UEFA had its balls in all the wrong places earlier this week, resulting in a far more entertaining Champions League draw than we’re used to.
A comedy of errors first saw Manchester United wrongly drawn against Villarreal – a team they faced in the group stage – before United were then not included in the pot to be drawn against Atletico Madrid.
Of course, European football’s governing body did what any prestigious institution would do in the embarrassing circumstances: blame someone else.
“Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.
“As a result of this, the draw has been declared void and will be entirely redone.”
Outrage followed, as expected, especially as Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain were originally supposed to face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Man Utd for another battle of the Ballon d’Or hogs. Instead, PSG will face Real Madrid.
Some good did come out of the botched draw, however, with sage pundit Michael Owen offering up some of his trademark wisdom, stating: “Everyone is going to have a better or worse draw… unless you draw the same team.”
In honour of the great man, we’ve dug out some other gems Owen has shared over the years – enjoy:
• “If there’s a bit of rain about, it makes the surface wet.”
• “Footballers these days often have to use their feet.”
• “Blackburn have got two strikers on and they’re both playing up front.”
• “Whichever team scores more goals usually wins.”
• “It’s a good run, but it’s a poor run, if you know what I mean?”
• “To stay in the game, you have to stay in the game.”
• “That’s completely unstoppable but the goalkeeper has got to do better for me.”
• “He’s elbowed him in the head, but there’s nothing in it for me.”
• “That would’ve been a goal had it gone inside the post.”
• “That’s a fantastic penalty, but he’ll be gutted it went wide.”
• “It’s hit the facial part of his head, there.”
Celebrating a living legend
If any of you didn’t see Sergio Aguero’s retirement press conference, do yourself a favour and avoid it – save yourself the tears.
Having had to hang up his boots due to a heart condition, the Argentine struggled to speak at times, such was the intensity of his emotions.
Instead, the best course of action is to do what you should always do when something great comes to an end: remember the good times.
Across his career, Aguero:
• Became Manchester City’s all-time leading goalscorer – a record he set all the way back in 2017
• Became the record holder for most goals scored at one Premier League club (184)
• Became the record holder for most hat-tricks in the Premier League (12)
Aguero was so deadly, in fact, that he averaged a goal every 108 minutes in England’s top tier, comfortably the best rate of any player with more than 20 goals.
Indeed, our pals at Opta told us that he could play another 2,520 minutes of Premier League football without scoring and still have the best ratio. Ridiculous.
Some other interesting facts: He scored five times in a 6-1 win over Newcastle, only the fifth player in history to score five in a Premier League match and the only non-European to do so. Those other guys played 90 minutes, too – Aguero only needed 66.
Aguero is also the only Premier League player to score twice in his first and final appearances in the competition. In both games, he was introduced as a substitute.
Of course, he will be most fondly remembered for scoring arguably the most famous goal in English football’s history, the stoppage time winner against QPR back in 2011-12 that saw Man City clinch the league title at the expense of eternal rivals Man Utd.
93:20 forever, Kun ❤️
For someone so rapid, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sure has problems with being on time.
Having been convinced to stay at Arsenal last year, the Gabon international was tasked by Mikel Arteta to spearhead his rebuilding project on the pitch, given the captain’s armband and thus expected to set standards and lead by example.
Fast forward to now and the striker has been stripped of the captaincy for his “latest disciplinary breach” and dropped from Arsenal’s squad, with Arteta as yet giving no indication as to when Auba will be selected for a matchday again.
It may come across as harsh at a glance, but the fact that the Gunners’ statement on the matter included that word “latest” pretty much says it all.
Indeed, plenty was made of the 32-year-old being dropped from the starting XI after turning up late for a north London derby – one of Arsenal’s most important games of the season – while he had also broken strict Covid protocols earlier this year. And that’s just the ones we know about.
His latest infraction, as confirmed by GOAL, saw him return to the club from abroad a whole day later than was originally agreed. For Arteta, that was the last straw.
Still, Arsenal fans might not be too bothered given Aubameyang’s dreadful form this season and the fact that the club are currently occupying a Champions League spot. Essentially, what happens next for the striker is anyone’s guess.
A concerning spike in coronavirus cases has led to a raft of postponed matches in the UK, with no less than nine Premier League fixtures having been called off to date.
As a result, only five matches from England’s top tier will be played this weekend (at time of writing anyway).
Elsewhere, Real Madrid have revealed that they are now up to six confirmed cases within their playing staff, including Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio.
At present, Sunday’s clash with Cadiz is set to go ahead, but that could change quickly if more positive cases are recorded.
Concerns have also been raised over whether the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations will go ahead, with the European Club Association threatening to withhold players due to fears over medical safety.
AFCON organisers continue to claim that the tournament in Cameroon will go ahead, however, and asserted that there is a “plot” against them and that the ECA’s statement contains false information.
It won’t be long until we find out what’s happening there, though, as the competition is set to kick off on January 9.
Some good news arrived on Friday as Christian Eriksen was released by Inter, meaning he can start looking for a new club outside of Italy.
The Dane, of course, had to be fitted with a defibrillator after collapsing on the pitch during his country’s first match at Euro 2020 and Serie A rules prohibit players from competing with such devices installed.
There has been talk of a return to former team Ajax, where Daley Blind has been playing with a similar device to Eriksen’s without incident.
Another player who may be on the way out of Inter is Alexis Sanchez, with GOAL having learned that Barcelona are considering a January move for the Chilean, who enjoyed a successful three-year stint with the Blaugrana in the past.
The decision to look at Sanchez likely stems from the fact that their first-choice target, Manchester City’s Ferran Torres, will not come cheap, making it unlikely that a club in such a delicate financial situation would be able to afford a winter swoop.
There was some crazy drama in the semi-final of the Arab Cup, with Algeria defeating Qatar 2-1 courtesy of a goal in the 17th minute of stoppage time. Yep, 17, you read that right.
An incredible nine minutes of time was the original amount added on, which would see Qatar find an equaliser in the 97th minute.
A VAR review of that goal pushed the game even further into added time, before another twist in the tale saw Algeria awarded a penalty in the 105th minute.
Mohammed Belaili’s initial effort was saved, but he turned in the rebound as the clock hit 107 mins.
Finally, the draw for the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League was completed on Thursday – without any balls-ups, we should add – and the next edition of the competition’s ‘group of death’ sees England pitted against both Italy and Germany. Hungary are the unlucky fourth side.
▪︎ By Goal.com