Gunners Open Door for Liverpool

November 30, 2008

arsenalArsenal did not allow Chelsea to score an offensive goal and Robin Van Persie scored twice in three minutes (59th and 62nd minutes) to send the Gunners to an impressive away victory at Stamford Bridge. An own-goal by Arsenal’s Johan Djourou in the 30th minute pushed the Blues ahead but Van Persie would not be denied in the second half. The Gunners push back ahead of Aston Villa for fourth position while Chelsea remain on 33 points and tied with Liverpool who play tomorrow at Anfield Road against West Ham United.

In the first Manchester Derby at the City of Manchester Stadium, Man United survived Cristiano Ronaldo’s second yellow in the 68th minute to defeat Man City 1-0. Wayne Rooney scored for United in the 42nd minute, the match’s lone goal. United stay solidly in third position on 28 points (and a match down) while City fade further into seventeenth.

At White Hart Lane, Steven Pienaar (the Egyptian, according to lore) edged Everton past suddenly slumping Tottenham, 1-0. Pienaar’s goal in the 51st minute was enough to break the Toffees out of the log-jam on 19 points and remain in seventh place. Spurs are stuck on 15 points though their differential keeps them out of the relegation zone, at least for now.

Finally, out at Fratton Park, five goals were scored in the final forty minutes, two by Blackburn and three by the home side, Portsmouth. Sean Davis’ 79th minute tally broke the tie, adding to Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe’s earlier efforts. Blackburn need any points they can get but failed again to earn enough (or any) to get out of their solid position in the relegation zone. Pompey meanwhile keep pace with Everton, at least on points, and sit in eighth position.

As previously mentioned, Liverpool will host West Ham United tomorrow with a chance to retake sole possession of the top billing in the Premier League.


Wandering No More

November 29, 2008

elmander

With four goals in 38 minutes, Bolton swamped Sunderland 4-1 at the Stadium of Light. After Djibril Cisse scored for the Black Cats in the 11th minute, Wanderers scored four straight to end the match. Matthew Taylor scored on 17 minutes and Gary Cahill scored on 21. Johan Elmander then added a brace on 39 and 55 minutes to complete the blowout and send Bolton soaring up the table into seventh position. Sunderland, meanwhile, fall into the relegation zone, at least for today.

Aston Villa failed to make gains on the leadership of the Premier League in drawing nil-nil with Fulham at Villa Park. American keeper Brad Friedel set a Premiership mark with his 167th consecutive start for Villa and did record a clean sheet. Villa were able to tie Man United on points (though two matches ahead) but did not take over third position because of goal differential. Fulham moved into the top spot of a five-way tie for eighth place.

Middlesbrough and Newcastle also played to a nil-nil draw at the Riverside. ‘Boro take over the fifth place spot in the five-way tie on 19 points but because of goal differential, they sit twelfth. The shared point takes Newcastle out of the relegation zone for now, on differential.

Henri Camara and Emmerson Boyce each scored in the final half-hour to earn a home victory for Wigan over West Bromich Albion, 2-1. Albion had the 1-0 lead after Ishmael Miller’s 47th minute goal but the last place club could not hold the away lead and eventually fell. Wigan are also in the 19 point tie and are now ninth on the table. West Brom remain on 11 points and in the absolute bottom position in England.

Finally, Ricardo Fuller’s penalty on 73 minutes brought Stoke City to a home draw with visiting Hull City, 1-1. Marlon King’s goal just before half-time had Hull in the lead but Stoke earned the draw at the Britannia Stadium with the late penalty. Hull City catch Arsenal on points but trail in differential and remain in sixth position. Stoke’s point pushes them into thirteenth position on 18 points.

Four matches tomorrow including Arsenal @ Chelsea and the first Manchester Derby.


Big Day for Bordeaux

November 26, 2008

bordeaux

In one of the worst-dressed Champions League ties in recent memory (see above) Bordeaux hammered in a late equalizer to draw Chelsea 1-1 at the Parc Lescure. Diarra’s 83rd minute strike nullified Nicolas Anelka’s 60th minute score and brought Group A into utter confusion.

Roma pounded CFR Cluj in Romania behind a Matteo Brighi double that sandwiched a Francesco Totti goal in a 3-1 victory. The three points send Roma to the top of Group A and leaves Chelsea just a point ahead of Bordeaux for the second advancing position.

Similarly, Group B is now a mess as Josu Sarriegi’s 69th minute goal sent Panathinaikos to a stunning 1-0 victory in Milan against Inter. The Greek side are now second behind Inter and just a point ahead of their Cypriot counterparts from Larnaca.

Miguel Hugo Almeida’s 87th minute equalizer stole three points from Anorthosis Famagusta and kept the Cypriots a point behind second position in Group B. Bremen are likely done at this point but each of the remaining three clubs have all but an equal shot at winning the group.

Rodrigues Jadson’s hat trick contributed to a 5-0 drubbing of Basel by Shakhtar Donetsk. The Turks can still catch Sporting Lisbon for second place in the group, though the chances are slim. But an increase of five in goal differential certainly does not hurt.

Five different players scored for Barcelona, including Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi, in a 5-2 rout of Sporting in Lisbon. The Catalan club win Group C with this victory and are now guaranteed advancement to the knock out rounds. Sporting are still likely to advance but must win or draw to make it certain in a fortnight.

Finally, Maxi Rodríguez and Simao each scored to give Atlético Madrid a 2-1 victory over PSV Eindhoven to guarantee its spot in the next rounds. With a slim goal differential advantage against Liverpool, Atlético retain top billing in Group D.

At Anfield Road, Steven Gerrard’s 23rd minute goal was enough for Liverpool to defeat Marseille and stay tied on points with Atlético. The Reds are guaranteed a spot in the knock out rounds but their exact placement remains to be seen as the goal differential distance is just one between the top two teams.


Premiership Predictions – Week 15

November 26, 2008

EPL

Since I will be traveling south to Florida for Thanksgiving this evening, I figured I’d might as well post my Premiership Predictions for this weekend. I’ll make posts Saturday evening and Sunday keeping up with the matches but probably won’t have much internet access between now and then. That and about 2/3 of my time down there is either going to be eating or playing golf.

As for this week’s matches, there is the first Manchester Derby on Sunday at the City of Manchester Stadium and Arsenal will face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Portsmouth, Everton and Middlesbrough can all make inroads if they can defeat lesser opponents while Aston Villa have a home match that could really push them up the table.

Saturday:

Fulham @ Aston Villa – Villa
Newcastle @ Middlesbrough – Draw
Bolton @ Sunderland – Sunderland
West Brom @ Wigan – West Brom
Hull City @ Stoke City – Stoke

Sunday:

Man United @ Man City – Man City
Everton @ Tottenham – Tottenham
Blackburn @ Portsmouth – Pompey
Arsenal @ Chelsea – Chelsea

Monday:

West Ham @ Liverpool – Liverpool

Results thus far:

Week 1 – 19 points
Week 2 – 16 points
Week 3 – 12 points
Week 4 – 13 points
Week 5 – 13 points
Week 6 – 27 points
Week 7 – 14 points
Week 8 – 22 points
Week 9 – 18 points
Week 10 – 19 points
Week 11 – 11 points
Week 12 – 10 points
Week 13 – 16 points
Week 14 – 13 points


NFL Picks – Week 13

November 26, 2008

nflI will not fall victim to my own idiocy again this week, especially with three games on Thursday for Thanksgiving. Here are my Week 13 picks, before the week begins:

Thursday:
Tennessee @ Detroit – Titans
Seattle @ Dallas – Cowboys
Arizona @ Philadelphia – Eagles

Sunday:
Miami @ St. Louis – Dolphins
New York @ Washington – Giants
New Orleans @ Tampa – Buccaneers
Carolina @ Green Bay – Packers
San Francisco @ Buffalo – Bills
Baltimore @ Cincinnati – Ravens
Indianapolis @ Cleveland – Colts
Atlanta @ San Diego – Chargers
Denver @ New York – Jets
Kansas City @ Oakland – Raiders
Pittsburgh @ New England – Patriots
Chicago @ Minnesota – Vikings

Monday:
Jacksonville @ Houston – Jaguars

Results thus far:
Week 1 – 12
Week 2 – 7
Week 3 – 10
Week 4 – 6
Week 5 – 8
Week 6 – 9
Week 7 – 10
Week 8 – 6
Week 9 – 11
Week 10 – 8
Week 11 – 8
Week 12 – 10


The Procrastinator – Pre-Thanksgiving Edition

November 26, 2008

extra

We’ve got another edition of The Procrastinator newsletter available today. We hope you’ll find it interesting and engaging and please feel free to give any comments or ideas. Coming soon we’ll have a major breakdown of the BCS v. playoff scenarios as well as other political, social, travel and satirical articles.

You can find the .pdf here: The Procrastinator Newsletter – 11/26

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Cheers


Stephen Curry Held Scoreless?

November 26, 2008

curryUsing a triangle-and-two defense, Loyola College thought they might be able to beat Davidson last night by double teaming Stephen Curry on every single possession. Instead, Curry just dribbled into a corner, brought his two defenders with him and then passed out allowing for a 4-on-3 offense every time down the floor. The result was a 30-point Davidson victory despite literally zero points for Curry.

The Loyola coach all but admitted he really didn’t care about losing the game, saying that he thought history would remember his team as the one that shut out the nation’s most prolific scorer. But there’s a real question under the dopey plan by the coach of a pretty low-tiered team: is a constant double team a defensive plan that could work against Davidson?

It seems Loyola’s biggest issue was that its other three players were absolutely no match for Davidson’s remaining four. But there are going to be teams who play the Wildcats whose other three will be at least as good as the Davidson four. While the Southern Conference is unlikely to produce such a team, clearly the game at Duke on January 7 will fit that description and it’s possible that the game against NC State on December 6 could too. The non-conference schedule for Davidson is considerably softer this year than last so the Wildcats will probably end up with only a handful of losses (assuming Curry doesn’t get hurt). But once the NCAA tournament comes around, can they really expect Curry to be as singularly electrifying as last season? When opposing teams have nothing to lose in the tournament, wouldn’t it make sense to at least try an outrageous defense to slow Curry down?

I really don’t know if Davidson can repeat the kind of run they put together last season but Stephen Curry is no longer a secret. Every team in the SoCon is likely to throw something strange at him for at least part of the game, if not all like Loyola tried. It may not work but since he’s playing point guard this year and not off-guard, he’ll be responsible for a lot more of the offense. Even a marginally successful plan against Curry could result in several minutes of disastrous offense for Davidson, something that could be just enough for an above-average team to steal a win.