George Dearnaley

Nothing quite like an upset

2008-09-05 03:33

George Dearnaley

This current season has seen more than a few 'upset' results in local soccer.

With Chiefs and Sundowns both performing way below their best, the time has been ripe for the smaller teams to get good results against them. Pirates have been inconsistent this season, and so they offer opportunities for the other teams to scalp them, but not as much as Chiefs and Sundowns this year.

AmaZulu started off the season by beating the reigning champions in their backyard - while wearing their opponents' socks! (AmaZulu had forgotten to bring team socks to their away match and ended up using a set from Sundowns!)

There is always the chance of an upset in football, but in the course of a season, you would expect the big guns to be victorious more often that not and so the league table takes on a familiar pattern. That's why Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are always there or thereabouts near the end of the season. The smaller teams (or poorer teams) simply don't have the depth in their squads to keep winning going over a long period.

Energy and focus

Cup tournaments though offer another challenge. It all depends on the timing, and if the big teams are still in the running for the league and one or two other trophies, and their squads are taking strain, then they are ripe for plucking if a smaller team comes along in decent form with a fully fit squad.

Locally I think Chiefs will beat Ajax in the Nedbank Cup because they are out the league race, have their backs to the wall, nothing to lose (except respect) and can focus on a Cup victory. Ajax are still top of the league, with SuperSport on their tails, and the energy and focus needed to stay at the top will drain them as they get closer to the end of the season.

A Cup fixture doesn't do a league title contender any favours! Right now I bet Craig Rosslee and his Ajax team would love nothing better than to have the weekend off, or at least another league match so they can get closer to wrapping it up.

Intelligent game

In the UK, there were a whole dose of upsets this past weekend.

Manchester United going out in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup to Portsmouth was one. Portsmouth are a good team and have some quality players, but nine times out of 10 United would be expected to win at home at this stage of a knock-out tournament. But the timing was perfect for Portsmouth. United are probably leg-weary after tough league and Champions League matches, and the FA Cup was probably third on their list of objectives - so well done to Portsmouth who played an intelligent game of football.

I would have thought that was the one upset of the round, and that the big guns would march on, but both Chelsea (v Barnsley) and Middelsborough (v Cardiff) went out to less fashionable opposition - this is what they talk about when they mention "the romance of the FA Cup".

Although the sponsors must be slightly worried because the TV value of a Portsmouth v Barnsley final for example must be a whole lot lower than if United or Chelsea had stayed in the tournament. But it could be West Brom v Cardiff at Wembley in May - and that is something that keeps the soul of football alive.

PSL managers out in the cold

Last week I bemoaned the number of coaching changes in the local league - some people argued that I shouldn't defend Gordon Igesund as he had a blank cheque book and should have been at the top of the league - but the reality is that he was having a wobble, but was still only a few wins off the pace.

He had already won the league, and his team (although not getting results) was playing some decent football and it was only a matter of time before they clicked again. So my argument is not so much about Gordon staying but about the thinking behind changing coaches - there is no guarantee of instant success.

Bloemfontein Celtic got rid of coach Khabo Zondo after a string of indifferent results, but after fan pressure, he has been welcomed back! Not the ideal environment for a coach but I think they were wrong to get rid of him in the first place. Although there are rumours that some of his signings have been for his benefit and not for the club!

I must mention though that Santos have been red-hot since new coach David Bright took over the reigns. The results have seen Santos shoot up the league ladder (five wins in their last five matches), so maybe it's his fault that the club bosses are sacking their unsuccessful coaches!

Champions League review

Okay so I forgot Liverpool v Inter was delayed by a week (I can't remember everything!) but at least my prediction came true - Liverpool went through to the quarter-finals at the expense of Inter.

I got most of the results right including the Roma win over Madrid, but my humble apologies to the Arsenal fans for doubting your pedigree. I tried to cover myself by suggesting that Arsenal were capable of an away goal, but really thought AC Milan's experience at this level would come through. Not to take anything away from Arsenal on the night (Flamini and Diaby were very impressive), but that is arguably the worst I have ever seen Milan play. They gave the ball away, couldn't close down the Arsenal midfield, and really showed their age. Only Kaka and Maldini (the oldest man on the pitch) put up any resistance.

Liverpool have made it four English teams ino the last eight, with one team from Spain, Italy, Germany and Turkey joining them. Although these top four English teams probably only have about 12 or 14 English players between them!

  • George represented South Africa during the 1994 Soccer World Cup qualifiers and is the current Media24 group football manager.

  • Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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