Look at The Stars – Dan Raywood reflects on fixture of promise

On Sunday I ventured into Emirates territory, which for football fans is not a nation but a football stadium, for an experience of international flavour.I choose the word flavour appropriately, as the two combatants of Brazil and Chile took the field. The game? Well it was dire to tell the truth, and despite the presence of Sanchez and Neymar, there was little to get excited about. Apart for the three pitch invaders, one of whom entered the playing field to hug the Brazilian captain, and another for nothing but a jog where he returned to his seat afterwards with a “what did I do wrong” attitude.

The loyal readers will know that a visit to the Emirates isn’t common for me, in fact this was my fifth trip there – 3 Arsenal games (one corporate, two when the wife couldn’t go and the seat would be empty) and Muse live in 2013. I’ll save my judgement for a future blog when the Spurs stadium is completed, but I was glad we were in the upper tier when the rain came down during half time.

As I said the game was poor, finishing 1-0 due to a Firmino goal, but the best part of the day was the trip to the game. On the bus we ended up sitting with a 12-strong Chilean family who now reside in North London, who had not only printed off song sheets of the Chilean national anthem, but convinced us on which team to support.”Sing¬† the national anthem loud” we were instructed, my efforts on the bus to even pronounce the words gaining some approval. Inside the stadium, the national anthems were a little one-sided as the unsegregated seating meant there were no central sections to create that singing, and the “plastic fans” mostly chose the gold and green team. Also, when the Brazilian national anthem was played, there was singing on the recorded version.

This event was sponsored by Chrysler as part of a world tour by Brazil, and appropriately too as some members of the Brazilian team still play in Brazil, whilst Chilean internationals play across Europe and for QPR. I’ve been to a couple of these tournaments in the past, which are dressed up friendlies in order to get a sponsor logo on the stadium and a crowd to see it (Emirates Cup anyone?) and overall I have no problem with it, but I do have a problem with poor performances and an unknown Brazilian team.

The number 3 bore a resemblance to Roberto Carlos but in stature only, whilst of the Chelsea Brazilians, only Felipe Luis appeared. There was no Dani Alves, no Daniel Luiz whilst Marcelo looked uninspiring. On the Chilean side, the substitutes were cheered, but like Neymar, those local fans were there to see Alexis, and neither star really shone.

The game came during an international weekend and some would have ticked this and the England game on Friday night, we didn’t see England but did catch the end of Ireland v Poland and all of Israel v Wales. In those games the stars shone, it’s a shame that the biggest star didn’t shine for us.

Liverpool FC – Old Trafford to Anfield the club bounce back

With this blog I have kept it relatively general about football and not showing any bias towards my favourite club Liverpool FC. Today though, I thought I would take time and write a blog about Liverpool and the season so far.

 The summer of 2014 had seen much change for Liverpool and the first transfer was the arrival of Rickie Lambert from Southampton, the first of three signings from the South coast club. Adam Lallana joined a month later followed by Emre Can from Bayer Leverkusen. The third transfer from Southampton would not come till the end of the month. Overshadowing that period was yet another Luis Suarez incident. This time on international duty in the World Cup, he decided to bite Chellini of Italy. What followed were hands in faces, eyes rolling and the words here we go again.

Barcelona who had their transfer ban suspended managed to acquire the services of the Uruguayan despite his ban from any football related activity. With around £75 million to spend, Rodgers set about improving the squad whilst letting those surplus to requirements go elsewhere. Making their way to Anfield were several youngsters including Moreno, Origi and the surprise transfer of Mario Ballotelli. Origi went back to Lille on loan as part of the agreement whilst the signing of Ballotelli caused much surprise as Rodgers had previously ruled out any deal involving the controversial Italian.

Liverpool’s season opened with a win at home to Southampton, but defeat away to Man City saw the start of a mixed run. A storming 3-0 win away to Tottenham was then derailed by a three game winless run which also didn’t help with the injury to striker Daniel Sturridge. The club then bounced back with a four game only to see another three game winless stretch. Then came what turned out to be the season turner for Liverpool. Mignolet was dropped, Liverpool couldnt find the back of the net in a game which Man United won 3-0. Rodgers looked like he was in trouble and on the verge of being sacked. He made changes including a formation change to 3-4-3. A brave decision and one seemingly risky for a manager whose job was under threat, but it seemed to work even with Daniel Sturridge still missing from the team.

When Liverpool had lost to Manchester United, they were 11th in the table, seven points behind 4th place West Ham and 17 behind second place Manchester City and ten points behind Man Utd. As Liverpool host Manchester United at Anfield tomorrow, things are much different. Liverpool are fifth, the inform team of the moment,unbeaten in the league since Old Trafford, six games unbeaten, six clean sheets, two points behind Man United and four behind Manchester City. If someone had said back in December that Liverpool would be still in with a chance of a Champions League spot, you might have been given a strange look.

It seems yet again another season for Liverpool under the Rodgers stewardship that the second half of the season the Liverpool manager has seen the club perform better in the second half of the season and with Manchester City struggling, is it really out of the question that the club could finish in the top two yet again? Who knows, but the team arent going to give up without a fight.

Idiots week

They say it never rains but it pours, this week it certainly it was the equivalent of a downpour in stupidity. If it wasn’t footballers being idiots it was the referee and if it wasn’t the referee it was the ‘fans’, although I use fans in its loosest of terms.

Wednesday night saw something of a dismal tie between Newcastle United and Man Utd which the Old Trafford side win with a fortunate goal, that though wasn’t the story of the night. That was the incident between Papiss Cisse and Jonny Evans. Evans spat at Cisse which saw the toon striker retaliate. Cisse accepted the charge whilst Evans denied it and Van Gaal went as far as defending the Northern Ireland player saying that he wasn’t that kind of player. Unfortunately for Evans it was caught on tape. You cant deny it if you get caught however much you try. The FA handed out a 6 match ban to Evans and a 7 match ban for Cisse, increased due to a previous ban.

Anthony Taylor was in charge of the FA Cup tie between Aston Villa and West Brom and what was looking like a straight forward win, saw the game marred by two ridiculous decisions. West Brom saw Yacob received second card for what looked like a two footed tackle but was far from it. To make it more ridiculous, Taylor let play go on before making his decision to show the West Brom player a second yellow. Taylor wasnt quite finished there in the incompetency, with the game almost over he chose to give a second yellow card to Aston Villa youngster Jack Grealish for what was simulation. This appeared to be a harsh decision as it looked like the Villa player was clipped trying to avoid a collision with a West Brom defender, but hey when does a referee ever let a game through without spoiling it.

From the same game, Aston Villa supporters ruined the game by running on to the pitch. The stupid thing is that Aston Villa were winning the game. There will be no doubt consequences for Villa due to a minority of fans who decided to ruin it for others. Notably the majority of fans were booing the pitch invaders, but that wont stop the FA taking any action against the Midlands club. English football doesnt need another episode of mindless stupidity after the Chelsea train incident. English football doesnt need to be taking backwards steps.