The Sports Locker

Fire Or Ice (20/10-26/10)

[By Azri Firman Aqil]

Join us as we take a look back at a week filled with Champions League Football and some exciting matches. Let’s see who is in the ‘Line of Fire’ and the ‘Ice Zone’ this week.

In The Line Of Fire

Manchester City

Looking back now, it’s hard not to see why the defending BPL champions are in the line of fire. Losing a two-goal lead against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League and a 2-1 defeat to West Ham raises some questions about City’s prospects of retaining the title. A severe lack of urgency and failing to close out games has hurt City in both their Champions League and Premier League campaigns.

Sunderland’s Defense Line

Sunderland’s defensive woes continue. And Arsenal made them pay for it. A dreadful miskick from Wes Brown gave Alexis Sanchez the chance to score with a sublime finish. Then, with only three minutes left in stoppage time when Sunderland was searching for an equalizer, Sunderland’s defense was being pressured and a pass to Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone inside his own box lead to a terrible touch and gifted the persistent Sanchez another goal and a 2-0 win for the Gunners. Both goals came from shambolic mistakes from both keeper and defense.

AS Roma

The Giallorossi was hopelessly outclassed by an energetic Bayern Munich side that resulted in a heavy 7-1 defeat with five of Munich’s goals coming from the first half. You would expect a team that is in-form before the game to step-up and give Bayern a hard time, but they didn’t. And if that is not bad enough, they couldn’t find a way past an excellent Sampdoria side resulting in a 0-0 draw, which made them lose ground to league leaders Juventus further. Not a good week for Rudi Garcia and his players.
 

AS Roma’s Juan Manuel Iturbe (#7) tangling with Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery (Right) for the ball. (Source: axs.com)

AS Roma’s Juan Manuel Iturbe (#7) tangling with Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery (Right) for the ball. (Source: axs.com)

Massimo Cellino

Managers, take the Leeds job at your own risk. Cellino, the Leeds United president, has sacked manager Darko Milanic after just six games. Before Milanic, Cellino sacked David Hockaday after the opening six games of the Championship season. It’s clear that the word ‘patience’ is not in Cellino’s vocabulary, and it’s disrupting the balance of the club up to the point of former Leeds player Johnny Giles wanting Cellino to leave the club.

Birmingham City

Spare a thought for the unfortunate Birmingham City. Not only are they languishing in the relegation zone of the Championship, but they were also thrashed 8-0 by AFC Bournemouth, and in front of their own fans too. Perhaps the biggest focus would be on the sending off of Canadian defender David Edgar after just seven minutes, but personally, the whole team let their fans down. Had Birmingham converted a penalty kick with the scoreline at 3-0, perhaps they could’ve mounted a comeback or at least kept the score down.
 

Bournemouth players celebrating with Birmingham City’s Lee Novak (#12) looking on. (Source: Birmingham City’s Official FB Page)

Bournemouth players celebrating with Birmingham City’s Lee Novak (#12) looking on. (Source: Birmingham City’s Official FB Page)

Liverpool
For the second straight week, Liverpool have found themselves in the line of fire. With a dreadful performance resulting in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League, they couldn’t muster up anything against Hull. Perhaps the only good thing is that the Reds kept a clean slate since their match against Tottenham nearly two months ago. But that isn’t simply enough. Liverpool looked like they were out of ideas for trying to get a goal. It’s going to be one long season for the Reds and their fans.

The Ice Zone

Newcastle United

For the first time in months, Newcastle has finally registered back-to-back wins with a 2-1 victory against Tottenham. It was two moments of brilliance that lead to the victory. Just five seconds into the second half, Jack Colback found substitute, Shola Ameobi, running past Spurs right-back, Eric Dier, and finishing with style. Then, a cross from Remy Cabella met Ayoze Perez, with a sublime header to score the winner. After that, Spurs were lackluster and Newcastle got the three points and into the ‘Ice Zone’ for the second time running.

Western Sydney Wanderers

What a journey for the younger football team from Sydney. Founded in 2012, they came very close to winning the grand finals of the A-League in their first two seasons. Now, they are very close to winning Asia’s biggest club tournament, the AFC Champions League, after beating Saudi Arabia giants Al-Hilal, 1-0 in the first leg thanks to Tomi Juric’s goal. They have a long flight to Saudi Arabia to complete their journey and win the trophy.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid ended Barcelona’s undefeated start as they beat their rivals, 3-1 in the El Clasico. After Neymar put Barca ahead in four minutes, Madrid suddenly lit up and got a deserved equalizer thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty. Then, goals from Pepe and Karim Benzema after a counter-attack added gloss to the score from Real’s perspective as Barca were subdued in the second-half and couldn’t deal with the counter-attacks.
 

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema (#9) scoring past Barca keeper Claudio Bravo (Center). (Source: goal.com)

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema (#9) scoring past Barca keeper Claudio Bravo (Center). (Source: goal.com)

West Ham United

This season, West Ham has looked more energized and stable than last season. And it further showed with an emphatic win over Manchester City thanks to goals from Roman Amalfitano and Diafra Sakho. It may be more due to City being complacent, but West Ham took their chances very well. With the way they’re playing right now, you’ve got to wonder where Andy Carroll will fit in the squad once he comes back from injury.

Johor Darul Takzim & Pahang

Now focusing on local football. These two teams deserve to be in the ‘Ice Zone’. With Johor and Pahang losing the first-leg of their respective Malaysia Cup matches against Felda United and Kedah, they came back in style. For Pahang, it was a night to remember for both them and the fans, as they came back from a 3-1 deficit in the first-leg to beat poor Kedah 5-0 with an aggregate score of 6-3 to Pahang. For Johor, they were cutting it close. After losing 4-3 in the first-leg, Johor dug deep and won their match against a gutsy Felda United side, 3-1 to win 6-5 aggregate. Now the two teams will meet for the coveted Malaysia Cup at Bukit Jalil on November 2nd.

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