Friday, May 9, 2008

The Fat Lady's garglings - PremCorrespondent

Funnily enough, the Premier League isn't over yet, with the Fat Lady in the wings ready to warble on Sunday - Sky will be pleased.

Last weekend saw her gargling away as the penultimate round of matches in the Wagneresquely long Premier League season was concluded. At the top, Manchester United declared on 4-1 vs West Ham, despite Nani's red card for acting the goat: a thrust that was parried on Monday, as Uncle Avram's Chelsea pricked Newcastle's barely tumescent revival with a 0-2 reverse at Keegan's Shrine. Michael Ballack is playing well - these Germans know a thing or two about lasting the pace in a marathon drama.

Speaking of which, Arsenal's reserves played about in front of Everton's tired men for 89 minutes and 50 seconds. Unfortunately for the Blues, the other ten seconds saw Armand Traore cross the ball for "can't run, can't control it, can't pass it, but can head it" Nicklas Bendtner to bullet a header home. If Everton were still on the pitch now, they wouldn't have scored. But neither could erstwhile form team, Aston Villa, who went down to two Valencia strikes to Wigan. Torres did the Torres thing (he does it well, when he's on the pitch) to secure three points for Liverpool against soon to be Svenless Manchester City.

At the top, Chelsea need a better result than Manchester United to pilfer the title, Arsenal are third and wondering who's going to be left in the squad next season, Liverpool are fourth, as they have been since more or less day one, and Everton need a point at home to Michael Owen, sorry, Newcastle, for fifth place and the glory that is the UEFA Cup.

At the bottom, Blackburn err... cruised past Derby, but above those no-hopers, Fulham continued to show huge heart in overcoming Birmingham at Craven Cottage. I don't much care for Brian McBride's ostentatious crossing after every goal, but you've got to admire the man and his manager. Birmingham are joined in the relegation slots by Reading, who lost 0-1 at home to a beach-bound Tottenham for whom Robbie Keane continues to bring enough good attitude to the pitch for him and Berbatov. Steve Coppell for England anyone? We could all bemoan Bolton's foolishness for selling Anelka and not replacing him, were it not for the fact that they are safe after playing Sunderland at exactly the right time of the season. El Haji Diouf signed off his stay at the Reebok with a goal: Bolton fans will be sad to see him go; nobody else will. The last game to report was Middlesborough's win over FA Cup Final bound Portsmouth in front of a handful of fans at the Riverside.

So Sunday brings the last meaningful football for three months, as the title is decided and the trap door swallows its victims. Thank God there's no football over the summer... What do you mean? There is?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Valle is back on top – Mimitig

So here we are. MotoGP is underway and we have had three races and three winners. This morning the boys were racing in Shanghai – China, just a few hundred miles away from Beijing where soon we are to face all the political ins and outs of sport and politics. Well thankfully, motorsport has been visiting China for some while, so this morning’s event was not ambushed in anyway.

As qualifying got underway, the man at the head of the table was Jorge Lorenzo – Spanish rookie in GP but World Champ in 250cc. He has been a sensation this season so far but came down to earth in a flying way with a mega crash on Thursday. Despite that, resulting in a broken ankle, he qualified pretty well. On his 21st birthday he got on the second row.

Colin Edwards took the pole, his third, but Valentino was on the front row. He was looking to slake his drought, but “Chuck It” Casey (last year’s World Champ) was also on the front row. Bit out of sorts this year so far, but so has been Valle.

Little Dani Pedrosa was on the second row, alongside equally little, but a lot older, Loris Capirossi. James “piano” Toseland made up the second row. That was qualifying – in dry conditions but although the race started in the dry, the weather was so uncertain for the race that it was declared a wet race.

Drama started early. On the warm-up lap Lorenzo stalled – would any of us done any better with a broken ankle? I doubt it. This was Jorge’s first GP race starting not on pole position.

Then the race proper got under way. Colin, off pole, was done like a kipper by the Ducati, but got it back. Lorenzo scrapped with Hayden and Toseland and Dani had a real go up the draught and got Rossi.

End of lap two and Pedrosa led Edwards led Rossi.

Then Valle got the slip-stream and took Colin. You couldn’t chuck a blanket over the rest of the bunch. Sparks flying of titanium boots – just like they used to do for us when we chucked a Doc Martens with heels as we sped down the by-pass!

This was a race today, bikes at their utmost, riders too. Bikes leaning to 50% to get the best of a corner. With 18 laps to go, Rossi was a man on a mission. He had the magnets on and breezed past Pedrosa. Silky smooth, under brakes at the end of the straight – Hot damn!

There is no-one, absolutely no-one later on the brakes and braver than Rossi.

While the excitement was upfront between the God and a Young Pretender, further down the field it was all to play for.

John Hopkins on the Kawasaki was worth watching as was Suzuki’s Chris Vermuelen.. Technical/engine problems sidelined them today. Marco Melandri seemed to have found a way to ride his bike. He has hated it til now but it’s working.

10 laps to go, and with no win yet this year for my hero, Valentino Rossi, I was getting nervous. Pedrosa was following every move Valle made and he is scary this year because he seems to have learned to ride in a different style. He uses his body-weight differently this year. He stalked Valle, following the Italian’s every move. Thanks be, he couldn’t overcome.

We closed down the last laps, Valle is back where we all know he should be – at the top of the podium. Lorenzo – the new Valle – rode through huge pain to score damn good points.

This was the best race of the year so far, and it’s an utter pig that I couldn’t watch it live due to a commitment to drive to Aberdeen this morning. I had to watch on BBC iPlayer.

I didn’t even get a thank you for missing the race live and spending four hours driving to Aberdeen and back.

Thank f*** for iPlayer. If all I’d had was the result of the race, it would have been hugely disappointing.

As is it, I watched the race and had my mouth in my heart for the last few laps, just hoping that Valle would hang on. . Now as the evening happens I have my mouth in my heart again for Ronnie. I so so want him to win.

In football, I have no heroes to hang on to. My team is out. So bless the rest. For me. Ronnie in the Snooker, and a long season, but please let Rossi win again.

Tweet it, digg it