Archive for the ‘Premiership’ Category

Last Saturday it was chestnuts, wine and kamikaze youths on wooden trays, this Saturday it was giant Ferris wheels, bucking broncos, a grumpy Sunderland fan and contemplating nature and the universe in a darkened room.

Jesús, our neighbour, had suggested we pop down to his house for a little ‘chill’ on Saturday night, but first there was the small matter of a trip to the Beehive Bar to watch Manchester Utd against Sunderland.

All the fun of the fair

All the fun of the fair

The 17.30 kick-off is a real pain in the rear; it really interferes with Saturday night and is neither here nor there, but what can you do? The first thing that struck us on arriving at the town car park was that there was a colossal green wheel dominating the skyline – a Puerto Eye of sorts.
It was a clear signal that we’re rushing headlong into the prime Xmas season as it was the new addition to the traditional funfair which sets up beside Puerto de la Cruz’ harbour for festive season.

Time was getting on so we decided to investigate after the game which was about as one-sided an affair as you’re likely to see. Sunderland parked their team in front of goal and hoped that the human barrier would hold for ninety minutes. And it nearly worked, but unfortunately for Sunderland, there were more than 90 minutes and seconds into injury time our big centre-half, Vidic latched onto a rebound off the post and won the game for us, silencing a Sunderland fan next to me who had been laughing at every one of our failed attempts to score. It’s nice to see people who are magnanimous in defeat, but this wasn’t the case on this occasion. As I went to the gents, he came across to Andy and grumbled in her face:
“You didn’t deserve that.”

Still, relieved and happy we headed to the harbour to check out the funfair. By this time, 19.45, it was already buzzing and in the darkness the neon lights, especially those of the jolly green giant looked magical and ignited nostalgic childhood memories.

The smell of hot dogs and onions, fried churros, hot waffles with cream, candy floss, popcorn et al added to the buzzing funfair atmosphere and the night sky was filled with those wonderful funfair sounds – klazons, cheesy music, screams mixed with laughter, hissing pneumatics and the crunch of dodgems colliding head on.

Fairground stall - Spanish style

Fairground stall - Spanish style

There were also the usual goldfish stalls, shooting and dart throwing stalls decorated with rows of human sized cuddly toys. At one stall a hairy leg appeared, then another as a life size cuddly ape seemed to bizarrely come to life and be making a bid for freedom. This being Spain, the funfair had a couple of odd additions such as the Jamon tombola; a stall brimming with shanks of Jamon Serrano. There was also a bucking bulls attraction which looked like great fun as these mock Spanish bulls got their own back by dumping their screaming riders, strangely wearing Dalmatian patterned Stetsons, onto the ground unceremoniously.
However, time was getting on and we’d promised Jesús that we’d spend some of Saturday night with him, so we left the fair and headed for home.

By the time we’d escaped the town car park, got home, showered, prepared the chilli and eaten it was after 22.00 and Jesús’ house was in darkness.
With most people you’d take that as a sign that they’d gone out, or gone to bed, but Jesús isn’t most people; we know he likes to sit in the dark and contemplate life, so we grabbed a bottle of wine, wandered the few metres down the path and loitered outside his window. There was no sign of life.
“Hey, Jesús,” I half whispered, half spoke. “Are you awake?”
There was a mumble from inside which we couldn’t make out.
“What?”
Another mumble which we couldn’t make out, then he appeared at his door, everything still in darkness.
“Sorry were you sleeping,” Andy whispered. “We’ll leave you alone, no problem.”
“No, No it’s fine,” Jesús laughed. “Come in…Andy you stay outside.”
Jesús pulled me inside and we looked out of the window to where Andy stood with her small torch giving off a soft blue light.
“Look, it’s amazing isn’t it? It’s like watching a movie.”
Jesús had a point. The moon was out and the silver glow from it combined with the blue light from the torch gave the outside scene a strange dreamlike quality. Once I acknowledged as much, a slightly bemused Andy was allowed to enter.

As it turned out he’d had a visit from his friend, Maria Juanita and visits from MJ always leaves Jesús in a contemplative mood and full of wonder for Mother Nature. So for a couple of hours on Saturday night, we sat in a darkened room contemplating nature. Well Jesús contemplated nature, being British we sat in the darkness feeling quite ridiculous until a decent amount of time passed and we felt it was okay to leave without appearing rude.

It’s typical of the contrasts you can experience here. One moment we’d been in the middle of the bright lights and frantic bustling of a lively funfair, the next we were sitting in a room lit by only the moonlight looking out at a silent landscape whilst our neighbour sought consciousness expansion.

Funny but after we got home I had an overwhelming urge to play some Alabama 3.

The moment I knew we were going to win the Champion’s League final was when Ryan Giggs stepped up to take our seventh penalty. It’s clichéd, but football is a funny old game and the footballing gods always delight in providing us with ‘Roy of the Rover’ drama.
50 years after Munich, one Man Utd legend breaking the record of another, wonder boy Ronaldo’s penalty being saved and Chelsea warhorse Terry slipping. The scene was set for a hero’s swansong. And Giggsy, got bless him, didn’t let us down.

I figure that in any penalty shoot out it’s likely that one player will miss, or hit the woodwork, and the goalkeeper will make one save. And of course, Van der Sar saved his ‘save’ for the perfect moment.

Like the 1999 victory, the last few moments were a bit of a blur and a rollercoaster of emotions. I couldn’t even remember who else had taken the penalties. I’d gone from feeling defeat was inevitable, when Ronaldo’s shot was saved, to knowing for certain that we were going to win.

In truth either team would have been worthy winners. We dominated the first half-they were saved by Cech; they dominated the second-we were saved by the woodwork. It was a fitting game for a Champion’s League final and great credit to two teams who have been consistently the best in Europe, but the omens were definitely red. The pre match entertainment was red, even the Russian Army were slipping on United shirts by the end of the game.

When Van der Sar made that save and the whistle went I finally embraced that Spanish custom of kissing everyone in the bar; male, female and anything else that happened to be near. Everyone that is except a saddo Scouse bint who obviously has masochistic tendencies. In the last couple of months she’s cheered on Roma, Barcelona, Wigan and now Chelsea. I don’t know what it is with some Liverpool supporters. At every major game I’ve watched there’s been at least one cheering louder for Man Utd’s opposition than anyone else. Personally I’m not arsed how any other team does, I’m only interested in our performances, so I can only assume, by their obsessive interest in Man U, there’s some sort of closet adoration going on there. Anyway, the reaction on her face as she skulked out of the bar made an already sweet victory that little bit sweeter.

There’s only one final thing to say

“…so keep the faith and never fear, we’ll keep the Red Flag flying here…”

Whilst watching Man Utd’s demolition of Newcastle (if that had been Keegan’s first game, it would probably have been his last as well) a Swedish bloke I know came into the bar and asked me if Larsson was playing. I laughed assuming, he was referring to last year, but he was serious.

He went on to tell me that he had bumped into some young players he knew from Helsinberg and had asked them to ask Henrik to sign a Celtic shirt for him, but they told him that they couldn’t as Henrik Larsson was in Manchester and had signed to play for another three months just like last year.

Now this might be a lot of nonsense, but he insisted it was 100% true. Being in Tenerife, I’m probably well out of the loop and this might be common knowledge, but none of my UK based Man Utd supporting friends have mentioned this. Has anybody else heard anything?

Who says Tevez and Rooney can’t play together? Down a goal after eleven minutes and was I worried? Not a jot. It was an enjoyable opening quarter and a joy to see open attacking football from two teams who wanted to win; it was no surprise when they scored first. A couple of lethal crosses should have had the alarm bells ringing, but the smooth slick, confident way we were playing had me convinced that there was no way that this game was going to end without us scoring. Although the manner in which the first goal came surprised me as much as apparently it did the Villa defence.

The speed of Nani’s pass across the goalmouth caught Villa unawares, presumably because of its pedestrian pace. As the defenders switched into ‘bullet mode’, NEO Rooney simply nipped in and side-footed the ball into the net. After that it was a master class in finishing off a team in shock. Tenacious dribbling and a scintillating pass from the ever industrious Tevez opened up the defence, allowing Rooney to score a delicious second. Then headless chicken defending let would-be forward Ferdinand add a third.

By half time the game was won and Villa’s nightmare was about to take a turn for the worse. Despite Martin O’Neill’s touchline aerobics, referee Rob Styles didn’t really have much of a choice about showing Reo-Coker and then Carson red. A Scottish Villa fan, actually more of a Martin O’Neill fan, sitting across from me in the bar, launched into a spiel that lasted until the final whistle about Rob Styles’ ability to make correct decisions, punctuating every second word with colourful, Celtic adjectives.
I know I’m biased, but I tried to see his point about Reo-Coker (Only an idiot would argue Carson’s case). If Paul Scholes had been Reo-Coker, when that second challenge came in I would’ve known immediately that he was walking and my reaction, as it has been on more than one occasion with Scholes, would have been, ‘that was bloody stupid,’ which is exactly what it was.
Sending off Carson, probably did Villa a favour, despite Giggsy’s double deflected fourth, reserve goalkeeper, Stuart Taylor saved the penalty and made at least two other point blank saves which would have pushed the score higher.

If Martin O’Neill thinks that Villa lost the game because of refereeing decisions, he shouldn’t be questioning the referee’s eyesight; he should be making an appointment with the optician come Monday. A team on sizzling form and a Mavis Riley defence were the real culprits; Villa had been well and truly beaten long before the sending offs.

By half time everyone was getting on my nerves; everyone except the team, who I thought were playing well despite the circumstances.

The commentators who were bemoaning Utd’s lack of consistency which had me screaming.
“We’ve had to change our formation twice cause of injuries.”

Carlos, the barman who was remarking that the bar wasn’t as busy as he’d expected for a Man U game – the implication of this was that maybe he should have the rugby on instead.

Another team who was killing football as entertainment in their quest to hold on to the riches that comes with playing premiership football.

Mike Riley for being a referee instead of the more suitable occupation of running a knitting circle and especially the fat bloke in front of me who despite quite clear evidence to the contrary who was accusing Ronaldo of being  a “Kindiver”, the easy chant for ABU’s who obviously rearrange images in their heads to suit what they want to see.

And then the second half came and suddenly I knew that all was well with the world. Everything just fell into place. Tevez did what we all know he can do, Ronaldo was his brilliant self. Rooney looked hungry and sharp, Giggs was rejuvenated after his bit of a rest midweek. Anderson showed that he can tackle and pass (something that’s been missing from the midfield) and the two young lads Pique and Simpson played a blinder. It was United at their best and all it took was a bit of slick passing and a touch of magic from Tevez and then Wigan had to actually try to play football, which also allowed us to play. I’ve realised that I’ve no idea how good or bad the bottom half of the table teams are as they all employ the same tactic when they visit Old Trafford. Maybe this will make them think again. And the fat bloke? Some Wigan fan he. He lost all interest in the game after the second goal went in. Isn’t the world a wonderful place – fantastic performance and another ABU scalp to make it all the sweeter.

For the first time this season, I felt the testosterone levels rising courtesy of a Londoner in the bar who announced a few minutes into the game:
“Manchester are always awarded penalties at Old Trafford if anyone so much as sneezes in the direction of one of their players.”
Oh Yeah? And this from a Chelsea supporter?
As it happened he wasn’t actually a Chelsea supporter. The ones who rile you never are supporters of the other team, they’re always people who hide under the guise of being a neutral and say things like ‘I don’t care who wins…’
I’ve discovered that this statement over the years is said much in the same way as people say ‘I’m not a racist…’  That one’s always followed by a ‘…but’, the other is always followed by “…but if I had to chose, I’d want Manchester united to lose.’
Course they would and that makes it all the sweeter when we win. Am I interested in a harsh sending off? Not in this case; this was Chelsea after all – a team no stranger to favourable refereeing decisions. However, let’s not get carried away by one decision. By that time we’d been denied a clear penalty, so swings and roundabouts. And where Mikel was unlucky, Joe Cole probably should have walked for his lunge at Ronaldo.
To be fair to Chelsea, they played well, even when down to ten men, although the lack of sportsmanship in not passing the ball back when Rio put it out was beneath them (I know there are new guidelines, but that’s not really the point). The best thing about the game, apart from the result, was that we put in our most assured performance of the season. There was confidence again and Carrick showed some of the touches which made him so important to Spurs. Glad to see Tevez get off the mark (the other one really doesn’t count), that should do his confidence the world of good. All in all, a very satisfying afternoon; I wonder if Jose enjoyed it?

I know how Rooney, Saha, Tevez et al feel. Like them I’m not match fit. Canal +’s loss of rights to screen English premiership games has meant that my season has gotten of to a stuttering start; there are obvious parallels here.
I’ve no idea how we played against Everton; of course I’ve read the BBC match report, but in true Man U fan fashion I subscribe to the conspiracy theory that anyone who doesn’t actually support us can’t be trusted to write an unbiased report. So with fewer games under my belt than I’d like, I didn’t feel ready for European opposition during until the second half – see parallels again.

I keep reading that Sporting aren’t top notch opposition, but, as the Norwegian bloke across the bar from me gleefully pointed out last night, at this level there are no easy teams.
The pitch was terrible, however it didn’t seem to affect Sporting, who passed the ball around with skill and flair and would have scored a storming goal if it hadn’t been for Van der Sar. Sir A had done a good psychological job on the referee who was ‘overly fair’ to us, although his rather harsh booking of Romagnoli did stop the Lisbon players from hitting the ground if any one near them so much as looked in their direction.

Despite improving in the second half, we still look as though there’s a vital spark missing. Thank goodness then for the boy wonder, who once again rose above the mundane. If anyone was going to score it was going to be him and didn’t he do it with dignity and respect for his former team who, in turn, reciprocated with a standing ovation when he was substituted. Well done Lisbon – respect.

Just have to say congrats to Rangers; nice to see another British club winning.
Oh…and a special thanks to Roman Abramovich for taking the first steps in returning Chelsea to mid table mediocrity.