Soccer coach's abbrasive tactics reach a new low

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Soccer coach's abbrasive tactics reach a new low

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, August 18, 2011
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Grabbing an opposing coach by the face and placing a finger near his eye, making inappropriate gestures to rival players and attacking ballboys for time-wasting -- Jose Mourinho has taken his abrasive tactics to a new level. The Real Madrid coach's antics during a mass brawl near the end of the Spanish Supercup against Barcelona on Wednesday are threatening to taint his club's image and detract from the thrilling football two of the world's best teams are capable of producing. Mourinho strolled through a cluster of fighting players and brusquely flicked a finger near Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova's eye. Vilanova, who had his back to Mourinho, turned and reciprocated with a push. Players left both benches to join the fight at Camp Nou, resulting in three players being sent off to overshadow what had been an attractive game of football decided by Messi's 87th-minute winner which gave Barcelona a record 10th Supercup and third straight. Referee David Fernandez Borbalan's failure to include details of Mourinho's incident in his match report means he and Vilanova are likely to escape punishment when the disciplinary committee meets next week. Madrid pair Marcelo and Mesut Oezil and Barcelona striker David Villa could also avoid a ban despite being sent off, since the Supercup is considered a one-off competition and sanctions don't necessarily carry over to other domestic competitions. El Pais newspaper described the match, which Barcelona won 3-2 for a 5-4 aggregate victory, as "Football from Another Planet." But while El Mundo Deportivo echoed those sentiments, the Barcelona-based sports newspaper then took a stab at the Madrid coach by saying "Mourinho dirties football further; (Madrid) don't know how to lose nor win." Barcelona's players labeled Madrid's football a "disgrace" while Gerard Pique said "Mourinho is destroying Spanish football." The question is what are Mourinho's tactics doing to Madrid's reputation at a time when it can't find a way to beat its biggest rival. "The images speak for themselves," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "There are certain things that shouldn't be done. This will all end badly if it doesn't stop." Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart said on Catalan radio that football had given Mourinho a "double personality." "This is not his way of being, he's a normal person. I don't ever remember one coach attacking another. I hope this all ends with Mourinho apologizing to Vilanova," said Gaspart, who headed the club when Mourinho worked there as an assistant, although fans continue to refer to him as "the translator." "Madrid adores him, but the truth is this isn't the Mourinho I know." Mourinho was also seen making an inappropriate gestures toward Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves. He later made a derogatory remark about Vilanova in the postgame news conference and accused Barcelona's ballboys of time wasting, saying the tactic was something a "small-time" club like Barcelona did. "I am very happy for my team after what happened in the end. What happened is somebody provoked the situation, and it certainly wasn't a player from Real Madrid," the Portuguese coach said. But even former Madrid general director Jorge Valdano was distressed by the end of the match. "Without a doubt that was the worst way to end the Spanish Supercup," he said. The two teams played four matches in 18 days in April which were characterized by fights, diving and accusations of feigned injuries. That eventually led to Mourinho being banned for five matches for alleging referees and UEFA favored Barcelona. While at Chelsea, Mourinho was banned from the touchline for two matches in 2005 by UEFA after he accused Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard of visiting Swedish referee Anders Frisk at halftime of a Champions League match. He was also fined 40,000 (then 53,000) and banned from sitting on the bench for three games after he made a handcuff gesture when two of his then-Inter Milan players were sent off during a Serie A match against Sampdoria in 2010. On Wednesday, Mourinho was undone by Messi's brilliance. The Argentine set up Andres Iniesta for the opener before scoring the other goals to become the competition's all-time leading scorer by two from former Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez. While the Spanish league season remains under threat of delay due to a strike, for Madrid the message was clear: any success this season will have to be at Barcelona's expense. "We have won a Supercup against Real Madrid during a very intense game during which they've put us under a lot of pressure," Guardiola said. "And we have learned a lot from these two games that we will use when we meet them again the future."

5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.

“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.

“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”

Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.

Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.

That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.

[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”

It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.

The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.

It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.

“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”

The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.

It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.

They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”

It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.