Ronaldo, referees, and adios AVB! It’s Highs and Lows for the past two weeks!
Ronaldo’s backheel. It’s not as if this goal from last week’s Real Madrid vs. Rayo Vallecano match is the best backheel goal ever–after all, he pretty much telegraphed what he was going to do to the entire stadium, and the defense was incredibly poor. Or perhaps we’ve become so accustomed to Cristiano Ronaldo’s incredible feats of footballing genius that the extraordinary seems mundane. But when you consider the fact that, while facing away from the goal, he managed to get enough power to send the ball past three defenders and a goalkeeper, or the fact that this was a game-winning goal, things all of a sudden seem much more…brilliant.
Joseph Yobo sets new record. While the majority of last week’s international friendly matches were inconsequential, Nigeria versus Rwanda was more than an exhibition for Joseph Yobo. Nigeria’s current captain had already equaled the appearance record set by Nwankwo Kanu and Mudashiru Lawal, set at 86, when he played against Zambia last November, but with the Rwanda match he became the nation’s most capped player. Congrats to the Everton man, on loan at Fenerbahce, who postponed his international retirement in an effort to take part in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Giggsy reaches 900. The 26th of February marked a special day and match for Manchester United living legend Ryan Giggs. The away match against Norwich City was the Welshman’s 900th appearance for United, and not only did he reach that landmark he also scored in the 2-1 victory with fellow veteran Paul Scholes grabbing the other goal. Strangely, Giggs scored his first Manchester United goal also against Norwich City a distant 21 years ago!
Saudi Arabia misses out again. The Asian Confederation’s phased qualification process for the World Cup is unique compared to the other Federations. In Asia teams advance through different rounds of groups before they actually qualify for the World Cup. Well, Saudi Arabia, perennial favorites to qualify from Asia after making World Cup appearances from 1994-2006, have missed out on their second straight World Cup. The recent 4-2 defeat to Australia (yes they’re in Asian qualifying) meant the Saudis would be watching from home while Oman, who beat Thailand, advanced in their place to the final group stage.
The Juventus vs. Milan Officiating Crew. Paolo Tagliavento, assigned to officiate the critical Milan vs. Juventus match last week, was supposed to one of Serie A’s best referees; however, in the 25th minute, after Sully Muntari headed in what should have been Milan’s second goal only to have Gianluigi Buffon snatch the ball back into play, he proved himself all too fallible. Replays show the ball clearly crossed the goal line, but Tagliavento–who initially allowed the goal–disallowed it based on advice from his linesman, Roberto Romagnoli, who was standing in a perfect position to see the goal…but somehow didn’t. Then in the 80th minute, Alessandro Matri saw his equaliser wrongly flagged for offside, even though replays show his run was timed perfectly. The game ended 1-1, but this was clearly a loss for the referees.
AVB? CYA! Earlier this season, Ben put his reputation on the line by claiming that Chelsea’s (then) brand-new manager would bring the London club some silverware. Ok, so he actually said that Villas-Boas would “likely end up sacked,” but we had hopes for better things, especially from one of Europe’s most promising young coaches. Unfortunately, the announcement on Sunday that Roman Ambramovich had fired Villas-Boas on the back of the club’s 1-0 loss to West Brom, only eight months after he was hired, left those hopes in tatters. Sure, Villas-Boas had the worst record of any Chelsea manager since Glen Hoddle, but he was also faced with the impossible task of breaking up and rebuilding a squad with more egos than a FIFA Executive Committee. It was a task that required time, support, and financial backing; instead, AVB became Chelsea’s eighth managerial casualty in eight years. Sad.