Let's talk about Australia

 


 In 1987, the young Australian team of Allan Border and Bob Simpson astonished everyone by lifting the Reliance World Cup in front of a jam-packed crowd at the Eden Gardens. The Australians landed on the subcontinent as the no-hopers, but as the tournament progressed they were seen upsetting the hot-favorites India and Pakistan and then arch-rivals England in the final. The City of Joy embraced them as one of their own, but despite being the World Champions, that Australian unit was still a project under development.

In the following season, they were beaten by Pakistan away and West Indies at home and losing at Brisbane, and Melbourne was still thought to be normal back then. Then, things started to change. The 90s and 2000s witnessed Brisbane becoming a fortress while it was hard for anyone to beat Australia in a Boxing Day Test. The baton of aura of invincibility was passed to Australia from West Indies in 1995 at Jamaica.

Even that greatness of Australia started to exhibit fragility and ultimately they became just a competitive unit – still Brisbane and Melbourne were their happy hunting ground. After the end of one of the most memorable Test series in recent times, Australia had been reduced to mortals in those two venues.

The last time Australia stumbled through an entire home Test match without a single batsman passing 50, against the mighty West Indies at the MCG in 1988 and the last time they lost at Brisbane was in 1988 against the same team.

The West Indies of the 80s could beat anyone and okay, it was acceptable, but if you lose against an injury-prone side who are relying on their bench strength – then questions do arise about the temperament of the team, who are widely known for their mental strength, ruthlessness, and professionalism.

Had the Indian batsmen not nicked at everything on that eventful session at Adelaide, where the Australian pacers were breathing fire – the scenario could have been different. Meanwhile, after the heat at Adelaide, the Australian bowling unit forgot to display the aggression and Spartan line and length throughout the series – it was there of course, but in patches more often – among the four frontline bowlers, if one bowler was seen bowling better the rest led the pressure ease.

 

Most importantly, the Australian batting unit frustrated throughout the series. They were below-par and none of them had the patience or the intent to fight like their counterparts.  The batting unit was playing without confidence or system, allowing the visitors to dictate terms.

Steve Smith was out of form – which was a surprise, Marnus Labuschagne gave away starts, and David Warner was seen eager to get out rather than playing sensibly while the rest of the batters were found wanting against an inexperienced attack. The execution of shots never matched the standards of Australian cricket and the shoulders started to drop as soon as the opponent piled up the pressure – even when Border and Simpson were shaping up that Australian unit after Reliance Cup, they exhibited fight rather than giving up too easily.    

Perhaps, Border’s proactive captaincy played a huge role in galvanizing the mentality of the side, but this time around, Tim Paine, neither matched the class nor the character of the Australian captains of the past. He was like a boy in a toy store running everywhere to choose his toys and shouting for nothing – the art of mental intimidation seemed to have lost the razor-sharp edge at the hands of Paine – they motivated the Indians rather than making them shaky.

It was Paine who looked extremely shaky and short of idea and mental strength.

Then, why the Australian bowlers targeted the body rather than attacking stumps – especially the top of off – remains a moot question! That was poor tactics from Australia and even this was not applied by Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie – they attacked the stumps consistently and chocked the life out of the visiting batsmen.

“I think there'll be huge fallout from this (defeat). There are not too many times that you lose to the second or third (choice) side,” Shane Warne was quoted as saying by Fox Cricket.

“Their (Australia) tactics will come into question, and they have to. Bowlers will come into question; people's spot in the team will come into question. It has to. You can’t just deflect it and flick it off and say India were too good for us,” he added.

“That's not taking anything away from those Indian guys that played but their first selection side, there are probably only two or three players in that side who would play,” Warne further said.

“Yes they were, but Australia had so many chances in this series to bury it and crush India, but they couldn't do it. They just couldn't do it,” he said.

“I think at times their tactics haven't been good enough, and I suppose that's got to come down to Tim Paine as captain,” he said.

“It's not just Tim Paine’s fault, the bowlers are allowed to say 'Tim I want to do this', and so it’s a combination between the bowlers and the captain. But at the end of the day, you are captain, you have to take responsibility. He'll be disappointed,” Warne signed off.

Ricky Ponting expressed 'shock' over the result.

“I'm quite shocked that Australia weren't quite good enough to win this series. The cold hard facts of it are pretty much that was the India A team that played this Test match and still won,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.

“Considering everything the Indian team has been through in the last five or six weeks, with the captain leaving, all the injuries they've had – they've been through 20 players – (Australia) have been at full-strength, bar Davey (Warner) missing early on, so it's really hard to comprehend.”

The statements of the two legendary Australian players sum up the state of Australia throughout the series.

India deserve all the credits for such a great feat, but Australia cannot deny the way they wasted the key moments, which is never the Australian way!

Note: This article has been posted at Cricketsoccer as CSdesk on 23/01/2021 Let's talk about Australia

Thank You

Faisal Caesar 

Anfield breached

 


Records are meant to be broken someday and ultimately it happens, but what the fans don’t expect is that their fortress experiences the breach at the hands of a less strong side. After 68 games, 55 wins, 13 draws and almost four years, fortress Anfield has finally been breached by Burnley.

Burnley were the only team to take points off Liverpool at home last season. Now they recorded a still greater feat, Ashley Barnes’ late penalty making them the first team since Crystal Palace in April 2017 to take three points here.

In this season, no one sees what is coming, and overall this season during the COVID-19 Pandemic has been wilder than ever.  

Back in December, Burnley bagged their first top-flight win over Arsenal in 1974. Now came the first win at Anfield since the year Bill Shankly retired and the focus on Liverpool’s plight should not deflect from the way Sean Dyche keeps on chalking up historic feats with Burnley.

The relegation fears for Burnley is also quite over.

For Liverpool, this was hard to digest.

For the first time since Gerard Houllier’s team failed to score in their final five games of the 1999-2000 campaign, they have gone four league matches without a goal. Jurgen Klopp’s side have not scored for 438 minutes in the league and taken three points from a possible 15, going from title favourites to a team who could drop out of the top four!

This team is habituated to create records rather than letting them slip.

The Reds had been absolutely relentless for so long, the wheels have come off for in recent weeks and this is not good.

Since netting seven against Crystal Palace everything has stopped working. The goals have dried up and their confidence has evaporated. They look a shadow of the side which has swept all before them in recent seasons.

Klopp came at half-time when he threw a few choice words and gestured angrily at Dyche as both departed down the tunnel.

Their players were delayed on the pitch as VAR determined if Fabinho’s little kick at Barnes merited a red card – the booking was upheld.

The man of the night, Barnes was an antagonist to Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara. He got the game’s first booking for an agricultural challenge on the summer signing. He set up Klopp as well.

 Then, Burnley were too stubborn – unstinting and determined efforts to conquer Anfield.

 

Klopp was frustrated –hugely frustrated.

“We lost the game which is pretty impossible but we did it,” Klopp said to Sky Sports.

“That is my fault. It is my job to make sure the boys have the right feelings and confidence. That didn't work out.”

“We had the ball a lot and created some situations that are OK but our final decision is not right. I said the same thing last week. When something doesn't work you must try harder, longer, and more often and make better decisions. It didn't work tonight.”

“It is always my fault. If I make clear which movements make sense because it will hurt the opponent and we don't do that then I need to make it clearer. It is not that they don't want it. It is difficult to play against these low blocks.”

“It helps if you score the first goal but we didn't. That changes the opponent. After not scoring for a long time not everybody feels confident.”

“I never thought of us as free-scoring. I knew we had to work hard. It is not the first time or last time it will happen in football.”

“We can only use this game for the next one. It is not because the players do not have the ability. Our decision-making is the problem. If we score in our big moments it changes things but we did not.”

 Klopp gambled by selecting Origi and leaving Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah on the bench.

 Divock Origi raced on to an attempted backpass of Mee and bent a shot past Pope. It rebounded back off the bar and straight to the goalkeeper. Origi had been granted an unexpected chance, a first league start of the season, but the gamble backfired.

Perhaps, Klopp intended to save Salah and Firmino for the FA Cup tie against Manchester United, each was summoned for the final half-hour.

Salah’s first notable action was to draw a fine save from Pope, following a surge from his own half by the stand-in skipper Gini Wijnaldum.

Pope was brilliant - saved twice from Origi, denied Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. He had held an effort from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Meanwhile, Xherdan Shaqiri arrowed a shot wide, Sadio Mane blazed over and Firmino was off target.

Liverpool had 27 shots, taking their tally to 87 since Mane scored their last league goal, they were not at their blistering best – welcome to the lean-patch and it would take some effort to get out of this.

Barnes earned and scored the penalty, winning his running battle with Fabinho by evading the Brazilian, hooking the ball over Alisson, and being brought down by the goalkeeper. Barnes coolly slotted in his spot-kick – and that was it.

Liverpool tried in vain, but it was too late.

They sent Alisson up for two late corners and asked Takumi Minamino to save them.

But, it was a night to forget for Klopp and Liverpool – they are not invincible at Anfield anymore!

Note: This article has been posted at Cricketsoccer as CSdesk on 22/01/2021 Anfield breached

Thank You

Faisal Caesar 

 

760 for Cristiano Ronaldo

 


Talents are God gifted. They dazzle with their charisma, but there are groups who work the hardest and beat the talent to reach the pinnacle of glory. Cristiano Ronaldo falls to that category - a genuine hard worker blessed with enormous mental strength. His journey in football is an inspiration for many and courtesy of his sheer hard work; the big man has bagged records after records.

Back on August 16, 2003, an 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo made his Manchester United bow and started his reign of terror upon English defences. Ronaldo made his debut as a second-half substitute during a 4-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers. The Red Devils were winning 1-0 before his introduction in the 61st-minute - replacing Nicky Butt - highlighting the dazzling instant impact he made.

Ronaldo has come a long way since that day, breaking a plethora of records across a stunning career for Sporting Lisbon, United, Real Madrid, Juventus, and Portugal.

Last night in the Italian Super Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata got La Vecchia Signora's two goals, with the Spaniard killing the game off with the final kick of the game, putting the finishing touches on a swift counterattack, and the night itself.

Wojciech Szczesny made an excellent save to deny Hirving Lozano in the first half to keep the scores level at 0-0, though it wouldn't be the last time the Mexican would be frustrated by the Juventus goalkeeper.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored what looked like it was going to be the game's only goal shortly after the hour mark, turning in from close range after a corner fell in front of David Ospina'sgoal.

Lorenzo Insigne then had a glorious chance to draw Napoli level after Weston McKennie brought down Dries Mertens to grant a penalty. From 12 yards and hoping for his 100th Napoli goal, Insigne stuttered and dragged his shot wide, despite Szczesny having gone the wrong way.

Napoli pushed forward late on and, in the final minute; Juventus broke from a Napoli corner. Juan Cuadrado bore down on goal and squared for Morata to finish into an open goal, bringing the full-time whistle.

Andrea Pirlo claimed his first piece of Silverware as the manager of Juventus, while in the finals, Cristiano Ronaldo does not bottle at all – the man is made for the finals in Europe’s top-level competitions.  

But the most highlight of the match was, Cristiano Ronaldo had surpassed Josef Bican for the most goals scored for club and country in football history - with his tally now at 760 and there is nothing to be surprised of. For such a determined personality, this record was meant to be achieved.

He has moved past Brazil legend Pele (757) - who moves down to third on the all-time list - while Romario is fourth (743) and Ronaldo's Barcelona rival Lionel Messi make up the top five (719).

 

Of his 760 official goals, as recorded by Opta, a whopping 450 came during his nine-year spell at Real, while he netted 118 for Manchester United, 102 for his country Portugal, 85 for current club Juve, and five at Sporting Lisbon.

The year 2013 had been the most significant for Cristiano Ronaldo when he found the back of the net 69 times, but he also recorded 34 in 2007, 35 in 2008, 30 in 2009, 48 in 2010, 60 in 2011, 63 in 2012, 61 in 2014, 57 in 2015, 55 in 2016 and 53 in 2017.

The five-time Champions League winner's most prolific scoring season, though, was in 2011-12 - with 69 goals overall.

Ronaldo scored 27 against Sevilla - more than any other club - while 25 came against Atletico Madrid and he managed 23 against Getafe. He scored 488 with his right foot, 139 on his left, 131 with his head, and two via other body parts.

At home, Ronaldo has 410 to his name, with 304 coming away and 46 at neutral venues. He scored 46 hat-tricks, 136 doubles and there were eight occasions where he scored four times in a match, scoring five times in a game twice.

His La Liga tally stands at a total of 311, with 134 in the Champions League, 84 in the Premier League, 67 in Serie A, 30 in World Cup qualifying, 31 in qualifying for the European Championships, 13 in the FA Cup, and seven at the World Cup.

Ronaldo, who has won titles in England, Spain, and Italy, is most likely to score between 76 and 90 minutes - with 178 goals - more than any other time-frame in a match.

Ronaldo, who also won the Euros and Nations League with Portugal, and has scored 15 goals in 14 Serie A games this season, recently revealed his desire to continue playing for “many, many years” despite his age.

“We are very happy with the win, it was difficult, especially as the pitch was terrible, but we got it done,” Ronaldo told Rai Sport after the match.

“We showed a different attitude to the bad performance against Inter. That is the past, this is a very important trophy and we hope this can give the team more confidence going into the future.”

He added, “Milan and Inter are very strong, but I believe we have what it takes to win. It’s going to be very difficult, but I believe the Scudetto is still possible.”

Without a doubt, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best footballer in the world right now and the way he is performing at the moment always gives the impression that the best of Cristiano is yet to come.  

Note: This article has been posted at Cricketsoccer as CSdesk on 21/01/2021 760 for Cristiano Ronaldo

Thank You

Faisal Caesar 

 

Real Madrid lose again, but they can now focus on La Liga and Champions League


 

If you are a supporter of Real Madrid then this is not the best time to be in – The Copa del Rey elimination of the Los Blancos comes as a blow to Zinedine Zidane's 2020-21 projects, and one that is potentially fatal. The loss against Segunda B side Alcoyano is another setback after the exit from the Spanish Super Cup, with Real Madrid ending the night with Fede Valverde, Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio, and Karim Benzema on the pitch.

In just six days, Real Madrid have seen their chances of two different trophies slip away, following their Supercopa de Espana semi-final loss to Athletic Club. Now, all of their eggs are in the Champions League and LaLiga Santander baskets.

This latest defeat is a humiliating one for the club and one that falls into the same category as Alcorconazo in the 2009/10 season under Manuel Pellegrini, which saw them lose 4-0 to Alcorcon.

That loss decided the Chilean's future, with him dismissed at the end of the season, and that same fate could await Zidane, whose management of the squad has been questioned, as have the poor results the side has picked up this season.

Real Madrid tested Jose Juan with a pair of early chances, the first an effort from distance from Fede Valverde, followed by a Militao header off a corner kick. Lucas Vazquez also had a crack at goal later in the half, but outside of those opportunities, Madrid could not puncture what was a compact and resolute Alcoyano defence until the very final seconds of the half.

The goal originated from the left foot of Marcelo, who fizzed in a ball into the area that met the surging Militao, who headed in past the flat-footed Jose Juan to make it a 1-0 Madrid lead.

After the break, Madrid were hardly threatening in the final third despite an overwhelming advantage in possession. Finally, a rare counter-attack for Los Blancos almost yielded a second score, only for Jose Juan to come all the way out of his own penalty area to block a Vinicius shot.

 It was the let-off that Alcoyano needed and minutes later they pulled their socks up and drew 1-1 with ten minutes to play.

Juli whipped in a corner kick that was flicked on at the near post and spun perfectly for Solbes to stab home from a meter out for the goal.

The game went to extra-time.

Zidane brought on Eden Hazard and Marcos Asensio.

A slick one-two combination between Asensio and Benzema forced Jose Juan into a diving save, as Madrid crept closer to the goal. Their task was made easier by a foolish second yellow card and sending off for Ramon with ten minutes remaining.

The 41-year-old Alcoyano stopper, who was superb throughout, was called on one last time during play to make a save, capping it with a kick-save to deny Marcelo.

Juli kicked-off a counter-attack that was beautifully continued by Diakite and Anton, with the former crossing for Juanan, who appeared at the near post and steered home a shot past Alcoyano to take the 2-1 lead and left Zidane and Real Madrid in the cold.

Zidane is under pressure after the back-to-back setbacks even though the French maestro still seemed composed enough.

“I think so but you have to ask them [if I still have their support],” he said at a press conference.

“We have done good things, not so much lately, but apart from the last games, we did good things this season. We have to concentrate on the things that can be done.”

“When you lose, you always talk. I take responsibility and whatever has to happen, will happen. I am very calm, the players wanted to win the game. They try and sometimes different things happen. You have to assume responsibility.”

“I am going to assume it, as always. The players have tried and if we score the second goal it is another match, football is like that. The goalkeeper has made two or three saves and didn't allow us to score the second goal. But I have the responsibility. We are out.”

“We have tried; I think the players have left everything on the field. We had chances and when you don't put them in, what happened to us can happen,” he said.

“It is a difficult moment, we are out of the Copa, we had to do something else but we couldn't. The players have tried. This is football, it is very difficult because we played against a Segunda B team and we have to win the game, but it didn't go like that.”

“It's not a shame, it can happen, it happens, these are things that happen in a football career. I assume responsibility and we will continue working. We will not go crazy.”

Indeed, Real Madrid need not panic but work harder for the future in this hectic schedule. The La Liga and Champions League are around the corner and Real Madrid are not down and out from those competitions, rather, they are still a contender and can win both the titles.

Setbacks are a part of the game and in the past, such setbacks have helped Real Madrid to regroup and win. Under Zidane, one can expect yet another dramatic turnaround.

Note: This article has been posted in Cricketsoccer as CSdesk on 21/01/2021 Real Madrid lose again, but they can now focus on La Liga and Champions League

Thank You

Faisal Caesar 

 

 

Frank Lampard is in trouble

 


Neither Manchester United nor Manchester City are at the top of the table of Premier League, but the Leicester City of Brendan Rogers are sitting at the top after the clash against Chelsea. Like the epic test series down under no one was expecting this outcome and on the day when the 32-year old fort of Australia was breached, the Foxes leapfrogged the big guns to take the top spot to the astonishment of the pundits and fans.

Leicester outwitted and outfought the visitors and sealed victory thanks to first-half goals by Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison. They could have scored more against a Chelsea team that was sluggish at the back – it was ramshackle defending and even though at times it seemed that Chelsea would an attractive side, but remained a project not going anywhere despite the amount of cash spent.

 Roman Abramovich did not spend over £200m to build a team that would struggle and lack the cutting-edge to outweigh the others. Of course, he is also not well-known for his tolerance level. He kept faith in Frank Lampard because he wanted someone young and energetic with a fresh idea, who would lift the Blues upwards not gradually, but as soon as possible. Lampard got whatever he wished – sadly, the results have been frustrating.

Lampard made four changes to the lineup that started Saturday’s victory at Fulham, which ended a three-match losing streak on their travels. Tammy Abraham started up front, while Kai Havertz was given another opportunity to come to terms with the Premier League. Reece James returned at right-back, with Callum Hudson-Odoi on the wing ahead of him.

 Meanwhile, Rodgers kept faith in the same side that proved to be too good for Southampton on Saturday and they picked up the tempo at the King Power Stadium within six minutes.

 Marc Albrighton played a short corner to Maddison and then accepted the return pass before pulling the ball back to Harvey Barnes near the penalty spot.

 Barnes lifted in the air and his mis-hit turned into the perfect tee-up for Ndidi, who struck a superb left-footed shot in off the post from 20 yards.

 Worse almost followed in the 15th minute!

 Maddison thrashed a shot past Edouard Mendy from even farther out.

 Timothy Castagne created the opportunity after he ran down the right-wing, leaving Ben Chilwell and others in his wake.

One goal down and the Blues were required to exhibit character – but they started to crumble and played as a malfunctioned robot.

Abraham struggled to hold on to the ball up top, while Havertz seemed out of his depth.

 In the 32nd minute, Christian Pulisic combined with Havertz before presenting Hudson-Odoi with the chance to score, but he wasted it. Then the Blues had a penalty in their favour overturned when, after reviewing the evidence, the referee Craig Pawson decided that Jonny Evans fouled Pulisic just outside the box. Mason Mount botched the free-kick.

Moments later Albrighton clipped the ball from midfield over Chelsea’s sloppy defence, Antonio Rudiger bumped into Jamie Vardy and Maddison was left free to finish smartly from eight yards.

 Lampard needed to change the shape but decided not to use the substitutes available after the break and midway through the second half, he did change - On came Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech for Hudson-Odoi and Havertz – they provided no impact.

 The backline of the Blues melted under the counterattack of the Foxes.

Albrighton clipped the ball from midfield over Chelsea’s ramshackle defence, Antonio Rudiger bumped into Jamie Vardy and Maddison was left free to finish smartly from eight yards.

The defeat at the hands of Leicester on Tuesday night was the fifth loss in eight league matches for the Blues. During that time, morale has plummeted and an expensively-assembled squad looks like total strangers.

Pressure grew over Lampard after the loss to Manchester City earlier this month and another lifeless display at the King Power Stadium has disturbed the powerbrokers in west London.

Chelsea haven't beaten a team in the top six this season. They have drawn 0-0 with Manchester United and Tottenham and lost to Everton, Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester City. Worse still, some of these big sides have toyed with Chelsea, with Leicester just the latest team to cruise to victory over Lampard's troops.

Chelsea have their lowest points total after 19 games since Abramovich took over the club – aside from the season when they finished 10th. Lampard also has the worst away defensive league record of any Chelsea manager since the Premier League began in 1992.

Lampard acknowledged that his charges cannot ignore the reality of the situation.

“We won against Fulham without playing brilliant, from that we come and lose a game so it's a small step backwards,” the manager explained to Sky Sports after the final whistle.

“I am worried about the slump - from the form we were in to get so quickly into the form we're now in and we've had some wins, but five losses in eight aren’t where we want to be.”

“It takes character to get out of that - I'm not against the lads in the dressing room because they're disappointed. It's a young team and it's a big lesson that if you come off it and think you're fine then you've got to get yourself out of the hole.”

“Beaten by the better team. They were sharper than us, ran more than us and they looked in form - we looked out of form. Disappointing goal from a set-piece and the second goal is just not good enough," he added.”

“There were quite a lot of moments where our sharpness wasn't there, those are the moments you have to dig in and the basics are important like running and sprinting and we didn't do that.”

“The most disappointing thing is to come here and lose the game but the basics off the ball are important.”

 “The game on the ball was a bit slow at times but it was okay, we created a few opportunities and I thought it was a penalty (a first-half foul on Christian Pulisic just outside the box) but I'm not going to lean on those things. We weren't good enough.”

Chelsea are now in serious danger of missing out on Champions League qualification unless Lampard can address a worrying dip in form, with a home fixture against Luton Town up next in the FA Cup on Sunday.

Lampard is in trouble and it would be interesting to see whether the Chelsea hierarchy keeps the faith in him and give him the time to fulfil the project, which is still under construction or the project was never started, rather lacked the plan and direction.

Note: This article has been posted at Cricketsoccer as CSdesk on 20/01/2021 Frank Lampard is in trouble

Thank You

Faisal Caesar