Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

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Monday, April 30, 2012

It's Squeaky Bum Time!

The battle for survival is in full swing and now that the top spot in the league is very much in favor of Manchester City, the attention of the media, fans and players now turns to the relegation struggle. At the moment, with consistent results, Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa are in the safe zone. Villa occupy the 15th place spot and Wigan sit in 16th. Queens Park Rangers are barely in the safe zone after a hammering at the hands of Chelsea on Sunday and Bolton were only able to take a point from their fixture against Sunderland. Both relegation sides are level on 34 points but the Londoners have the better goal difference. Blackburn cling on for their lives but after a defeat to Tottenham, despite good performances against some of the better teams in the league, relegation seems inevitable.

Scores from Around the League:
Saturday April 28, 2012
Everton 4-0 Fulham
Stoke City 1-1 Arsenal
West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Aston Villa
Wigan Athletic 4-0 Newcastle United
Swansea City 4-4 Wolverhampton Wanderers: Wolves now face automatic relegation after their point deficit became insurmountable. They  trail the rest of the league by seven points and the safe spot by ten points, making it mathematically impossible for them to pull themselves from the depths of the Premier League table. Swansea have enjoyed a successful season in the top flight and are clear of the drop zone in 12th place.
Swansea were the dominant side in terms of possession, as usual, and in terms of attack. They were immediately pressing the Wolverhampton defense, which has a reputation now for easily breaking down and not functioning as a unit, allowing opposing players to easily sneak by them and get a shot off at goal. Often times Wolves are rescued by some heroics from Hennessey, who was out injured and replaced by de Vries.
The stand-in keeper had an unfortunate start to a rare game between the posts, conceding one of the quickest goals in EPL history. With just 45 seconds on the clock, Orlandi found the back of the net for Swansea. The stunned Wolves players could only put the ball back at the center line and try to start again, slowly digging themselves into a deeper hole than the one they were already in.
Four minutes later, Swansea added another goal. Sigurdsson, on loan to the Welsh side from Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, found Allen and he too was able to get his name on the score sheet before the five minute mark had passed.
Dyer added to the goal fest and confirmed Swansea’s dominance in the 15th minute. As de Vries picked the ball up out of the back of his net yet again, the surely thought he was in for a long night.
Fletcher snagged a quick goal at the other end in the 29th minute when there was a break in the first half possession from Swansea. He scored the first goal, and a vital one, of Wolves’ dramatic comeback. In the 31st minute, Graham responded with a goal for Swansea off of an assist from Dyer but his efforts were nearly leveled out when Jarvis made it 4-2 just two minutes later.
For the remainder of the half, the two teams battled it out in the midfield, still creating chances but not capitalizing on them like they had in the first twenty minutes of the half. The scoreline at halftime was 4-2, a refreshing amount of goals after the 0-0 and 1-1 draws that have been plaguing the league in “squeaky bum” time. Neither side had anything to lose, and the creativity flourished.
The second half was not as high scoring as the first, but the pace didn’t slow down. This time, Wolves took the reins and pushed up field collectively applying pressure on Swansea. The home side had trouble handling it and in the 54th minute, Wolves scored another one.
Now that they risked dropping points against the last-placed team, Swansea tried to take advantage of the less-than-perfect defensive line for the visitors but they found themselves tasting their own medicine. Wolves passed around them and although they created some turnovers, they were able to hold onto possession, finishing out the match with 53% of the possession in their favor.
Swansea began to buckle under the pressure and the quick passing and plays of their opponent. Unable to defend using possession like they are accustomed to, the Welsh side conceded the equalizing goal in the 69th minute to Jarvis.
At the end of the match, Swansea had eight total shots on target while Wolverhampton had nine. Wolves had six corners to the two for the home side, but they were unable to use them to their advantage, drawing 4-4 with the team from Swansea City.
Sunderland 2-2 Bolton Wanderers: Bolton traveled to face Sunderland in need of points and goals. Now that the only thing separating them from the safe spot is their goal difference, Owen Coyle’s men have never needed to score more. Sunderland, on the other hand, are safe from the relegation zone and all they were looking for from the fixture were maximum points to move up to a higher league position.
Bolton were the first with a real effort on goal, forcing a free kick from the Sunderland defense. The free kick from Chris Eagles went just wide. Bolton continued to dominate for the following minutes but the Sunderland defense held them off.
The Black Cats managed to defend until the 25th minute when Petrov sent a beautiful cross across the front of goal where Kevin Davies met the dropping ball with a hard volley past the Sunderland keeper. The desperately needed goal was celebrated by the visiting fans but Sunderland were hungry for their own goal as well.
Just ten minutes later in the 46th minute, Bendtner managed to slip through the Bolton defense, leaving their strong center backs in the dust as he blew past them to put the ball past Bogdan and put his side level.
Neither side were able to get the ball into the back of the net for the final ten minutes and 1-1 was the score going into the halftime break. Each side had managed to score but Bolton really could have done better after they dominated the opening quarter of an hour and created several good chances at goal.
Sunderland came out of the halftime break much stronger than they had in the opening minutes of the match. At the end of the day they claimed 54% of the possession, slightly more than the visitors. Bolton were on the defense for much of the second half as Sunderland pushed forward, conceding sixteen fouls in the match and seven corner kicks.
Sunderland managed to pull ahead and take the lead in the 55th minute after the restart when McClean put the ball into the back of the net but Bolton were able to rally as dropping further into the relegation zone loomed ahead of them. In the 70th minute, Kevin Davies was the hero for Bolton again when he and Ricketts connected to put the ball past Gordon and put his side level.
Bolton were able to go home with a much-needed point but they still sit in the drop zone. Good results for the remaining fixtures and a slip-up from Queens Park Rangers like the one on Sunday would be all that they need to see another season in the Premier League.
Sunday April 29, 2012
Chelsea 6-1 Queens Park Rangers: Chelsea slammed Queens Park Rangers’ survival hopes as they demolished them 6-1 at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are back in the top form that they are recognized for after a rough first half of their season and were not looking to drop any points against a lower-table side as they fight for a top four spot.
With just 46 seconds on the clock, Daniel Sturridge curled the ball into the back of the net, stunning the QPR defense and bringing the fans in Stamford Bridge back up on their feet before they had even settled in for the match.
Their second goal came from their captain John Terry in the 13th minute, a powerful header past Kenny in the QPR goal. The visitors looked to be in for a ninety minutes as it stood, but Fernando Torres added to their agony six minutes after Terry did, slotting the ball past Kenny to make the scoreline 3-0 on favor of the home side with just twenty minutes gone.
After an agonizing goal drought for the Spanish striker, Torres looks like he may be finding some consistency. Just five minutes after his first goal, he scored again in a similarly composed manner, putting the ball past Kenny into the far corner.
Torres gave Chelsea the 4-0 lead that would remain the same until halftime. Queens Park Rangers tried to rally and had some promising attacks but Cech made some fantastic saves to deny any goals for the visitors.
In the 2nd half, Chelsea were still just as dominant as they were in the previous 45. This time Kenny was prepared to keep the ball out of his goal early on, but Fernando Torres found a way through in the 64th minute to secure his first ever Chelsea hattrick and make the scoreline an embarrassing 5-0 in favor of the home side.
In the 80th minute, Malouda also added to Queens Park Rangers’ agony with a late goal past the exhausted defense. Cisse managed to get one goal for Queens Park Rangers to slightly lessen the impact to their goal difference and give their traveling fans something to cheer about, but the one goal in the 84th minute did nothing to the large deficit QPR faced and Chelsea exited the fixture with all three of the points.
Chelsea needed the boost if they wish to contend for a top four finish. Despite their loss to Wigan, Newcastle hold 5th place and Chelsea sit in 6th just one point below both 5th place Newcastle and 4th place Tottenham. The only thing keeping Queens Park Rangers out of the drop zone is goal difference. They are tied on points with Bolton and sit in 17th but any more slip ups at this point could cost them their Premier League football for next season.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Blackburn Rovers: Tottenham are very much involved in the battle for the top four finish. At the moment they are in the final Champions League spot but the only think keeping Newcastle at bay is their poor goal difference. Chelsea are also creeping up on their fellow Londoners. Blackburn are involved in the battle for relegation as they are only three points away from safety and another season in the EPL.
Rafael van der Vaart got his side on the scoreline in the 22nd minute after the match opened in favor of the home side with neither team really creating too many good chances on goal. The best chance of the opening ten minutes came from Sandro on the Spurs midfield, but his effort was denied by Robinson.
Blackburn also kept Tottenham’s backline occupied in the opening 20 minutes as they took advantage of openings on the counter attack and worked their way up the wings. They didn’t force too much action from Brad Friedel but the American keeper was on his line and ready to stop the crosses that came in from the Olsson twins on the Blackburn wings.
After a few minutes of dominant play from the home side, Bale’s effort from a narrow angle went off of the bar. Despite a goaline scramble, van der Vaart was able to slam the ball into the back of the net as Adebayor held off the Blackburn defenders. Tottenham scored the crucial first goal after some initial trouble controlling the pace of the game, but by the 22nd minute they had the 1-0 lead and were on their way to a victory.
At halftime, the 1-0 scoreline remained. Tottenham looked to be back in their old form of dominance, good passing and devastating through balls. Blackburn were not as successful in their efforts, only holding 38% of the total possession and not getting any of their shots on target.
The second 45 opened in favor of the home side as well. Tottenham’s defense, which has been shaky lately, had no problem dealing with the threats from the Blackburn attack while the Tottenham attack tormented the Blackburn defense, Robinson doing well to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
Tottenham found themselves under lots of pressure from the Blackburn side as they struggled to come back, but they were able to deal with it well, the defense stripping the Blackburn players of the ball and bringing it down field in a quick counter attack.
Despite the best efforts of Gareth Bale, Adebayor and van der Vaart, it wasn’t until the 75th minute that Tottenham found their second goal that secured them the three points to keep them in the top four. A splendid strike from Kyle Walker put them up 2-0 after he stepped up to take a free kick just outside the eighteen yard box. His strike had the perfect combination of power and placement and went screaming past the defenders and the hapless Robinson.
Tottenham continued to press towards goal, but they were unable to put another one past the Blackburn defense. Friedel had his fair share of saves at the other end and Kaboul was a busy defender, but in the end all three points went to the home side at White Heart Lane.

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