Before I get going, let me address the egregious lack of posting since August. Yes, I’m aware I’ve neglected the blog, Yes, I’m aware some of you are disappointed. No, I won’t apologize. Life (and procrastination) has a way of getting in the way of my amateur writing career, so it is what it is.
Man, am I ever stoked for the World Cup. So stoked that I plunked down $15 extra per month, on a four-month mandatory contract with Rogers to get Setanta. Fifteen dollars is price-gouging at its very worst (shocker coming from the cable industry, I know), but the fever hit this weekend and I want to be completely versed on as many World Cup players as possible come June 11th. Oh, and for $15, you’d think the channel would be available in HD at the very least – no such luck (to join the “soccer in HD” conversation, check out the comments to this William Houston post).
And so it was that on Saturday, I was able to watch Manchester City defy the odds and hand Chelsea its 3rd loss of the season. As good as that game was, Sunday’s match pitting my Toffees to Tottenham had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.
I’m sad to admit that it was the first Everton match I’ve watched this season, but I know all the players thanks to FIFA 10. This is a talented bunch but they have been decimated by injury, and on Sunday all four defenders were fullbacks: Tony Hibbert and Lucas Neill, who filled in as centre backs, are usually found on the right side of defence, while Seamus Robinson and Leighton Baines were on the right and left sides, respectively.
Following a goalless first half, Tottenham knocked two into the Everton goal and I thought it was game over. I could see that Tottenham were just breezing through the Everton midfield, there was no opposition whatsoever. It left me yearning for a Gennaro Gattuso 0r Roy Keane type of midfield stopper, that bulldog that every good team needs to disrupt opposing offensive manoeuvres before they really become a threat.
As it was, Jermaine Defoe and Michael Dawson had free reign in assaulting the Everton goal. It looked like another Everton loss, and with Chelsea as their next opponent and coming off the aforementioned loss to Manchester City, I was starting to believe that Everton was headed for a second half relegation struggle.
Hey, that might still happen, but the Toffees showed something on Sunday that leads me to believe there is no way in hell they will be relegated. When Louis Saha was brought on in the 63rd, shortly after the second Tottenham goal, the Everton spirit was evident and the game took on a different tone. When Saha potted his 10th goal of the campaign to make it 2-1, we knew we were at least in line for an exciting finished. We were not going to be disappointed.
Everton proceeded to lay siege to the Hotspur goal, constantly asking questions of the Tottenham defence until they could no longer answer; in the 86th minute, Tim Cahill blasted a shot past Brazilian keeper Gomes to make the game 2-2. Game over, right?
In the 94th minute, Honduran Wilson Palacios came barreling into the Everton penalty area, leading with his head to knock the ball forward. Unfortunately, Tony Hibbert was also charging at the ball and instead of knocking the ball out of play he knocked Palacios into the next postal code. Entertaining? Yes. As a Canadian, satisfying to see a Honduran footballer LEGITIMATELY lying on the pitch? Absolutely (your cheque is in the mail, Tony). Smart? No. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Jermaine Defoe lined up to take it.
The USA’s hopes in the upcoming World Cup will rest largely upon the shoulders of Everton keeper Tim Howard. While I had already conceded that Everton would end up losing the game despite their courageous fightback (and aren’t those the worst of the gut punch games?), Tim Howard had different ideas. Before the kick he kept gesturing wildly, I guess in an attempt to throw Defoe off his game. Whatever it was, it worked. Defoe drilled the ball straight into the middle and Howard, who had hesitated briefly before diving to his right, knocked the ball away to safety with the tips of his toes. Game saved.
I have been away from soccer for too long. I seem to go through these waves of enthusiasm, or lack thereof, after Canada inevitably fails out of qualifying for my favourite spectator sporting event, the FIFA World Cup. I haven’t felt that visceral excitement watching a sporting event in a long time (probably since Adrian Serioux knocked that header into the goal back in Montreal in 2008), and this was just a league game on a lazy Sunday in December.
Will you have me back, old friend?