As previously mentioned, positive sports results dictate my weekend. I will never feel as happy as I could if my teams fail to perform and get the results needed. Well, this Saturday produced possibly the best set of sports results I have encountered in a long time. It fills my heart to wrap up how perfectly the teams I support won and my rivals failed, in one epic weekend of sport.
An early kickoff to mark the return of the Premier League, West Ham United vs Man United at Upton Park could prove to be one of the defining moments in this year’s title race. With memories of the 4-2 comeback at Goodison Park against Everton in the 06/07 season, I truly believe this game could shape the destination of the title towards Manchester. In a game that had it all, controversy, penalties, comebacks and class, the “never say die” attitude of Sir Alex Ferguson’s troops once again came through with flying colours. Like 4 years ago, I had the same feeling that we should be doing better, we could still win the game and that the squad depth, in terms of the substitutions available, would make the difference! West Ham were extremely fortunate to be 2-0 up at halftime. They offered nothing, had less possession and no corners, compared to United’s 9, and if our backline had shown a little more poise, they would never have been in the game. Evra’s handball was a penalty but I believe Vidic’s trip on Cole was outside the area. It should be noted that Vidic was poor all afternoon and was lucky to still remain on the field. Let’s hope that he has got that poor game out of his system and is ready for the month ahead. Two well converted penalties by Mark Noble gave the Hammers an advantage that many teams dream of against Untied.
At 2-0 after 55 mins played, I was wondering when we were going to wake up. And then it happened, a classic United comeback, which started with our ability to keep West Ham pinned in their own half via relentless possession. The path was paved for the comeback when United’s highest paid player Wayne Rooney finally started showing why he should not be written off and has taken some steps towards regaining the fans respect and the repayment of his hefty wage bill with a great free kick! The curling beauty into the top corner was United’s first free kick in 80 games of football played, since Giggs vs Portsmouth in 2008, set the ball moving. Rooney scored his 2nd a few minutes later with a great touch and finish into the bottom corner. His hat trick was wrapped up a further few minutes later from the penalty spot thanks to some good work from Fabio. Chicharito continued his amazing goal scoring record in his debut season to make it 4-2 and curtains for West Ham. It should be noted that the substitutions did make the difference, with Berbatov and Chicharito adding an enormous amount of attacking threat and composure to ensure victory. A great start to a huge month ahead, with Chelsea next on Wednesday. A big 3 points gained and definitely a potential champions performance. We want our trophy back! I refuse to discuss the Rooney swearing saga, as this is a focus on the performance and result, not the antics of the players during goal celebrations.
The next mention goes to Chelsea. Over the past month they have regained some form, however their title hopes are now surely gone with that 1-1 draw at Stoke. A great game, lots of chances, with the post being rattled 4 times. A fair result on the balance of play and another great result for United. Torres is still yet to get off the mark but I think it’s only a matter of time and with his record against United, Law of Averages dictate it should happen sooner rather than later. Drogba scored for Chelsea and an excellent Walters goal for Stoke secured them a valuable point.
Liverpoo, I mean Liverpool, yet again failed to get the points they need to get that all important Europa League spot. It was a clash with former manager Roy Hodgson, who recently revealed that the current Reds boss Kenny Dalglish’s presence at the club during his tenure put added pressure and limited influence on his ability to manage the team, which created an interesting twist to the game. That personal battle aside, Liverpool are meant to be on the up and I do see a brighter future for them however, it’s still results such as these that continue to plague their form of recent seasons gone by. Taking the lead at West Brom with a good header from Skrtel, the scousers should have held their nerve and seen it through. But two Chris Brunt penalties cost them dear, losing the game 2-1. Both Carroll and Suarez started, but neither looked very threatening and their partnership will take some time to gel. European football is looking less likely by the day, with the scouse fans having to show a lot more patience with their team for some time yet.
Arsenal. Those inconsistent, mentally defeated, energy lacking North Londoners. When will they learn? When will they take that step towards maturity and give Wenger some form of satisfaction? This was meant to be that season, the season to prove everyone wrong. Now I’m not for one minute writing them off, the league is still a possibility for them, but you have to seriously doubt whether they can dislodge a solid United outfit and beat their own personal demons to do it. Time and time again they fail to take advantage or keep the pressure on United and they could really be out of the title race before the two teams meet at the Emirates on 1 May. Frustrating result for everyone connected to the Gunners, but just perfect for a United fan.
Other results included a 0-0 draw between Wigan and Spurs, who face Real Madrid on Tuesday. Madrid also suffered a big setback in their title race when they were beaten by Sporting Gijon at home. This was Mourinho’s first home loss since 2002. What a time and what a team to lose it to! Barcelona took advantage with a 1-0 victory from a sole Pique goal. Man City put in a stellar performance against Sunderland, with a resounding 5-0 victory. Maybe next season J. Newcastle beat Wovles 4-1, Everton and Aston Villa shared the spoils 2-2 and Birmingham held out for a massive 2-1 victory over Bolton. Sadly, Blackpool were beaten 3-0 by Fulham at Craven Cottage, putting the Seasiders chances of survival at huge risk. I would hate to see them go down, mainly because of the legend that is Ian Holloway.
Overall, United won, Chelsea drew, Arsenal drew and Liverpool lost. Epic! What a returning weekend for the league! Those results really did put a smile on my face, I could not be happier with this weekend’s football proceedings.
I am thoroughly enjoying this year’s Super Rugby games. I’m not for one minute referring to the format, because I see no reason to change everything just because one new team is added. Most leagues around the world have 18-20 teams, so the need to completely change the format of a successful competition baffles me. Also, the newly created conferences force you to think twice about supporting the South African sides and this really bothers me! I will never support the opposition teams against my home nation, however to win your conference is the most important thing and that means when results don’t go well for South African team, it’s not really that bad.
I woke up on Saturday morning to catch the 2nd half of the Bulls game. Morne Steyn’s boot was decisive, with drop goals and conversions the name of the game, and a great try by Francois Hougaard after a line break by Wynand Oliver secured victory over the Hurricanes. The Cheetahs went down to the Blues 29-22 and the Rebels pipped the Force 25-26 in an all Aussie derby. The Reds were also too strong from the Lions however, winning 30-25 at Ellis Park.
The main mention and analysis will yet again go to the unbeaten Stormers! All you people who moaned about the lack of tries or the boring rugby being played by the Cape Town team should be ashamed. This team is a real force to be reckoned with. Yes, the true tests are still to come when they travel overseas but the defensive effort and the ability to grind out results will surely inspire a huge amount of confidence into the team. With depth in almost every department and a perfect mixture of youth and experience, the Stormers remain the only unbeaten team in the competition. For the 2nd week running, they were able to restrict the opposition team in the second half to zero points scored. Peter Grant’s kicking displays and composure keep him in the race for a Bok place and the return of Schalk Burger made a huge difference, with him scoring the only try of the match. Well done Alistair Coetzee and his coaching staff and all the management involved. After years of poor displays, the Stormers are now the team to beat.
An enjoyable and well run Cricket World Cup ended on Saturday, as hosts and favourites India came through to win in front a jubilant home crowd. I was a neutral, happy to see either team win, as they were both deserving of their spot in the final and both play great cricket. Sri Lanka batted first and battled to a competitive 275/6 with Mahela Jayawardene grabbing an unbeaten century.
India started their chase poorly, with the 2nd ball dismissal of Sehwag heaping pressure on the team after a great ball by Malinga. Tendulkar was the next to fall, failing to reach the milestone of 100 centuries for India. However, the composure of Gautam Gambhir and the leadership of captain MS Dhoni saw them over the line, with Dhoni fittingly hitting a 6 to win the game when only 4 runs were required. Huge celebration followed, along with Sachin Tendulkar appropriately receiving the final accolade he deserves with a World Cup victory. The players also lifted Gary Kirsten onto their shoulders and as the little master said: “Everyone knows what Gary has done for this team and he is the best thing to happen to Indian cricket for a long time”.
Team of the Tournament:
Dilshan, Tendulkar, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, de Villiers, Singh (player of the tournament), Watson, Afridi, Steyn, Kahn, Muralidaran. 12th man: Southee
So I’m a happy guy. I couldn’t have asked for better results and I can start the week feeling good. Tuesday and Wednesday see the return of the Champions League which is always exciting, especially when your team plays! Roll on the results and bring on the week!