Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

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Monday, April 9, 2012

This Week in the EPL...

Arteta celebrates his goal
against Manchester  City

Manchester City’s race for the title hit a road bump at Arsenal thanks to a late goal from Mikel Arteta. Hated rivals Manchester United capitalized on their chances at home against Queens Park Rangers and are now sitting high at the top of the table eight points clear of their neighbors. Tottenham lost their third place spot to their North London rivals after Arsenal’s victory and Chelsea and Newcastle continue to close down on the top four, still in the running for Champions League football next season. The relegation battle at the other end of the table also continues. Wolves remain at the bottom as they fell to Stoke and Wigan and Blackburn Rovers occupy the other three red zone spots. QPR and Bolton are safe for now, but only a point and goal difference separate the sides in the 16th through 19th place positions.

Friday April 6th, 2012
Swansea City 0-2 Newcastle United: The Welsh side were looking for a win to regain their higher league poisoning after some iffy performances recently. Meanwhile Newcastle are on a quest for Champions League football. They are level on points with Chelsea, who sit right above them in 5th place and are chasing Arsenal in 4th place who have only two more points than the North England side.
Early on Swansea had a good look at goal, but the effort went wide. Instead, they were the ones to concede early. It was his eighth goal in eight games as Newcastle newcomer Cisse opened the scoring against Swansea City in the 4th minute of the match. A calm collection of the assist and a smooth finish from the Senegalese striker put Newcastle up 1-0 as they battled for a shot at a Champions League spot in the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. Swansea’s impressive portion of the possession was noticed as they dominated the match after conceding, making multiple attempts on goal and hardly turning the ball over to the visiting side. Despite the strong showing and possessive performance, the score was 1-0 to Newcastle at the half.
Dire and Sigurdsson were the first to get down to business in the opening minute of the second half, coming agonizingly close to putting their side on the score line. They were able to force a corner from the Newcastle defense but failed to convert it to a goal. Swansea were quicker to press the Newcastle goal but the visitors were able to deal with the possessive and quick-passing play of the Welsh side. Swansea were unable to find a breakthrough despite holding the ball in Newcastle’s half for a good portion of the match. Cisse was sure to get his name on the score sheet again in the 68th minute and it was done with even more finesse and flair as the first goal. With a cheeky through ball from the midfielder, Cisse collected it and executed an even cheekier dipping chip over the head of Vrom and into the back corner.
In spite of their impressive 68% of possession, Swansea were unable to find the back of the net. Newcastle were far from dominant but the clinical finishing of Papiss Cisse was worthy of the three points they took away from the fixture. Newcastle are still very much in the running for a spot in Champions League football sitting just three points below Tottenham. Swansea are one point away from the 40 point safety zone but are safely separated from the relegation zone.  
Saturday April 7th, 2012
Sunderland 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Spurs haven’t been convincingly consistent lately and seem to be struggling from “Liverpool Syndrome”: failing to produce valuable points against teams that they are favored to defeat. Sunderland on the other hand were unable to capitalize on a draw against Manchester City and also fell victim to sloppy playing.
It was a frustrating match for Tottenham and Sunderland fans alike at the Stadium of Light. Both sides came agonizingly close to chances on goal but heroic antics from both keepers as well as poor finishing techniques kept the ball out of the back of both nets. Tottenham were the dominant side, holding an impressive 71% of possession over the home side but Sunderland forced eleven corners from the visitors and had nine shots on target.
The second half of the match was subject to some of the worse turnover statistics in the history of football with both sides barely managing to put together two passes before sloppily losing the ball. Redknapp’s triple attacking substitution of Lennon, Saha and Defoe were still unsuccessful in finding the back of the net and Nicholas Bendtner was unable to follow up on a fantastic performance against Manchester City last weekend.
In the end, it was a stalemate and Tottenham went home with just a point. Tottenham are still in the final Champions League spot, but the two point drop was not helpful to their push for the top four finish. They were surpassed by North London rivals Arsenal but are still three points above Chelsea. Sunderland are just a point behind Liverpool in 9th place. Although European football is an unrealistic goal, they can still hope for a finish as high as 7th place at the end of this season.
Bolton Wanderers 0-3 Fulham: Bolton are struggling to get the points that will keep them afloat in the Barclays Premier League next season. Owen Coyle’s men have rallied after the FA Cup incident with midfielder Fabrice Muamba, but their three wins in four games turned to two losses in five games after they dropped points at home against Fulham.
Bolton were on the attack, knowing that although they are out of the relegation zone, every point and goal counts. Petrov had earned his side a corner kick by the second minute, but Bolton were unable to convert it and Fulham were in possession. The visitors slowed play down early on and began their dominance, passing the ball around and not really threatening the goal until the fifth minute when Bogdan was forced to come off his line and make a save. In the 29th minute, American Clint Dempsey scored the opener off of a free kick after Diarra was brought down by N’Gog. He struck his 20th goal of the campaign in style with a fantastic lofty free kick over the hands of Bogdan and placed perfectly in the top corner. Fulham continued to dominate and Dempsey’s second goal of the match came from a brilliant header from an equally brilliant cross in the last minute of regulation time in the first half. Fulham headed into the locker rooms for the break with a 2-0 lead.
Chris Eagles had a chance at goal when he tried to imitate Dempsey’s first half goal but his effort went wide of the net. Fulham were soon back in position and the second half began to shape up much like the first half had with Fulham possessing. Bolton were a little more ambitious as they pushed towards goal than they had been at the close of the first half, but they were unable to find the back of the net for the remainder of the half. Bolton played hard and managed to keep the Fulham attack at bay until the 80th  minute when Diarra put the icing on the cake for Fulham and the nail in the coffin for Bolton with a great effort to get on the end of the cross from Risse.
At the end of the day, Fulham were clearly the better team. Bolton had their chances but they were dominated by the visiting side. Fulham are sitting comfortably in 10th place level on points with Sunderland and just two points away from the 7th place finishing spot. Bolton are a point clear of the relegation zone, but if it came down to goal difference, the three goals were a hefty blow to their hopes of staying up for another season of Premier League football.
Chelsea 2-1 Wigan Athletic: Chelsea’s home fans were able to celebrate their side marching on to the semi finals at midweek and, despite the tight score line and a less than convincing performance, were able to celebrate another win for the London side. Yet another three points confirms that Di Matteo has successfully revived Chelsea after they suffered from a losing streak and poor form under Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas.
The first half opened slowly with the home side controlling the pace of the game and working the ball around the pitch comfortably. Wigan were the first to threaten the goal with former Chelsea man Di Santon forcing a corner from his youth club. Maloney was able to put the ball back into the box after the corner was played short but it was snuffed out by the Chelsea defense. As the half progressed, Chelsea began to show that they were the dominant side, forcing much more action from the Wigan defense than they did in the opening minutes of the match. Wigan were good at holding possession once they maintained it though and also saw some good looks at goal themselves. At the halftime break, the score was 0-0 with neither team managing to find the back of the net.
At the start of the second half, Wigan were again the first to threaten the Chelsea net but the defense managed to keep them at bay in the opening minutes. Chelsea again took some time to find a rhythm and the visitors were able to get some chances on goal before the London side made any real threats on goal. Drogba and Sturridge both had their fair share of chances, but the first goal of the match would come from Chelsea defender Ivanovic in the 61st minute. Maloney’s late challenge on the Russian defender earned him a yellow card and earned Chelsea a free kick from a dangerous angle. Spanish U21 international Juan Mata took the original kick before Raul Meireles put the ball back in to a questionably offside Ivanovic. After consulting with his assistant, the goal was allowed by the center referee but video review showed that the defender was easily a yard offside. No sooner had he put the ball in the back of the net for his side, Ivanovic had some defensive heroics in front of his own goal as he cleared a shot from Di Santon away from the front of the open net. Wigan managed to rally after the wrongly allowed goal. A fantastic strike from substitute Diame put the visitors level with Chelsea; the 1-1 score line reflecting the nearly equal performances from both sides. It looked as though the hopes of a top four finish and three points from the fixture were fading by the end of regulation time, but Juan Mata would be the hero for his side when he scored the winner in dramatic style after putting Fernando Torre’s post rattling volley into the back of the net.
Wigan came disappointingly close to a good result, even a win, at Stamford Bridge but Chelsea were too determined to keep their hopes of Champions League football in the 2012/2013 campaign alive. In the end Chelsea were the victors and remain in fifth place by just two points as Newcastle and Liverpool close in and Tottenham and Arsenal remain in the last two Champions League spots. Wigan sit barely inside the relegation zone. Despite a great performance against a big team, they were not able to get the result they needed. Tied with Blackburn with 28 points, they sit in 19th place, separated from the safety zone only by goal difference.
Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa: Again, Liverpool found themselves in a frustrating situation as they outplayed their visitors from Birmingham. Suarez and Kyut came agonizingly close to scoring the goal that would have won the Scousers the full three points but instead they would have to settle for just one point and remain in 8th place just one spot behind neighborhood rivals Everton.
The 1-1 score line certainly reflected the match. Liverpool were arguably the better team, but their performance was not convincing. Brazilian goalkeeper Doni was in the Liverpool lineup for his competitive debut after Pepe Reina saw red last week against Newcastle. Andy Carroll lost his starting spot after his poor performance against his former side. Agbonlahor and Heskey were quick to pick apart the Liverpool defense, forcing a corner kick early on in the 5th minute and the first real attack of the match. The home side was able to fend off the attempt and was quick to get a shot off at the other end. Liverpool fans believed that Dirk Kuyt’s shot crossed the line when it was stopped by Shay Given, but the referee awarded a corner kick after the ball went out of play. Video replayed showed that the ball did indeed cross the line, but no goal was awarded. Villa were on the attack again but the ball was turned over to Liverpool and the two sides continued to battle evenly until the 10th minute when Herd scored the opener for the visitors. Herd’s fantastic strike came after Doni was unable to collect the cross and instead deflected it back out to Bannan, who was prowling on the edge of the box for Villa. The visitors carried the 1-0 lead up to the half time break despite much controversy including a questionable missed call on a handball by the Aston Villa defense. Liverpool really should have been up by at least two goals to one by the half, but instead they found themselves in need of at least one if they were to draw at least a point from the match.
Liverpool rallied after the halftime break but seemed unable to score to save their lives. The ball came off of the bar and worked its way around Aston Villa’s back third of the field but seemingly refused to go into the back of the net. At the end of the day Liverpool held 65% of possession throughout the match but Aston Villa was able to catch them sleeping on the counter attack, making their fair share of opportunities but unable to capitalize on the 1-0 lead. Captain Steven Gerrard, veteran defender Danny Agger and leading goal scorer Luiz Suarez were able to connect to put Liverpool level. Suarez followed up on Agger’s saved free header, putting Liverpool level 1-1 with ten minutes of regular play left.
The home side pressed Aton Villa hard for the remaining minutes of the match, coming painfully close to scoring the winner, but the Reds were unable to produce the goal and the game finished out in a draw. Liverpool were unable to overtake city rivals Everton, who sit just one point above them in 7th place. Aston Villa are potentially in the danger zone in 15th place but consistent performances should ensure their spot in the Barclays Premier League next season.
Norwich City 2-2 Everton: After conceding early at Fulham last week, Norwich were sure to keep the ball out of the back of their own net early on. Everton have passed city rivals Liverpool on the Barclay’s Premier League table and are now able to look towards European football as they close in on Newcastle United. Although over ten points separate them from the sixth place spot, crazier things have happened.
Former Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson was the first to have a look at goal but his powerful shot went wide. Everton continued to press at the Norwich goal, forcing some brilliant defending, but they were unable to convert their chances to goals early on. The breakthrough came in the 21st minute after Everton defender Phil Jagielka found Jelavic in the box and put the ball in the back of the net. Tim Cahill nearly found the back of the net again when he faced a nearly open goal after the ball came off of the crossbar, but his sliding effort went straight into the hands of the keeper. Everton were soon caught on the defense as Norwich pressed forward, looking for a response to conceding the first goal of the match. In the 39th minute, the home side was able to go level with a fantastic first goal for Norwich City from Howson. At halftime the score was 1-1 with both sides creating plenty of good chances.
At the start of the second half at Carrow Road, the match remained very tight. At the end of the day Everton had slightly more possession, but both teams were creating plenty of good chances at a shot on goal. Jelavic would be the hero again for Everton has he put his side in the lead in the 60th minute with a cool finish to the far post. Norwich were unhappy with the goal being allowed, thinking that they deserved a free kick, but the goal stood and Norwich were in need of a goal. Everton continued to press, but it was still a very evenly matched game with both sides still getting forward and pressing towards the goal. In the 76th minute, Holt produced the crucial goal for his side. Grant Holt had been prowling around inside the box as Everton struggled to handle some good movement and foot skills from Wildbraham.
For the remainder of the match, the two sides managed to hold each other off and keep the score line at a 2-2 draw despite some close chances for the home side and their guests. With the point, Everton were able to remain in 7th place with 44 points. Norwich were able to reach the crucial 40 point mark which means that they will be participating in the Barclay’s Premier League next season and are safely out of reach of the hands of relegation.
West Bromwich Albion 3-0 Blackburn Rovers: Blackburn arrived at the Hawthorns in need of at least a point as they find themselves caught up in the tight relegation battle at the bottom of the table. They currently sit just inside the red zone with only a point and goal difference separating them from safety. Albion are just a point away from their 40 point marker and are safe of the relegation zone and chasing higher league positioning.
An unfortunate own goal from Olsson early on in the first half got the match off to the wrong start for a visiting side who are looking to escape the relegation zone. By the 8th minute, West Bromwich Albion were in the lead and Blackburn were in desperate need of a goal and at least a point from the fixture. They nearly managed to do so but Albion’s goalie Ben Foster made some fantastic back-to-back saves to deny the visitors.Blackburn were able to hold off the Albion for the remainder of the first half and the halftime score remained 1-0 to the home side.
In the second half, the visitors conceded two. The first one came in the 69th minute from Fortune off of an assist by Brunt. Blackburn had an even deeper hole to dig themselves out of, but at the end of the day they were outplayed by West Bromwich Albion and conceded another goal in the 85th minute. Substitute Anthony Modeste saw red in the 90th minute after being on the pitch for approximately ten minutes. Despite dominating the match overall in terms of possession, the visitors only had four corner kicks to the eight of West Brom and five shots on target to the seven of the home side.
Blackburn were unable to produce the win they desperately needed while West Brom were happy to take all three points from the fixture. The Albion sit in 13th place level on points with Swansea City and ahead only by goal difference. Blackburn are level on points with Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic, who sit on either side of them in the table in 17th and 18th place. Blackburn will need to capitalize on their midweek fixture against Liverpool if they want to have any hopes of staying up next season.
Stoke City 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers: Wolves’ woes continue as they drop yet another three points at Stoke City and sit at the rock bottom spot in the Barclay’s Premier League table a daunting six points behind the 19th and 20th place teams. Stoke fell to Wigan Athletic last weekend after a great performance and stunning goal for Peter Crouch the week before against Manchester City.
Wolves were the first ones to get onto the score sheet when Knightly and Edwards connected to get Knightly’s third goal this season. Unfortunately for the visitors, their Swiss cheese defense crumbled and the home side were level by the 37th minute after Huth was able to find the back of the net with the help of Shawcross. At half time the teams were level 1-1.
The statistics speak in favor of Wolves, the score line says otherwise. Wolverhampton held 55% of the overall possession and almost an equal number of shots on target to the home side. They also earned themselves eight corners overall but failed to convert any of them to goals. In the 61st minute, Peter Crouch put the nail in the coffin for Wolves with some help from Jermaine Pennant and Stoke were able to claim all three points while Wolves went home empty handed and remain at the bottom of the table with only 22 points.
Sunday April 8, 2012
Manchester United 2-0 QPR: Manchester United are sitting high at the top of the table now while Manchester City are losing their grip on the top spot. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side is proving that stamina and experience are what wins the English Premier League marathon. Queens Park Rangers were hoping to capitalize on the poor results of their relegation rivals on Saturday but Manchester United were not about to drop precious points to secure them success at the other end of the table.
Things did not get off to a good start to for the visiting side. Manchester United began their domination early in the game. By the time Wayne Rooney was able to slam home a penalty kick in the 15th minute, his team had already spent the majority of their time in the final third of QPR’s half and Kenny had already made some quality saves. In the 13th minute, Derry was caught on the wrong side of Ashley Young and conceded a controversial penalty in addition to being sent off. It was an unfair double whammy for the visitors, as Young was easily a yard offsides and left a trailing foot to get the call. Rooney slammed the penalty home despite Kenny guessing the correct side and the home side had the lead. They were still on the attack but Kenny and his defense was able to deny United another goal in the first half and the score line was 1-0 after the first 45 minutes.
United were off and running in the opening minutes of the second half, working their way quickly up to the QPR goal but were broken up by the visitor’s defense. Queens Park Rangers certainly didn’t look like a team that was down a man. To their credit, they were able to keep the score line to 1-0 until the 68th minute when Manchester United legend Paul Scholes scored with his famous hammer shot. QPR failed to clear a corner kick and with some help from Rafael, the ball fell right to Scholes’ feet and he was able to fire the shot past Kenny.
The match finished out 2-0, but Queens Park Rangers had a strong performance despite playing for 75 minutes without their captain. Manchester United took all three points and are now at the top of the table by eight points. Queens Park Rangers escaped the relegation zone by a goal difference and currently sit in 17th place with 28 points.
Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City: City failed to close the growing gap between themselves and city rivals Manchester United at the top of the table. Meanwhile Arsenal were able to move up to third place over their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur after they only managed a draw at Sunderland. A dramatic late goal from Arteta made the difference for Arsenal as Manchester City start to lose their grip on the title.
Arsenal were on the attack right away, forcing a hard tackle from Toure. He was punished with a yellow card. Multiple fouls and offside calls broke up play in the early minutes of the match, but each team was able to find enough of a rhythm to threaten the other’s goal. Arsenal created more chances than the visiting side, but Manchester City’s defense were able to break up the attacks and Joe Hart was able to stay on his line. Despite close chances from both sides, especially the Gunners, the halftime score was 0-0.
Again the home side were quick to push forward and played a high line of pressure in the opening minutes of the second half. Thomas Vermaelen dealt with an early effort on goal from Aguero but Manchester City were starting to find their rhythm. Arsenal were the dominant side though, holding 64% of the possession at the end of the day and shooting on target seven times to the two on-target efforts of the visitors. As the game went on, it looked as though neither side would be able to break through, but Mikel Arteta would be the hero for the London side, putting the ball in the back of the net in the 86th minute after a long period of box-to-box action. Arteta was quick to dispossess the Manchester City midfield and fire home a curling shot past Joe Hart to give his side the late 1-0 lead. The controversial and entertaining Mario Balotelli saw red in the 90th minute after he collected his second yellow card of the game after a late foul on Sanga.
Balotelli now faces a lengthy ban after earning 22 yellow cards and 4 reds for his immature on-field antics. At the end of the day Arsenal kept the three points and Manchester City had to go home empty handed and watch their hated rivals get further and further out of reach at the top of the table. Arsenal are now two points above Tottenham in 3rd place with Champions League football in their future. Manchester City is sitting in 2nd place with 71 points while United are eight points clear of them in the number one spot.

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