Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Catching up

A busy weekend of football just past; Saturday was the fantastic clash between Arsenal and Man United, which is by far the best "Big Four" clash I can remember in recent years, as both teams properly went at each other for 90 minutes as the match ebbed one way and another. In the end, the result was probably fair as Arsenal made the most of their chances, and United squandered most of theirs (both sides were woeful in front of goal for much part), in a match that shows why Chelsea are probably favourites for the league this season as they cruised to a victory over Blackburn on Sunday. If Arsenal were to play with this much fire week in, week out, they'd mount a serious challenge; one feels another Stoke or Hull is only round the corner for them.

Morecambe got through to a home tie in the next round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 win over Grimsby, in a match which they dominated from start to finish despite having plenty of players out injured. The cynic in me says Grimsby were as awful as Morecambe were good, but since our change in formation, we've lost against Port Vale with a last minute goal, drew with Accrington and then won against Aldershot and Grimsby (ignoring a defeat in the JPT), and things look rosier. Keep playing like this and we'll even begin to trouble mid-table, which is preferable to looking over our shoulder and watching the teams with points deductions catch us.

On Sunday, I watched Inter against Udinese whilst trying to not fall asleep. One of those matches that gives Serie A a bad name, but not for boring defensive play, just plain ineptitude as passes were misplaced and shots sailed over the bar. Each were as bad as each other, and Inter bundled on in at the end to steal the points and to stop Mourinho getting a pasting in the papers. Over to Germany for Schalke vs Bayern which started like Arsenal vs Man United, before petering out in the second half as Bayern held on to a 2-1 lead, inspired by Franck Ribery. The Bundesliga appears to be the place for goals this season, with high scoring matches abounding. I still haven't managed to catch Hoffenhiem yet as their matches don't seem to coincide with what gets shown live, but hoping to see them soon.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Coppa Italia live on SportsXchange

SportsXchange (Sky Digital Channel 456), will be showing live coverage of the Coppa Italia starting with the Udinese vs Reggina match on 12 November.

While it'd good to get some Italian football back on UK TV, it's a shame it's a competition played in front of empty stadiums with reserve teams. Still no word on Serie A joining it on any station.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


No doubt many will have seen the "challenge" on "Stevie G" in the Liverpool match last night. I'm annoyed about the dive, but I accept that sometimes players cheat and sometimes the ref gets things wrong, that's life.

What I am struggling to accept about last night is the blatant bias of the commentary, who were up in arms about the marginal penalty Liverpool were denied, dismissed out of hand the claims for Atletico, and then called Gerrard's penalty "soft", whereas if it had been given the other way, they would have been apoplectic with rage.

I know it's a pro-English rather than pro-Liverpool thing, but it really winds me up. It doesn't help when ITV summarise the night with:

"Liverpool's famous fighting spirit shone through."

Just for the record, what does Stevie G think? (thanks to Football365 for these quotes)

"There's nothing worse than diving and trying to get other players booked...if a team-mate did it I would definitely have a word" - Steven Gerrard, April 1, Daily Mail.

"It's your own team-mates like Steven Gerrard who don't like you using those tricks" - Fernando Torres, October 11, Daily Mirror.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

ART Sport 6 back on hotbird

After the recent return of Art Sport 5 to Hotbird, Art Sport 6 has now returned.

Subscribers to the sports bouquet are now in a better position than before, with access to the Prime Sports Channel, as well as the Showtime Maghreb channel, which broadcasts Premier League matches.

Normal footballwatcher service should resume next week, sorry for the lack of updates.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Champions League

Been watching the Champions League this week. On Tuesday I saw Man Utd’s whitewash of Celtic, which was almost as far removed from the competitive matches of a few seasons as you could get. Celtic have probably gone backwards in the time, while Man Utd have improved, and the result was a colossal mis-match. Celtic packed the midfield to try and stifle United, and while United got the benefit of two offside decisions in their favour for their first two goals, it was domination pretty much from start to finish. The best Celtic can hope for is a UEFA Cup spot, while United and Villareal have all but qualified from this group with three matches to spare.

Last night I watched Liverpool’s trip to Athletico Madrid, which was a fairly dull affair for the first half I watched. Liverpool took the lead against an unadenturous side who offered little. Apparently Athletico improved in the second period, which sounded much more exciting, as is often the way, and they picked up a late equaliser. By that time I’d switched over to Barcelona’s match in Basle, already 3-0 up at half-time, and picked up two goals at the start of the second half. Basle appeared to just sit back and let Barcelona do their stuff. The crowd seemed happy enough given the one sided score, perhaps content to watch a great footballing side up close, so much so that they started to whistle their displeasure in the second half when Barcelona started to play keep-ball in their own half.

Digitalb Premier League Schedule - 23-26 October

CET, deduct 1 hour for UK time

Schalke 04 vs Paris SG 18:15 SS1
Galatasary vs Olympiacos 20:15 SS2
Hertha vs Benfica 20:30 SS3
Heerenveen - Milan 20:45 SS1
Partizan vs Sampdoria 21:00 SS4
Aston Villa vs Ajax 21:15 SS5
Leverkusen-Koln 20:30 SS1
Everton-Man Utd 13:00 SS1
Sunderland-Newcastle 13:45 SS2
Dinamo-Partizani 14:30 SS3
Bayern-Wolfsburg 15:30 SS1/SSHD1
Hannover 96-Werder 15:30 SS5
Siena vs Catania 18:00 SS2
Blackburn-M'brough 18:30 SS1
Rennes-Le Mans 19:00 SS3
Osasuna-Betis 20:00 SS2
Fluminense x Palmeiras 20:00 SS5
Juventus vs Torino 20:30 SS1/SSHD1
Toulouse-Monaco 21:00 SS3
Barcelona-Almeria 22:00 SS2
Porto - Leixões 22:00 SS4
Chelsea-Liverpool 14:30 SS1/SSHD1
Besa-Vllaznia 14:30 SS2
Inter vs Genoa 15:00 SS3/SSHD2
Atalanta-Milan 15:00 SS4
Udinese-Roma 15:00 SS5
West Ham-Arsenal 17:00 SS1/SSHD1
Sevilla-Malaga 17:00 SS2
Hoffenheim-Hamburg 17:00 SS3
Nancy-Sochaux 17:00 SS4
Villareal-At Madrid 19:00 SS2
Benfica - Naval 20:00 SS4

Also, Eurosport appear to have won the rights to show Bundesliga in Northern and Eastern Europe, starting from next season, meaning next season Digitalb won't carry this league. Their Saturday afternoons could quickly become sparse if the English League doesn't return!
Palermo vs Fiorentina 20:30 SS1
Marseille-Paris SG 21:00 SS3
Real Madrid-Bilbao 21:00 SS2

Monday, 20 October 2008

Weekend Review - Part 2

Onto the Saturday tea-time fixture, via Morecambe drawing (surprise of surprises) against Rochdale at Christie Park. Again, we started slowly, again we conceded a sloppy goal and then decided we would make a fist of it after half-time.

Back home, to watch Manchester United take on West Brom at Old Trafford. West Brom put plenty in midfield to try and stifle Man Utd, and for a period it worked, although Halsey penalised Rooney for a “push” in the area after he put one in the next after about 25 minutes, then failed to penalise a West Brom defender for a similar light touch in the penalty area. So 0-0 at the break, as it does so often, turned into 4-0 at full time as Rooney managed to top his disallowed goal with an even better opener, before Ronaldo, Berbatov and Nani also got on the score sheet, taking the number of goals scored by the “Big Four” on Saturday to 15. One sided league?

On Sunday, I watched my first Serie A match of the season, as Lazio travelled to newly-promoted to Bologna. I chose this mainly because anytime Serie A is mentioned on the Guardian Podcast, their attractive play this season is always commented upon. However, this time it was Bolgona who impressed with two earlier goals as a result of non-existant marking at set pieces, before a well taken solo goal by the much travelled Marco di Viao made it 3-0 at the break. Lazio got one back in the second half, but never looked like getting anything like a draw. Perhaps it’s just me, but a number of continental sides seem to accept defeat and not try to recover once they go a couple of goals down, to try and conserve energy for matches when they might have a chance. The match finished to the sound of helicopters, perhaps braced for potential trouble from the notorious Lazio fans after the defeat, and the ban placed on them travelling to away matches by their own club.

In fairly unrelated news, it would appear Digitalb endeared themselves further to subscribers by not showing Hull City’s match against West Ham on Sunday afternoon, which had been advertised and on their EPG, preferring to show adverts and then the Milan channel in it’s place. If they do target UK subscriptions (personally I think they don’t), from comments on the Alsat forum, they will be missing quite a few next season.

17-19 October review, part 1

Busy footballing weekend, and as Sally was away on Friday night I took in the Bundesliga match as Mochengladbach travelled to Bochum in a well-fought bottom of the table clash, which ended with honours even after a 2-2 draw. These Friday evening Bundesliga matches often feature teams at the bottom of the table, especially in rounds immediately following the international break such as this, but it was still an enjoyable match even if there were no internationals on show. There wasn’t a lot of quality on show, in a match peppered with bad passes and bad challenges, but it was end to end stuff and noticeable for good refereeing, who had a good grasp of the advantage rule, but was let down by his linesman on several occasions. It being in Germany, there was a great atmosphere through-out, causing me to tut at the lack of cheap prices and terracing in England. Again.

On Saturday, I watched the first half of Middlesbrough at home to Chelsea, but turned off at half-time, with Chelsea one up, as the match had turned into a Chelsea maintaining-position contest. It turns out I may have been a little hasty in my judgement, as Chelsea knocked four in during the second half, as I fiddled with my broadband router in another room. It’s always the way isn’t it?

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Northern Ireland vs San Marino, 15 October 2008

Last night, I watched Northern Ireland finally get a win in the new qualifying campaign at home to San Marino. First time for a long time I’ve seen us score four goals in one match, and four different scorers as well. Scintillating stuff! In reality, it could have been more as there were some close calls, a few good saves and a few final balls messed up. But it’s just what was needed to boost confidence and hopefully get our slim chances of qualifying back on track, although Slovakia’s win against Poland wasn’t helpful.

It was another great atmosphere at Windsor Park last night, and what struck me as so different from other matches is the positivity – all the songs and chants are about Northern Ireland, a lot of them are fairly original, and none of them seem to be about booing or running down the other team, which is all very refreshing. Maybe England would like to play their home matches at Windsor Park rather than the soulless Wembley with it’s crowd ready to jump down the players throats after 10 goalless minutes.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

A bad day at the office

I posted this on the Morecambe messageboard, after we lost 5-0 at Gillingham yesterday. Can't remember the last time we won - only won 1 in 20, and that one was when we were down in London at a concert. Going to be a long season!

One thing that concerns me about this years team is the complete lack of pace - Rotherham and Gillingham exploited it to great results. It prevents us moving forward quickly, which I think it why we often resort to long ball football. Defensively, it also seems to leave us liable if the other team can quickly counter attack.

The reason for the loss of pace would seem to be Thompson and Baker moving on, both decisions that were out of Sammy's hands. Comparing last seasons squad to this seasons, last season's was stronger, but only for the presence of those two players. In my opinion, comparing the two squads without those players, and I think this season's one is stronger. However, those two players were capable of producing goals or creating chances from nothing, and that's bloody difficult (and expensive) to replace. I think last season, we were profligate in front of goal, but we created more chances. This season, we're still wasting chances, but it's costing us because we're creating less chances overall.

The players we have available who are willing to sign for us are constrained by our budget and location. When we were in the conference, we were one of the biggest teams in the region at that level, and as such, players at that level were willing to sign for us. Now we're in League 2, look at how many other clubs there are in our division locally, some with better resources and facilities, and the amount of players prepared to travel up here will dwindle - bearing in mind that relatively, players at this level are on lower wages, and most likely can't afford to move house when they move clubs. Someone in this thread mentioned Dagenham doing better than us on similar resources, but being in London, they have a far larger pool of talent to be selecting from us. A club of our size, at this level, is looking at signing players other League 2 clubs have let go, or taking chances on players from a lower level. A player faced between playing for Rochdale or us, is more likely to go to Rochdale, if wages are equal. So that leaves the option of offering more money and perhaps attracting more mercanary type players.

Changing the manager won't change the resources or players available. Of course, the tactics are solely down to the manager, but do we really know if he is playing the way he is because of the players he's got, or has he signed the players to play in this way. That's something most of us will never know.

I think we over-performed last season, especially in the first half when we had Lewis and Baker was firing on all cylinders. That raised expectation amongst fans, when I think the current position is a much more realistic one for a club of our size. We seem to be in the same position as Accrington last year, who did OK in their first season, lost some of their best players for their second season and struggled from then on.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

ART Sport 5 back on Hotbird

After stealing Art Sport 5 and 6 for the new Maghreb channel to show EPL on the Art Sport cards, Art Sport 5 has today re-appeared on Hotbird - scan 12015H, 27500 and it should come back.

No sign of Art Sport 6 yet though, but hopefully it won't be too far behind.

More world cup qualifiers on Digitalb

Again, CET time, take off one hour for UK:

Poloni - Çeki ( Poland - Czech Republic ) 17:00 SS1
Norvegji-Hollande ( Norway - Netherlands ) 19:00 SS1
Bjellorusi-Angli ( Belarus - England ) 20:30 SS3

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Bet365 upcoming live matches

07.10.2008 | 19:45
SOCCER : Vitoria Setubal v Maritimo (Portuguese League)
08.10.2008 | 10:00
SOCCER : Adelaide United v Quruvchi Tashkent (AFC Champions League)
08.10.2008 | 11:00
SOCCER : Gamba Osaka v Urawa Red Diamonds (AFC Champions League)
10.10.2008 | 03:00
SOCCER : Real Salt Lake v NY Red Bulls (MLS)

Live world cup qualifiers on digitalb

All times CET - deduct one hour for UK

Hungari-Shqiperi ( Hungary-Albania ) 19:00 SS1
Suedi-Portugali ( Sweden-Portugal ) 20:00 SS2
Bullgari-Itali ( Bulgaria-Italy ) 20:15 SS3
Gjermani-Rusi ( Germany-Russia ) 20:45 SS4
Estoni-Spanje ( Estonia-Spain ) 20:45 SS5
Rusi-Finlande ( Russia-Finland ) 17:00 SS1
Malte-Hungari ( Malta-Hungary ) 19:30 SS2
Greqi-Zvicer ( Greece-Switzerland ) 20:30 SS3
Belgjike-Spanje ( Belgium-Spain ) 20:45 SS4
Portugali-Shqiperi ( Portugal-Albania ) 21:45 SS1
Brazil-Kolumbi ( Brazil-Colombia ) 03:00 SS1
Brazil-Kolumbi (rts) (replay) 20:00 SS1

Gavin Strachan's Blog

Gavin's blog, which can be found here is actually a worthwhile read. While previous blogs on the BBC website have tended to be a dull collection of events by a Premier League footballer, this one is much more interesting, from the view of a journeyman lower league footballer, approaching the end of his professional career.

It's interesting because it's much more personal than a Premier League footballer's blog, maybe because he's actually written it himself, maybe because I just find it more interesting because it's actually possible to relate to him.

Blue Square Premier - Ebbsfleet United vs Histon

Last nights match was Ebbsfleet against Histon in the Blue Square Premier on Setanta. I’ve been to Ebbsfleet twice to watch Morecambe, but never seen us score there. The first time, we arrive about 30 minutes into the match after high-tailing it from Sally’s Gran’s birthday party in London, and Morecambe were already 2-0 up by that stage. The second time we arrived in Gravesend (or Northfleet, whichever), and watched some rugby in a pub with Sal’s uncle, and turned up at the ground at 2.50pm only to find the match had kicked off at 2.15pm as the floodlights weren’t working. The match was 1-1 at that stage and we lost 2-1 in the end.

Anyway, since then, they’ve changed their name and got take over by a website. Strange (but exciting?) times down in Ebbsfleet. Probably more exciting than last nights match against Histon, in which both teams’ defences nullified each others, and the game was a staid and scrappy affair, enlivened only by Histon’s goal, an overhead kick from the end of the area. The only other talking point that could be derived from the match was the referee dishing out nine yellow cards (including two to one player), in a match that wasn’t particularly dirty or aggressive. According to the commentator, the same ref gave out 10 yellows in his previous match, so perhaps he’s on commission.

I find the commentary on these matches much more enjoyable than standard Premier League commentary, as the commentators explain so much more about the teams and players, given the relative lack of knowledge most neutrals will have about the players and the teams at this level. I certainly didn’t know a lot about Histon, as they joined the league as Morecambe left it, and I was surprised to see they’d gone second. That’s why I love the lower leagues, as once you leave the Premier League, and even the Championship, the playing field is much more levelled – you still have a few rich clubs skewing things, but as budgets are so much more limited, and most transfers involve little or no fee, managerial knowlegde and scouting becomes much more important.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Manchester City vs Liverpool

Sunday’s live match was Robinho’s Manchester City vs Liverpool. I watched this on digitalb, but somebody forgot to flick the commentary, and the English audio stream was silent for the whole match. I watched about 20 minutes like this (it’s very weird watching a match with no sound at all) before switching over to the Albanian audio so I at least had the crowd noise. Probably makes more sense than the English commentary, and is an improvement on Andy Gray at least.

It was a pretty exciting match, with Liverpool going 2-0 down to City before the break, before a Fernando Torres double and Dirk Kuyt winning the match in injury time. At half time, I couldn’t see Liverpool coming back into it at all, but they played very well in the second half, much as it hurts me to say.

The match could go down as one of those feted “this is why the Premier League is so great” matches, and in truth, it was pretty enjoyable, even if I got the result I didn’t want. Sally was pleased though, as Torres is in her fantasy team.

The match saw a red card for a pretty reckless tackle by Zabaleta on Alonso, which was well deserves. Martin Skertel was stretchered off late in the match after a challenge on Ched Evans left him writhing in agony on the pitch, although he was potentially lucky still to be on the pitch at that stage following a high tackle on Jo.

I half-wonder if the match was more enjoyable due to the absence of English commentary, allowing me to watch the match and make up my own mind about what’s going on, rather than listen to some gormless summariser who says the referee has made a mistake, then over the course of several replays gradually changes their tune to say that the referee has made a good decision.

Liverpool for once seem to have credible title credentials, although the depth of their squad could be an issue, especially if Torres gets injured. For all Manchester City’s riches, it’s worth noting that they’re only really a Robinho and a Jo better than last year’s mid-table team. It’s worth waiting until after the next transfer window to see if they’re worthy of the Big Four contender title – on recent showings, they are some way off, but are showing signs.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Saturday review; Morecambe draw (again!) with Chesterfield; United cruise at Blackburn

At a sodden Christie Park Morecambe picked up another draw against Chesterfield. In a match were the rain never much dipped below torrential levels, Steward Drummond opened the scoring with a well placed shot from outside the area. The lead, nice though it was to take the lead for once, didn't last for long as Chesterfield equalised shortly afterwards with a header unmarked in the penalty area, before Bentley brought down Jack Lester in the area to give Chestefield a penalty, which was driven home.

The match was a scrappy affair, due to the driving wind and the rain - passes along the ground went astray due to soggy conditions, and anything above head height was caught by the wind. Morecambe played some nice football, but as much nasty football with plenty of stray passes and wasted possession. McIllroy through on Wainright and Curtis to try and turn the tide in our favour in the second half, and it seemed to work as more and more chances were created. Young Aaron Taylor made his first team debut after impressing in the reserves, and it was his influence that unsettled the Chesterfield goalie right at the death, causing him to spill the ball and allow Rene Howe to knock the ball into an empty net from about one yard out.

In the tea time telly game, Man Utd eased to victory at Ewood Park with goals from Wes Brown and Rooney. Wes' goal possibly would have been given as a foul by other referees, as Vidic clattered the goalkeeper, but it's one of those ones that seems to divide opinion (personally I think it was fine), but makes a mockery of repeated suggestions that video replays would make referee's decisions more accurate. United commanded the match, and were profligate in front of goal once more, and easily could have got three or four in this match. All of which leaves them three points off the top of the league - not bad for the "slow start" the papers would have you believe they are having.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Digitalb Schedule Weekend 4-5 October

NB All times CET - deduct 1 hour for UK

Sat 4
Australian Moto GP 05:10 SS5
Birmingham-QPR 13:45 SS5
Besa-Elbasani 15:00 SS3
Dinamo-Vllaznia 15:00 SS4
Stuttgart-Werder 15:30 SS1
M’gladbach-Köln 15:30 SS2
Lazio vs Lecce 18:00 SS2
Coventry-Southampton 18:20 SS3
Blackburn-Man Utd 18:30 SS1
Marseille-Caen 19:00 SS4
Villareal-Betis 20:00 SS2
Australian Moto GP 20:00 SS3
Inter vs Bologna 20:30 SS1
Lille-Valencienes 21:00 SS4
Palmeiras-Atlético 21:00 SS5
Barcelona-At Madrid 22:00 SS2

Australian Moto GP 04:00 SS5
Juventus vs Palermo 15:00 SS1
Genoa vs Napoli 15:00 SS2
Siena-Roma 15:00 SS2
Chelsea-Aston Villa 16:00 SS4
Man City-Liverpool 16:00 SS5
Everton-Newcastle 17:00 SS1
Schalke 04-Wolfsburg 17:00 SS2
Sevilla-Athletic 17:00 SS3
Vlladolid-Valencia 19:00 SS2
Australian Moto GP 20:00 SS5
Cagliari vs Milan 20:30 SS1
Sporting- Porto 20:45 SS3
Real Madrid-Espanyol 21:00 SS2
Nancy-Paris SG 21:00 SS4

Mon 6
Leixões-Benfica 22:00 SS5

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Tuesday night Champions League

I caught the last few minutes of Real Madrid’s match at Zenit St Petersburg, as Zenit were chucking the kitchen sink at Real in a search for an equaliser. Megabucks Danny missed a chance right at the end as a Real Madrid defender got his arse in the way. I often wonder how UEFA feel about having Russian clubs in the Champions League, as the temperature and time difference means matches have to be played in what is the end of the afternoon in the rest of Europe. Looked pretty cold too judging by the winter warm clothes on some of the spectators (apart from a few hardy topless souls). The evil part of me wants Luch Energiya of Vladivostock to one day make the Champions League, which is on the far East of the country!

Then watched Manchester United’s fairly low key match in Aalborg. United eased to a win with goals from Rooney and two from Berbatov (who could have had a hat-trick, but missed a sitter), without really seeming to extend themselves. It could have been a costly win though, as Scholes will be out for two months with knee ligament damage, and Rooney and Rafael also getting injuries. Rafael had another impressive match, and while learning the ropes defensively, looks very promising going forward, and must have Wes Brown and Gary Neville looking over their shoulder. The fluidity of the weekend performance against Bolton wasn’t there, as passing was sloppy in the final third, but a 3-0 win away from home in the Champions League isn’t to be sniffed at. Assuming Manchester United beat Aalborg at Old Trafford, they realistically need to pick up 3 points from their two matches with Celtic and trip to Villareal. Shouldn’t be too difficult, and shows how simple it is becoming for the bigger European clubs to qualify for the later rounds of the competition, almost without breaking sweat, whilst making plenty of money in the process.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Sunday review; Wigan vs Manchester City

On Sunday, I watched Robinho’s Manchester City visit the JJB, and come away with no points after an impressive display by Wigan.

Wigan look like a team that will cause a lot of teams problems – having watched them against Chelsea, when they shut Chelsea down after going behind to a free kick, this time they worked hard but were more attacking. Zaki looks like a fantastic player, honest and hard working, and is fast becoming one of my favourite players in the Premier League for his attitude. Unfortunately, his form is likely to become Wigan’s loss as he is only on loan, and if he keeps up performing like this, he is likely to be plying his trade at a “bigger” club next season.

Wigan were strong and athletic, always harrying Man City and giving the likes of Wright-Phillips and Robinho little time on the ball to carve out chances. Wigan took the lead with a pile-driver from Valencia, one of those goals that demands a reaction from those watching. They didn’t hold on to it for long, conceding a soft goal from a corner as the ball rebounded off Kompany and into the net.

Wigan restored their deserved lead in an undeserved fashion, getting a soft penalty for an apparent dive by Palacios, which was despatched by the impressive Zaki. Wigan sat back in the second half and were content to close down Man City, who were unable to break a stubborn Wigan side down. Wigan look like a solid mid-table team, who are stuck between a rock and a hard place – they look to strong this year to be sucked into the relegation mire, and not quite good enough to challenge for a European spot. Outside chance for the League Cup perhaps? One thing is for sure, no team is going to look forward to playing them, they aren’t the push-over for the bigger sides they have been in the previous two seasons.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Saturday review; Liverpool win on Merseyside, Man Utd beat Bolton, Hull humble Gunners

Busy Premier League day yesterday. Liverpool won at Everton thanks to two second-half Fernando Torres goals, which was what their dominance of play deserved. I think I recall a comment from the commentators on the end that Everton hadn't made a shot on target all match, and I can easily believe that, as they had little possession and mainly squandered what they had. Looks like it could be a long season for the Toffees, it's difficult to see where their goals will come from. Mike Riley took the spotlight again, making many stoppages for free kicks (although in the criticism he took from the commentators, what can he do if both teams persistently foul? The more he lets play "flow", the more chance he misses a foul, earning thr wrath of the players and commentators for not blowing - who'd be a referee?), though he most puzzling decision of the day was sending Cahill off for a poor challenge when a yellow may have sufficed, although Cahill's reluctance to come over and speak to the ref may have led to his own downfall.

I then watched Man Utd vs Bolton on an internet stream, as digitalb unsurprisingly didn't broadcast this match live. At the same time I was listening to Morecambe earn a draw at Lincoln on Morecambe World, the commentary for which sounded like it was coming down a piece of string connected to a tin at Sincill Bank. Any time the crowd made any kind of noise, they and the commentators merged into one big blob of sound. When Morecambe equalised, it took almost 30 seconds for me to figure out what had happened! Anyway, in the other match, watched on various streams on justin.tv as various streams buffered and went down, Man Utd dominated the Trotters, without going ahead until deep in the second half when Ronaldo was brought down in the box - although it was never a penalty. The reaction on the internet chat rooms at the time was telling - blaming Ronaldo and calling him all the names under the sun, when none of it was actually his fault - it was a fair tackle, which brought him down after the ball had been won; Ronaldo didn't dive, didn't appeal for the penalty, but yet in the eyes of most of those in the chatroom at the time, it was his fault. Anyway, Rooney came off the bench to get a second to take the focus off the dodgy decision slightly.

In the tea-time match, featuring Arsenal yet again (I think the last three Setanta tea-time matches have featured the Gunners), Hull held up well against Arsenal in the first half, living on the edge slightly in defense on occasion, but making several chances of their own. As Arsenal scored at the start of the second half, and Sally had just put my tea out, I turned the telly off, and turned on again a few minutes before the end to see what cricket score Arsenal had run up, only to see Hull had taken the lead! I was glad not be be betting, as I certainly would have used Arsenal in a few accumulators yesterday. So I watched the highlights on match of the day, and saw Hull were worthy of their win - Arsenal again trying to elaborate too much in front of goal, passing when they should shoot, and Geovanni equalised with a fantastic rocket from outside the area, before Cousin got the winner from a corner.

All of which leaves Chelsea and Liverpool tied at the top of the Premier League.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

League Cup; Newcastle vs Tottenham

Not dwelling on this one - awful match. First half instantly forgettable save for minor clash between Coloccini and Pavlyuchenko.

In the second half, Tottenham were marginally better, and scored through Pavlyuchenko and a drive from O'Hara. Owen got one back for Newcastle at the end, but I'd given up by then.

Both teams were woeful, and on this form it is little surprise they are stuck at the bottom of the table - no creativity, no fluidity, nothing to offer the fans of the clubs any glimmer of hope. The 30,000 fans who stayed away had the best idea. The highlight of the match for me was when the screen turned green when Sky had a problem with their uplink, but unfortunately for the viewer, it soon came back on.

Annoyingly for me, there was a full round of Serie A matches, so I could have switched over to Digitalb and at least watched one of those. Never mind.

Newcastle are deep in the mire, and unless they get the management and ownership sorted out quickly, they are a realistic prospect for relegation, as West Brom, Hull and Stoke all seem much more capable of collecting points that Newcastle do.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

League Cup; Manchester United vs Middlesbrough

Old Trafford looked to be about two thirds full, no doubt down to United’s record of going out of the competition to Championship sides in the last two seasons and also United charging full admission for the match. The match had the air of a pre-season friendly about it as there was virtually no tempo to the game. Ronaldo started the match trying various flicks and turns, almost as if himself believed the match was beneath him (he probably did – must be the first time he’s played in the third round of the League Cup for a long time). United had much the better of the first half, with the youngsters of Da Silva at right back and Possebon in midfield being particularly impressive. Amos in goal had little to do, and Wellbeck showed some good touches, but made some errors of judgement in his passing. Ronaldo got United’s first from a corner, showing his aerial ability matches his ability on the ground.

Middlesbrough changed things round in midfield in the second half, and came more into the game as a result, and got an equaliser with the aid of a deflection after about an hour. It was after that goal that the incident the match will probably be most remembered for – Emmanuel Pogatetz with a terrible challenge on Possebon, which looks to have broken the young chap’s leg. What was most infuriating about the incident was that it was malicious – the replays proved that – but Pogatetz had the audacity to argue his sending off as he left the pitch.

Fittingly, the defensive player brought on to cover for Pogatetz goofed up and passed a ball straight to Giggs for a clean run on goal to restore United’s lead, and Nani got a third from another mistake deep into injury time (nine minutes due to the treatment of Possebon).

It was a pleasing performance from United, who got a result without really appearing to try that hard, and showed that some of the youngsters on the books would be worth a look in the Premier League, especially now that 7 substitutes can be used. However, what the match is most likely to throw up is more media analysis of how reckless tackles should be punished, and how blatant disrespect like Pogatetz should be dealt with. As the match was not broadcast live in the UK, and the competition has a much lower profile than the Premier League, the bare outrage will probably not reach that of the tackle involving Arsenal’s Eduardo last season, but it is another entry in the long list of why so many people are being turned off top flight football.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Saturday review

The weekend’s viewing began with my first Morecambe match in three weeks, after missing the last home match after going to an Ash concert in London. On that day, by all accounts we were very impressive against a title-challenging Shrewsbury, who beat Gillingham 7-0 the week after as we stole a 1-0 win. Against Grimsby at the weekend, we failed categorically to reproduce that kind of form, going down to an early penalty and then labouring for the next 50 minutes, practically devoid of any kind of creativity as the ball was passed along midfield, back to the centrebacks and hoofed up field. After the introduction of Craig Stanley to the midfield and Wayne Curtis, who has been our best player in the last few weeks, to the wing, we finally got going and Curtis headed an equaliser shortly after coming on. Curtis then wellied over the goal when put clean through, before Grimsby had two late chances well saved by Roche which allowed us to get a point out of the match.

The stop start nature of the season is frustrating, in that any good performance is usually followed up by a poor one so no momentum can be built. That said, we are unbeaten in four matches now, but worryingly have only kept one clean sheet this season. It’s a funny situation in League 2, with so many teams on minus points, and the teams down amongst us must fight to not become complacement and let these teams overtake them.

After that, I at least watched some entertaining football, as I took in the first hour of Arsenal’s match at Bolton. In a startling contrast of football styles, at one stage early in the first half, the on screen graphic showed Arsenal had completed 129 passes, to Bolton’s 19. That said, it was Bolton who took the lead, but soon after Arsenal took it back with two quick goals, both from fabulous moves, even if Eboue was just offside for the first goal. Arsenal played pretty football, although were guilty of overplaying on occasion, as is their way, looking for the final killer pass rather than trying the more direct approach, but it was one of those Arsenal performances that was really pleasing, even for the non-gunner. I missed the final goal as we popped out for some shopping, but Arsenal are impressing in the same way they did at the start of last season. If they can get players back to fitness and maintain this form, they have to be regarded as contenders; although with so many injury prone players, and a relatively thin squad compared to their fellow contenders, they will probably have to be content with a Champions’ League spot. Which is a shame, but shows how strong the top 4 in the Premier League have become – almost tediously so.

Friday, 19 September 2008

3pm Saturday matches back on digitalb?

Manchester United vs Bolton, next Saturday at 3pm is listed as being on Digitalb here.

Worth nothing, that as it's digitalb, details are incredibly sketchy and no one has any official information. It's worth watching Supersport 4 channel from next week when it's broadcasting the news channel to see if they also list it.

Apparently they didn't show Manchester City's UEFA Cup match last night after advertising it.

If the 3pm listing is true, then it would make a mockery of the nonsensical "no 3pms until November" rumour. We will wait and see...

League 2 Admission Prices

My previous post about the cost of watching Championship football made me think about potentially how much I would pay if I went to all of Morecambe's League matches.

My season ticket cost £234 (by purchasing by 30 June - £247 after), and then I went to all the various clubs websites and looked at the cheapest away tickets they offered (eg terracing when available, and any discounts achieved by buying tickets early), and found it would cost £387 to go to all the away matches, meaning £621 would be the cost to watch all of our League matches this season, and that's before the associated travel costs and anything spent at the ground. Not exactly a cheap past-time.

The individual admission prices, and a graph showing admission prices can be found here

Derby reject QPR price hikes

It would seem that Derby have taken the decision to reject QPR's tickets after alledgy being sent tickets with a face value £10 above what had been agreed.

According to this story on the BBC website, Derby and QPR had agreed a price of either £30 for adults or £20 for concessions, but ended up receiving tickets with a higher value.

Firstly, expecting anyone to pay £30 for Championship football is taking the piss. Then reading further into the article, which says that QPR's tickets are between £20 and £50 for their own fans! Now, I'm sure the £50 seats have a great view and are maybe even padded for the delicate derriere, but let me get this straight - £50? To watch a Championship football side?

It would seem that QPR will adjust to life in Premier League very nicely should their owner's millions see them get there.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

ITV secure deal for remaining England away qualifiers


Setanta have signed a £1 million-plus deal with ITV to secure highlights for the remaining England away qualifiers, bringing to an end the controversy that surrounded their inability to come to a deal for the Andorra and Croatia matches earlier this month.

UEFA Cup; Omonia Nicosia vs Robinho's Manchester City

Bizarrely, this match was on Sky 1 (or Sky1, I'm not sure if there's supposed to be a space or not). The only other football I can remember on Sky1 (aside from various celebrity matches) is a Bolton Champions' League match a couple of seasons ago. Maybe the aquisition of Robinho sparked some kind of bidding war, or more likely, the rights were begging to go cheaply, the match kicking off at the unattractive time of 6pm, and the UEFA Cup's regular home of Five showing a Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Everton marathon, having aquired home rights to all of those sides.

In a partizan atmosphere that often seems to exist in European stadium, but is never anywhere to be found in English grounds, and on a parched pitch, Manchester City laboured in the first half against a willing and organised Cypriot team. Jo managed to mis-hit a ball on the six yard line rather than tap into an empty net and City managed to hit the woodwork twice in the first half. Robinho was the focus of the match of course, both for the team, and he showed flashes of the skill that £32 million has been splashed for, and also for the commentators, who made as many references to him and his Brazilan compatriots as they could. It's already becoming very tired - I think I'm looking forward to the January transfer window, just so City might buy some more big money players to take the focus off Robinho! Just as last night's United match was almost spoilt by the endless reference's to Ronaldo's comeback, so this one too was tarnished by lazy journalism.

Nicosia punished City for their proflicacy right at the start of second half with a peach of a free kick - one of those ones from about 25 yards out that curls just out of the reach of the goalkeeper. Nice. Jo made it a hat-trick of missed chances soon after, contriving to strike the bar when clean through on the keeper. He made up for it soon after, finally netting for City with a tap in, before giving City the lead after 70 minutes with a well taken goal - evading his marker and slotting home from about 15 yards out. Despite a couple of nervy moments right at the end, City held on to secure the win.

A good result from City, which should see the through to the group stage of the competition without too much trouble at Eastlands. They can be pleased with a good performance against a team with the potential to be tricky. They may be worth a cheeky punt as winners of the competition, as it would be realistic to consider them contenders for the competition, and it's a useful way to gain European experience given how they would love to be competing in the Champion's League next season.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Champions League; Manchester United vs Villareal

The first Champions League match of the season at Old Trafford saw Spanish side Villareal pay a return visit, after a 0-0 draw there several seasons ago. It was an enjoyable if uninspiring first half; United having most of the possession and chances and Villareal content to sit back and soak up the pressue.

In the second half, Villareal decided to push forward some more; creating more space for United to push onto, making play more stretched and becoming much more interesting as a result. Manchester United brought Ronaldo on after around 65 minutes, to a very warm Old Trafford welcome - if some people are angry with him after his protracted daliance with Real Madrid, they were out-shouted by those who were pleased he had stayed. Even Andy Gray joined the Ronaldo fan club, going all giddy as he stripped off from his training top into his match shirt.

Either Ronaldo's introduction gave United more confidence, or Villareal decided to give up attacking as a bad job, but United dominated the period Ronaldo was on the pitch. Both sides came close, hitting the post when it would have been easier to score, but despite one of those "kitchen sink" finishes, the match finished goalless, and Villareal probably went away with the point they had came for.

United and their fans can be encouraged by the performance during the last period of the game, when they finally, for the first time this season, looked like the side they are capable of being. Again though, they looked weak up front, and although this may change with Ronaldo's re-appearance in the team, it is dangerous to rely on one player, when a season ending injury is only one mistimed tackle away.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Champions League; Barcelona vs Sporting Lisbon; Marseille vs Liverpool

The Champions League returns and the Sky hype machine gets cranked up a notch. As I'll be watching Manchester United's match tomorrow, I thought I'd take in one of the matches not involving English teams tonight, and tuned into the first half of Barcelona's match against Sporting Lisbon. A good match on paper, between two skillful sides, turned out to be fairly dull, in the half that I watched anyway.

In a Nou Camp that was far from full, Barcelona dominated possession, notching up 70% of the possession at one stage. Barcelona were completely in control, although creating very little in the final third of the pitch. Sporting's apparent unwillingness to chase the ball down meant Barcelona could pass the ball round easily without needing to extend themselves too much, killing the game as a spectacle. They became even less adventurous after Marquez gave them the lead from a poorly defended corner. I decided to switch over at half-time to watch Marseille's match against Liverpool, which at 2-1 to Liverpool, looked a mych more balanced and enticing prospect.

One advantage of watching the Champions League on Sky is their interactive facility - offering six matches tonight and eight tomorrow, all of which can be watched at once if you have ADHD, or you can focus on one and be kept abreast of developments elsewhere by a message on the bottom of the screen as the goals go in, pressing the red button to view them. Sky have improved this facility this season, by showing the replayed goal twice - last season you needed to react within milliseconds of the message going up in order to view anything more than players celebrating a goal. This season you can be slightly more relaxed about things. Unfortunately, Sky have decided against showing the match in whatever format the host broadcaster provide, choosing to chop the top and bottom off a 4:3 feed to fake a 16:9 picture, meaning that players at the top of the screen regularly have their head chopped off, or disappear behind the score graphic.

The Marseille vs Liverpool match was a much more entertaining affair, between two closely matched teams. Marseille had the majority of the play and consistently dispossessed Liverpool in midfield, although it was Liverpool who had the better of the chances as Babel blasted a ball from six yards against the keeper, who managed to get an arm in the way. Both teams had interesting kits - Liverpool's absent of the sponsor logo due to the alcohol advertising ban in France, Marseille for some reason in a change kit of gold and black. The impressive Stade Velodrome had swathes of empty seats - perhaps Champions League apathy is reaching the south coast of France.

In other matches, the Champions League new boys had impressive debuts - Anorthosis Famagusta sharing the points with Werder Bremen in a goaless draw, but by far the most impressive result being Cluj's win in Rome. Both matches frustratingly spoiling my accumulators and denying me my 2p fortune.

Serie A in the UK update

According to posts on the DigitalSpy website, the Eurosport round-up show EUROGOALS showed the goals from this week's round of Serie A matches.

In another post on their forum, it appears the Setanta deal may not be totally dead:

James Richardson gave another update on the Setanta situation in the Guardian Football Weekly podcast yesterday. Apparently the deal is not necessarily dead. It's still possible, though far from certain, that Setanta will show Serie A this season.

I haven't got round to listening to this week's Football Weekly podcast yet, but will post back if there is any further information.

Digitalb Premier League Schedule - 20th/21st September

Saturday 20th
17.30pm BOLTON W. v ARSENAL (SS1)

Sunday 21st
12.00pm WBA v ASTON VILLA (SS1)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Liverpool vs Manchester United, via a dodgy web stream

As I was at a wedding back home in Northern Ireland, my only football this weekend was watching the first half of Liverpool vs Manchester United on streaming site Justin.tv.

Justin.tv is a streaming site where users connect their telly up to their computer, and broadcast whatever they are watching. Originally set up to allow people to broadcast video gaming, it seems to have grown into a legally dubious way of re-broadcasting various satellite channels. Go there on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and you’ll find most matches being broadcast. I ended up watching someone broadcasting Sky Sports over the service, along with around 23,000 other viewers. Given that several other users were broadcasting the match, it soon adds up to quite a few people not being included in Sky’s overall viewing figures.

Quality varies from user to user – some are blocky and jerky, some are very reasonable quality. It’s all done using embedded flash, like youtube and other video sharing sites, meaning you don’t need to download any clients like TVUplayer or SOPcast.

The channel is broadcast in a window about a quarter the size of your computer screen, with a chat window on the other side. The chat window is annoying, there’s no two ways about it, and unfortunately there’s no way of hiding it. Whilst it’s a nice idea, to let people discuss the match in progress, in reality most people use it for fairly basic insults of the team they don’t support, to make various sexist, racist or homophobic insults, or to ask who scored the goal. Every minute.

The match itself (as much as I watched of it) was a pretty exciting, fairly open contest. United look like they could run a cricket score to begin with, before gifting Liverpool an equaliser and falling apart from there. Not having seen the second half, I can’t comment on Liverpool’s winner, but it would be interesting to see how Liverpool would have performed had they not giftwrapped the equaliser.

I did catch the last 10 minutes of Real Madrid vs Numancia last night, seemingly the only part of the game not to contain any goals, but thankfully they won, and was the final result in a small accumulator I had, returning the princely sum of 2p for my stake of 1p. I’d been on a bad run until then, loosing 6 on the bounce. I’ve done a small accumulator for the Champion’s League, based on some of the home “bankers” there look to be. Fingers crossed my luck is changing!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Digitalb Schedule, 12-15 September

12:45 SS1 Liverpool - Manchester Utd
17:20 SS2 Derby County - Sheffield Utd
17:30 SS1 Manchester City - Chelsea

13:30 SS5 Stoke City - Everton

20:00 SS5 Tottenham - Aston Villa

Serie A
17:00 SS3 Palermo - Roma
19:30 SS1 Inter - Catania

14:00 SS1 Genoa - Milan
14:00 SS2 Lazio - Sampdoria
14:00 SS3 Bologna - Atalanta
14:00 SS4 Napoli - Fiorentina
19:30 SS1 Juventus - Udinese


19:00 SS3 Racing - Barcelona
21:00 SS2 Sevilla - Sporting

16:00 SS2 Villarreal - La Coruna
18:00 SS4 Real Madrid - Numancia
20:00 SS2 Almeria - Valencia

19:30 SS1 Frankfurt - Karlsruher SC

14:30 SS2 Koln - Bayern
14:30 SS3 Dormtund - Schalke

16:00 SS3 Hannover - Monchengladbach

18:00 SS4 Lyon - Nice
20:00 SS4 Bordeaux - Marseille

20:00 SS3 PSG - Nantes

22:20 SS1 Gremio - Goias

20:00 SS4 Cruzeiro - Palmeiras

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Northern Ireland 0 - 0 Czech Republic (and a little mention of England)

Sky's first match of their new deal to screen Northern Ireland's home internationals saw them screening probably Northern Ireland's toughest home fixture against group favourites Czech Republic. Gerry Armstrong took a break from his La Liga duties to play summariser, and the little Northern Irish man from Sky Sports News whose name escapes me presented the show.

Didn't quite catch the name of the commentator, it wasn't Jackie Fullerton but it sounded bloody like him, although with less of the trademark Fullerton chuckles.

It was a decent match though, both sides coming close. Chris Brunt has probably the best chance of the match, drawing a save out of Cech when baring down on goal, but a draw was probably fair. Northern Ireland were arguably the better team, but lacked cutting edge up front, as is often the problem. There was hope though, that it would be possible to get some results against the weaker teams in the group at Windsor Park if they played like that again - now if they can only produce that away from home.

Meanwhile, Setanta will be delighted with their match, England at Croatia, Walcott's hat-trick helping to earn a 4-1 win. I haven't seen any of the goals yet, but internet reports suggest a comprehensive win in the manner England should be capable of more often. Perhaps the knives where out for Cappello to soon - no doubt tomorrow's papers will go to the other extreme and start to build England up as World Cup hopefuls again, until the next bad result comes along.

Setanta show FTA England and Scotland Highlights tonight

Setanta Sports 1 will be showing highlights of Iceland vs Scotland and Croatia vs England Free to Air on all platforms from 10.45 pm tonight. This is in light of any of the terrestrial broadcasters meeting Setanta's valuation of the highlight rights.

TV Review - Goalissimo, Channel 4

Goalissimo has been part of my weekend routine for about 14 months now, after starting to watch last summer during the close-season. Broadcast sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning, then again on Saturday morning on Channel 4, it’s a weekly round-up show of goals and highlights from around the world.

It’s a strange and somewhat charming little show in that it is very restricted in what it can actually show by it’s obviously miniscule budget (when it’s broadcast in the middle of the night on Channel 4, there are advert breaks with no adverts, just previews of other shows, so clearly not a ratings winner). It tries hard however – making up for not being able to show the Premier League highlights by showing photos of the previous weeks matches.

The format tends to be pretty regular – goals from a few matches in a couple of leagues, and then extended highlights from a couple of matches – currently these tend to be Swedish, Brazilian and American. They either have a globetrotting commentator travelling the world to provide commentary, or some poor lackey in a studio somewhere talking over the already edited highlights.

Each week, there’s a few interview pieces, often featuring global projects to improve an area using football, or an interview with a big star at some promotional event. For some reason, they tend to sit on these interviews for a while before broadcasting them, meaning the content can quickly become out-of-date.

Highlights wise, currently we have Portuguese, German, Swedish, Brazilian, American goals. Occasionally we take a trip to Africa for highlights of some international matches (often several weeks after they happen) or African Champions League coverage. It’s usually quite scattergun, almost as if they get a list of fixtures and put it on the wall, chucking darts in the general direction to pick which matches they show.

It’s early in the season, so new TV contracts mean some leagues will disappear, or might take a while to come back – currently Serie A and Ligue 1 haven’t reappeared on the show after being show last year. Unfortunately it seems for the show, their portfolio is decreasing in direct proportion to increasing amount of money in football, pricing them out of rights to show highlights.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Midweek internationals

Still struggling somewhat to get online regularly with the computer problems I’ve been having. I was down in London last weekend, which meant I missed most of the international “action” (quotation marks added in respect of England’s performance), and am off to a friend’s wedding this weekend means I’m missing the annual Merseyside grudgefest between Liverpool and Man Utd.

Still, will at least be able to take in the internationals tomorrow night. I’m hoping for another Windsor Park performance from Northern Ireland as we take on the Czech Republic. Russia will probably expect to comfortably beat a weak Wales team affected by injuries, Scotland must hope that George Burley picks up his first win as Scotland manager or qualification will look dead in the water before it’s properly begun. Croatia will be aiming to be the first nation to beat England in three successive competitive matches, and must fancy their chances against an England side who look, quite frankly, rotten.

Well worth a look (for those who don’t work during the day) is the Korean Clash on Eurosport at 1pm (UK time). Talk about a local derby with a bit of needle!

It still remains to be seen if highlights on the England match will turn up on any of the terrestrial channels, as, at the time of writing, nobody has matched Setanta’s asking price, leading to a lot of ill-feeling across various messageboards on the internet.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Transfer deadline day review - one day on

I fully intended to write about this yesterday, but whiled away my evening re-installing windows on my pc (twice as it happens). I've got a very flakey PC that doesn't really like being shut down, and ever since I've got windows going again, it seems it doesn't even want to go into standby. Joker. New PC ordered.

Anyway, it turns out my Monday scepticism may have been unfounded, as Berbatov did end up at Manchester United. Viewers of Sky Sports News probably enjoyed some of the most exciting reporting in the station's history, as Man City tried to hijack the deal, Berbatov was spotted being picked up by Sir Alex Ferguson, Tottenham took the hump and various people said United didn't have permission to talk to Berbatov, and so on and so on.

Meanwhile, admidst reports of them trying to grab Berbatov and having a bid accepted by Tottenham, Man City showed their new found financial clout by grabbing Robinho from Real Madrid, much to the amazement of pretty much every one in the football world, and much to the annoyance of Chelsea. At various times in the afternoon, it was reported that Man City were also pursuing Mario Gomes and David Villa.

At the same time, "sources" were saying that Kevin Keegan had been sacked by Newcastle, causing the North East reporter to be dispatched to St James' Park to stand in front of Geordies pulling faces. Lucky man. Anyway, as of now, Newcastle are still denying he's been sacked, but strong rumours remain about his tenure at the club.

Probably the most exicting deadline day since it's introduction, and most likely very impressive viewing figures for the channel. It will be interesting to see what City manage to do now with Robinho on board - several players will need to be raising their game to maintain their places at the club, and you must wonder how Corluka feels after jumping ship earlier in the day for Tottenham. The January transfer window could prove to be interesting, and Arsenal and Liverpool will be watching their backs, as a potential threat to the "Big Four" could finally be emerging.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Upcoming World Cup Qualifiers on Digitalb

Saturday 6th September

18.45 Albania - Sweden
19.45 Hungary - Denmark
20.00 Andorra - England
20.00 Malta - Portugal
20.30 Austria - France

Wednesday 10th September

20.30 Macedonia - Netherlands
20.45 Albania - Malta
20.45 Portugal - Denmark
21.00 Croatia - England
21.00 France - Serbia

Interesting that there's no Italy match, as they usually just borrow the RAI feed!

Transfer deadline day

The BBC's transfer deadline day tracker here should be interesting, if as usual, they publish whatever guff some half-wits text in. Expect sighting of Robinho and Berbatov all over the country, and marvel at the end of the day about what a waste of time it probably all has been.

With Berbatov to Man Utd looking quite likely, but by no means certain, it's amusing that all the column inches over the likes of Ronaldo to Real, Lampard to Inter, Barry to Liverpool, Robinho to Chelsea and Berbabtov to Man United could have been in vain.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Chelsea 1 - 1 Tottenham; Aston Villa 0 - 0 Liverpool

I missed the first half of the Chelsea match due to the old firm match, so tuned in for the second half of Chelsea vs Tottenham match. That meant I missed both goals, but if the first half was anything like the second, it was still a blessing, as the remainder was a fairly turgid match with both teams cancelling each other out.

The same can be said of Liverpool's trip to Villa Park. I was hoping for some spark in the light of the tedious Gareth Barry saga, but we got nothing of the sort. Aston Villa looked competent against a dour, unadventurous Liverpool side, who managed to muster zero shots on target. Their cause wasn't helped with Gerrard out injured, and Torres went off during the first half, but Robbie Keane certainly isn't living up to his £20 million price tag. So far, none of the big guns appear to be taking the lead in the title challenge, but at the same time none of the other sides look capable of breaking their monopoly on the top four places.

Meanwhile, in Serie A, none of the big guns have made a big impression in their opening matches either. Inter were well held by a Sampdoria side that will feel unlucky not to have won, Roma were held at home by Napoli, and the new look AC Milan side went down 2-1 to Serie A newcomers Bologna, possibly past-it Ronaldinho and probably past-it Shevchenko unsurprisingly not able to net a win for the side, who look like they may have another season of struggles ahead. Juventus and Fiorentina will have their chance to stake their credentials in the evening match tonight.

Celtic 2 - 4 Rangers, 31 August 2008

A tremendous Old Firm derby, won in convincing fashion by Rangers. Rangers scored three fine goals, with Pedro Mendes scoring the pick of the bunch with a superbly struck long range goal from a corner. Celtic initially equalised Rangers' opener, but Rangers then went on to score three to put the game beyond Celtic, and Celtic scored one through Nakamura right at the death after a poorly defended free kick.

It was a typical blood and thunder affair, drawing the usual cliches from the commentators about heavy tackles, passion and all the things you expect from an Old Firm clash, but the referee done his job well, setting his stall out and giving a few yellows for rash challenges early on, and applying consistency throughout, and correct sent of Cousin and Vennegor of Hesselink near the end, Cousin for his second yellow and Vennegor of Hesselink for reacting to a challenge.

It was an interesting study in crowd behaviour, and entirely predictable in many ways - lots of close-ups of both sets of fans either gesticulating or swearing in the direction of their opponents, then the director cutting away quickly when they realise what's happening, the volleys of "you're not singing anymore" bouncing back between fans as Rangers scored, Celtic equalised, and Rangers took the lead again, grown men nearly exploding in rage as the referee dares to correctly give a decision against their team, and then the stadium almost exiting en mass after the fourth Rangers goal as, pride hurt, they leave early to either beat the traffic, or more likely, avoid the victorious Rangers fans after the match.

Kenny Miller got his first two goals of his second Rangers spell on his return to Celtic Park. Perhaps predictably, more likely coincidence, not that it stopped the commentators banging on about it. It's one of those football cliches that only becomes true after it actually happens, and is never mentioned if it doesn't.

Much to celebrate for Rangers. Long term, it won't ease the pain of their failure to qualify for the Champions League, especially finacially, but it will give them the upper hand and momentum in this season's SPL title race.

Possession is nine tenths of the law

Something I've noticed a lot recently is how the UK media seem to be attaching ownership of clubs to specific people at those clubs. I remember it starting with Burton Albion, who were usually referred to as Nigel Clough's Burton Albion, due to most people probably being unfamiliar with the Blue Square Premier side.

Then when Roy Keane went to Sunderland, they were re-christened "Roy Keane's Sunderland", and increasingly lately, I've heard "Paul Ince's Blackburn" being banded about.

Others I can currently think of are:

David Beckham's LA Galaxy
Ronaldinho's AC Milan
Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan
Kevin Keegan's Newcastle

Can you think of any others? Leave a comment, or email me at thefootballwatcher@gmail.com

Greek Nova affected by 3pm blackout too

Several reports on internet forums have reported that Greek broadcaster Nova appears to be in the same situation as Digitalb, and currently blocked from showing 3pm Premier League football on Saturday afternoons.

The situation was less clear for Nova, as they had relinquished some of their capacity to state broadcaster ERT during the Olympics for increased coverage. Now things have gone back to normal, it would appear they are also suffering for perhaps allowing their cards to find their way into the hands of UK publicans a little to easily.

What is still unclear is why the Premier League appear to have targeted these specific two broadcasters over others, such as Canal Nordic, which is fairly easily receivable in the UK, or some of the other broadcasters whose packages are currently easy for pirates to hack.

According to posts on the Alsat forum, Digitalb repeated last week's trick of joining the Wigan vs Chelsea match late by not broadcasting the first 15 minutes or so of yesterday evenings Arsenal vs Newcastle whitewash.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Saturday review

Started the day with Goalissimo and Soccer AM as usual (great piece from Chris Kamara at Middlesbrough's Riverside stadium, which unfortunately hasn't turned up on their website, but is well worth a viewing if you get a chance.

Then I watched the first half of Southampton vs Blackpool, which Blackpool won with a penalty right on the stroke of half-time. The first half was an entertaining affair, with both sides going close at either end. Can't comment on the second half, as we made a mercy dash to the allotment to get some vegetables for tonight's tea, and ended coming away with a marrow, cabbage and some apples donated by other allotmenteers, brucey bonus.

Off to Christie this afternoon, where we lost 2-1 to Dagenham and Redbridge. The performace was much better than against Rotherham, but poor keeping at a free kick and failure to clear the lines in the box let Dagenham score two early in the first half, and it was uphill from there. Credit to the management, who changed the central midfield by bringing in Steward Drummond and Garry Hunter, which made a massive difference, and later we threw three up front by bringing on Diarmuid O'Carroll, who scored seconds after coming on. Despite late pressure, we couldn't get an equaliser, but the last 20 minutes or so bode well if we can utilise what we've learnt today - improvements must be made in defence to stop giving goals away so cheaply though. Credit today to Tony Roberts, the Dagenham keeping, who is always a tremendous laugh, responding to the banter from the crowd and providing a bit of a laugh when otherwise we might have been in the doldrums.

In the Premier League, it seems like normality has resumed already - Hull's fairytale start was brought crashing to the ground with a 5-0 home humbling from Wigan, who finally get something out of a game after playing well against Chelsea and West Ham. Everton's failure to add to the team in the transfer window showed as they were handed a 3-0 spanking at Goodison to Portsmouth, who showed they can't keep getting worse. Stoke showed last weeks win against Villa was probably not the norm as they went down 2-1 to Middlesbrough; Bolton drew 0-0 with West Brom, and although I haven't seen any highlights, I'm willing to bet it wasn't pretty.

As I type this, Arsenal are 2-0 up against Newcastle and showing the potential to run riot. Fabregas is back and showing just what a difference he makes to their side. Newcastle look hopeless outclasses and a win against one of the "big four" looks as far away as ever.

Serie A to Setanta setback?

Hey Ho Podsters!

Many thanks for your continued interest. Apologies too for the confusion re zamorano's number - it most certainly was 1+ 8. I should have known better, and to be fair, so should he.

Now, as for the mounting confusion over Serie A; I'm sorry to say that what looks a cracking opening weekend will not be getting an airing on uk television. I was told last week by A Broadcaster that they'd signed up il campionato piu bello del mondo, hence my excited outburst in a show last monday. This week however the deal hit a major stumbling block when said broadcaster discovered that italian games would be streamed for free on at least one uk website.

All hope is not yet lost, and if you wished to e-mail said Broadcaster expressing your desire to pay good money to watch creaking knees and questionable hair decisions on a proper telly, that just might make all the difference. Or it might not.

I'll be posting as soon as I hear some news anyway.

Yours in pod,

According to this quote from James Richardson on the guardian website, it would appear that Setanta aren't impressed that the matches they screen would also be available for free elsewhere - for instance, on the bet365 website.

Hopefully this can be resolved, as I'd much prefer to watch the matches on my telly than on the internet!

Friday, 29 August 2008

UEFA SuperCup, 29 August 2008

The curtain comes down on UEFA's jolly in Monaco with the Super Cup between Manchester United and Zenit St Petersburg.

Both teams fielded a strong line-up, Man Utd's probably as strong as it can be with their current injury worries, and Zenit had Arshavin on the bench ahead of his possible (probable?) move to Tottenham.

Zenit had much the better of the first half, creating the best chances and shutting out Manchester United well, who looked toothless up front - lots of industry from Tevez and Rooney, but little class - they look shorn of creativity up front, and much in need of a player like Berbatov, especially with Ronaldo still injured and Nani's final ball leaving a lot to be desried.

Zenit made their advantage count right at the end, when poor marking from a corner allowed Pogrebnyak to bundle the ball in. It was no less than Zenit deserved, Man Utd being vunerable at the back throughout the half, Gary Neville in particular looking hopelessly out of form. Zenit's goal brought out the flares amongst the Zenit fans, which the commentators like to tut about, but must secretly love given the dramatic effect it creates in the stand. Later in the match, the Zenit fans also demonstrated their ability to bounce in unison, much like they did in Manchester, as they turned their end into one big pogo party. It was also noticable that there were some empty spaces in the Man Utd end, which I thought was strange given the apparent desirability of the venue and the availability of cheap flights to Nice.

Zenit brought Arshavin into the game for the second half, in what could turn out to be his farewell performance for the club. However, it was the player that could turn out to be his replacement, Danny, signed for £25 million, who got Zenit's second after the hour with a fine run from the half-way line and well taken shot, which highlighted Man Utd's defensive frailties as Rio Ferdinand backed off rather than attempting to tackle. Vidic pulled a goal back from United after a corner following good work by Tevez to control a ball that landed at his feet after somewhat of a scramble and lay it off for Vidic to bundle home. Danny should have put the game beyond United late on when he shot over when it seemed easier to put his chance in the net. Paul Scholes saw red on 90 minues when he handled a cross into the net quite blatantly, which will see him suspended from his next Champions League match. Zenit saw out the remaining few minutes to become the first Russian team to win the competition, and it's hard to argue that it wasn't deserved.

Andy Townsend said at half time that Man Utd didn't seem to be trying to hard, but I think he was being kind to them. There was no cohesion to the side, but it appeared to me that was down to poor form rather than not putting 100% into the game. There appeared to be plenty of endeavour without much reward. United did step up the pace after Zenit's secon, but it's always difficult to tell if that's because they had more in the tank, or because Zenit were holding back to protect their lead.

So is the competition worth it? United may see it as a worthwhile excercise to put off a league game until later in the season when they're not firing on all cylinders. I doubt the "big" European teams are that bothered with it, unless they actually win it. For Zenit, it's a chance to prove themselves against one of the top sides in Europe. Ultimately the winning club will probably view the match as more worthwhile, but most people can see it's worth, mainly as an advert for UEFA and a chance for some corporate hob-knobbing, as if more was needed in the modern game.

Manchester United still have much work to do if they are to retain their league and European titles; Zenit showed on tonight's performance that they should be a force to be reckoned with in this season's Champion's League.

UEFA Cup Draw

Click here to see the draw

I caught the end of the UEFA Cup draw on Eurosport, and was surprised at just how quick they can draw the teams compared to yesterday's drawn out Champion's League draw. Showing, as if any proof were needed, just how UEFA regard their other major club competition.

A much more unfashionable competition which lacks the hype of the Champions League, and one which I find far more interesting, because it's a proper European competition, not one hopelessly biased against teams from the major nations like the Champions League. English sides face trips to Poland, Belgium, Bulgaria and Cyprus for instance, far removed from the glamour ties of it's big brother. All the English sides must fancy their chances of getting through to the group stage, though usually one or more sides come unstuck, and after Manchester City's troubles getting past Midtjylland, they won't be relishing their trip to Cyrus.

Irish side St Pat's are rewarded for reaching the first round with a trip to Germany and HerthaBerlin, while other big ties see Napoli take on Benfica and Borussia Dortmund playing Udinese.

Obligatory piece about the Champions League draw

Group A
CFR Cluj

Group B
Inter Milan
Werder Bremen
Anorthosis Famagusta

Group C
Sporting Lisbon
Shakhtar Donetsk

Group D
PSV Eindhoven
Atletico Madrid

Group E

Group F
Bayern Munich
Steaua Bucharest

Group G
Dynamo Kiev

Group H
Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg
Bate Borisov

I didn't actually watch the draw yesterday, as I was half-watching Man City labouring away in Denmark. I did switch over at the end of normal time, and was amazed to find they'd only managed to get to drawing the seeded teams in each group, almost half an hour after they started. I know the Champions League has a high opinion of itself, but drawing this fairly simple draw out over the space of almost an hour is taking the piss slightly.

Nothing really strikes me as an exciting draw. Sure, you've got a couple of big teams drawn together in the same group, but the sheer repetitiveness of the format of the competition has rendered these once exciting draws fairly dull. It's possible to look over the draw and with fairly great certainty pick out who definitely will qualify, who should qualify, and the teams that might cause an upset. Just look at the teams in the competition - it's the same old, same old ones again and again, with just a few new faces each season to be the whipping boys for a lucky group.

The increasing numbers of teams from the same country means the draw doesn't really get interesting until the quarter final stage, and even then most of the teams will have played each other in the last few seasons. Match nights are drawn out to two a week these days, and from next season they will be drawn out to four match nights per round, with two one week and two the following week, to ensure that UEFA get more precious TV money by not having two teams from a country playing on the same night to maximise TV audiences, and more importantly advertising revenue.

Next season, once the Champions League starts with the third round of qualifiers in August, that'll be it pretty much non-stop hyping itself until the end of the first group stage in December. I wonder how that will affect domestic competitions like the English League Cup, which looks like it will now have to be staggered over two weeks due to the Champions League teams competeting over a two week period, removing it's natural slot in the English character. If I'm bored of the Champion's League now, how am I going to feel next season when it's elongated even further?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Friday - Sunday preview

Friday 29 August
Karlsruhe play FC Cologne in a basement battle in the Bundesliga on Setanta, while the main match of the day is the European Supercup of Zenit St Petersburg vs Manchester United on ITV. Zenit won the UEFA Cup in Manchester, and Man Utd won the Champions League in Russia, and now they both play off against each other in Monaco, as the pinnacle of a couple of days which also sees the Champions League and UEFA Cup draws, and gives journalists around Europe the chance of a jolly in the sun. It's not much more than a glorified friendly, but Man Utd will expect to win, although both teams haven't been in great form, Man Utd should to to strong for their Russian counterparts.

Saturday 30 August
No stand-out matches in the Bundesliga, but expect Digitalb to screen Schalke vs Bochum. Southampton vs Blackpool and Watford vs Ipswich are Sky's live uninspiring Championship features, while Arsenal host Newcastle in Setanta's evening Premier League match. With Arsenal struggling in the league, and Newcastle showing early promise, it could be a closer encounter than in previous seasons. Serie A gets underway as Sampdoria host Jose Mourinho's Inter (as they seem to have been re-christened, much like Roy Keane's Sunderland or Nigel Clough's Burton Albion). Setanta may have this match if news of their Serie A deal is sorted in time, otherwise I'll be watching on Setanta. Also worth a look is an early season clash between Porto and Benfica in Portugal - you'll need to go to Bet365 for that.

Sunday 31 August
Big match of the day is the first Old Firm match of the season, on Setanta. Rangers have made the stronger start of the two in the SPL, although neither have really to impress, and the match may give an indication if Rangers can re-capture the title again this season. In the Premier League, Chelsea host Tottenham, with Tottenham looking to get some points on the board - Stamford Bridge may not be the ideal place to start getting any. Aston Villa take on Liverpool in the late fixture, expect no references at all to Gareth Barry's tedious transfer "saga".

Stand-out Serie A fixture is a toss up between AC Milan and Bologna, with Ronaldinho making his Serie A debut, or Roma taking on Napoli. Fiorentina play Juventus in the evening match, which has the makings of a good match bewteen two teams who will see Champions League qualification as the minimum for the season. Bayern Munich take on HerthaBerlin in the Bundesliga, and La Liga gets underway (as far as Sky are concerned) with Barcelona and Real Madrid's first matches of the season.

Serie A on Setanta update

According to posts on Digitalspy, Setanta have secured home rights to the following teams:


Due to the way rights are sold in Italy, each team sells their rights to an intermediate company, who in turn sell on the collective rights. All the "big teams" have sold their rights to one company, and the teams above have sold theirs to a different one. Although this will pretty much guarantee Setanta that the likes of AC Milan, Inter Milan or Juventus will be on most weekends against one of these teams, it's a shame that if this is true things like the Milan or Rome derbies won't be live in the UK. However, as these rights can probably be picked up quite quickly, and as Serie A has not proved to be a ratings winner in the past, you can't blame Setanta for hedging their bets.

However, this information was found on the Setanta Australia website, and as Setanta have yet to update their EPG with details of live matches for this weekend, it appears to be still in negoations.

Bet365 are showing a selection of live matches for this weekend, including the "big teams" home matches, so that could be a way to make up for matches not screened on Setanta.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Serie A finds it's UK home

Serie A has found a home for the 2008-9 season, on Setanta Sports, after an absence there for a season in it's failed daliance with Five. Much more excitingly, it brings the prospect with James Richardson already doing some work for Setanta of the possibility of "Gazetta Football Italia" being resumed.

It seems logical for Setanta to try and increase it's portfolio in this way - it gives them more football to use on Saturday evenings, a time currently when they have only French League action to show, and also gives them a better selection of matches for Sunday evenings, as well as more of a selection on Sunday afternoons to go against whatever Sky are offering.

I don't expect the rights will have cost that much, given the lateness of the deal, Serie A will just have been glad to get "someone" to show the league. It helps Setanta by increasing the number of live matches they will show, which now comfortably exceeds the number of live matches on Sky. However, I don't expect more than one or two live matches per weekend, given Setanta's strange insistence that they provide their own commentators for every match, which doesn't make sense given that the French, Italian and German leagues all come with centrally produced English commentary, meaning live matches could be screened easily and cheaply.

I hope that Setanta make better use of Serie A than they did last season - it would be criminal not to use James Richardson's knowledge and passion for the sport in a positive way. Serie A do produce a central highlights program, but it is dull and dry compared to Gazetta.

I'm delighted that Serie A is still going to be on UK screens next year. For all it's criticisms about defensive football, it has improved massively in the last few years.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Wigan 0 - 1 Chelsea, 24 August 2008

I only caught the second half of this match due to watching the European Grand Prix, which was pretty dull. As was the second half of this match. No repeat of the swashbuckling Chelsea from this week, back came the staid and controlled Chelsea, helped no doubt by going in front from a Deco free kick right at the start and then not needed to extend themselves for the rest of the match.

Much of what I watched was played in the middle of the park, sloppy and instantly forgettable. I can barely remember a save of note made by either keeper. The only notable items I can really remember from the second half are Kalou's comedy haircut where he has a wide stripe down the side of his head and shaved either side; and that Daniel De Ridder of Wigan has possibly the worst delivery of a dead ball I've ever seen - everything seemed to either hit the first defender or go straight into the arms of the goalkeeper. Maybe it's the ridiculous colour of Cech's jersey, which apparently is designed to make the player striking the ball subconsiously aim towards the keeper.

Interestingly, according to posts on their forum, Digitalb continued their professional approach to broadcasting by joining the match after the goal had been scored.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Digitalb Premier League 3pm update

Make of it what you will, but Darkman on the Alsat forum has said that Digitalb have a contract to show Premier League matches at 3pm on Saturdays again from the beginning of December. As I've said before, I can't see why the Premier League would restrict access for only a part of the season, but this statement has been made regardless. The proof of the pudding will come at the beginning of December I suppose.

In the meantime, enjoy the Bundesliga!

Monday - Wednesday preview

A few interesting matches in the next few days - Portsmouth vs Man Utd in the Monday night Premier League match (Sky Sports 1), as both teams look for an improvement in form on their opening day features. Hopefully it will be more interesting than the Charity Shield match.

Tuesday sees Queen of the South look to overcome a deficit in the UEFA Cup against Danish side Nordsjaelland (BBC2 Scotland), which looks like a tall order. Also on Sky Sports that evening, Coventry host Newcastle with both teams having made a promising start to the season. There's a few other Champion's League/UEFA Cup qualifiers that night, but nothing incredibly interesting.

Wednesday sees a J-League match-up in the morning with Vissel Kobe vs Kashima Antlers on Eurosport 2, while in the evening, there are several interesting Champion's League qualifiers - Fenerbache vs Partizan Belgrade is finely balanced (RTS Sat, 13e), as is Schalke vs Athletico Madrid, with Schalke having a 1-0 first leg lead (ARD, 13e/19.2e). Arsenal should be fine against Steve McClaren's Twente (BBC3), and while Liverpool should cruise past Standard Liege, they will need to improve on the form they have shown in their last few matches (ITV1). Digitalb carry the final of the South American version of the Supercup, with Boca Juniors facing Arsenal in an all Argentinan clash.

Lyon vs Grenoble, 23 August 2008

My 4th live match today, and my first from Ligue 1 this season. With Serie A and La Liga starting next weekend and introducing more competition into weekend evening viewing, I thought I'd get a Ligue match in early. I don't usually watch many matches on a weekend evening, as I tend to watch stuff with Sally then, and much as she loves me, persuading her to let me watch various foreign leagues on her weekend evenings is never going to happen. She's very good the rest of the time, and if there's something really interesting I want to see she'll let me. As she's out with friends tonight, I'm left with the French League for company.

Lyon won the league again last season, for the seventh time in a row, but found it much more of a struggle, with it going right down to the last day. Out has gone Alain Perrin, and in has come Claude Puel, and with him a rejuvenated squad. Most importantly, they have resisted several overtures from "bigger" clubs for Karim Benzema, which will be a massive boost this season. Against Lyon tonight are Grenoble, promoted from Ligue 2 last season, and a complete unknown as far as I'm concerened.

Lyon give some sort of proof of the unbalance that Champion's League money gives to a league - fortunate enough to be in the Champion's League at the time when the money really started to take off, earning more money, enabling them to outperform the rest of their league and contine to qualify season after season and earn more money in the process. It could almost have been any club in Lyon's position, but they were the lucky ones in the right place at the right time.

Lyon took an early lead after a corner after poor marking to give Grenoble a huge mountain (no pun intended) to climb to get anything from the match. The mountain got even steeper ten minutes before the break when poor marking again allowed Benzema to get his third goal in as many matches with a simple tap-in in front of goal. Lyon were playing some nice passing football without really ever reaching top gear. Lyon produced a controlled performance in the second half to keep Grenoble at bay without extending too much effort. It's difficult to assess Lyon's chances for the season based on this performance, but the ease at which they secured victory suggests they will certainly be up there this season, especially if Benzema can continue to keep banging in the goals.

It was mentioned during second half commentary that Valenciennes midfield David Sommeil suffered a heart attack during training on Wednesday. He was revived at the side of the training pitch by his team-mates, but remains unconscious in hospital. Also, a bus containing Marseilles supporters crashed on their way to a match at Le Harve today, killing two supporters and seriously injuring several others. Obviously thoughts go to all affected by these events.

Liverpool vs Middlesbrough; Fulham vs Arsenal; Betting Update

I watched the last 25 minutes or so of Liverpool's match against Middlesbrough at Anfield. Liverpool looked poor against a well-organised Boro team, and it was Boro who took the lead with a well-take long range goal from Mido. Liverpool then put Babel on, and threw the kitchen sink at Boro, first of all equalising near the end when a Carragher strike took a massive deflection, and then deep in injury time, Gerrard struck a thunderbolt from the edge of the area - one of those ones that could equally clear the top of the stand, but today went in the top corner. So, two wins in a row after playing badly. Anfield also seems to have given in to the curse of electronic score-boards, which is a pity.

Then onto Fulham vs Arsenal, which I missed the start of as I was at the gym. A shame, as according to the radio commentary on the way home, they managed to put the Plymouth - Swansea match that was on Sky on the big screens around the ground, which sounds quite amusing. Fulham were looking to get a home win on the board to get some confidence in their new-look team to try and avoid a repeat of last season's escape, and Arsenal were looking to play better than they did in their rather fortunate win over West Brom on the opening day of the weekend. Fulham took the upper hand when Hangerland knocked in a corner to give them the lead. Adebayor struck the post shortly after, but Fulham deservedly went in ahead at the break. With the missing Fabregas and Rosicky, and the departed Hleb and Flamini, Arsenal's midfield has completely changed since last season, and it shows with the lack of fluency in their game. Late Arsenal pressure set up an exicting finish, but for all of Arsenal's possession, Schwarzer was hardly tested. Should Wenger not strengthen his side before the transfer window slams shut, many more performances like this could see Arsenal's qualification for next season's Champion's League in doubt. Of course, it's far too early in the season for such speculation, but with massive debts from the new stadium, such a reduction in revenue could have severe repercussions for the team.

In today's betting, I had a success in my Rotherham vs Chester, Birmingham vs Barnsley and Celtic vs Falkirk treble, to turn my 3p stake into 8p. After finding 56p in my Blue Square account yesterday, I've managed to gamble it up to a massive 68p so far, a 20% return so far. I've taken a massive 10p and stake it on tonight's Lyon vs Grenoble match which I plan to watch later. It matters more when there's money on it apparently!

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Bayern Munich, 23 August 2008

Back to the Bundesliga for the stand-out match of the weekend, Borussia Dortmund hostng the mighty Bayern Munich, on Digitalb Supersport 3.

Dortmund have struggled in recent seasons, but still manage to fill their magnificent stadium every week. It's an ambition of mine to go an see a match at that stadium and stand on the massive terrace that's behind one goal. It creates a fantastic atmosphere at the game, something that is sadly lacking in most Premier League matches.

Anyway, Dortmund have added a few players to their squad, and are being quietly tipped as outsiders for the Bundesliga title this season. After the grandstand signings of Ribery and Toni last season, Bayern have only added a new keeper and Tim Borowski to their ranks.

Following last weekend's home draw against Hamburg to get the Klinnsman era of to an less successful start than he would like, Bayern succumbed to an early goal from Dortmund, a fantastic strike with the outside of the foot from the edge of the penalty area. Bayern's troubles got bigger soon after, as Van Bommell was sent off following his second yellow card following two fairly industrial tackles. Bayern emerged in the second half determined to change things round, and put Dortmund under sustained pressure, wihch they withstood until the 75th minute when Borowski turned the equaliser in, much to Klinnsman's relief. The match ended in a sodden fashion, after the heavens opened in the last ten or so minutes.

I have to admit, I was only half-following this match, as at the same time as watching the pictures, I was listening to the Bury vs Morecambe match on the PremiumTV website, using the Bury commentary as the Morecambe one isn't ready yet. Much less polished than any commentary I've heard before, but pretty entertaining from two fans who enjoyed watching two of our more "rotund" players (their words), Adams and Bentley. I'll review the PremiumTV website in a few weeks once I've used it a bit more.

Sky: 5
Setanta: 5
BBC: 1
Foreign Satellite: 3
Bet365: 1

Aberdeen 1-1 Rangers, 23 August 2008

Rangers return to Pittodrie, the same place where they lost the SPL title last season after arguably throwing it away to Celtic. After the disappointment against Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup final, and being unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League at the first hurdle this season, Walter Smith can concentrate on the SPL this season.

After a steady if unconvincing start to the campaign, Aberdeen are probably the sternest test so far. In a lively encounter, Rangers had the upper hand in the first half with the majority of play, although they didn't fashion too many chances. They did take one of the few chances, with David Weir knocking one in. Aberdeen bucked the play to pull a goal back right on the stroke of half-time. Rangers were toothless in the second half, and the match wasn't much of a spectacle. DaMarus Beasley has a goal chalked off in stoppage time for offside, althugh replays suggested that it should have stood. The highlight was listening to the Rangers' fans singing either the National Anthem, Rule Britannia or various offensive songs about Aberdeen players. Living up to type - never!

My experience of Rangers last season was mostly the UEFA Cup, when they played very drab, defensive football. If this performance is anything to go by, it's a much more entertaining and attacking side on display this season, although somewhat lacking in end product. Some of that could be down to the number of new players in the side, the money raised from the sale of Carlos Cuellar to Aston Villa looks to have been well spent, with Pedro Mendes looking to be the pick of those signings, his skill marking him out in a "lower level" league. Once the players learn each other's style of player further, perhaps more chances will be forthcoming.

Matches so far this season:

Sky: 5
Setanta: 5
BBC: 1
Foreign Satellite: 2
Bet365: 1

Friday, 22 August 2008

Bet365 live football update

Just been watching Perth Glory vs Newscatle Jets on the Bet 365 website, as it would appear that they are streaming live A-League matches on their website, as there are several other matches scheduled for this weekend. I joined the match baout 15 minutes in, but it's been pretty entertaining so far, Perth's equalising goal came from a penalty. Eugene Dadi, ex of Tranmere and I believe some sort of fashion designer played for Perth. In the second period, Newcastle re-took the lead after a goalkeeping howler, before Perth equalised though a powerful header and then took the lead with a well taken solo goal after springing the offside trap.

I'll be looking out for a Syndey FC match to watch in the future, to catch up on Terry McFlynn, ex of Morecambe and from Northern Ireland.

Perth's stadium looks like a purpose built one, as I think some matches in the A-league take part in adapted cricket stadiums. I'm pleased to see that one end is terracing! The ground is about two thirds full but there's still a decent atmosphere.

Bet365 also have Portuguese League matches on their schedule, so at least they can still be seen after it appears that it's been dropped by Setanta. I'd also expect online rights to Serie A to be aquired, if they haven't been already, if as looks likely, a TV deal doesn't materialise.

Sky: 5
Setanta: 4
BBC: 1
Foreign Satellite: 2
Bet365: 1