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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bellamy Makes Mockery of Fenway Sports Group’s Transfer Policy

On February 29, Liverpool FC players, the manager, owners and hundreds of thousands of the club’s fans will match to the Wembley stadium to collect the League Cup trophy. I say collect because I don’t expect Cardiff to do a Birmingham on Liverpool. Seriously.

This is after one Craig Bellamy fired the Reds past Manchester City and into their first major, and minor, cup final since 2006 when they lost to AC Milan in the Champions League final.

Born in Cardiff, Wales, the 32-year-old grew up playing street football in the Welsh capital and had his first stint with Bristol Rovers as a nine-year-old before making a move to Norwich City. He debuted for the Canaries against Arsenal on 15 March 1997 and went on to score 32 goals in 84 matches for them.

Since then, the winger-cum-striker has played for six different clubs including Newcastle, Celtic, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham, Manchester City and Liverpool.

On Thursday night, he was the cream of King Kenny’s crop who proved to all the doubters and naysayers that Liverpool is still one of the best clubs in world football. The summer free transfer was menacing at best and it’s hard to argue whether Vincent Kompany could have had any better day in office than his understudy Stefan Savic who experienced a torrid time against the Welshman.

Bellamy was the only infield player over the age of 30 years that Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish brought into the club in a busy summer transfer window which saw Liverpool flex and stretch their financial muscle to the limit. Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique and Andy Caroll are some of the big-money signings that the Anfield club have purchased recently.

And while the No 39 has been impressive in his 16 appearances for the KOPS scoring five goals in his last five matches, his younger colleagues have only faltered to deceive.

Aside from Jose Enrique, the other players have struggled to impress the Anfield crowd. Downing is yet to find the back of the net, Charlie Adam has been inconsistent while Hendo is showing signs of improvement but hasn’t provided any spark yet.

And what can you say of Andrew Thomas? Oh, that’s Andy Caroll. Four goals in 25 appearances says everything. Young, err… talented, British and has the potential to improve. Very befitting of FSG’s transfer policy. But ask any Kopite who they would rather have; a 32-year-old who is a pure amalgam of speed, a cool head finisher and a tenacious runner, or a gangly 23-year-old light weight with a poor first touch?

You know the answer. I don’t mean to say Liverpool should buy old players. But should they need young , talented British players, the LFC Academy is awash with young talent. Push the lads to the first team already.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Senegal Crash Out of AFCON

Senegal became the first high-profile team to crash out of the ongoing 2012 Africa Cup of Nations after suffering their second defeat in the group stages.

The pre-tournament favourites, stinking rich with talents within their ranks, suffered a 2-1 humbling at the hands of minnows and co-hosts Equatorial Guinea Thursday night.

David Alvarez Aguirre, better known as Kily, was the hosts’ hero as he belted in a screamer in injury time that sent the Teranga Lions packing and gave the Nzalang Nacional the ticket to the quarterfinals in only their maiden Africa Nations Cup appearance.

Senegal went into the match knowing that anything less than a win would bury their chances of qualifying for the quarters for the first time since 2004 in a picnic basket. A heavy downpour prior to the match did not make matters easy for the Senegalese.

They used their pace, grit and dexterity earlier on in the first half but could not put the ball behind Danilo Clementino in the Equatorial Guinea goal.

The game was more opened up in the second half as the Nzalang Nacional came out fighting backed by a rapturous crowd. The home team took the lead just after the hour mark when Alvarez raced down the right wing and curled in a cross that found Iyanga who headed in to put the Senegalese on the brink.

Knowing they were facing the ignominy of elimination,  Amara Traore’s side threw everything at their unfancied opponents but could not breach their backline. They had to wait until the 90th minute when Mousa Sow drew them level with a close range finish from a Mamadou Niang cross.

The goal gave the 2002 World Cup quarterfinalists a lifeline. Alvarez, however, decided to have the final say, the sting in the tail that the West Africans could have traded for something else. He picked up the ball from around 30 yards and like a possessed man, he rifled in a long range effort that flew its way into the top corner past Bouna Coundoul in the Teranga Lions’ goal.

The goal was worth all manner of celebration for the hosts. The defeat means that Newcastle United will have their Demba pair, Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse back earlier than expected. However, it might also work against the Magpies as Premier League clubs Liverpool and Tottenham may be more keen to snap up Demba Ba who has scored 15 goals for the Tyneside club.

The Lions will play their final group match against Libya on Sunday January 29 but that will just be a formality. Libya, who drew 2-2 with Zambia the earlier kick-off will have to win the match and hope that Zambia lose to Equatorial Guinea for them to have a chance of qualifying for the quarters.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Liverpool End 16-Year Wembley Voodoo

Bellars and Hendo Celebrate
Craig Bellamy returned to haunt his former club as he scored the equalizing goal that earned Liverpool a 2-2 draw and 3-2 aggregate win over his former employers Manchester City in a League Cup semi-final match played at Anfield.

The Welshman converted after a neat one-two with Glen Johnson to draw Liverpool level after Nigel De Jong and Edin Dzeko had scored for the visitors either side of Gerrard’s converted penalty.

Liverpool began the match looking the most likely to add to their 1-0 first leg advantage but were warded off by the impressive Joe Hart between the City posts. They probed, shot and attacked from right, left and center but Hart was inspired.

It looked like it was going to be one of those days when a goalkeeper would rob the Reds a deserved victory. It even became worse when Liverpool were sucker punched in the half-hour mark when Nigel De Jong riffled in a screamer from 30 yards that flew past Pepe Reina and into the top corner. That was City’s first real effort at goal, and it went in.

Never to be heartbroken, the Reds continued to probe and were rewarded just 10 minutes later when City captain for the night Michael Richards blocked Daniel Agger’s drive to earn Pool a spot-kick amid protests from the Citizens. Referee Phil Dowd was firm and so was Steven Gerrard who tucked in the spot-kick to make it 1-1 in the night and 2-1 on aggregate in favour of the Reds.

Roberto Mancini pulled off Stefan Savic who was vulnerable in the first half and brought in Sergio Aguero in an attack-minded 4-2-3-1 formation. But it was the home team who created more chances early in the second half with Dirk Kuyt, Martin Skrtel and Stewart Downing forcing heroic saves from Joe Hart.

But like the first half, it was Mancini’s charges who pulled ahead. Alexander Koralov raced down the left channel and whipped a dangerous cross into the Liverpool box that evaded everyone but Edin Dzeko who tapped the ball in to put City ahead in the 68th minute.

It could have been harsh had Kenny Dalglish’s side crashed out in a night they dominated the Citizens from the off. Liverpool refused to let their spirits die. They engineered a move just six minutes later.

Dirk Kuyt’s workmanlike approach saw him slide the ball to Bellamy who exchanged a one-two with Glen Johnson before the Welshman scored a goal worth winning any match.

With the score at 2-2 in the night and 3-2 in favour of the L4 club, City could not find a way past the Liverpool resolute defence. By the time the referee blew the final whistle after four additional minutes, the Citizens had crashed out of their third Cup campaign after being knocked out in the Champions League, the FA cup and now the League Cup.

For the gritty Redmen, they booked a February 26 Cup final against Bellamy’s hometown club Cardiff City. It’s been 16years since the Kops visited the ‘home of English football’ when they lost to Manchester United in a league cup final in 1996, a game that was marred by the now infamous pre-match white suits worn by the likes of Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Jamie Redknapp.

Liverpool will be firm favourites to win the cup, their first major trophy since 2007.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Castrol Rankings - Oliech Better than Drogba, Mata, Berbatov

Kenya international Dennis Oliech is currently the 146th best player in the world according to the latest Castrol Edge Rankings. The Auxerre forward moved a massive 117 places amassing 667 points, same as Villareal forward Guissepe Rossi. The 26-year-old has been in imperious form for his club and has already rifled in seven goals in 17matches for the French outfit.

Oliech’s position places him above players like Chelsea and Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba, Manchester United trio Ashley Young, Patrice Evra and Dimitar Berbatov, as well as Spain international Juan Mata. Other players placed behind him are Man City hard-man Vincent Kompany, PSG’s Javier Pastore, Tottenham’s creative Luca Modric and Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder.

Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi continues to hold the number one position, with Mario Gomez, Karim Benzema and Robin Van Persie ranked second, third and fourth respectively. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor swapped places with the Portuguese taking fifth spot and the Togolese moving to sixth.

Bayern Munich duo Van Buyten (8) and Arjen Robben (10) were the biggest movers into the top 10. Van Buyten moved to position 8 from position 28 while the Dutchman moved from position 31 to close the top 10 at the expense of Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta.

The top 20 list is dominated by players from the Primera Liga who occupy half the numbers with the English Premier League having six, Bundesliga 3 and Serie A represented by Antonio Di Natale only.

Dennis Oliech’s fellow international MacDonald Mariga is placed at position 1447 having dropped 52 places from his previous position 1395. The two are the only Kenyan and East African players plying their trade in the top five European leagues. Mariga is on loan at Real Sociedad from Inter Milan while Oliech plays for AJ Auxerre.

The Castrol EDGE Rankings is based on the actual performance of every football player across Europe's top five leagues; Spanish La Liga, English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Italy Serie A and French Ligue 1.

The next update will be released on February 9, 2012. You can get and navigate through the full list of Castrol Rankings here.

Meanwhile Oliech has also been named AJ Auxerre player of the month of December. The Kenyan national football team captain garnered 67% of the votes with his closest challenger, Kamel Chafni garnering 12%. The poll was conducted on the club's official website.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Messi World’s Best

Lionel Messi has been named the world’s best player for 2011 for the third consecutive time. The mercurial Argentine beat off competition from fellow La Liga colleagues Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi Hernandez to the Fifa Ballon d’Or award.

The Rosario-born hitman received 47.88 per cent of the overall vote, Ronaldo was second with 21.6% and Messi’s teammate Xavi third with 9.23%.

The 24-year-old has become only the fourth player in history to win a hat-trick of the award joining Dutch duo Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten and legendary French attacking midfielder Michel Platini, the only other player to have managed three straight world player of the year wins.

Meanwhile Japanese captain for women’s football Homare Sawa was named Women’s World Player of the Year, ending Marta’s five-year reign. Ms Sawa, 33, captained the Japanese women's football team in their way to winning the women’s World Cup in July last year, beating the USA in the finals. Marta finished second ahead of Abby Wambach from the USA.

Messi’s coach at Barcelona Pep Guardiola was named Men’s Coach of the year ahead of Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Fergusson, who received FIFA’s presidential award for his contribution to football. Japan’s Norio Sasaki won the coach of the year award for women’s football.

The annual gala event in Zurich also saw Neymar being awarded the Puskas Award for goal of the year, thanks to his jaw dropping solo goal against Flamengo. Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick goal against Manchester City and Messi’s goal against Arsenal in the second round Champions League encounter also got the nod.

All the three Ballon d’Or finalists made it to the FIFA/FIFPro WORLD XI which was entirely made of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United players.

Goalkeeper (Iker Casillas); defence (Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nemanja Vidic); midfielders (Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso); forwards (Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney)

And That's thesteifmastertake!!