

All comments and opinions on United are academic to the Red Devils faithfuls. To the rest, the question of the quality of United as a team, Sir Alex Ferguson as a manager and Wayne Rooney as a top striker come into play.

As any athlete aided by wind, United are unstoppably cruising. For their quality, arch-rivals, Manchester City did not do themselves any favours by losing to a determined Arsenal who played their match of the season. City should know the United luck well enough to have dug deeper.

At the moment of truth, they buckled and warped. As in any flat platform without a hierarchy, the expensively assembled team of over payed players became pre-occupied in restoring the order without paying much attention to the slipping title.

As of now, it is gone. Gone with the wind. Until another team stumble on the luck of United, the English Premier League will be predictably boring.

For now, the battle for third is far more interesting than what many think is the best league in the world. Or is it?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Barca reach CL semis

Barcelona dispatched AC Milan in the quarter-final match of the Champions League in predictable fashion, 3-1, one Lionel Messi netting  twice.

After the 0-0 San Siro surprise draw, the rest of the technicalities needed to be fulfilled as the Catalans have proved time and again to  the the best European team, despite losing grip in La Liga, where Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid are turning the tables on them.

Messi's 50th goal in the tournament made him the youngest player to get to that mark and he equalled the 14 goals per season record.

As Barca await possibly Chelsea, they will end the season warm, and probably lose their coach or key players. The necessary rebirth may rekindle the dwindling ambers as they get even cooler.

One can trust and hope they remain hot but when the drum is about to crack, it is so loud.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Highlanders 4 Blue Rangers 0

Highlanders FC turned on the heat and style with a comfortable win that set the tone for things to come. Kelvin Kaindu turned up and lined up Ariel Sibanda, Musasa, Honest, Mdzingwa, Mapuranga(captain), Munawa, Bhekimpilo, Mthulisi, Peter Moyo, Milton Ncube, and Graham Ncube.

Bosso rose to the occasion, blasting the back of the net twice by half time and a further display of class saw two more by the final whistle.  Among those gallant heroes, young Milton Ncube was entrusted with the honour of being the toast of the day, stabbing home thrice.

The hat-trick hero showed flashes of brilliance and Mthulisi Maphosa stole the hearts of many by his performance.

Barbourfields Stadium should be once again be a fortress of note, given the polished defence which still needs polishing on the wings.

The 4:0 win at home proved the presence of a determined coach and new look young team. Of the biggest positives were the goals and the clean sheet, that taking Amahlolanyama to the summit of the log on goal difference.

Ncube’s hat-trick makes him joint top scorer and things are set to be better as the team will settle earlier and much better after the pressure of the first match, but it is now game on.

The team selection took many by surprise and it worked wonders. Another youngster, Ozias Zibande summed up an emphatic display with a deft finish to put an icing on the cake.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Arsenal play like Barca

I watched Barcelona in their last UEFA Champions League and could not help but think about one article you posted comparing Arsenal's pressing game with Barca's free-flow passing attacking style.

What I noted is Barca has one formula of play. No plan B or C. Just keep ball, go through opponent D-zone. The same hammer and push analogy you used to describe Arsenal is exactly what Barca do. They hit & rebuilding.
Only one winger Alves, is used to attack, he mostly cuts in to supply the ball in the D zone, looking for Messi especially. If at all he crosses, it is a low one because Barca have height disadvantages.

To counter that, they put more bodies behind the ball, three midfielders in the D-area and the two centre backs to crowd and close the route.

I would say Arsenal has a variety of attacking options.
1) Through the D-zone via Ramsey/Rosicky setting up RVP or them shooting.
2) wing play from both sides Walcot/Sagna or Gibbs/Chamberlain crossing either for headers or tap in or pulling ball back.
3) quick breaks utilizing pace by Walcot esp.
4) Vision.... Song playing lobs for forward to catch opponent on back foot because they always expect slow build up.
I must say that RVP has scored great volleys from this. Bro, my amateur analysis says if only Arsene could buy quality players his model could make Barca look ordinary.