[By Azri Firman Bin Aqil]
This is the debut of the segment which I like to call Fire or Ice. It splits into two sections. The first is called In the Line of Fire, where various football teams, players and personalities subject to criticism lately will be put under the spotlight. The second is called The Ice Zone, focusing on which football personalities are living a bit less notoriously than their Line of Fire counterparts.
In the Line of Fire
If you thought the tensions between the two countries couldn’t get any bigger what with the territorial claims over Kosovo, they just did. After a drone unexpectedly came into the stadium holding a flag that has the Albanian insignia, a fight broke out after a Serbian player got his hands on the flag, with the players, staff and even the fans getting involved in the fracas. As a result, the match was abandoned and UEFA charged both countries’ respective Football Associations (FAs). Why the two countries weren’t kept apart when the group draw was made, we will never know.
How low the mighty have fallen. Dortmund, who realistically are Bayern Munich’s closest rivals, have now suffered 5 defeats in their opening eight league matches after another demoralizing loss against FC Cologne 2-1 despite the return of Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus. Jurgen Klopp has to figure out someway to get his players’ confidence back, and they can take out their frustrations on their next Champions’ League match against Galatasaray, who are no pushovers.
Edinson Cavani & Nicolas Rainville
After Cavani doing his trademark hunter pose, Rainville, the referee, booked him for reasons that are not known. Perhaps maybe caught up in the moment, Cavani, who still wanted to plead his innocence, pulled the arm of Rainville to face him, and that was a big mistake – Rainville promptly flashed a second yellow card. Cavani shouldn’t have pulled back Rainville’s arm, but Rainville should’ve made it clearer on why Cavani got booked for his celebration in the first place. I personally felt Cavani never had any ill intentions anyway.
Before their game with Southampton, the Black Cats had an impressive defensive record so far, conceding only 7 goals in 7 games. But, when this match came, it turned into a circus. And it all started with a spectacular volley by Sunderland defender Santiago Vergini…into his own net. Some of the eight goals scored by the Saints were thanks to calamitous mistakes by Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone, the defense and another own goal from Liam Bridcutt’s failure to clear the ball off the line. The players just gave up after a point in the game, leading to more goals for the other team near the end of the match.
Whatever explanation Damiao comes up with for pulling his own shirt in the opponent’s penalty box, Brazil’s Sports Justice Tribunal (STJD) is not having any of it. Despite Damiao’s explanation that he pulled his own shirt because it was sticking to his own body, the STJD felt that he was trying to win a penalty for his team, Santos, and is currently considering delivering a six-match ban on the striker. After watching the video of the incident, maybe the position of the defender behind Damiao may have something to do with influencing the Tribunal to charge Damiao of unsportsmanlike behaviour.
Even though they won their match, the manner in which they did was far from good. They needed two own goals to bail them out with the three points considering the chances they had before the five-minute chaos towards the end (I’m looking at you, Balotelli). QPR were unfortunate that they didn’t get anything from this as they equalized twice. And don’t get me started about their defence. If this is what Liverpool has to deal with at QPR, I can’t imagine what kind of game the Reds will have when Real Madrid comes to visit.
The Ice Zone
The Toffees needed this win considering that they were only one place above the relegation zone before this game. And they did in style, with goals from Phil Jagielka, Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman giving Everton a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa. Everton played much better with Coleman and the returning Ross Barkley, proving that they were missed when they were out injured. It was good seeing Everton back at their best.
Alan Pardew & Newcastle United
Pardew can breathe a sigh of relief when Newcastle picked up a 1-0 victory over an uninspired Leicester City. With the fans calling for his head for the past few weeks, Newcastle needed a win in front of their fans and they did thanks to Gabriel Obertan. Pardew definitely bought himself a lot of time. But he needs to keep this up to prevent the jeering from happening again.
Ronald Koeman is definitely smiling. And who can blame him? Selling the likes of Adam Lallana, Ricky Lambert and Luke Shaw for a hefty profit and buying in players like Graziano Pelle, Ryan Bertrand and Dusan Tadic for a bargain got the Saints into third place after eight games, with an 8-0 demolishing of the Black Cats further proving that everything is going to be OK at Southampton.
The Top 4 Teams In The Bundesliga
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bayern Munich is at the top, leading the Bundesliga. But the most amazing thing is that they, along with the other teams who are in the top 4 – Borussia Monchegladbach, Mainz and TSG Hoffenheim – are somehow still undefeated after eight games, with Munich, Monchegladbach and Mainz picking up victories and Hoffenheim earning their fifth draw, which is enough to occupy the fourth spot.
Iceland, Republic Ireland and The Home Nations
Who would have predicted Iceland, Wales and Northern Ireland being at the top of their respective groups? Iceland looks to be set on course for their first Euro tournament, picking up victories over Latvia and the hapless Netherlands, yet to concede a goal. As for Northern Ireland, their most notable victory over the Greeks paves the way for a dream qualification to a major tournament since 1986, with three wins in a row. Wales also led their group with wins over Andorra and Cyprus along with a goalless draw with Bosnia. Scotland meanwhile won against Georgia and secured an impressive draw over Poland while the Rep. of Ireland thrashed minnows, Gibraltar 7-0 and earned a hard-fought draw versus Germany.