A look back at the action in the Barclays Premier League.
Chris Ryan: Arsenal benefited from a truly based Artur Boruc goalkeeping error and beat your annoying soccer fan friend's favorite team, Southampton, 2-0. The Gunners had the kind of luck opposing teams typically have had against them in seasons past. While Boruc's Cruyff-esque Almunia-esque moment was the highlight …
In case you were out getting a terrifying vote of confidence from an eccentric Russian oligarch, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
A rough day for the Manning family saw the Dallas Cowboys all but eliminate the Giants' scant playoff hopes with a 24-21 win at the Meadowlands. "The bad news is, we're probably headed home in December," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said after the game as he stroked his weird red mustache. "The good news is, Cooper said I can finally go to Space Camp this offseason. So it's all good news, because Space Camp is gonna be so worth it!"
A punt misplayed by Denver's Tony Carter in overtime proved to be the difference, as the New England Patriots beat the Denver Broncos, 34-31, in an instant classic. "At least I'm not that guy. At least I'm not Tony Carter," said world's saddest man Gary Pittson while watching the game's highlights from a motel room in West Memphis, Arkansas. The Ultimate Clarity: A Life-Changing Life System information session he had attended at the Memphis Airport Marriott had been a bit of a bust, if Pittson was being honest with himself. Sure, the day's speaker, former Denver Broncos offensive lineman Tony Jones, was possessed of Ultimate Clarity, but he couldn't see how the principles of confidence and serenity that Jones was espousing could apply to his life. Jones was a millionaire, and he was famous, and he was a Super Bowl champion. Pittson was a nobody. Also, the session was expensive, so much so that after paying for his flight and the fees and the books, Pittson certainly couldn't afford to stay at the Marriott, but being so far away made it hard to participate in the more social aspects of the information session. Pittson shook his head, looked back up at his TV, and took a deep breath as the highlight repeated itself. "At least I'm not that guy," Pittson said to no one. "At least I'm not Tony Carter."
A look back at the weekend's Premier League action.
Goal of the Year
Chris Ryan: This was a hymn to football. I tried to do that little hop step that Jack Wilshere does in the very beginning of this goal in my living room and I broke a vase. It's OK, I have hundreds of vases. Anyway, on Saturday, when this happened, our own Mike Goodman said this:
Chris Ryan: We're going to look back on this time, people. We're going to look back and remember, "That was the time dozens of British football pundits and announcers bravely tried to pronounce Adnan Januzaj's name while screaming. They were the best of us."
Ryan O'Hanlon: Brad Guzan has more assists than any American in the English Premier League. Brad Guzan has more assists than Gareth Bale. Brad Guzan is the American Messi.
That Manchester City was undone this past weekend by a long punt from a prematurely bald goalkeeper seems weirdly fitting. It was a fluke! Or, at least, it wasn’t a real play: The ball bypassed City’s entire team, everything they spent all that money on. The other two goals were similarly not real, too. Villa’s first equalizer came from a blown offside call, and the second came from a once-in-a-lifetime brick of a free kick off the foot of a guy who’d never scored a goal outside the Netherlands. How do you lose a game in which you could’ve scored five goals in the first half? Just like that.
In case you were busy finding out what really happened when your cousin broke your grandmother's collection of valuable plates, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha became the third pitcher to lose a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning this season, but still collected a crucial win as St. Louis beat the Washington Nationals, 2-0. A disappointed yet upbeat Wacha addressed the media after the game, saying, "The most important thing is that we won; the no-hitter was secondary. Now I'll take questions from anyone who isn't Fozzie Bear." But when the assembled media began to yell his name, Wacha stormed off the podium, yelling, "Stop following me around, you stupid puppet bear! You're ruining my life!"
The Yankees found themselves short on bobbleheads for Mariano Rivera Bobblehead Night, causing a commotion outside of Yankee Stadium while inside the stadium the team was short on power, losing 7-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays. "You can't have him, you can't," a wild-eyed Yankees general manager Brian Cashman yelled as he sat atop a stack of boxes of Rivera bobbleheads, armed with a shotgun and a bottle marked with three X's. When told by team president Randy Levine that he had to get off the boxes to allow the fans to have them, Cashman threw his bottle at Levine and yelled back, "Let's ask Mo. Do you want to go to the fans?" Cashman then pulled out one of the bobbleheads and tapped its brim. A heartbroken Cashman looked at the small nodding Rivera in his hands with wild eyes and said, "I thought you'd never do this to me. If I can't have you, no one can!" before firing his shotgun wildly into the stack of boxes below him.
Chris Ryan: If I were playing with Mesut Ozil, I'd be worried. The new Arsenal midfielder, who joined the Gunners from Real Madrid for a club-record £44 million transfer fee, made his debut on Saturday against Sunderland, despite being a little under the weather. Ozil played like Ozil, which is to say you wouldn't notice him out there for about six or seven minutes and then ...
Soccer is a world of haves and have-nots. The richest teams in the world, by and large, are also the most successful. For the Real Madrids, Manchester Citys, and Chelseas, the summer transfer window has become a time for almost ritualistic restocking of talent, whether the team needs it or not. For the rest of the world, talented players are living on borrowed time. There are only so many years before the big boys with deep pockets come calling.
Champions League football is perhaps the clearest demarcation between haves and have-nots in the world of European soccer. The most idealistic among us might say it’s because players want the opportunity to test themselves in the best club competition in the world. From a slightly more cynical perspective, it’s worth noting that Champions League football comes with a significant financial reward for the clubs that qualify, generally allowing them to pay higher salaries. Either way, life for a team with a superstar and without Champions League football (and sometimes, as Arsenal fans well know, even with it) frequently takes on the feel of Damocles at the dinner table. It’s only a matter of time.
A look at this past weekend's Premier League action, with a focus on the two huge matches from Sunday.
Manchester United’s Lack of Punch
Goodman: The handy thing about early goals is that they clarify a team’s intentions. Not scoring a goal in a cagey 0-0 draw at home against Chelsea is one thing; not scoring on the road against Liverpool after conceding a goal in the fourth minute is a different matter. In the first instance, at least part of United’s inability to score was attributable to a choice to play conservatively, but after conceding a goal in the fourth minute against Liverpool, that reason doesn’t hold. Plainly and simply, United had to score, and they couldn’t.
In case you were busy laboring like a laborer, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
College football's opening weekend is in the books, and the marquee matchup went to Clemson as the Tigers protected their home field in a 38-35 win over Georgia. The win was Clemson's second consecutive over a top-10 SEC opponent, which, unbeknownst to the school, triggered the little known Assimilation Clause in the NCAA bylaws, meaning that the ACC school will be forced to join the SEC unless head coach Dabo Swinney can win a staring contest with Alabama head coach Nick Saban or a pig feet–eating contest with LSU coach Les Miles.
With quarterback Johnny Manziel suspended for the first half, it was surprisingly Texas A&M's defense that struggled early against Rice, before the Aggies pulled away late in a 52-31 win. Manziel again found himself at the center of attention after throwing three touchdowns, but also being penalized for taunting, and using gestures that suggested he wants monetary compensation for his play. Now you know that we here at About Last Night are all about debate, and no one is more worthy of some debate time than Johnny Manziel. Now I think it's clear that Manziel has finally gone too far. An athlete making a gesture related to signing autographs? Making a gesture suggesting he wants to be paid for playing well? What world are we living in? Backwardtopia? Oh, we are? Well, I'm sorry I'm not a resident of the capital of Backwardtopia, Thugopolis (population: Football, Johnny), but I want my athletes in contact sports to actively refuse monetary compensation and autograph opportunities at every turn, until they have been out of Thugopolis High School (mascot: The Fighting Manziels) for exactly three years, at which point I want them to do the exact opposite. What is confusing about that? I'm sorry I'm not the county commissioner of the Mefirstland Prefecture, but our institutions must not fall in the face of such shenanigans.
In case you were busy reconfronting traumatic memories related to seeing the movie Daredevil in theaters, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Los Angeles starter Clayton Kershaw's phenomenal season continued in Miami, as he threw eight scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.72 in the Dodgers' 6-0 win over the Marlins. Of course, after the game Kershaw referred to the start as "terrible for the first couple of innings. I didn't have command," as his campaign to make everyone who is not Clayton Kershaw feel bad about themselves (The ME-WIN-F-BATs campaign) continued to gather steam.
Suspended Brewers slugger Ryan Braun published a lengthy apology in which he confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs during his 2011 MVP season. But after all the lies, how can we really be expected to believe this confession? Is there anything more suspicious than a man who said he is innocent of a crime suddenly reversing course and admitting his guilt? What does Ryan Braun really have to hide? Perhaps his innocence? Maybe? Eh? Ehhhhhhh? No? No? I'm hearing no. OK, moving on
Last year around this time it was a foregone conclusion that American attacking midfielder Clint Dempsey would join five-time European champion Liverpool FC, pairing with Luis Suarez in a revamped attack, as the American-owned Reds would attempt to regain their traditional hold on one of England's places in the UEFA Champions League. That move fell through, with Liverpool's owners unwilling to meet Fulham's valuation for Dempsey, who moved instead to Tottenham Hotspur.
There’s something timeless about the stories surrounding Gareth Bale’s rumored transfer to Real Madrid. It’s not only the fact that Madrid seemingly does this every year, but that this is now the third summer in a row that has seen long drawn-out negotiation where Madrid comes hard for a Tottenham Hotspur star. First it was the two-yearlong saga of Luka Modric, which ultimately ended up in a $50 million transfer fee. But that, as it turns out, was only prologue to this transfer window’s negotiations. The most recent bid from Real Madrid is rumored to be north of $120 million, higher than the world-record fee Madrid splashed out for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009. All of which raises two questions: Exactly how good is Bale, and exactly how good does any player have to be to justify the huge amounts of money being tossed around?
This weekend I had one of those brief feelings of mid-Atlantic rootlessness that I sometimes get when the footballing world of my first three decades and the soccer world of the past 10 years intersect from their usually parallel universes. This time it was caused by the transfer of Jozy Altidore to Sunderland, which was greeted with mildly underwhelmed bemusement on both sides of the Atlantic, though for different sets of reasons, expectations, and histories, and with the usual divisions caused by a common language.
As someone with some knowledge of both camps, and who speaks a rudimentary version of both dialects, let me attempt to mediate:
In case you were busy watching The Great Gatsby in 3-D as an ill-advised cram session for your 11th-grade English final, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Miami Heat rebounded from a disappointing Game 1 defeat by pasting the Chicago Bulls, 115-78, to even up their second-round series. After a pair of ejections, the Bulls found themselves playing without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson, meaning they had to play a mostly reserve lineup of B.J. Armstrong, Jud Buechler, Toni Kukoc, Bill Wennington and Luc Longley. Despite the influx of forgotten veterans, the oldest player on the court remained Heat reserve Juwan Howard, who was inactive with "being tired, man; real, real tired."
Klay Thompson had 34 points and 14 rebounds as the Golden State Warriors held off the San Antonio Spurs, 100-91. Midway through Thompson's explosive first half, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was seen staring at the Warriors' wing, mumbling, "decent athleticism, floor-stretching 3-point shooting, on a rookie contract … how do I not possess him?" Popovich then wiped off the small amount of drool that had collected at the corner of his mouth, snapped at Spurs guard Danny Green for being a "lollygagger," before making a mental note to himself to take the title of "general manager" back from R.C. Buford after the game.