Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Poland 1, Greece 1

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source:  Man of the match: It was a curious halftime substitution, Greece bringing on a forward for somebody who could play midfield (after going a man down). Fernando Santos obviously knew his team well, because veteran Dimitris Salpingidis was the right move. In the 51st minute, Salpigidis poached an equalizer, and midway though the second, he won a penalty kick and red card, evening the numbers.

NBC Sports: Poland held by Greece as two sent off
As it happened: Monday’s action from Euro 2012’s opening night

Packaged for takeaway:

  • What a disappointing result for Poland. You come out, dominate the first half hour, and take a one goal lead into half time with a man advantage. Then not only do you fail to get full points, you’re lucky to get one after a penalty kick isn’t converted.
  • Experience is largely overrated (and overused, but commentators). Tonight, it really seemed to matter. Poland seemed naive in the second half, never working to put the game away when they had control. Greece, on the other hand, overcame their disadvantage and, by full time, were clearly the better side.
  • After the first half hour, it was clear Poland had three advantages, none of which they used in the second half:
      1. Greece couldn’t handle the right side of Poland’s attack. Robert Lewandowski would come back and play forward to Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek (all Borussia Dortmund players). The combination was almost never stopped and produced Poland’s only goal (a first half header from Lewandowski from a Kuba cross). In the second half, Poland only threw Piszczek forward once.
      2. Poland was dominant on set pieces in the first, but in the second, they never pressured the Greece defense enough to earn more opportunities.
      3. And twice in the first half, Poland had jailbreak counter attack chances. Greece played too deep in the second to concede any counters.
  • Aside from Przemyslaw Tyton’s penalty kick save (becoming the first substitute `keeper to save a kick in the tournament), the goalkeeping was terrible. Kostas Chalkias took himself out of position on Lewandowski’s opener, while a meek decision poorly executed left Wojciech Szcesny’s goal open for the equalizer. Szczesny also got himself sent off after he took down Salpingidis. Normally you’d saw Poland will miss him, but as bad as he was today (with little to do), they probably won’t.
  • As Gareth Southgate would later point out, Giorgios Karagounis had a ton of time to wait before the penalty kick. Tyton was allowed a lot of time to come on after Szczesny’s unexpected sending off.
  • It bares repeating: Poland abandoning the advantages they had down their right was ridiculous. The three best players on the field were Lewandowski, Blasczcykowski and Pisczcek, none of whom were a factor in the second.
  • Instead, Poland’s defense nearly gave away the game. Central defenders Damien Perquis and Marcin Wasilewski were continuously beaten by passes chipped over their head, while left back Sebastian Boensich kept Salpingidis onside on the play that saw Szczesny sent of.
  • Greece deserves a lot of credit, though. At halftime, I said Fernando Santos’s first priority needed to be keeping this a one goal game, the idea being Greece had little chance to advance should they leave the match with a -2 difference. Instead, Santos helped orchestrate an unexpected point.
  • But neither of these teams look like quarterfinal material. Group A is weak, but it’s not weak enough for the two teams we saw today to advance. Both teams need improved defenses before they take the field again on Tuesday. And it needs to be made clear to Poland’s players: They have to put in 90, not 30, minutes.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.