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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Champions League provides goals....and also more mayhem.

Tuesday evening brought seven goals and two good matches. Liverpool made good their opportunities in the Philips Stadion to come away with a 0-3 lead to take into the 2nd leg at Anfield. Steven Gerrard's header, John Arne Riise's control and volley, and Peter Crouch's header have made PSV's coach Ronald Koeman conceded defeat in PSV's progress, but the objective is half done so Liverpool need to remain professional and secure a semi-final place with a win all the same. One thing marred the win in Fabio Aurelio's Achilles injury that rules him out for up to four months, a a time where his recent inclusion had provided well for Liverpool.

I had the opportunity to record and therefore watch the full coverage of AC Milan v Bayern Munich. Bayern seemed laid back in their attack whereas the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Kaka added pace and guile to their attacks. Bayern's man was Owen Hargeaves who tidied at the back and made runs down the right on occasion. Pirlo met on the end of a fabulous freekick to head past rookie keeper Michel Rensing but Bayern have shown their resolve against Real previously and equalised through Belgian defender Daniel Van Buyten.

Bayern's Lucio had tackled Kaka before in the box and was judged fairly so for the same scenario with much more clarity to end up a penalty was a staggering decision. Kaka duly deposited the spot-kick and Milan looked to have the leg won. But 30 seconds from the end of injury time Bayern had a freekick, which Milan failed poorly to clear which allowed the ball to bounce to Van Buyten again and his left-foot shot squeezed past Dida at the near post. Bayern refusing to die, they will miss their captain Willy Sagnol through injury for he 2nd leg at the Allianz Arena.


Last night brought not so prosperous news for English football. Valencia seemed to have arrived at Stamford Bridge with a number of absentees in Fernando Morientes, Edu, Rubén BarajaCarlos Marchena and the clown David Navarro, and therefore would not have much resistance to Chelsea's attacks. But Valencia did well to prevent Chelsea capitalising on promising attacks, with the exception of Roberto Ayala's blatant shoulder barge on Andriy Shevchenko which the referee bizarrely did not act upon, not even a freekick. Yet when Joaquin picked up a loose clearance outside the Chelsea box and aimed a shot which David Silva failed to divert on goal with no one near him, Chelsea showed an opening they would be stung from later on. On the attack Silva linked up with David Villa and then ran on a little with the ball before unleashing an angled 20-25 yard shot that went over Petr Cech with awesome precision.

From set-pieces Chelsea had the better of players in the air in Shevchenko, Didier Drogba, John Terry and Jon Obi Mikel to name four in comparison to Ayala, Emiliano Moretti and perhaps Asier del Horno, and there was one freekick that proved this to me, where I texted my collegaue T to say Chelsea's key would be set-pieces and headers to equalise. So when a Santiago Canizares clearance went to Ashley Cole and Cole chipped a ball forward for Drogba to run onto and head over the Valencia keeper, I would say I was near enough to prediction. Valencia would be more content with the draw to return to the Mestalla with but Chelsea have shown they are capable of a performance that levelled against Barcelona at the Nou Camp, so indeed when Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho states the tie is open, it is.

The talking point of the night. Following from the scenes at the end of the Valencia v Inter Milan 2nd leg came crowd scenes of anti-social behaviour, Sky Sports cameras showing Roma fans banging on rows of plastic fencing secured between them and the Man Utd fans, taunting them, the Utd fans running over to retaliate presumably in kind, to be met by a horde of Italian riot-gear clad police beating them back with batons and shields. This is by far not the entire footage of what happened in the Stadio Olimpico but from what I saw the police dealt with the Utd fans and left the Roma fans alone. This to me says the police were more fearful of the Roma fans and dealt with the minority Utd fans, very unfair.

This is the same football ground where Roma played Galatasaray in 13th March 2002, where the away players were aimed at with objects. The same ground where Anders Frisk, who attended last night's game as an independent observer, was hit with an object that left him bleeding profusely from a forehead wound during the Roma v Dinamo Kiev game, 15th September 2004. There needs to be a thorough investigation into the safety and control of fans, and a review into the security procedures that should include searches, as Frisk stated he was allowed through without being searched. Perhaps because they were familiar with him why he was not searched.

On the pitch Man Utd imploded with the sending off of Paul Scholes, who was booked on 25mins for a reckless challenge with both legs from behind on Christian Wilhelmsson and then left his leg out as captain Francesco Totti went on the attack eight minutes later. Some 11mins after that a Roma corner found its way to Rodrigo Taddei, whose shot deflected off Wes Brown past Edwin van der Sar. Yet on the hour mark Utd received their equaliser as van der Sar collected a shot, threw to Christiano Ronaldo and his run allowed him to release Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who chipped a sweet ball over for Rooney to chest control and then simply tee up a shot that had goal all over it. However Utd went behind seven minutes later when on the break Amantino Mancini, who had previously produced four step-overs to dazzle Lyon's 'Anthony Réveillère before scoring in the previous round, porduced a shot that was tamely parried by van der Sar, and Mirko Vucinic immediately reacted to shoot into the net.

Sir Alex Ferguson was content with the result because of the away goal and Man Utd at home is expected to be a stronger show than last night. The crowd scenes will give the impression the Man Utd fans are spoiling for trouble following on from Lille fixture, something which I understand the Italian sports writers have mentioned. There appears to have been little in condemning what appeared to be heavy-handed tactics solely against the Utd fans, whereas the alternative should have been simply forming a barrier between both fans and the secured plastic fencing, fencing which would need to be of height to prevent objects reaching over.

Tonight is Spurs quest in the UEFA Cup at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan of Sevilla, who are very strong in La Primera Liga. I sense a good battle between the two who both have stern attacking abilities and a determined defensive line, it's the tie of the competition for me and hopefully will make for a fast pace entertaining match.



RedsMan.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't get many comments, do you?

4/05/2007 4:01 pm

 
Blogger John said...

Italian teams should be banned from Europe until they can get their house in order. Crowd violence there is all too frequent and it's obvious the police can't or are too scared to deal with it.
Look what happened to English clubs after Heysel, i know the outcome was a lot more serious - strange coincidence that it involved an Italian team again though.
English clubs paid the price but also got it together after the ban; better stadium conditions, policing and crowd behaviour.
Italy may have won the World Cup, but look how corrupt (Juventus, Lazio, Fiorentina - to name a few) and disorganized their domestic league is?

4/05/2007 7:02 pm

 
Blogger RedsMan said...

I think it is fair comment to say Italian football have yet again had their federation dragged back into issuing sanctions once it is clear the police were heavy-handed, unfair, and as a result simply ignored the Roma fans for the sake of raining baton blows onto the Utd fans. Our reputation procedes us or is it simply it will never be forgotten, as we have had less crowd trouble here and abroad since approximately a decade or two ago. It just simply was not crowd control but bias crowd beating.



RedsMan.

4/05/2007 7:06 pm

 
Blogger RedsMan said...

Berbatov was Spurs' best player, and it was as shocking the decision of the penalty as the incidents in the crowd. If you are not allowed to do what Robinson did, then the art of goalkeepering as suffered drastically. I am still stunned at the referee, if Sir Alex felt Utd played against 12, tonight's match was more of a case, from a so-called experienced European referee. I hope Spurs can turn the tide heavily at home next week, I think Malbranque should play with Zokora and Tainio in the middle. I would like Defoe to start but Berbatov and Keane are more likely.


RedsMan.

4/05/2007 10:53 pm

 
Blogger Pat said...

The violence in european cometitions has come from English away fans. Man u at Lille, Man u at Rome and Tottenham at Seville.

Instead of banning Italian teams maybe English fans should be banned.

4/06/2007 6:30 am

 
Blogger RedsMan said...

I dont agree with banning Italians sides, for it was the scenes in Roma's ground rather than anywhere else in Italy called into question. There are safer more productive crowd control techniques that could have seen, should have been used by police which were not. It appears that the onus is to wade in with batons rather than prevent circumstances.

If I read that diplomacy had been initially engaged and failed prior to any trouble, then fine, but I have not. The Spurs fans have travelled to the Czech Republic, Turkey, Belgium, Germany and Portugal on their UEFA travels without trouble. The Man Utd fans have travelled north of the Isles to Scotland, Denmark and Portugal, without trouble.

There are more elements to the situation than we know of that led up to the trouble last night and I reiterate that better crowd control techniques could have gone further to eliminate any threat than that used by both the Italian and Spanish police.


RedsMan.

4/06/2007 9:09 am

 
Blogger T said...

Exellent commentary Redsman! I saw the Liverpool match on Tuesday with a couple of EFT colleagues and on Wednesday concentrated on the Chelsea/Valencia match.

Liverpool were efficency personified! Great organisation is the trademark of Benitez- and in the past two games against Arsenal and PSV has come excellent finishing. Crouch has scored two headers which indicates he has been doing some serious heading practice. And a mention for Risse- his long range shooting with his left foot is fantastic.

Liverpool know how to keep clean sheets which I've said before is a huge weapon to have in Europe with the away goals rule in operation- so its no surprise to see that they are effectively in the semis.

Valencia are another well-organised side and I fancied a good competitive match at Stamford Bridge. As Redsman says above- he texted me at half-time saying Chelsea's avenue for a comeback would be thru set-pieces and headers- and he was right. Chelsea played more direct in the second half and Valencia were rattled in difference to the first half where they looked comfortable and controlled. I was impressed with the concentration and ability of David Silva- his all round play aside from his fantastic goal was very good.

An element of the Roma fans are a disgrace to football- and from what I've heard elements of the Roma police more or less are merely an extension of the ultras. It is obvious but UEFA need to investigate.

Finally, I want to put a mention out for Mancini of Roma. My EFT colleagues will remember I highlighted him as a player to watch in 2004- and he has progressed well since then. He got the assists for both Roma's goals- and is a player that I would like to see at Arsenal: Good power, good shooting, good technique and good attitude.

4/06/2007 9:46 am

 
Anonymous Mark Johnson said...

Not a bad round up on the European gaes. The scenes at Roma and Seville should implore Uefa into a major investigation and the police on both times should be ashamed of their heavy handed tactics that were out of order. Utd should beat Roma at their place anyway and Spurs were brilliant against a side that is 2nd in the Spanish league. If we have Berbatov and Keane fit after they get clapped and kicked by Terry and Co with Lennon and Zokora we can thump them for what their police did to us.

Thanks guys

4/06/2007 8:30 pm

 
Blogger John said...

Italian football has big problems; look at the hierarchy in the big clubs, when several; Juventus relegated to Serie B, Fiorentina deducted 15 points for match fixing, Reggina deducted 11 points for match fixing, AC Milan deducted 8 points for match fixing, Lazio deducted 3 points for match fixing, Sienna deducted 1 point for financial irregularities. - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Last February several soccer games in Italy were played in empty stadiums, to prevent a repeat of the fan violence that caused the death of a policeman in Sicily on Feb. 2. Mission accomplished: No one died. But that doesn't mean all is well in Italia. "Italian football died last night," read the front page of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, in the aftermath of the Sicilian riot. That's a bit of an overstatement. Italian football didn't die that night - but perhaps it should have.

The policeman's murder two weeks ago capped off a shocking series of events. The most infamous was the match-fixing scandal that forced the top club, Juventus, to be dropped into Italian soccer's second division. Several seamy byproducts of the investigation called the integrity of the sport into serious question. Players were found to have gambled massive sums on matches. Italy's nominated referee for the 2006 World Cup had to be withdrawn. Juventus was found to have conspired with Aldo Biscardi, host of a popular Italian TV program, to praise the team when analyzing highlights.

English football had deteriorated to similar depths in the 1980s. Hooliganism crippled the sport domestically and embarrassed the country when the brawlers traveled to Europe. The nadir was 1985's Heysel disaster, when 39 fans (ironically, mostly Juventus supporters) were crushed and trampled after marauding Liverpool supporters knocked down a retaining wall. English clubs were banned from European competition for five years. Four years later, more than 90 Liverpool fans were crushed to death after being thrown up against a fence by a surging crowd. (In response, all British stadiums converted to seats-only. Up to that point, odd as it may seem to Americans, most fans could only stand at matches.)

English football rose from the ashes, thanks to a huge increase in television rights fees and a surprisingly strong performance by the national team in the 1990 World Cup. The Premier League was formed to keep top teams from selling television rights individually (as is the case in Italy) and to create a brand that would induce top foreign talent to play in England. The increase in funds allowed the clubs to class up the game, which drew in top sponsors and priced out the riffraff that caused much of the trouble.

Could a similar rebirth happen in Italy? I doubt it. The Azzurri's World Cup title run barely slowed the sport's descent into madness, and television rights fees have peaked. Meanwhile, a corrupt wink-and-nod culture suffuses Italian football. The original penalties issued in the match-fixing scandal were harsh, but after repeated appeals, AC Milan, Fiorentina, and Lazio got off lightly and, unlike Juventus, weren't sent to the second division. It's not a question of money - there is no will to improve matters.

There's also a fundamental difference between the hooliganism in Italy and England. The U.K. version is essentially gang warfare—where you are from and the colors you're wearing are all-important. English violence is fighting for the sake of fighting, not for any particular cause other than pub glory and bragging rights.

The Italian ultras (the catch-all phrase for rowdy fan groups) are politically motivated. They're often aligned with a particular movement, be it communist, fascist, or center-right. The political parties and the clubs are commingled to the extent that it's difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends—since most Italian teams are publicly held and traded, the ultras often literally own the clubs. Even players get caught up in the sloganeering. The most famous instance involves Paolo di Canio, who gave the Nazi salute to fascist, swastika-brandishing ultras when he played for Lazio. Many other stars give tacit, if less blatant, support to whatever movement their fans and club represent.

Increased policing has steadily decreased hooligans' stranglehold on English soccer. Similar tactics are unlikely to have an effect in Italy, where the offenders have much deeper ties to football culture. Italian riots are an orchestrated mass demonstration of defiance and anger aimed at entrenched rivals. This is not a situation where the marauding Other needs to be separated from the peaceful masses. There is no Other in Italian soccer—except blacks and Jews, steady targets of abuse in Italian stadiums.

Soccer is as important a part of Italian culture as espresso or opera, but an extraordinary intervention is needed. The domestic leagues should be shut down for at least the rest of this year, and Italian clubs should be banned from European competition. The clubs should be punished for the criminal actions of ultras representing them. There also needs to be a cleaving between politics and sport. Private ownership should be encouraged, foreign if necessary, so that the decision-making and direction of the clubs don't go through layers of people with non-soccer agendas. Mostly, the Italian Football Association needs to understand how farcical their sport appears to outside eyes. Only then can Italy's favorite game restore some of its former luster. Or at least climb out of the gutter to the level of, say, Major League Soccer.

4/06/2007 9:24 pm

 
Blogger Pat said...

To John.

While you seem to have a good understanding of Italian culture I think, like many others, it is far too sensationalist.
I also wonder just how many clubs are owned by Ultra's. Certainly not Juventus, Milan, Inter, Roma, Lazio , Fiorentina, Palermo. So who. im sure their are some but its hardly epidemic.
Also you suggest that Ultra's are the masses. This is hardly true. It may appear this way in the stadium because the ultras choreograph chants during the game which all fans sing along to, but there are not many Italians who are members of Ultra groups or sympathisers. As for Racism, I think that is more of a problem in spain than Italy and hardly a significant factor in the violence. Although racism of any type and any severity is a problem that should be dealt with harshly.

Do you really think the rivalry in Britain is less intense than in Italy? Why do Celtic and Rangers not have such problems anymore than? they are still immense rivals. And England still has many of these rivalries too.

I think the main problem for Italian football is that its grounds have lost its family friendly atmosphere, much like Britain did all those years ago, and if like Britain, Italy can restrict the amount of violent fans from the stands while encouraging families back to the ground this violence will soon end.

I would also point out that the Italian Senate just passed laws aimed at doing Exactly this. Amoung other measures aimed at stoping violent supporters they made it law for grounds to admit under 14's to the ground for free.

4/06/2007 11:57 pm

 
Blogger T said...

Thanks Mark, John and Pat for your comments- they are of a high calibre and definitely welcome on EFT.

P.S. John, your comment is worthy of an article in its own right and publication elsewhere aside from this site! It is clear there are a lot of ills in Italian football and you bring them to our attention in a cohesive and thought-provoking way.

4/07/2007 9:06 am

 
Blogger RedsMan said...

I agree that there are so-called Ultras fans within the Roma and Lazio following and they orchestrate the support and violence for their sides without doubt. An Italian-based British football writer came on TalkSport radio to declare these ultras certainly exist and have sanctioned their presence within football as a no-go area for the police.

The moment such an area is created, the police lose authority. The way they waded into the Utd fans you'd have thought they would have no fear. All said and done, you do not choreograph police to wade in as they did on the Utd fans and simply leave the baiting Roma fans to the uselessness of the stewards, who had as much authority as an ice-cream cone for they would have certainly got licked if the fans so chose.

Football hooliganism most certainly carried its reputation for England fans from WC2006 and struck fear into the Spanish and Italian police. I want to speak of confidence in our Home Office investigating the two incidences but even that institution is under a farce of its own.

We should see how our police force deals with any crowd trouble on Tuesday to Thursday, if it arises and certainly in the light of what has happened recently. I have always acknowledged the US police like a show of force from the outset, and its a trait that may begin its epidemic within Europe.



RedsMan.

4/07/2007 10:15 am

 

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