Early Doors

Australia Day

Early Doors

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As Zeljko Kalac creaked down to his right, attempting to save Cesc Fabregas's good-but-not-great long-range strike last night, it was all too easy to remember that this was the man Martin O'Neill once considered worse than Kevin Poole.

Aussie Kalac spent the 1995/96 season at Leicester, where he committed numerous blunders in a 3-2 debut defeat to Bolton and found himself summarily dropped.

Kalac made a memorable appearance in the play-off final, when O'Neill brought him off the bench for Poole shortly before penalties to make use of his extra nine inches. In height.

He never had a touch, as Steve Claridge snaffled a last-gasp winner and the Foxes were Premiership-bound. Kalac, meanwhile, returned to Sydney United after being refused a work permit for a proposed move to Wolves.

Now 44, Poole would fit right in to the Milan set-up - and would have made a better fist of keeping out Fabregas's shot - but instead still turns out for Burton Albion and is the oldest man in the Blue Square Premier.

Milan have a reputation as globe-straddling behemoths thanks to their frequent wins over Eurofrauds Manchester United.

Actually, Ancelotti's men are only the fifth-best team in Italy, and have lost to such footballing powerhouses as Catania, Atalanta, Palermo and Empoli this term.

Arsenal should expect to beat them, just as they should expect to beat Liverpool. To their credit, they did, but to quote a favourite Americanism: 'Let's not start sucking each other's popsicles yet.'

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United, meanwhile, did their usual trick of struggling to beat limited opponents with a disjointed display, although they eventually managed to set-up another agonising quarter-final exit.

Early Doors blames their haplessness in the Champions League on Alex Ferguson's strangely sunny disposition on midweek evenings.

European nights transform Fergie from a snarling, bitter old man into an enthusiastic uncle who says everything is "marvellous".

Ferg loves the Champions League, and that might be why United are so rotten at it.

He returned to his bench over a minute into the second half at Old Trafford last night, grinning and waving to the crowd like it was Oscars night.

Take him to a Premier League game and the walk to the dugout is only good for barracking hapless match officials.

Hastily-concocted theory of the day: United's performances reflect this; Complacency versus hunger; serenity versus fury.

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Kalac wasn't the only red-faced Socceroo yesterday, with Tim Cahill apologising for his goal celebration in which he paid tribute to his jailed brother.

As it stated yesterday, Early Doors doesn't really see what the fuss is about and feels that, if anything, he should apologise for his regular celebration.

Cahill enjoys a spot of sparring with the corner flag - i.e. he boxes it to within an inch of its brittle, plastic life.

The much-maligned corner flag is about the only thing that is still fair game when it comes to celebrations.

You can seduce it (Lee Sharpe, Roger Milla), you can knight Joey Barton with it (Bernardo Corradi), you can kick it clean out of the ground (Wayne Rooney and others) and you can even ride it like a horse (Robbie Keane and three Spurs team-mates), all without getting booked.

Enough. It is time to stand up to the bullies and outlaw this abuse.

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Completing a hat-trick of notable Australians is cricketer Andrew Symonds, who shoulder-barged a streaker at the Gabba yesterday during a game against India.

No-nonsense Aussie common sense means Symonds has not been punished for decking the pitch invader, who remarked: "It was great actually." Now there's a man's game.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "During every game I have to speak with my players ... I am very proud of the players." How's that emperor complex coming along, William Gallas?

FOREIGN VIEW: "Milan, Lippi now!" - Corriere dello Sport has had enough of bumbling Carlo Ancelotti and calls for Marcello Lippi after last night's defeat to Arsenal.

TODAY'S TALKING POINT: Some good suggestions for best brawl ever. Well done cmcmulkin01 for referencing last season's bizarre 'windmilling' incident in La Liga: "This one is not so much a mass brawl but a lesson on how not to fight and is ultimately pure comedy! It's a 'fight' between Carlos Diogo of Zaragoza and Fabiano from Sevilla and it must be seen, courtesy of YouTube of course."

Also worth a mention was an impromptu debate about wigs in football that forced Early Doors to look up "syrup" in its Oxford Dictionary of Cockney Rhyming Slang. andywalker269 invoked a terrifying image of Andy Johnson, Lee Carsley and Thomas Gravesen all sporting Bobby Charlton-style combovers, while the name d.mcallister316 wants is Borislav Mikhailov, erstwhile rug-sporting Bulgaria and Reading keeper.

While we're on the subject of haircuts, is Early Doors alone in thinking Kalac's massive height and wavy greying locks make him a dead ringer for the First Man Of British Hip-hop Tim Westwood? And was that Grace Jones playing up front for Arsenal last night?

Debate your sporting lookalikes below.

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COMING UP: More of the same fun and games across the continent, with full live coverage of all three Champions League games, including Chelsea's last 16 second leg tie.

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