Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Euro Leagues Round-Up

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on March 28, 2010
Luca Toni

Luca Toni scored the winning goal in AS Roma's 2-1 victory over Internazionale

This weekend could prove to be one of the most crucial in the season in many of Europe’s top leagues. In Italy defending champions Internazionale have been showing the pressure in the last two months and a famous 2-1 win for AS Roma over the Scudetto holders means that the Giallorossi are just one point behind Inter. Elsewhere FC Bayern suffered a shock 2-1 home reverse at the hands of improving VfB Stuttgart whilst in Portugal a crucial 1-0 win has given SL Benfica a six-point cushion over nearest challengers Sporting Braga. The English Premier League saw Manchester United and Chelsea thrash their opponents whilst Arsenal FC conceded a last-minute equalizer to drop two points further behind in the race for the title. There were also crucial matches in Greece and Turkey whilst the championship was decided in Andorra.

Serie A has practically been a one-horse race for the last three seasons and it looked like that scenario would continue earlier in the season when Internazionale FC enjoyed an eight point lead after the Milan derby in January. However the Nerazzurri have wobbled a bit since then and their lead is now just a single point from AS Roma after the capital side enjoyed a 2-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico thanks to goals from Daniele de Rossi and Luca Toni, the latter enjoying a personal renaissance since his return to his homeland from FC Bayern. AC Milan, meanwhile, could only manage a home draw against SS Lazio and are three points behind Inter as a result. Marco Borriello gave the Rossoneri the lead from the penalty spot after 18 minutes but it didn’t take long for Lazio to get back on equal terms as Stephan Lichtsteiner restored parity in the 32nd minute to leave Milan frustrated.

In the German Bundesliga it looked like service as usual for FC Bayern when Ivica Olić gave the Munich side the lead after 32 minutes but their southern rivals VfB Stuttgart struck goals either side of half-time to leave FC Bayern, who qualified for the German Cup final earlier in the week, visibly stunned. Christian Träsch scored from 24 metres to equalize in the 41st minute and then Ciprian Marica headed home from short range after a beautiful cross to the far post from Cacau to give the Swabians the three points. In the big game at the BayArena home team Bayer 04 Leverkusen lost 2-0 against Schalke 04 to lose further ground behind the top two. Having gone unbeaten in the first 24 matches of the season Leverkusen have now lost three of their last four games. Two goals from Kevin Kuranyi helped to give the side from Gelsenkirchen a two point lead over FC Bayern ahead of the big clash between the top two next Saturday.

It was business as usual for Manchester United in the English Premier League as the champions comfortably won 4-0 away at Bolton Wanderers with two of the goals coming from Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov. A Jlloyd Samuel own goal and a late strike from United substitute Darron Gibson kept the Red Devils on top from Chelsea FC who were impressive in their 7-1 demolition of Champions League hopefuls Aston Villa. Frank Lampard scored four goals, including two from the penalty spot, along with goals for in-form Florent Malouda (2) and Solomon Kalou to rout the team from Birmingham whose heavy schedule in recent weeks may be starting to take its toll on Martin O’Neill’s side. Title hopefuls Arsenal FC were just seconds away from an away win at Birmingham City after an 83rd minute goal from substitute Samir Nasri looked to have given The Gunners all three points. However it was another substitute, Kevin Phillips, who would have the final say as his goal two minutes into stoppage time gave The Blues a share of the points and dented Arsenal’s hopes of title glory. Manchester United lead the way with 72 points after 32 games, one ahead of Chelsea and four ahead of Arsenal.

In other leagues SL Benfica, fresh from winning the Portuguese League Cup last weekend, now have one hand on the Superliga trophy after defeating second place Sporting Braga 1-0 at home thanks to a goal in the 44th minute from Luisão. The win takes The Eagles six points clear with six games to play and now has Benfica fans dreaming of their team winning a possible treble as they still have a chance of continental glory in the UEFA Europa League. The Turkish Süper Lig continues to fascinate with the top four teams separated by five points with seven matches left to play. Leaders Bursaspor lost 2-1 at Istanbul BB on Friday night leaving it up to the big three to try and catch them. Last season’s champions Beşiktaş had to come from two goals down to beat sixth placed Eskişehirspor 3-2 whilst in the big derby match on Sunday Fenerbahçe beat eternal rivals Galatasaray 1-0 to move into second place three points behind Bursaspor. In Greece Panathinaikos have all but sealed the title having won 3-0 away at Atromitos with top scorer Djibril Cissé amongst the goals. Champions Olympiakos could only draw 0-0 at home to Škoda Xanthi whilst PAOK Thessaloniki conceded a stoppage time goal to lose 2-1 away at Larissa and cannot now possibly catch Pana who have a six point lead over second place Olympiakos with two matches still to play.

In Andorra FC Santa Coloma have won the Primero Divisio title for the second time in three years, and fifth title overall, having drawn against local rivals and only challengers UE Santa Coloma 1-1 to win the championship by three points.

Euro Leagues: Weekend Preview

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on January 28, 2010
HSV - VfL Wolfsburg

Eljero Elia scored for HSV in their 4-2 win over Wolfsburg earlier this season. Both teams meet each other again in the Bundesliga this Friday.

With all of Europe’s top leagues back in full swing after the winter break “Stoppage Time” previews this weekend’s top matches:

ENGLAND (Chelsea 22 games/51 points; Man. United 23/50; Arsenal FC 23/49)

For the first time in many years it looks as though more than two teams can challenge for the English Premier League title. However two of the contenders are to meet on Sunday as second place Manchester United, fresh from their League Cup semi-final win over local rivals Manchester City, travel to the Emirates Stadium with hopes of doing the ‘double’ over Arsenal FC after their 2-1 win at Old Trafford earlier this season. Chelsea will hope to put some more distance between themselves and their rivals in the Saturday evening fixture where they meet struggling Burnley FC. In other games in-form Birmingham City meet Champions League contenders Tottenham Hotspur whilst Liverpool FC, not for the first time in this tough season, hope to get back to winning ways at home to Bolton Wanderers.

SCOTLAND (Glasgow Rangers 22 games/51 points; Glasgow Celtic 21/41; Hibernian FC 21/39)

Sadly it seems that the much anticipated four-way challenge for the SPL has now hit the rocks after Rangers’ good form has coincided with all of their potentials rivals dropping points. While the league leaders and current champions Rangers were strolling to a 2-0 win at St.Mirren on Wednesday Old Firm rivals Celtic lost 2-1 at home to Hibernian FC, who now have ambitions of claiming the second Champions League spot for next season. This weekend sees Rangers at home to bottom side Falkirk FC, Celtic play away at Hamilton Academicals and Hibernian face-off against mid-table St.Mirren.

GERMANY (Bayer 04 Leverkusen 19 games/41 points; FC Bayern München 19/39; FC Schalke 19/38)

In recent years the Bundesliga, arguably more than any top European league, has concluded with final-day drama and tension and this season has the potential to emulate some of the drama from the past. The top five teams in the league are separated by only seven points and with none of them playing against each other on Matchday 20 then this weekend may tell us more about each team’s title hopes. Leaders Leverkusen, still unbeaten after 19 games, play against SC Freiburg on Sunday evening knowing if they need to win to reclaim top spot. In the meantime either FC Bayern (at home to 1. FSV Mainz) or Schalke 04 (at home to Hoffenheim) can take over the leadership of the league, if only for a matter of hours. Other top games include Hamburger SV against champions-in-crisis VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund’s trip to VfB Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt host 1.FC Köln.

FRANCE (Girondins de Bordeaux 21 games/47 points; Montpellier 21/39; Lille OSC 21/37)

Laurent Blanc’s Bordeaux have ambitions to usurp Olympique Lyonnais as the top team in France and have a handy eight point lead over nearest challengers Montpellier. Many expect them to stroll to another three points in their latest match at home to second bottom team Boulogne. After reaching the Coupe de la Ligue semi-finals this week, Olympique Marseille will play against surprise title contenders Montpellier in a southern derby. A win for l’OM will allow them to overtake Montpellier in the table. Lille OSC, who were knocked out of the Coupe de la Ligue on Wednesday, will hope to put cup disappointment behind them with a win against  Racing Lens. In the Côte d’Azur derby AS Monaco play against OGC Nice, a win for the former will improve their European credentials whilst for the latter will help les Niçoise pull further away from the relegation zone.

SPAIN (FC Barcelona 19 games/49 points; Real Madrid CF 19/44; Valencia CF 19/39)

La Liga has looked like a potential two-horse race ever since Matchday 1 and not much has changed now that we have reached the halfway stage of the campaign. FC Barcelona became only the seventh team to end the first half of the league season unbeaten and will hope to consolidate their position with a win away at Sporting, which is traditionally a tough place for any side to go due to the hostile reception their fans provide their opponents. Cristiano Ronaldo endured mixed emotions in his last outing for Real Madrid, his two goals in a 2-0 win over Malaga were overshadowed by his red card in the second half. El Real must play without their record signing this Saturday away at Deportivo de La Coruña where, surprisingly, Madrid haven’t won since 1992. Third-place Valencia play against the team who occupied that position for most of the season Sevilla, who recently embarked on a torrid spell of one win in the last five games.

ITALY (Internazionale 21 games/49 points; AC Milan 20/40; AS Roma 21/38)

After last weekend’s Milan derby many people have already suggested that the Nerazzurri should be given their fifth consecutive lo Scudetto already having built up a nine-point lead over their eternal and nearest rivals. However Inter coach Jose Mourinho would not want to take their next opponents Parma lightly as they are a team capable of beating anybody on their day. In other games AC Milan are at home to Livorno, who are struggling against relegation lying fifth from bottom, AS Roma hope that they can continue their recent good form at home to bottom side Siena whilst Juventus, with talk of crisis in the air, will have their work cut out at home to SS Lazio.

NETHERLANDS (PSV Eindhoven 19 games/51 points; FC Twente 19/49; Ajax Amsterdam 19/42)

The Netherlands is expecting the mother of all battles on Sunday afternoon as De Klassieker between Feyenoord Rotterdam and Ajax Amsterdam resumes again. Feyenoord are at home this weekend and will hope to avenge the 5-1 mauling they suffered at the home of their bitter rivals earlier in the season. Ajax will hope that a win for themselves can bring them closer to the main title challengers above them. FC Twente, who had led the table for most of the season, have been overtaken by PSV since the resumption of the Eredivisie after the winter break but Steve McClaren’s men will be hoping to get back to winning ways at home to Roda JC Kerkrade whilst PSV are away at mid-table Vitesse Arnhem.

PORTUGAL (Sporting Braga 16 games/39 points; SL Benfica 16/39; FC Porto 16/33)

Little Sporting Braga have captured many people’s hearts in Portugal as their title challenge continues. They lead the table despite having a much inferior goal difference to Benfica due to their head-to-head record (Braga won the first meeting 2-0 in October) but the ‘Eagles’ of Lisbon have been stronger since that game winning five and drawing two of their last seven games. Braga play against Benfica’s local rivals Sporting Lisbon on Friday whilst Benfica plays at home to Vitoria Guimarães. Only six points behind both teams are FC Porto who have a tough away tie against Nacional Madeira on Saturday.

Konferenz is the future of TV football in England (isn’t it?)

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on December 15, 2009
Sky Sports Studio

Whilst fans in Germany watch the football, fans in England watch ex-footballers talk about the football

As an Englishman who has always valued the sacred kick-off time of 15:00 every Saturday afternoon it also seems that the English football authorities value it in much the same way. Throughout England at that time every weekend the whistle sounds and the action kicks off in many stadiums throughout the country. That’s great, yet for those who can’t go to the match or would like to watch it on television it’s ironic that the most popular time for football in England is the one time that you can’t watch any of it live on English television. After my many recent trips to Germany in the last couple of years it is more obvious than ever that the German tradition of allowing fans to watch the action live on the “Konferenz” channel is exactly what the English football fan needs more than ever, especially when one looks at the alternative.

The main argument from the English football authorities for the lack of TV action every Saturday (from 15:00-17:00) is that most matches in all four English professional divisions begin at this time and to have significant television coverage of the Premier League will have a detrimental affect on attendances in the lower divisions. For me there are two arguments against this. Firstly loyal fans will always go to the games whether they are live on TV or not, unless they’re unable to buy a ticket for a sold out game. Secondly, in this age of technology and greater media influence within the game of football, how difficult can it be for Sky Television or ESPN (the broadcast rights holders for Premier League matches) to have cameras at every game showing viewers the action live on Saturday? The cameras are there in any case for various highlights packages within the UK and for live screening of such games to overseas markets. After all Sky TV has been able to manage this perfectly on the final matchday of each Premier League season. Even then they only show one or two main games and show goals in a tiny section of the screen when goals are scored elsewhere. It would be great if this approach could be further enhanced every week on English screens by replicating what German television does every Saturday from 15:30-17:30 (their sacred football kick-off time).

In Germany the broadcast rights holders of the Bundesliga (ironically Sky has just acquired the rights in Germany too) have a service which allows TV viewers to either pick the game of their choice (like Sky TV in the UK allows for the Champions League) or, if you’re a neutral who just wants to see bits of each match, you can see the goals and other major events as they happen on the “Konferenz” channel. The coverage will start at what the broadcaster deems to be “Das Spiel des Tages” (Game of the Day) and from there the coverage will switch from game to game depending on when goals are scored or other significant events happen (e.g. a penalty kick given; a red card shown to a player etc). This is especially a great way to watch the day’s events unfold when there are goals flying in all over the place. Any argument that this would affect attendances is countered by the fact this coverage exists in a country which has consistently had the largest crowds in Europe for the last six years. As an added bonus for fans of lower league teams there are similar Konferenz shows at various times on any given weekend which are dedicated to the second and third professional leagues. Therefore if the English authorities were to learn from their German counterparts then they can spread the fixtures out more evenly over the weekend and give each division its own time slot(s).

In Germany this has helped maintain excellent coverage with an even spread of airtime for the lower divisions as well as the top flight. With the money and TV coverage in England at an all-time high at the same time as attendances have stayed consistently high since the Premier League began, then the notion that Saturday afternoons should be a football-free zone on television is clearly not in keeping with modern trends. However what Sky shows in Germany is in stark contrast to what Sky UK shows at the same time, a service going from game-to-game as events happen (sounds familiar?) but, instead of actual football action, we see four ex-professional footballers commentating on games that the viewer can’t see on their screens. Listening to these ex-footballers, whilst being deprived of the action, sounds more like a conference than a Konferenz.