Thursday, December 20, 2007

Alicante 1 Real Madrid 1 19th December 2007

The copious graffiti on the walls of the tower blocks, as you pass to & from the airport, tells you something but I'm not sure what.

Its breezy along the seafront as you view the expensive yachts moored in the marina.

The centre is reasonably busy though some of the shops & restaurants are closed.

The rock overlooks everything as its always done.

Alicante in winter.

And Real Madrid are in town for the first leg of the Copa Del Rey.

On the night many locals turned out, some 16.000, to see plenty of big names (Guti, Robben, Dudek, Heinze,Gago,Metzelder etc) in the Madrid line up, hoping to see their boys , from the Spanish 3rd level, 'get a result'.

They nearly did.

Creating more chances Alicante score from a penalty (no Dudek heroics) early on in the 2nd half & nearly hold on against a fairly lacklustre Madrid (Gago being one of the few to show some urgency)
Its left to Equatorial Guinea's Balboa, a sub, to head the equaliser from a corner in added time.

But, one has to assume, Real will prevail easily enough in the 2nd leg.

food & drink of choice - tapas, beer & a caipirinha
starbucks count = 0

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thessaloniki December 2007

At this time of year Thessaloniki has few tourists.

On a Friday or Saturday night there is a vibrant bar & restaurant scene as the locals , well wrapped up, parade along the seafront.

Inventive xmas lights add to the scene.

Unlike Athens there are not many tourists & therefore no hustlers.

The fashion features are large sunglasses, cigarettes, porcelain skin & the look of Vera Farmiga (The Departed)

Your correspondents food & drink of choice was kebabs, ouzo, bread sticks & baklava.

starbucks count - 4

As for the football this comprised seeing three games in three stadiums a few kilometres apart.

Aris 1 Braga 1 UEFA Cup

Aris play in an atmospheric medium size stadium, a bus ride from the centre.
For me there is something special about arriving at a stadium within a built up area, the mingling crowds , the ground hemmed in by buildings all serve enhance the atmosphere & intensity.

Despite it having 3 open sides the locals can certainly generate some noise.
That & the paper storm, flares ,smoke & counter-chanting made it an interesting night.

No doubt this atmosphere goes a long way towards maintaining their fearsome home record.

Braga , skillful & well organised scored early following a goalie error then tended to contain Aris apart from a cross & header converted by defender Ronaldo Guiaro.

The draw means that one or other will probably miss out on going through to the next phase.

PAOK 2 Veria 0

a regulation win for PAOK in the Super League with South African Glen Salmon leading the way with an excellent traditional centre forwards performance - winning most headers , showing good control & getting a goal.

Again the counter chanting is impressive - even the main stand joining in.

The stadium , larger, is again near a built up area.
For a bigger game I'm sure the home support (and surroundings) would be very intimidating.

Iraklis 0 Panathinaikos 1

the last of the three games in this trip. Walkable from the centre the stadium is (again) 3 open sides & a covered main stand with a track around.

The big team from Athens bring around 300 supporters located behind one goal opposite which are the 'blue boys' of Iraklis.

Panathinaikos score fairly early & perhaps predictably tend to control the game apart from some Iraklis flourishes . Some offside decisions upset the locals but in the end they have to accept the defeat.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Switzerland December 2007

do you have any cocktails ?
only two : caipirinha.... stop right there.

yes St Gallen has seen the light - they even have a bar called (the) 'caipirinha bar'.

After South America Switzerland is particularly calm, safe & ordered.
Somewhat cold at this time of year but bearable.

St Gallen offers a pleasant central area , with picturesque buildings, starbucks (plural) & restaurants of many kinds.
On a Saturday morning there is a market amongst which the affluent citizens can mingle accompanied by the smell of gluhwein.
There were some nose studs in evidence & the odd Goth but otherwise there was no sign of revolution coming from this part of the World.

In the afternoon you could take a short tram ride to the old Espenmoos stadium to watch St Gallen play Young Boys.

St Gallen 2 Young Boys 7

If this was the last competitive game at the old stadium then it couldn't be more low key.
There was no sign of any (home) celebration as YB overran St G with Hakan Yakin scoring four against his old teams very poor defence.
Incidentally Marco Tardelli, producer of arguably the best ever goal celebration after scoring in the 1982 World Cup Final, also had a spell at St Gallen.

FC Zurich 0 Aarau 1

Zurich is maybe an hour away.

And the Letzigrund stadium is a short tram journey from the centre.
It is famous for hosting the Weltklasse meeting & it does look more like an athletics stadium.
Anyone watching games here at the summer European Championships might not have the best of views.

For FC Z fans this game was not great viewing from wherever you were sitting.
They found it hard to get anything going against a resolute Aarau even when the visitors had been reduced to ten men.
Before that Aarau had missed a penalty, scored soon after & so went on to be the first team to beat Zurich at home this season.