23 Year Wait is Over

It was written in history that the African Cup of Nations would go to a penalty shoot out.  The Ivory Coast had been in 4 finals, and they had never seen a goal scored in regulation.  After 120 minutes the match was scoreless.  The match itself was not the best, but the penalty shootout was worth watching.  Penalty shootouts fascinate me.  To play so hard for 120 minutes just for the title to come down to five spot kicks can either bring ecstasy or agony.  This penalty shootout had a bunch of twists, turns, and drama.  Ghana was to go first and their lineup was Wakaso, Jordan Ayew, Acquah, Acheampong, and Andre Ayew.  For the Ivory Coast, Bony was first then Tallo, Aurier, Doumbia and finally Yaya Toure.  Wakaso easily buried his spot kick. Bony stepped up and hit the woodwork.  After one round, Ghana was in the lead 1-0.  Jordan Ayew scored a classy penalty while Tallo sent his about 5 yards wide of the goal.  After two kicks, Ghana looked sure to win, being up 2-0.   With a chance to essentially end the kicks, Acquah stepped up.  Coppa Barry guessed the right way and made an amazing save, giving his country hope. Aurier stepped up and the PSG man pummeled the ball into the top corner. Ghana then stepped up with a chance to make it 3-1 and Acheampong missed the net.  Seydou Doumbia nailed his penalty.  After 4 rounds, it was tied at 2.  Ghana seemed to have blown their big chance.  Andre Ayew and Yaya Toure converted it to send it to sudden death penalties. The next 5 penalties all found the back of the net setting up the a great 11th round.  It was time for the goalkeepers to take their penalties. Ghana’s Razak went first, and his was saved by Barry. Barry, who seemed to be battling cramps, was on the ground in pain after the save.  It might have been a bit of gamesmanship, but he got up to take his penalty.  He slotted the ball coolly into the corner and scored the game winning and cup winning penalty. Congrats to the Ivory Coast on winning their second African Cup of Nations.

On a much sadder note, violence erupted again in Egypt this weekend at an Egyptian Premier League match.  On Sunday, a riot broke out and a fight between the police and fans led to the death of 25 people.  This riot comes only 3 years after violence in an Egyptian stadium killed 74 people.  This is a terrible tragedy.  The ultras, or Egypt’s most hard-core fans, frequently clash with police inside and outside of the stadiums and this is something that needs to come to a stop

Weekend Review

The weekend truly lived up to the billing.  Tottenham vs. Arsenal was a fantastic match and Atletico sent a message to the world.

In Spain, the title race is really on.  Real Madrid had the chance to finish off Atletico this weekend but instead it was Atleti that sent the message.  They dominated the game from start to finish and were better in every way.  Then they made their advantage count as they scored 2 goals in the first half and two goals in the second half.  They won the match 4-0 and showed Spain and the world that they will not give up their title without a fight to the end.   This lead to Sunday and Barcelona traveling to the new San Memes deep in the heart of Basque Country.  Messi and company knew that a win would cut the deficit to just one point and they played like this was a must win.  They jumped out to a 2-0 half time lead and ended the match with 5 goals winning 5-2.  The lead is now 1 point for Real Madrid over Barcelona and 4 points over Atletico.  It is truly game on with 16 matches left.  Valencia also took advantage of a team slipping up when they beat Espanyol and Sevilla lost at Getafe.  They now sit 2 points ahead of Sevilla for 4th place.

While Roma was not able to make up any ground against Juventus, they did get a huge win.  They beat Cagliari 2 to 1.  Juventus made sure that they would not lose ground when they beat Milan 3-1.  Sampdoria and Lazio seem to be heading down the wrong end of the table.  Sampdoria drew 1-1 this weekend with Sassuolo but their rivals Napoli and Fiorentina both won.  Lazio is still yet to play as they play tonight.  However, Napoli now has a 7 point lead on Fiorentina and Sampdoria and is 8 points ahead of Lazio.  Is this race for 3rdplace over?  I hope not but it is looking more and more difficult for anyone to catch Napoli.  It looks more likely that Napoli could catch Roma.

Lyon stay top in Ligue 1.  In what might be the most intriguing title race in the big 5, Lyon drew 1-1 against title rivals Paris Saint-Germain.  They stay 2 points up at the top of the table.  Lyon took the lead and then a questionable penalty gave Zlatan the chance to equalize.  His first penalty was saved but it was called back for encroachment, and Zlatan found the back of the net on the second one.  Marseille did not take advantage as they also drew 1-1 at Rennes this weekend.  While these three teams all seem sure of Champions League football, which one of them will win the league is going to be a great watch over the next couple months.

Dortmund are no longer on the bottom of the table.  They are still in the relegation zone, but they are not on the bottom after a 3-0 win at Freiburg.  They are now one point from safety.  Bayern Munich got their first win of the New Year when they beat Stuttgart.  Stuttgart are now on the bottom of the table.   There were some spectacular goals scored in that match and they are on the twitter feed @SoccerPond.  Munich are still 7 points clear at the top and look to be cruising to a title win.

Is the title race over in England?  Probably.  Chelsea extended their lead at the top to 7 points.  They beat Aston Villa 2-1.  The major talking point from the game is that Aston Villa ended an 11 hour scoreless streak in this game.  Is Jose’s defense the weak point of the team?  For a man who has built his team on a strong defense, should a team that hasn’t scored in almost half a day score on Chelsea?  Man City on the other hand needed a last minute equalizer to draw at home with Hull City.  Tottenham came from behind in an amazing North London Derby to win 2-1.  Harry Kane is quickly becoming the next superstar in the Premier League as he scored both of Tottenham’s goals.  Southampton left it late before they scored their winner over QPR.  Manchester United followed City in leaving it to the very end before scoring their equalizer.  They drew 1-1 with West Ham.  The Merseyside Derby was a very slow match with Everton concentrating on defense and hoping for a counter attack.  The match ended 0-0 with very little clear chances.  The race for third and fourth is really what to watch for in the EPL.

Midweek Preview

This week, the EPL gets back in action for a midweek round of games.  The big matchup involves one team in the heart of the race for fourth and one team on the outskirts of this race.  Liverpool host Tottenham.  Tottenham have the fourth best away record, but travel to a place that has been very difficult for them recently, against a team that has dominated them.  Can Tottenham finally beat Liverpool?  Manchester City travel to Stoke in need of a big three points.  Chelsea host Everton in a match in which they will try to extend their lead even more.  Southampton host West Ham as they look to hold onto third place.

The first legs of the Copa Del Rey Semi-finals take place this weekend.  Barcelona host Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao host Espanyol.  The second legs of these games will take place on March 4th.  Can Barcelona make it back to the final this year?  Will Lucho lead them to a Copa Del Rey title?

The Coupe de France also picks up again with the Round of 16.  There are only two first division matchups as PSG host Nantes and Monaco host Rennes.  The only other first division teams are Saint-Etienne, Metz and Guingamp, and they all play lower division opponents.

EPL Pick ‘Em

This past week I finally won 5-4.  Catching up slowly but surely haha.  The score is now Buzz 165 to Me at 155.

My Picks – Sunderland 1-0, Arsenal 3-1, Hull 0-0, Spurs 2-1, Man City 2-1, United 1-0, Chelsea 2-1, Saints 1-0, Palace 1-1, West Brom 1-1

Buzz’s Picks – arsenal 2-0, hull 1-0, Pool 2-1, Sunderland 2-1, Chelsea 2-2, united 3-1, Saints 1-1, city 2-1, palace 1-0, Swans 2-2

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