Milan Find the Tables Turned on Them

Thanks for an online course I once did on sports writing, I’ve cultivated the (extremely useful) habit of jotting down important moments during a football match. It goes like this:

4′ – Arsenal score! Great cross along ground frm right by Walcott, Giroud scores. Wenger doesn’t celebrate.

6′ – Kroos long range shot, saved.

10′ – Bayern corner. Gustavo goes close, but strike goes over. Too high?

And so on. But on Tuesday, March 12, when Barcelona hosted AC Milan during the second leg of their Round of 16 Champions League match, I could barely take my eyes off the screen to jot down the important passages of play. There were just too many of them. That first half performance, which yielded Barca 2 goals, has been called arguably their greatest display in recent years — and that’s saying a lot, considering they’ve played in Champions League finals, semifinals and innumerable El Classicos during this period.

All Milan had to do was score once and Barca would have needed four goals to ensure qualification to the quarterfinals. Four. (Milan had won the first leg 2-0.) But the lone goal never came, and I gotta say it’s an absolute privilege we’re getting to watch this glorious team at its peak. (They can still cut out on the diving, though.)

That first-half display reminded me of another extraordinary first-half, by Milan against Liverpool during the 2005 Champions League final. Paolo Maldini had scored — his first goal in I don’t know who many seasons — in the 3rd minute, and Hernan Crespo had picked up a brace before the half-time whistle. When the players trooped off at half-time, Ricky Kaka had run Liverpool absolutely ragged from the middle of the pitch. It was of this performance that the great Brian Glanville wrote, “Milan had a great first-half. A half, but what a half!”

Liverpool fought back to eventually win the final, but that first-half remains one of the best displays of Carlo Ancelotti’s great Milan side of the early and mid 2000s.

I wrote on the same theme, along with another of this week’s Round of 16 tie, for my piece on the IBN blog. The other match saw Arsenal beat Bayern Munich in their own backyard, with a performance that left you shaking your fists furiously at the television screen, wondering aloud where all this guts and gumption had gone during their first leg, which Arsenal had lost 1-3. Wenger’s boys (and they’re still boys) won 2-0 on the night, but were eliminated on aggregate. What a waste.

The link:

http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arunpradeep/3389/64413/champions-league-harsh-lessons-for-ac-milan-arsenal.html

Advertisements

Wenger: Not so clever, boy!

Im writing this on the night Tottenham have dispatched Internazionale 3-0 in the first leg of their Last 16 match up of the Europa League at White Hart Lane. Inter were so outclassed it was shocking. Spurs play a fluent, passing game with a lot of mobility in their shape but Inter looked like QPR on saline. It’ll take a historic performance in the second leg in Italy for Inter to qualify for the Quarters but I think that’s beyond this team on current form.

Anyway, four days before running the rule over Inter, Spurs dominated Arsenal in the North London Derby, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.

They could have scored much more. Following which, of course, Arsene Wenger claimed that all Tottenham had done after gaining a 2-0 lead was “defend well”. Nice try but unbecoming of a club like Arsenal. It’s interesting, but it’s extraordinary how Arsenal seem to be harbouring the same delusions that Milan did for the past 4-5 seasons, vainly claiming the club was good enough to challenge for trophies when it was clearly regressing.

On March 6, I wrote a piece on the Arsenal capitulation, and what it could mean for their future. It’s come out well. One of the rare recent instances in which I was kinda “alright'” with what I wrote.

Here:

http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arunpradeep/3389/64373/epl-arsenal-in-freefall.html

The only glitch was that they failed to add the hyperlink I’d sent them to add in the 5th para. I mean it’s alright if people know Spurs are also known as ‘Lillywhites’ but the hyperlink was for those who didn’t. Anyway, I was promised it would be corrected, but it’s all helium so far.

Outage and Outrage

Tamil Nadu, one of India’s most industrialized states, has been suffering power cuts of 16 to 18 hours a day lately. By ‘lately’, I mean the past couple of weeks. This is inexcusable, and a similar callous government in the West would have been sued by now. This is a State — with a population of over 70 million — that suffered no power outage between 1987 to 2007, save for the weekly shut-down that was enforced to carry out maintenance work. Adding to the outrage among citizens here, Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, loses power only 2 hours a day. I mean, I know it’s the capital but this is grossly disproportionate and unfair. It’s even illegal, harming our fundamental rights. As things stand, the present government in Tamil Nadu is busy blaming the previous regime in the State and the Central government of India (we have a federal set up) for this almighty mess.

All of which makes watching a game of football, writing your blog or even taking a long, warm bath impossible. I can’t even watch Seinfeld. Yesterday, I read to my mom funny anecdotes from Reader’s Digest. It was fun, but the rate the power is failing on us I’ll run out of jokes soon. It’s a vicious thing wiling away your time cussing and bitching about your government. After a while, the rage and indignation fade away, replaced by resignation and negativity.

Anyway, I did manage to string along a couple of articles for IBNlive.in.com, and I have no idea how Im gonna turn in the one Im due tomorrow.  They’re killing Independent Arun!

1)The most recent article, on Nov 5:

http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arunpradeep/3389/64042/rudderless-arsenal-exposed-by-clinical-united.html

It wasn’t a dramatic game, but the fascination lay with Wayne Rooney’s tactical evolution. As I’ve said in the article, he was everywhere. If United keep up this momentum and rate of scoring (Ferguson has targeted 100 league goals this season after 29 in their first 11 matches), they’ll be very, very hard to stop.

2) The previous article on Oct 29:

http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arunpradeep/3389/64020/epl-david-moyes-brings-new-steel-to-everton.html

For the first time in many a meeting with their illustrious cross-town rivals, Everton looked confident and self-assured. The dramatic fall in quality in Liverpool’s line-up over the years also had something to do with it, but David Moyes would tell you it was more of a “mental thing”. Kevin Mirallas was outstanding on the left flank for Everton, and would surely have been Man of the Match had he not be injured just before half-time.

And Luis Suarez. What an utterly compelling whacko.

The guy’s still a cheating bastard, but seems to be one of those who’s at his best when goaded by the opposition.  He was brilliant against Everton. If only he could stop diving and winding people up — but you would’ve lost a matchwinner then.

What I Wrote About When I Was Not Writing

And, we’re back — not that I ever stopped writing.

In the days leading up to my last post on this blog (‘The Power of Rajinikanth’), I wangled a deal, thanks to good friend Sattwik Biswal, to write for the website of CNN-IBN, one of India’s leading English news channels. I’d write on football and tennis, thanks to my record as a sports journalist and experience in covering both sports. I’d have loved to write on cricket too, considering I’ve covered international cricket tournaments, but in India it’s better to be a sportswriter willing to write on cricket and being turned down than the other way around, believe me. There are just too many writing on cricket in India.

Anyway, as luck would have it, Andy Roddick had announced he would retire from the sport when his 2012 US Open campaign came to an end. He lost in the fourth round to Juan Martin Del Potro in four sets,  and on Sept 7, I wrote a tribute on the IBN blog:

http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arunpradeep/3389/63877/andy-roddick-carried-usa-hopes-admirably.html

(They’ve got a fancy banner in the blog with my pic on it, and Im desperately searching for a better pic. Taking a presentable photo of yourself  on your own has to be up there with reviving Mel Gibson’s acting career.)

The piece had come out kind of alrighty, though I told myself later that it had a rushed feel to it and I could’ve done much better in a calmer state of mind.

The following two weeks saw me write on Italian and English Football, both of which impressed the editor.

A write-up on the tribulations of AC Milan this season (Sept 17):

http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arunpradeep/3389/63909/champions-league-ac-milan-in-battle-to-reclaim-lost-glory.html

My latest article, a piece on Arsenal’s unbeaten season to the English Premier League season (Sept 25):

http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arunpradeep/3389/63929/epl-arsenal-start-to-dream.html

Watching the Spanish League at Indian hours, with matches kicking off at 1 am and even later, is inhuman. But Im a night person and making notes while catching the matches means Im seldom passive, and by extension, bored. And the commentary is excellent — restrained and insightful.