movie film review | chris tookey

Sky Sports Sunday April 27, 2014

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  Sky Sports Sunday April 27, 2014 Review
Tookey's Rating
3 /10
Average Rating
0 /10

Directed by:
Written by:

Released: 2014
Origin: UK
Length: 360

Today (Sunday 27th April, 2014) Sky Sports 1 promised us an epic day of football. It was to start with Sunderland v Cardiff, a battle between the two bottom teams in the premiership. Not so much winner takes all, as loser collects P45.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Then there was a struggle between the first and third teams in the land, the combo with the most goals scored (Liverpool) against the one with fewest conceded (Chelsea).

Finally, moneybags Manchester City, lying second in the Premiership, travelled to impoverished Crystal Palace, most people’s tip early in the season to finish 20th but now comfortably mid-table.

In the uneventful first minutes of the first match, with no shots on target at either end, referee Phil Dowd kept himself amused by handing out yellow cards, mainly to Cardiff players.

Midfielder Jordan Mutch’s idea of tackling Sunderland players seemed to consist of pulling them back by the collar. Shortly afterwards, Mutch’s colleague Gary Medel was booked for tackling an opponent’s legs as though they were the ball, which had long since departed.

As so many things go in threes, it was hardly surprising when Cardiff central defender Juan Cala decided to tug on Sunderland’s lone striker Connor Wickham’s shirt for several seconds, first outside and then inside the penalty area.

The ensuing penalty and red card seemed to enrage Mr Cala, which suggested that no one had yet bothered to introduce him to the rules of football. He was off, and rightly so.

None too reassuringly for Cardiff fans, Mr Medel replaced him as one of Cardiff’s two central defenders. Quite apart from the worrying disciplinary considerations – Mr Medel’s career in Spain was marked by being red-carded more often than any player in living memory - this meant that a central figure in Cardiff’s defence was – how can I put this most tactfully? – not tall.

The outstanding central defenders in the premiership this season have been Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany (6’3), Chelsea’s John Terry (6’2) and Gary Cahill (6’3), Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel (6’3) and Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker (6’6). Gary Medel is 5’8, which may or may not be average height in his native Chile but left him at a serious disadvantage dealing with Connor Wickham, seven inches taller than him, and considerably beefier.

More serious sports journalists than I may point out that Javier Mascherano – a far from towering 5’9 - often plays central defender for Barcelona, but Barcelona is enjoying its worst season in many years. Besides and beside him, Mascherano’s colleague Gerard Pique (6’4) takes care of the overhead stuff, and Mascherano has in front of him a midfield in which Cesc Fabregas is regarded as fourth choice.

Were Fabregas to announce himself available free of charge to Cardiff – and I’d be the first to admit this isn’t likely - manager Ole Gunnar Solkjaer would clasp him, sobbing, to his grateful bosom.

Ah yes, the managers. As with the teams, it looked a mis-match. Sunderland’s Gus Poyet looks like the toughest convict in a cell block full of murderers – the one Vinnie Jones is most scared of.

Poyet’s adversary Solkjaer, once the most boyish footballer at Manchester United, resembles – after he took on the impossible role of Cardiff manager - a confused, middle-aged tourist unjustly imprisoned for carrying drugs he didn’t know he had and in mortal terror of bending over in the showers.

As goal after goal went into the Welsh team’s net (four in all) he became reminiscent of Stan Laurel in another fine mess not entirely of his own making.

Mr Solkjaer became understandably even more depressed when his perpetually angry, despairing full-back Fabio – like Solkjaer, a very, very long way from his first British port of call, Manchester United – violently assaulted Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson’s legs, a crime which Mr Dowd punished somewhat improbably, by showing a yellow card to the innocent party.

This led to the hasty removal of Fabio before any more blood could rush to his legs and his replacement by Cardiff’s one creative midfielder, Peter Whittingham.

Unfortunately for Solkjaer, the only substitutes worth putting on from Cardiff’s bench were all attackers – Wilfried Zaha, Kenwyne Jones and Craig Bellamy – which suggested that the expense the owners incurred in changing Cardiff’s strip from red to blue might have been better spent on loaning a couple of good defenders.

The hero of the hour and a half for Sunderland was Connor Wickham who terrorized what there was of the Cardiff defence with his praiseworthy eagerness to head the ball even when the Cardiff defence were attempting to remove his kneecaps without anaesthetic.

Mr Wickham’s reputation has not always been high. Recruited at a high price by Sunderland’s last manager but one Steve Bruce, he disappointed with one goal in 37 games and was loaned to Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United. Evidently Gus Poyet was desperate, or saw in him a certain promise. Anyway, he recalled him from loan, whereupon Wickham has rewarded his manager with a “goal glut” against such unlikely fall-guys as Manchester City and Chelsea. Compared with those teams, Cardiff were spring lambs to the slaughter.

The commentators opined that the Sunderland players had produced “a miracle”. What I saw was a moderately competent response to a chaotic Cardiff with a defence that plainly didn’t belong in the Premiership.

Next up was Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea against Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool. Mourinho notoriously has little faith in his strikers, and in the case of his lone attacker in this game – Demba Ba – it was hilariously easy to see why. “Bah!” was the only possible critical response to the Brazilian’s despairing attempts to control the ball, which resembled a giraffe attempting to balance on ice, and usually ended in him polishing the grass with his backside.

Mourinho’s idiosyncratic response to the attacking threat of Liverpool was to place three defensive midfielders and two defensive wingers in front of his four defenders and waste as much time as possible.

Many teams resort to time-wasting with five minutes to go. Never before have I seen time-wasting on so ruthless a scale from the second minute. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer seemed intent on examining every blade of grass to decide which was most worthy of bearing the weight of the football for each goal kick.

Ashley Cole whiled away the many breaks in play by complaining incessantly to the referee – possibly about his declining importance to Chelsea, as it was far from clear what else he had to whinge about.
The players in blue took an extraordinary amount of time to take throw ins, often finding it difficult to detect where the ball had gone until opponents handed it to them. Mourinho himself tried to keep hold of the ball until Liverpool’s Flanagan and Gerrard wrestled it from him. Mourinho’s response was, of course, to look morally outraged that the Liverpool players were attempting to keep on playing.

The Chelsea manager once famously complained when Tottenham “parked the bus” in front of their goal and refused to play what he deemed proper football. Mourinho parked the footballing equivalent of the Ark Royal in front of his own goal. At the end, he walked off without the traditional courtesy of shaking the opposing manager’s hand.

He has an interesting view of sportsmanship, which he seems unable to distinguish from gamesmanship.

The referee pointed to his watch a lot during Chelsea’s attempts to waste time but conspicuously failed to punish them. An early yellow card to, for example, Schwarzer for repetitive delaying tactics, might have worked wonders. It didn’t happen. Nor did sufficient extra time serve as compensation.

Chelsea right back Azpilicueta seemed at times to be inhabiting a separate space-time continuum from the officials. At one point, he hauled Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen to the ground without anyone noticing except the entire Liverpool crowd.

The Chelsea full back’s equally robust response to the speed of Liverpool’s teenage winger Raheem Sterling was to kick him none too surreptitiously on the shin when both were off the field. “Not too much in that,” opined famously Scouse-hating commentator Gary Neville as Liverpool’s fastest player lay writhing on the ground.

Sterling’s fellow winger, Coutinho, who by the look of his bizarre haircut unwisely went to the same barber’s as Sterling, showed his inexperience not only by repeatedly failing to reach the byline to make crosses, but also by spitting at the ground so ineffectually that his drool merely rolled down his chin. It wasn’t an edifying sight, but then neither was Chelsea’s determination to be negative.

Against the run of play, an uncharacteristic error by Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard presented Demba Ba with an open goal so gaping that even he couldn’t miss. Gerrard then obligingly blazed several shots many yards wide, or straight at goalkeeper Schwarzer. Stevie G, whose face resembled one that had been struck repeatedly with a wet haddock, was so determined to be Roy of the Rovers that he failed to be recognizable as Steven Gerrard.

Luis Suarez, everyone’s player of the year, seemed baffled at having to play his way through two banks of defenders and reverted to old tricks from last season, at one point falling stricken to the ground after an utterly harmless tackle by Ivanovic failed to make contact by at least a foot.

Towards the end, Mourinho decided that up to now he had been too daring and replaced winger Andre Schurrle with yet another central defender in Gary Cahill.

So committed were Liverpool to attack that, all too predictably, they conceded a second goal in the final seconds as Chelsea’s Torres and Willian found themselves tearing as a pair into Liverpool’s deserted half. Former Liverpool hero Torres sportingly acted as decoy and allowed Willian to score.

Afterwards, the commentators attempted to disguise the manner of Chelsea’s victory by commending Mourinho for his professionalism. As far as I could see, professionalism in this context meant killing the match as entertainment for everyone watching in the ground and on TV.

By the same token, I imagine the pundits would have found the Harry Potter series much improved if Lord Voldemort had outmuscled Harry Potter and thrown Ron and Hermione off the top of Hogwarts.

Amazingly, the third match was even drearier. Last November, Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis was famously sacked by Stoke – Stoke! - for his “long bore” tactics - or was it “long ball”? Hard to say.

It was easy to see how Pulis had arrested Crystal Palace’s disastrous tendency to concede goals in the early part of the season, which had resulted in them losing nine of their first ten matches. He had got them “organized”, i.e. playing more like a team managed by Jose Mourinho.

The match was dominated by Yaya Toure, who made Man City’s first goal and scored the second, after a characteristic run through a static Palace defence that resembled a one-man wildebeest stampede.

“They just couldn’t handle the big man”, said commentator Alan Smith about Palace. They couldn’t catch up with him either.

From then on, Man City were strangely lackluster, as though reserving their strength for tougher matches to come. Palace’s display suggested that all their time in training had been spent on defence , and none on attacking movement.

Palace substitute Tom Ince’s quick feet against a tiring Kompany showed how more inventive teams than Palace might have made Man City pay for their lethargy. But City ran out – or, more truthfully, stumbled out – easy winners. If they win their remaining matches, they will be champions.

So what genre did the day’s football really inhabit? An epic it may have been in length, but two of the matches were one-sided affairs, and the other – Liverpool versus Chelsea- suffered as entertainment from the fact that it was the baddies that won.

What we got was not so much epic entertainment as sporting tragi-comedy. In order to enjoy it thoroughly, you needed a strong sense of irony and the cruelty of fate.

The star of the show? Undoubtedly, this was Mourinho, yelling and pounding his chest like a silver-back gorilla as Chelsea’s second goal gave his side a thoroughly undeserved margin of victory.

Unlike Chelsea fans, I don’t buy Mourinho as a hero; but he’s one hell of a charismatic villain. All he needs is a Persian cat and he’d be great in the next James Bond picture. Imagine his air of injured innocence and grandiose martyrdom as he explodes.

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