Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I have just spend an enjoyable couple of hours in the pub watching the Arsenal v Liverpool Champion's League quarter final first leg. I have a few things to say off the back of this.

1. The stories in the papers will focus on two goals, scored from poor defending, and on a turned-down penalty appeal from Arsenal in the 2nd half. The commentators called it 'stonewall' (a clear penalty, for anyone not in with the footy lingo). Rubbish. There was contact, and I've seen them given before, but it was not enough to send the player to the ground. Had it happened outside the box Arsenal wouldn't have even appealed. Liverpool could have claimed for a similar incident at the other end about 20 minutes later. So if you hear any Arsenal fans claiming they should have won, they're wrong. Football fans, players and referees seem to have an entirely different set of rules when the action is inside the penalty area, and it's beginning to annoy me.

2. Having said that, Arsenal easily had the majority of the possession and chances. Liverpool, again, did not keep the ball well. We tried to defend for an entire 45 minutes! One the one hand, it was a well fought European tie from the Reds, and a well-earned draw. On the other hand, it was insanely naive. Arsenal came very close to scoring a second on several occasions. And the goal. Oh my word. It came from a free header from a corner, but it wasn't just one unmarked player, but four attacking players between Liverpool's centre backs. This is the downfall of zonal marking - if the opposition flood one zone, you're in big trouble. And the opposition frequently do.

3. I thought the ref had a very good game, and both sides played in good spirits. Although players were clearly disappointed at certain decisions against them, there was no backchat or yelling in the refs face. Had it been Man Utd and Chelsea, represented by Wayne Rooney and John Terry, I expect we would have seen quite a bit more disgusting behaviour towards the officials. This has been a hot topic in recent weeks, with refs asked to clamp down on dissent. It has again been suggested that only captains should be allowed to talk to the referee, like in rugby. This idea has its merits, but the reason it works in rugby is because the officials get their decisions right, time and time again. In football, officials get decisions wrong time and time, which is why player tend to approach the referee to point out his error. The two main problems here are the relatively poor standards of refereeing, and the total lack of respect some players and managers (i.e. Alex Ferguson) have for the officials.

4. While I'm on the subject, if John Terry regains the permanent England captaincy I shall start supporting Mexico.

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