Dec 8, 2007

Soccer Saturday Summary: Reading Rips Reds And Other Upsets

Several upsets went down in today's European league action, with Reading's impressive 3-1 victory over Liverpool the most interesting from an Anglo-American viewpoint. Royals American left winger Bobby Convey proved his worth--and hopefully secured a spot in the starting lineup--with a brilliant assist on Reading's third goal that sealed the deal. Liverpool did not play well at all, but you have to hand it to Steve Coppell's team for a gritty effort that earned them their first-ever victory over the Reds. It was also Liverpool's first Premiership loss of the season and does not exactly inspire confidence ahead of their decisive Champions League game at Marseille next week. Is Liverpool's season on the brink? The past couple of years the Reds have had better European campaigns than Premiership ones. Maybe an early ouster from Europe is what Rafa Benitez' team needs to get centered and make a sincere run at Premiership glory? Then again, maybe it won't be Benitez' team anymore if that happens. Maybe it won't be his team even if it doesn't. I can't see the Spaniard having much wiggle room at this point. Figure Tom Hicks and gang to have itchy trigger fingers right about now...

The team of another American player also notched an impressive upset today, as Steve Cherundolo and Hannover 96 bested Werder Bremen by a 4-3 score. With Bayern Munich only managing a scoreless draw at home to hapless MSV Duisburg, Bremen could have moved into first place with a win. Alas, they didn't get any points, as Mike Hanke scored a hat-trick, including a 77th minute strike that proved the difference. Third-placed Hamburg also played a disappointing scoreless game at home (to Energie Cottbus). Hannover move into fifth placed with the win, which if I'm not mistaken is the highest they've been in the Bundesliga in a generation or more (I could be wrong on this).

The third-biggest upset of the day was probably in France, where perennial champs Olympique Lyon went down at Caen, a newly-promoted side that are nevertheless seventh in Ligue Un. Despite the loss, Lyon still has a four point lead over second-laced AS Nancy, who only managed a scoreless draw at Valenciennes. I say "only" but looking at the L1 table I just realized Valenciennes are currently fifth.

In Italy, Fiorentina lost at Palermo, though I'm not sure how much of an upset this is seeing as La Viola have played like crap recently (no wins in their last five games) and Palermo are now seventh, albeit with a game or two more than other teams in that region of the table.

Celtic now stand to give up first place in the SPL, as Gordon Strachan's side managed only a 1-1 draw at home to St. Mirren. This qualifies as a major upset as St. Mirren are 11th in the 12 team SPL, meaning they are only marginally better than the New York Red Bulls, while Celtic have qualified for the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League. More importantly, I don't think Celtic had so much as given up a single goal in the SPL this season, until Stephen McGinn (whoever he is) scored in the 74th minute to put St. Mirren up. Luckily for Celtic, Derek Riordan managed an equalizer 11 minutes later. But Rangers, two points in arrear of Celtic, will take over first place if they win the game in hand they now have over their hated rivals.

One more upset to tell you about, in Turkey, where Galatasaray lost their first league match of the season, to defending champions Fenerbahce in an Istanbul derby match. What's that? You didn't think I covered Turkey? Soccer Source is everywhere! I was actually going to include Fenerbahce in the Top 25 this week then decided against it at the last minute--in favor of PSV Eindhoven. I am now regretting this decision, as PSV lost to Roda yesterday and Fenerbahce are looking really good both domestically (where they're third) and in the Champions League where they can advance to the Round of 16 with a victory at CSKA Moscow Dec. 12. Ironically, the team they are competing with (and hold an edge over) for that Round of 16 spot is none other than PSV.

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