Category Archives: Scottish Premier

Bound for Bhoys? Don’t ask TFC

Sign this or I'll sign for Celtic!

Besides the fact that Tottenham can apparently defend as well with 10 men as they can with 11, the strangest story in football this week has to be Dwayne De Rosario’s dalliance with Celtic, and how little Toronto FC claim to know about it. As surprise announcements go, it’s a saga with far more grips, twists and turns than Newcastle’s Jose Enrique’s taking to the Twitterverse to spread news of an injury.

DeRo, who you might remember from his “show me the money” cheque-signing celebration after a superb goal this season, also caught his team off guard, or so they’d have us think, when news broke that he was to have a one-week trial with the Glaswegians. TFC first denied the story, but having their player get off a plane in Scotland made that look foolish, so they claimed it was news to them, too.

De Rosario is under contract for two more years, but his brother insists TFC was aware of the move, and happily made it sound as though the Scarborough-born Canadian international could make a long-term move to the SPL.  “If it’s long-term for a loan or he comes back has yet to be determined,” Mark De Rosario told the Toronto Star. “If it works out, fine, we’ll work on the particulars (between TFC and Celtic) later.”

Someone is full of shit here, maybe both sides, and it stinks pretty bad. Expect this one to get weirder before it makes sense. It’s hard to blame De Rosario for wanting to bail on the rudderless ship that is Toronto FC, still listing along without a coach or full-time GM. But while fans may wish the somewhat mercurial DeRo the best, they should be sharpening their knives for the stuffed-shirt stooges who run the team.

Ian Harrison

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Luck of the draw? Yids learn CL fate

Welcome to the Champions League, Tottenham. And just in case you weren’t sure who the best team in the tournament was, it became painfully evident as teammate after teammate from reigning title holders Inter Milan sauntered up to the stage during today’s draw in Monaco (a painfully long event but one surprisingly well photographed by audience members) to receive player of the tournament awards. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar, defender Maicon, midfielder Wesley Sneijder and striker Diego Milito (who also won player of the year) were each honoured with a small trophy and the opportunity to pick little balls out of a cup and reveal the teams within. And when all was said and done, Spurs found themselves in Group A alongside Inter’s star-studded cast. Will the Italian treble winners still be the same team with Rafa Benitez at the helm? We’ll find out when the Serie A gets rolling this weekend.

Of course, it’s a better draw for Spurs than they would have faced in Group G, whose teams have won a combined 20 Champions League crowns and finished runner-up nine times. At least, with Germany’s Werder Bremen and Holland’s FC Twente rounding out Group A, the last three teams are fairly evenly balanced, meaning second place and passage to the knockout round should be up for grabs. Despite their lofty UEFA coefficient, I’d rather face Bremen (third in the Bundesliga last year) from Pot 2 than any of Real Madrid, Roma, Valencia, Marseille, Panathinaikos or Benfica. Twente, who won their first Eredivisie title last season but saw Schteve leave for Germany over the summer, were one of the highest ranked teams in Pot 4. It’s also a kind geographical draw for Spurs, with no lengthy excursions to Kazan, Donetsk or Tel Aviv required.

Whoever the opponent, health of key players is a big issue for Spurs with the first matchday just over two weeks away. I’ll be happy as long as Welsh winger Gareth Bale, who set up all four goals in Wednesday’s famous 4-0 win over Young Boys, is healthy and ready to run. He’s been become  simply brilliant since Arry told him to stop messing with his barnet.

Fans of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, all Pot 1 teams, are undoubtedly feeling pretty comfortable about their team’s chances of progression to the round of 16, with all three London clubs dreaming of a berth at the Wem-ber-lee final. In Manchester, the police force is already bracing for trouble when Rangers visit, based on their experience from the UEFA Cup Final in 2008, while the tie gives Sir Alex gets a chance to face his former team.

What’s also shocking is the number of big names  who’ll be watching from the wings this Champions League season, including Liverpool, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Porto, Sporting Lisbon, Olympiacos, Villareal, Zenit St. Petersburg, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe.

In today’s Europa League playoffs, a reeling Aston Villa met their match in Rapid Vienna for the second successive year, with a Stiliyan Petrov penalty miss proving fatal, while Celtic’s European misery continued with a 4-0 defeat at Utrecht. Liverpool and Manchester City, however, both booked passage to the group stages, with the Reds reversing an early 1-0 deficit at Trabzonspor and Citeh easing to a 2-0 win over Timisoara.

On this side of the Atlantic, current MLS champions Real Salt Lake watched a 3-1 lead turn into a 5-4 defeat at Mexico City’s Cruz Azul in CONCACAF Champions League play Wednesday night, meaning all four teams in Group A, including Toronto FC, have a win and a loss through two matches. As for TFC, they were busy today announcing Doneil Henry as the first academy player to sign a pro contract.

Ian Harrison

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Filed under Bundesliga, Champions League, English Football, Eredivisie, Europa League, MLS, Premier League, Scottish Premier, Serie A

Berba brilliant in preseason opener

It cost Manchester United 26 million pounds to buy Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspur (or steal him away from Man. City, depending on how you look at it), but in games that matter the silky and sometimes sulky Bulgarian has not matched those millions on the scoresheet, notching 21 goals in all competitions in two seasons. He hasn’t satisfied many of the Red Manc supporters, often unable to deliver in the biggest of moments. But when the games don’t mean as much, like Friday’s pre-season friendly against Celtic in Toronto, he’s a magnum-winning Man of the Match.

Berbatov bagged one goal and set up two more, Danny Welbeck’s winner and Tom Cleverley’s deflected third, as United opened their 2010 tour of North America with a 3-1 victory over Celtic in front of an alleged 39,139 at SkyDome (screw the corporate name).

According to my man Ryan Johnston of Sportsnet.ca, the match would have been played at BMO Field if not for the Indy race going on in the vicinity this weekend. Speeding race cars and drunken football supporters don’t mix very well, but it’s a shame they had to play on a pitch that was only laid the day before (the only day free after the CFL’s Argonauts played at home on Wednesday).

I thought the place would be packed with Scotsmen, but instead it was a tiny Toronto Theatre of Dreams, a sea of red with just a few thousand Celtic supporters in the “away end” in one corner. Perhaps Bhoys fans were put off by the fact their squad came into this one fresh off a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the lowly Philadelphia Union, an MLS expansion team.

A banner behind United’s first half goal that read ‘Love United, Hate Glazer’ was gone within 20 minutes and I saw some of Toronto’s finest walking away from the section when I noticed it was gone. There were also more than a few vuvuzelas in the crowd, but they were by no means deafening.

Berbatov played a full 90, unlike Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, subbed off at half and cheered back to the bench already wearing their warm-ups five minutes after the interval. The Bulgarian opened the scoring in the 34th minute, neatly taking down a pass from Mame Biram Diouf and firing it home.

Chris Smalling hauled down Celtic’s Joe Ledley in the box and substitute Georgios Samaras tied it from the penaly spot in the 61st minute, but United won it in the 79th minute when Berbatov broke into the box and squared the ball for Welbeck, who lunged to slot it home.

No idea why the stadium crew felt compelled to play pounding dance music after every goal…do they think North Americans don’t know when to cheer? Pretty weak.

Man. United were dominant throughout most of the match, showing their class with some early great touches by Giggs and an end-to-end run by Berbatov after a Celtic corner.

Berbatov missed wide after breaking into the box in the 29th minute, less than 60 seconds after Gabriel Obertan had also fired past the post for United.

Sir Alex Ferguson bailed out of Thursday night’s presser at the Four Seasons Hotel for a family reunion on Toronto’s outskirts, flying in ahead of his team, who were delayed by bad weather in Chicago. Only Darren Fletcher was ever brought out to face the media masses, or the five (fool)hardy souls who stuck it out through the two-hour wait for five minutes of questions before the team press flak whisked him away. I got smart and went to the bar with Brent and Hadi…no regrets there.

But Ferguson did answer a few questions after this one, talking about the importance to Scottish football of Celtic and other domestic teams fielding homegrown players (you listening, English FA?), Celtic’s match-up with Braga in Champions League qualifying and Berbatov’s top class performance. And when the flak tried to wrap things up before Sir Alex had spoken to the Scottish media, Fergie was quick with the rebuke, saying “He’s Scottish, for chrissake!” Brilliant.

Ian Harrison

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Filed under Premier League, Scottish Premier