Friday, May 2, 2008

Zenit and Spirit

It’s been a while since I have seen a UEFA Cup match and I was quite looking forward to the second leg between Zenit St. Petersburg and Bayern Munich played at the Petrovsky Stadium yesterday. I was mostly interested in watching the likes of Luca Toni and Frank Ribery play, both of whom have been highly impressive for Bayern this season. But what I witnessed was an excellent exhibition of counterattacking football from the Russians who put 4 goals past Bayern to win the tie 5-1 on aggregate. Munich hardly had anything to show for their possession as Anatoly Tymoschuk the Zenit captain did a superb job of anchoring the midfield for the home team.

Every time Zenit got the ball, they looked like creating something and they took the lead through a Pavel Pogrebniak free-kick in the 5th minute, which was struck powerfully down the middle and any goal keeper at that level other than Oliver Kahn would have made a better effort of saving the shot. The second goal though was beautifully crafted by Konstantin Zurianov who dropped his shoulders admirably to get past Martin Demichelis before easily slotting the ball past Kahn. In the second half as Ottmar Hitzfeld threw more and more attacking players into the fray, Zenit doubled their first half advantage through a headed goal from Victor Faitzulin and a second from Pogrebniak. They might not be household names, but Zenit were certainly good value for their victory last night which surely must have caused a great deal of embarrassment to the German European Giants.

In other news, the IPL game between the Knight Riders and the Royals yesterday acted as more than just an eye opener as regards issues of spirit of the game is concerned. The Rajasthan captain Shane Warne complained after the match about the antics of the Kolkata skipper, Sourav Ganguly who had allegedly made the Royals’ openers wait for five minutes too long in the searing Jaipur heat before taking the field. Warne also expressed disgust at the fact that Ganguly forced umpire Pratap Kumar to refer a catch taken by Graeme Smith of Ganguly to the third umpire in spite of the Proteas skipper's claims that it was cleanly taken. The question that essentially arises here is whether Ganguly should have walked? Before bringing the spirit of the game into the equation I believe such decisions shouldn’t be referred to the third umpire in the first place. Technology can be helpful only in cases where video replays provide conclusive evidence. More often than not in cases of closely held catches, video replays haven’t been able to provide definitive proof of whether the catch had been taken or not.

I am of the opinion that in such cases the use of technology goes against the fundamental reasons why it is advocated in the first place and the on field umpires must take a decision based on what they saw as to whether the catch was grassed or not. Having said that I felt Sourav could have avoided gesticulating to the umpire to get him to refer the catch to the third umpire. But then again after all that we saw in the recently concluded test series between
Australia and India, one could hardly blame Ganguly. That’s why I felt that the whole talk of the captains having signed a spirit of the game agreement was a load of twaddle and at some point when tempers boiled on the field it was bound to come into question.


John said...

Well done Zenit!!! Truly deserving victory for them. Good luck to them in the final against Rangers!!!

Vamos Alejandro!!!!

Sroyon said...

A Ganguly admirer, are we? Geoffrey Boycott excluded, I have almost never seen that in anyone other than a Bengali.

Rahul Saha said...

Like seriously an Aussie, ie Shane Warne, talking about the spirit of the game. I almost fell of my chair laughing.

A Couch-side View said...

@ Sroyon- I have always been a big fan of Sourav's batting. As a matter of fact there are a lot of Ganguly fans here in Madras. He always gets a wonderful reception whenever he walks out to bat at the MA Chidambram Stadium.

A Couch-side View said...

@ Saha- I know it was quite funny hearing Warne make all these comments. But I thought the catch was taken cleanly by Smith. These things should never go to the third umpire. Played in whatever spirit, the third umpire will almost never be able to tell in such circumstances.