The foxes have impressed in the last few games and there was no letting up on Thursday night. What a pass from Tielemans in the build up the third goal from fellow Belgian Praet. Iheanacho, deputizing for the rested Vardy struck a brace to stake a claim for a starting berth but it will take some doing to depose Vardy in the form he is in. Braga on the other hand barely threatened Schmeichel’s goal. With competition for the top 4 places in the Premiership promising to be at an all time high, this competition may provide a route for Leicester into the Champions League. They need to sort out their consistency issues particularly after Christmas. Their over reliance on goals from Vardy may come back to bite them and may possibly need to dip into January market to find a player who can supplement him. No offence to Iheanacho and Slimani of course.
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Standout result on Thursday was Stan Wawrinka beating the in form Russian Andrey Rublev in 3 sets. Stan the man recovered impressively from losing the first set for just 1 game showing his younger upstart he has a lot in his 35 year old self.The key to his victory was winning his efficient conversion of break points(3/5) to Rublev’s (3/6). There was not much in it but it proved to be telling. Rafa Nadal celebrated a milestone 1000th win on the tour with a straight sets win over Australian Thompson. Thompson impressed me with my shot of the day when he was 3-2 up in the second at 0-15. Nadal is now ONLY behind Jimmy Connors(USA), Roger Federer(SUI) AND Ivan Lendl(CZE). He looked much settled after a shaky last match with Lopez.
Rising star of Swiss tennis Jil TEICHMANN facing former world number one Angelique Kerber in round 1 in OSTRAVA. This was a good battle of the lefties. The serving was below par from both players , Both first serve percentages below 60. I must lament the inability by both players to hold on to their service games convincingly as well as their failure to convert break point opportunities and both had a lion’s share of them. Jil returning 6 of 11 opportunities and Angie 3/9. The first player to crack on serve was the German. A couple of unforced errors handing the Swiss the break.
Now check out 3-0 first set 15-0 Jil. The lefty forehand to another lefty doesn’t have the same punch as to a right hander but Kerber wrist motion was perfectly executed pulling Jil wide forcing the error out of her. To her credit despite being 5-1 down with Jil serving for the set, Kerber didn’t go down without a fight. Watch the backhand down the line at Deuce catch Jil cold. This was her go to shot for this match employing it in the second set too when puting pressure on Jil’s serve.
Second set started very much like the first, Jil holding serve to make it 1-0 then breaking serve the next. Both players slowed down the serve so there wasn’t really much to talk about in terms of Aces. The long forehand at second set 2-0 40-30 by Jil to hand Kerber the break back was down to the pressure that a second serve can exert on a server.
The Packers getting their first win against NFC North rivals Detroit , turning the heat on the Lions in the second half. Credit were it is due, the Lions were all over Green Bay in the first half. The 75 yard TD was great but it probably was the wake up call the Packers needed. Aaron Rodgers was the best rusher with 6 yards for the Packers. Goff’s figures of 46 yards weren’t bad at all for the Lions.
It was not as if the Lions’ defense was awwful, no. It was more of the Packers being able to find chings in their armour. Check out Rodgers’s pass for the TD at 17-14 Lions. The defensives very slow to even come close to the Packers’s on rushing player. This was the turning point of the match. Lions however needed to defend the corner of the EZ better as Rodgers kept finding his teammate with the rainbow pass in and around that part of the field.
I have got the feeling Ronald Koeman is the worst positioned Barca manager for success in 20 years with the lack of support he is getting from the fans and the club. He openly admitted after the game that he doesn’t have the player’s to play the Barca way, this for me is a sign of accepting defeat with the season barely at 5 games. Their failure to break down Granada who in all earnest sat back for the whole 90 minutes is a sign of lack of creative players which have never lacked at Camp Nou. Koeman has no choice but to play long and hope set pieces get the goals which happened here with Araujo.
Letting go Antoine Griezmann clearly wasn’t Koeman’s decision but a board one in order to put less pressure on the wage bill. But the decision to replace him with Luuk De Jong was his. Could he have for a better player than the Dutchman? I think he could have so that glaring miss by De Jong from a routine header will have fans pointing out that he was the one who picked him to come to Camp Nou. So what next for Barcelona?Wait for the January window,tick. Sack Koeman ,No. Give the young players more game time, absolutely.
The issue of pay for sportsman is a thorny one which isn’t going away anytime soon. Why one player gets paid more than the other in team sports certainly rouses emotions. After all they all play almost the same number of hours on the field and they all almost contribute equally to the team’s win. But why are some players paid more than others , and some given special treatment by teams particularly at the higher level of sports such as premier league,NBA compared to lower leagues? I will try to shed light using examples like what the Grand Slam tournament organizers did in giving equal prize money to both male and women tennis players and why it may not have been everyone’s cup of tea.
Well up until 1973, the US Open tennis tournament had a different prize money for women and men. That was when Billie Jean King had enough and threatened to boycott the tournament which forced the organizers to concede. This is a good thing no doubt. But certain arguments have surfaced recently which deserve to be heard. One of which is one brought forth by none other than Novak Djokovic the world number one in 2016. He argued that people come to watch men play so paying equally across may not be in interest of fairness. I so happen to disagree with Novak as the census done on attendance at WTA tournaments show that there has been ,well not really the same numbers, but it has been on the up and up.The level of sponsorship in the women’s game is higher according to the WTA which means the prize money should automatically increase as well. What I might accept is that women play best of 3 sets at grams slam tournaments as opposed to best of 5 sets which means more endurance is needed to win matches, also the level of intensity in men’s matches is higher. Try chasing after a serve in the 140 km per hour range for 5 sets. So what of team sports such as soccer?
Soccer is now big business, so being a big business clubs want to stay afloat (not be bankrupt). As such there are employees that bring in more money than other because of their skill set and brand. For example Ronaldo’s brand brought more shirt sales in a week of his return to United than new player in history , so naturally he commands a higher wage than any at United. Some players when negotiating pay say they are the ones that fans pay to see, which I tend to disagree. A case in point is when a player leaves a club does their attendance diminish? Barcelona’s attendance never went down when Messi left, check the stats even with the pandemic limiting attendances. So the player wage ultimately depends on the perceived value of the player has to the team.So is it fair?Yes and No.Soccer is a team sport so every player contributed to the success on the pitch but the world is more complex than that. Success is now measured not only by the result on the pitch but in terms of financial statement results as well.
My favorite play for this week is Taylor Heinecke’s eye in the needle throw to Terry McClaurin. The Redskins… sorry Washington Football team(almost forgot am not allowed to call them that😏) won a close opening season match against the Giants thanks to the quarterback’s performance.He threw 336 yards had a 34/46 success rate. McClaurin had two defensives on him in the EZ but he jumped the highest to level the scores at 7 apiece. Terry celebrating like he won the Superbowl and deservedly so.
The World Champs are here and the TT event took place in Flounders, Belgium on Sunday. Fillipo Ganna was looking to defend his title from last year. He did just that beating the home team favorites Wout Van Aert and Remco Evenepoel. Stefan Kung the Euro champ disappointingly finishing outside the podium. Ganna later said the key to the win was his high altitude training a few weeks ago. High altitudes help athletes train the lungs to get more oxygen in so that it goes to the cells faster, therefore they do not get tired easily. The 42 km course was a long one for a TT event. So often the choice of a bike in a TT is the difference maker.
Wout finished second in the race but his bike was a marvel. Most bikes have a heart monitor fitted in them. It measured whether the rider is riding at the correct intensity during the race, in such a flat surface as this TT it was vitally important. The usual aerodynamic positioning of the saddle higher than the handle bars is also important. Now almost a given. The use of hydraulic brakes instead of mechanical ones crucial because the open and lock mechanism prevents water and debris from wearing the brakes out. Lastly, the rear disc wheels are to reduce air resistance and are better than spoke wheels, but are vulnerable to cross winds. So a weather check prior to the race won’t hurt.
Both sets of fans will talk about this match for a long time. David Moyes’s attempt at a Louis Van Gaal blew up in his face spectacularly. Funny how soccer works. If Mark Noble had buried the spot kick, David Moyes would most probably by now been hailed as a coaching genius. Instead everyone is saying how foolish it was to give a sub a penalty to kick without even warmed up. Contrast this to LVG at world cup 2014, his decision to bring on Tim Krul in the quarter final made him the best coach in the world even earning him the job at Man United the following season. Mark Noble hardly ever misses and De Gea almost never saves penalties, this shows that the decision by Moyes wasn’t a bad one but the outcome of it was. Such is the way in business and life. Anyway this game was textbook example of redemption for players after catastrophic mistakes.
Jesse Lingard’s late winner must have felt good to his belly after his mistake led to the Young Boys scoring in injury time on Tuesday. Psychologists say that the only way for a sportsman to get over a mistake as traumatic as that one is to play more matches and visualize only the player’s triumphant moments. Ole did great in letting Lingard play but if I was him I would have gone a step further in starting him. I must admit I was one of those who have written David De Gea off after his series of mistakes last season. The penalty save would go a long way in boosting his confidence and the run of games in goal have served him quite well. West Ham had a good game despite the loss, with debutant Zouma(from Chelsea) at the heart of a solid defense, although he was maybe weak in preventing the Lingard goal. So good was the evergreen Declan Rice, he effectively nullified the Pogba threat. Lastly, the ref didn’t have a particularly great match in major decisions, I thought at least one of Ronaldo’s penalty appeals was a pen.
Joao Almeida sealing the Tour win by finishing second in stage 5 despite his best efforts to close down David Gaudu in the last 200 meters. Another 20 meters or so at the end he might have caught David. Great effort from Quintana on the final ramp climb there. Standing up from the saddle does get you added speed on the climb but you tend to exert more energy. The commentator alluded to the ramp feet as being a bit dangerous for which he had a point. It is surprising that organizers still go for them with an array of safer options to choose from. Hirschi was the closest challenger to Almeida in the GC but despite winning the intermediate sprint to gain some bonus points he had a mammoth task to catch up with the Portuguese. It was a great team effort from Almeida’s teammates to get him to finish second in the stage but take nothing away from. Gaudu who showed remarkable leg strength to win the sprint finish.
The way Inter has gone about losing key players of their title winning side of last season has been exemplary to sides who are in a similar financial position such as say Barcelona. They went out and recruited quality players available at a bargain like that “Dutch guy”😊 Dumfries who had an excellent Euro and Edin Dzeko who has big shoes to fill in Lukaku. Inter’s wing play was virtually unplayable against, almost every attack down either flank had a goal threat in it. This is an excellent way to recover from that heartbreaking loss to Real Madrid in the champions league.
One player who I am surprised none of Europe’s elite has gone for in the summer window was Slovakian Skriniar. He is a version of Van Dyke ,able to add the odd goal from set pieces and is a sturdy defender too. Bologna ,who has had an excellent start this season for a team that struggles perennially with relegation, didn’t help themselves here. At the very least change of formation to help out the right and left back from a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1 when there was still time.
Despite there being no goals scored, the Saints produce the performance of the weekend with this gutsy performance. Focus will inevitably shift to Pep and the lack of a 20 goal a season striker for the lack of cutting edge up front. Southampton squeezed the man with the ball forcing the mistake in midfield. There were two major talking points. One, is the penalty award to Southampton which was overturned on review. I got to tell you, I have no clue what the said clear and obvious error was there. Walker made no contact with the ball and just lunged into Adam Armstrong as he was through on goal. Maybe it was peer pressure from the VAR team ,I don’t know.
Second talking point the offside call in the Sterling goal. If Sterling leaves the ball to his fellow striker and doesn’t interfere, that is a goal. It goes down to striker’s instinct. Pep has been in the news criticizing the attendance at the Etihad but there was no where to hide here, his team failing to find the back of the net with a jam packed home support behind him. Southampton were superb in midfield with Romeu and Ward-Prowse impressive. It seems if you are Pep Guardiola , this was an average week. First you concede 3 goals in a match in Wednesday then come back on a Saturday to get a clean sheet but you don’t get the three points. Better defending from his team particularly from Ake who is prone to the odd error. The selection gamble to leave out De Bruyne was another mistake I think Pep will rue after this one. When he eventually came on the attempts at Southampton’s goal eventually we on an upward trajectory.