Poll: What is your Goal of the Season?

After writing the post about Cisse’s goal against Chelsea, I began thinking about what my goal of the season is and I’d love to hear your opinions so take a look at the videos as a refresher and vote in the poll below.

It’s Papiss World, We’re Just Living in It

Papiss Demba Cisse, Newcastle’s Senegalese forward is proving to be the signing of the season in the Premier League. Coming over from SC Freiburg in January, Cisse has scored 13 goals in 12 games for Newcastle and has helped them to an incredible season and within striking distance of Champions League play next year. He scored two brilliant goals against Chelsea as Newcastle won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge for the first since 1986 with the second a serious contender for goal of the year.

Please share your opinion in the poll above.

Manchester City Triumph

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“I love Mancini. He’s nearly as cool as me” -Manchester City supporter and Oasis singer Liam Gallagher

While yesterday’s Manchester Derby certainly wouldn’t be mistaken for a classic, I can’t help but feel obligated to comment on the match that was billed as the most important game in the 20-year history of the Premier League. With the 1-0 win, Manchester City put itself in the driver’s seat for its first title in over 40 years. And while the title is certainly not theirs yet, this result marks another chapter in a wild title race that neither of the Manchester clubs have truly grasped hold of.

Roberto Mancini, manager of Manchester City, deserves massive commendation for his ability to keep a cool head during the home stretch of the season. Constantly downplaying his team’s chances and heaping the pressure onto the red side of Manchester, Mancini engaged in mind games with United’s Sir Alex Ferguson who is generally not one to be reckoned with when it comes to a war of words as Rafa Benitez and Kevin Keegan can attest to.

With such a massive build-up, it was nearly impossible for the game to live up to everyone’s immense expectations and an unbiased spectator may have been disappointed in a match that produced so few chances.  This game was colossal with the BBC’s Martin Tyler estimating over a billion people watching while more cautious estimates placed the numbers between 450 and 700 million viewers worldwide. While the match itself wasn’t great, the atmosphere at the Etihad Stadium was unparalleled. City’s home form has been sublime and in their last 18 at home, Manchester City has won 17 and drawn only once. When the final whistle blew and City’s supporters proudly held up their blue and white scarves and belted out “Hey Jude,” you couldn’t help but be blown away with the environment.

City were outstanding though and United were rather poor as City’s resolute defending held them to zero shots on goal for the first time since United drew 0-0 with Arsenal in 2009. The back four were fabulous with Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta standing out especially. Zabaleta, known more for his defense, gave United fits with his overlapping runs as he and Samir Nasri worked down the right flank. Nasri was also excellent and he has hit quite a nice run of form after what is considered by most a disappointing first season since his transfer from Arsenal. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry were also very good, holding their lines well. David Silva was average and while Aguero did good things, none of the forwards involved really impressed much.

Manchester United on the other hand were really quite poor. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling struggled at the back with Smalling responsible for losing Kompany on his headed goal, which proved to be the winner. While its easy in hindsight to question Sir Alex Ferguson’s team selection, I was shocked he did not include Antonio Valencia who has been one of the best players in the Premier League since January, notching 13 assists, more than double anyone else in the league. Ji-Sung Park and Ryan Giggs were ineffectual, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick were unable to boss the midfield and Wayne Rooney was rather pedestrian.

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Contrasting emotions in Manchester

So while the quality of the match wasn’t outstanding, the consequences of it are huge. Manchester City now sit atop the table with only two games left, tied with United on points but with a superior goal differential. While the title race certainly isn’t over, City still have a very tricky game away to a resurgent Newcastle squad, they are most definitely the favorites to take home the trophy. So what does it mean? Are we witnessing a complete upheaval of the prevailing footballing hierarchy in England? The talks of Manchester United’s demise are overblown and when Sir Alex Ferguson is in charge, they can’t be counted out. With that being said, even the most ardent United supporter must admit that this team lacks a little magic of team’s past and that their spot in the league table could have something to do with the relative poor quality of the top teams in England. This is Chelsea’s worst season since before the Jose Mourinho era, Liverpool have been downright awful, Tottenham has been wildly consistent and Arsenal have been injury-ravaged and unpredictable. While this is true, you still need to win the games and Manchester United have done that this year. With that being said, the noisy neighbors are getting louder and while the talk of a complete upheaval is premature, we are certainly witnessing a shift in the paradigm towards the blue half of Manchester.

I’ve decided to save this blog for things I deem to be blog-worthy and the Chelsea-Barcelona match on Tuesday undoubtedly qualfiies as such. Legends are generally created retroactively but watching this match, you couldn’t help but feel like you were witnessing a legendary affair.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal my contempt towards Barcelona. I find them to be the hipster douches of world football. “Mes que un club” used to be a political statement, now it’s just further evidence of their snobbery and elitism. However good I think they are, they think they are much better. They believe their intricate style of possession and passing is watchable art. With that said, I fully acknowledge that they are a fantastic side, world champions and European champions which makes Chelsea’s feat even more impressive.

Like most, I gave Chelsea almost no chance in the tie. And for the first 43 minutes, everything went against Chelsea. A nearly impossible task rendered impossible. Within 10 minutes Gary Cahill is injured and replaced. On 35 minutes, Sergio Busquets put Barcelona ahead. In the 37th, John Terry gets sent off. In the 43rd Iniesta scores after Messi finds his finely-timed run. Barcelona is leading 2-0 and again order is restored. The question then wasn’t can Chelsea come back, it was how many more will Barcelona score.

Reduced to 10 men. Playing without both starting centre-backs. Trailing 2-0. Playing against the team lauded as the greatest in European club football history. Playing at the Camp Nou, a true mecca of world football, one of the world’s great sporting theatres in front of over 90,000 screaming Barcelona supporters. Chelsea were truly up against it. And then all of a sudden, a glimmer of hope. Frank Lampard’s through ball finds Ramires, moonlighting as a right back, who started his run in his own half and then brilliantly chipped Victor Valdes from 15 yards out. A true beauty of a goal.

A story straight out of Hollywood. You couldn’t have written a more dramatic script than the one that was unfolding. Three minutes after halftime, Barca won a penalty. Arguably the best player in the history of the sport steps up to take it. And Messi slams it off the crossbar. Chelsea are still alive. Barcelona continue to push forward. In the 83rd minute Messi hits the post. Barcelona, the best team in the world looked lost and frustrated. So used to teams coming after them, Barcelona looked out of ideas as 10-man Chelsea just sat back compactly and defended.

In the 90th minute as Barcelona pushed everyone forward, Fernando Torres, the 50 million pound flop got in behind the defense, calmly and coolly rounded Valdes and put it in the empty net. Chelsea’s spot in the Champions League final in Munich was clinched. It was chill-inducing as Torres ran toward the corner to celebrate as one outspoken Barcelona fan began yelling “puta” “puta.” You couldn’t help but feel good for him.

Against all odds, 10-men Chelsea, currently sitting 6th in the English Premier League, go into Barcelona and knock out the reigning European champions. This was the stuff of legends. The greatest upset in Champions League history. Tears welled up as Roberto Di Matteo ran around the field hugging everyone in sight. Rupert Brooke, the English poet who was killed in World War I once wrote “there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.” A little piece of the Camp Nou is now forever England.

Below are some reactions to the game around the internet.

“So happy for Torres what a MASSIVE goal!!” -Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeereereeeeees. I believe in miracles.” -Ruud Gullit

“Incredible what a game #Barca-Chelsea! I’m actually very pleased for Torres! He suffered a lot what a great goal! Congrats” -Robin Van Persie

“Unbelievable performance from Chelsea. I didn’t give them a chance with 10 men but they have defended heroically!” -Michael Owen

“10 Chelsea heroes out there tonight..#hatsoff” -Steven Reid

“Scenes of celebration on the Nou Camp pitch, where the Chelsea players are dancing with joy. Blues boss Roberto di Matteo is wearing the biggest grin you have ever seen on his face, and hugging anyone who comes near him.” -Chris Bevan

“What an extraordinary game. Astonishing. Sensational composure from Torres. Makes me proud to be English.” -Sam Shepherd

“I am trying to think of a more unlikely Champions League win than the one we have just seen. You really could not have made that up. Chelsea were down to 10 men against the holders and had no recognised central defenders left, yet they held out for a memorable victory. That last-gasp Fernando Torres goal was the icing on the cake.” -Chris Bevan

“That was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in football. Can’t say they don’t deserve it, they’ve been brilliant.” -Ben Weeks

“Everyone should find a nearby hat, put it on, and take it off again in recognition of what Chelsea have just done! Incredible.” -Daniel Hicklin

“I’m a United fan through and through, but fair play to Chelsea that was nothing short of HEROIC!” -Barry Travis

“I don’t think I have ever been so surprised in a football game in my entire life.” -Pat Nevin

“Unbelievable defending from Chelsea!! Good to see an English team in the final… Chelsea-Real Madrid final would be feisty!” -Rory McIlroy

“All I’m saying is what a game I have just watched, football is mad but that’s why its so great and we love it.” -Kyle Walker

“An incredible end to an incredible night as Fernando Torres’ finish ensures 10-man Chelsea’s progress to the Champions League final after an evening of pure drama. The Blues did it the hard way, but their reward is a night in Munich.” -Phil Dawkes

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