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.