Fernando Torres captioned this photo as “Liverpool family”. I can’t even muster any eloquence to describe what the All-Star Charity Match (a.k.a. everyone’s chance to say goodbye) means to the fans. This club is making me weepy again (apart from the huge blows against Arsenal and that club made of manure).
Spain versus South Korea was particularly enjoyable as we got to see some wonders from the men in red. Fernando Torres opens the scoring—and I sincerely hope this already silences the critics—with a header at the 11th minute, and guess who’s supporting him in attack? None other than Sergio Ramos.
Xabi Alonso shows us who is the boss in taking penalty kicks, while Santi Cazorla displays wit and field smarts by outsmarting the entire South Korean defense on a direct free kick. Meanwhile, Alvaro Negredo stamps out any doubt on earning his spot in the national team. It was 4-1 in favor of the campeones, and I leave you with all sorts of Torres photos.
I’ve got a lot on my plate this weekend, such as an article to transcribe and some interviews to do content analysis on. However, nothing can and will take away my weekend basketball, rugby, and of course, football.
Let me just out myself and say that I do (not-so-secretly) root for the Blue Eagles—and they pretty much demolished the Tamaraws in the first game of the UAAP Finals. One more game, and the defending champions are bringing home the UAAP men’s basketball crown to Loyola Heights once more.
I’ve been making a point to catch the All Blacks’ games, and yes, they made me follow rugby (shame I’ve yet to see the Volcanoes in action—and I don’t mean the action of the billboard type). They did great versus France, 37-17. Snaps:
Liverpool beat the Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield, 2-1, and the Reds came out firing. The goals were courtesy of a Johnson deflection of Charlie Adam’s shot, and a brilliant goal from Luis Suarez, who was on fire the entire time he was on the pitch. Relentless, I’d say—-to the point where he had a bit of a hissy fit when substituted out for Steven Gerrard. Andy Carroll, I thought, in the first half, looked more like the player equivalent to what Liverpool paid for him. In the second half, he wasn’t much of a factor—but as it is, he better play and play and play until he stamps his class (at least for the time that’s given to him).
Now let’s talk about Steven Gerrard. He came on during the Carling Cup match versus Brighton, which I missed. This is pretty much the first time I’ve seen him since… lord knows when. The last game he started was back in March. As for class, it was a very inspired 10-minute appearance from Captain Fantastic, with some brilliant runs with Dirk Kuyt and a shot that just went wide over the net. Overall, a good game for the lads, and I’m still waiting for Andy Carroll to blow me away.
Over in Spain, I was beginning to wonder if there was something brewing internally that made Real Madrid lose five points in two matches. Then again, the whole La Liga table was been pretty interesting after jornada 4. In any case, if I ever had doubts, these were erased as the men in white powered over Rayo Vallecano, 6-2. It was a slow start for Real Madrid, however, with Michu beating the defense to follow up a shot that was earlier parried by Iker Casillas—all within the first minute of play. Madrid got their scoring going with a Ronaldo hat-trick (the first goal with an assist from Kaka; the second a penalty kick, because Kaka was brought down; the third another penalty kick because he was brought down), Higuain (off a Xabi Alonso free kick, headed by Ramos for Higuain to easily net), Varane (with a nifty backheel kick in front of the goal to softly lob it over the keeper), and Benzema (off an Özil assist).
Midway through this jornada, it’s Real Betis at the top of the table, followed by Barcelona (ugh), Sevilla, Real Madrid, and Valencia. And for those wondering, Athletic Bilbao are in 17th.
Some Somber Notes
The Philippine National Basketball Team lost to Jordan. The medal hopes are still live, as they’ve got to battle it out for 3rd. Go Gilas!
In Chelsea’s match versus Manchester United last Sunday, Fernando Torres scored a goal and then missed a golden opportunity in front of a wide open net to score another. Torres decides to bite karma in the ass by scoring a goal against Swansea. Karma decides to bite his pretty ass once more when, after scoring a goal, he is shown a red card for a two-footed (swan-like) tackle. Oh freckles.
That was one word to describe the friendly between Italy and Spain, which was early this morning, Manila time.
It was weird because of more than a few things:
This was a different look for La Roja, with several of our key players in the starting XI not being called up due to injury. These included: Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila, and Sergio Ramos (pretty much ¾ of the first unit for the backline defense), Cesc Fabregas (he, of the desperate, troubled, unkempt sort), and Xavi Hernandez (the midfield maestro). I told a couple of friends a few days before the match that I did not have a good feeling about it, and I hate it when my hunches were proven right. My hunches had something to do with the fact that the injury count was too high, and that the teams had spent a lot of time traveling days before the friendly (Barcelona had their U.S. tour, and Real Madrid came from a swingaround of Leicester-Guangzhou-Tianjin).
The dirty pitch seemed to have scraps of paper strewn all over it (c’mon, one of the reasons why football is called the beautiful game is because the pitch HAS to be perfect—this one looked like it had large chunks of dandruff peppering it). If the Italian defense can clean up nicely, whoever was in charge of the pitch certainly cannot.
Fernando Torres getting subbed early on, which was eventually revealed to be a concussion (Santa Madre Mía de Dios, I do not understand why there were a lot of cheers from folks on Twitter about Fernando Torres’ injury. The genuine Liverpool supporters I know have gotten over whatever negative feelings they’ve got for Torres [we moved on a long time ago with Suarez and Carroll, in case you haven’t figured those out], and the genuine Spain supporters I know continue to believe in El Niño [he made us believe over three years ago, and what he has achieved ranks high among fieles a La Roja]. As for the haters, you are sick people if you take delight in the player getting a concussion.
Spain was outplayed by Italy in the first half, or at least until Xabi Alonso scored off a penalty kick. The Spaniards could not get their rhythm on, left wide spaces for Italy to attack, and crumbled at the Italian defense (uh, five defenders to cover the lone striker should give you a good idea of how it went).
Apart from El Niño, Piqué also had to be substituted out of the match. Reports say he was feeling some discomfort prior to the match, but decided to play on. Another one on the injury list—and the Supercopa is days away! Now, if Cesc suits up for Barcelona, he’ll actually not be a benchwarmer—there’s an opportunity to play as center back!
So, how did it all play out?
Early onto the match, about the 11th minute, Riccardo Montolivo lifted the ball over an onrushing Iker Casillas, allowing Italy to draw first blood. Say what you want to say about San Iker, but he remains to be the best goalkeeper in the world. Italy had a couple more chances that he was able to save. I wouldn’t fault him for going out of his line—the man has been known to have an instinct as to where the opponents will go. Notice how even in the times he gets beaten, he actually is on the right direction.
As for Victor Valdes, who came in the second half, he made a good save once, but froze when Alberto Aquilani’s shot was deflected by Raul Albiol, which pretty much sealed the game for Italy well into the 85th minute. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Aquaman—but I would have much preferred he was wearing a red shirt!)
Was it a case of catenaccio beating out tiqui-taca? Well, if catenaccio is hinged on the assumption that the backline defense was well organized and highly effective, it wasn’t all that. Gigi Buffon was excellent at goal, which also meant Spain had a lot of attempts on goal that he saved (David Silva, in particular, was working his ass off for several shots). One in particular, had unlucky written over it—an attempt by Juanin Mata, which bounced off Fernando Llorente, who effectively acted as the line of defense prior to Buffon. Que pena!
Speaking of Llorente, he surely wasn’t at his best. I don’t know if the early substitution for Torres threw him off, but Floris was certainly sluggish, and when he could head the ball, he did not capitalize on such. This is certainly quite a counterpoint to David Villa, who came on in the second half and made a splash with his shots on goal.
As for the defense, it was pretty much tested. Obviously, the Iraola-Piqué partnership still doesn’t work, and Italy capitalized on this. Iraola was subbed in the second half by Thiago Alcantara (a bright spot in the futute of Spanish football), and Javi Martinez, who played the first half as a holding midfielder moved to the backline—yes, the future captain of Spain is quite a utility player. Let me also give credit to Alvaro Arbeloa, who was showing potential as a wingback.
And I am reserving the last of mentions for Xabi Alonso, the lone goalscorer for Spain, who was wearing the captain’s armband in the second half. The usual adjectives to describe Xabier (“flawless”, “classy”, “perfection”) came into mind when he calmly, coolly, and cleanly placed the ball right at the center of the goal, beating Gigi Buffon. (Yes, I was screaming “Te quiero mucho Xabi!” at 3 in the morning.)
So yes, it was weird all around. I’m not going to make excuses for Spain—they themselves have said that they lacked motivation for friendly matches. Credit to Italy for playing well and for playing like they’ve got something to prove.
I am purposely not resizing the Fernando Torres photo. I think his ass has more merits than his haters. 😉
As I clutched a copy of the book as if it was an expensive thing that I had to guard with my life (even if I think it should have been marked at least 50% off—c’mon, Kinokuniya, Torres is no longer a Red!), Rick walks up next to me. “Don’t judge me,” I say, assuming he was eyeing the book I was holding. “That’s OK,” he says. “Torres has done a lot of good when he was with us.” (Although he probably was rolling his eyes in his head at the sight of another Torres fangirl, haha.)
To say that this book is an easy read is an understatement. It’s an easy read, as the translation of Torres’ thoughts appear as if it was just in casual conversation with a friend—despite being disjointed at times. In some chapters, he does paint an intimate picture of his life in Atletico Madrid and Liverpool. It is a treat for any fan who adores Torres, especially with all the photographs that make up about half (or more than?) of the book. And at the time of its publishing (2009), this was pretty much an autobiography that was approved by Liverpool FC’s media (don’t go looking for much of the club history and such though—there are a whole slew of books for that, including a Bill Shankly book of quotes).
One thing I realized is that while Torres writes about how he seemed destined to go to Liverpool from Atletico Madrid (remember the captain’s armband falling from his arm, exposing the words: “We’ll never walk alone”?), I get the feeling that the book was a premonition of his move to Chelsea. Of course, it may just be me, but apart from those two other clubs, he seems to have mentioned Chelsea more than any other club.
This brings me to the point that I do feel a sense of regret reading the book. Speaking as a fan of Liverpool, I do feel as though Torres could have been a legend in a club whose supporters showered him with much affection. Looking back at the events in January 2011, there was a strong sense of antagonism toward him partly because he was so well-loved—and then to exchange the affection with a transfer request? What betrayal. (Of course, he was also beaten by the club in the PR/spin game.)
Yet, if you must understand why he left Atletico Madrid, you would also gain insight as to why he eventually left Liverpool as well. El Niño had a hungry heart—one that wanted to win championships—despite the seemingly quiet demeanor. Yes, he was hungry—and impatient. While he succeeded for country (ah, that unforgettable Euro 2008 goal), he had not found much luck at the club level and was always present in a team that was undergoing a period of transition.
(As for my fangirl self, I consider Fernando Torres an ex-boyfriend. Harharhar. Seriously though, I wish him well in Chelsea, but I don’t wish for Chelsea to win anything. I’ll openly root for Torres when he’s donning the Spain NT shirt.)
Give this book to any Torres fangirl, and you’re guaranteed to get a squeal of delight in return.
P.S. The best line of the book: “Bloody hell, where is Steven Gerrard?”
Cross-posted on Polilla de Libros.