Tuesday, August 27, 2013

England weekend review, Qatar winter switch due for approval next month, 67,000 MLS crowd

*Manchester United's match with Chelsea at Old Trafford had been teed up to be the first big clash of the season but ended in a disappointing stalemate.

A host of subplots and an evening kick-off at the end of a sunny Bank Holiday was the perfect setting for a big night of football but despite some high-quality approach play from both teams, the game finished 0:0 with few real chances carved out.

Wayne Rooney made staying at Old Trafford look a little more likely by being handed a starting role and impressing. His opposite number Fernando Torres looked glum on the sidelines after Jose Mourinho had stressed the need for mobility up front in preferring Andre Schurrle.

Chelsea effectively played without a striker, using Oscar, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard closely behing the German. Jose Mourinho reminded England how canny a tactician he can be, and how his team's style takes second billing to its score.

Mourinho afterwards called on Rooney again to clarify his desires, which added to his pre-match comment that David Moyes had unsettled him, appears to confirm Chelsea still want to prise him away.

*Gareth Bale's interminable transfer to Real Madrid drags on, with the surprising news that a second club have entered a bid with only days to go before the window closes. The identity of the last-minute suitor remains hidden, but Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City/United are about the only clubs who could find the £86 million Real have offered. Given Tottenham's recent spending spree it seems inevitable chairman Daniel Levy will sign on the dotted line before next weekend.

*Cardiff City's 3:2 win over Manchester City was the highlight of the weekend's games, and the Bluebirds fans were doubly happy to see Welsh rivals Swansea stuck at the bottom of the Premier League. Some local fans staged a march before the match to continue the protest against the switch from blue to red shirts and the replacement of their Bluebird logo with a Welsh dragon, the work of Malaysian owner Vincent Tan, who nevertheless has been instrumental in returning the club to the top flight for the first time since the early 1960s.

* Liverpool & Tottenham maintained the only 100% records in the Premier League. The Reds won 1-0 at Aston Villa and Spurs by the same score at home to Swansea.

*Arsenal grabbed their first points of the season with a comfortable 3-1 win at Fulham in heavy rain.

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* In other news, Sepp Blatter has said a decision on a switch to winter for World Cup 2022 could come as early as the 3rd of October this year. The FIFA President added he would be "very surprised" if the Executive Committee did not rubber-stamp the controversial decision at its meeting in Zurich.

Europe's league schedule faces turmoil in 2021-'22 while losing bidders Australia, Japan, South Korea and the USA could examine legal challenges to any date change. Qatar beat the USA 14-8 in the final round of voting. The Winter Olympics are slated for January 2022, which points to a World Cup finals in November 2021 or even February 2022. Either way, the 2022 World Cup controversy has a long way to run.

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* Across the pond, 67, 385 watched Seattle Sounders beat Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers 1-0 with an Eddie Johnson goal. The huge crowd, the second largest in MLS history, was due in part to the local derby and part to the first home game of returning US hero Clint Dempsey. Only two crowds in Europe this weekend, both in Germany, were bigger. Bayern Munich drew 71,000 and Borussia Dortmund 80,000.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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