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The soccer world has got defending free kicks all wrong


Owen Hargreaves

Why don’t teams put a man on the post when defending a free kick? Week after week I see free kicks fly into the corner of the net with the keeper helpless at the other side of the goal.

The match winner from Owen Hargreaves in Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal on Sunday is a case in point. Here in Italy at least one free kick is scored like that every weekend. 

Top players are getting so good at whipping the lighter balls up and down over a wall that a free kick near the box is almost like a penalty. Yet I think a man on the post would halve the number of free kicks that go in.

The reason teams don’t put a man on the post is because this would negate any possibility of offside. Currently attackers have to stay roundabout level with the wall to avoid being offside.

Is the Premier League eating the rest of football?



It was with more than the usual haste that I strode off from the Nou Camp after Frank Rijkaard’s customary non-committal news conference on the eve of Barcelona’s Champions League match against Schalke on Tuesday. Liverpool against Arsenal was being shown on terrestrial TV here in Spain and it was one of those games that you didn’t want to miss.

So I settled down to my usual Reuters expenses supper of a bottle of beer and a Kit Kat from the hotel minibar and wasn’t disappointed. For sheer breathless excitement, intensity and entertainment the match couldn’t be beaten. The game had the Spanish commentators gasping with delight at the football being played by both sides, the commitment from the players and the non-stop support from the fans.

Unbelievable tension at Anfield will never be forgotten


Benitez and Wenger

Liverpool’s rivalry with Arsenal now involves 202 matches dating back to 1893 and Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final will, for the neutral, forever rank among the greatest of them all.

Arsenal fans will never forget Michael Thomas’s last kick of the season goal at Anfield in 1989 which gave them, and not Liverpool, the title.

Liverpool 4 Arsenal 2 — your views on an instant classic


Liverpool celebrate

For once a tie between two English sides in Europe brought out the best of the Premier League. A breathless second leg at Anfield has already been hailed as a classic after Liverpool won through 5-3 on aggregate to set up yet another semi-final against Chelsea, which will doubtless be slightly less of a classic.

Still, let’s take a bit of time to let Tuesday’s match sink in. It will be remembered by Liverpool fans as another great European night at Anfield, while Arsenal supporters will see the tie as a whole as a tale of two penalties — one turned down in London and one given in Liverpool.

Liverpool Light — now that’s entertainment


Crouch celebratesWas it just me, or did anyone else secretly prefer Liverpool Light to the Real Thing?

The Liverpool side that took the field for part two of the triple-header with Arsenal featured eight changes from the team that came away with a 1-1 draw from the Champions League first leg, including an all-new midfield and attack.

Vlog on the pitch — What on earth was Bendtner up to?


Tune into the latest Vlog on the Pitch, as our dynamic duo Owen Wyatt and Jon Bramley discuss Manchester United’s effortless brilliance, Barcelona’s flawed beauty and Nicklas Bendtner’s inexplicable fondness for Irish dancing.

Leave us your thoughts on the week’s Champions League action in the comments below, or better still record your own video musings, post them up to youtube or wherever tagged “vlog on the pitch” and if we like them we’ll put them up here.

Arsenal and Liverpool serve up real English flavour


Fabregas and Lucas

Just how English was the all-English Champions League quarter-final between Arsenal and Liverpool on Wednesday?

As English as bacon and eggs? Or as un-English as a croque monsieur served up by a French chef with a sense of humour working in a Spanish tapas bar somewhere in deepest Essex.      

Grant was Sunday’s big winner, Mascherano the loser


Ronaldo celebrates his goal against LiverpoolAvram Grant was being ridiculed last week as not good enough to manage Chelsea, while referees were getting stick for not coming down harder on dissent.

Cue Grand Slam Sunday — when Chelsea virtually ended Arsenal’s title hopes and Javier Mascherano left Liverpool with 10 men at Manchester United following a quite avoidable red card, clearing the champions’ path in their quest to retaining the title.