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Archive for December 2007

India's lame fight

India's lose first Test I was not surprised by Australia winning the first Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground by but I was surprised in the manner in which the Indians seemed to offer not much of a fight.

Before this Test match in the ICC Test championship table Australia was ranked first with 143 points and India was ranked joint second with 109 points and as such I expected a much tighter contest possibly extending to the fifth day but that did not happen.

India failed to reach 200 runs in both their innings and that tells a story on its own but it did not look that bad on the first day on Boxing Day when India managed to restrict Australia to just 343 runs but India's first innings fell short of that target by 147 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar's 62 runs made the score look not that bad but then Australia had an even better second innings declaring on 351. India's batting went from bad to worse and in the second innings none of the batsmen managed a half-century.

I don't know whether India's performance had anything to do with lack of preparation in Melbourne as they had just one tour match before the first Test and that match did not go all the three days because of rain.

I am looking forward to second Test at the SCG and lets hope its going to be a tighter contest but it will need the Indian batsmen to put some runs on the board as I think that their bowlers led by captain Anil Kumble did a decent job in both innings.

Meanwhile, its interesting to see that the West Indies have beaten South Africa to win their first Test in South Africa and also their first Test win in two years. There are two more Tests to go in that series and I am sure South Africa will fight back to avoid a series defeat.

Merry Christmas

I am writing to wish all the readers of this blog a Merry Christmas and a very successful 2008.

I hope you will all have a wonderful time and loads of fun. I hope to find some time before the end of the year to post about the cricket at the MCG and perhaps the Christmas football in the English Premier League.

Cheers.

Kind draw for Chelsea, Barca

The UEFA Champions League round of 16 draw brought some interesting fixtures and the one that I found to be very attractive will be the one between Liverpool and Inter Milan.

Inter Milan are flying in Serie A and have just beaten AC Milan but against Liverpool they will be meeting a team with lots of experience in the knockout phase of the competition having reached the finals twice in the last five years.

I think Inter could have an edge but with the matches scheduled for February and March next year Inter will have to maintain their current form to overcome Rafa Benitez's side.

Another of my picks will be ties between Arsenal and the defending champions AC Milan and also Real Madrid against Roma. I think the tie between Arsenal and AC Milan will be between youth and experience and I have a feeling that this tie could easily favour Arsenal especially with the current erratic form of AC Milan.

Roma are on a good run at the moment in Serie A and lie second whilst Real Madrid are top of La Liga and they should be an appetising encounter. Its hard to see Real falling on the wayside but I am sure Roma will like to erase the memories of how they exited last year's competition by ousting Real.

I think the ties that will easily go either way will the Manchester United/Lyon and Schalke/Porto ones. Like Liverpool, Lyon started slowly in the Champions League this season but at Old Trafford they will be facing a very consistent side but I think Lyon could reach the next round if they can avoid defeat at home.

When the competition started I thought Valencia would qualify but instead it was Schalke who did and they should fancy their chances against an otherwise impressive Porto side who showed their beatable side at Anfield.

With due respect to Olympiacos who reached this stage for the first time, I think Chelsea have a draw which they should be happy about especially as they play the second leg at Stamford Bridge. This could be the kind of draw Avram Grant's side needs in order to reach the final in Moscow.

I think Barcelona should be able to push aside Celtic at the end of the two legs. Celtic are hard to beat at home but over the two legs I don't see them celebrating at the Nou Camp.

I don't know what to expect in the tie between Fenerbahce and Seville and I think this is one that could be potentially be decided on penalties.

Whatever the outcome will be, it looks like we have some very interesting matches to look forward to and I am hoping that I will also be able to score well on TipsChallenge

Uncertain road into Asia

The draw for the 2008/9 Asian Champions League was made early this week and the Australian representatives in the competition Melbourne victory and Adelaide United at last got to know the teams they will have to fight out to reach the next round.

This will be the second time for Adelaide and so the experience from last season will give them some bit of advantage especially against teams from countries they played the last time around. Adelaide has been paired against Chinese champions Changchun Yatai, Korean Republicís Pohang Steelers and Vietnamese champions Binh Duong.

Victory will play its first Asian champions league match on March 12 against the South Korean side Chunnam Dragons. I think this is the second tough side in the group for Victory and so I think this match will give some indicators as to how the campaign may go.

The first away match for Victory will be against Thailand's Chonburi FC. Chonburi FC will also be the last team to visit the Dome on May 21. I think its good to finish with what I think is a winnable match because if you need a win to advance you could possibly get the win.

The biggest match will possibly be against Gamba Osaka at the Dome on the 9th of April. I think this is the strongest side in this group and I am happy to see that Victory will face them first at home before playing them in their own backyard two weeks later.

The Asian Champions League is a tough competition because only the group winners proceed to the next round and its the end of road for the other three teams. So a team basically pays heavily for any slip-ups and I am hoping that by that by March Ernie Merrick would have got some reinforcements especially having an attacking midfielder who can supply the strikers because so far this season the team has just been so defensive minded without doing a good job at it anyway and also creating very few scoring opportunities.

Also another factor that makes it tough for A-League teams is that all the first round matches are played in the A-League off-season and this is not a good thing at all. The A-League off-season is unusually very long and I hope that in future it could be shortened somehow and so that some of the matches can fall into the normal season. This will only when the number of matches or teams is increased.

With Victory's season having gone pear shaped, Victory's only chance to be playing in the competition next season would be to win it and thats very unlikely.

Not so good for Thornbury

I found the report that said that that according to the insurer AAMI Thornbury gets top spot for home break-ins in Melbourne a bit interesting.

At one time I lived not so far from Thornbury in Preston and I am a bit surprised that there are so many break-ins in that suburb but this is data from just one insurer and I think the one from the Victorian police would give a clearer picture I guess.

In second place was Elwood with Ascot Vale, Kew, Richmond taking the positions three to five. To complete the top ten were Clifton Hill, Coburg, East Malvern, Port Melbourne and Brighton.

It is interesting to see that the top ten suburbs are spread all over Melbourne which in a way shows that it is a widespread problem across Melbourne.

I will looking forward to seeing the Victorian police one which gets published in the newspapers from time to time.

Kovalainen replaces Alonso

In the end it looks like a swap as Heikki Kovalainen has now replaced Fernando Alonso at McLaren starting from the 2008 season.

Kovalainen will now partner Lewis Hamilton and so McLaren have now ended with two drivers without much experience in F1 but with lots of potential. I hope its a combination that will be successful after the near success in the just ended season when Hamilton just missed out on the title.

It still remains to be seen however whether Hamilton can repeat his exploits of his debut season but I think that with one year experience under his belt he should do better than the 2007 season.

On the other hand Kovalainen finished with 30 points at Renault and he helped Renault secure third place in the constructors championship and I think with a faster car at McLaren he should be able to better those 30 points.

Its also good to see that the F1 spying row has now come to an end insofar as the FIA and the 2008 season is concerned and that should set the scene to what on paper looks likely to be a very competitive season if Renault can improve and BMW Sauber just go a step up and challenge for podium places.


The Jets threat

This weekend will see another crunch match for Melbourne Victory against the Newcastle Jets at the Telstra Dome with just five matches to go before the end of the season and therefore fifteen points to play for.

This has not been the season I thought it would be at the start and as the season comes to an end its becoming obvious that the two problem areas so far have been lack of goals and discipline.

I think the lack of goals has led to the team having too many draws, eight so far of which three of them were goalless draws and all at home. If you were to convert just just three draws out of the eight into wins that would be an extra six points and the team would easily be in the top four on the ladder.

Like all the remaining matches the Newcastle match is a must win match and with goal difference likely to come into consideration it will be good to win by a number of goals but that seems very unlikely. In that case a win of any sort will do.

After the Newcastle match there will be just one more home match against the Wellington Phoenix and that sums up how difficult its going to be to get many points from the remaining five matches. The away matches will be against Queensland Roar, Central Coast Mariners and Sydney FC and all these teams are currently above Victory on the ladder.

If in the end Victory does not reach the finals I think it will be easy to say that overally they did not deserve to but if they do that would be a bonus.

Alonso goes back to Renault

Former F1 world champion Fernando Alonso has now re-joined Renault for the 2008 season after an incident filled one year stint at McLaren.

When Renault were found guilty by the FIA but not fined last week, I think it was a matter of time before Alonso re-joined his old team where he won two world championships before leaving for McLaren at the end of the 2006 season.

Its sad though that Heikki Kovalainen will leave Renault as a result of Alonso's return. I think Kovalainen had a very good first season where he accumulated a total of 30 points ahead of his more experienced team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella who could only get 21 points in a poor year for Renault.

Alonso will be partnered by Nelson Piquet Jr the son of triple world champion Nelson Piquet and who was a test driver at Renault in the 2007 season. I think Alonso will be hoping that Piquet does not turn out to be another Lewis Hamilton and challenge him for number 1 status.

Interestingly Kovalainen could now go and fill the seat left vacant by Alonso at McLaren. Fisichella might end up with Force India a team he has tested with in the last few weeks.

Liverpool, Arsenal first taste of defeat

Over the weekend both Liverpool and Arsenal lost in the league for the first time this season in matches a lot of people would have expected them to win or at least draw.

But Reading played the game of their life and managed to beat a Liverpool side which included influential captain Steven Gerrard and also Fernando Torres. From the line-up I could see that this time Rafael Benitez was going for a win despite an important Champions League midweek fixture which they must win to stay in the competition.

When Reading went ahead I was a bit surprised but I thought Liverpool would come back and win but then they equalised but from then Reading went on to score two further goals of which the third one was a very good goal.

On the other hand the Gunners are missing key players in the form of Cesc Fabregas, Alexander Hleb, Mathieu Flamini and Robin van Persie and that told as the team never looked like the scintillating side we had got accustomed to in the past few weeks.

So Arsenal went to the North East for two matches and came back with just one point and the lead that could have been six points by now is now just one point.

The next fixtures are going to be even more interesting. Arsenal are going to host Chelsea and Liverpool are going to play arch-rivals Manchester United at Anfield.

After a poor start to the season I think Chelsea are beginning to play well and I would fancy them to at least get a draw at the Emirates whereas I will be very surprised if Liverpool beat United at Anfield.

Liverpool tend to play very well in the big teams but I think Sir Alex Ferguson's side are going to be too hot for them to handle and play on the side of caution I will probably go for a draw on TipsChallenge.

I am keen to see how premier league ladder will look after this weekend's matches but I have a feeling that come next week United will be on top of the pile. Hope I am wrong.

Murali overtakes Warne

Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan today overtook Shane Warne's haul of 708 wickets when he took two wickets on third day of the first Test series against England being played in Kandy.

On the second day Murali managed to equal Warne's record when he took the four wickets he needed to reach that figure but on the third day he created his own record when he took the wicket of Paul Collingwood.

I think it was good that he broke the record in his own hometown of Kandy because that gave his home supporters a chance to celebrate with him that milestone. Before the series against Australia there was a suggestion that he could break the record on Australian soil but that never happened as he only managed to take just four wickets in the whole series when he needed nine.

I think Murali is capable of reaching between 800 and 900 wickets but I am not sure about the 1,000 wickets he talks about. In England's first innings he managed to take six wickets and that is the reason why he is able to take so many wickets and it will not be surprising to see him take more than ten wickets in this first Test alone. That I think is what helps him get the numbers up so quickly.

For the next few years I will wait and see where he will leave the mark at and at the moment there seems to be nobody challenging him for that record but for now congratulations Murali!

Fare rise too soon

Last week the Victorian state government announced the new fares for Melbourneís metropolitan public transport system starting from the first of January 2008 and unlike this year there will be no delay in implementing the new price regime.

This year the new prices became effective in March because the service was so poor this time last year that a price rise wouldn't have been appropriate at the time but I think it seems that they think the service is better this time around. This has made next year's price appear to come so soon.

To be fair on my line the service has been quite good with very few cancellations but delays seem to be the norm especially on the way home which is sometimes good if I would have missed the train had there been no delay but not so good if I have to be at my destination at a certain time.

Its good to see anyway that a new weekend metcard will be introduced in April 2008 and even though I don't travel that much over the weekend it will be a worthwhile card to have because the fare is nearly half price the weekday one.