The August Riots

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Monday, 21 March 2011

Monday Match Report: The best game of the weekend that you may not have seen


Hamburger SV 6-2 FC Köln
German Bundesliga
Saturday 19 March 2011

For video highlights visit: http://bit.ly/fHJ9eA

In what could have turned out to be a dull mid-table clash between two sides separated by just five points, Hamburger SV turned on the style to light up the Imtech Arena and turn up the heat on Nurnberg and Mainz above them in the race for Europe. There were a couple of early chances for both sides – former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy the guilty man for the hosts – heading over from a right-wing cross, although in his defence it was slightly too high to make a strong connection. HSV then seized on a slice of good fortune when the referee failed to punish a contentious-looking challenge on the Köln attacker, allowing young German winger Änis Ben-Hatira to run at the Koln defence, before firing at Michael Rensing, who did well to parry, only to see unmarked Croatian striker Mladen Petrić slot home the opener after 12 minutes.

Milivoje Novakovič then had a goal contentiously ruled out for Köln, the Slovenian striker adjudged to have been in an offside position when the ball was slipped through to him, via a HSV deflection, after neat build up play in the Köln midfield. Replays showed that Novakovič appeared to be level with the Hamburger SV defender, and this decision would have severe consequences for the visitors. Köln were made to pay for this decision, as well as a sloppy pass in midfield which simply gifted possession to the tricky Ben-Hatira around 30 yards from goal. The talented winger proceeded to chip the ball exquisitely over Rensing from just outside the area, finding the bottom corner of the Köln net to the delight of caretaker head coach Michael Oenning.

Already 2-0 down and heading for almost certain defeat, Köln were fortunate not to concede again when van Nistelrooy was played through following a strong run from Ben-Hatira, but once again the Dutchman couldn’t find the target, firing just wide. This wasn’t to be the end of the onslaught, however, Petrić making it 3-0 with a powerful finish past Rensing’s left-hand into the bottom corner of the net, following a clever through ball courtesy of his aforementioned strike partner. Van Nistelrooy was involved again for Petrić’s third, which saw him complete a hat-trick in the space of just 31 minutes, a foul on him leading to a quick free kick being taken by HSV. Tricky Dutch winger Eljero Elia floated a delicious ball to the far post for Petrić, who was catastrophically unmarked by the Köln players, undoubtedly caught out by the quickly-taken set piece, to collect the match ball with his 11th goal of the season.

Heading into the dressing room 4-0 down at half time would be depressing enough for most sides, let alone one as outplayed as Köln, but they did show some heart and desire in the second period to register themselves on the score-sheet, and avoid a landslide defeat. Martin Lanig had an excellent opportunity to begin the daunting task of reducing the arrears that faced Köln after the restart, but with the goal at his mercy he fired straight into the arms of a grateful Frank Rost. Mato Jajalo, on loan from Italian side Siena, did give Köln a glimmer of hope on 50 minutes. His trickery was too much for the HSV defenders, and after a couple of step-overs he found the smallest of gaps to fire past Rost into the bottom right-hand corner of the net and make it 4-1.

This proved to be merely brief respite for the visitors as the home side resumed their attacking barrage. Once again Elia’s trickery overwhelmed his marker, and a floated delivery from the right wing was met powerfully by Serbian defender Gojko Kačar, who evaded two Köln defenders before heading the ball over Rensing and into the top corner of the net. Next came another contentious decision from the point of view of the Köln players. In what appeared to be a fair challenge inside the area, Petrić was felled and to the consternation of the visitors the referee pointed to the spot. Ready to rub salt into the wounds was Bundesliga veteran Ze Roberto, who netted perhaps the most convincing penalty you’ll see throughout Europe all season, firing high into the right hand corner of the net, beyond the despairing dive of Rensing who did well to get anywhere near the ball.

Lukas Podolski, a legend for club and country alike, demonstrated his strength to scythe through the HSV defence, round Rost and net from an acute angle with his 12th goal of the season, but it was a case of too little, too late from Köln. Despite there being just under half an hour to go, the damage had already been done in the first half, and Köln were unable to build on their two-goal platform in the second period. Perhaps understandably, manager Frank Schaefer might look to the controversial offside decision against Novakovič in the first half and the challenge on Petrić, both of which appeared to have been incorrectly judged, but in truth Köln were thoroughly outplayed and beaten by a superior side.

Photos courtesy of (in order): Sportske Novoski, Welt, Sky Sports, Croatian Soccer Report, Hamburger Morgenpost, Jappy

Friday, 11 March 2011

Friday Football Feature - The best game from midweek that you may not have seen

Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 AS Roma
UEFA Champions League
Tuesday 8 March 2011

For video highlights visit: http://bit.ly/eKXn1M

Reigning Ukrainian Premier League champions Shakhtar Donetsk secured a huge 6-2 aggregate victory over Italian giants AS Roma at following an extremely one-sided 3-0 win at the Donbass Arena, which saw the hosts book their place in the last eight of the competition. Donetsk had gone into the game as the most likely winners, having secured a magnificent 3-2 victory in the Stadio Olimpico back in February. Yet they refused to sick back despite having home advantage and three away goals to boot, and showed their credentials, often subject to irrational doubt in the Western media, to remain in the Champions League until the latter stages.

Shakhtar went ahead after 18 minutes, defender Tomas Hubschman flicking the ball past the 'keeper, off the post and into the back of the Roma net to make the task of progression an even more daunting one for the Italians. Young Brazilian midfielder Willian, scorer of an impressive 13 goals in 85 matches for the Ukrainian side, was the provider for Hubschman, checking back on Roma's David Pizarro before crossing the ball to the Czech international, who had positioned himself perfectly between the Roma defenders.

This goal came against the run of play, Roma having laid siege to the Donetsk goal, unfortunate not to find the opener and even more so to fall further behind on aggregate. It didn't get any better for the visitors, who missed a penalty in the 28th minute, former AC Milan striker Marco Borriello the guilty man, firing straight at home 'keeper Andriy Pyatov from six yards to hand the initiative to Donetsk. Armenian winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan, in his keenness to prevent Borriello reaching the ball, hauled down the Roma forward, but he was unable to take advantage of what would turn out to be a gift, and the visitor's last chance of re-opening the tie.

The home side, who became the first Ukrainian team since Dinamo Kiev in 1999 to reach the last eight of the Champions League with this impressive two-legged victory, doubled their advantage and put the tie to bed in the 59th minute. Willian, provider for the first, picked up the ball after a Donetsk corner had evaded everyone in the box, before curling the ball exquisitely into the top right-hand corner beyond the despairing Doni.

Former Arsenal striker and substitute Eduardo came on for another of Shakhtar Donetsk's young Brazilians, Douglas Costa, after an hour, and put the icing on the cake for the Ukrainian side with three minutes of normal time remaining. Having knocked the ball past his marker, Eduardo raced clear before pressurising Roma defender Philippe Mexes, who appeared to have the situation under control, into gifting him the ball by falling over at the crucial moment, before slotting calmly under Doni to seal a tremendous victory.

Between the first and final two goals Roma were reduced to ten men, rubbing salt into their already open wounds. English referee Howard Webb showed no hesitation in dismissing Philippe Mexes for the defender's clumsy foul on Luiz Adriano, and the visitors could have lost notoriously hot-headed Daniele De Rossi later on, the midfielder's elbow on Shakhtar captain Darijo Srna enough to earn him a dismissal, but missed by referee Webb. Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu acknowledged his side's man advantage as a contributing factor in the victory, as well as Roma's many mistakes, but still believed his side dominated proceedings, and will presumably be feeling confident of progressing, assuming Barcelona aren't the next hurdle for Donetsk to overcome in this incredible Champions League season.

Photos courtesy of (in order): Bettor, Reuters, Sport, Getty, UEFA, The Telegraph

Monday, 7 March 2011

Monday Match Report: The best game of the weekend that you may not have seen

SBV Excelsior Rotterdam 2-3 PSV Eindhoven
Dutch Eredivisie
Saturday 3rd March 2011

For video highlights visit: http://bit.ly/fP4Vxe

This weekend's game saw 21 time Dutch league winners PSV Eindhoven come up against relegation strugglers and relative minnows SBV Excelsior, based in Rotterdam, and fighting for survival in the Eredivisie having been promoted last season. Many would have expected a PSV walkover, for the Dutch giants to effortlessly flex their muscles prior to their Europa League tie against Scottish club Rangers, which will be played in the Phillips Stadion this Thursday. However, and for the benefit of football fans around the world, it wasn't quite as simple as this for PSV, who were made to work for the three points, scoring a couple of tremendous goals in the process.

It was the home side who unexpectedly and against the run of play took the lead in this one, after PSV had gifted the boys in red and black the ball, a cross from the left wing was headed in by striker Guyon Fernandez, who somehow managed to beat the giant Swedish 'keeper Andreas Isaksson in the air, and find the roof of the visitors' net. It took until after the break for the pre-match favourites to level things up at Stadion Woudestein, Dutch winger Jeremain Lens outfoxing the Excelsior defender just inside the area, before his lofted cross deceived the home goalkeeper and found the back of the net, to the surprise and consternation of many, and sheer delight of the PSV supporters.

Canadian international Atiba Hutchinson, winner of 51 caps for the Canucks, then took over goal scoring duties for PSV, scoring by far the best goal of the game. Starting the move himself, Hutchinson was fed on the left hand side, nutmegging one on his path to goal, before lofting the ball over Nico Pellatz, having been unchallenged by the Excelsior defenders, who presumably had decided that such an incredible run deserved to be admired. With this goal coming just three minutes after Lens' strike, one could have forgiven Excelsior for being rather deflated and demurely slumping to a 3-1 or even 4-1 defeat. Yet clearly the hosts hadn't read the script.

Hutchinson turned from hero to villain in the 90th minute, handling Guyon Fernandez' shot at almost point black range, allowing midfielder Edwin de Graaf to slot home from the penalty spot after much deliberation and 'debate' with the referee from the PSV players. Yet their indignation soon turned to ecstasy as Excelsior kindly provided the Dutch giants with a convenient late winner. Pellatz, already humiliated by Hutchinson's delicious chip for PSV's second, then inexplicably felled substitute Danny Koevermans in the box. Hungarian winger Balazs Dzsudzsak kept his head, and placed the ball in the left hand corner, Pellatz already having dived to the right, in the 93rd minute to seal an incredible win for PSV, and decide this engrossing contest. The result keeps Excelsior third from bottom on 22 points, but means PSV are three points ahead of last season's league winners FC Twente, with the vital clash against Rangers looming.

Photos courtesy of (in order): Goal, Voet Balzone, The Soccer Room, Soccerway

Friday, 4 March 2011

Friday Football Feature - The best game from midweek that you may not have seen

Today's inaugural 'Friday Football Feature' involves one of Europe's highest profile clubs, and yet another stupendous triumph for unbridled attacking football, and horrendously-amateurish defending. This time it is the turn of Malaga fans to look despondently at the floor, as This Chemical World relives the highlights from Real Madrid's astonishing 7-0 midweek hammering of Los Boquerones at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid 7-0 Malaga
Spanish Liga BBVA
Thursday 3 March 2011

Scorers: Benzema (27, 62), Di Maria (36), Marcelo (45), Ronaldo (51, 68, 77)

For video highlights visit: http://bit.ly/gWYhUD.

Real went into this game ten points behind leaders Barcelona, after Los Cules had left it late to defeat Valencia, the unstoppable Lionel Messi netting yet again - just 13 minutes from time - to secure a huge victory at Mestalla. Madrid knew what they had to do, therefore, against a Malaga side lying second bottom of La Liga, a point off the foot of the table, and in desperate need of some sort of result. Having conceded 27 goals already on the road, Malaga were surely not especially optimistic about their chances of keeping a clean sheet against Madrid, who have scored more goals at home than anyone else in the division (44), including rivals Barcelona. However they perhaps didn't expect the onslaught that came their way, which was made worse by Manolo's sending off after 67 minutes, although admittedly, this had little bearing on the result, the hosts having been 5-0 up by this time.

Karim Benzema opened the scoring for the home side, neatly volleying Xabi Alonso's inch-perfect free-kick past Malaga 'keeper Wilfredo Caballero in the 27th minute. There were suspicions of offside amongst the Malaga defenders, but the footage clearly shows Manu Torres playing the French striker onside, a costly error that will no doubt come back to haunt him. German wonder-kid Mesut Oezil nearly doubled Los Blancos' lead shortly after, but his vicious free-kick cannoned off the upright, and Benzema this time was offside as he casually stroked the ball into the empty net after Ozil had been denied by the woodwork.

Brazilian full-back Marcelo then stole the show with two exquisite pieces of creativity, which saw the visitor's job of getting back into the match turn from 'difficult' to 'impossible.' The 22-year old first played the ball through for Angel Di Maria, both of whom were perhaps lucky at the entire misjudgement of the pass from the Malaga defence, which allowed the ball and Real's Argentinean winger to run clear and net a classy second with ten minutes to go until the break. Di Maria then turned provider for his fellow South American, chipping the ball deliciously over the heads of the away defence who were caught napping as Marcelo skipped round the back and fired emphatically past Caballero on the stroke of half time to make manager Jose Mourinho's interval team talk almost entirely straightforward.

Mourinho adjusted the Real Madrid system, which admittedly hadn't been working badly, in the second half, putting Ronaldo at the tip of the hosts attack, and this tactical switch quickly and unsurprisingly paid dividends. Madrid's fourth - a real team effort and arguably the goal of the match, amongst several stunners - began with neat interplay inside the Malaga half between the deadly triumvirate of Benzema, Oezil and Ronaldo. Their movement and ability to switch the play was too much for the visiting defence, who allowed Oezil to play the ball across the edge of the box to Ronaldo who, after a superb first touch which took it away from his marker, fired the ball past Caballero to make it 4-0, a score line and a goal which clearly impressed and electrified the watching home crowd. Real's fifth wasn't quite so much down to effortless creativity, the hosts profiting from sloppy passing inside the Malaga half by the downbeat Boquerones, before Ronaldo fed Marcelo, and the Brazilian made his second assist of the night, crossing for Benzema to (just) head past Caballero and lend the score line a rather one sided look indeed.

Yet Madrid were by no means done yet, and for the final twenty-five minutes the match really did become all about the mercurial Portuguese wizard himself, as he completed yet another career hat-trick before limping off injured, in a sight to strike fear into the hearts of all Blancos supporters, and stir unbridled joy inside everyone else. Manolo received his second yellow card as the night went from terrible to catastrophic for Malaga, the midfielder penalised for a 'difficult-to-tell' handball in the area. Ronaldo duly stepped up and dispatched the penalty in some style, thrashing his shot into the roof of the net with all the swagger English fans will remember either fondly (if Manchester United fans) or with no small amount of jealousy.

It was of little surprise when Ronaldo completed his hat-trick with less than a quarter of an hour to go, young substitute Sergio Canales - demonstrating no small amount of potential despite rumours about his potential departure from Madrid - crossing from the left hand side for Ronaldo, who had already beaten the jaded Malaga defence, to make it 7-0 and complete the rout. So Madrid in the end managed to close the gap on their eternal rivals, albeit to a still significant six points, but this victory will do less for their points tally and proximity to Barcelona than the mind-set at the Bernabeu. Having demonstrated their potential to play the sort of 'champagne football' Madrid are always expected to, and with the attacking potential of Oezil, Benzema and Ronaldo to call on in the first team alone, this victory could do wonders for Los Blancos with the Champions League return match against Lyon looming large on the horizon. However with Ronaldo having suffered a late injury on Thursday, which looks set to keep him out for up to 15 days, the Lyon game could just be a bridge too far for Europe's biggest footballing celebrity.

Photos courtesy of (in order): European Pressphoto Agency, Real Madrid (x3), Soccer News, Real Madrid (x2), Total Football Madness

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Colonel Gaddafi - "the bell tolls for thee" (What do we do with a mad dictator?)


Over the past few weeks Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi has increasingly defied logic, convention and sanity with his unfathomable outbursts, laughable television appearances and desperate attempts to continue his discredited and baseless rule in the North African state. During an interview with the BBC on Monday Gaddafi - who has been the unquestioned ruler of Libya since leading a coup in 1969 - pushed the bounds of rationality with his bizarre claim that despite the mass protests against his rule across the country, the fact that forces openly in opposition to his government have control in some areas, and he has all but lost the goodwill of the vast majority of the Libyan people, his is 'still loved' by 'his people.' When asked if he would consider leaving Libya, in the face of the overwhelming and continued opposition to his fragmenting government, Gaddafi laughed and replied: "As if anyone would leave their homeland." The interview continued in much the same bizarre vein, Gaddafi incredibly attempting to portray himself as a 'man of the people', apparently keen for the assembled media and millions subsequently watching the clip to forget the events of the past 41 years, the time in which the disgraced dictator has so far held power in Libya.

Watch the BBC interview with Colonel Gaddafi, posted on 28 February 2011, at the following address: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12603259

Having said this, some would perhaps agree with his claim that about the manner in which Western leaders, previously supportive and accepting of Gaddafi during, as the BBC put it, his 'rapprochement' with the civilised world, most notably economic agreements with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, amongst others, have conducted themselves throughout this entire affair. Gaddafi said, when pressed on the issue: "Of course it's betrayal, they have no morals." Whilst such a moral indictment may seem frankly laughable from a leader willing to 'fight until the last man', in an effortless devaluation of the sanctity of human life, he does somewhat have a point. Western leaders previously on speaking, even friendly terms, have been very quick to condemn Gaddafi and his undemocratic, unrepresentative and repressive rule in Libya, but it appears that such principles as they are currently displaying have been either newly-found or newly-rediscovered, as they didn't seem quite so important ten years ago. Naturally the Western world and its media, so powerful and influential as primary sources of information for millions of people, are quick to set agendas and constantly feel the need to group people into 'good' and 'bad' categories, but the about-turn performed by the United States and Britain in particular seems rather farcical and slightly hypocritical to say the least.

Gaddafi proceeded to outdo himself, claiming that he had 'no real power' in Libya and that whatever position he held was not official nor did it involve a title, suggesting some sort of symbolic or ceremonial role that the rest of the world has somehow managed to misconstrue into something completely different due to our supposed agenda against himself, and 'his people.' The use of a completely fact-devoid attempt at drawing a parallel with Britain was the next factual faux pas Gaddafi committed, when he asked: "Who holds the power in Britain, Queen Elizabeth or David Cameron?" Perhaps he is unfamiliar with the history and politics of Britain so, to summarise, David Cameron does, obviously. Next question please. Gaddafi was then challenged, and turned the challenge upon his unfortunate interviewer, who had already by this point had to sit through minutes, which must have felt like hours, of the Libyan dictator's unbridled madness. Having been asked directly about the protesters on the streets, who had claimed (rightly) that they'd been shot at by 'those with authority to do so', Gaddafi paused for what seemed like an eternity (presumably the camera crew and interviewer left for dinner and returned in time) before saying, astonishingly, that nobody was on the streets of Libya. So it appears that our eyes have been deceiving us all this time, as part of a huge conspiracy organised by the people of Libya and the international media, to invent stories of revolt and uprisings in this stable, democratic, even 'happy', country.

The bounds of reality were pushed in the last few minutes of the interview. Having provided, at Gaddafi's indignant request, times and dates for protests, generously stated to have been 'in favour' as well as staunchly against the Libyan leader, Gaddafi released the following mind-blowingly false riposte: "No one [is] against us. Against me for what? Because I am not [the] President. They love me, all my people [are] with me, they love me, all." He followed this up with: "They will die to protect me, my people." At this point a new theory occured, suddenly out of the abyss into which Gaddafi's deliberate misinformation had dragged me. Perhaps he has been stuck in a time-warp. Maybe it's still 1969 in Libya and he, like Robert Mugable would be in 1980, is a national hero and a figure of exaltation, a 'liberator of his people.' Yet then I realised that this was impossible, and set to work watching the last agonising couple of minutes of this most extraordinary of interviews. He stated, presumably not in sound mind but in the knowledge of this group's activities and high international profile, that those who had taken Benghazi in the north west of the country, and formed an interim government, were members of notorious terrorist group Al Qaeda. Naturally. For the United States would ally itself with a group widely suspected of having been involved in plots to carry out atrocities on American soil (well if you believe the conspiracy theorists...). Talking of conspiracy theories, and this is quite a developed and spectacular one, Gaddafi proceeded to outline the basic methods by which Al Qaeda stirred up the, let's call it a 'minor incident', in the country. Firstly, according to Gaddafi, they seized weapons from military basis. Secondly they drugged youngsters, who were mostly in possession of these arms, and coerced them into terrorising the population. Yet there is some good news, apparently these 'drugs' are wearing off now and the youngsters are laying down their arms. Presumably, if Gaddafi's scaremongering, ludicrous rumours are to be true, they must be painful to carry with all the needle marks in them.

What, if anything, has this particular episode, and I use the term loosely, in no way intended to be connected to the word 'psychiatric', revealed to us about the state of mind of one of the world's last 'great' dictators? For Europe had Nicolae Ceausescu, Africa has Mugabe, Asia has Kim Jong Il, and Cuba has Fidel Castro, and now North Africa has its very own mental case in charge of an army seemingly willing to continue siding with him and continue repressing a population in dire need of either weapons with which to fight Gaddafi, or sedatives with which to attempt to cure him. The stresses of high level office are clear, Tony Blair's rather jaded appearance upon stepping down after just ten years as British Prime Minister - which made him a veritable part-timer compared to others such as Josip Broz Tito and Omar Bongo - is a clear indication of this. Yet Gaddafi's case must surely represent some sort of landmark for insanity. Unless of course it's an elaborate cover-up. For surely no leader in such dire straits, who has clearly lost the goodwill and even tolerance of his people, could claim that the country he so narrowly still rules 'loves him' unanimously, one and all, every man, woman and child. So what should the West do now? Leave the Libyans to it? After all the United Kingdom has, in a rather bumbling and 21st-Century manner, rescued its citizens from the country. Therefore surely it should have nothing more to do with the Libyan conflict, merely release patronising statements along the lines of 'we are with you Libya' whilst the madness continues, and innocent lives are sacrificed in the name of one man and his desperate attempts to continue his stranglehold on power. Personally I cannot agree with such a policy, but as the past twenty years have lamentably shown, when it comes to the Western world, 'our' lives matter far more than 'theirs' do.

Photos courtesy of (in order): Newsy, Horgan, TNT Magazine, Radio Netherlands Worldwide