Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Germany Ascendant; Bayern and Dortmund Romp

What an incredible two days of the Champions League! Both German sides have stunned their Spanish opposition with huge home results. I argue that playing the home game last is far more favorable against hearty opposition but Bayern and Dortmund proved that playing the home game first can be just as favorable.

Bayern Munich travel to Barcelona with a 4-0 scoreline and the knowledge that they completely dominated their opposition. Messi, the wizard of inspiration against PSG, was out of spells and tricks against Bayern. He painted a figure of an injured player that didn't have answers to Barcelona's questions. Bayern Munich capitalized on the weaknesses of Barcelona; they retained the ball well and dispossessed Barcelona in midfield while pressuring their weak defense with great attacking movement and utilizing their chances at set-plays. Barcelona defends well because they don't have to against the majority of their opposition, but once they are put on the back foot their defensive weaknesses are glaring. The scoreline is a bit harsh due to two glaring facts: Gomez was offside for the 2nd and Jordi Alba was fouled right before Robben scored the 3rd. However, Bayern dominated the game and were the only team to truly threaten the opposition's goal. Barcelona again are left asking questions due to a tactical flaw; possession does not win games, goals do. They continue to lack any form of a Plan B when it comes to scoring goals and Bayern Munich exposed this with aplomb.
Robert Lewandowski, you just raised your price tag to over 40m pounds easily. Borussia Dortmund, the Cinderella team of the tournament this year, pulled off another huge result for Germany. Dortmund bossed much of the first half but let in an equalizer before halftime to put this tie into question. I do not know what Jurgen Klopp said to his boys but they dominated the second half and came away with a 4-1 win in Dortmund and in front of the Yellow Wall numbering at approximately 25,000 fans. This game came on the tail-end of heart-breaking news for Dortmund fans; Mario Gotze's buy-out clause was paid by Bayern Munich and he would play for them next season. This could have demoralized the team to the point of tragic results but Jurgen Klopp rallied his troops to put on an awe-inspiring display in Dortmund. Mario Gotze and Marco Reus played brilliantly in Dortmund's attacking band with Gotze leading passes in the attacking third and Reus with successful take-ons.
Jurgen Klopp brilliantly had his men press at midfield to dispossess Madrid quickly and completely disrupt any rhythm in their attacking transitions. Madrid were largely unable to attack or counterattack at pace. Once in possession, Dortmund's approach in the final third utilized the space on the wings and attacked Madrid's fullbacks; Madrid tried to attack through a highly congested midfield zone as evidenced below.
Honorable Mention must go to both of the German sides' double pivot midfielders. Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sven Bender, and Ilkay Gundogan shielded their defenses superbly and transitioned play quickly and efficiently. They really are the engine rooms for their respective teams.

Monday, April 22, 2013

United's Twentieth Wrapped Up At Old Trafford

The writing was on the wall for the past few months but today it became official; Manchester United have won their twentieth English League title. It widens their gap with rivals Liverpool a little more (Liverpool sit at 18) and sees Robin Van Persie win his first ever major trophy since the FA Cup in his inaugural season with Arsenal. I'm sure Piers Morgan's head exploded when he saw RVP lift the Premier League trophy today.

A tip of the hat must go to them for securing another title before the month of May and having seen off every competitor with ease. If Manchester United win their remaining games, they will sit on a mighty 96 points and overtake Chelsea's previous record of 95 in the 2004/05 season.

Take a bow, Manchester United, you earned it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tributes In Boston


It so happened that the first game in Boston after the Boston Marathon explosions took place tonight as the Bruins hosted the Buffalo Sabres. This was a night honoring those most affected by this horrible tragedy and symbolized a city that needed something to unify everyone and show that life can go on. Superb work by Rene Rancourt, the Bruins anthem singer, to allow the Boston crowd to let their voices be heard as they sang the anthem.


This chant came immediately after the first goal that the Bruins scored.


The Sabres came back to win 3-2 in a shootout, but rarely do we see both teams raise their sticks in salute to the fans, but this was great it was the case last night. Doc Emrick had the perfect tone at the end of this call.

We are Boston Strong.

(all videos courtesy of

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon Tragedy

(Thanks for Ken Fang of Fang's Bites for creating this sign for all of us to use.)

I'm not from Boston (discussing sports with me will make that a dead giveaway), but I have understood that the first Monday in April is a huge day. Patriots' Day allows for a celebration of Massachusetts' important place in the American Revolution. It gives us morning baseball as the Red Sox annually play at 11AM and it gives us the Boston Marathon. As much as I enjoy the New York City Marathon because it gives a wonderful look at the city through all five boroughs, I do accept the fact that the Boston Marathon is more intertwined into the city of Boston's fabric than the marathon here is to New York's.

Obviously, we have all heard about the awful bombings that occurred at the finish line at today's marathon. Once I heard about the attack, all I could think about is that warm September morning twelve years ago when I was a high school student and heard about the attack on the World Trade Center. Yes, this attack wasn't on the same scale as 9/11, but it makes it no less tragic. The fact that many people in the city was flocked to Copley Square to witness the end of the marathon (a place that gets plenty of people walking through on a normal day) has us lucky that the attack didn't strike more people, yet anyone in Boston (and frankly, around the country) will never forget this happened.

Being that this occurred during a sporting event, I felt in particular a need to address this on my blog. The past twelve months have been brutal for those who test the limits of their body by running marathons. Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of the NYC Marathon and lost the chance for tens of thousands of people to feel the cheers of the city for their dedication to fitness and to charity. Today's Boston Marathon was supposed to give those who sacrifice to compete against oneself a chance to have a stress-free run, so to speak. Also noteworthy; the 26th mile was dedicated to the victims of the Newtown shooting, showing once again how both New York and Boston have been out in front of that tragedy; to support and honor those from Sandy Hook Elementary.

Unfortunately, that couldn't be the case as these attacks were put on the finish line. Thus, many had the chance to run the full race. When they finally complete it and achieve a goal that had been set months and years in advanced, their joy gets taken away in one fell swoop. Now it's time for New York City to honor the Boston Marathoners (along with those who were cheering on the runners) who were killed or injured from this act. My friend who will be running in the NYC Marathon this fall told me he has more motivation to run; a man so motivated since he was particularly devastated that he couldn't run last year and perhaps might be good enough that he could run Boston if he chose to do so.

Sunday, it was settled that the Knicks and the Celtics were set to due battle in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. It was a time for typical New York-Boston allegiances to show it's head as the rivalry between the two cities was to continue. Right now, we would all love it if Knicks and Celtics fans could engage in trash talk for the next two weeks. We all hate that this can't happen.

I wish I could write something that does it justice on the impact of this attack on Boston, but as an outsider, I can't. Besides, Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe seemed to hit just about everything on his reaction to the horrible day, among many others who live and/or work in the city. However, I knew I needed to write something, because this feeling of heartbreak and suffering is something I'm very familiar with and writing for me is the only way I can truly release some of that feeling.

Now that I'm done writing, I will go back to praying for Boston. Praying that they bounce back like NYC did twelve years ago.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Messi-inspired Barca triumph; Bayern oust Juve

Messi fulfilled one of those cliched sports moments; he came off the bench, playing hurt, and inspired his team to victory (on aggregate). He injured his hamstring in Paris and was named to the bench. Both sides started conservatively, feeling the other team out. It wasn't until the second half when the tie really heated up. PSG came out with a desire for a goal; they did not park the bus by any means. They looked to dispossess Barca, not an easy task, and attack them at pace. Zlatan turned into a creator for Pastore for the following.

Barcelona had to score after that goal but PSG still searched for a second; a bold tactic for Ancelotti to employ but his side looked very threatening. Barca pressed on as Messi came on even barely half-fit for the game. Barca's passing had them in behind the defense shortly after but Messi uncharacteristically couldn't sort out his feet and a clear chance was wasted. He, however, helped push forward again and Pedro was able to place a perfect lay-off from David Villa into the back of the net.

PSG didn't have much for chances after this (Pastore had wasted one previous to Pedro's equalizer) but Iniesta put on a bit of a show near the end of regular time.

History was made by Xavi; he completed 96 of his 96 passes. Read it and weep. Amazing.
Sadly, the Bayern-Juve tie wasn't nearly as interesting. Juve looked up for it in the early stages with Neuer having to punch away a fierce free kick from Pirlo. It was quiet until after the break when Bayern looked to put the tie to bed; Mandzukic headed in a rebound from a weak Buffon punch (how many times has he done that this season?) and his replacement added a 90th minute consolation.

The quarterfinals are now finished and the semifinal draw awaits. The Champions League should deliver another tantalizing round of fixtures! I'm hoping for Barca-Dortmund and Bayern-Real with a dream final of Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dortmund Stuns Malaga Late; Madrid Holds Off Gala

Borussia Dortmund, sie sind wunderbar. Their comeback was one for the ages and a stunning example of why the Champions League is the greatest club tournament in the world. Before their legendary comeback, BVB had given up a sloppy goal to Malaga (poor defending) but then they finally decided to play the way some of us have fallen in love with over the past three seasons. This is pure beauty.

Dortmund kept searching for another goal but they didn't seem to have any conviction; Malaga kept probing and seemed to be the more likely of the two to score. Subotic didn't have his best game; Malaga also capitalized on a linesman error to go 2-1 up. Eliseu is clearly offside at the time of the pass but the goal stood. Dortmund now had to score twice to go through due to the away goal rule.

Marco Reus had been severely under-performing in both legs but he was in the right place at the right time to put home the equalizer. It was a goal of sheer will and now Dortmund could feel victory on their fingertips. They had four more minutes to score the winner to put them through to the semifinals but they only needed one.

That was a comeback and fight to the finish for the ages. Dortmund have been waiting to show themselves on the European stage but have faltered as Manchester City have done the past few seasons. Their next tie will be very interesting but, for now, they celebrate and deservedly so after that game.

There was another game on today that shouldn't have had many talking points but Galatasaray showed a fighting spirit and gave Real Madrid a little scare. Ronaldo scored again within ten minutes and it seemed business as usual. Gala scored three amazing goals to put themselves 3-1 and needing two goals to advance. What seemed an impossibility now seemed a little improbable. Eboue scored a screamer, Sneijder with a cheeky first touch and slick finish, and Drogba scored an amazing back-heel goal. Unfortunately for Gala, they didn't have enough time and pushing so far forward left them open at the back and Ronaldo made them pay in extra time.

We can only hope that tomorrow's games are only half as entertaining as today's games. Hats off to Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid for advancing to the Champions League semifinals.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Aguero's Late Stunner Leads City to Victory

Sergio Aguero. The man has been an afterthought for the majority of this season due to a variety of niggling injuries but today his quality shone through as he fired Manchester City ahead of their rivals, Manchester United, in the Manchester derby. City will claim it as a victory to uphold their honor as reigning Premier League champions; Manchester United will say it is a minor annoyance on their way to the title this year. Fergie, after all, is not known to allow his players to blow a twelve point lead in the table during this time of year.

Regardless of United's inevitable 20th league title, Manchester City dominated this game. United could have cemented their title today but City wanted it more. Mancini's men fought with pride and they prevailed. City dominated possession and looked the more threatening side throughout the contest. United had a few breaks that looked dangerous but they, by and large, looked like an away team playing for a draw (they were playing at Old Trafford). Yaya Toure did give away a free kick in a very dangerous area; Phil Jones' header bounced off of Kompany and into the City net to equalize for United. 

Manchester City would regain the lead but not until the 78th minute through Sergio Aguero, having been brought on for Samir Nasri, in a goal that was reminiscent of the one that won them the Premier League last year. City will enjoy the victory of this particular battle; United will enjoy the parade after they win the war in May.

Editor's note: Previous version of this blog post didn't include the video.