Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ely City 1 Mildenhall Town 3

While I was away Ely only registered one win out of four and so I went to this game with not much optimism of the Robins getting a decent result. There doesn't seem to be that many changes in the playing squad and the biggest change seems to be a diversion from the traditional all red kit to an all maroon one. It does however look like it is going to be a long hard season though.

Bearing all that in mind, it didn't really come as a great shock when Mildenhall opened the scoring from a scrambled in corner on 12 minutes. However, Ely showed a lot of resilience to come back and equalise on 19 minutes from a terrific volleyed effort by Adam Claydon. After this the possession seemed to equal out, but it was Mildenhall who again took the lead on 90 minutes from a diving header at the far post. Ely did have the chance to go in at half time on level terms, but Mildenhall managed to scramble the ball off the line in stoppage time after a flurry of chances in the box. It was the visitors though who finished the half with the advantage.

Not a great deal happened in the opening encounters of the second half with both teams having chances, but Mildenhall having the upper hand. The best chance came on 77 minutes when Adam Murray's shot was cleared off the line, but it would probably have been rough on the Hall if the Robins had drawn level. Mildenhall then proved their superiority by going up the other end and scoring to make it 3-1. They had a chance to make it 4-1 on 85, but didn't manage to convert, but did manage to comfortably win against a sorry looking Ely team.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Next Up

Well, that's the end of the reports from football matches in Ukraine. Next up is Ely City v Mildenhall and then I'll try to get on with uploading the pictures from the games in Ukraine.

22/08/13 Obolon Brovary 4 Kremin 2

Obolon have had a bit of a tough time of it recently, so it was good to see them register a win when we went to their stadium. After relegation from the Premier League their administrators went too far with the fire sale and the brewery who were seeing their investment crumble pulled the plug. They then reformed the club but under their own administration in the Amateur League last season and entered the Second League at the start of this. They haven't had the most impressive of starts to the season, but they should make progress with a stadium and possible fan base that many Premier League sides would be envious of in Ukraine. They also seem to have the knack of making astute signings. The best example being Ivaschenko, who had an amazing game.

Obolon got off to a terrific start scoring after Just 3 minutes. I only just saw the goal, as I was still in the queue for beer, but at 5 UAH (35p) a pint, you can't really blame me, but I was just in time to see Pavlo Hordiychuk slot do the ball in the bottom right corner. After this it was all Obolon and Ivaschenko was controlling the game, so it was no surprise when he added to the score on 20 minutes with a perfect strike from distance. Obolon then, as Ukrainian teams often do, looked happy to see out the half and leave the score as it was.

As the second half got under way, I found myself secretly hoping that Kremin would score, as Obolon were really starting to relax now. Evhen Aprishko duly intervened by scoring for the visitors, but at the same time it didn’t really look like they were going to get back in the game, but it did mean Obolon had to try and put the game to bed. Oleksandr Ivaschenko increased the lead to 3-1 after beating two defenders and squeezing the ball past the keeper to make it 3-1, just 4 minutes after Kremin had scored.

Obolon weren’t finished yet and Artem Favorov scored with 3 minutes left to make it 4-1 to Obolon. Serhiy Stepanchuk pulled another one back for the visitors from the penalty spot in stoppage time with what was to be the last kick of the game, but it still didn’t take the shine off a fine win for the hosts.

18/8/13 Dynamo Kyiv 2 Tavriya Simferopyl 0

This was probably a must win game for Oleh Blohin, after an indifferent run of form has seen Dynamo after just 5 games slip out of title contention, with rivals Shakhtar, Metalist and Dnipro finding good form, whereas Dynamo's has been somewhat indifferent. This game presented a perfect chance though, as Tavriya are pointless and at the foot of the table.

From the start it was quite clear what Tavriya's game plan was and what Dynamo's main deficiency is. Tavriya defended resolutely and were happy to soak up the pressure whereas Dynamo lacked a forward who could make any impact. Andriy Yarmolenko was back in the team and playing with a passion that was absent in the team the week before, he was providing the crosses and having the odd white himself, but it was all very speculative. Like Chernomorets the week before Tavriya's game plan was to hit Dynamo on the break, most of their creative play came from the evergreen serhiy Nazarenko, but Shovkovskiy being brought back into goals helped Dynamo to organise their defence properly and Vida, when called upon, was a steady rock at centre back. Nevertheless, the half ended as a stalemate and again Dynamo must have been feeling frustrated.

Fortunately for the home team and fans it didn't take Dynamo long to break the deadlock and Roman Bezus opened the scoring with a goal provide by Yarmolenko. Dynamo were now fired up and looking for more goals. Tavriya, who had been pretty unadventurous anyway were now camped in their own half as the impressive Yarmolenko attempted to extend the lead. He managed to get his name on the score sheet on 77 minutes and it was more or less game over. Dynamo played out the game to seal the victory and their were some relieved faces on the bench. Now, hopefully Dynamo can press on and Blohin will realise that he might be better off using some of the home grown talent rather than some of the imported flops who haven't really lived up to their billing as yet.

17/8/13 Dynamo U21 3 Tavriya Simferopyl U21 0

After a very late night on Friday I decided to hit Kreshchatik for a few beers and topic is up tickets for the main game on Sunday. The under 21s were playing each other in a prelude to the game between Tavriya and Dynamo on Saturday evening, so after hitting the beer tents it was time to check out the younger teams. It is always interesting to see how the younger players are developing and to try and spot the future stars.

It was a pleasant enough early evening and like everything else below the Premier League in Ukraine entrance was free. The stadium hadn't changed and the old lady who did the announcements was still in fine voice and Paramon put in an appearance, although he wasn't Looking in the best of nick, not that he ever really did! The crowd was pretty small with about 200 people in attendance, including a bunch of likely lads who were caught trying to smuggle smoke bombs in.

From the kick off there was clearly a gulf in difference of class between the 2 teams. Dynamo looked pretty slick whereas Tavriya seemed to be a bit confused by their coach shouting out instructions in English from the sideline. I suppose that the Tavriya players if they don't make it, at least they have the chance to improve their linguistic skills.

The first half as a whole was played out at a decent pace. There was however a feeling of inevitably when Oleksiy Milyutin opened the scoring on 10 minutes. It was clear thought at this point in the game that Dynamo were going to win the game and a brilliant long range shot from Roman Lazarovich on 31 minutes doubled their lead. Tavriya did manage to stem the tide a bit after this though and seemed capable of keeping Dynamo at bay. That was until in stoppage time at the end if the half when Pavlo Polehenko seemed to have taken the ball too far wide of the Tavriya goal, but somehow managed to get the ball in the back of the net to give the home team a 3-0 lead at half time.

If we were hoping for more of the same in the second half we were to be disappointed. Dynamo took their foot off the pedal and also as the half progressed seemed to substitute most of their starting line up. I am not sure what the rules are for this league, but they could definitely make more than 3. It didn't seem to help Tavriya though, as they didn't threaten the Dynamo goal. Dynamo on the other hand seemed happy to play the game out. There was only one chance of note in the half and that came from a free kick where Dynamo hit the bar. They will be happy enough with the scoreline, but a bit more action in the second half, wouldn't have gone amiss.

14/8/13 Ukraine 2 Israel 0

In the morning we had been on the beach on another scorching day in Kyiv, but as the day progressed the clouds started to gather and it looked like we might get some rain. However, when we met Sid at Krila it was still sunny and it looked like we might get away without getting a soaking. How wrong we were though. The skies opened and we were liked drowned rats by the time we got there.

Out on the pitch there was clearly a gulf in the difference in class between the two teams. Ukraine were playing a neat passing game and the Israelis were struggling to match them. Ukraine's next game will be against England in a crucial World Cup qualifier, it probably will be one of the best chances they will have of getting one over on England after their disappointment in the Euros. They will have to be less wasteful in front of goal though as they should have had a clear lead when Rotan broke the deadlock on 29 minutes.

It is was just a friendly though and the frequent outbreaks of torrential rain weren't exactly helping. We were reminded of the fact that it was a friendly as the second half started, as Ukraine took off most of their more established players. Off went Tymoshchuk, Devic and the rising star, Konoplyanka to be replaced by a fresher bunch of faces. Things didn't change that much though as Ukraine continued to pass Israel to death. Nevertheless, a well worked move by the visitors on 65 minutes when they seemed to have cleverly scored, but the linesman's flag was up. This seemed to wake the hosts up and after a wave of attacks that were as relentless as the rain Selezinov scored on 71 to give Ukraine a two goal lead. The foot was then taken off the gas and Ukraine closed out the game to register a 2-0 win.

11/8/2013 Dynamo Kyiv 1 Chornomorets Odesa 2

My first trip to the football in Ukraine was to the rebuilt Olympiskiy Stadium. Although I had been to the stadium before the redevelopment for 2012 when it was still frequently referred to as Respublikansky, this was my first trip to the rebranded and totally new ground. The crowd of just under 30000 was more than Dynamo would have had for a home game at Dynamo Stadium when that was still considered their home ground, but it still meant a number of empty seats in this massive stadium, although to be fair both the home fans and small band of away fans did their best to create an atmosphere.

In the past this game would have been considered a walk in the park for Dynamo, who have along with Shakhtar been the strongest Ukrainian team more or less since Ukraine had a league and who were a by word for quality football in the Soviet era. Chornomorets have also had their moments, but have rarely threatened for silverware. During this period though both clubs are representing Ukraine in the European League, so perhaps the gulf in class isn't that different at the moment.

What was clear from the start was that the superstars from Kyiv were keen to make an amends for their recent run of poor results and the more workmanlike lads from Odesa weren't going to make it easy for them. Dynamo had attack after attack, but they didn't seem to have the ability to find that final ball. At the same time the guests were defending resolutely. I didn't think that they would be able to deal with such sustained pressure though, however I was to be proved wrong. On 42 minutes and against the run of play Chornomorets hit Dynamo on the break and Priemov fired home to give the guests a shock lead.

It was clear that Oleh Blohin needed to do something at the break and his response was to take off the misfiring Belhandra and Ideie and replace them with Bezus and Mbokani.This seemed to mark a bit of an improvement and on 54 minutes Sydorchuk had a speculative shot which seemed to be going wide. Even the Chornomorets keeper thought it was going wide, but it dipped in and Dynamo were back in the contest.

It was again Dynamo who pressed for the win, but they were again frustrated by resolute defending and an increasing amount of time wasting from the men from the Black Sea. Dynamo were further hampered by an injury to Selin, who had only just come on as a substitute himself. For the last half hour Dynamo were down to 10 men having used all of their subs. Things eventually went from bad to worse when Samodin, who had only been on for a couple of minutes himself scored with 2 minutes left after another counter attack to give the visitors he win and further confound Dynamo's miserable start to the season.

Back from Ukraine

I've been in Ukraine for the last two weeks, and I managed to get to 5 games while I was there. Here come the match reports and the photographs will follow.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

St.Ives Town 3 Ely City 0

It's always nice to get to a ground you haven't been to before and last night marked a visit to St.Ives Town at their Westwood Road Ground. The Saints recently gained promotion to the Southern League Division 1 Central, so play at a level above Ely. It also means that they may be moving ground in the near future, so it may have been my first and last chance to visit their ground. It was also my first chance to see the Robins in preseason action before the season gets underway. The weather was pleasent, so it seemed nothing could go wrong.

Unfortunately, at times the game was pretty bad-tempered with fouls being commited by both sides. However, St.Ives came across as one of those teams who moans and argues with every decision and one of their coaches seemed to spend the whole match with his mouth to the ear of the linesman. If that wasn't bad enough Ely really performed poorly. At times it looked like they were trying to pass a rugby ball rather than a football around. Ely started off strongly enough and created a few chances before Dubi Ogbonna, once of Soham and more recently of Wisbech managed to get past a flat-footed Ely defence and put the Saints in the lead. The Robins weren't down and out yet though and on 27 minutes Adam Murray directed a powerful header into the back of the goal, only for it to be chalked off for offside. After this things started to go bad though.

On 34 minutes the Robins were further behind when Adam Murray aimed a back pass to Lee Pacey in the Ely goal. From the minute it left Murray's foot you knew Pacey was in trouble. He hacked at the ball, but was left stranded with his own clearance and Ogbonna was on hand to make it 2-0. Unfortunately, from this point on Ely continued to be prone to poor passing and poor defending. the midfield also seemed to be losing out in the battles and the forwards were left starved. On 55 Kyle Gibbs scored the Saints' third after another uncharacteristic error by Murray and fortunately the scoring stopped there.

Let's hope this doesn't bode for the upcoming season, although I will be in Ukraine for the next couple of weeks, so the next game will probably be a match against Mildenhall at the end of the month.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Photos of some of the match action Arsenal v Napoli

Arsenal 2 Napoli 2 - One of those games of 2 halves

Despite losing Cavani to Monaco, although they have replaced him with Higuan, much to Arsenal's chagrin and naming Benitez as their manager for next season I can see Napoli challenging for Serie A next season. They seem to have a number of quality players and plenty of strength in depth. Against Arsenal they certainly started off the brighter of the two teams. However, one definite fault in the Arsenal team was the way they fell for 2 Napoli sucker punches. Wenger is supposed to be tactically astute, but when you are relying on Mertesacker in defence it is perhaps not that wise. Napoli knew that if they played deep in defence and passed the ball around then they could lure Koscielny out of defence and then pump the ball forward to one of their fast players who would leave the flat footed Mertesacker lolloping behind like a pub player with a hangover.

Lorenzo Insigne scored on 7 minutes with exactly the aforementioned trick and Goran Pandev made it 2 with an almost identical move. In between these goals Arsenal had a chance to get into the game when they were awarded the 4th penalty of the day, but Podolski added his name to the list of failed penalty takers. It remained 2-0 until half time, but at this stage it was all Napoli whose patient build up and clinical counter attacking looked like it would yield more goals, whereas Arsenal and in particular Podolski and Mertesacker looked out of their depth.

It was a very different Arsenal in the second half and the introduction of Walcott, Arteta and Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly made a big difference. The Gunners started to grow in confidence and with 16 minutes left Olivier Giroud fired in a fine overhead kick which threw Arsenal a lifeline. Pepe Reina in the Napoli goal was time wasting badly, but it almost backfired when with a couple of minutes left Koscielny fired home after Mertesacker had a header saved. Arsenal almost clinched the game at the death, but it ended 2-2, which was probably a fair result in the ultimate game of two halves.

Pre-match photos from Arsenal v Napoli

The Arsenal players warm up

Just before the players entered the pitch.

The players enter the pitch.

Photos from Galatasaray v Porto

Photo of Muslera saving Fernandez's penalty.

Wesley Sneijder tracks back after Porto clear his corner.

Porto attack the Galatasaray goal.

Some random action from the game.

Galatasaray 1 Porto 0 - Paying the penalty

We were supporting Galatasaray in this game. I was behind them due to my connections with some of their fans in Azerbaijan and Sean got into supporting them after seeing them try and turn Finsbury Park into Istanbul before the game kicked off. It promised to be a decent game from the start with the Turkish team fielding a strong team that included Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder as well as ex-Arsenal player Emanuel Aboue. Porto went for their traditional 4-3-3 with Jackson Martinez as the target man. It was hard to say if the team was a strong one in some aspects though as Porto are a selling club that always seem to reinvent themselves into a successful team.

Porto started the brighter of the two teams, but I was impressed with the Cim-bom defence, that was until Kelvin went down (perhaps a bit too easily) under a challenge from Chedjou. Fernandez stepped up to take the penalty, but it was hit tamely and it was easily saved by Muslera in the Galatasaray goal.

Sneijder and Drogba started to get into the game though for the Turkish team and Drogba had a couple of good chances one which he set up himself and one from a clever back-heel from Sneijder.

Amrambat was also upping the tempo by surging forward for Gala and despite Kelvin looking good on the counter attack the faster pace seemed to leave the Portuguese team a bit shell shocked. This pattern was continued into the second half. The best chances of the first 15 minutes of the half fell to Gala. Drogba coming close with a free kick, which Fabiano saved and Amrambat came close with the rebound. Then the penalty madness began in earnest.

On 70 minutes Eboue was fouled in the box. Melo managed to do what Fernandez had failed to do for Porto and put the ball in the back of the net. It was over yet, as 7 minutes later Chedjou was judged to have fouled Danilo. Lucho took this penalty, but it was well wide. The game finished with 2 penalties to 1 for Porto, but the Turks ran out winners, as only they were able to convert.

Pre-match photos from Porto v Galatasaray

Didier Drogba warms up for Galatasaray before they played Porto.

The Galatasaray team get ready before the game.

The teams line up before the kick off.

Emirates Cup Pre-tournament photos

A few photos from the Emirates from before the tournament started.

A trip to the Emirates

Last year there was no Emirates Cup because of the Olympics, but the tournament was back this year. In 2011 Arsenal were joined by PSG, New York Redbulls and Boca Juniors. This time the opponents were Galatasaray, Porto and Napoli. The Arsenal fans lived up to their reputation of not creating any atmosphere and being more interested in consuming hot dogs and buying replica shirts, but there was a pretty big Turkish contingent, who made their presence known inside and outside the ground. The Napoli fans were also in good form and a rendition of 'Bella Ciao' made them more popular with me. The next few posts will be about things that happened on the day.

We were there on the first day when Porto played Galatasaray and Arsenal took on Napoli. The tournament as a whole was eventually won by Galatasaray after a great performance by Didier Drogba in the final game against Arsenal on Sunday.