Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wigan Does More than Salvage a Season

Going into the FA Cup Final Wigan Athletic knew if they didn’t pull off what was perceived to be a miraculous upset, their incredible run would soon be forgotten as just another great tournament run by a Cinderella club that met its end when faced by a top level club. Perhaps even more at stake was the salvation of a season that started with much optimism, hoping to improve on last season’s 15th place finish as they were reminded that they were only two wins away from finishing in the top 10. However, after dropping three of their last six matches and falling below the water level of relegation, the club could change their fortunes from calamity to historic with a win over the defending EPL Champions Manchester City in the FA Cup Final. The match itself wasn’t one for the purist as there was no scoring until the 90th minute despite Wigan having a one man advantage due to a terrible challenge by City’s Pablo Zabaleta that set the stage for their grand exit. But don’t let that be the only stat you pay attention to as the game was statistically even in all of the 19 major match stats that are kept, all except goals scored. This was a victory for David, for the little guy, for the little train that could. 81 years without a piece of hardware to show for it. The giant fell to the ground and the rumbles could be herd all the way to the City of Manchester Stadium where the first head to roll after the consternation of having to close the trophy case without making any additions was manager Roberto Mancini True there have been some upsets where the goliath had a bigger name and most supporters will always have an upset by their own club to call the biggest but there is no arguing the fact that City’s 187 million payroll dwarfs Wigan’s 12 by the largest margin in FA Cup history and I’ll put that disparity up against any of the other biggest upsets in history regardless of tournament. This was one for the ages and unfortunately it will have to carry the Wigan faithful supporters clear for another 12 months until they can get back to the competing in the top division again as the Gunners need to win two straight matches to qualify for the Champions League next year and the little train that could is standing on the tracks in front of the Gunner’s freight train and that loss will send them down for the summer. However the wild ride won’t be forgotten in our lifetime and something tells me we haven’t seen the last of David. View the complete EPL final week here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Borussia and Bayern turn Champions League Final into Feiertag

As the original field of 32 in this year’s Champions League Tournament began to decrease so did the number of EPL sides left in the tourney, as well as most favorites. So when it got down to the final four sides one might surmise that the upsets had run their course and we would see the old rivals from Spain square off in a storied final that would add another chapter to their history. However Bayern Munich seemed like a side on a mission after losing in the final last year on their home soil in a dramatic PK loss on Drogba’s last goals as a Chelsea striker, one to tie late and the last to win the game, shootout, and championship. Matched up with Barcelona and Lionel Messi in the semi-final, although slowed by a hamstring injury Bayern for intent and purposes wrapped up their spot in the final in the first leg with a shocking 4-0 victory in Munich, as Thomas Müller scored twice and despite losing possession 63-37% it seemed like there were 14 Bayern players on the pitch. After that first leg it was foregone conclusion that they would get their second consecutive shot at the title. It’s a testament to the character of the side that they were even able to get back into the mix after such a heartbreaking defeat, but they were more than competitive they made it all the way back to final. The second leg was not much better as Bayern left no doubters whom the better side was with another solid 3-0 win to hand Real Madrid their worst ever net aggregate loss in a major competition 7-0. On the other side they will meet their countrymen from the North were pulling off an upset of their own as most were expecting Ronoldo to steal the show, and at half-time of the first leg he had as it was 1-1, but from there the match and a spot in the Finals belonged to Robert Lewandowski’s and the Black & Gold. Three second half goals put him in the record books and Dortmund in the Final. The second leg was more formality than anything else as Real made it respectable in the second leg with a 2-0 win but even those came in the final seven minutes of the match. So all of Europe may be watching on May 25th but there will certainly be a concentrated focus as for the first time ever two German sides will be battling for more than the hardware, as it’s also a North/South rivalry with even more on the line for the countrymen involved. This is an unexpected final for the football world but it truly is a once in a century moment for the Nation and aside from a World Cup match on home soil this is about as big as it gets. It’s a good thing the Final falls on a Saturday as half the nation would be calling in sick so they might as well make it a holiday (Feiertag in German) because half will be celebrating when it is all said and done and the celebration may last until Monday.