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Barca hampered by archaic FIFA

Barcelona 18 hours ago
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Bayern MunichBayern Munich
VfL WolfsburgVfL Wolfsburg
6:30 PM GMT
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Dec 29, 2008

The last look at the weekend

Road Toon Nowhere

Well, what another red letter day for Mike Ashley's overwhelmingly successful stint at Newcastle United. Not only did his announcement that he's taking the club off the market completely overshadow a day when the fans were due to honour a true footballing legend, and north-east stalwart, in Bobby Robson, but his side then capitulated in a fashion usually reserved for the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup. If it'd been 9-1 at half time no-one could argue. But what a perfect day to sum up the club's current malaise.

The still-detested owner comes and out and triumphantly announces he's staying put (can't flog it at the right price in the current market) on the day the tiny squad he prevented Kevin Keegan from adding to with his own players fell apart, while their short-term, semi-temporary manager looks completely out of his depth on the sidelines.

Ashley wants to ''drive the club forward'' according to his press release. What he seems to forget is that he was the one, with the help of Dennis Wise et al, who locked the club firmly in reverse in the first place.

Calm down, calm down

Liverpool fans shouldn't get too carried away with the 5-1 drubbing of Newcastle at St James' Park. While you were utterly dominant and passed pretty little rings round the Toon, its all about context. How well you played has to be measured against how poor Newcastle were. Even ESPNsoccernet's staff side could have put at least three past them before half-time, and there's only six in our team. It was the equivalent of watching a leopard pick off a blind, three-legged impala.

But before the prerequisite avalanche of abuse arrives at my door (do you just share one sense of humour between the entire lot of you?) it was a pretty perfect day for the red half of Merseyside. Rafa could even afford to rest red-hot Robbie Keane and still win at a canter. Heaven's above, even Lucas delivered a killer through ball for Stevie G to make it four. And however much one mocks Newcastle's fans one can't argue with their pedigree, as they rightfully acknowledged a masterful performance from Liverpool's skipper by applauding him from the field. If only the owner had a touch of their class...

Chelsea's last Post

Big Phil will have bald back and sides to go with his bald top at this rate after Chelsea blew another two crucial points at Craven Cottage. It was eminently preventable of course, had Scolari stationed a man on the far post, in keeping with decades of footballing prudence. It constantly amazes me how few top-flight sides employ the 'postie' given the number of times they prevent goals going in.

It's a position that requires ultimate concentration, as it is liable a player can stand guard on a post for 100 corners and not be required once. But then, when corner 101 comes along, he springs into action.

That is of course is if the 'postie' gets it right. Kieron Dyer famously made a numpty of himself when playing for Newcastle at Barcelona. He treated the post as his titanium leaning buddy, looking as if he was about to spark up a tab and get out a good book standing there with one hand on his hip and only reserving a pathetic cock of the leg as the ball careered past him.

But had a Chelsea defender been loitering at the Cottage, he'd have had time for a full three course meal before hacking Clint Dempsey's header to safety and the win would have been secured.

Fuller of it

It's very rare that TFO is rendered agog but after having witnessed yet another girl-on-girl scrap at Upton Park I almost was. After conceding an equaliser, Ricardo Fuller was in no doubt as to who he held responsible for the goal, wagging his finger and presumably uttering a few 'JFK's' in the direction of Andy Griffin. The right back promptly strolled over to the striker, who delivered a left-handed, half-millimetre stun slap before you could say 'work the jab'. He was then dismissed by referee Mike Dean and Stoke went on to lose the game. Crazy.

Where've Wigan and West Ham gone?

You know, few people ever spare a thought for us hacks in impossibly tight seasons like this. I mean, there you are one minute slagging off a manager saying his are side are destined for the Championship, the chairman's a mug and their players aren't fit to wear the shirt then, bang, two games later they've got six points and clamber into a respectable mid-table position. Step forward West Ham and Wigan.

In October the 'Latics lost all four of their Premier League games, shipping ten goals in the process. ''Finished,'' we screamed. ''Championship fodder,'' we hollered. Now look at them. Four wins in five has seen them swap a relegation dogfight for an all-out assault on Europe. Incredible.

As for West Ham, a run of one win in 11, coupled with the bankruptcy of the country where their owner holds his wealth, saw us signing-off their death warrant weeks ago. Now back-to-back wins have propelled them into the top half of the table. All this yo-yo-ing is terribly rude and makes all us pundits look like we've no idea what's going on. Funny that.

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