Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Poland 1, Russia 1

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source: AP

Man of the match: Leading up the tournament, France-born defender Damien Perquis had to justify his place playing for a country that has had a number of stars naturalized by other countries. On Tuesday, Perquis’ justification came on the field, where he was dominant breaking up play attacking Poland’s left channel and, in the second half, the man creating the turnovers that developed into counterattacks.

NBC Sports: Russia and Poland play out 1-1 draw in Group A

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Poland coach Franciszek Smuda didn’t give Perquis and partner Marcin Wasilewski as much help as he could have. When the team sheet surprisingly had Dariusz Dudka in the team, it looked like he would pair with Eugen Polanski at the base of midfield, providing two players to break up counters and help as Andrei Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev cut inside. Instead Poland played 4-1-4-1 on defense (with Dudka deep), employing a defensive line high enough to dare Russia’s midfielders to hit a perfectly weighted ball. That never happened.
  • Smuda made another astute change after half, swapping wide midfielders Ludomir Obraniak and Jakub “Kuba” Błaszczykowski. Błaszczykowski’s impact still came through the right, though. On a Poland counter, he and Obraniak were able to attack Yuri Zhirkov, turn him around on a Kuba run, and create a chance at the edge of the area. Błaszczykowski blasted the equalizer into the left of goal after a beautiful first touch that took a supporting Sergei Ignashevich out of the play.
  • It was part of a mixed might for Zhirkov. He was dangerous going forward, provided the width Russia needed as they moved Arshavin in from the left, and drew the foul that led to Russia’s goal. Defensively, however, he is still a liability, so much so that he can be targeted by the opposition.
  • It isn’t Russia’s only problem at the back. They remain very vulnerable in the air, with Poland defender Sebastian Boesnich nearly heading Poland in front in the 8th minute. On the night Boesnich would put two more dangerous headers toward goal, with Wasilkewski adding his own pair. Surely I’m wrong, but I can’t remember Russia beating Poland in the air on a corner or restart.
  • Thanks to goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, Russia never had to pay for their poor set piece defending. He made three good saves and had a brave 50th minute punch while giving the day’s best goalkeeping performance.
  • At the other end, Alan Dzagoev scored his third goal of the tournament, redirecting an insanely good Andrei Arshavin cross in for an 38th minute opener. It was the best part of an up-and-down night for each man. Dzagoev spent too much time talking to officials in the second half (and was eventually yellow carded) while Arshavin was inconsistent in his decision-making and, at the end of the match, was seen directing the ball away from his flank as he was too tired to run the attack.
  • When Arshavin did that, Russia had little idea what to do. In the attacking phase, they seem to have one tactic: Get the ball to Andrei. At the end of the match, its redundancy was tiresome. Russia would build down the right, play to Arshavin coming across the top of the area, and he’d either play it back out or be too fatigued to keep the ball. In the last third of the match, they never really challenged for a winner because they were wholly dependent on a spent Arshavin.
  • Poland got a scare at the end of the match when Polanski, one of their two or three best players on the day, went knee-to-knee with Zhirkov. He went off for a few minutes, tired to come back on, but then had to be brought off. It was the type of collision that often ends with a major injury. Hopefully Polanski is fine.
  • Going forward, Russia needs only a draw against Greece to advance. They’ll win the group with a victory on Saturday. Poland plays the Czech Republic needing a win to go through.

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.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”