Quiet weekend in US sports news (unless of course you were ‘glued’ to the NBA All Star game, and who wouldn’t be transfixed by ten multi millionaire playboys jogging up and down a court tossing each other alley-oops ad nauseum). Sunday in particular was an extremely lazy day in terms of sports across the Atlantic, so more American eyes than usual were trained on coverage of the English Premiership, with Arsenal entertaining Tottenham in a wildly entertaining 5-2 Arsenal come-back win.
The game had a bit of everything, great goals, plenty of passion, and some truly terrible, and I mean terrible, defending. Former Manchester United great Gary Neville was Sky Sports pundit for the day, and as the goals flowed, Gary exploded, saying that people can say what they want but the Premiership is the best league in the world.
Neville is on something of a roll. Last week, as Italian side Napoli picked Chelsea to pieces, destroying them 3-1 (it could have been 7-1), Neville dead-panned that Napoli were no great shakes. Apparently Neville had forgotten Napoli’s incredible destruction job on the expensively assembled Oil Money Globetrotters otherwise known as Manchester City.
Napoli are enjoying a tremendous season. They are daringly playing three up front, and remaining disciplined and organised at the back. On Sunday they easily dispatched former Italian giants Inter Milan, 1-0 (and in that case, it could have been 5-0 but for some heroic goalkeeping).
Neville triumphing that the Premiere League is the best league in the world is nothing short of redundant. There are so many easily-picked holes in his statement that you could write a 3,000 word article on same. How better to retort, however, than a couple of quick glimpses at what happened in La Liga on the weekend.
First, to the Rayo Valecano v Real Madrid encounter. Rayo are real minnows by anyone’s standards, but they are playing some neat, attractive football this season and charging up the Spanish league. They fenced back and forth with the Spanish giants Madrid for 52 minutes, and then this happened…
That was just the entrée. The match of the weekend didn’t happen in London, instead it was in Madrid, as Barcelona travelled to Atletico, in the hopes of clinging to their La Liga title challenge. The match was an incredibly passionate, skillful encounter. Madrid threw everything at Barcelona, and with 10 minutes to go, a 1-1 draw looked on the cards, then, this happened..
The goal itself is a thing of technical beauty. The great Messi himself could try this sweeping, curving shot 10 times and only catch the back of the net on 2 or 3 of the attempts. It was an almost impossible attempt, pulled off by a pure genius. Whatever about the technicality of it all, the reactions are brilliant to watch. The Madrid goalkeeper flaps his arms in complete dismay, whilst one of the defenders just kicks the goal post. Messi’s team mates react with a mix of ‘Oh my god did he just do that?’ and ‘Unbelievable, he just did that!’
Gary Neville’s boring, inane comment that the Premiere League is the best soccer league in the world did nothing but show him up to be a blinkered commentator. This is backed up by his insistence that Napoli, enjoying a fine season, are ‘no great shakes’. It is sad when a man talking to millions upon millions of viewers hasn’t even bothered to check out the alternatives, before a jingoistic comment that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Hey, everyone is fully entitled to their opinion, but at least taste the other dishes before you go telling everyone that Fish and Chips is the best meal available.