Sunday, November 05, 2006

EPL Action! If you want to show someone what soccer (world football) can be, sit them around your TV when FSC rebroadcasts today's Chelsea-Tottenham tilt. This was as as finely played and exciting game as you'll ever see -- The first half was especially well played, full of end-to-end excitement. Don't skip the second half, though, because that half had fine plays and as good a goal as you'll see.

The first half had one of the most extraordinary defensive plays I've seen -- even though it wasn't in a World Cup, like Kristine Lilly's header off the line in 1999, or Chelsea's (and new England) captain John Terry's clearance kick in this past summer's World Cup (if memory serves, against Trinidad). Those memorable defensive plays were on my mind when I saw the play that Ledley King made to strip the ball from Arjen Robben on a breakaway. Sure, Robben held the ball too long without shooting, but he fairly believed there was no chance of a defender interfering. King's play was spectacularly well-timed, showing speed, athleticism and skill that few other defenders possess. For those unfamilar with King, that's because a foot injury kept him off the English side for the World Cup. Though they were on opposite sides today, King and Terry will anchor a formidable defense for England for years to come.

The goals in this game were all brilliant, and so were the near misses. As you watched this game unfold, it was obvious you were witnessing a classic. If you don't want to know who won -- then skip over the next two paragraphs:

Chelsea had dominated Tottenham for years. Spurs hadn't won a match between them since 1990. And things didn't look good for the home side early today, either. Right after Ledley King's soon-to-be famous stop on Robben, the Chelsea blues scored off the corner kick. Defender Claude Makelele scored his first EPL goal with a well-struck twisting volley that found the corner of the net. But Michael Dawson's deftly directed header off a free kick found the corner of the net as well to tie the match. Aaron Lennon put on dazzling dribbling display and crossed to Robbie Keane, who should have finished off a glorous goal -- one that would have been replayed over-and-over again. Keane, though, headed the ball just over the crossbar, as the flat-footed Chelsea keeper breathed a sigh of relief. Didier Drogba just missed a tremendous scissor kick attempt, and the teams went to half notted at 1-1.

In the second half, Keane made up for his blunder with an really brilliant bit of dribbling skill, before crossing to Lennon, who finished the play by driving the ball into the far corner of the goal. Chelsea wasn't done, though -- not with their line-up. I'm no big fan of Robben, because of his generally selfish and misguided play, but Robben showed his ability when he hit the post on a shot over the defense, from a position that few strikers would have thought they had a chance to score. In the end, Tottenham held on for a great win in a game that Spurs fans will talk about for years to come. What an advertisement for the sport! To be sure, few games are this exciting, but this game would have impressed even the most anti-soccer cynic.

Now, I'm off to RFK to watch D.C United take on the New England Revolution. Two years ago, these two sides played the most memorable playoff game in MLS history. I'm not expecting a repeat of that excitement, or anything close to the level of play I saw on FSC today, but wouldn't it be wonderful, if I did? The crowd will be up for it. D.C United! D.C. United!

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