The Sweeper: Rafa on the Rack
Yesterday’s stunning day of UEFA Champions League action is of course the focus of discussion today, with every game providing talking juicy points for the press.
The British press naturally focused on Liverpool after their home defeat to Lyon. Paul Hayward considers the future of Rafa Benitez (“Everything that can go wrong is going wrong at the moment”, Rafa said after), and Kevin Gardside says fans are losing faith in the Spaniard, though Henry Winter reminds us how many players Rafa was missing in their defeat to Lyon and Gabrielle Marcotti gives sensible reasons for why Liverpool would be “mad to sack Benitez now”.
An even longer-term crisis is focused on up north in Scotland, as Rangers crushing defeat at home 4-1 to Romania’s FC Unirea has Ewan Murray saying that “The most comprehensive thesaurus in the world would barely contain the words to describe this Rangers performance. The latest evidence that Scottish football may be in terminal decline rather than just suffering a rough spell arrived on another harrowing night in Glasgow.” Rangers boss Walter Smith faced calls for his immediate resignation.
Still, probably the most surprising result of the night came in Spain — Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola tried unconvincingly to sound unperturbed by their defeat to Rubin Kazan at Camp Nou. And the last minute goal conceded by Arsenal to AZ Alkmar is picked over by Rob Kelly in the Telegraph, who had seemingly been waiting for a chance to make the obvious conclusion that the current team is not a patch on Wenger’s old “invincibles”.
- It was also a night of Champions League action in the CONCACAF region, as Columbus went through to the knock-out stage, with DC United awaiting results to see if they will progress and Houston hoping to advance tonight (though that looks less likely). It looks like it could be a better year for MLS in continental action after last year’s debacle, when only one team made it to the quarter-final stage and no-one beyond that.
- Notts County were forced by the Football League’s Fit and Proper Persons Test to reveal to them who owned the club, a process undertaken with much reluctance but finally completed. We still don’t know ourselves who exactly is behind the wall of mirrors, but at least someone in authority does.
- Following the famous beach ball goal against Liverpool, the Guardian trawls through other examples of “outside agents” interfering in the game. My favourite is definitely Bryn the police dog.
- To follow-up on Monday’s item about direct supporter involvement in clubs, Exeter City have announced their Supporters’ Trust has now contributed over £1 million pounds to the club since it was set-up just six years ago. Remarkable.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.