Notes from a spaced out soccer fan, Feb. 22

By Jonathan Gold

(Note: I have officially banned myself from writing about Arsenal – Orient on the advice of my physician. I have absolutely nothing to say about a team that can go toe-to-toe with the best in the world one day and then draw with Leyton goddamn Orient, or why so many good players at Arsenal are out of form or…takes drugs)

Aah, fine. Away we go.

SPAIN

The mighty Sid Lowe over at the Guardian thinks the goal scored by goalkeeper (!) Dani Aranzubia to rescue a point for incredibly dull relegation candidates Deportivo is the biggest story of the La Liga weekend, and he might be right. It was the first scored by a goalkeeper from open play in the history of the league, after all. Personally, I like his name enough that I’ve been going around saying “Arrrranzubia!” to friends and co-workers and that’s the extent my my interest in the matter. Hats off to him, though, big goal.

Karim Benzema’s goal against Levante was pedestrian, but the setup was anything but. Angel de Maria beat three defenders so badly they must have needed counseling after, then he shaped a wonderful ball for the French striker to score the simplest of tap-ins. Watch de Maria knife into the box if you get the chance, it’s a really stunning piece of skill. World soccer’s remaining Ronaldo then supplied a nice free kick for Carvalho to turn home.

http://www.footytube.com/v/NzM3Mzg=

Barcelona struggled against a resolute Athletic Bilbao side despite a goal within the first five minutes from David Villa, who threatened to score several more times in the first half. Bilbao pulled one back from a (pretty soft) penalty, and then conceded a stonewaller themselves after Messi was hacked down in the box following one of his usual astonishing runs. Not given. Terrible call. Justice was served less than 15 minutes from time, however, as Xavi combined with Dani Alves to set up Messi for an emphatic, expert finish into the top of the net.

http://www.footytube.com/v/NzM4NTg=

GERMANY

I must be becoming a more serious Borussia Dortmund supporter than I’d thought. I snickered kind of a lot when I saw Schalke got beaten by bottom-of-the-barrel Gladbach after scoring in the opening two minutes.

League leaders Dortmund, for their part, jogged to a 2-0 win over my other mild Bundesliga crush, St. Pauli, who never really got a sniff. Dortmund had maybe, just MAYBE been showing recent signs of mortality, so the easy win will do them good.

And I hope for their sake that it has, given that their next foes will be a resurgent Bayern Munich, fresh off a convincing 3-1 away to Mainz. The Bavarian heavyweights showed signs of their old form, and look very dangerous indeed. Dortmund are almost certainly uncatchable, but a big win for Bayern could make the question somewhat less academic.

Wolfsburg continues to suffer in the absence of Steve McClaren’s, um, firm guidance as they slipped to another 2-1 loss, this time to Freiburg.

Eintracht Frankfurt confuse me. One week they’re beating the probable league champions and the next they’re collapsing late against Nurnberg. Geez.

ITALY

Edinson Cavani watch – he missed a penalty in the 11th minute, but Napoli still pulled it out against Catania thanks to Camilo Zuniga’s alertness in latching onto a deflected shot from – of course – Edinson Cavani.

However, the undoubted big news of the weekend was Genoa coming back from three goals down to beat Roma 4-3. (Hey, Roma fans, quit complaining – call me when you get to four.) Two each from Rodrigo Palacio and Alberto Paloschi for Genoa secured the win after Francesco Totti scored Roma’s third just after the break. The stunned Romans continue to be maddeningly inconsistent.

http://www.footytube.com/v/NzM3Mzk=

Milan took all three points from a somewhat luckless Chievo side, 2-1. The Rossoneri struck first thanks to Robinho’s incredible ability to control the ball with his arm and not get whistled for it, but were pegged back in the second half by a nice header from Gelson Fernandes. If their first had been lucky, their second was brilliant, as Alexandre Pato left two Donkeys for dead before firing off the post and in.

http:/javascript:changeSize('400','244')/www.footytube.com/v/NzM4MTU=

I’d mock Juventus harder for going down 2-0 to Lecce, but I can’t think of too many teams that can survive having Gigi Buffon sent off after 10 minutes or so. Got to be a bit demoralizing.

Inter survived Cagliari by means of a tricky free kick which they took very fast. Wasn’t pretty, but I suppose them’s the breaks.

Jonathan Gold is a contributing writer for The Soccer Guys. Check for his weekly column on Tuesdays.

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