Stoke City’s hard earned 2-1 victory over Aston Villa was very welcome indeed. Stoke have now lost only once in eight games. Too many of those games have been draws so Saturday’s win gave us some points in the bank… with away games to come at Newcastle and Spurs those points were a much needed deposit! Mark Hughes’ introduction of Charlie Adam paid off almost immediately when he gave us the lead. While the build up to the goal looked simple and traditionally Stokesque it was actually a very well crafted goal. Adam received the headed flick from Crouch and the way he used his chest to steer the ball away from the defender and create his own space was good thinking and guile we rarely show in the opponents penalty box. Having battled so hard to gain the advantage we were aghast at how cheaply Villa were allowed to equalise. Erik Pieters must have been the most relieved man in Stoke-on-Trent when Peter Crouch slammed the winner in. A matter of seconds before his inexplicable error Pieters was involved in an incident on the touchline during which he squared up to an opponent. It could be he’d momentarily lost his concentration. The lesson to be learnt for all players is instead of willfully getting embroiled in unnecessary petty confrontations just concentrate on playing the game. It’s to Pieters’ credit he soon put his error behind him and was solid when we had to defend our lead late in the game. We are now halfway to the 40 points mark and are gradually improving. During most games we see small signs of improvement which, if not spectacular, is quietly satisfying. We all knew 2013/14 would be not revolution but evolution.
Brisbane Roar’s recent impressive form came to an abrupt end with the bleak 0-2 defeat at home to Newcastle Jets. Many Roar fans have been aware all season about fine results accompanied by patchy performances. There has been a feeling if a team with rigorous discipline faced Brisbane it could provide an upset… and so it proved. Mike Mulvey and his players now need to develop methods of breaking down well drilled defences and ways of breaking those defences down despite being outnumbered. It might not be an easy task but it is Mulvey’s job to work on these issues. Poor as Friday’s showing was from Brisbane there is no need for despondency. There’s no reason the top of the A-League can’t remain orange.
Manchester City’s recent victory over Bayern Munich was impressive. Coming back from two goals down and win any game is a substantial feat, to do so at the home of the European Champions is a huge achievement… even if both sides had already confirmed their place in the last 16. Their glory was tarnished somewhat when Pellegrini admitted he hadn’t done his maths and didn’t realise an extra goal would ensure his team finish top of the group. Every side in the tournament at this stage will cause problems but to prefer to face Bayer Leverkusen or Olympiacos over Barcelona is common sense. Manchester City could pay a heavy price for Pellegrini’s miscalculation. Sometimes the key is in the details.
Anne Williams tireless work for the Hillsborough justice campaign was honoured at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. Williams’ 15 years old son Kevin was killed in the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989. In September 2012, 23 years after the disaster, the verdicts were quashed. On 31 March 2014 a new inquiry will open. During the inquiry the 25th anniversary of the disaster will pass. For so many people the whole situation is one of the most heartbreaking tragic and unjust ordeals imaginable. The unflagging resolve of Anne Williams testament to the resilience of all those associated with the Hillsborough Justice campaign. Justice for the 96.
Sepp Blatter has gone to court to try and ban publication of a book in which he is the subject of satirical cartoons. Predictably, his legal action has served only to draw attention to it. Blatter’s lawyers have explained he “has a good reputation and if the cartoons were published he would never be able to repair the damage.” Blatter is seemingly oblivious to the clamour for change at the big Swiss ivory tower. One of the problems is he is taken seriously…. but, as a sport administrator, should the situation be as serious as it’s become? The lack of transparency and ongoing allegations of impropriety have led to an air of distrust across the planet. If his organisation is to regain any credibility at all he needs to assert governance and strip Qatar of hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup and re-open the bidding process….. before resigning.
The three nominees to win the Ballon d’Or have been announced. The winner will be either Franck Ribery Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. An axiom of greatness is the ability and poise to make the difference at crucial moments. With this in mind this years award surely has to go to Cristiano Ronaldo. When his Portugal team was under pressure to qualify for the World Cup he stood up, was counted, and demonstrated the magnitude of his brilliance by almost single handedly leading his team to Brazil. It was a performance which also emphasises why international football remains the clearest way for players to seal their place in history. Ronaldo was under pressure, out of his comfort zone and playing with players he rarely works with. On every level he delivered. If Ronaldo doesn’t win the award this time he could sue the voters.
Another player to benefit from the principle of moments was Inter’s Rodrigo Palacio. On Sunday the Milan derby had been an intense struggle. As the game rolled towards a 0-0 draw Palacio seized the moment and with a moment of opportunism secured his place in Milanese folklore with an exquisite backheel to seal three points. Watch it here, then watch it again and again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ru5wTIYW0Q
We received sad news at the weekend with the announcement ex BBC sports broadcaster David Coleman has died. It’s hard to comprehend now but there was a time when a football match televised live was a novelty. Only the very biggest games were shown live and for many years those games were played to a backdrop of David Coleman’s commentary. Coleman had the knack of making grand pronouncements at dramatic moments. My own favourite came when Liverpool took the lead in the 1974 FA Cup Final. “Goals pay the rent and Keegan does his shift” A gloriously poetic way to describe the moment! Marvellous memories from one of football’s greatest voices.