Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

China: Lippi takes over Ghangzhou Evergrande

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on May 17, 2012

Marcello LippiChinese club Ghangzhou Evergrande have made a statement of intent for the year ahead by appointing former FIFA World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi to take charge of the team.

Lippi takes over a club who are in fine health having won their maiden Chinese Super League last season and leading ten games into the current campaign with 22 out of 30 points (seven wins, one draw, two defeats), one more than nearest challengers Ghangzhou R&F. Evergrande are also in the Round of 16 in the AFC Champions League where they face off against FC Tokyo. For Lippi, and Evergrande owner Xu Jiayin, the aim is for the club to consistently compete at home and abroad with the intention of becoming a major force in Asian football.

Lippi has spoken of his intention “to bring the Italian football concepts to China” and he will have a difficult act to follow given that his predecessor, South Korean coach Lee Jang-Soo, was the man who brought the long-awaited title to Evergrande. However the club has decided that big moves need to be taken if they are to maintain their place at the top of Chinese football and stay one step ahead of Shanghai Shenhua who are also battling to become China’s first super club.

Marcello Lippi’s first match in charge comes this Sunday against bottom of the table Qingdao Jonoon and the pressure will be on the Italian to keep up the club’s early season momentum. However, having won all of the game’s biggest prizes at club and international level, expectation is something that the 64 year old should be able to cope with.

England: Kenny Dalglish sacked by Liverpool

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on May 16, 2012
Kenny Dalglish

Dalglish had a difficult time at Liverpool this season

It has been announced in the last hour that Kenny Dalglish has been sacked as Liverpool FC manager after just 18 months in charge. After taking over from Roy Hodgson in January 2011, Dalglish initially steadied the ship at Anfield towards the end of the 2010-11 season but has found it much more difficult in the 2011-12 season in which his club finished eighth in the English Premier League although he did take the club to two domestic cup finals.

Dalglish came back to the job due to popular demand following a wretched six month period in which his predecessor Roy Hodgson had been in charge. With Liverpool just six points off the relegation zone when he arrived, Dalglish made an impact towards the end of the 2010-11 season by taking the club up to a respectable sixth place. Hopes had been high for the 2011-12 season after the club signed core British talent such as Jordan Henderson, Stuart Downing and Charlie Adam to play alongside those that had been signed in the previous January transfer window such as Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Sadly for Dalglish his signings never really imposed themselves on the pitch with £35m recruit Carrol in particular coming in for lots of criticism until he started putting in a string of decent performances towards the end of this season. One thing is for sure, the likes of Downing and Henderson, who in my opinion have been every bit as poor as Carroll ever had been, should be thanking Carroll for keeping their mostly inept performances out of the headlines.

An argument that was bandied about throughout the campaign was that Liverpool were putting in some good performances but just not getting the luck but to use such arguments would be to pull the wool over one’s eyes. The fact that Liverpool hit the woodwork 33 times throughout the season should not be defended as a sign that the club were just unlucky, it is a sign that the players were not doing enough of what they are paid to do: score goals and win games. Liverpool had only lost three games in the Premier League at the half way stage and were lying in sixth place, eleven points behind both Manchester City and United. At the season’s end the club had lost fourteen league matches out of 38 and were a massive thirty seven points behind the top two, only qualifying for European football on the back of a hard-fought Carling Cup final victory against second-tier side Cardiff City.

But it wasn’t just on the pitch where Liverpool found life difficult. The Luis Suarez race row, in which he was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, saw the club involved in many a PR disaster and Dalglish’s handling of the situation saw him brandished as arrogant and out-of-touch with the modern game. The game against Wigan Athletic in December saw the Liverpool team warming up before the match in T-shirts supporting Suarez in a move which fanned the flames before Liverpool were involved in two crucial league and cup matches against United early in 2012. After winning the cup game without Suarez in January, Liverpool then went to Old Trafford for a Premier League game in early February. Before kick-off there was controversy when Suarez refused to shake hands with Evra before the game and the move was damaging not just to Suarez as an individual but to Dalglish and his club who were always on the back foot before the club issued a long-awaited apology a week later. Unfortunately for Dalglish, in an era when football is as obsessed with public relations as it is with money, his press conferences were usually tetchy affairs which left a lot to be desired in terms of presenting the right image of the club to the wider world.

It was a culmination of on-field performances and results – barring the Carling Cup victory – and off-the-field public relations disasters that have ended up with Dalglish losing his job. Amongst the fans “King Kenny” will always be a legend, and rightly so, but it seems that a significant number of Liverpool supporters had already begun to think the unthinkable and reason that the club would be better off appointing a new manager for the 2012-13 season, a rationale that owner John W. Henry and representatives of the Fenway Sports Group concurred with after a number of meetings with Dalglish over the last 24 hours. The signs had been there in recent weeks with the sackings of director of football Damien Comolli and director of communications Ian Cotton and rumours had already been circulating on social media regarding Dalglish’s position which were then confirmed in a statement by the club which read:

“Kenny Dalglish is to leave his post today as manager after having his contract terminated. After a careful and deliberative review of the season, the club came to the decision that a change was appropriate. It is not a decision that was reached lightly or hastily. The search for a new manager will begin immediately.”

Wigan Athletic coach Roberto Martinez has initially been installed as the favourite to take the job but a host of other names including current Swansea City boss Brendan Rodgers and former coach Rafael Benitez, who is currently without a club, are also in the frame.

Germany: Bayern fears as Dortmund claim Double in fine style

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 13, 2012

Borussia Dortmund wrote a new chapter in their history when winning the DFB Pokal (German Cup) last night. Not content with winning the Bundesliga with a record total of 81 points , the Schwarzgelben (black and yellows) routed UEFA Champions League finalists FC Bayern 5-2 to claim the German league and cup double for the first time in the club’s history. Goals from Shinji Kagawa, Mats Hummels and a hat-trick from Polish striking sensation Robert Lewandowski gave Dortmund the cup for the third time, their first triumph in this competition since 1989, and underlined just how far the balance of power has shifted in German football over the last couple of years.

For a club like FC Bayern to come second is one thing, to come second in such a weak manner shows that Dortmund have made all the right judgements since coach Jurgen Klopp took over the helm nearly four years ago. They have shown great stability, consistency and have transformed themselves from a mid-ranking club back to a footballing power with a team able to mix the virtues of neat attacking football and an honest work ethic. FC Bayern, on the other hand, have allowed themselves to become embroiled in petty team squabbles, particularly between superstars Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, which is in keeping with the derogatory “FC Hollywood” tag with which they have been synonymous for decades.

Many could argue, with some justification, that Dortmund were aided by their early elimination from European competition whilst FC Bayern have had to juggle three competitions throughout the campaign. The longer rest periods inbetween matches has allowed Dortmund to focus their minds more thoroughly on domestic matters whilst the goal of reaching the UEFA Champions League final in their home stadium in Munich has pre-occupied FC Bayern’s campaign. With this in mind it will be interesting to see how FC Bayern will react to their German Cup final thrashing when they appear in their ‘home’ UEFA Champions League final against Chelsea FC next Saturday. Will the pressure and expectation fail Bayern once more, just like in 1999 and 2010, or will they re-group and put domestic misery out of their minds to win a fifth European crown? They certainly have the players and the talent, their performances against Real Madrid in the semi-finals are a case in point, but if the squad allows itself to get distracted before the big game then Chelsea could use that to their advantage especially as they have come back from early season adversity to claim one domestic trophy, the FA Cup, already this season.

It will also be interesting to see how FC Bayern will prepare themselves for next season. Rumours are rife regarding the impending departure of Arjen Robben who, along with Ribery, scored the consolation strikes for FC Bayern in the German Cup final. Champions Dortmund have already signalled their intent for the future by bringing in Marco Reus from Borussia Mönchengladbach and allowing Lucas Barrios, top scorer in the 2010-11 season, to move to Chinese outfit Ghangzhou Evergrande. FC Bayern will also need to bring in some fresh faces and get rid of some dead wood if they are to refresh themselves for future challenges. Whether they do that as European champions and take some of the gloss off Dortmund’s recent achievements remains to be seen.

Oceania: Auckland City successfully defend O-League crown

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on May 13, 2012

O-League logoAuckland City are Oceania football champions for the fourth time following a single goal second leg victory over Tahitian side Tefana FC today which sealed a 3-1 aggregate win.

The New Zealand side were already defending the O-League trophy which they won last year and were made to work hard over the two legs by a Tefana team who were largely unfancied at the start of the tournament, especially after they lost their first Group A match 10-0 at the hands of Auckland’s compatriots Waitakere United.

Auckland City won the first leg 2-1 at home but the away goal for Tefana meant that the Tahitians maintained some hope of upsetting the odds to take the title in much the same way that Papua New Guineans Hekari United had done in 2010. Sadly for Tefana the dream faded away once Manel Exposito gave Auckland City a 1-0 lead just four minutes before the half-time break in the second leg, a score line which didn’t change and which secured the Kiwis a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

For Auckland City it is their fourth continental title in six years and puts them in the draw alongside 2012 CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey CF for the FIFA Club World Cup which will be played in Japan later this year.

Europe: Bilbao helpless as Atlético claim second title

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 10, 2012

UEFA Europa League logoOnly a few years ago could one look at the history books and see that a club as grand in tradition as Atlético de Madrid had only won one European title in their illustrious history. Now, following their second successful UEFA Europa League campaign in three years, the history books are beginning to show the Spanish club in a much more favourable light.

Los Rojiblancos had only claimed a solitary European Cup Winners’ Cup title before 2010 and that triumph had taken place so long ago that there probably aren’t too many people left who remember it too vividly (for the record Atlético beat AC Fiorentina in the 1961-62 competition). In the last three seasons, however, the club’s pedigree has improved with some much-needed silverware making its way to the club. The 2010 UEFA Europa League triumph, in which Atlético scrapped to a 2-1 extra-time win over English club Fulham FC, was bettered last night by a convincing 3-0 defeat of compatriots Athletic Bilbao in the Romanian capital of Bucharest.

Bilbao were featuring in only their second continental final, their first since losing to Italian giants Juventus FC in the 1976-77 UEFA Cup, and had impressed many onlookers on their way to this year’s showpiece with some wonderful attacking football, most notably against Manchester United in the Round of 16 in which the English champions succumbed to a 5-3 aggregate defeat. Players such as Fernando Llorente, Javi Martínez and Iker Muniain, to name but three, had impressed throughout the tournament and one would imagine that their current transfer values are significantly higher now than they would’ve been at the start of the season.

Sadly for the Basques their inexperience on such a big stage proved to be their undoing as Atlético de Madrid, through the wonderful striking prowess of Colombian star Radamel Falcao, began strongly and were two goals to the good after just 34 minutes. Substitute Diego sealed the deal with just five minutes remaining in the second half following a game in which Madrid’s ruthlessness was such that it hardly mattered that Adrián López, who had been the club’s top scorer in the tournament before the final kicked off, failed to add to his tally of eleven goals for the competition. Falcao’s brace took his tally to twelve for this season and an impressive thirty goals in 31 European appearances in the last two years, during which the Colombian had also won the UEFA Europa League trophy with his former club FC Porto in last year’s final.

Atlético de Madrid’s reward for winning the UEFA Europa League is a place in the final of the 2012 UEFA Super Cup against either FC Bayern München or Chelsea FC depending on who wins this year’s UEFA Champions League final a week on Saturday. Athletic Bilbao, on the other hand, do have the consolation of knowing that another cup final awaits for them in two weeks’ time when they face FC Barcelona for the second time in three years in Spain’s premier knockout competition, the Copa del Rey.

Away Days: Eintracht Frankfurt v TSV 1860 München

Posted in Away Days by peterbein on May 4, 2012

Eintracht (red/black shirts) plays FC Bayern in an U-19 game

Hi everybody, I’m back! Yes, it has been a while since I’ve written anything new for the blog and I won’t bore you with the reasons for my prolonged absence. It’s also been a while since I went on an Away Day to Frankfurt am Main and wanted to share with you the joys of celebrating promotion with my favourite German club Eintracht Frankfurt.

Having arrived “on the Main” last Friday, the football action got under way one day later when, as a warm-up to the main event (no pun intended) on Sunday, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Under-19 side played against 1860’s local rivals FC Bayern in the national Under-19 Bundesliga championship (South/South-West division). On a beautiful sunny Saturday morning there must’ve been at least two hundred souls at the Stadion am Riederwald who came out to see a glimpse of German football’s future potential stars in action. Sadly for the home contingent there weren’t too many great chances to shout about but the visitors hardly imposed themselves on the game either. FC Bayern did score the only goal of the game early in the second half; the goalscorer’s identity must however remain anonymous as I’d unprofessionally taken my eye off the game while the ball hit the back of the net.

Following a home defeat to one group of Bavarians I did privately fear that the professional Eintracht team would go on to lose to the other mob in the 2. Bundesliga (second division) game on Sunday. I was very privileged to get a ticket for this match as Eintracht had for many weeks looked likely to gain promotion and, unsurprisingly, this game was the hottest ticket in town. Having ventured with them on previous Away Days (see past reports) to Nuremberg and Dortmund, I express once again my eternal gratitude to the members of Eintracht supporters group “EFC 11-er Freunde” who helped get me into the stadium and make sure I was a part of the promotion party. Only six days earlier had Die Adler (the Eagles) confirmed their top flight status for next season with a convincing 3-0 away win against Alemania Aachen but they still, in theory, had first place to fight for along with SpVgg Greuther Fürth.

Fans choreo before the game

Following a fantastic choreography before the start of the game, in which fans held up cards above their heads to produce the slogan “Nie mehr 2. Liga” (Second Division no more), the game got under way in front of a sold out 50.800 crowd. Sadly my earlier fears about losing out to more Bavarians were to come true as the visitors started well and deservedly went two goals up in the first quarter of the match. An unfortunate own goal by Eintracht full-back Sebastian Jung in the 17th minute was followed up with an unchallenged header for Guillermo Vallori from a corner kick just four minutes later.  For the remainder of the game the passion of the Eintracht supporters couldn’t be emulated on the pitch by the players who, it seemed, already had their minds on the beach for the summer holidays. Just as well, I guess, that promotion was already sealed but that is not to take anything away from 1860 München, who are the only team to defeat Eintracht home and away this season and who were evidently more up for the game. Despite the result a good natured pitch invasion came about at the end of the game in which the fans could celebrate with the players and look forward to a new season of fighting it out with the big boys such as FC Bayern, Dortmund and Schalke 04, exactly where a traditional club of Frankfurt’s stature should be.

Frankfurt fans celebrate promotion after the game

One last shout goes towards a fan group from the English town of Oldham, who I met for the first time in Dortmund last season. Folowing the 1860 match I arranged to meet up with all the lads in the famous Eintracht fans’ bar “Klapper 33” in the district of Sachsenhausen and discovered just how popular they were with some of the regulars. Die Engländer have certainly made an impression over the years, confirmed by the fact that the last thing I expected to hear in a Frankfurt bar was a group of Germans chanting „Come on Oldham!“ at the top of their voices. Having attempted, and failing miserably, to get a similar chorus of Liverpool chants going I took defeat on the chin and realized that there would be a part of Germany that would be forever Oldham and posed with one of their home-made „Two Teams, One Spirit“ scarves. Hopefully it won‘t be long before there’s an away day in Oldham to look forward to and I could just be the latest convert to the „Come on Oldham“ brigade.