Tag Archives: embarrassment

Steven Finn and Jonathan Trott help England draw first Test with New Zealand

Finn and Trott help save first Test as England bat their way to a draw in Dunedin

By
Paul Newman

PUBLISHED:

03:51 GMT, 10 March 2013

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UPDATED:

03:51 GMT, 10 March 2013

Steven Finn took a big stride down this lifeless Dunedin wicket ball after ball to repel New Zealand and rescue England from first Test embarrassment today in one of the great displays of nightwatchman defiance.

Not since Alex Tudor made an unbeaten 99 in England’s victory charge against New Zealand in 1999 at Edgbaston has a bowler doing a batsman’s job for England made such an impact as a nightwatchman.

It seemed an excessively cautious act by England to send Finn in ahead of Jonathan Trott when Alastair Cook was out with just over two overs left on the fourth day but far from just seeing his team through to the close the big fast bowler went on and on and on today.

Unlikely hero: Nightwatchman Steven Finn hit 50 as England drew the first Test

Unlikely hero: Nightwatchman Steven Finn hit 50 as England drew the first Test

Finn outlasted Nick Compton, Trott and Kevin Pietersen to score his first half-century in first-class cricket and go a long way towards earning England a draw that will feel like a great escape after they were humiliated for an abject 167 in their first innings.

For whatever inexplicable reason England have again been slow starters in an overseas series but have got away with their first innings negligence here and will feel that they cannot bat as badly again at either Wellington or Auckland.

They owe much of that to Finn. If the man preferred to Jimmy Anderson as nightwatchman got out early on the fifth day it is probable that England would have been on the end of one of the biggest upsets in recent Test history.

As it was they were made to battle all the way by a New Zealand side who pushed hard for what would have been one of their greatest modern wins, having England421 for six, a lead of 128, when both Brendon McCullum decided that enough was enough at the start of the last hour.

Such had been the quality of the start of England’s second innings, Compton and Cook putting on 231 for the first wicket, that England knew they just had to bat sensibly on what was effect a fourth day pitch to survive.

But Compton, who played what may turn out to be a career defining innings to record his maiden Test century on Saturday, could add only 15 to his overnight 102 before he was trapped lbw by the impressive and ever persevering Neil Wagner to give New Zealand hope.

That brought in Trott who had the rare experience of outscoring his partner as he moved smoothly along towards a fluent half-century, the only surprise coming when he was athletically caught by Wagner off his own bowling.

Kevin Pietersen, still looking rusty after his extended break from first-class cricket, arrived on a king pair but eased his first ball through midwicket for two. It could have been the cue to calm Pietersen down but he never looked comfortable before inside edging his new nemesis Wagner through to BJ Watling and departed for 12. England can only hope he is more fluent is the second Test which begins on Thursday.

When England had moved on to 382 for four at tea, a lead of 89, that seemed all but safe but the trouble was that they had scored too slowly to be out of New Zealand’s reach, only 53 runs coming in the middle session.

Certainly when Finn’s long vigil was over when he was trapped attempting to sweep the left-arm spinner Bruce Martin, after facing 203 balls for his 56, there was the hint of a twitch for England. When Joe Root was then run out without scoring the wobble was very much on.

But the bottom line was that this was a lifeless University Oval pitch, which made England’s first innings capitulation all the more inexplicable, and Ian Bell and Matt Prior were able to negotiate the remaining overs for England without alarm.

New Zealand will be able to hold their heads up high after this match. They went into the series seemingly in turmoil internally and with very few players of genuine Test-class. Yet in Neil Wagner they seem to have found a left-arm seamer with considerable enthusiasm and no little pace and in Hamish Rutherford they have found an opener who has started off in the best manner possible.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that England, under-prepared after just one first-class warm-up match, were complacent here, even if it was sub-consciously, but they now know they are in a proper series.

The second Test follows in Wellington on Thursday and , after this experience, they will be backing themselves to do what they did in India and come back from a rotten first Test to win the series.

Ulster 9 Northampton 10: Saints blow group wide open with tight win at Ravenhill

Ulster 9 Northampton 10: Van the man seals
Saints' stirring win

PUBLISHED:

21:22 GMT, 15 December 2012

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UPDATED:

21:42 GMT, 15 December 2012

Northampton Saints produced a stirring defensive display to end Ulster's four-year unbeaten run at Ravenhill.

Northampton No 8 GJ Van Velze scored the game's only try as Jim Mallinder's side recovered from last week's humbling defeat to blow Pool Four wide open.

Not since 2008 had Ulster lost a European tie in Belfast but Ruan Pienaar missed a late winner as Saints held on. Northampton were facing the embarrassment of a second season without reaching the quarter-finals of Europe's elite competition.

Ben Foden of Northampton takes on Paddy Jackson

Breaking free: Northamton's Ben Foden in action with Ulster's Paddy Jackson

Against last year's finalists,
unbeaten so far this season, Northampton threw everything into a
predictably physical opening and their abrasiveness and aggression saw
fly-half Stephen Myler land an early penalty.

With so many South Africans in
Ulster's ranks, it was little surprise that Saints No 8 Van Velze felt
as though he was at a home from home.

And the forward swatted aside Andrew
Trimble to touch down in the corner on 18 minutes. Myler added the
conversion to open a 10-0 lead that, in such a closely contested tie,
could prove decisive.

 Tom Court of Ulster is tackled by Lee Dickson

Crashing down: Saints pummeled the Ulster line after last week's embarrassing defeat

Against last year's finalists,
unbeaten so far this season, Northampton threw everything into a
predictably physical opening and their abrasiveness and aggression saw
fly-half Stephen Myler land an early penalty.

With so many South Africans in
Ulster's ranks, it was little surprise that Saints No 8 Van Velze felt
as though he was at a home from home.

And the forward swatted aside Andrew
Trimble to touch down in the corner on 18 minutes. Myler added the
conversion to open a 10-0 lead that, in such a closely contested tie,
could prove decisive.

Having been humbled at home last
week by the RaboDirect Pro12 leaders, Saints restricted Ulster
effectively and it was not until 31 minutes that Paddy Jackson finally
got on the scoreboard with his first penalty.

Northampton's Dylan Hartley (2nd L), Paul Doran Jones and Alex Waller (R) look dejected with team mates

Hard fought win: Northampton's Dylan Hartley (2nd left), Paul Doran Jones and Alex Waller (right)

Ulster's New Zealander Nick Williams
used his huge frame to break the visitors' line twice but lacked the
pace to finish and Ulster showed niether the patience nor the accuracy
to take advantage.

Jackson landed a second penalty and the Ulster fly-half's third kick drew the home side to within a point.

Saints centre Tom May fumbled a golden scoring chance when he failed to collect a delicate kick by Myler.

However, Ulster also had chances as Williams was held short and Rory Best and Craig Gilroy went close.

Even when Ulster looked certain to score after Myler's drop-goal was charged down, the Saints defence somehow survived.

Paddy Wallace broke clear and when he
passed to rising Ireland star Gilroy, a try appeared innevitable only
for Jamie Elliott to snuff out the danger.

The Saints wing came up trumps again
three minutes from time to deny Tommy Bowe, who was carried off with a
serious knee injury. The delay may have distracted Pienaar, who pushed
his penalty wide.

Bradford City invite Diana Ross to practise penalties

EXCLUSIVE: We're the shootout Supremes! Bradford cheekily invite '94 World Cup penalty flop Diana Ross to hone her spot-kick skills

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UPDATED:

17:05 GMT, 13 December 2012

With an incredible nine penalty shootout wins in a row, Bradford City are the undisputed spot-kick kings – and now they want to share their secret with the world.

After they again showed nerves of steel to knock Arsenal out of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night, the club cheekily wrote a letter to the taker of officially the worst penalty of all time offering their assistance.

Many of you will recall the cringe-worthy moment when pop star Diana Ross somehow missed from about five yards in the opening ceremony for the 1994 World Cup finals in Chicago.

Spot-kick Kings! Bradford City won their ninth consecutive penalty shootout as they dumped Arsenal out of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday

Spot-kick Kings! Bradford City won their ninth consecutive penalty shootout as they dumped Arsenal out of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday

Enlarge

Cheeky: Bradford's invite to Diana Ross, through her agent, to come over to Valley Parade and practice her penalties

Cheeky: Bradford's invite to Diana Ross, through her agent, to come over to Valley Parade and practice her penalties

What made it so ridiculed was that the goal then collapsed in on itself as though her spot-kick had smashed it while the ball trickled hopelessly wide of the mark.

But with Bradford so 'Supreme' from twelve yards, they've kindly offered the music legend some advice.

In a letter addressed to Ross's agent, the club explain that a 'major upheaval' happened in English football this week as Arsenal were dumped out.

Special guest: Could we see Diana Ross at Valley Parade (below) practising her penalties in the New Year

Special guest: Could we see Diana Ross at Valley Parade (below) practising her penalties in the New Year

Valley Parade, the home of Bradford City

It goes on to claim that the shootout win, Bradford's ninth in a row, is an unofficial World Record.

It then gently reminds Ross of her embarrassment before the World Cup kicked off 18 years ago, saying: 'Sadly at that event Diana bowed to the pressure and missed with her kick.'

The letter, on Bradford City headed notepaper, continues: 'We would like to improve Diana's record by sharing some of the squad's techniques and hopefully help Diana learn how to take penalty kicks with the proper skill set.'

Embarrassing: Diana Ross missed from about ten yards out during the opening ceremony of the 1994 World Cup in Chicago

Embarrassing: Diana Ross missed from about ten yards out during the opening ceremony of the 1994 World Cup in Chicago

An invitation is then made by City and tournament sponsors Capital One to have Ross over for a match in the New Year – perhaps the home leg of the semi-final.

While the chances of actually seeing Ross lining up a spot-kick at Valley Parade remain slim it is worth remembering what she taught us – 'There ain't no mountain high enough…'

Video: Diana Ross misses from close range in the 1994 World Cup opening ceremony

David Luiz: We"re embarrassed after Chelsea Champions League exit

We've embarrassed our club! Luiz admits Chelsea are hurting after Champions League exit

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UPDATED:

13:06 GMT, 6 December 2012

David Luiz has admitted that Chelsea players have embarrassed the club with their limp defence of their European title this season.

After becoming the first defending champions to crash out at the group stage of the Champions League, the Brazilian defender revealed the mood in the squad was grim.

He said: 'There was embarrassment in the dressing room and also sadness. We won the Champions League last season and to get knocked out after the group stage is a great disappointment.

Out: Luiz and team-mate Fernando Torres react at the final whistle

Out: Luiz and team-mate Fernando Torres react at the final whistle

'This is a big club and big clubs deserve to play in big games; the best games in the world are in the Champions League.

'The first game was key. We were 2-0 up against Juventus and it finished 2-2. The team did a great job tonight and played a great game but we were unlucky with the other result.

'Now we have to look to the future and try to win the Europa League. The manager has just told us to keep working hard because the team deserves to win games.'

Despite beating Nordsjaelland 6-1, the victory was not enough for Chelsea to progress to the knockout stages and they will instead drop down to the Europa League.

Midfielder Juan Mata said: 'We did what we had to do but it wasn't enough. We played really well, especially in the second half, but the sense of disappointment is deep. We wanted to get through to the next round as we are the holders of the competition, but we have to carry on and try to win the Europa League.

On the ball: Mata says Chelsea must try and win the Europa League

On the ball: Mata says Chelsea must try and win the Europa League

'It wasn't a problem tonight or in the last game. We didn't do well enough in previous games; we lost points early on. In the end we got ten points and in other groups that might have been enough to get through. For us it wasn't enough because Shakhtar and Juventus are two very strong teams.

'It's a sad day but we will try and win the Europa League. It's a new tournament for the club and gives us another challenge for the season.'

Premier League involvement in next year"s Champions league could be hit

Look out, you may now have to finish in the top three to make the Champions League after
Man City's humiliating failure

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UPDATED:

16:16 GMT, 5 December 2012

The downward trend for Barclays Premier League clubs in the Champions League could yet produce more damage than a quick flash of embarrassment.

The longer-term implications of an extended slide concern the number of teams allowed into the Champions League and the Europa League.

During the first months of this season, English teams have been overtaken by Spain at the top of UEFA’s complicated ranking system and are now under threat from Germany.

Euro woe: City's Champions League exit could have consequences on the Premier League

Euro woe: City's Champions League exit could have consequences on the Premier League

UEFA’s coefficient table before tonight’s games
Spain 79.882
England 75.392
Germany 71.471
Italy 57.981
France 55.333

And at the end of last season
England 84.41
Spain on 84.186
Germany 75.186
Italy 59.981
Portugal 55.346

Last year, the two Manchester clubs
slipped out of the Champions League at the group stage, City crashed out
at the first hurdle last night, missing the Europa League safety net,
and Chelsea are in peril tonight.

City’s
early exit carries problems for the club, since it will not help their
hopes of a better seeding status and an easier group next time since the
formula for the rankings is based on games won and drawn, plus bonuses
for reaching different stages of both European competitions.

Nor will it help England preserve their lofty ranking. Last season ended with England on top of the pile with a national ranking – or coefficient as UEFA call it – of 84.41, followed by Spain on 84.186 and Germany on 75.186.

Spain are top with 80.596, followed by England on 75.392 and Germany on 71.9. This will change over the next two days as the Champions League and Europa League groups are completed.

The swing can be sudden. England have suffered from Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham all struggling to secure wins in Europe.

The rankings are compiled using results from the last five years which means this year the points slide off the scale from 2007-08, when the Premier League provided three Champions League semi-finalists and both finalists in Moscow.

On the up: Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid have steered Spain to the top of the list

On the up: Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid have steered Spain to the top of the list

It can shift again in the second half of the season – a good Europa League for England would patch over problems in the elite competition – but Germany are moving with some menace.

Borussia Dortmund (who qualified from the group stage with the most coefficient points) and Schalke have won Champions League groups containing English opponents and, with Bayern Munich also through to the last 16, the Germans can expect to build.

If they move up to second behind Spain, that will leave England as the nation vulnerable to an improving nation.

Hot on the tail: Germany are third behind England on UEFA's list

Hot on the tail: Germany are third behind England on UEFA's list

UEFA president Michel Platini is looking at changing the format beyond 2015-16 but, as it stands, Europe’s top three ranked leagues are awarded four Champions League places. The fourth, Italy at the moment, have three.

There is a sizeable gap between the top three and the chasing pack and one reassuring factor is that no emerging country has putting together a consistent challenge.

Although it will make a difference to Italy’s ranking if Juventus can continue their resurgence after brief exile from Europe.

West Ham anti-Semitic chants: Harry Redknapp leads attack

You're filth! Harry leads attack on West Ham yobs as FA and club launch probe

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UPDATED:

07:38 GMT, 27 November 2012

Harry Redknapp has warned English football is in danger of a return to the dark days of the Seventies after the disgraceful scenes at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

The new QPR manager said he was disgusted with football’s yobs and accused them of being ‘filth’ after fans of his former club West Ham chanted anti-Semitic songs during their 3-1 defeat at Tottenham.

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Plenty to ponder: Harry Redknapp hit out at the West Ham fans who sang anti-Semitic songs

Plenty to ponder: Harry Redknapp hit out at the West Ham fans who sang anti-Semitic songs

Redknapp, who also spent nearly four
years in charge of Spurs, said: ‘We don’t want to go back to what we had
with all the violence in the Seventies — we can’t have that again.

‘When they get in a group it’s filth. It’s disgusting and people are supposed to stand there and take it.

‘They chant at managers, at players and at each other and it has nothing to do with the football. They are cowards. It’s disgusting and I keep hearing it, but it’s not right.’

Israel midfielder Yossi Benayoun, who is on loan at West Ham from Chelsea, spoke of his disappointment and embarrassment after away supporters hissed and sang vile songs about Adolf Hitler on Sunday.

Benayoun wrote on Twitter: ‘I have a great relationship with the West Ham United supporters from my first spell at the club and again now I am back on loan here. This is why I was very disappointed to hear some of the songs yesterday and it was embarrassing.’

VIDEO: Anti-semitic chants at Spurs Fan's video captures shouts in stands

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The FA have launched an investigation and West Ham vowed to take ‘the strongest possible action’ — including lifetime bans — against any of their supporters found to have been chanting abuse.

The Society of Black Lawyers have reported the chants highlighted by Benayoun (below) to the Metropolitan Police, and two men were arrested at the game for making Nazi salutes.

Both accepted cautions and one has been identified as a West Ham season ticket-holder and banned from the club.

Police may also launch a formal criminal investigation after receiving a telephone call from a member of the public about anti-Semitic chanting in the West Ham section of the ground.

At the double: Jermain Defoe scored twice as Tottenham cruised to victory over West Ham

At the double: Jermain Defoe scored twice as Tottenham cruised to victory over West Ham

A West Ham statement added: ‘Any other individuals identified can expect a similar, swift and robust response.

‘West Ham will take the strongest possible action against any of their supporters, including enforcing life bans from the club, that are found guilty of behaviour which is categorically not condoned by West Ham.’

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the chants were ‘a stain upon the character of British football’.

The organisation, the main representative body of British Jewry, also criticised Scunthorpe United manager Brian Laws after he compared his team’s defending in Saturday’s 4-0 loss at Doncaster Rovers to the Holocaust.

Gaffe: Brian Laws compared Scunthorpe's defeat to the Holocaust

Gaffe: Brian Laws compared Scunthorpe's defeat to the Holocaust

Laws has since apologised for his ‘poor choice of language’, but a statement from the board said: ‘Clearly there is either a lack of understanding or a lack of compassion within some sections of the British football world about these issues.

‘We will be writing to the Football Association to urge them to punish those responsible for these chants and to take further steps to rid our national game of these slurs.

'Anti-Semitism has no place in football or society in general. For football fans to use Holocaust imagery and chants glorifying Adolf Hitler is grossly offensive to the Jewish community and is a stain upon the character of British football.’

On Sunday there were also repeated chants mocking the stabbing of Spurs fan Ashley Mills, who remains in hospital in Rome after he was attacked in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Aftermath: The Drunken Ship pub in Rome where Spurs fans were attacked last week

Aftermath: The Drunken Ship pub in Rome where Spurs fans were attacked last week

Sections of West Ham supporters sang ‘Viva Lazio’ and ‘Can we stab you every week’, and Italian flags were also spotted among the away fans.

Mills, 25, was visited in hospital by Lazio president Claudio Lotito yesterday following his injuries sustained before Tottenham’s Europa League clash in Rome last week.

Lotito, who denies his club’s fans had any involvement in the brutal attack, gave Mills a Lazio shirt with his name on it and promised there would be a ‘surprise’ on his players’ strips in tonight’s Serie A match against Udinese.

When asked about the songs at White Hart Lane on Sunday, Lotito said: ‘Those people were not fans — they were chants that should be punished by jail.’

Fresh start: Redknapp was unveiled as the new manager of Queens Park Rangers on Monday

Fresh start: Redknapp was unveiled as the new manager of Queens Park Rangers on Monday

Redknapp claimed clubs are powerless to act because of the sheer number of people chanting offensive songs.

The Rangers boss said: ‘It’s so difficult to deal with and you can’t throw them all out. It’s happening more and more.

‘I heard the abuse Arsene Wenger gets and I saw Dave Jones and heard what they are singing at Sheffield Wednesday — it’s disgusting. I don’t know what we can do with these people.’

WEST HAM'S OFFICIAL STATEMENT

West Ham United are in contact with Tottenham Hotspur to assist them with their investigation into the conduct of a small number of supporters and alleged inappropriate chanting during yesterday's match at White Hart Lane.

West Ham United will take the strongest possible action against any of their supporters, including enforcing life bans from the club, that are found guilty of behaviour which is categorically not condoned by West Ham United.

During the 46 games in the Championship last season, West Ham United had zero arrests for racism or violence, so while we are surprised to see such reports today, we will examine any available evidence of such conduct thoroughly and take the appropriate action.

Marouane Fellaini is unplayable for Everton

Everton's mile high midfield genius Fellaini can be unplayable

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 4 November 2012

At 6ft 4in in his bare feet, not counting the hair, it would be easy to describe Marouane Fellaini as a target man and stop there.

Simplistic enough for Steven Gerrard possibly — how the Liverpool captain must be rueing the moment he opened his mouth and likened the neighbours to Stoke.

Fellaini’s jaw-dropping performance in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Fulham reinforced the view that the Everton attacking midfielder is, indeed, pretty good in the air.

Imposing: Marouane Fellaini stamped his authority on the game

Imposing: Marouane Fellaini stamped his authority on the game

Add to that a dynamo constitution, an eye for a goal, an ability to link and a masterful delivery of crosses and it is hardly surprising that team-mate Phil Jagielka described the Belgian as ‘unplayable’.

As well as the seven miles which Fellaini covered at Craven Cottage, the player scored twice to spare the embarrassment of the sadly out-of-sorts Nikica Jelavic.

The first came from a passing move while the second was, admittedly, from a long diagonal ball punted forward but dispatched with quality.

‘It’s not just a case of chucking him up there to collect long balls, he’s a really good footballer,’ said Jagielka.

‘Felli had an OK first half but in the second half he was as good as he has been. He was near enough unplayable. I’m sure for Felli’s goal people will have a laugh and a joke, but we put a lot of passes together and had a lot of possession. We created a lot of chances through neat interchanges.

‘We’ve got footballers that can play and we’ve got people who can hold the football and be physical as well.’

Manager David Moyes has made a statement of intent this season in terms of challenging the top four and, to do that, he needs to keep Fellaini fit and firing.

Lost his touch: Nikica Jelavic is off the boil

Lost his touch: Nikica Jelavic is off the boil

Then there is Jelavic. Last year, every touch seemed to finish with a goal but the Croat is missing easy chances, which helps explain why Everton have drawn four successive matches.

Moyes insists he will stick with the striker and, thanks to Fellaini, he can afford the luxury of being patient.

Arsene Wenger chants: Idiots should be banned

Clubs must ban these idiots responsible for Wenger chants

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UPDATED:

22:44 GMT, 4 November 2012

Vile chants: Wenger was on the receiving end

Vile chants: Wenger was on the receiving end

We’ve seen a lot of progress dealing with racism in this country but the vile obscenities Arsene Wenger has had to put up with are unacceptable.

Wenger is one of the nicest men on the planet and the accusation that he is a paedophile is, of course, absurd. It’s an embarrassment.

Like most players and managers who are abused, Wenger ignores it and remains professional but it is not easy. I know from being the subject of chants that inside your blood is boiling, you are seething, but you have to get on with it. I used it as motivation to make sure the opposition didn’t score against me, but what can Wenger do

He’s standing on the touchline with no-one to turn to. It has an impact on your family too. They have to sit through it while people are giggling. It is demeaning. There are lots of good people out there but there are idiots too. That kind of abuse makes you question your belief in the human race.

Mr Nice Guy: Wenger is one of the most respected men in football

Mr Nice Guy: Wenger is one of the most respected men in football

What can be done It’s difficult as Sir Alex Ferguson has been commendable in writing to Manchester United fans in the past but it doesn’t seem to have had the desired effect. Most United fans – and those at West Ham a month ago – must have felt embarrassed listening to those around them.

It is time to ban offenders. Clubs should encourage people to hit back in a calm way by taking seat numbers and contacting the club. The FA should look at ways to combat the problem – even if it means banning fans en masse.

Juan Mata says Chelsea need to fight over upcoming weeks

It's a Mata of staying positive in Blues test of ambition over upcoming weeks

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 21 October 2012

Eden Hazard started with a bang and Oscar scored one of the most beautiful goals Stamford Bridge has seen, but it is Juan Mata who has re-emerged as Chelsea’s true creative force.

Mata has looked fresh in body and mind since his two-week break at the start of last month and took his goal tally to six in five games in the 4-2 win at Tottenham on Saturday.

Of the players who started for Chelsea at White Hart Lane he was the only one who did not go away on international duty, having been dropped by Spain.

Top team: Juan Mata (right) with Eden Hazard

Top team: Juan Mata (right) with Eden Hazard

His omission was interpreted as a warning from manager Vicente del Bosque that anyone asking to be ‘rested’, as Mata did last month, was taking a risk. It is a point of principle more easily made with the embarrassment of riches at Del Bosque’s disposal, but not one likely to bother Roberto Di Matteo.

Mata took a few more days off, trained with the youth team and dazzled at Spurs, the first in a series of fixtures which seem set to define Chelsea’s season and with it the development of Di Matteo’s exciting team.

‘The next two months will decide if this is a genuine title challenge,’ said Mata. ‘It’s always like that in November and December. There are a lot of games and you have to keep fighting for the title in those two months. For me it’s the most important part of the season.’

Di Matteo’s team are clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League and well placed in Europe but the autumn is when promising campaigns often start to sour at Stamford Bridge.

Shakhtar Donetsk will provide a stern test in Ukraine on Tuesday, followed by two dates with Manchester United, in the Premier League and the Capital One Cup. Manchester City visit Chelsea next month. The fixture crush will examine a squad which still appears thin in places — and December includes a trip to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup.

Delightful: Mata's form in recent weeks has been a joy to behold

Delightful: Mata's form in recent weeks has been a joy to behold

EURO WATCH

Strikes from Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho and defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy earned Shakhtar Donetsk, who play host to Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday night, a 2-1 comeback win against Illichivets. That made it 12 wins from 12 as Shakhtar extended their lead at the top of the Ukrainian league to 12 points.

Chelsea have flair and fluency. They are not watertight in defence but rose to the challenge of going behind at Tottenham by proving that their will to win, the chief characteristic of their years of success since Roman Abramovich took over, has not been entirely lost amid the desire to thrill.

It is a careful balance for Di Matteo but helped by the talent of the potent attacking trio of Hazard, Oscar and Mata who operate in support of Fernando Torres.

‘The three behind the striker always try to play with movement, swapping positions and trying to assist,’ said Mata. ‘We have to work at it in training but we are players who play like this naturally.

‘As I understand football, I always want to play with the ball. If you can win and also play really well, it is the perfect way. We have to keep going and try to translate this momentum into the whole season.’

Battle: Mata tussles with Clint Dempsey for the ball

Battle: Mata tussles with Clint Dempsey for the ball

For it to work, the trio of flair must also be committed to defend. ‘They do have responsibilities to cover,’ insisted Di Matteo. ‘They have a degree of freedom, but they do have responsibilities.

‘We had different players last season and we had to play differently to get the best out of our team.

‘I liked my team last year and I enjoy watching them this season. What has changed is our attitude. We go away and play with the same attitude we have at home. We take the initiative. The players have bought into this change and who knows where it will take us’

The cloud of the John Terry case has started to clear, not that it ever seemed to hurt the team. Terry, banned against Spurs, is expected to return as captain in Donetsk with the support of his team-mates, judging by Mata’s opinion.

Mata said: ‘I am really happy to train and play with him. He’s a really good guy. It will help us now it is finished. He is a very important player. As team-mates you have to be together and we are.’

After eight

After eight

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini need to punish racism – Des Kelly

Now it is time for football's three monkeys to wise up

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UPDATED:

22:46 GMT, 19 October 2012

They are monkeys, the lot of them. I’m not afraid to say it and neither should you be. Shout it from the grandstands. Throw bananas at them if you like. Monkeys! You know I’m right.

The chief ape is FIFA President Sepp Blatter, the monkey that sees no evil (what did you think I meant) Then there’s UEFA boss Michel Platini, the monkey that hears no evil. And let’s not forget the missing link in charge of the Serbian Football Association that speaks no evil, certainly not when it comes to the mess made inside his own zoo.

The verbal and physical abuse the England Under 21 team had to put up with in Serbia this week was pathetic and repellent. It was an embarrassment to football. But what followed was probably worse.

The three monkeys: Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini and the Serbian FA

The three monkeys: Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini and the Serbian FA

England Under 21 footballer Danny Rose was sent off for kicking a ball away in frustration at the racist abuse he received, which is almost impossible to believe. Nothing broadcasts a message of racial progress like punishing a black player for showing his contempt for racism. What was Rose thinking, taking offence at hundreds of people making monkey noises at him

The defeated Serbs used the moment as an excuse to fight on the pitch and by the tunnel. But the official UEFA website must be run by chimps too because they saw, heard and said absolutely nothing about this. Their report merely recorded that ‘the players took to the field at the end of the game’.

Do something: Blatter and Co must step up their game

Do something: Blatter and Co must step up their game

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And why did they take to the field Was it to pick daisies, perhaps Or was it to butt and punch one another in a race row It doesn’t say. Nor does the referee’s preliminary report into the events. So well done, the Turkish official. Well done, UEFA. Idiots all.

Then the real blows began to land. Rose was branded a ‘liar’ according to a video on the Serbian FA’s official website. He was described as ‘unsportsmanlike and vulgar’.

Their FA president, Tomislav Karadzic, displaying the diplomatic subtlety of King Kong swiping at passing aircraft, vehemently denied racism was involved despite the monkey impressions ringing out around the stadium.

Racism in Serbia It’s all a pigment of people’s imagination, it seems. ‘The Serbian people have never been, nor will be racist,’ insisted Karadzic.

What, never His namesake Radovan Karadzic is on trial for war crimes in The Hague. The former Bosnian Serb leader is charged with orchestrating the genocide of thousands upon thousands of Muslims in an attempt to establish a state exclusively for Christian Serbs.

During a recent appearance, Radovan Karadzic assured the court he had recently allowed a Muslim barber to cut his hair, so he could not possibly be guilty.

With that line of logic, he should stand for a position on UEFA’s executive committee. It’s all a grotesque and giant leap from monkey noises, obviously, but it indicates underlying issues the Serbian FA simply refuse to acknowledge. For most, xenophobia is a decent score in Scrabble. Sadly, in parts of the former Yugoslavia, it remains a fact of life.

Disgraceful: Danny Rose was sent off after being abused

Disgraceful: Danny Rose was sent off after being abused

But let’s keep it light, eh And UEFA will keep it light. There’ll be some paltry fine imposed on the Serbs and a limp admonishment contained in an official statement.

Nobody attending a match in the country will notice anything different and a contingent of the Serbian crowd will continue to believe that abusing black individuals is just part of the game, or a minor indiscretion at worst. Society is not telling them otherwise.

UEFA excel at being weak. Just look at what happened to Lazio on Thursday The Italian club, with a distinctly chequered record in this area, were fined just 32,500 after their fans racially abused Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon at White Hart Lane last month.

But when Nicklas Bendtner wore a pair of green underpants sponsored by a Irish bookmaker he was fined 80,000. So rest assured UEFA do get tough on matters of colour prejudice. They think green is really bad.

Clash: Serbia and England U21 players come together

Clash: Serbia and England U21 players come together

It is all depressingly pathetic, but the rulers of football have spent so many years ignoring the racist abuse hurled about in various European venues that any sudden increase in punishments now is sure to seem tokenistic.

The idea UEFA or FIFA can take a moral lead is laughable. Blatter and Platini would be like a celebrity couple who adopt a Third World baby, call it Sahara ‘to show unity with Africa’s plight’ and then head back to Hollywood on their private jet.

It’s gesture politics. It’s bogus. And, throughout all of the posturing, England’s black players will be expected to continue to put up and shut up, smiling for the cameras as they stand behind a banner bearing a catchy slogan promoting football’s efforts to ‘eradicate racism’.

Plenty has been done. Britain has changed. Football has changed. But the game picks and chooses its targets. The likes of Reading’s Jason Roberts are now telling the game’s authorities where to stick their publicity stunts and T-shirts in protest at the soft four-game ban John Terry received from our FA.

If Roberts doesn’t believe in the merits of a campaign, I don’t see why he has to support it. But Sir Alex Ferguson, a former shop steward, disagrees. The Manchester United manager wondered aloud whether the player might be on a mission to promote himself.

Not a fan: Jason Roberts (right) will not wear a Kick it Out shirt

Not a fan: Jason Roberts (right) will not wear a Kick it Out shirt

‘All the players are wearing the T-shirts,’ said Ferguson. ‘I have only heard Roberts is different. I don’t know if he is trying to put himself on a different pedestal from everyone.

‘When you do something, and everyone believes in it, you should all do it together. There shouldn’t be sheep wandering off.’

Not even if they are the black sheep Surely the trouble is there have been too many sheep over the years Rather than go along with the flock, I’d rather see people wander off the path if they believe it is a shortcut towards change.

And not ‘everyone’ believes in what’s been happening in the game here of late. Roberts has held ferociously passionate objections to the entire Terry case from the moment the video footage surfaced. Wales goalkeeper Jason Brown is also refusing to wear a T-shirt. And Rio and Anton Ferdinand have discussed making similar protests this weekend, a view that may pit them against their own clubs.

Disagree: Sir Alex Ferguson says everyone should wear a shirt

Disagree: Sir Alex Ferguson says everyone should wear a shirt

A Serbian would find it all very confusing. While they are being condemned for racism, the back pages in England decry Chelsea as ‘hypocrites’ for standing by Terry but banning fans for racial abuse. Another headline says black players are being ‘kicked in the teeth’.

Huge advances have been made but the point is we still send a muddled message out to the world. The difference in this country is we can see that, we hear the protests and we’re not blind to the contradictions. We don’t have to put up with monkey business any more.

England are on… pass the Pro Plus

I never use sleeping tablets. Whenever I’m struggling to doze off I rely on the most powerful sedative known to mankind. I watch an England match.

So I’m not sure why the country’s top players should need to take tranquilizers

Under Roy Hodgson, the international team has managed one shot on target in four of his 11 matches.

Even in an age of scientific advancement, it would be difficult to find a more effective cure for insomnia.

Wake up: Roy Hodgson's England have had one shot on target in four of 11 matches

Wake up: Roy Hodgson's England have had one shot on target in four of 11 matches

It actually seems perverse that multi-million pound footballers, aiming to reach the finals of the most prestigious competition in world sport, should prepare for important matches like panicking students trying to complete their dissertation 48 hours before it is due.

This week we found that England’s players dose up on Pro Plus caffeine tablets before games — and then knock themselves out with sleeping tablets afterwards.

This became an issue because it emerged they took tranquilizers the night after their postponed World Cup qualifier in Poland — which explained why they looked as if they were still in their pyjamas when the rescheduled match kicked off the following afternoon.

Whatever justification anybody offers for the pills, it still seems extraordinarily basic. Not so much the product of years of medical research as some tip passed on by an ageing student whose qualifications are an ability to sniff Tippex, sit cross-legged on the floor and recall a dream he once had where two unicorns were kissing.

It’s entirely typical, too. At a time when there is huge speculation that some of the great teams of the European game may have used blood-boosting drugs to increase performance, England’s finest are ‘doping’ on herbal remedies and Red Bull.

Tranquilized: England players took sleeping tablets on Wednesday night

Tranquilized: England players took sleeping tablets on Wednesday night

If they must experiment with drugs, they could at least use proper ones like real champions such as Diego Maradona and Lance Armstrong.

I’m joking, of course. People should not rely on artificial stimulants. Now pass me my coffee. I’m not writing another word until I’ve had a pot of espresso.

Trenton's bird joke

If I were ever going to choose an Indentikit class warrior, he wouldn’t be called Trenton. The name just doesn’t fit in with my definition of a prole.

To be fair, ‘Desmond’ is hardly a moniker you would identify with acts of civil unrest either, but then I’m not the twit that jumped into the Thames to disrupt the Boat Race between Oxbridge and Camford.

Self-styled rebel Trenton Oldfield did because he sees the university contest as ‘elitist’ (someone should explain to him universities tend to be elitist). And, for his trouble, he received a six-month jail term on Friday.

Punished: Trenton Oldfield was found guilty

Punished: Trenton Oldfield was found guilty

Personally, I’d have sentenced him to swimming in front of the boats every year for the entertainment value and in the hope that one of the oars might not only knock some sense into him, but also wipe that smirk off his face.

There is no denying the prison sentence is a joke, however. The length of the punishment Oldfield received actually proves his point.

If he had disrupted a football match, he’d have been flung out the gate and told to make his way home. But because it was posh boys waving their paddles he got six months.

Trenton would have been better off waiting for the rowers to leave their boats and trying to connect with a punch. That way he’d have been given a caution and community service, not six months.