Happy New Year to one and all!


Brings me great pleasure to wish all Malayalees all over the world a very Happy New Year blessed with peace, prosperity and plenty of joyous moments to cherish. I was down with a cold yesterday and still recovering slowly, hoping for a better tomorrow. Been fairly busy lately,  hence the lack of blog entries. Will be heading to watch Chinatown tonight, and then catch up with some Pooram action at Asramam tomorrow. Have a great year ahead 🙂

Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United 1st leg Review 4/6


a Smiling Rooney clinches the precious away goal

With scorelines of 4 plus goals in all the other fixtures, a 0-1 defeat at home for Chelsea after 9 years by the title rivals may not seem to be as emphatic, but with a crucial away goal, the reds are favorites going home for the return leg.

Squads

Sir Alex opted for a 4-4-2 similar to the last encounter with Chelsea. Hernandez spearheading attack, Park and Carrick in centre, with Giggs and Valencia on the flanks. Rio returned to first team action after 2 months.

Carlo Ancelotti played a similar 4-4-2 with surprise omission of both Anelka and Malouda, starting Zhirkov on the flank and Torres pairing with Drogba.

First 45′

Studs up Essien escapes caution

A few stray passes here and there, with a nervous start from both sides. There was no frenetic pace as the game began. A studs up tackle by Essien on Rooney as early as 5 min was not picked up by the ref and that set the tone to the manner in which Ref Mallenco was gonna let the play go on as far as possible. United slowly grew into a rhythm with Carrick orchestrating the midfield well.

Side tap into the inside of the far post

It took 25 min when a lovely long diagonal from Carrick picked Ryan Giggs on the left, who found Wayne Rooney making a late dash to the edge of the box to side foot the ball off the inside of the far post into the goal. The celebration was a total anticlimax – A smiling Rooney takes a tumble on the turf, points skyward and embracing his compatriots [The Mail will be disappointed that it is an orthodox goal celebration]. So much for all the hoo – haa over the ‘F’ word.

Ferdy is BACK!

At the other end, Drogba was finding it difficult to get beyond first touches. He was well marshalled by Evra and Vidic. Torres on the other hand was fairly successful in slithering this way and that way but his spiteful form continues. An attempted overhead kick was completely mistimed and failed to make more of a one on one with Vidic. His attempt to draw a penalty with a simulation went in vain but was very fortunate not to get booked, though Rio did give him a piece of his mind.

The best opportunity for Chelsea came in the dying moments of the half when a Lampard shot destined for the net was cleared in front of goal by Evra. There was not much to choose from both teams at half time but clearly the form of the United front men the difference in the scoreline.

Second 45′

I was disappointed that Malouda and Anelka did not start, anticipated a change at least at half time. Instead none happened. In the backdrop of how Chelsea bounced back last game, Ancelotti must have rallied the troops in a similar manner cause it took only 5 min for Drogba to whip in a brilliant ball into the box, where a sprinting Ramires missed from 5 yards – an open header. As glaring opportunities like this were being missed, one had to wonder if Chelsea will rue it.

Carrick was outstanding in the middle of the park!

Rafael departed in the first ten min with a body check on Drogba resulting in a knee injury. Sir Alex took a bold move in bringing Nani on and shifting Valencia to RB and boy did he revel. At the weekend we saw Ryan Giggs marshalling LB and yesterday Valencia. He did not disappoint one bit and was the most threatening full back in the second half.

Knee injury - Rafa stretchered off

Rooney and Chicharito’s dogged determination to track back and make life uncomfortable for both ramires and essien bore fruit with Giggs and Park having their work simplified.

A 70min substitution [Drogba, Zhirkov] – a little too late IMO, brought Malouda and Anelka. Chelsea reverted to a more familiar 4-3-3 and all of a sudden van der sar was the busiest of all United players. Pulled off a brilliant save on the stretch to deny Torres a well placed header. He seems to have done his hamstring a bit in that save and took no part in any further goal kicks.

Valencia marshalling RB ever so well

United were nervy and edgy towards the end with last ditch clearances; but with a lacklustre Chelsea forward force, never really threatened to score.  I felt Ramires was brilliant in the second half making a multitude of ‘Lampardish’ runs into the box. His second chance was when Evra mistimed his tackle [and my first reaction – penalty] though on seeing replays looked like the contact was just outside the box. None of the referees spotted the penalty claims and United were let off the hook.  A second simulation wherein Torres intentionally makes contact with Valencia to go down in the box earned him a well deserved yellow.

Rough idea of what goes on in the stands 😉
  • IMO, Carlo was wrong to play such an out of form forward just because his track record is good against united. Drogba was peaking, and Anelka has been brilliant in Europe. There should have been no second thoughts. Torres could have been introduced in the second half if the other two weren’t performing.
  • Chelsea had zero width in attack, couple of those rare moments when Bosingwa did manage to get past Evra, he disappointed with the crosses.
  • Lampard’s 500th seemed like he wasn’t around mainly because he was not playing his favorite position.
  • Rooney was simply outstanding covering lots of ground, helping out in midfield and defence, creative passing, complete package with his finishing.
  • Carrick impressed with his whole repertoire of passing; Valencia showed his adapatability; Rio’s return invariably means a clean sheet.
  • Rafael’s injury needs to be assessed [hectic month of April needs a fit squad]
  • Chicharito, Park – exemplary work rates.
  • Ryan Giggs – just never ceases to amaze. GIGGS will still TEAR YOU APART
  • I still consider Torres to be my favorite striker for the ability he possesses. The longer his barren spell continues, the less favorite he will be to Carlo and the fans. The only thing he seems to be learning at training there is from his buddy Drogba and the art of diving. Despicable and shameful!
  • Manchester United are firm favorites to win this time with the away goal in their locker. Carlo’s questionable comments on the refereeing probably will never seek any reprimand. After all he is not a United coach!

Player Ratings

Van der Sar 8.0, Evra 8.0 Vidic 8.5 Rio 8.5 Rafael 7.5 Giggs 8.0 Carrick 8.5 Park 8.0 Valencia 8.5 Rooney 9.0 Chicharito 8.0

Subs: Nani 7.5 Smalling 7.0

Highlights

Links

Chelsea vs Manchester United 1st leg Preview 4/6


The previous night in Europe must have surely given everyone a run for their money. Spurs spoke to length about the only way they know to play, but lack of experience at this level, has possibly brought  an abrupt end to their European dream run. King Mou was quick to bounce back after a very rare defeat at home the weekend. But the more shocking of the two ties was how the defending champions managed to give away a 2 goal lead and be ripped apart with 3 goals in the second half. Stankovic’s unbelievable strike from the halfway line doesn’t offer them any solace. Inter ‘s entry to this round was after a spectacular comeback against Bayern; anything is possible.

Head  to Head

  • In all competitions, MU – 67, Chelsea – 44 and Draws – 47. This season United beat Chelsea 3-1 in the Community Shield, but lost 1-2 in the league
The managers may claim it's not about revenge, but am sure this man will be on a mission tonight
  • The last time these two teams clashed in Europe, Manchester United went on to win the Final {2008} beating Chelsea over penalties. Misses from John Terry and Nicholas Anelka cost them the title.
  • United at ChelseaMU – 31, Chelsea – 23 and Draws – 19.

United has not won a single game at Stamford Bridge in the last 9 years, last winning in April 2002.

Form Guide

  • In all competitions;
    • MU – WWWWL
    • Chelsea – DWDWW

From the Dugout

  • Chelsea Manager Carlo Ancelotti’s track record is brilliant against United in Europe. Twice he has managed to beat United while at Milan; the memories of Kaka at OT don’t fade.
  • After another draw in the weekend against Stoke, it’s not the ideal start to April for the Blues.

Carlo Ancelotti – We have to play 180 minutes so obviously we want to start well, but everything will be settled at Old Trafford. Nothing will be decided tomorrow. It’ll be different playing United in the Champions League. We have very good confidence and are concentrated. We want to reach the semi-final if possible; if we play better than United we can do that.[The 2008 final] is the past and doesn’t matter. I have a good record against United but we want to focus on the next game and that will be a different story. We’re in good shape. We have to play against a fantastic team, but we have the confidence to do our best. For many years Chelsea have been very close to winning the Champions League and they have the players to win it. Unfortunately they were not good at those moments, but hopefully this season we will have better luck.

The Champions League is not an obsession; it is the most important competition in the world and it’s fantastic. I told my players that we have to be happy because every player and manager in the world wants to be involved in matches like this. You have to be happy to have that chance but you want to win also. This type of game can grow your history as a club, so it’s important we progress.

  • Sir Alex Ferguson is in an overall good mood after a wonderful comeback against Westham this weekend which has moved them closer to a 19th. However, Rooney’s unnecessary gibberish in front of the camera has kept him busy.

Sir Alex FergusonWe had a two-legged game against Arsenal two years ago, which was the first time we’ve seen [an all-English tie] and we tried to approach it in the way we usually would away from home in Europe. This is different because we’re away first, but the name of the game is to hopefully go back to Old Trafford with a goal or two in our pocket. It won’t change our attitude in trying to win the match, but we want to make sure we go back there with a great chance of qualifying. If we get some advantage we’ll be very difficult to beat on our own ground.

I was very happy to get the second leg at home, it will be a quite magnificent atmosphere and the fans will be really up for it. When Old Trafford’s like that it’s a wonderful place to be. Hopefully we’ll go back with something to defend, but we keep making amazing things happen there. The Champions League is definitely [Chelsea]’s driving force, so it will be a difficult game. We used to have a fantastic record in London. The last few years have been poor, but we’ve played well mostly and we need to work on getting that record back, starting here.

Moscow was a really good final. Penalties is always a sore one for the team that loses, but when you win a European final you don’t care how you do it; winning means everything, you’ve gone so far and through so many moments of emotion to get there. It was a great achievement for our club because it was the third time we’d won it. I don’t believe players think about revenge. The motivation to win this game is greater than thinking about a match three years ago.

Team News

  • Chelsea: Alex remains doubtful, while Yossi Benayoun is fit.
  • Manchester United: Owen, Anderson, Evans, O’Shea, Rafael, Brown are available. Rio is training since a week (doubtful)

Milestone

Frank Lampard: huge milestone for the English midfielder. He will be playing his 500th game in a blue shirt tonight.

Predictions

  • Manchester United: Van der Sar, Evra-Vidic-Rio-Rafael [Evra-Vidic-Smalling-O’Shea], Carrick, Park-Anderson-Scholes-Nani, Rooney [4-1-4-1]
  • Chelsea: Cech, Cole-Terry-Ivanovic-Bosingwa, Malouda-Lampard-Essien-Ramires, Anelka, Drogba|Torres [4-4-1-1]
  • Score: 1-1

MOVIE REVIEW: URUMI [Malayalam]


Santosh Sivan’s 2011 venture with Prithviraj, under the banner of August Cinemas [Raju’s first production release], is the 2nd biggest budget film [Rs. 20 Crores] the Malayalam Film Industry has ever witnessed -following Pazhassi Raja. The movie released on 31st March at around 70 centres all over Kerala.I managed to be a part of this beautiful historic journey yesterday and proudly adds this to my list of must watch movies of 2011.

Director’s Take


Plot

The movie begins in a current day situation where Krishnadas [Prithviraj] is partying with his Tamil friend [Prabhu Deva]. They are broke and badly need some money, when they are approached by foreigners [via Nithya Menon] for the sale of Krishnadas’ ancestral property back in Kerala. They take up the advance to sell the place off, and head homewards to complete the sale of the property. On arriving there, they come across an NGO worker [Vidya Balan] who tries to stir his mind away from selling the property. He then gets exposed to some of the tribal men living there, wherein he is forced to listen to the history of his forefathers.

From here on, Santosh begins to unveils his magic. Shankar Ramakrishnan’s script is easy to comprehend and keeps the interest going. We are eased into the history of Vasco da Gama’s visit to Indian soil, his vested interests in Indian spices and the ugly side of the man. One of his ‘foresaken deeds’ was setting a ship that was heading on a pilgrimage on fire and drowning the natives down. The son [Prithviraj as Chirakkal Kelu Nayanar] of a brave warrior [whose attempt to kill da Gama went in vain], then makes an Urumi from the ornaments and gold of the women who were burnt alive in the ship. The pictorization of the anger and anguish in the eyes of the lad sets up the scene for REVENGE.

The little Kelu finds solace and protection at a Muslim’s house [Vavvaalli – Prabhu Deva]and they grow up together to become lifelong friends. The burning desire of Kelu to seek revenge against the foreigners, for killing his father, makes his path cross a beautiful lady warrior [Arrackkal AyeshaGenelia D’souza]. To be honest, I have never been a big fan of this girl, she is cute and spritey, my memories run back to ‘Boys’, the first film I watched of her. Their quests and goals are common, romance brews, and Ayesha buys a lot of love from the viewers.

But it is Vavvaalli who grabs all the claps in the theatre. Humor has been subtle, yet handled well, without taking away any seriousness away from the history being depicted. Jagathy Sreekumar is no doubt the Complete Actor in this movie. If ever there is an acting manual, he did justice to his role as the ‘Advisor’ to the king emphatically. Words won’t do justice to his performance. Simply brilliant.

Nithya Menon enjoys wonderful screen time as the King’s daughter; though I was not too comfortable with her accent. Vidya Balan – as a mesmerizing deity, with a seductive dance number and some impactful dialogues in Malayalam [does fairly well]. Her acting skills sidelines Nithya Menon’s role. Tabu’s guest appearance in the song.. just left me feeling, a little too old maybe ;).

Trailer

The final frontier

The epic battle, after fighting all odds, Kelu tries to take Vasco da Gama head on, and the visual treat is just brilliant. One has to take an evening off, head to a theatre and sit through 170 min. to really imbibe the Santosh Sivan stamp in Cinematography.

Raju needs to be given some slack. This is another feather to his career. I was really impressed with his work rate in this one. Santosh has tried to get the best out of him.

Genelia no doubt is my standout performer in this one. Beauty weilding a sword, slaying men all around, anger, anguish, revenge, love, fear. She portrays a lot of emotions. And as a warrior, she is simply gorgeous. It may not be the perfect movie, but it is definitely a must watch. Deepak Dev has done brilliantly with the score to keep the aura all throughout.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Links:

Urumi Official Website: http://www.urumithefilm.com/


‘Tis April – The Business end of the Premier League – CHELSEA (1)


Usually when we reach the fag end of a season, the Top 4 that is always at the tip of our tongues – Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool (Man City). Well this was not the season where the top 4 were at their supreme best. Stumbles have decided the pecking order, rather than remarkable team form.

The defending champs, Chelsea, started the season with a lot of promise; only to wither mid season due to internal issues and questionable player performances.

Manchester United were driven forward more with the grit and determination of SAF and his troops without ever reaching their peak. Untimely injuries, off the pace legends and lack of quality replacements in the centre of the park have kept them subdued.

Arsene’s Arsenal are a side that is ever improving, but their innate qualities of losing ground when least expected, and the manager’s stubbornness to deviate even 1o from his principles has seen them also staring down another RUNNERS UP season.

2 managers, 2 different outcomes, Liverpool, has shown a lot of fight to rise from the dead after almost battling relegation mid season.

The noisy neighbours, Manchester City, ably lead by Mancini [I say ably, cause he no doubt has the toughest managerial job], are on course to achieve their top4 goal. What happens next, we shall soon see.

Let’s start off with defending champs, Chelsea

Rewind..

  • First 5 games: Beats West Brom and Wigan 6-0 and trumps Blackpool 4-0 – The champs get off to a flyer
  • 8/8: Loses first silverware [Community Shield 1-3 Manchester United]
  • 9/22: Knocked out of Carling Cup [3-4 Newcastle United]
  • 11/11: Departure of Assistant Coach Ray Wilkins marked the downcurve of the Blues progress in the league.
  • Barren run: 11/7 to 12/27 – Chelsea’s form read P 8 W 0 D 4 L 4  – saw them drop out of pole position.
  • January: Roman gets into the act. 2 massive signings – David Luiz £21.3mand Fernando Torres£50m
  • 2/19: Loses to Everton in FA Cup 1-1 [penalties]
  • Feb/Mar: P 6 W 4 D 1 L 1. Resurgence. Ancelotti and Luiz bag the Barclay awards.
Carlo's second this season and Luiz' first.

Road ahead..


Team News

  • 8 games in the month of April, with 3 in the first ten days, a fit squad will be key considering Chelsea have only European glory to chase and having to win all games in the league to exert any pressure on the top 2.
  • Yossi Benayoun‘s return to footballing action last week [20 min, Israel] means he is one more weapon for Chelsea to wield and none other than Torres will be looking forward more.

Round 1

(A) Brittannia Stadium: Following Manchester United’s early kick off at Upton Park, the Blues will battle it out against the Potters (1930 IST ESPN). Any point taken there will be a struggle and well worth it.  I go for a 1-2 with Torres to score the winner. [I see Torres returning to his old self this month – the scene is set for him.]

Next post will be on table toppers and the very likely title winners  – MUFC.

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