JUVE BEEN FRAMED
With all football matches from the top down to grassroots in the UK postponed over the weekend, fans of the game with no interest in cricket, golf, horse racing, rugby union, rugby league or any of the other sports that went ahead without anyone literally bursting with pomposity or self-righteous indignation had to seek their jollies elsewhere. With games on the continent taking place as usual, there were no shortage of options to put the VAR-related omnishambles of the Premier League behind them, watching matches from various leagues where it is always implemented correctly and quickly, despite there being no real need for it because foreign officials are all famously so much better than their English counterparts.
To Turin, then, where out-of-sorts and struggling Juventus were on the brink of an embarrassing home defeat to Plucky Little Salernitana, trailing 2-1 in the third minute of added time. With many of their fans having already exited in disgust, Leonardo Bonucci, 73, displayed agility and sprightliness unbecoming of a man of his years, to acrobatically turn home the rebound to a penalty originally saved by Salernitana keeper Luigi Sepe. Not content with this late, late leveller, Juve rediscovered the fabled grit that has been conspicuously absent from their performances over the past year and went on to bag an unlikely winner two minutes later. It was Arkadiusz Milik who prompted pandemonium with a header from a corner that sailed across the bows of Sepe and sent Juve’s fans into what in football parlance is commonly known as “dreamland”.
Already on a booking, the jubilant Pole was sent off for removing his shirt in the celebrations, but seemed untroubled as he high-fived various teammates and received the congratulations of beleaguered manager Max Allegri. But with Salernitana’s gutted players preparing to kick off, referee Matteo Marcenaro was advised by the curtain-twitchers at Parco di Stocklioni to adjourn to his monitor and check for a possible offside by Bonucci, just as Milik had headed goalwards. After shrugging off the protestations of the indignant players and assorted interlopers from pitchside, Marcenaro appeared to check a TV angle that didn’t happen to show Salernitana midfielder Antonio Candreva playing every single Juve player onside. He promptly disallowed the winner, prompting the kind of scenes of apoplexy and outrage it behoves us to say none of us ever wants to see, even though we can all agree there are few more enjoyable sights on a football pitch.
Among the flurry of feet stamped and arms raised in indignation from the cloud of the ensuing cartoon fistfight, a lone hand of increasingly diminishing authority could occasionally be seen repeatedly brandishing a red card. Allegri, his winger Juan Cuadrado and Salernitana’s Federico Fazio were all sent off for their parts in what turned out to be a most entertaining stramash, from which everyone and nobody emerged with much credit. “We must transform the anger for what we’ve been robbed of into energy for Wednesday,” roared Bonucci, looking ahead to Juve’s Big Cup match against Benfica. “It’s going to be a tough game and we’ll need everyone’s help.” Heaping fuel on the fire, Milik added that he had “no words”, despite picking two to voice his justifiable outrage.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It was emotional. I knew it was a big thing, coming back and taking the No 9 shirt, but I really didn’t think it would blow up as much as it has” – Jay Stansfield tells Ben Fisher how it felt to become the first Exeter player to wear the number since his father Adam, who died in 2010.
“Re: Friday’s Fiver. You don’t often get things wrong (he lied, trying to curry a favourable reaction) but, may I be just one of thousands of Leeds United pedants and pensioners who distinctly remember Queen Elizabeth II handing over the FA Cup to Billy Bremner at the end of the Centenary Cup final in 1972. So 1996 wasn’t her first football match after 1966” – John Delucchi (and thousands of other Leeds United pedants and pensioners).
“Presumably this photo of Her Majesty presenting the FA Cup to Peter Rodrigues (Southampton, 1976) is a clever forgery, then?” – David Sweet (and others).
“I recall the late comedian Tom O’Connor telling a wonderful story about the Queen going down the line after a Royal Variety show at which he was present. Prior to her appearance, the Palace flunkies had issued alerts to the entertainers waiting to meet Her Majesty, one rule being ‘don’t start a conversation with the Queen, wait till she speaks to you’. Most adhered. However, O’Connor’s friend, the wonderful Tommy Cooper, wouldn’t be shackled by such stuffy protocols. After the Queen spoke to him and moved on to the next in the line, he called after her: ‘Excuse me your Majesty …’ Jaws dropped all round and an awkward silence ensued as the assembled waited to see what would happen next. ‘Yes, Mr Cooper?’ she replied. Tommy continued: ‘Do you like football?’ The Queen smiled and shrugged a little, replying: ‘Not especially.’ ‘Oh,’ said Cooper. ‘In that case, can I have your Cup final tickets?’ Everyone roared but apparently Cooper had the last laugh because, shortly before the next final, two tickets arrived for him from Buckingham Palace. She will be much missed” – Allastair McGillivray.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Allastair McGillivray.
It’s a mailbag special for the latest Football Weekly podcast.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Arsenal v PSV has been postponed, Rangers’ match against Napoli has been moved to Wednesday and more Premier League games are expected to be called off this weekend owing to a lack of police resources in the lead-up to the Queen’s funeral.
Liga F suits have told striking female refs, who caused the opening round of fixtures in Spain to be postponed because they want professional status and payment in line with male officials, that they will “not accept blackmail” and expects them to clock on next weekend. Sigh.
Thomas Tuchel has been busy on the socials, telling followers he was “devastated” by his Chelsea sacking because “this was a club where I felt at home”. Meanwhile, the man who has moved into his old gaff, Graham Potter, says it was the owners’ “vision” that persuaded him to take over on a deal worth more than £50m.
And Diego Costa is relieved to have got his Wolves unveiling video out of the way, what with the club using actual wolves with him. “I was a little scared,” he wibbled. “It was a cool experience but not a very comfortable one.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Matches are a place of shared experience in an atomised world – they should have gone ahead following the Queen’s death, writes Grimsby chairman Jason Stockwood.
After football united at a tournament to honour Stephen Lawrence, his brother Stuart discusses its value and his enduring pain.
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