Sunday, 11 December 2011

Magical Messi Makes All The Difference For Barca

Special: Lionel Messi skips past Pepe and Xabi Alonso
Lionel Messi displayed a clinical show of attacking football to help Barcelona overcome a 1-0 deficit to beat fierce rivals Real Madrid 3-1 at the Bernabeu last night.

With Christmas fast approaching, Real were presented with a sackful of chances to gift them a huge three points in the race for the title.

However they were left to suffer from poorly executed opportunities, and it was left to the magical touch of Messi to capitalise on Madrid’s demise.

Before the game, pundits were predicting Madrid to finally overhaul Barca’s dominance in the El Classico.

Although Madrid surprising took the lead through Karim Benzema with 23 seconds played, the league leaders were no match for what was an unstoppable performance from the Catalan’s midfield maestros.

The match build-up was mainly structured around the football superstars that are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and yet again one player prevailed on the big stage.

It took 5 minutes for the world footballer of the year to turn El Classico on its head. Within 4 minutes of Benzema’s opener; Messi took advantage of a Sergio Ramos slip before gliding the ball past two tackles and forcing a great save from Casillas.

Messi’s inspired presence on the game got its first reward, when yet again he unveiled a combination of divine ball control and remarkable decision making to slot a marvellous through ball to Sanchez who complimented the assist with a great finish.

The Argentine narrowly avoided a red card come the half time whistle. A yellow card for dissent was shortly followed by a trip on Alonso. The referee looked certain to pull out an inevitable second yellow, but quickly pulling away from the pocket when realising that the man who conceded the foul was the greatest player on the planet.

If Messi was sent off, then we would have been looking at completely different story.

With Fabregas taking a centre forward role in the second half, Sanchez and Messi provided the former Arsenal skipper with exceptional pace and precision crossing down the flanks.

Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta formed the three in midfield, and they supplied the wings with great passing whilst also balancing the threat of taking long range shots against Iker Casillas.

Xavi then struck the jackpot when his shot from 25 yards took a freak deflection off of Marchelo, wrong footing Casillas who scrambled to crawl the ball away but to no prevail.

Real Madrid had a number of chances to bring the game back to honours even, the pick of the bunch coming from an unmarked Ronaldo header which unbelievably failed to hit the target.

The game was then sealed by exhibition counter attacking football from the Spanish champions, as an exceptional run by full back Daniel Alves was followed with a great in-swinging ball to Fabregas who was there at the back stick to head home the sucker punch goal.

Madrid remain favourites to take the La Liga crown as they still acquire a game in hand, however Barca still have the attacking power to spoil Real’s title surge.

Xavi: We Were Far More Superior To Real Madrid

Image text here

Barcelona midfielder Xavi believes that his side were too strong for Read Madrid at the Berbabeu last night.

Xavi, who has been with the Catalonian side since the age of 11, scored one of three goals that insured Barca took all three points to bring them level with Real Madrid at the summit of the La Liga table.

Real Madrid took the lead 23 seconds into the game when Karim Benzema tapped in from close range, but three goals by Alexis Sanchez, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas sealed the victory on what was a dramatic evening in Madrid.

A much needed result for the reigning champions who have only taken 3 wins from seven away games this season, and Xavi believes that Madrid were no match for the visitors.

“We were very superior to Real Madrid today.”

"We wanted to be brave here. We know that you cannot win otherwise and the team played a great match in every department. We are far superior to Real Madrid."

The 31 year old also praised keeper Victor Valdes, who gifted the Spanish league leaders a goal when a misplaced pass to Daniel Alves fell to the feet of Karim Benzema who pounced in from close range.

“Victor Valdes has been very brave in spite of the initial error and was able to recover and play very well.”

"I am very happy about everything, for the victory, and the most important thing is that collectively we played a great game and we were very superior."

However his boss Pep Guardiola quickly brought his side back down to earth, and reiterated that Madrid are still favourites to take the crown despite yet another El Classico defeat to Barcelona.

“I am delighted with the performance [but] Madrid will recover.

“To win here, you have to play a very good game and we have done that. But there is still much to do and Madrid will again be the leaders if they beat Sevilla.”

“There are no champions in December.”

Real Madrid missed a hatful of glorious chances, including an unmarked Ronaldo header that could have given Real a much needed equaliser.

After the game, Jose Mourinho expressed the significance of Ronaldo’s glaring miss from 10 yards out.

“When it was 1-0 we could have easily gone 2-0 up and maybe under normal circumstances, Cristiano [Ronaldo] put it wide.”

There was a dramatic end to the first half when Lionel Messi, who had been booked earlier on in the game for dissent, tripped Alonso. The referee looked to pull out the red card that would of saw the Argentine sent off, before quickly pulling away from his pocket when seeing the guilty face of Messi.

With the game evenly balanced, Mourinho believes that the referee could have been more lenient towards his side and sent off the Barca talisman.

“I thought Messi could have been sent off, but until I see it again I won’t say more in case I’m wrong.”

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Match Report: Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona

cesc fabregas xavi real madrid v barcelona

A rampant second half display by reigning La Liga champions Barcelona beat league leaders Real Madrid 3-1 on an entertaining evening at the Bernabeu.

Three goals by Sanchez, Xavi and Fabregas was more than enough to end Real Madrid’s 10 league victory streak, and cut the deficit down to equal terms at the top of the La Liga table.

A close range goal by Benzema was cancelled out by a Sanchez strike close to half time. With a deflected strike by Xavi straight after half time, a diving header by Cesc Fabregas sealed the Catalonian’s third away victory in seven games.

Real Madrid got off to the perfect start, after Barca keeper Victor Valde’s attempted pass to Eric Abidal fell to the feet of Di Maria whose shot was blocked, falling perfectly to Ozil whose volley was deflected into the path of Karim Benzema who poked home from close range.

Ronaldo then squandered the chance to put the league leader further ahead when a Benzema run down the left wing was squared to the Madrid talisman who selfishly shot wide instead of setting up Di Maria who was clear on goal.

Lionel Messi started to make his way into the game and a great run down the right flank forced a great save by stopper Iker Casillas. Barca looked the more likely to force the equaliser.

With the game closing in on half time, Barcelona got their reward. Lionel Messi capatalised on a Sergio Ramos slip, gliding the ball past two Madrid tackles and slotting a through ball to Sanchez who placed the ball past Casillas to give the Chilean his 5th goal of the season.

Shortly after the equaliser, Messi was punished with a yellow card after arguing with the referee over a Pepe foul on Sanchez. With the first half closing in, the Argentine could have easily been sent for an early shower, after a late challenge on Xabi Alonso caused the referee to reach for his pocket, before then pulling away from what looked like an imminent sending off.

The Bernabeu was then stunned, after a long range Xavi strike was deflected by Marchelo, leaving Iker Casillas wrong footed and scrabbling to crawl away the ball which inevitably rolled into the net.

With Barca leading at the Bernabeu, Cristiano Ronaldo was presented with a glorious opportunity to tie the match when an Alonso cross was headed wide by Madrid’s top goal scorer.

A sucker punch goal ruled out any hint of comeback, when a deep cross by Daniel Alves was met at the back stick by Fabregas who dived in to head in his 8th goal of the season, putting clear daylight between the two clubs.

Mourinho put on Gonzalo Higuain to boost Real’s attacking options and a Sergio Ramos cross evaded the stretching foot of the Argentian striker, preventing him from bringing Madrid back in the game.

With 90 minutes fast approaching, Barcelona kept a stern back lie as well as attacking with presence to earn themselves their first El Classico win of the season.

Match Preview: Real Madrid vs Barcelona

Cristiano Ronaldo & Lionel Messi

The eyes of the watching world will be on the Bernabeu tonight, as Real Madrid look to extend their lead to six points over Barcelona in this season’s first El Classico encounter.

The first meeting between the fierce rivals this season, Madrid lead Barcelona by three points at the top of the table with a game in hand. This game see’s the Catalonians arrive at Santiago Bernabeu at a bad time, as Real have scored 28 goals in their last six games at home.

Barcelona show exception home form too; with 9 games, 39 goals and none conceded keeping them hot on the heels of the league leaders.

However their away form isn’t one to savour, as they have only taken two victories from six games having suffered a surprise defeat to Getafe in their last venture from the Nou Camp.

Jose Mourinho goes into the game with just one injury concern, as centre back Ricardo Carvalho has pulled a ligament in his right knee furthering him to the sidelines after overcoming back problems.

Pep Guardiola has no injury concerns ahead of the crucial tie; however he will be looking towards one player in particular to continue his impressive scoring record this season.

Lionel Messi has, yet again, been a one man show for Barca this season with 17 goals, 10 goals ahead of second club top goal scorer Cesc Fabregas.

Although the world footballer of the year’s continued supremacy of Spanish football has left the world in awe, it has been Madrid’s talisman who has matched the Argentine step by step.

Cristiano Ronaldo has matched Messi with 17 goals this season, along with six assists this season. With his incredible form in front of goal resembling his performance last season, which saw the Portuguese winger strike 40 goals in all competitions, Ronaldo has played an enormous part in Madrid’s winning run which has seen them win ten league games in a row.

Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has taken account of Madrid’s incredible form, and has seen a big difference from last season in Mourinho’s men.

“They are stronger than they were last year”, said the Spanish football manager.

“They know each other better, they have spent more time together and know what their coach [Mourninho] demands of them.”

“Above all they defend well, be quick in transitions and pay attention to factors like the circulation of the ball.”

“It will not be easy because they have a very intense game.”

Jose Mourinho has refused to speak to the media towards the build up of El Classico, leaving the media responsibilities to assistant coach Aitor Karanka who believes that Real will go all out to win.

“It’s not just a match like any other. But we are not going to change our way of working whatever the result is tomorrow.”

“We could have a lead of four, six or nine points that would not damage our principle. We have to go after the three points like we always do.”

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Match Report: Adkins Focuses On Next Game

Nigel Adkins Nigel Adkins of Scunthorpe United looks on during the Pre Season Friendly between Scunthorpe United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Glanford Park on August 4, 2009 in Scunthorpe, England.

Southampton boss Nigel Adkins has praised his squad for coming from behind to take three points against Hull City yesterday evening, but says that he isn’t interested in breaking any records.

Two second half goals from Adam Lallana and Guly Do Prado secured their 21st consecutive home win in all competitions. The last time they were defeated at home was nearly 10 months ago when Premier League champions Manchester United came from behind to win 2-1 to reach the last 16 of the Carling Cup.

However Adkins is ignoring the record books and focusing on Southampton’s serge into the Premier League.

"I'm trying not to look at records to be honest. It's great that we have got the momentum of winning games at home, and when that unfortunately comes to an end then we will take a look at the record books. In the meantime we will keep taking one game at a time and tonight I am delighted with a big three points.

He also applauded his side’s response to going a goal down, after going in at half time 1-0 down to the visitors.

"In the second half we have come out and what a great ten minutes that was.The crowd has got right behind the players and the players got the crowd going and that has got us two great goals and a good victory.”
“We've gone behind and then gone ahead and won, so it's a great three points and I'll analyse the performance tomorrow and as a team on Thursday morning and then move on.” Tonight I will take all the positives from it because we got a great three points."
Adkins changed around the tactics during half time, and with the introduction of skilful winger Steve De Ridder, saw a much more positive attacking display from his men.
"In the second half we have changed it and played with two wide players, we turned down several opportunities in the first half to put the ball into Rickie who was crying out for it, so that's why we made the change.
“That's what you can do when you have a squad because we have the impact off the bench to try and change things around.
Despite a stubborn and good performance by Hull City, their caretaker manager Nick Barnaby left Southampton bitterly disappointed.
"It's frustrating. We have to eradicate the silly mistakes. We're nearly there and we will get there. We need to work on some areas and have to iron out the mistakes. For 80 minutes I thought we played well but we were undone by 10 minutes of a lack of concentration."
Barnaby also criticised referee Oliver Langford’s decision to punish Robbie Brady with a straight red card after he caught Dan Harding late in a challenge with ten minutes remaining of the match.
"I don't think it was a sending off. I've looked at it again and I don't agree with the decision."

Match Report: Southampton 2-1 Hull City

saints hull

Southampton have extended their run of home victories to a record breaking 21 games, as they came from a goal behind to beat a resilient Hull City 2-1 at the St Mary’s Stadium tonight.

Two goals from Guly Do Prado and Adam Lallana was more than enough to see off the Tigers, after Robert Koren scored the opener towards the end of the first half.

Tributes were made to the late Gary Speed before kick-off, as a minutes applause was conducted in remembrance for the late ex-Leeds and Newcastle midfielder.

Saints started on the front foot, after snappy midfield play led to Morgan Schneiderlin wasting an opportunity to take an early lead when his shot from close range was spilled by Hull keeper Peter Gulasci but gathered quickly.

Hull put a lot of pressure on Southampton’s back four, with full back Liam Rosenior’s pace causing a lot of damage down the right flank.

With the half coming to the end, the Saints had a number of chances to break the deadlock, with Guly Do Prado squandering several headers wide of the target.

However Hull’s patience and hard work paid off, when a fine cross from Tom Cairney was met by the head of Slovenian international Robert Koren, who slotted the ball into the top corner to claim his 4th goal of the season.

Southampton returned to the field after the half time interval looking fresher and more determined. Looking comfortable on the ball, they threatened Hull’s defence immensely and within three minutes of the restart, they got their reward.

The introduction to crowd favourite Steve De Ridder proved influential, as an early cross by the Belgian winger was headed on by Lambert, falling to the fluorescent boot of Guly Do Prado who made no mistake in blasting the ball high into the net from 12 yards out.

The equaliser gave the Reds the confidence boost they strived for 48 minutes, and they looked like a side capable of attacking with intent.

The winner was in sight for the league leaders, and an adventurous run by Saints full back Frazier Richardson was complemented by a fine cross, and who else to fly in but Adam Lallana whose precise header found the bottom corner.

Hull pressed for an equaliser, and goalscorer Robert Koren curled a shot just wide of the post to scare the home supporters.

The final 20 minutes proved to be a tense period for the Southampton faithful, but on the 79th minute a high tackle by Hull midfielder Robbie Brady on Dan Harding meant the youngster was heading for an early shower. A straight red produced by referee Oliver Langford, the Saints gained control of the match to see out the stubborn visitors.

A hard earned victory meant that Southampton would remain at the top of the table, as West Ham beat promotion contenders Middlesbrough 2-0 at the Riverside. The defeat meant Hull City would drop three places to 10th, losing vital points as they push for the play-offs.

Match Preview: Southampton vs Hull City

Image text here

Championship league leaders look to set a new club record tomorrow night when they welcome Hull City to the St Mary's Stadium.

A victory in tomorrow’s encounter would mean the Saints have won the last 21 games on home soil, a post war record last set by Liverpool in the 1971/72 season.

Southampton currently sit at the top of the Championship with a two point cushion over rivals West Ham in second place, who aim to keep up the pressure on the Reds tomorrow when they travel north to the Riverside to face fellow promotion chasers Middlesbrough.

One absentee that will be missing from tomorrow’s game is midfielder Richard Chaplow, who only lasted seven minutes in last Saturday defeat to Bristol City.

Adkins will be relying on talisman Rickie Lambert to be firing the ball into the net, as the Liverpudlian has been in clinical form in front of goal for the Saints, firing in 12 goals in the 19 appearances he has made in the league this season.

The visitors on the other hand welcome Aaron Mclean back to the squad after serving a one match ban from reaching five yellow cards. The striker is likely to partner hitman Matty Fryatt, who is currently Hull’s top goalscorer with seven goals. However Paul McKenna will miss the trip down to the south coast as he too is serving a one match ban from reaching five yellow cards.

The tigers will be hoping to roar back to a much needed win tomorrow night, after two Matty Fryatt goals were cancelled out by a late attacking onslaught, as Hull let slip a two goal lead to lose 3-2 to Burnley at the KC stadium last weekend.

The previous time these two teams met, Hull ran out 5-0 victors, a result that was one of many impressive displays that took the tigers to the Premier League. In that same season, Southampton narrowly avoided relegation.

However three years on and Saints are in a completely different prospective as they look to secure a second successful promotion to the very top of English football. A 21st straight home win would keep the pressure on rivals Middlesbrough and West Ham, and boss Nigel Adkins is expecting a difficult test.

“It’s going to be a good game. I’ve seen Hull play on four or five occasions now and they play good football, they pass the ball around really well.”

Adkins went onto praise Southampton’s fans for their contribution to the Saint’s recent run of form. "The supporters are right behind us, on Saturday when things weren't quite happening for us, the supporters then tried to lift the players. That happens a lot at St Mary's because they can see that we want to move the ball about and we have scored more goals than anyone else in the division.

Southampton have yet to slip into their ‘rough’ patch and after a shock defeat at Ashton Gate, they will be looking to take three crucial points to remain favourites to be promoted to the big time.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Bristol City Announce £11.45 Million Losses

Since the introduction of Derek McInnes at Ashton Gate, Bristol City have made a remarkable recovery in this year's npower Championship.

With McInnes record currently standing at 13 points from six games, the Robins are slowly making their way out of the bottom four.

However it has been revealed today by club chairman Colin Sexstone that the club have calculated record losses of up to £11.45 million in 2011, giving City fans a lot to be concerned about. 

Talking to BBC Radio Bristol; Sexstone said, "It's a big problem. Wages in the Championship are far too big and  at Bristol City in particular they're just too much"

The huge decline in City's profits have been put down to player wage's and the stressful delays of the development of the new stadium. However many player's contracts are set to expire come next summer; including key players like super striker Nicky Maynard, keeper David James, Marvin Elliot, Jamal Cambell-Ryce and veteran Louis Carey. 

The amount of players at the club concerns Sexstone too, and he believes that they are earning way over the salary they deserve. "We've certainly got too many players. Keith Millen [former manager] thought that and I'm sure Derek McInnes does too, and some of them are earning too much."

Sexstone also hinted towards big players moving on in the transfer window in January. "I have no doubt that some players we will want to keep on but there are some we might not. That decision will be down to Derek. But it is an opportunity for us to replace some of those players with some on lower salaries."

Despite the news released today, Sexstone has expressed his delight at the recent run in form by the Reds that has seen his side go five games unbeaten.

"There's a feel-good factor at the moment and it shows you how quickly things can change. Having a 16,500 crowd makes a big difference."

Bristol City face Watford at Vicarage Road in tonight's Championship encounter between the two strugglers, where Derek McInnes will hope to extend his unbeaten run to six games.

Monday, 28 November 2011

There's Only One Gary Speed

Sunday 27th November, a sad and horrific day for the world of football. Gary Andrew Speed, 42, died in his home in Huntington, Cheshire.

As soon as the news of his untimely death spread throughout the country; fans, players, newsrooms and even the general public grinded to a halt in pure shock that the former Welsh captain had died.

Hours later, rumours had surfaced within the media that Mr Speed; a former midfielder for Leeds United, Everton, Bolton Wanders, Newcastle and Sheffield United, had took his own life. Sunday's Premier League encounters between Swansea and Aston Villa, and Liverpool and Manchester City were overshadowed by the news of the veterans demise. Craig Bellamy was forced out of the Liverpool squad to deal with the loss, and Villa 'keeper Shay Given was visually overwhelmed by the news, as the former team mate of 'Speedo' shed a tear before his performance against Swansea. 

A mixture of grief, anguish and confusion was amongst the thoughts of thousands of fans across the UK prompting the question; why?

Gary Speed was born on the 8th September 1969 in Mancot in North Wales. Supporting Everton as a child, Speed began his professional career at Leeds United in 1988 where he signed his first professional contract. Scoring 39 goals in 248 appearances in eight years, Speed moved to his beloved Everton in 1996 for a fee of £3.5 million.

 Lasting two years at Goodison Park and scoring only 15 goals in 58 appearances, he moved 174 miles north towards Newcastle where he was an influential part of Sir Bobby Robson's 'top four' side. 

In 2004, Speed moved back to Lancashire where he joined Bolton Wanders on a two year deal worth £750,000. Having made 121 appearances for the Trotters, he became the first Premier League player to reach 500 appearances. Four years later, he joined Sheffield United, a club that would end up being his last. 

Retiring in 2010 at the age of 49, Speed carried on at Sheffield United, undertaking a coaching role. At the start of the 2010/11, Kevin Blackwell was controversially sacked three games into the season. However Blackwell's departure opened the door to Gary taking over of Sheffield United boss, his first taste of a managerial role in a new chapter of Speed's career.

Having being linked with the vacant managers role for the Wales international team since John Toshack stepped down from his position, Speed became the new manager of Wales on the 14th December 2010. Bringing a new flare to a Wales side that has played under par for several years under previous management, three consecutive victories and a string of quality performances towards the end of the qualifiers  for the 2012 European Championships caught the eye of the footballing world. Wales looking clinical, it looked like a cracking bet that the Welsh might make the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

His final appearance being on Football Focus, a day before his untimely death, Speed looked like he didn't have a care in the world whilst he talked about Manchester United youngster Phil Jones and Charlton Athletic manager Chris Powell. However not only a couple of hours later, Speed took his life. 

A massive loss not only to British football, but to world football. Footballers from across the globe took to their Twitter accounts to pay their thoughts and respect for the proud Welshman. Galactico Xabi Alonso said, "RIP Gary Speed. My first PL game game was against him, he showed me in that game what British football is about."

Presenter of Football Focus Dan Walker was with Speed the day before he died. He tweeted: "Staggered by the news of Gary Speed's death. Was with him for much of yesterday. I genuinely cannot believe it. Thoughts with his family."
Manchester United striker Michael Owen said: "Just cannot believe the news regarding Gary Speed. We waved at each other a couple of days ago dropping our kids off at school. I'm numb."
Young Gunner Jack Wilshere tweeted: "Wow shocked at the news about Gary Speed! thoughts are with his family! RIP"
Tributes to the Welsh legend looks set to start at Cardiff City Stadium; where Cardiff face Blackburn Rovers in the last eight of the Carling Cup. The tributes will lead on into the weekend where every Premier and Football League team are expected to pay their condolences before kick-off. 
Farewell Gary Speed. A footballing hero on and off the pitch, you will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A City United

The city of Southampton believes. A feeling of optimism and hope is bubbling around this historic city as the Saints continued their impressive march towards the golden gates of the Premier League.

Saints recorded a 9th straight win at St Marys to maintain their 100% record at home this season. They swept Brighton 3-0, a Ricky Lambert hat-trick killing off the side that beat the Saints to the League One title last season.

However the table tells a different story this time around, as Southampton sit on the top of the Championship pile with a five point gap that separates themselves from the Hammers in second place, and look odds on favourites to make a dramatic return to the league that once was their home for 27 years.

Their first season in the newly rebranded Championship ended in haunting fashion, as the Saints suffered a humiliating back to back relegation to League One. After years of rebuilding, the Reds emerged out of League One as runners-up with the help of Super Saint Rickie Lambert who scored 51 goals in his two seasons. His form’s continued into this season, scoring 12 goals in the 17 appearances he has made this season.

This time last season, QPR beat Cardiff City 2-1 to go five points clear of their second place rivals. The Hoops went on to claim the Championship title, and the city of Southampton believes that the Saints can replicate this.

Alan, 23, from Totton believes that the south coast side have the depth to be promoted to the big time. “Yes, I feel Nigel Adkins has got the squad playing good attacking football and the team spirit is superb. Going forward we look outstanding and defensively just as good.” Barry from Eastleigh agrees with Alan. “There’s no reason why not. We have had a great start to the season and have also managed to beat West Ham. The only thing is that we need to keep the likes of Lallana and Lambert fit and keep hold of them during the transfer window.”

However Ben, 31, from St Marys thinks that the Reds could settle for the play-offs. “Realistically, we are play-off candidates without a shadow of a doubt. It’s too early to tell if we will get promoted automatically but if we play with the team spirit and attacking performances we’ve been producing then we’ll have one foot in the Premier League.”

Norwich City won back to back promotions to the Premier League last season, and one student from Solent University believes that the Saints can duplicate the Canaries accomplishment.“I’m a lifelong Saints fan but I can’t see us winning the league. There are many strong teams and we haven’t had our slump yet.  But I think we are strong enough candidates for automatic promotion and definite playoff contenders. Norwich got back to back promotions and we have the manager and the squad to achieve this.”

Next up for Southampton is a short trip to Ashton gate where they’ll face Championship strugglers Bristol City this coming Saturday.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Silva Lining For City As United Are Humilated At The Theatre Of Dreams

A brace from City bad-boy Mario Balotelli was more than enough to send a haunting message to the rest of the Premier League, as City crushed United 6-1 in front of a sold out crowd at Old Trafford.

United suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of their arch-rivals, falling to their worse home defeat since 1955.

It all started so brightly for the Red Devils, as United completely dominated possession in the opening twenty minutes of the first half. However it was Mario Balotelli, who accidentally set his house ablaze with fireworks earlier this week, who lit the fuse that sent United on an afternoon of misery. A smart move by play maker David Silva set up the Italian star to stroke in his fourth goal of the season. He then increased his tally to five shortly after the break, after great holding play by Silva fed Milner down the wing, who coolly squared the ball to the City hitman to tap in what was a terrific play by the blues.

Evans is sent for an early shower after
denying Balotelli a goal scoring
Things went from bad to worse for United as Jonny Evans pulled down Balotelli from a one on one situation, giving referee Mark Clattenburg no option but to send off the the centre half. Sergio Aguero then sealed the deal for City as he carried on his impressive goal-scoring record in a blue shirt by firing in a close range shot from yards out. Milner turning provider once more. United threw more bodies down the field, eventually paying off as Fletcher curled in a cracking 20 yard shot to beat a rather bored Joe Hart. The fans remaining in United's terraces were smelling a comeback.

Silva caps off an incredible display
with a fine finish through the legs
of David De Gea.
As the clock struck 90, all hopes of a comeback were extinguished by the boot of Edin Dzeko. A corner delivered to the front post by Silva was flicked on by Gareth Barry, and Lescott kept it in by heading it to the feet of the Bosnian who smashed in his sixth of the season. David Silva then got himself on the score sheet, as a slick through ball sliced open a shoddy United defence, leaving Silva one-on-one with De Gea who made no mistake on capping off a sensational display from the Spaniard. Five goals from the sky blues turned to six of the best, as Silva yet again made fools of the Ferdinand and Jones with an exquisite through ball to Dzeko who made it an unbelievable scoreline for City.

City fans celebrate toady's historic win
in Posnan style.
This result leaves United five points behind their noisy neighbours. Next up for Fergie's men is a trip to the EBB stadium where they face League two minnows Aldershot. Mancini and his blue army take the shorter trip to the Molinuex where they face Wolves. The Red fans will be left with sore heads tomorrow morning but for City, it opens up a world of opportunity for a side that are coming on with leaps and bounds. The blue moon is rising, and don't Fergie just know it.

Monday, 16 May 2011

An Exciting End To The Season....For A Neutral!

Saturday 14th May 2011, 3:19pm. A delightful cross by Canadian starlet Junior Hoilett was met by an exquisite volley by Brett Emerton. Blackburn 1 Manchester United 0....what could possibly go wrong?

That is until controversy surrounded United again, as they were rewarded a penalty deep into the second half. Rooney converted, meaning United inevitably got the point they have been striving for all week. Three crucial points turned to a miserable single as Rovers are left to fight it out on the final day of the Barclays Premier League season. in the words of the great Sir Alex's squeeky bumtime!

Spence, 20, has impressed at Bristol City
this season.
Five teams face the dreaded drop this coming Sunday, making it an exciting end to the season, well, for a neutral that is. An excellent comeback by Wigan yesterday meant that West Ham United's six year stay in the PL came to a dire end, dropping to the second tier of English. It's not looking pretty for the Hammers. Big name stars like Scott Parker, Carlton Cole and Rob Green look to be leaving the club in the summer. The owners seem to have other things on their minds instead of the state of the club, and if you thought that wasn't enough, they face a trip to the New Den next season against bitter rivals Millwall. They're without a manager as well, as Avram Grant was inevitably sacked as manager of the club less than an hour after their tragic season ended in yet another defeat. However there are some glimmers of hope next season. Demba Ba is proving to be a class act up front for the irons, scoring seven goals in the eleven appearances he had this season. Jordan Spence also had a terrific season at Bristol City. After returning from his successful spell at City, Spence looks like a possible England star in the making. He and Ba could hold a crucial role if the Hammers want a instant revival next season. 

A single point separates 15th from 19th.
West Ham fill one of the three relegated teams this season, leaving us with two left. Wigan, Blackpool, Birmingham, Wolves and Blackburn can still all go down, meaning a stressful 90 minutes next Sunday for all fans concerned. Wigan travel to the Britannia Stadium to face a Stoke side still suffering from defeat to Manchester City at Wembley. Stoke will look to do Wigan no favours, as they will be looking to put that defeat way behind them. Blackpool travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, a team ready to lift the Premier League trophy for a record 19th time. With a trip to Wembley to face the might of Barcelona, United will look to rest key players ahead of their third Champions League final in four years, giving Ian Holloway's side a decent chance of clinching a second season in the top flight of English football. Birmingham City's glorious victory against Arsenal in the Carling Cup final is now a distant memory, as the sit above the relegation zone on goal difference. After slumping to 2-0 defeat at home to Fulham, the Blues will have to travel to White Hart Lane, to face a Spurs side looking to clinch a Europa League spot ahead of Merseyside rivals Liverpool. Birmingham will be without key players Lee Bowyer and Alexander Hleb, as City look to win at White Hart Lane for the first time since 2007. The tie of the afternoon looks to be at the Molineux, where Wolves face Blackburn Rovers. Both teams are on 40 points, and sit one point away from the relegation zone. Both teams can't and won't play for a draw, as three points will all but secure their place in the PL for another season.

 I don't want to make assumptions on who'll go down, but I know one thing, football is the most stressful-yet greatest game on earth.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Foden Spoils French Grand Slam Hopes

Following a crushing victory against Italy, the match between England and France was fast becoming one of the most anticipated matches in Six Nations history.

A tense match at Twickenham left me feeling very nervous at several points in the game, however England managed to end France's winning streak of eight matches in the Six Nations.

Flood's exceptional form continues
Toby Floods inspirational kicking was evident, as he kicked England to a 9-3 lead just before half time. However costly errors by the backs meant England gave away two penalties, both converted by French fly half Dimitri Yachvili. France had the chance to lead at the break as England gave away yet another penalty, however Yachvili narrowly missed the posts by a fraction. England were looking for the perfect response as the second half kicked off, and they got one as Tom Palmer charged down a Yachvili clearance, giving England a threatening attack. Inevitably, England scored a crucial try as Ben Foden scrambled over the line to give England a 14-9 lead, Flood missing the conversion. England once again controlled set pieces well, as hooker Dylan Hartley through tremendously well in the line-out. As the match progressed, so did the wasted opportunities, as Chris Ashton failed to take advantage of some poor defending by Les Blues. However England won a crucial penalty midway through the second half. As fly half Toby Flood hobbled off with injury, up stepped Jonny Wilkinson who coolly struck a 48 metre penalty between the posts, making him the leading points scorer in world rugby. it was not only a proud moment for Wilkinson, but a proud moment for the fans, as Twickenham erupted with joy to see Wilkinson become their hero once more. England resisted any French attacks superbly, holding to win the match 17-9 in front of a enthusiastic Twickenham crowd.

It is all systems go now for England, as they prepare for their next encounter. They'll face Scotland at Twickenham which promises to be an enthralling Calcutta tie between the arch rivals. If England conquer Scotland, then they face a daunting trip to Lansdowne Road to face Ireland, a match that will decide whether England will retain their first Grand Slam title since 2003.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Ashton Key To England Success

Never have I felt so confident as and Englishman during a Six Nations campaign. Some critics may claim that Italy are the 'wooden spoon' side out of the six nations, but I beg to differ.

England stormed to a 59-13 victory at Twickenham, running in eight tries in total. However it wasn't the superb kicking from Toby Flood that caught the eye, nor was it the high intensity and speed provided by scrum half Ben Youngs. It was winger Chris Ashton who stole the headlines as he ran in four tries, the first time an Englishman done this in a Championship match since Ronald Poulton in 1914. The amount of pace and intensity he brings to the side is key to England's campaign, and I'm sure he's going to be a vital part of England's team when they travel to New Zealand in the summer for the World Cup. 

Further tries from skipper Mike Tindall, Danny Care, James Haskell, and a first try in in nineteen tests for full back Mark Cueto gave England a resounding victory at Twickenham. Once again, fly half Toby Flood proved to be a crucial member of the squad by kicking thirteen points between the posts. The Azzuri hit back with a try from replacement hooker Fabio Ongaro, and a further eight points coming from the boot of Mirco Bergamasco. However that wasn't enough to stop England from scoring their first half century of points since 2007.
You can talk all you want about how England played arguably the 'weakest' side in the Six Nations, however I strongly feel that this could be Italy's best chance of proving that they aren't just a stepping stone for other teams to excel off of. As we all saw last week in Rome, Ireland just scrapped their way through a Italy side that showed a lot of promise and progression in their play. They have arguably the best number eight in the world, whose immense power and strength has given the Italian pack more force and acceleration when driving the pack forward. 

Next up for Italy is a home tie against Wales at the Stadio Flaminio, a tie that is a must win for either side. Twickenham will once again be filled next Saturday where England will face fellow favourites France, a match that could decide either teams fate in the competition.