Football Sports

Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal

Just like Fergie predicted, Manchester United take a slender one goal advantage over Arsenal to the Emirates Stadium for the deciding second leg of this Champions League semifinal. Despite the fact we won last night, this match left a bad taste in my mouth. More than exhilaration and relief, frustration and disappointment dominate my sense of feeling right now. Maybe I need to sleep over this result to gauge the importance of things such as clean sheets and thoroughly outplaying your opponents.

But no, what I feel right now is an overwhelming sense of underachievement on a night that promised so much more. Right from kickoff, the tone was set: United were dictating play from the opening exchanges, and Arsenal were chasing the game. Well, they tried their best, but United were having none of that. Rooney’s looping header, Tevez’s stab at goal, and Ronaldo’s header from point blank range were some of the goal-scoring opportunities gone begging. The trio were wreaking havoc all over the pitch, shooting at Almunia’s goal and testing the goalie’s resilience, who was the only reason why we didn’t score more than one goal. From the amount of possession we had and the number of shots at goal, we should’ve been three goals up at half-time. United’s goal was a lucky one: Arsenal were caught ball watching and suffered from a momentary defensive shutdown–enough for O’Shea to sneak in and score. The crowd really got behind the players, making a lot of noise and whistling loudly everytime an Arsenal player got the ball (which was extremely rare in the first half). 

Second half was much subdued than the first in terms of intensity and match tempo. Even though United dominated the possession chart, and created a multitude of chances, they were kept out by the Gunners’ goalie. The likes of Adebayor, Walcott, and Fabregas never got into their rhythm. Ferdinand and Vidic were brilliant in defence, and the Arsenal offence had only rare glimpses of Van der Sar’s goal. Ronaldo’s shot from 30 yards had Almunia completely beaten but the crossbar came to Arsenal’s rescue on a night that should’ve settled the tie overwhelmingly in United’s favour.

Originally published: April 30, 2009


A romance of many dimensions

Perhaps one of the weirdest books you’ll ever read. Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland, a tiny book written back in 1884, theorizes about inhabitants of a two dimensional world, drawing striking parallels with 19th century Victorian social hierarchy. What’s noteworthy is that it’s not just an allegory of a bygone era or an endless discussion on geometrical figures and their nuances, but a warning (in Alan Lightman’s thought-provoking foreword) for physicists and scientists, in a time riddled with scientific breakthroughs,  to be on guard against complacency and the tendency to rest on their laurels. Not to worship established wisdom as gospels of the ultimate truth, but instead ask questions that could lead to the discovery and validation of several more.

I like the premise of the book. Flatland challenges you to imagine a world where thickness is unheard of, where people exist in the likeness of geometrical figures on paper: triangles, squares, pentagons, and so on; much like shadows on the ground. The book is recorded as a first person narrative by A. Square, a distinguished Flatlander himself, giving us Spacelanders a perspective into his unimaginable world. Looking from above, for us Spacelanders, the two dimensional geography reveals a chaos of living, breathing geometry all around. But there’s method to this madness. If you look closer, as the author points out, you’ll notice people segregated in classes based on their shapes; priests who are perfect circles enjoy life at the apex, while women as straight lines compose the dregs of society. 

The social commentary is insightful to say the least, and invites your curiosity to study the finer points of Flatland’s day-to-day life and satires, to some extent, our own world. How people (lines, triangles, squares) there perceive and identify others (also lines, triangles, squares) when all they see is a flat line; how everyone adores symmetry of shape and abhors irregularity of one’s physical appearance. But that’s not all. If you’ll read the book, you’ll realize how the writer takes great effort to discuss at length the land’s physics and history, customs and beliefs, and reveals the philosophy of its inhabitants who appear to be self-content and lacking adventure. Where scientific and artistic excellence is taking a back seat and the minds are falling into decay. 

But all that changes with the appearance of a Spacelander! 

It’s a small book of hardly 100 pages, and one that I recommend to everyone who wants to take a break from their fantasy and non-fiction novels. It’s not a mathematical school book full of diagrams and jargon, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s a good read. Here’s the Project Gutenberg link to download a free ebook version.

Originally published: April 27, 2009

Football Sports

A stunning comeback

Minutes after the game as I write this, I am trying hard to put into words what has just happened. Manchester United pulled off one of the most amazing comebacks in recent memory, by scoring five goals in the second half after trailing 0-2 at the interval. Goals from Ronaldo (2), Rooney (2), and Berbatov (1), ensured Liverpool’s stay at the top of the table was brief as they won their early encounter with Hull. Far from a cliff-hanger like the game against Aston Villa where young Macheda grabbed headlines, this game was a hallmark of a team’s ability to dig deep and bounce back after taking an initial beating. And the perfect exhibition of a demolition job. United won 5-2, and how!

First half: The first half began gingerly for United, with Spurs looking more agile and better organized than their opponents. Aaron Lennon in particular created a lot of trouble down the right channel, and Evra had a hard time putting a leash on him. United had plenty of possession but created very few chances. Mid-way through the first half, Spurs were piling up the pressure, closing down players and hitting on the counter. Aaron Lennon, along with Corluka, proved to be the danger men, feeding Darren Bent and Modric, respectively — both scoring within three minutes of each other.  Old Trafford was stunned into silence, and United’s desperate efforts to snatch one goal back before the interval were in vain. 

Second half: Going into the break, I’m sure every United fan — including me — was tense and anxious, thinking time after again how things couldn’t get any worse. Overcoming a two goal lead against a spirited Spurs side wasn’t exactly going to be a stroll in the park, shall we say. And United got their lucky break when Carrick was brought down by Gomez in the penalty box. Up came Ronaldo and he smashed it down the middle of the net, and Old Trafford erupted! The flood gates were well and truly open.

The crowd was a huge catalyst, cheering and urging the players was just what the doctor ordered, and the rest of the game was all one-way traffic. Spurred by the first goal, United played on a different level altogether. And the faithfuls didn’t have to wait long to see the culmination of a gem of a game and a comeback they’ll remember for a long time. Rooney, Ronaldo, Rooney again, and finally Berbatov, all scored in an amazing span of 14 minutes, where United upped the tempo, leaving Spurs and their fans shell-shocked. And just like that, it was all over. Spurs had the wind knocked out of them and they never recovered. United were left to celebrate a well-earned three points, and a performance that was a far cry from their dismal past outings. 

Turning point: The penalty awarded by referee Howard Webb will be the topic of much discussion over the next few days; but there’s little doubt that it proved instrumental in reviving United’s sagging spirit. Once they were on their way on the scorecard, there was no looking back.

Originally published: April 26, 2009

Football Sports

Premiership weekend

I’m a Manchester United fan, let me make that clear from the outset. Always have been, always will be. I’ve been following their fortunes since a year before their epic treble winning season. When legends were made of the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Peter Schmeichel. Good times!

But I digress from the present. The Premiership is delicately poised right now, with Liverpool biting hard at United’s heel, fighting tooth and nail to dislodge the champions of their lofty perch. However, with six games to go, United are in control of their destiny — three points clear of Liverpool, and a game in hand. To their credit the Merseysiders have looked inspired and hungry to reclaim the Premiership crown, and outperformed United on the pitch both in terms of form and goals scored. Rest assured they won’t stop staking their claim until the very end.

With a six points lead, if we win today, chances are it will be long over before we reach the very end. United hold the key to a title race that in all likelihood shouldn’t go to the wire, or I won’t have any nails left. They host a rejuvenated Tottenham Hotspurs later in the day, and a victory today should put another nail in Liverpool’s coffin. But Liverpool have the chance to go on top briefly if they win their match against Hull, and put the pressure back on United. Their only hope is that United cracks and drops some points.

Team news: We’ll miss Gary Neville and John O’Shea, both picking up injuries in the win against Portsmouth the other night; let’s hope we aren’t doubly vulnerable on the right flank. That shouldn’t be the case, in all likelihood, as news of Wes Brown fit and raring to go couldn’t have come at a better time.

Forget Ronaldo, but Carlos Tevez has dropped hints that he may leave United at the end of the season, and Fergie’s voiced his fears over the development. More of that here. He’s a fan favourite, they love him at Old Trafford, admire his work ethic and commitment on the pitch, and hail the fact that he’s scored some crucial goals for the team in the past. But I understand his side of the story, disappointed as he is for not getting enough starts this season. I think the team will suffer a big blow if Teva leaves. 

Predictions: Should be a close game, with United’s below-par recent performances and Spurs’ resurgent spirit. I think we’ll nick it 2-1. Let’s see, should be a good one.

Liverpool should easily crush Hull 3-0 or more, given the form they are in.

Originally published: April 25, 2009

Football Sports

Alive and kicking!

Okay, here we go.

After a year gone by doing nothing but just sitting on this domain, I’ve been thinking about getting my act together and start spending some time here on my personal corner on the Web. On a day when my boss asked me to take the day off work and relax, I decided to roll my plan into action.

And voila! here it is in front of you, the culmination of an afternoon’s work. Hopefully, now that I have a platform in place, I should post here more often.

Until later then, cheerio.

Originally published: April 24, 2009