Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jonathan Cristaldo Postcard

Jonathan Cristaldo is shown here with Lionel Messi with a reference to the Champions League. Unfortunately like several other players from Metalist he might find himself having to get a transfer to Shakhtar to realise that particular dream.

Cristaldo has become one of the fans' favourites after signing from Vela Sarsfield in 2011. He made his debut in a 0-0 draw against Kryvbas (sound familiar?)and it took him a while to get going, however he is now a proven goalscorer for the squad. Despite not scoring for the first 2 months that he was in Kharkiv, he's the 3rd highest goalscorer so far this season in the league and averages a goal every other game since joining the club.

Metalist Books

Han has authored a couple of books with a couple of his mates and I was chuffed that he brought with him copies of both of these books.

The top picture shows the cover of the book that came out last year and which chronicles the last 20 years of Metalist history from when the Ukrainian League was formed after the formation of the republic and the break up of the Soviet Union. It really is a meticulous piece of research and apart from the statistics and stories the photographs offer an interesting look back, not least of all at how far the Metalist stadium has been developed over the years.

The second cover shows a book that chronicles and has reports on every match that Metalist has played in Europe up to just before the Newcastle match.

Newcastle V Metalist programme

Unfortunately Newcastle knocked out Metalist this Thursday in the Europa League. The game finished as a 0-0 draw in the North East and then Newcastle won 1-0 through a penalty from Ameobi. It was probably some of the dullest football I've seen on TV in a long time, but fortunately it was televised in the UK on ESPN, so not that many people saw it. Here's the programme from the match that both Han and Phil were at, although I'm quite glad I fought the temptation to go there myself.

I am assuming that the programme has been slimmed down in contents as it is for a Europa League match. At £3, which seems to be the going rate in the top two divisions it's a fairly typical price, but compared with a lot of clubs' it's fairly thin and quite advertising heavy, but as I said it's probably better to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that it is thinner because it's for a Europa League match.

Pressie from Han

I had a lot of regrets last year, but one of them was not being in Kyiv for the European Championships. Han on the other hand was rubbing shoulders with the great and the good of football in Kharkiv, Donetsk and was in Kyiv for the final. At least he got me a programme though.

Han in the UK

This weekend I didn't get to a game because of work, but last weekend I didn't go to a game because my old mate, who features on the first very post of this website, Anatoliy Hamaev was in the country for the Europa League game match between Newcastle and Metalist. After an overnight journey from Newcastle to London he came up to Cambridge and then we went to London on the Sunday. I'm sure that he probably wouldn't have minded going to the usual football I attend, but I thought I'd better make sure he made the most of his trip and we did all of the tourist things. One of the weird things that happened was when we got out of Victoria Tube Station and were greeted by the Metalist massive. Apart from that though we did all the usual things that tourists do in Cambridge and London.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Robins back in the final - Ely City 2 CUP 0

Last night the oldest club in Cambridgeshire, Ely City, took on the oldest club in Cambridge itself, Cambridge University Press for a place in the final of the Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup. Last year Ely City won the competition by beating Soham Town Rangers in the final, but the omens weren't great as Ely had been on a terrible run of late. Last Tuesday's home defeat was followed up by another defeat at home on Saturday. I missed that particular match as my old mate Anatoliy 'Han' was in town, but more about that later.

CUP have been doing well in their division, which is the one below Ely and on paper it looked like they would prove to be decent opposition. However, the start of the game looked like things were going to be very different. Adam Claydon came close to putting the Robins ahead with a bullet header on the 2nd minute, but the keeper was equal to it. It looked like it was going to be a long night for the visitors, as Ely attacked in swathes, but couldn't really find away to the goal. In the 13th minute the Robins took the lead when Adam Murray's shot was cleared off the line, but Richard Chadwick was on hand to stab the ball home from close range.

Although Ely were dominating and the midfield of Curry, Bolton, Diaper and Luke Parkinson were creating and were being well supported by the 2 fullbacks Strecki and Sam Parkinson CUP were still in the game and did have the odd chance. On 27 minutes Lee Pacey made a great save after a long slide pass was collected by a CUP forward. There were very few actual goal chances though in the rest of the half. That said Ely got the ball in the back of the net twice only to be ruled offside. The second one being in the final minutes of the half and what actually looked like an own goal, so how the decision of offside was arrived at is a bit of a mystery.

CUP started off the second half with the bit between their teeth and it looked like the teams must have swapped shirts at half time, as it was now the visitors who were attacking with urgency. On 50 minutes Pacey made a fine save and on 53 Strecki was on hand to clear the ball after a follow up from another fine save by Pacey. That was more or less it for the boys in light blue though, as Ely remembered what they were there for after the first 15 minutes of the half and started to stamp their authority on the game again. Apart from one shot that Pacey saved on 66 minutes Ely had all of the chances. After a fortunate save by the CUP keeper on 69 minutes Strecki decided to finish off the visitors. On a mazy run through the defenders that was reminiscent of his goal against Soham in last year's final he was unstoppable and with 20 minutes left and the temperature dropping in the fog it looked like for once we weren't going to be going to extra time. There were further good efforts by Impey and Luke Parkinson, but it ended 2-0 as the Robins ran out comfortable winners and booked themselves a place in a final against Cambridge City at Cambridge United's Abbey Stadium.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ely City 1 Wisbech Town 2 - Dire Derby

Last night on a cold February night Ely took on Wisbech at the third attempt. The game had originally been called off at the last minute on January 2nd because of heavy rain and the rearranged game fell victim to the snow. Was it worth the wait? Well, not really.

Apart from the weather the pitch had taken a battering after the reserves had played on it on Saturday and Cambridge Women on Sunday. I'm not sure if the plan of rolling the life out of it every time it gets cut up is the answer though. Wisbech have been doing well enough this season, but still seem to be falling below their expectations, and after going out of the Vase they got rid of 4 players including Dubi Ogbonna. Ely on the other hand have had a disappointing season after finishing 2nd last season, they have been a fixture in the lower half of the mid table. There have been a few flashes of inspiration, but a few games where they have deserved the tag that a few clubs have levied at them of being a non-league Stoke. Although I would argue that Stoke are actually more like a league version of a myriad of non-league clubs Ely didn't exactly do much to expel the myth last night.

The first chance of the game fell to Ely in the first minute, but Murray didn't manage to beat the goalkeeper. That was one of the few chances that Ely had in the half. In fact Wisbech didn't create much either, they were having problems with the offside trap, and most of the chances that fell to them came from defensive errors. There was one goal of the half though and that fell to the visitors on 13 minutes after a defensive error led to Wisbech converting from a corner.

Ely started the second half in a better fashion, but the ball was spending a lot of time in the air. On 54 minutes Nick Impey managed to get it on the ground and a grass cutter from the edge of the box bobbled up in front of the Wisbech keeper and went into the back of the goal to level the scores.

The rest of the half was pretty lacklustre with both teams lacking creativity, but with 5 minutes to go another defensive error gifted Wisbech with the points. In fact the highlight of the half after Impey scored was probably seeing Lee Pacey leave his goal for most of stoppage time leaving the net unattended in an ice hockey style. However, unfortunately he didn't score and the game finished 2-1 to the visitors.

Sean talks Match Attax

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Photos of King's Lynn v Rainworth

The flag that tells it as it is. I'm quite a fan of King's Lynn, but most other non-league fans in East Anglia really don't seem to like them.

Alessandro Bacherini takes an early free kick for Rainworth.

Spriggs sends Bacherini sprawling with a well placed penalty.

Ross Watson (player in yellow nearest the goal) waits to receive the ball to put King's Lynn 2-0 up.

Another Rainworth attack breaks down in the closing minutes.

King's Lynn Town 2 Rainworth Miners Welfare 0

Yesterday it stopped raining / snowing / sleeting for long enough for them to be some football. After watching Crusaders beat Manea I decided that it would be worth braving the cold for a trip to the Walks to see King's Lynn take on Rainworth Miners Welfare. I was especially keen to go, as I always enjoy a trip to the Walks and the weather and work commitments for the last couple of months and the coming couple of months don't seem too conducive to seeing as much football as I would like. On top of that Rainworth are a bit of a blast from the past, as are a lot of clubs playing in the Northern Premier Division 1 South this year.

King's Lynn are currently 4th in the table, but have several games in hand and should make the play-offs, as Coalville seem to have top place sewn up already. Rainworth meanwhile are in mid-table, which for a team of limited resources is pretty decent too. Lynn may have expected to dominate the game, but it started off pretty evenly matched. For the opening half hour both teams created chances, although none that really worried either of the goalkeepers. King's Lynn looked decent going forward down the wings, but the deliveries from Stephen Spriggs on the right and Jamie Thurlbourne on the left lacked accuracy. Rainworth also had chances, but seemed to lack creativity up front and seemed to pose the most threat from set pieces, which might explain why they seemed to buy free kicks as soon as they were in shooting range.

The breakthrough that the game was looking for finally came on 30 minutes when Spriggs was upended in the box and took the subsequent penalty to put the Linnets 1-0 up. Lynn then started to dominate and finished the half in the ascendancy. Shane Tolley came close to putting the home side 2-0 up before the break, but the half finished with the Linnets 1-0 up. Some tough tackling from both teams spilled over into a bit of handbags at half time as the teams left the pitch, which let's be honest seems to be a rather frequent occurrence at the Walks.

The second half started in a very different fashion to how the first half finished. Rainworth clearly had the upper hand, but continued to lack imagination in front of goal and tended to rely on long throws and set pieces, which to be honest never looked really effective.On the hour mark Danny Beaumont made way for George Thomson and 5 minutes later Spriggs was replaced by Charlie Butt in an attempt to freshen things up in midfield. It seemed to do the trick as on 71 minutes a corner from Butt wasn't dealt with properly by Rainworth and Watson found the back of the net to leave the visitors chasing a 2-0 lead.

Tempers were getting a bit frayed in the last 10 minutes, but Rainworth were left licking their wounds as Lynn managed to closer the game out to record a 2-0 victory.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Stadio Sant' Elia - gone but not forgotten

Back in the 1999-2000 season when I lived in Sassari I went to most home games of Sassari Torres. At the time they were in Serie C2, but were on the way to a promotion. That was all well and good and I had many a good time there, but after a year of being in Rome with Stadio Olimpico in walking distance I'd got used to the heights of Serie A. Therefore my real treat was always getting on the long bus journey across the island to see Cagliari play at Stadio Sant' Elia in the top flight. At the time the team were struggling at the wrong end of Serie A and the club definitely had some desperate problems. However, Cagliari is a fine city and even if the local Ichnusa beer is pretty foul it was always a good day out and felt like a bit of an adventure. Driving through the mountainous regions of Sardinia, getting into Cagliari as the sun came out, going for a walk around the old city, lunch in a bar and then picking up tickets and watching the away fans arrive by boat. What a great way to spend a Sunday, just a pity the football at the time was so bad and the fans were generally revolting in more ways than one. That said you could always go down there and see some of the best players in the world for £8. I know that is going back a bit, but you have to consider at the time Wycombe bloody Wanderers were asking for £14. Typically though in that season one of the few home games that they won was against Roma when they got a jammy 1-0 win on the one occasion that I was in the away end.

So what has this all go to do with the end of Sant' Ellia? Well, I read last night that Cagliari were now playing their home games at some stadium on the edge of the city rather than their grand old ground near the city and the sea, and as it happens this new stadium is not safe and the game against Milan at the weekend is in doubt. That said one of the excuses that they had for leaving Sant' Elia at the end of last season was safety. Someone more cynical might think playing Milan and the referee, as it seems to be lately would be enough reason to call the game off.

The stadium was opened in 1970 following Cagliari's spectacular and only Scudetto. At that time the capacity was 60,000 and they even managed to get 70,000 in there at one time for a game against St.Etienne. There was however a major reconstruction for the World Cup of 1990 and the capacity was brought down to 39,905. It was in this incarnation where England and Italy played out a 1-1 draw and the incarnation in which I used to watch them. There was always a slightly amateur feel to the place though that had its own special charm. For example, I remember one time when I had the equivalent of a £50 note and the club ticket office didn't have the change. It ended in me having to change it with a hot dog seller, who gave me a load of counterfeit notes, but that's another story. The away fans were greeted by a character who looked like Norman Wisdom, who used to sell the tickets to the away fans one by one.

In 2002 - 2003 the stadium was reconstructed again, due to them not being able to fill it, although I think that was more to do with the poor quality of football rather than the questionable way of distributing tickets, and the capacity was brought down to about 24,000.

Unpopular club president Massimo Cellino wanted to move the club to a new ground in 2007, but the council put a block on it and the club stuck it out at the now fading Sant' Elia. However, last year the club finally completely fell out with the local council and after playing a few games in far off Trieste settled at the new stadium, which doesn't seem adequate.

It's with a bit of nostalgia that I feel the passing of Sant' Elia in the same way as when CSKA Kyiv left their old stadium before the club itself disappeared into history. At least Cagliari Calcio seem like they will carry on despite the closing of their old grand ground.

And the bad weather continues....

Ely are due to be playing at home tonight, but due to the amount of snow and rain on an already bad pitch means that I am not going to risk walking down there, especially as nobody else is going. I feel like a lightweight, but I reckon it's going to end up abandoned.