BETIS EMBARRASSED BY BARCA
After a successful pre-season campaign and some shrewd acquisitions, Gus Poyet and his Betis side would have began their new La Liga season feeling confident that they had what it takes to improve upon last year’s disappointing 10th place finish. Then they played Barcelona.
Betis’ season opener took place on August 20th at Camp Nou. For the first twenty or so minutes, it was actually a contest. After the Catalan giants opened the scoring on the 6th minute through Arda Turan, the green-and-whites fought back and Ruben Castro scored an equalizer in the 21st minute. Fifteen minutes later though, Lionel Messi scored the first of his two goals and then Poyet’s countryman Luis Suarez went and scored a hat-trick. The game ended 6-2, thanks to an injury time consolation goal from Ruben Castro.
Betis’ fans were mortified with the result and were likely a tad confused by their manager’s post-game comments. “As a football fan myself, I enjoyed watching Messi,” Poyet told Spanish outlet Diario AS. “Sometimes though, you just wish he would have an off day. Sometimes time seems to fly by, but not here at Camp Nou... they had the game under their complete control”.
On the 26th, Betis took on Deportivo in their first home game of the season. The lackluster affair ended 1-1, leaving Poyet’s men 17th in the league. It’s only been two games, and the Betis board had likely already assumed an opening day defeat was on the table, but still... 6-2 was a shocking result. You can guarantee that the top brass at Betis will want their new manager to make the team far more competitive in the weeks and months to come.
The doom and gloom of Aston Villa’s last season, despite the many changes, might still be lingering in their new campaign. Roberto Di Matteo and Steve Clarke have seen their side win just once in the first five games of the Championship. On the 16th, Villa were held 1-1 by league-leading Huddersfield; on the 20th, they failed to score at Derby, settling for a 0-0 draw; and on the 27th, they took the lead at Bristol City before eventually losing 3-1. The deeply disappointing run of form sees RDM’s men sitting 16th in the league with just 5 points.
Fans have been understandably frustrated, especially since many pundits picked their team to bounce right back to the Premier League. As Di Matteo and his team left the field after their loss to Bristol City, boos and worse rained down on them from a small section of traveling Villa fans. When asked about it by the Birmingham Mail, Di Matteo could have no complaints. “We can’t expect anything else if we lose games,” shared the Italian tactician.
New Aston Villa owner, the outspoken, Mao-quoting Dr. Tony probably isn’t helping the situation with tweets such as these.
Shame for the 2nd half! Need BIG talk again!!!— Dr. Tony Xia (@Dr_TonyXia) August 27, 2016
Thankfully for those of us with soft-spots for Chelsea old-boys, Di Matteo’s early struggles in the Championship are the exception, not the rule.
Fulham and Slavisa Jokanovic are flying high at the moment. The Cottagers are second, two points off of Huddersfield. On the 16th, they drew 1-1 at Elland Road thanks to a late equalizer from Leeds. On the 20th, Fulham got a late equalizer of their own to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to Cardiff. On the 24th, Jokanovic guided his team past Premier League newboys Middlesbrough in the League Cup, and on the 27th, they beat Blackburn Rovers 1-0 on the road. Allegedly, despite the unbeaten run to start the season, Jokanovic isn’t all smiles. According to The Sun (so, grain of salt here please) Jokanovic threatened to quit his post at Fulham in response to the board failing to acquire new talent this term. The report states that Jokanovic was especially peeved at failing to secure Manchester Utd’s Andreas Pereira on loan. Jokanovic has since denied these comments.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is also doing well in the Championship so far. His QPR team are currently 5th despite losing 3-2 away at Barnsley on the 17th and at home to Preston 2-0 on the 20th. On the 23rd, the Hoops advanced to the next round in the League Cup thanks to a 2-1 win over Rochdale at Loftus Road. On the 27th, they returned to league action to defeat Wigan 1-0 at the DW Stadium.
In the Vanarama Conference North, Kevin Wilson is having a disastrous start to the season. Nuneaton Town are currently rock bottom of the league, after three straight losses over the past fortnight. On the 16th and 20th, they lost home games to Kidderminster and then Salford and on the 27th, they failed away from home versus Harrogate.
Further down the leagues, Mickey Hazard is doing okay. His Hadley side are 16th in the Spartan South Midlands Football League (Premier Division) after drawing with St. Margaretsbury and beating Leighton Town. His team also progressed into the next round of the FA Cup thanks to a 1-0 win over Hertford Town.
Also in the lower leagues, directly above Hadley’s division and below Nuneaton’s, you’ll find the Southern Football League, whose Premier Division includes Kings Langley FC. The Kings, who are based in Hertfordshire, are joint-managed by Paul Hughes and Ritchie Hanlon, who were both Chelsea academy members in the mid 90s. Hughes, who’s from Hammersmith originally, played in the Blues’ midfield between 1994 and 2000, making 25 appearances and scoring a pair of goals. Hanlon, another midfielder and west London native, never made it to the first squad, but did have a lengthy playing career throughout the lower leagues.
Hughes and Hanlon took over at Kings Langley in 2012 and they have won promotion in each of the past three seasons. The team currently sits 19th in the 24 team league, after garnering five points in six games. On the 16th they beat Biggleswade Town (not Biggleswade United) 4-0 and on the 20th they drew 0-0 with Frome (which is this writer’s hometown). On the 27th, they lost 2-1 to Redditch.
In Scotland, David Hopkin is starting to right the ship at Livingston United. On the 20th, they thrashed Stenhousemuir 4-1, but then on the 27th, they lost to Queen’s Park. Livi are currently 3rd in the table, just three points off of leaders Alloa.
In Russia, Dan Petrescu may have saved his job for at least a few more months. After a terrible run of results, Petrescu and Kuban Krasnodar held Sibir 1-1 at home on the 17th and then beat Mordovia Saransk 3-1 away on the 21st. On the 24th, they crashed out of the league cup with a 3-0 loss to Energomach Belgorod, but on the 28th they walked over Neftekhimik 4-1. Their first wins of the year saw the club jump up to 13th in the table, seven points away from the play-off zone.
Hernan Crespo is still job hunting. Last week it was reported by a number of outlets that he had met with Racing Club in Argentina over their vacant manager position.
As for Gianfranco Zola managing Hull City — who knows? With Hull’s start to the season not being terrible, some reports are stating that current caretaker manager Mike Phelan might be given the job for realsies.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Let’s give this one to Dugout Blues new-boy Paul Hughes. He may have only scored twice for Chelsea but one of them was an absolute beauty. Check it out below courtesy of YouTuber Mark Dickens. Can you spot the two other Dugout Blues who helped Hughes carve that defense clean in half?