Stoke City’s season so far has been dogged with a chronic lack of goals. Those who felt a stroke of good fortune was required have been granted their wish. Asmir Begovic’s goal against Southampton was a gloriously crazy way to start any game! To take the lead after a matter of seconds, to a goal so bizarre was the kind of good fortune any team experiences once a decade at the most! Initially Southampton seemed unsettled. We pressed forward and looked capable of adding to our lead. However, when Ryan Shawcross squandered a great chance of adding a second it was ominous. Shawcross should have done better. It could be argued a defender shouldn’t be expected to finish clinically but, as a professional footballer, he should have made contact to get a shot on target. From that point Southampton grew in confidence and their equaliser on the stroke of half time wasn’t a shock. The second half consisted of both teams trying to carve out an opening with neither creating enough to win the game. While we can have no complaints about the result it’s frustrating to have failed to win another home game. It was particularly disheartening to gain only a draw from a game in which we had such a marvellous, albeit outlandish, start. It’s a simple request, but soon, as soon as possible, we need to start winning games of football.
Mark Schwarzer’s retirement from international football came as a surprise. At the age of 41 he has 109 international caps…. an Australian record. Having experienced two World Cup campaigns with the national team there seemed every possibility he’d again play on the biggest stage next year in Brazil. Australia will miss his presence stature and experience. Schwarzer himself might have made a mistake when he still has a World Cup left in him. In June he may come to rue this decision.
Joe Hart in another keeper in the news. Did Hart’s omission from Manchester City’s starting line up really merit the media attention it generated? His form has been erratic for months. Manuel Pellegrini’s decision was relatively straight forward. Costel Pantilimon performed steadily against Newcastle in midweek so keeping him in the team was a sensible decision in the best interests of the team and the club as a whole…. including Hart himself. Off form he can use the time away to rest, recuperate and return to his best. The press have exaggerated the importance of this.
Roma’s perfect start to the season finally reached it’s conclusion when they drew 1-1 at Torino. Winning the first ten games of any season is impressive for anyone. The odd thing is after such a dominant start the leaders find themselves only three points ahead of second place Napoli who, worryingly for Roma, are only ahead of Juventus on goal difference. Manager Rudi Garcia has made a staggering start to his reign in Rome, he now needs to ensure his players can maintain their brilliant start and remember they are still on top and the team to beat. Also, at the start of the season they wouldn’t have turned down the chance to be three points clear after eleven games!
Brisbane Roar’s 3-0 victory over Melbourne Heart was the archetypal game of two halves. At half time nobody watching could have guessed the second half would be something of a stroll for Brisbane. In the first period Heart wasted several great opportunities to take the lead and at half time there was a feeling they may have blown their chance. To see the hosts effortlessly glide to victory in the second half was a huge surprise! After the game it was disappointing to get chatting to several football fans who rarely attend A-League matches because they consider the quality of football on offer to be poor. Of all the reasons not to go to matches the perceived low quality of play is lame. Not least because the A-League is improving. It isn’t, and has never claimed to be, a rival to the European Champions League. It does however have some decent matches and holds it’s own as a national competition. To dismiss an entire league on the basis of poor quality is to suggest the only football worth spending time on is the absolute pinnacle. Why watch Brentford when they aren’t as good as Chelsea? Why watch Piacenza when you can watch Milan? For that matter, only Bayern Munich Barcelona and Real Madrid would attract crowds at all. Is this a healthy scenario?
Sepp Blatter has pledged to seek explanations from Qatari authorities regarding the continuing controversy surrounding the 2022 World Cup. His posturing and talk may be an attempt to recover some integrity. If his organisation is to regain any credibility at all he needs to assert governance and strip Qatar of hosting rights and re-open the bidding process….. before resigning.