Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

We Don’t Give an F-Duct (29/03/2011)

Welcome to a new addition to Champions Chat, We Don’t Give an F-Duct.

As the new Formula One season finally got underway on Sunday (27th March) we thought it was about time we serviced your F1 needs.

Elliot Busby and Stef Meens will guide you through the Formula 1 season, keeping you up to date with all the news from the world’s most exciting motor sport.

Lotus98T3.jpg

The essence of F1: Senna in his Lotus 98T3; great driver, great car, great sport.

As with Jumpers for Goalposts, this podcast is also available on iTunes.

If there is any questions, queries or abuse you want to direct our way give us an email at championschat@gmail.com.

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Jumpers for Goalposts – Episode 9 (29/03/11)

Stef Meens and his unruly mob discuss this past weekend’s international fixtures.

Joining him in the studio are Stu Martinez, Ewan McQueen and the returning Colin Stone.

Topics debated include the English media’s frenzied response to victory over the mighty Wales, all jumping aboard Neymar’s Brazilian banana boat, the continuation of the Mario Balotelli soap opera and a fascinating insight into the world of Paul Merson.

Kudos to Elliot Busby, our lurking in the shadows producer for the day.

Possibly the banana thrown at Neymar, probably not...

Remember we’re available on iTunes too.

Scots left searching for elusive win over Brazil

In a weekend which saw the Formula 1 circus kick of their 2011 season, Chris Hoy collecting more silverware, Oxford beating Cambridge in the boat race and England proving against Wales they are well on their way for Euro 2012, Scotland’s international friendly against Brazil  was almost forgotten if it had not been for two Brazilians.

The Emirates stadium in London was the stage were Ronaldo Luis Nazário de Lima (the original Ronaldo) said goodbye to Europe after he announced a few weeks ago to retire from professional football.

However, the young Santos striker Neymar made clear that football fans worldwide needn’t to worry about a lack of talent coming from Brazil. Ashleigh McGuinley reports on the match which saw Neymar take the spotlight.

Scotland 0 – 2 Brazil

A nifty Neymar double gave the South American side a well-deserved friendly win over Scotland at the Emirates Stadium.
The teenage star stole the show and strengthened his thriving reputation as the Samba stars gave the Scots a hard chase from almost the first whistle.

Brazil commanded the first half with terrific footwork and speed across the pitch, but the Scottish side looked set to keep it no score at half time until the 19-year-old striker fired home the opening goal just minutes before half time.

The Santos striker doubled the Brazilian side’s advantage in the 77th minute from the penalty spot after being fouled by Charlie Adam.

Having won their last two matches 3-0, confidence had been growing in the Scotland camp but the huge gulf in class between the two sides inevitably left Scotland still searching for their elusive first win over the Samba Stars.

There was a lively atmosphere surrounding the grounds before kick-off which was helped by the appearance of Brazilian footballing legend, Ronaldo as guest of honour for the day.

It seemed as though Scotland had got off to a good start when captain for the day, Kenny Miller had an early opportunity to make an impression after being fouled by Brazilian defender, Lucio, a few yards outside the box but Charlie Adam’s free-kick cannoned off the defensive wall.

Brazil’s first big chance came in the 15th minute with a promising back-post cross from Elano, but Chelsea midfielder, Ramires headed it high over the top.

As the young Brazilian side started to warm up, glimpses of their trademark fluidity and footballing style started to show when a pass from Elano put Jadson through before the Scotland defence managed to scramble the ball to safety.

Minutes later the Brazilians were back for more but Leandro Damiao’s header from Elano’s corner skimmed across the top of the crossbar.

The Scotland side luckily managed to escape a penalty call after a cross from Lucas Leiva looked to be cleared by perhaps the hand of Gary Caldwell.

Scotland looked to have picked themselves back up in the 35th minute when a strong free-kick from Adam was met by a header from Steven Whittaker, which to the Tartan Army’s disappointment flew past the far post.

The famous yellow shirts ended Scotland’s resistance just minutes from the break when a pass from Andre Santos was taken by Neymar inside the Scotland box and the talented 19-year-old skilfully placed his shot causally past McGregor and into the far corner of the net.

A carless start to the second half by Scotland allowed Neymar to play as well as he had ended the first half when just two minutes in, a shot on the run caught the top of the bar after Adam had given the ball away.

A dangerous goal-kick by McGregor left James McArthur in trouble when Ramires stole the ball and tried to set up an open goal for Neymar.

The Rangers’ goaly was left with no option but to come off his line and dive to take the ball away from Neymar before blocking Leandro’s close follow-up shot.

Scotland looked to be in trouble yet again in the 52nd minute, but the pass over from Brazilian full-back, Dani Alves was blasted over from inside the box.

Cheers from the Scotland fan’s filled the stadium in the 63rd minute when Scotland won their first corner of the game but a sloppy effort by Adam was easily cleared by the dominating Brazilian side.

Shortly after, fresh legs were introduced for Scotland in the form of Bannan and Commons who came on for McArthur and Whittaker in the hope of introducing new impetus.

However, Scotland’s chances of making a come-back slipped even further away when a foul on Neymar by Adam inside the box saw referee Howard Webb point to the spot and the teenage striker picked himself up to fire home the penalty in the last fifteen minutes.

As the match drew to a close, Craig Mackail-Smith was given his Scotland debut as he was brought on in replace of Kenny Miller.

Scotland kept fighting until the end, but in the final two minutes a free-kick by Commons’ was quickly brought to safety by Brazilian goaly, Julio Cesar confirming that Scotland’s chances of consolation were over.

In the final seconds of injury time, Brazil tried their luck one last time but the Samba substitute, Jonas blasted his shot over.

Groundhog day for Andy Murray

After the Australian Open, I wrote that Andy Murray should be given credit for reaching the final and not criticism for losing it.  Two months on and the greatest Grand Slammer of all time, Martina Navratilova, says he needs “a change in attitude”.  Who am I to argue?

Murray has played singles in three tournaments since Melbourne, losing in the first round in all of them.  In Rotterdam he lost to then #21 Marcos Baghdatis.  At Indian Wells he was embarrassed by qualifier Donald Young, then world #143.

Last week, at the ongoing Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, he was dumped out by #118 Alex Bogomolov Jr.  In total he won twenty games and zero sets.  And with the hard court season (Murray’s favourite surface) effectively over and the top players looking to the clay (Murray’s least favourite surface) of the Monte Carlo Masters in a couple of weeks, things aren’t exactly looking up.

Of course, we’ve been here before with Murray.  Last year, in fact.  In a slightly astounding turn of events, the Scot’s trajectory in 2011 has so far been almost exactly the same as in 2010 – though, depressingly, even worse.

Last year, after losing the Aussie Open to Federer, he lost the second round in Dubai, made the quarter finals of Indian Wells before losing to Soderling, and – again – lost his first match in Miami, in that instance to Mardy Fish.  If we called that a slump then this is an all out collapse.

So, what’s the problem?  Well, if Martina is right (and she is) it’s all in his head.  “He’s got the talent but he’s got to get tougher mentally,” she says.  “He’s too quick to pass the blame, looking at his box and yelling at them as if it’s somehow their fault he missed that forehand.”

It is undeniable that, compared to the rest of the top 5, Murray is a whirlwind of emotion on court.  Federer and Soderling are machine-like with their expressionless composure; Djokovic reserves his animation for when he’s winning; and even hot headed #1 Nadal is able to keep his cool when it really counts.

But with Murray, the eye-rolling, the face-scrunching, the whinging at the umpires and sniping at the line judges – it looks like complete mental torture.  And when he starts hitting his knuckles with his racket until they bleed, physical torture too.

Murray isn’t the only one having a stinker of a year so far (though he is the most prominent).  Tomas Berdych seems to be stuck in the quarter-finals stage at the moment, and Fernando Verdasco has been off kilter since losing the San Jose final to Milos Raonic.

Interestingly, the women’s Australian Open runner-up, Li Na, has also not won a match since losing the Melbourne final.  Arguably, though, none of these players have the same pressure or expectation to succeed at the top level as Murray does.

Something’s gotta give.  The Scot has just recently announced his new full-time coach as hitting partner and best mate Dani Vallverdu.  Great, but given Murray’s exhausting history with (and without) coaches, this quick fix is surely not the answer to a run of form almost as bad as his stint on Outnumbered for Comic Relief.

To put The Slump into perspective, Murray teamed up with the dazzlingly dominant Djokovic for doubles in Miami.  They promptly lost in the first round.

Maybe he needs to sit down and hear some words of wisdom from Martina, who still believes he has it in him.  “I would have thought he would have won a Slam by now, though he still has plenty of time on his side.”  Funny, I’m sure I’ve heard that before…

Martin McGale

NOTE: I’m off for a break next weekend so the column will return in two weeks!

Tartan Army shame the Flying Scotsman

Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis will not forget the sixth leg of the Premier League of Darts 2011 soon. A packed SECC in Glasgow came to see only one man winning which resulted in a fantastic atmosphere when the Flying Scotsman set foot into the arena.

However, from the moment Lewis reached the okey, a hostile attitude towards the reigning world champion took over the venue.

Ultimately, Gary Anderson suffered the most by the actions of the crowd. After being 3-0 up, the behaviour of ‘his’ crowd broke the Scot’s concentration while Lewis regained his focus and composure to win eight consecutive legs resulting in his third victory of the league.

Although the last game of night somewhat overshadowed the sixth leg of the tour, the SECC was host to a splendid night of darts with a highly anticipated fixtures list.

Darts legend Phil Taylor faced Simon Whitlock, a replay of 2010’s world championship’s final. Raymond van Barneveld took on Premier League rookie Mark Webster. The Dutchman lost the three previous matches against ‘Webby’ and was eager to (proof) prove that he regained his (mental) form.

However, the night’s overture was the match between James ‘The Machine’ Wade and Terry ‘The Bull’ Jenkins.

James Wade – Terry Jenkings (8-6)
Wade scored his second victory of the Premier League by beating Terry Jenkins after a hard fought 8-6 victory. The Machine, and 2009 Premier League champion, lost four of his opening five matches, but strong finishing kept his hopes for a place in the top four alive.

Wade was off to a flying start resulting in a 6-2 lead. However, the Bull fought back to 7-6 but eventually paid the price for one missed dart in the last leg.

After the match, Wade said: “I’ve practised hard since last week and my game will improve because I’m working hard at the game again,”

“Everyone knows I am the laziest player in the league and if I can get away with doing as little as possible, I probably will. But when I’m motivated I’m a real contender as I’ve showed in the past.”

Like his fellow countrymen Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis, Wade felt the aversion of the crowd against the English players.

“There were small glimpses of what I can do in this performance but if the crowd would have been a bit nicer I could have played so much better, because it always affects you a little bit.”

Raymond van Barneveld – Mark Webster (8-4)
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the night was Raymond van Barneveld’s blistering performance against Mark Webster.

The 6,500-strong Glasgow crowd hailed Barney as if he was one of their own. The Dutchman failed to disappoint and was off to a good start with two 180s but Webster hung on till the fifth leg.

From that moment on he never recovered from a treble body-blow as van Barneveld took out 121, 161 and 116 in successive legs in mid-game.

The Dutchman produced back-to-back 12 darters resulting in a 4-2 lead, firstly finishing 121 on double eight before landing a 161 finish, the latter “being crucial” according to Barney

After the break Webster kept the game alive with a superb 11-dart leg to 6-5.However, Van Barneveld remained focussed. He kept his own leg before breaking Wester with a superb 14-dart leg thus resulting in Barney’s fourth win of the campaign.

After the final double, Van Barneveld took his time to thank the crowd: “The support here is amazing and it makes me pretty emotional – playing in front of crowds like this is why you want to be a darts player,” said van Barneveld.

The Dutchman was baffled by his popularity among the Tartan Army
“It’s crazy, every time I come to Scotland it’s fantastic and I feel at home, these are the best crowds in darts. I didn’t want to let them down because of the support they gave me and I’m delighted to have won for them.”

When asked if he prefers to play to a Dutch crowd or a packed Premier League venue he said: “It’s always special to play for your home fans, but back home the sport’s popularity has to be build back up again so 6500 people cheering you on is very special.”

The Dutchman also explained his recent excellent form:
“I’m not afraid anymore,” he said. “For the last two years I was afraid to lose, but let the best players in the world come to me because I’m not afraid any more.

Phil Taylor – Simon Whitlock
With Van Barneveld climbing to third in the rankings and putting the pressure on Taylor and Anderson, ‘The Power’ knew what he had to do against Simon Withlock.

Taylor, who had defeated Van Barneveld and Anderson in the previous two weeks, maintained his run of form with a 103 average in an 8-5 win over the Wizzard.

Taylor managed to get a 5-2 lead outscoring the Australian in the first half of the match. However, (the Whitlock fought back to 6-5, but eventually paid for missing the crucial doubles as Taylor maintained his push for title by claiming top spot in the Premier League.

Post-match Taylor said: “The main objective is to qualify for the play-offs but I’m loving this year’s Premier League and I think this is the best Premier League ever. Every week’s a tough battle and it will be the same against James Wade next week.”

“If I can come through such a tough field and win this tournament again it would be one of the pinnacles of my career.”

Adrian Lewis – Gary Anderson (8-3)
The most anticipated match of the night was World Champion Adrian Lewis taking on crowd favourite Gary ‘The flying Scotsman’ Anderson.

The pair met for the first time since Lewis hit a nine-dart finish in claiming the World Championship title in January.

Despite the anticipation, the match was overshadowed by the behaviour of crowd who showed a different side of themselves contradictory to the support they gave Anderson and Van Barneveld.

After Taylor and Wade experienced the expected booing, Lewis’s arrival on stage was greeted with drinks thrown at him.

The Scot won the game’s opening leg on double ten. He then broke Lewis’s throw with a superb 11-dart leg, which featured a 180 and two 140 scores. He kept his own leg and secured a 3-0 lead.

From that moment on ‘Jackpot’ got himself off the mark and (he) never looked back. The more noise the crowd made, the more tenacious Lewis became to silence them.

Meanwhile, Anderson lost all his concentration which lead to Lewis winning an impressive eight legs in a row,( thus) securing him a victory in a match that was overshadowed by the audience’s behaviour.

After the match, Lewis said: “It is very disappointing because I wanted to come to Scotland and enjoy a great game with Gary, and the crowd seemed to put us both off during the match,”

“This is not how I wanted this game to be and hopefully the next time we play we can both be given the best of order and both be given a better chance of playing at the top of our game.”

The Scottish crowd have a chance to redeem themselves when the Premier League of Darts circus travels to Aberdeen on April 7.

First up, however, is the seventh round of the Premier League of Darts March 24. Phil Taylor will enter the Brighton Centre as the League leader.

Jumpers for Goalpost – Episode 8

Ill informed host Stef Meens, alongside regular cronies Stu Martinez and Elliot Busby, are joined in the studio by Ewan McQueen and Sahil Jaikda for this weeks jammed packed edition of JFG.

Amongst the chaos, topics debated include Chelsea’s David Luiz lead resurgence, Arsenal’s goalkeeping woes, Balotelli’s severe case of bibitis, the bizarre lap dancing double life of Fabio Capello and El Hadji Diouf’s Cooperative Cup final truimph. Not to mention Wigan’s elusive winger Daniel De Ridder.

Listen below or, if you haven’t already, subscribe to us on iTunes. Search the store for ‘Champions Chat’.

Review: BNP Paribas Open 2011

As promised last week, the column returns with a review of all the action from the final few rounds of the “fifth Slam”: the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California.  It’s a day later than usual but the men’s final didn’t finish till after 11pm last night, and luckily it (and the ladies’ final) was worth staying up for.

QUARTER FINALS

In what turned out to be a terrific men’s singles draw, the top three seeds all advanced to the final stages.  Second seeded Swiss Roger Federer showed no mercy in dismissing fellow countryman (and doubles partner) Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets, while sensational Serb Novak Djokovic continued to steamroll all opposition by putting a stop to a spirited return to form from former French prospect turned (alleged) casual drug user Richard Gasquet.  Top seed Rafael Nadal showed some signs of shakiness in dropping a set to big Croat Ivo Karlovic, and resurgent former top 5-er Juan Martin del Potro was granted a spot in the semis without breaking a sweat after 25th seed Tommy Robredo withdrew due to injury.

Over on the ladies’ side, the competition looked much more open with only three top 10 seeds left in the quarters.  The match between two of them – world #1 Caroline Wozniacki and her eighth seeded pal Victoria Azarenka looked to be the pick of the bunch but unfortunately ended after just three games to the Dane when Vika pulled out injured.  The pair also showed some solidarity for earthquake-hit Japan by presenting a signed flag on court.  Elsewhere in a somewhat unexciting draw, Maria Sharapova struggled through against Peng Shuai, Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer made short work of tenth seed Shahar Pe’er, and Marion Bartoli ended the renewed hopes of former #1 and fan favourite Ana Ivanovic.

SEMI FINALS

For tennis purists, the men’s semi final line-up was a sight to behold.  First up, a determined Rafael Nadal back from injury since bowing out of the Australian Open, against the hungry Juan Martin del Potro with the bigger point to prove that he deserves to be reconsidered among the game’s big names.  It was the top seeded Spaniard who prevailed 6-4 6-4 to book his spot in the final against the winner of arguably the most anticipated match of the tournament: Novak Djokovic versus Roger Federer.  Beaten by Nole in the past two Slam semis, as well as the final in Dubai last month, the Swiss maestro had a fair case for revenge, as well as the small matter of his #2 ranking to protect.  In a scintillating contest that could have gone either way, Djokovic triumphed 6-3 3-6 6-2; his third consecutive victory over the Swiss and 17th overall this year – equalling Pete Sampras’ all-time record.

The ladies semi-finals were a great deal more one-sided in terms of both on-court action and off-court attention.  Barely anyone seemed to notice or care that Marion Bartoli dropped just four games in dismantling the infuriatingly inconsistent Yanina Wickmayer 6-1 6-3 to reach her first WTA final in two years.  In contrast, the media made much ado of the glamour tie between Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova, two of the sport’s more popular pin-ups.  Unfortunately the battle didn’t live up to its billing as the current #1 schooled the former 6-1 6-2 in hardly any time at all.  Sharapova must be looking on in envy as her career remains stuck in a rut while Wozniacki’s soars.

THE FINALS

As is customary in tennis, the most polite of sports, it was ladies first on Sunday.  Great Dane Caroline Wozniacki had a relatively easy route to the final and was competing for a 14th tour title, while underdog Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli surprised the crowds by reaching her biggest match since her anomalous appearance in the 2007 Wimbledon final (which she lost to Venus Williams).  Not unreasonably, everyone expected a Wozniacki whitewash.  Thankfully, after a decidedly dull draw thus far, it turned out to be so much more.  Bartoli might look twice her age but she showed a depth and tenacity to her game – as well as amazing movement around the court – to knock the Dane of balance and even things up by stealing the second set.  In the end, though, it was Wozniacki’s mental stamina that saw her through to claim arguably her biggest title yet.  She has certainly justified her #1 standing but she could now do with a Slam to cement it.

With the ladies’ final surprisingly plentiful in rallies and range, it was then up to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to close the tournament in similar style.  What style indeed.  Both players could more than justify their places in the final but Djokovic had had a significantly tougher route with Nadal having played not a single seed so far.  In the end, this appeared to factor, as after just dropping the first set, Djokovic got into his stride.  Throughout the second and third sets he asked all the questions and Nadal came up short with answers.  The Serb moved just that bit better, ran just that bit faster, and caught the lines just that bit neater to topple the Spaniard and claim victory.  While Nadal is yet to win a title this year, Djokovic has won three.  He has a record-breaking 18 consecutive wins, he has a 100% winning record this year and he now has the #2 ranking – though this performance suggests he is in fact one better.

Martin McGale

Smith’s final Hampden appearance ends in style

After weeks of anticipation with ‘Old Firm summits’ and fear of another escalation between Lennon and McCoist and/or El Hadj Diouf and Scott Brown, football prevailed as the winner after a thrilling cup final which went into extra time.

Ashleigh McGuinley takes us back to Sunday’s clash at Hampden for the first piece of silverware in this season’s Scottish Football.

Nikica Jelavic was Rangers’ hero as he grabbed an extra-time winner over old firm rivals Celtic in a pulsating Co-operative Insurance Cup final at Hampden.

In a dramatic match credited for being a great advert for Scottish football, Rangers took the lead when Steven Davis tapped home the opening goal in the 23rd minute but Joe Ledley quickly headed Celtic level on the half hour mark.
Three penalty claims – two for rangers in the first half – were ignored by courageous referee Craig Thompson.

The second half was filled with tension with Celtic’s Fraser Forster denying Steven Whittaker and Rangers Neil Alexander smothering a ball in from Ledley.

Extra time was needed with no further goals in normal time allowing Jelavic to fire in off the post seven minutes into extra-time, winning it for Rangers.

In the dying seconds of the game, Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre was deservedly shown a straight red card for bringing down Vladimir Weiss.

Rangers’ victory ends Neil Lennon’s hopes of a domestic treble in his first season as Celtic’s manager. However, with each team frantically chasing the Scottish Premier League and Celtic still in the running for the Scottish Cup, each side remains in contention for a double trophy.

The win over Celtic means a 20th trophy win for Rangers’ manager Walter Smith, before he steps down at the end of the season.

After the events of the Scottish Cup replay at Celtic Park earlier in the month, both teams received a visit from Strathclyde police warning them about the consequences of their behaviour on the pitch.

The first moment of controversy came in the 15th minute when referee Craig Thompson was faced with a difficult decision when Mark Wilson went crashing to the ground inside the penalty box after a challenge by Sasa Papac but referee Thompson instinctively denied the first penalty appeal of the match.

Izaguirre was finding some joy down the left side with his cross ins and flicks and left Kyle Lafferty struggling to keep up.

In the 21st minute Celtic nearly took the opening goal when Kris Common’s cross from the left hand side gave Skipper Scott Brown a chance to dive in but his header slipped past the post.

Two minutes later Rangers’ made the break through when Steven Davis made his way by David Forster with a long ball from the 25 yard point.

But seven minutes later at the half-hour mark Celtic equalised when Izaguirre’s deflected cross found Georgios Samaras and Ledley arrived to nod the ball past Alexander.

Rangers thought they had been awarded a penalty a few minutes later when Jelavic went down just inside the box after a tackle from Rogne. Referee Thompson appeared to be awarding the penalty when he pointed to the spot but after some advice from his assistant he issued a free kick to the Parkhead side and booked ger’s striker for simulation.

The first half ended with two strong teams determined to win, not defend.

Rangers started the second half on top form with Forster forced to make a quick dive to save a strong drive in from Whittaker. Ibrox skipper David Weir and Jelavic both threatened the Celtic side by quickly pushing the ball forward into the midfield section.

Celtic were quick to find their feet again and got straight back on the attack leaving Papac inches from scoring an own goal after attempting to clear a ball in from Commons’. However, Ibrox defender was out of danger when the ball swung wide.

The Rangers side tried to claim another penalty in the 60th minute when Wilson appeared to use his hand to block Maurice Edu inside the box but referee Thompson shook his head and signalled play on.

Ki Sung-Yueng and Loovens replaced injured skipper Brown and Rogne while Kyle Hutton came on to replace Madjid Bougherra.

A few moments later, substitute Loovens caused problems for the Rangers’ defence after a Celtic corner gave Ledley a chance from 10 yards only to be smoothly saved by Alexander.

In the final seconds of normal time, Weiss came on to replace Lafferty for extra-time.

At the end of the second half Celtic looked to have the advantage over the injured and tired Ibrox’s side but just five minutes into extra-time Celtic goaly Forster was forced to act quickly to a free-kick from Jelavic, tipping it over the bar into safety.

The Croatian striker did not give up easily and two minutes later returned after pacing out Mulgrew to latch on to a swiftly taken free-kick from Weiss and slipping the shot past Forster, the ball hitting the post before rolling along the goal-line and spinning into the net as Izaguirre desperately tried to clear it.

In the 110th minute Rangers had the chance to seal the deal as Jelavic tried his luck again but was pulled to the ground at the edge of the box by Mulgrew who consequently picked up a yellow card.

El-Hadji Diouff replaced Jelavic and set up Weiss with another Rangers breakaway in the final minutes but the ball was superbly brought to safety by Forster.

Celtic fans prayed for a last minute equaliser but Gary Hooper was denied his moment of glory by a block from Whittaker.

Just minutes before the final whistle, Celtic left back Izaguirre was shown a straight red card for fouling Rangers’ substitute Weiss as he tried to take advantage of an open goal, leaving the desperate Celtic side with just 10 men.

This was the last incident in what proved to be a great spectacle which saw Walter Smith’s side leave Hampden victorious with the first trophy of the season.

Jumpers for Goalposts Episode 7

In a week of strange red cards, fat goalkeepers and Jens Lehmann, the JfG lads are here to guide you through it all.

Our resident foreigner Stef Meens is joined by Elliot Busby, Colin Stone and Stu Martinez to discuss the hot topics.

Listen below, or even better subscribe to us on iTunes, that way you’ll never miss a show! Just search the iTunes store for ‘Champions Chat’.

Enjoy.

One of the many stars mentioned on this week's Jumpers for Goalposts: professional fatty and Ajax Goalie Jeroen Verhoeven

 


Indian Wells: The Fifth Slam

Such is the popularity and prestige of this fortnight’s big tournament that it is often dubbed “The Fifth Slam” by tennis fans. The BNP Paribas Open – more casually known as Indian Wells after its location in the Californian desert town – boasts some impressive stats to justify this nickname.  The Indian Wells Tennis Garden includes the second largest tennis-specific stadium in the world, which, along with the complex’s 19 other hard courts, allow more than 300,000 spectators to watch 96 of the world’s best players under the California sun.

As an ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier Mandatory tournament, Indian Wells is a compulsory part of the season for uninjured top-ranked players (despite the controversial boycott of the Williams sisters since 2001) so it’s guaranteed to be a good one.  But what’s been happening so far at this year’s event?  Here’s a quick round-up.

THE HOT SHOTS

As it is a mandatory tournament, Indian Wells sees all of the biggest players battling for the title, provided they are well and not named Williams. 

All of the top 10 men are in action, headed by #1 seed Rafael Nadal playing in his first ATP tournament since the Australian Open.  He looks in good shape to claim his third title here, though here are plenty of challengers in his way.  Aside from the usual threat of Federer, Djokovic and Soderling, the resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro has already dispatched last year’s surprise champion Ivan Ljubicic, while a self-assured Andy Roddick might fancy another American victory after his triumph in Memphis last month.

Of the women, top seed Caroline Wozniacki will want to go one better than last year and win Indian Wells for the first time, having got off to a flying start.  Also confident will be 2009 champion Vera Zvonareva, who beat Wozniacki in Doha last month, and the ever-formidable Kim Clijsters.  However, given the year she’s had so far, it’s pretty unlikely that Jelena Jankovic will become the first female to win the tournament two years in a row since Martina Navratilova.

THE LONG SHOTS

While Indian Wells is a premier tournament, the surrounding pressure is still less than at a Slam, meaning some wildcards might take more confidence into their matches.

With no less than 11 entrants in the men’s draw, the Americans will be hoping that home advantage instils some fighting spirit into some of their younger players.  So far so good, with only two having lost so far, and Ryan Sweeting, Sam Querrey and Donald Young all progressing to round three.  But in truth, the two wildcards to watch are the non-Americans; Canada’s Milos Raonic and Australia’s Bernard Tomic, who are both more than capable of causing upsets.

Carrying the torch for the women’s wildcards is New Jersey’s Christina McHale, who is in fact the only wildcard – and indeed the only American woman – left in the draw.  Other surprise packages could come from Urszula Radwanska, who could face ninth-seeded big sister Agnieszka in the fourth round, and former world #1 Dinara Safina, whose apparent new-found confidence is almost as surprising as her monumental collapse over the past two years.

THE DROP SHOTS

It wouldn’t be tennis without an upset or two, and even in the first few days Indian Wells has not been short of shocks.

The biggest of all, perhaps not surprisingly, came on Saturday when hapless Andy Murray was bundled out by American upstart Donald Young 7-6(4) 6-3.  The world #5 has still not won a singles match since he lost the Australian Open final and appears to be repeating last year’s spring slump.  Perhaps more surprising was David Ferrer’s exit to the same scoreline at the hands of Ivo Karlovic.

Not to be outdone, the women’s Australian Open runner-up also bowed out early at Indian Wells, as China’s Li Na succumbed in three sets to compatriot Peng Shuai in the second round.  Also sent packing early on was serial bungler Svetlana Kuznetsova, the two-time Grand Slam champ losing to wildcard Christina McHale; and prospect Petra Kvitova who, now that she is expected to win is, ironically, losing.

With both singles finals scheduled for next Sunday, come back next week for a review of The Fifth Slam in full! 

Martin McGale

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