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The Sunday Stroll: 31 Oct, 2010

October 31, 2010

Stalking ‘friends’. Selling your entire possessions on eBay. Googling cryogenics. The internet is awash with a billion things you could be doing this morning, none of which we here at SportingBlogs think compares to our look back at the week’s sporting action. Today we’ve even plundered and pilfered a veritable feast of video action from YouTube for your benefit. We hope you enjoy. Here’s this week’s edition of The Sunday Stroll…

We begin with Moto2, with an incident from the most recent event in Australia at Phillip Island. This should have been posted last week, but we missed it somehow. We apologise. Anyways, wildcard rider Wayne Maxwell was bumped off, and took exception to the culprit, Spaniard Hector Faubel. His actions (which you can see below), absurd to the point of hilarity, cost him a €5,000 fine.

To football, and after last week’s ingeniously (note sarcasm) titled ‘Rooney-gate’ saga [seriously, why is every slightly controversial topic referred to as whatever-gate?], this week we have been treated to Pompey-gate. First up, it seemed the club was about to be liquidated. Portsmouth FC being wound-up. Jeez. Then an agreement was reached that would enable the sale of the club to save it. Following a disastrous League campaign last time out, relegation, and entering adminstration, all on the back of winning the FA Cup and entertaining the likes of Italian giants AC Milan at Fratton Park, you have got to feel for the Pompey faithful for being put through the mill like this. A proud club with an impressively vocal support… surely the fans deserve better? Hopefully, this is a good start in turning the club around.

Last weekend’s Premier League football gets a brief Sunday Stroll mention this week, on two accounts. Firstly, for a rare Arsenal victory against one of their main rivals, 3-0 away to Manchester City – remarkably their first in ten against City, Chelsea, or Manchester United. Secondly, for Javier Hernandez’s outrageous backward header against Stoke City; in Lee Dixon’s opinion it was ‘one of the best headers I think I’ve ever seen […] just phenomenal.’ Here at SportingBlogs, we nod our heads in agreement. Backwards, obviously….

Over in the Eredivisie (Holland’s top flight), league-leaders PSV Eindhoven spanked ten-man Feyenoord 10-0. Yep, ten goals to nil. Crikey. [See the goals below]. It has left Feyenoord manager Mario Been questioning the tenability of his role at the club, with his side dangerously close to the relegation places. Having the 1970 European Cup and two further UEFA cups to their name, Feyenoord will be worried by their predicament and the nature of the defeat. Although, should it come to it, it would not be the first time a club with a rich history of European success disappears from their domestic top flight – as supporters of the likes of Nottingham Forest (amongst others) well know.

F1’s South Korean debut last weekend ended with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso well placed to claim a third world title after a fine third win from four races. Red Bull Racing imploded and exploded, with Mark Webber crashing out (‘It was totally my fault’) and Sebastian Vettel’s engine failure (‘not a nice moment’). Jenson Button admitted his title challenge is all but over after finishing a disappointing twelfth, although team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s second place finish keeps him in the hunt. So, Yeongam delivered a fine debut spectacle… complete with a rare example of consistent rule enforcement from the authorities. Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi have both been penalised and handed five-place grid penalties for the next event in Brazil after crashing into competitors under braking (‘causing an avoidable accident’). The incidents in question were almost identical to Vettel’s at Spa where he crashed into Button… following which he was handed a drive-through penalty for ‘causing an avoidable accident’. Given F1’s past penchant for double standards and inconsistent regulation enforcement, it was nice to see a measure of consistency this time around…

Buemi on Glock (Korea):

Sutil on Kobayashi (Korea):

Vettel on Button (Belgium):

From double standards to high standards, and a remarkable finish to the Justin Timberlake PGA Tour event held in Las Vegas, where Jonathan Byrd claimed a hole-in-one [see below] on the fourth play-off hole against Martin Laird and Cameron Percy to take his first tournament victory since July 2007. Now, aside from being a touch baffled as to quite what the singing-and-dancing JT has to do with a golf tournament, we are quite chuffed to have witnessed such a dramatic climax to a golfing event. ‘I’m numb pretty much,’ offered Byrd afterwards. So are we, Jonathan.

Still in golf, Matteo Manassero popped his name into the record books by becoming the youngest golfer to win a European Tour event when he claimed a four shot victory at the Castello Masters in Valencia. Seventeen year old Manassero’s words: ‘It’s an unbelievable moment. […] I couldn’t really imagine to be a winner in the first year, it was really just to keep my card, but now I’m a winner already.’ What with Rory McIlroy’s emergence as a genuine game-leading talent, the future of golf would appear to be in good hands.

Into the world of cricket now and Australia’s pre-Ashes tour of India ended in disappointment for the tourists with the final ODI being washed out thanks to the elements. With the Indians already leading the series 1-0, the no-result meant the series ended with a 1-0 victory to the hosts. This of course follows the 2-0 Test Series defeat suffered by the Australians just before the ODIs, meaning that this is the first time since 1979-80 that the Aussies have toured India without winning a single game. One glimmer of hope for the seemingly struggling Australians – Shane Warne has (sort-of) retracted his criticism of captain Ricky Ponting, stating that Ponting is ‘the right man to lead Australia for the Ashes.’ Regardless, the fact that such eminent figures feel they have the grounds to make such comments, and with results going against the side, it certainly bodes well for England’s tour this winter.

Further good news for the England camp came with James Anderson confirmed as likely to be fit for the opening Ashes test following a rib injury sustained whilst boxing with Chris Tremlett recently. The ECB have also introduced to the public to their latest weapon to help defeat the Aussies – ProBatter. Adapted from baseball, it is simply a bowling machine with a projector screen that simulates many of the bowlers that batsmen are likely to come up against. Check the linked video on the ECB site for more. Quite clever really.

Over in athletics, after a couple of Nigerians were done for drugs at the Commonwealths, it has since emerged that nine Australian athletes are facing two-year bans after testing positive for methylhexaneamine. Not such a great week Down Under, eh. Investigations are on-going, with several voices suggesting a prevalence of inadvertent doping by the athletes in question. However, the rules are laid out clearly, and banned substances are widely publicised to the competitors – they are the ones responsible for whatever substances are found in their bodies, regardless of how they got there.

A quick note of congratulations to Roger Federer after his Stockholm Open victory saw him draw level with tennis legend Pete Sampras’s haul of 64 ATP titles – joint fourth on the Open Era overall titles list. ‘It’s amazing that I’m there where Pete’s ended his career,’ commented the world’s #2 ranked player. The best news for R.Fed fans is that at twenty-nine years old, one would expect he has still got a few more titles in his locker yet.

International Rugby League action at the weekend saw the Welsh surprise France in Albi with an 11-12 victory, thanks to a late 40m penalty from Lloyd White. Notable, however, was the presence of ex-Welsh Rugby Union skipper Gareth Thomas, who had switched codes back in March. Four Nations Cup action saw New Zealand defeat England 24-10, and Australia thrash Papua New Guinea 42-0. England also appear to have lost centre Michael Shenton for the remainder of the tournament due to an ankle ligament injury.

From League to Union, and whilst Thursday saw English World Cup winning forward Phil Vickery announce his retirement from the game, Wednesday had seen Gavin Henson signs for Saracens. We all remember that late, late kick against England which started the Welsh charge to their 2005 Six Nations Grand Slam, although more recently Gavin has become better associated with the rather less rough-and-tumble world of sequins and Strictly Come Dancing. Whilst he remains ‘totally committed’ to his dancing, it will be great to get him back playing rugby to a high standard. We all know how much of a talent the chap is, which is why it has been such a shame to see his career stagnate over the last few seasons. His agent added that Henson is ‘really looking forward to getting back on the rugby pitch,’ so hopefully it won’t be too long until we see the talented twenty-eight year old back to his best. In the meantime, here’s that kick…

The goal-line technology debate also reared its head once again. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) had their annual meet at Celtic Manor in Wales the other week, where they decreed goal-line technology needed further examination, inviting bids from companies (such as Hawk-Eye) with the only major stipulation being that decisions needed to be instantaneous. Whilst FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitted in the wake of Frank Lampard’s World Cup non-goal that it would be ‘nonsense not to reopen the file,’ UEFA head-honcho Michel Platini seems fearful of engineering ‘PlayStation football,’ and is more in favour of adding extra officials to support referees: ‘The referee has to be helped […] It is why we have added two assistants for Champions League games this season […] It is a logical step […] the more eyes there are to assist the referee, the better the chance of spotting those incidents.’ Now, whilst SportingBlogs agrees that the human side of football (that admittedly leads to errors from officials) is a key component in why so many folk love the game (it gives us plenty to talk about after all), we cannot help but feel that at the very top level of an immensely affluent professional game there has to be room for goal-line technology – ‘PlayStation football’ or otherwise. There are plenty of other sports that will testify to the positives of having such technologies – tennis, cricket, and American Football amongst others. This is people’s careers we are talking about after all. Anyways, just to stir the cockels, here’s that Lampard ‘goal’ again…

The 2010 Ballon d’Or shortlist was also revealed – no Englishmen made the cut… a reflection perhaps on a dismal World Cup showing from the nation that won in 1966. Worryingly for the English game, only three Premier League players made the shortlist, further reflecting the poor performance of English teams in last season’s Champions League, where only two losing quarter-finalists were mustered in comparison to three semi-finalists in 2008-09 and the all-English final seen in 2007-08.

Sad news also befell the footballing world however with the passing of legendary ‘psychic’ sea creature, Paul the Octopus. A sad moment indeed. Paul achieved international notoriety this summer whilst correctly predicting the outcome of all of Germany’s World Cup matches and the tournament final too, even receiving the odd death-threat as a consequence. Here’s a clip of the fella in action…

Yesterday’s golfing action at the Andalucia Masters saw Martin Kaymer struggle as he drifted to eleven shots off the lead. The German needs a top two finish to claim the world #1 spot from Tiger Woods, but his likely failure to achieve such a finish means that Englishman Lee Westwood is in line to inherit the title of world’s number one ranked player later on today. So, SportingBlogs extends their congratulations to the affable Westy… what a year he has had.

On a far lighter note, there was great news for the licence fee-paying public with a soft spot for motorbike racing this week with the beeb announcing they plan to broadcast the final two rounds of the MotoGP season in High Definition, albeit on the BBC HD Channel. It is part of ‘a trial run for sport on the channel,’ which we can only assume means they plan on broadcasting future races in HD. Delightful news for fans of the bike racing world…

Aaand finally [been a monster Sunday Stroll this week; more of a hike really], the beeb have also revealed their Ashes coverage plans… basically live web text updates and radio commentary. They could have bid for the highlights package, but chose not to… which SportingBlogs thinks is a right shame. Nevertheless, the Ashes loom ever closer, with the tour party having flyown out on Friday. Captain Straussy admits it will be ‘a hard challenge’ but also that the squad is ‘very well prepared’ [as SportingBlogs discussed recently]. Twitter updates this week revealed Tim Bresnan’s dismay at having his meticulous packing undone by check-in staff, whilst the ever-entertaining Graeme Swann sparked minor last-minute concerns by questioning the whereabouts of his passport. Passport found safely, thankfully. Anyways… to whet your appetite, here’s a favourite of ours from the 2005 Ashes series… the beautiful and revealing Slow Motion highlights. Quite worth watching if you have the time (which if you’ve read this far, you probably do)… our favourite is the one involving Trezza at 1:53…

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