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Dec 042012

Reading 3 -4 Manchester United
64508485 hi016642413 Evans & Ferdinand: Lords of Custard Pie
“ If we defend like that against Manchester City, I might need to play myself.”

There are those out there who think Sir Alex Ferguson has no sense of humor, but after yesterday’s manic masterpiece of cardiac challenging chaos, it is surely only that which keeps the old Glaswegian war horse on the nod-and-a-wink side of sane. A seven goals earthquake over a 34 minute period was followed by what the good Lord Ferg described as another approximate hour of torture for himself and millions of fans.

How ironic then that, on a day when United’s rivals would normally have been giggling with glee and feeling their usual fat, sassy selves, everything went wrong for everybody. Chelsea lost late to West Ham. Arsenal lost late to West Ham United and the champions, Manchester City, the spawn of the Abu Dhabian royal family’s munificent largesse, were held to a draw at home to Everton.

As Ferguson put it to ESPN: “It was agony. The worst defending of this season and we needed to do something about it. We’re needing to rescue the situation all the time. Fortunately we have players who can do that.”

It only took eight minutes before Belfast’s finest slapstick defender, the tenaciously positionally clueless Jonny Evans had yet another of his custom Mr. Bean-style moments of panic, heading a soft, airy Jobi McAnuff cross straight to an onrushing Hal Robson-Kanu after some fine set up work by Jay Tabb. Robson-Kanu fired past a frozen Anders Lindegaard and there was a collective grunt of conjoined shock and disbelieve from a rowdy crowd.

Well, ‘shocked’ may be the wrong word. ‘Taken aback’ will do! No matter, having witnessed Reading’s meltdown against Arsenal in the League Cup a few weeks back after holding a four goal lead, the porousness of their defense was just as certain as United’s. Five minutes after relinquishing the lead, United were back in it as Michael Carrick found Anderson, who flicked the ball on to Ashley Young, who returned it to the the Brazilian who brilliantly  disguised a wicked, hard curver past Adam Federici, who completely misread the shot, diving way too late to make a difference. After witnessing Anderson’s lovely cha cha goal scoring celebration more than a year ago while beating Arsenal 8-2 in the Stretford End, it was lovely to see him doing it again!

That was after 13 minutes. Three minutes later, after a Rooney corner, as Evans worked to screen and control the ball, his marker Jay Tabb panicked and barged him over. The referee calmly pointed to the spot and a regal, relaxed Rooney just as calmly sent Federici the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Then more madness ensued. Nineteen minutes in, Shorey’s inch-perfect corner kick found an unmarked Adam Le Fondre with Rio Ferdinand nowhere in sight. La Fondre casually guided his set-piece header home. Then, four minutes later, another corner and big Sean Morrison shunted Evans aside, rising to head Shorey’s kick home to put Reading  into a  3-2 lead.

Meanwhile, Rafael Da Silva, who had been having a horrible time of it all night with the tall, ungainly Reading skipper Jobi McAnuff on the left wing, was yellow-carded then hooked by the Gaffer. Replaced by Chris Smalling, he did not leave the pitch happy and remained pouting in the stand until the match ended. The little Brazilian proved to be no match in the world of Premier League gamesmanship to the canny McAnuff. on the night. It’s all part of the ruthless learning process and he should learn from it.

Meanwhile, thanks to two bits of utter brilliance United were back in the lead by half time. First, on the half hour,  a sweetly hit  Patrice Evra pass to Ashley Young bwas returned as a Berbaesque backheel to his skipper, and Evra’s cleverly hit cross met  an unmarked Rooney and he had all the time in the world to slot home his second of the game. Four minutes later, Wazza manufactured Van Persie’s thirteenth goal of the season after hoovering up a neat Carrick pass, which he cleverly flicked to the twinkle-toed Dutchman, who side footed it home.

After such an eccentric first half, the second was to be a relative disappointment as there were far fewer chances and the game slowing down from a gallop-fest to a plod. How. Van Persie missed after pouncing on a passing mistake by Federici only to shoot it over the bar is hard to figure.

With both Chelsea and West Brom losing on Saturday, the space between second and third place is seven points, and although Arsenal, who also lost at the weekend and Chelsea are expected to spend like drunken sailors in January (Well, with Les Gooners, it’s more like tipsy merchant men), the Premier League kooks to be shaping into a two-horse race between United and City. Holding the fort next weekend at the El-Itehad against a big, ruthless City team is a tall order for United. Much drama and insanity is expected.

Last but not least, my good wishes go out to Our Ando, who really looked very sleek and scored a wonderful clutch goal this weekend. Once again his perfidious hamstrings have let him down again. I hope he’ll heel quickly. We need him now!

Robin van Persie 0011 Evans & Ferdinand: Lords of Custard Pie






Dec 032012

Serie A Football was spread over three days this weekend with games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Only Fiorentina out of the top six failed to win. Juventus beat Torino in the Turin Derby, Napoli hit five past Pescara, Inter edged out Palermo, Lazio did the same with Parma and Roma had Mattia Destro to thank for a win over old side Siena. Fiorentina drew with Sampdoria.

Friday 30th November

The only game on Friday night was AC Milan trip to Catania, this time it was successful as the Milanese base picked up the three points with a 3-1 away win. Nicola Legrottaglie opened the scoring for Catania. But AC Milan hit back with three seconds half goals from Kevin Prince Boateng and two from Stephan El Shaarawy.

Saturday 1st December

Juventus hosted Torino in the Turin derby and got back to winning ways with a comfortable 3-0 home win. Torino had to play the majority of the game with ten men as Kamil Glick was sent off. Andrea Pirlo also missed a penalty. Goals for Juventus came from Sebastian Giovinco and two from Claudio Marchisio.

Sunday 2nd December

Napoli hit five past Pescara in the early kick off game in Naples. Gokhan Inler and Marek Hamsik gave Napoli a 2-0 goal lead but Birkir Bjarnason gave Pescara hope. But then Pescara were reduced to ten men when Antonio Bocchetti was sent off. Then Napoli turned on the style with goals from Edinson Cavani X2 and another one from Gokhan Inler.

Roma came from 1-0 down to defeat Siena, Siena took the lead thanks to a Luis Neto header. But three quick goals in the second half from Mattia Destro and Simone Perrotta gave Roma their third win on the bounce.

Inter managed to edge out Palermo at the San Siro, the only goal of the game came seventeen minutes from time when Andrea Ranocchia cross was diverted into his own net by Santiago Garcia.

Lazio beat Parma in the capital to make it two home wins in five days, Two goals in the first half from Giuseppe Biava and Miroslav Klose gave Lazio the 2-0 lead. But Parma made it interesting in the second half when Ishak Belfodil scored after his penalty kick was saved.

Bologna defeat Atalanta at home 2-1, Bologna took the lead inside fifteen minutes with a brilliant free kick from Alessandro Diamanti. Atalanta equalised four minutes into the second half and it was German Denis who got the goal. The winner came twenty minutes from time with a smart over head kick from Manolo Gabbadini.

It has gotten worse for Genoa and Gigi Del Neri as Chievo won away at Genoa 4-2. Chievo striker Alberto Paloschi scored a first half hat trick, Genoa substitute Ahmed Said did pull one back. Bosco Jankovic pulled one back for Genoa to make it 3-2 to Chievo. Then Chievo were reduced to ten men when Marco Andreolli was sent off. But in the dying minutes Adrian Stoian made it 4-2 to Chievo.

Udinese hit four past Cagliari in Udine. Udinese raced into a two goal lead at half time thanks to goals from Roberto Pereyra and Gabriele Angella. There were two more goals in the second half for Udinese from Danilo and Giovanni Pasquale. Cagliari did pull one back from Daniele Dessena.

The final game was a four goal belter between Fiorentina and Sampdoria in the Florence rain, the game ended 2-2. Stefan Savic opened the scoring with a powerful header in the first half, but Sampdoria hit back in the second half thanks to Nenad Krsticic and a Gonzalo Rodriguez own goal. But Stefan Savic had other ideas with another header from a Manuel Pasqual free kick. Sampdoria then were reduced to ten men when Shkodran Mustafi was sent off.

A Really Dull One

 Posted by on November 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm  European Champions League
Nov 302012

Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United
Robin van Persie 008 A Really Dull OneOverjoyed that the team had avoided its season-long predilection for falling behind the opposition, Sir Alex Ferguson and a shiny-domed Mike Phelan grinned a lot after Wednesday’s yawn of a 1-0 victory over West Ham United at Old Trafford, Manchester United managed to avoid their season-long habit of conceding first by opening the scoring here, but the performance still stuttered enough to concern the Gaffer at the post match press conference to the point where he refused to rise to the bait of more than a few derogatory comments leveled by his pain-in-the-posterior sky-blue nemesis Roberto Mancini. Still a point ahead of our Abu-Dhabian rent-boy rivals, Manchester City, United can take a degree of comfort in their clean sheet and pride in what our old right back, Gary Neville, calls, “The wonky ones you’ve got to grind out!”

West Ham, managed by the Gaffer’s long time mate, Sam Allardyce, are a known quantity to whoever they’re going to play. Big, physical, lacking in finesse but never without hustle or bravery, the Hammers came to Salford to put nine men behind the ball, pray for miraculous counterattacks, and squeeze the oxygen and playfulness  out of a moody United team that has been more or less ruthless in attack while, simultaneously, lacking any kind of consistent concentration at the back.

Who would have predicted, however, that on a bitter cold night, the only goal of the game would come 32 seconds in. as a quick-witted Michael Carrick, hit one of his seeing-eye, low Bangalore passses to Robin Van Persie as the Dutch striker executed one of his unstoppable diagonal runs into the penalty  area. channeling sweet Georgie Best, Van Persie listed to his low left before firing toward goal. The shot–spinning and rolling–hit West Ham’s center back James Collins on the shoulder as he moved to block it with his chest, before wrong-footing an unfortunate Jussi Juskulainen and flying into the net.

It wouldn’t be quite fair to say that Manchester United quit at this point. Suffice to say that everybody’s concentration fell by the wayside. Yet, with the whole Hammer midfield, reliant upon repeatedly lobbing balls toward a a big, clumsy out-of-form, Andy Carroll, chances for the East Londoners occurred rarely. West Ham’s best performer, Kevin Nolan, had a  nice chance after a Ryan Taylor free kick which he back-heeled into the waiting arms of Anders Lindegaard. 23 minutes in, Nolan again came close to profiting from a later Taylor delivery. Then a long Collins kick away from his own half, tested Jonny Evans, before ricocheting off Andy Carroll’s left foot just wide of the post.

For United in the first half, nothing much was clicking. Although both Anderson and Rooney had good statistics, anything that transcended a short pass was cut off by the hard-working Mohammed Diamé. There seemed to be even more verbal exchanges between Cleverly, Rooney, Anderson and Valencia in the second half. Both Rooney and Carrick, with Ferguson screaming from sideline wasted long distance shots they’d had so beautifully set up for by Anderson.
Within seconds Mohamed Diamé found himself on the angle to Lindegaard and the midfielder’s shot was saved for a corner. Further pressure then came when Diamé moved down the right and United were forced to clear.

Rooney did get a cheer out of the crowd with a give-an-go with Van Persie, but the Dutch Master hit it way wide. Then Ashley Young and Chicharito hit gentle shots wide after excellent setups. roamed into the area but failed to find a teammate, while Hernández’s clever run ended with a tame attempt. It was flat all over throughout and United, although the machine never quite clicked, can at least take away the pleasure of not conceding any goals and collectively owning the wherewithal to not back down against the large likes of Mohammed Diamé in this game and Marouane Fellaini and Sandro in others.

Nov 282012

AC Milan Robinho Penalty 300x200 2012 13 Serie A Week 14 Review: AC Milan strike lucky against JuventusWeek 14 in Serie A was spread over four days with the games ending on Tuesday night, we saw Palermo defeat Sicilian rivals Catania, Roma win again and keep yet another clean sheet, AC Milan win in controversial circumstances, Inter lose away at Parma, Napoli and Lazio win comfortably.

Saturday 24th November

There was only one game on Saturday in Serie A and it was the Sicilian derby where Palermo took on Catania, Palermo came out on top winning the game 3-1. Fabrizio Miccoli opened the scoring then two goals from Josip Ilicic gave Palermo the three goal lead. But with twenty minutes remaining Francesco Lodi pulled one back with a brilliant set piece.

Sunday 25 November

Roma won away at Pescara thanks to an early goal from Mattia Destro, also Roma kept a second clean sheet in a row, never thought that would happen.

Chievo and Siena played out a goalless draw.

Genoa won away at Atalanta and it was Gigi Del Neri first win in charge of Genoa since he took over back in October. The only goal of the game came with six minutes remaining in the first half from Andrea Bertolacci.

Sampdoria won back to back home games after a 1-0 home win over Bologna, Bologna had to play with ten men for most of the game when Archimede Morleo was given a straight red for a professional foul. The only goal of the game just came after the hour and it was Andrea Poli with the goal.

Torino and Fiorentina played out a 2-2 draw, Torino opened the scoring five minutes before half time and it was former Viola man Alessio Cerci with the goal. Gonzalo Rodriguez equalised from the penalty spot with seventeen minutes remaining. But a minute later Torino took the lead and it was Valter Birsa with a cross shot that evaded everyone. But the equaliser came five minutes from time Mounir El Hamdaoui got the equaliser with a lovely angle drive.

The evening game was AC Milan massive home game over Juventus. AC Milan won the game 1-0 thanks to a controversial incident when Antonio Nocerino header was blocked in the side by Maurico Isla and the referee gave a penalty. Robinho took the penalty and it squirmed past Gigi Buffon and into the bottom corner.

Monday 26th November

There were two games on the Monday night, Cagliari lost at home to Napoli, a late strike from Marek Hamsik gave Napoli a much needed away win.

Parma beat a very disjointed Inter side in the later kick off, the only goal of the game came late in the second half and it was from Nicola Sansone with the goal.

Tuesday 27th November

The final game of the week was in the capital as Lazio took on Udinese on a much worn Stadio Olimpico pitch. Lazio won the game 3-0, goals in the first half from Alvaro Gonzalez and Miroslav Klose and the third was added in the second half from a Hernanes free kick.

Nov 262012

Mceveley 300x224 Notts County 1 0 Swindon: Consistency shows its ugly head in back to back defeatsIt’s now back to back defeats for Swindon after Tuesday night home defeat to Brentford and on Saturday the Robins lost 1-0 away at Notts County thanks to a goal in the twenty-seventh minute from Alan Judge.

Alan McCormack returned to the starting XI and replaced Nathan Thompson at right back; Danny Hollands, Gary Roberts and Chris Martin were all dropped to the bench and were replaced by John Bostock, Raffa De Vita and Andy Williams who returned to the starting line up after picking up a knee injury a week ago against Yeovil.

Notts County had the first opportunity of the game when the lively Alan Judge cut in from the left and hit a low shot which was comfortably saved by Wes Foderingham.

Swindon then had a chance to open the scoring when Alan McCormack hit a long diagonal free kick which found Raffa De Vita at the back post but James Collins could only slide the ball wide of the goal.

Former Swindon left back Alan Sheehan then tested out Wes Foderingham with a twenty five yard free kick which was tipped over the bar.

Another Sheehan free kick had the Swindon defence in problems and the ball fell to Neal Bishop who on the angle of the six yard box had a goal bound shot which was blocked by Foderingham, who was keeping his side in the game.

At the other end, John Bostock picked up on a defensive mistake and the ball fell to James Collins who played in Andy Williams on the left hand side and his curling effort was parried away by the Polish keeper Bartosz Bialkowski.

Matt Ritchie then played a lovely cross field ball to Raffa De Vita who then crossed in for James Collins who poked the ball goal wards but his effort was brilliantly tipped on to the post by Bialkowski.

The opening goal of the game and the only goal came after twenty seven minutes when Alan Sheehan played a long ball to Chris Iwelumo who knocked down the header to Alan Judge who then hit a brilliant effort which swerved into the corner from twenty five yards out and it left Wes Foderingham flat footed.

Moments later Swindon had a goal disallowed when Andy Williams left footed cross from the right hand side was headed in by James Collins but it was ruled out for offside.

The second half was played at a less tempo and Notts County nearly made it 2-0 but was denied with a brilliant diving safe by Wes Foderingham, Chris Iwelumo header was instinctively parried away by the former Crystal Palace keeper.

Bartoz Bialkowski then pulled off two really smart saves to deny Swindon the equaliser, first he denied Matt Ritchie whose left footed effort was parried away. Then from a Ritchie corner, Darren Ward had a header from the back post which was goal bound was clawed away by the Polish keeper.

The four minutes was played out in the pouring rain in Nottingham and Swindon couldn’t get an equaliser.

There is a two week rest for Swindon as there is no game for the Robins next Saturday as they got knocked out of the FA Cup. So the next game is against Doncaster on the 08/12/2012.


A8eXwsiCQAExYwL1 Notts County 1 0 Swindon: Consistency shows its ugly head in back to back defeats

(above picture was my view from the away end on a wet and windy day in Nottingham)

Welcome to the Spittoon!

 Posted by on November 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm  England, European Champions League
Nov 222012

Galatasaray 1 -0 Manchester United
Burak Yilmaz Galatasaray 008 Welcome to the Spittoon!As usual, playing football in Istanbul is like competing in a bear pit. With an incredibly loud crowd raising the decibel level and the flow of relentlessly expectorated spit so shiny to the point where television viewers could see gobs of it glimmering off Anders Lindegaard’s broad green-shirted back, the experience was always going to be daunting for United’s team of, umm, young Turks. Depleted already and  battered by a home team gifted with carte blanche to batter them into submission, and definitely spoilt and unused to playing on unkempt spongy surfaces, United did themselves more or less proud. A Galatasaray side with little high-quality talent but much determination did just enough to win and leave themselves favorites to overcome the challenge of the Romanian team S.C. Cluj who beat Portugal’s Braga in the other group game to go into second place.

Already Group H winners, United were never going to quite come to grips with the spitting horde of 43,000 at their new Ali Sami Yen Stadium, where the Turkish champions had somehow never previously won a home European match. With a populist ultra-natonalist government in power and much political flux on the streets because of the Syrian Civil War, Galatasaray’s coach Fatih Terim had been seen on all kinds of Turkish media all week calling the game “one of the most important games in Galatasaray’s history. We must rekindle the old atmosphere,” he said, appealing to his team’s version of the Italian Ultras, or, ‘The Boys of Hell’ as they like to refer to themselves. Consequently, the crowd brought scores of smoke bombs, flares, rotted fruit and fecal matter to use as missiles. Turkish police and auxiliaries simply stood by, although it seemed to this witness that just as many Turkish players were hit by the tidal wave of Anatolian food and body waste as United’s. Kind of funny, I guess, if you’re a Turk! Is this what Osama Bin-Ladn meant when he spoke of “Restoring the Caliphate!”? Thus, even though United might have been  have been excused for being a tad more belligerent, they are now more the team of  Michael Carrick than Roy Keane. Just as subdued as in their Saturday loss to Norwich City in the P.L. any desire to reciprocate belligerence was never on the cards.

Now Manchester United are certainly not an all-English team these days, but they pouted with that legendary stiff upper lip, stood their muddy ground and let the Turks bring it on. The back line, consisting of Rafael Di Silva and Alexander Büttner on the flanks and a very weakened Phil Jones, just back from injury, and Michael Carrick operating as emergency center back, was bound to suffer. With the promising Nick Powell slotted in between Anderson and Cleverley, and Darren Fletcher operating as a sort of loose sweeper, United wanted to play a narrow revolving diamond. This system worked well against Chelsea and fitfully against Braga and Aston Villa, but the onus is on ball retention. With Cleverley and Powell both being so physically slight, United were completely dependent upon Fletcher and Anderson to both win and hold the ball, and then distribute it carefully. This did not happen.

Things were delightfully open in the first half, a superb swerving shot from Burak Yilmaz was well  foiled by a superb parried Anders Lindegaard save. Then, minutes later, Danny Welbeck almost playing in Cleverley after double nutmegging Emanuel Eboué. Moments after that, however, Semih Kaya put his studs blatantly into Cleverley’s left shin and was miraculously lucky to not receive a red card from the referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.

Still despite the inability of both Fletcher and Anderson to take control and create that final killer ball, United kept possession fairly well in spite of being troubled by Amrabat and Riera on the left. Yet why Rafael was booked for holding back Amrabat is a mystery, while Galatasaray’s thuggish enforcer Felipe Melo, ‘a/k/a The Pitbull, simply got away with kicking, gouging and stomping upon every United midfielder. Constantly engaged in  smiley-face bites of  running chit-chat with  Mello, the referee Carballo giggled like an enamored school girl.

35 minutes in , winger Hamit Altintop had a superb shot smothered by Lindegaard. Galatasaray’s fine Uruguayan goaleeper Sergio Muslera then made a series of saves from Carrick, Hernandez and, twice, Cleverley. Three minutes from half time, a superbly taken  Cleverley free kick was deftly chipped into the right spot, only  for Nick Powell to head against the crossbar.

Having been very tricky and lively in the first half, Cleverly and Powell began to show tiredness, worn down by Felipe Mello’s relentless use of the dark arts and plain old-fashioned thuggery against them bith. Indeed, on one occasion, Mello kicked Powell so blatantly in the  groin, it seemed like an infomercial for some exotic new-age kind of cod-piece. Mello, once thought of as the next superstar back in his native Brazil, desperately wants another chance at the big time after too many incidents of hot-headedness in the Calcio and back in Brazil.. He is at home in Istanbul, however, and having had a header saved by Lindegaard in the 52nd minute, he turned to Boys of Hell behind the goal and orchestrated them to pump up the volume. Amidst a wall of deafeniung noise, Altintop’s corner was headed home brilliantly by a high-flying Burak Yilmaz,who pushed aside Powell and Fletcher as if they were a couple of mannequins.

Now, with United on the ropes, Galatasaray attacked in relentless waves as smoke from scores of newly lit flares thickened the on field air. Suddenly the air became pea soup-thick  enough with smoke from flares as the home team kept up the attacks, that it may have culminated in another Altintop missile hitting the bar again. Although United held on, it was also easy to feel depressed about United’s utter lack of of determination and energy in midfield for the final fifteen minutes, although they  did stage one attack in the 89th minute after a deflected Javier Hernández shot in the 89th minutes was their Uruguayan goalie’s only real work in the second half.

United, playing the Romanian team CFR Cluj next week, now have Galatasaray’s dignity and future in their hands, especially if the Turks beat or draw with Braga..

Nov 192012

4320474 300x200 Swindon 4 1 Yeovil: Home Form Hoodoo is overSwindon recorded their first win at home since late September with an emphatic 4-1 home win over Yeovil on Saturday at the County Ground

Goals from Andy Williams, two from James Collins and Darren Ward, James Hayter got the goal for Yeovil.

Two new loan signings of Chris Martin and Danny Hollands made the Swindon Town bench while Captain Alan McCormack returned to the side at right back instead of Nathan Thompson. That being the only change to the starting XI.

The opening goal of the game came after twenty four minutes when Andy Williams flicked the ball over the Yeovil defender on the half way line and used his pace to go one on one with the Yeovil keeper Marek Stech and calmly side footed the ball past the keeper.

It was 2-0 just four minutes later when centre back Joe Devera intercepted the ball and went on an powerful run on the left hand side and played a brilliant cross to James Collins who got in front of his defender and poked the ball into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.

There was some concern for Swindon as Andy Williams went down with a knee injury after a collision with the Yeovil Keeper the rebound fell to James Collins but his effort was blocked. Williams would return on to the pitch for about ten minutes or so but had to be replaced and Norwich loanee Chris Martin came on.

Yeovil pulled one back just four minutes before half time when substitute winger Keanu Marsh-Brown crossed in for James Hayter who headed goal wards and his effort cannoned off the underside of the cross bar and bounced over the line, the linesman gave the goal.

But the lead was short lived, as a free kick from Simon Ferry was curled in and Joe Devera effort was saved by Stech but the rebound fell to Darren Ward who fired past Stech and Swindon lead was back to two goals.

Swindon nearly added a fourth when on the counter attack and Simon Ferry played in Chris Martin but his left footed low shot went the wrong side of the upright.

Matt Ritchie then played in James Collins but he had his first effort well saved by Marek Stech then the rebound blocked by the Yeovil defence.

Danny Hollands then flicked the ball to Collins who hit a first time instinctive volley which was acrobatically parried away by Stech.

In stoppage time Swindon added a fourth and it was a brilliant goal, substitute Raffa De Vita played a defence splitting ball to James Collins on the left hand side and he cut in from the left and curled a brilliant effort into the far corner.

A fantastic home win, which meant that Swindon jumped quietly up to third in the league table. We don’t wait longer for the next game, which is Brentford at home on Tuesday night.

Nov 142012

Simon Ferry 300x168 Walsall 0 2 Swindon Town: The Perfect Away PerformanceSwindon made it four points from six on Saturday with a fantastic 2-0 away win at Walsall. Goals from each half from Simon Ferry and Matt Ritchie gave the Robins the three points.

Simon Ferry continued as captain due to the absence of both Alan McCormack and Tommy Miller due to injury. John Bostock returned to the starting XI and replaced Louis Thompson, the on loan Spurs midfielder made a return after a few weeks out due to injury.

Swindon made the perfect start after fifty seven seconds they were 1-0 when Gary Roberts cross in from the left hand side found Simon Ferry fifteen yards out and he blasted into the back of the net.

Joe Devera played a defence splitting ball over the top for Matt Ritchie who then crossed in for James Collins and his low effort was well saved by David Grof.
A brilliant counter attack by Swindon nearly made it 2-0 when Simon Ferry chipped the ball to Gary Roberts at the back post that played it back across goal to James Collins but his goal bound effort was blocked by the Walsall defence.

Walsall then played their way into the Swindon half and on loan West Brom midfielder Sam Mantom dragged a shot wide from just outside of the area.
Swindon nearly doubled the lead just before half time when Gary Roberts who back an attack and hit a low drilled effort from twenty five yards out that hit the post.

Walsall then had two opportunities to level the contest but Adam Chambers had a volley that fizzed over the bar. Then Wes Foderingham had to make a fine save to deny Malvind Benning with a low save that was sneaking into the bottom corner.

Swindon then doubled their lead just after the hour when Miles Storey goal bound effort was blocked and the ball fell to Matt Ritchie twenty yards out from goal and he drilled low into the bottom corner and gave Swindon the 2-0 lead.

Andy Williams had two fantastic chances to add to Swindon lead but he was denied on both times by Walsall Hungarian keeper David Grof.

Another clean sheet for Swindon keeper Wes Foderingham that is two in a row now after the 0-0 draw in midweek against Sheffield United.

After the final whistle Paolo Di Canio saluted the away fans for their support. Up next is a home game against Yeovil

At Home in Braga

 Posted by on November 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm  Blogs/Media, England, European Champions League
Nov 092012

S.C. Braga 1 -3 Manchester United
Manchester United 001 At Home in BragaThe football Gods were definitely on the side of Manchester United again, as, after falling behind 1-0, the Portuguese city of Braga’s electricity grid temporarily burned out after relentless Manchester-type winter rain, seemingly exported from the Pennines, stopped the match for more than 14 minutes. After this second break and a second go-around for Sir Alex Ferguson as master-motivator, the Red Devils clawed their way back from yet another deficit to win 3-1 and be the first team reach the last sixteen of the European Champions league along with Malaga. The winners of Group H, United are still playing quite badly defensively, but making up for it with both good luck and a ruthless penchant for goal scoring.

United began the game against Braga just as they had done at Old Trafford, falling behind 0-2 before winning 3-2. Unable to put any sustained passing movement together, United’s midfield and attacked stalled repeatedly on the slippery pitch in the torrential rain as Braga practiced a simple, minimalist counterattacking game. Early on, Eder, who carried on his ownership of a positionally clueless and physically intimidated Jonny Evans, was easily able to nip in between Valencia and Evans, only to narrowly miss with a hard low shot. Soon after, with the back four on the ropes, Anderson and Rooney were trying to cover every blade of grass to plug the holes. Scatterbrained, leaving holes in their back line, United just couldn’t cope with Eder, who  was able to play with his back to goal, orchestrating a couple of fine 25-yarders which Ruben Micael blasted narrowly wide. Then in the 22nd minute, Hugo Viana squared a beauty to an again unmarked Eder whose header rattled off the post.

Meanwhile only Evans came close for United, rising high to softly head a Valencia cross into the arms of Braga’s keeper Beto. And although United looked anemic throughout the first half, they also seemed impeccably calm, especially the grand old warhorse Ryan Giggs and a returning Chris Smalling, whose self-confidence seemed to grow as the rain increased.

The match changed five minutes into the second half, however, as Braga took the lead. With the big tricky Custodio slaloming in on him, Jonny Evans stood still rather than try to play-act his way out of the situation by sticking a toe toward the ball or turning away. Instead, the Portuguese plowed into Evans and there was no verdict the referee could have reached other than the inevitable, pointing at the spot. Alan smashed the penalty home and, portentously, the volume of rainfall seemed to increase tenfold.

It was indeed a portent of something. With the rain coming down in a torrential haze, this beautiful but dark stadium, hewed out of a cliff face, suddenly went pitch- black. The floodlights failed and the two teams left the field. Perhaps there are Grecian-style Gods living on top of the cliff, probably not; but, from then on, despite being at home, everything went wrong for S.C. Braga. When play resumed thirteen minutes later, it became a new game.

With the more experienced Rio Ferdinand brought on for the hapless Evans, Rafael introduced in the right back spot, and, in the 64th minute, the talismanic Robin Van Persie introduced, United became transformed. Thus, in the 73rd minute, Anderson fired a long sloping free kick off in a high arc for Van Persie to run down. The ruthless Dutch goal machine saw their goalkeeper Beto sprint forward to engage him for some inexplicable reason, trapped the ball and fired a long, slow chip over his head into the net to tie matters up.64000965 manutd111 At Home in Braga

A draw would have been enough to see United through, but a taste of a tiring Braga’s team’s blood was an aphrodisiac. The withdrawal of Danny Welbeck for Van Persie sewed panic in Braga’s defense. Dealing with the Dutch assassin and the speedy Javíer Hernandez led to them jamming ten men into the box and trying to double up their marking on the two front men. This gave Wayne Rooney license and space to move up. And in the 85th minute, well set up by Rafael, Wazza skipped by two defenders as he reconnoitered for shooting space and was desperately upended by Nuño Coelho. It took a minute for the referee, Arno Brych, to confer with his linesmen, but, ultimately, he pointed to the spot. United fans throughout the world held their collective breath as Rooney made his run up and slid in the mud as he took his shot.The ball went in to the top corner of the net despite Rooney’s awkward moment and United had the lead.

With a devastated Braga licking their wounds, the Red Devils placed a cherry on top of a beautiful ice cream sundae as Rooney made yet another brilliant run into the box, firing an exquisite seeing-eye pass to Chicharito, who rounded a diving Beto before almost blowing it. Shooting too gently, the Mexican saw the ball bounce off Coelho and then bounce again into a melée of arms an legs on the three yard-line before he was able to recover and stab the ball home with his toe to make it 3-1.

As bad as United looked in this match until the rain delay, one also couldn’t help but observe a regal calmness. The improvement of the back line once the quick, technically proficient Chris Smalling found himself accompanied by the slow, but wise old owl, Rio Ferdinand. is inestimable. Back from injury after fracturing his metatarsal in preseason, Smalling is a sight for sore eyes. Knock on wood, with Phil Jones also on the cusp of rejoining the squad, things can only get better. This predilection for sloppy defense and a dependence on a brilliant forward line still ties my stomach up in knots and makes my heat palpitate, but Manchester United are indeed finally starting to look like themselves!!!63999910 155720040 At Home in Braga

Nov 082012


Manchester United 2 – 1 Arsenal
Robin Van Persie scores against his old club at Old Trafford. This match was not a question of United quality or dominance. Rather it was an indictment of Arsenal and their lack creative imagination. Since the exits of Van Persie, Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Emmanuel Adebayor, the Gunners look like a really ugly, and ordinary. It only took the home side three minutes to score and they made it look easy. Antonio Valencia released Rafael do the right wing with a deft back heel. The Brazilian was able to hit an awkward cross that Gunners defender Thomas Vermaelen knocked straight to Van Persie. The Dutchman accepted the gift and slotted the ball past keeper Vito Mannone from inside the penalty area. One couldn’t be blamed it one thought this was going to be a gob-smack like the 8-2 drubbing last season. But the Red Devils seemed to be more concerned with controlling the pace of the match and the seemed to work as Arsenal rarely made any sort of credible threat. When the Gunners did manage to venture forward through Aaron Ramsey, his cross was easily pushed away by keeper David de Gea. United should have doubled their lead at half time when they were awarded a penalty kick after Cazorla was judged to have handled Ashley Young’s cross from just inside the box. But the Red Devils missed yet another spot kick as Wayne Rooney missed off to the left of goal. The Gunners nearly equalized in the second have after Olivier Giroud made defender Rio Ferdinand look like a training cone, but the Frenchman could only hit his shot to the side netting. United did finally double their lead in the 67th minute when Rooney’s cross was headed into the net by Patrice Evra. Things got worse for Arsenal when Jack Wilshere, who had already been booked in the first half, saw his second yellow card for a bad tackle on Evra. That pretty much ended the match as a contest. Cazorla was able to get a consolation goal for Arsenal that turned out to be the last kick of the match.

Fulham 2 – 2 Everton
Steve Sidwell’s late equalizer rescues a point for the Cottagers. This was another one of those weird matches that you just couldn’t take your eyes off if you’re a fan of the game. Fulham took the early lead when Everton keeper Tim Howard messed up and pushed Bryan Ruiz’s free kick off the post and into his own net. But the visitors enjoyed most of the possession and play in this match. Midfielder Steven Pienaar, just back from suspension, created quite a bit of havoc and the Cottagers defenders were tested time and again. Seamus Coleman nearly got the equalizer but his curling shot was saved by Cottagers’ keeper Mark Schwarzer. The home side were able to defend their one goal lead for the rest of the first half, but after the break, the visitors poured on the pressure and in the 55th minute Morouane Fellaini grabbed the equalizer. Fellow Belgian Kevin Mirallas was able to sprint down the right wing and found Fellaini inside the Cottagers’ area and he drilled home from eight yards out. Fulham nearly had a response right away from Dimitar Berbatov, but Howard made amends for his first half gaff by making a fine save. The chances came thick and fast and Everton’s second goal arrived in the 72nd minute when Fellaini was put in by Coleman’s long ball. He was able to chest the ball to his feet and, while holding off two defenders, picked his spot and hit the ball home. Fellaini should have gotten his hat trick and secured the win for Everton. But of his two chances, one hit the post and the other chance was denied by a fine save from Schwarzer. Sidwell got the draw for the home side when Sascha Riether hit a hopeful cross into the box. Berbatov missed it, but a lucky bounce found Sidwell and he fired home the equalizer.

Norwich 1 – 0 Stoke
Bradley Johnson’s 44th minute goal helps the Canaries continue their four match unbeaten streak. I guess that Stoke boss Tony Pulis figured that he could get a win over the Norwich. But anyone could have told him that the home side were not going to be easy to beat. Boss Chris Hughton has the Canaries playing some inspired football and they reached the quarter finals of the Capital One Cup with a victory over Tottenham in mid-week. With the exception of an early shot from Charlie Adam, the Potters really didn’t have a whole lot of offensive punch. They spent most of the first half clearing several Norwich corner kicks. In the 23rd minute, Wes Hoolahan was able to drive into the Stoke penalty area and found Anthony Pilkington with his cut-back pass, but the winger hit is shot straight at Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic. The break-through came in the 44th minute when Andy Wilkinson tripped Robert Snodgrass and the free kick was awarded in a dangerous position. Snodgrass took the free kick and Johnson was able to head it into the top corner of the net. Snodgrass should have made it 2-0 when he nearly connected with Pilkington’s cross that came though the six-yard area right before the half-time whistle blew. Stoke did have a chance to level the score at the beginning of the second half. Canaries defender Michel Turner fell over as he tried to clear an Adam’s flick and Jonathan Walters beat Sebastien Bassong to the ball and drilled on goal. But Norwich keeper John Ruddy was more than equal to the point-blank shot and parried it away. That was really the extent of the Stoke attack despite Pulis making changes such as bringing on Kenyane Jones to liven up the attack. But Stoke were just not able to force the equalizer and Norwich were able to get their second successive home win.

Sunderland 0 – 1 Aston Villa
Gabriel Agbonlahor’s first goal of the season helps the Villains win over the Black Cats. Sunderland are not doing well at all at the moment. They’ve only won one of their last 17 league matches and boss Martin O’Neill can’t seem to figure out what is the problem. The Villains didn’t not come to the Stadium of Light looking any better as they had only garnered six points so far prior to Saturday’s match. So it came to no one’s surprise that this match was a little bit on the boring side. The Black Cats did manage to get the ball into the in the fifth minute when Steven Fletcher, the team’s top (and only) scorer this season managed to lift the ball over keeper Brad Guzan after Fletcher had been put though by Stephane Sessegnon. But the goal was not allowed as Fletcher was judged to have been offside. But that was really the only threat on goal that the home side managed. Villa dominated possession for long periods of the first half and when the break came, the home fans voiced their displeasure with their team’s performance. Sunderland should have taken the lead at the start of the second half as they came out inspired and only Guzan’s finger-tips prevented Sebastian Larsson from heading the home side into the lead at minute 58. But it was Villa who took the lead in the 62nd minute when Christian Benteke out jumped Phillip Bardsley at the far post and headed the ball into Agbonlahor’s path. The striker beat Caros Cuellar and volleyed the ball into the roof of the net. That was all the scoring that would happen that day. O’Niell tried to change things by bringing on James McClean and Louis Saha, but any attempt the Black Cats managed to put on goal was taken care of by Guzan. And so Sunderland’s poor run of form continues and Martin O’Neill is still scratching his head trying to find a solution.

Swansea 1 – 1 Chelsea
Chelsea drop a late goal against Swansea at the Stadium of Light. One couldn’t blame the Blues for taking this match a bit lightly. There are a couple of off-pitch distractions happening now. They had an important UEFA Champion’s League match coming up and the Manchester teams who were occupying second and third places weren’t going to be a problem. Right? Well someone forgot to the Blues about the Swans midweek Capital One Cup win over Liverpool at Anfield. The Welsh side had lots of confidence and swagger during the first half and gave the visitors all they could handle. Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic had to intervene to deny Michu an early opportunity on goal at the start of the match. Wingers Wayne Routledge and Pablo Hernandez started attack after attack for the Swans and the Chelsea defense, doing well without suspended captain John Terry, had to stand strong. The Blues had a chance or two themselves as Fernando Torres’ near post header was cleared off the line by defender Leon Britton. The clearance just did evade an on rushing Gary Cahill. The Blues thought they had a penalty claim when Eden Hazard seemed to be knocked down in the area by Ashley Williams. But the referee waved play-on. The second half saw the same back and forth by each side until the 61st minute when Victor Moses put the Blues into the lead by flicking in Cahill’s header into the net off the post. It was a fine bit of skill and should have been enough to seal the win and the top spot for the European Champions. But Swansea refused to give in. Jonathan De Guzman had his shot saved by keeper Petr Cech and the Blues keeper was later called upon to tip over a great lob from substitute Nathan Dyer. But Cech could do nothing from Hernandez’s well placed, equalizing shot for goal in minute 88. Swansea made a bid to take all three points in stoppage time when Danny Graham’s shot was blocked by Cahill.

Tottenham 0 – 1 Wigan
Ben Watson scores a late second half goal to steal three points from Spurs at White Hart Lane. OK, Spurs fans have this weird love hate relationship with boss Andre Villas-Boas. Just a couple of weeks ago, they loved the guy as Spurs convincingly beat Manchester United at Old Trafford. Saturday, they wanted to kill the guy. To be fair, Spurs were simply awful. The Latics had gone six BPL matches without a victory before they beat West Ham 2-1 last week. Spurs fans were confident that their side could register a win prior to critical matches against Manchester City and Arsenal. Now things started briskly for Spurs as Clint Dempsey took advantage of an early mistake by Ben Watson. But Dempsey could only find side netting with his shot. He had another chance to score but hit that shot wide of the goal. Afterward, it was all Wigan for the rest of the first half. Shaun Maloney and Kone combined well at the edge of the Spurs area and the Ivorian’s shot had to be saved by keeper Brad Friedel. Wigan kept dominating and Maloney nearly scored when Kone put him in on goal. But he shot straight at Friedel. When the halftime whistle blew, the Spurs fans booed their team off the pitch and chanted at Villas-Boas. The second half was worse for the home side when in the 56th minute, Friedel could only parry Maloney’s corner kick to the feet of Watson, drove the gift home. Friedel did push the ball back out, but the referee’s assistant correctly ruled that the ball had crossed the line. The home fans then went crazy when Villas-Boas took off local hero Jermaine Defoe for former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor. Although Spurs tried at various times to breach the Latics defense, they could never really manage anything of quality. Wigan nearly made it 2-0 when defender William Gallas had to intervene on Jordi Gomez’s shot on goal after some quality work by Kone. So when the final whistle went, Wigan left with all three points and Spurs fans were left frustrated and angry at Andre Villas-Boas.

West Ham 0 – 0 Manchester City
The Irons hold the Champions to a goalless draw. What on earth is going on with Manchester City? Is it boss Roberto Mancini’s tinkering with the line-up and the fact that it doesn’t seem to be working? Could it be that the locker room chaos that got them into trouble last season has again reared its ugly shaven head? What is the deal? I figured that starting Mario Balotelli, AND Carlos Tevez, AND Edin Dzeko would have given Citeh the punch needed to secure a convincing win and the top spot of the BPL table. After all, these are the defending champions and they should be a goal or two better than their hosts. But Citeh looked really ordinary at Upton Park on Saturday. The only thing that seemed to go in their favor was when an early Hammers’ goal by Kevin Nolan was ruled out for offside. The replay showed that the referee’s assistant had gotten that decision wrong. But honestly, Citeh were simply awful in this match and the rumors about Mancini being replaced by ex-Barcelona man Pep Guardiola seem to be taking root. The Champions just couldn’t put anything of quality together and once the Hammers’ figured that out, they began packing their own half. Andy Caroll nearly scored from a couple of chances, but this match was a moral victory for West Ham and a bad sign for Manchester City. Especially if they mean to defend the Premiership.

Queens Park Rangers 1 – 1 Reading
The bottom two teams remain winless as they share the points. The death watch for QPR boss Mark Hughes continues. Is any wonder that QPR are struggling? They went behind in the 16th minute when defender Kaspars Gorkss volleyed home from a corner kick that QPR made a terrible mess defending. Reading looked like they had recovered from their midweek 7-5 extra time Capital One Cup defeat by Arsenal and they kept the home side at bay for most of the first half. Djibril Cisse and Amand Taarabt trid their best to get an equalizer before the interval, but QPR just couldn’t seem to get any quality chances in front of goal. They should have scored from a free kick in the 38th minute but Reading keeper Alex McCarthy made a brilliant save and Jose Bosingwa fired the rebound way over the goal. QPR seemed to be a little better in the second half. Cisse got the equalizer in the 66th minute when he took one touch control of a cross from Bosingwa and found the bottom corner of the net. QPR should have had the winner in the 83rd minute when Tarrabt was played clean though by Cisse, but McCarthy was able to make a brilliant save. So it ended with both sides sharing the points and the foot of the BPL table.

Liverpool 1 – 1 Newcastle
Luis Suarez’s second half goal rescues a point for the Reds at Anfield. It was captain Steven Gerrard’s 600th appearance for the Reds. Gerrard, legend among Liverpool fans, became only the 10th player to play in so many matches. One can admire that the Red’s captain spurned offers from Chelsea, Real Madrid, and AC Milan. Stevie G has been a Red, and always will be a Red. So Sunday’s match was supposed to be a celebration of the captain’s achievement, but someone forgot to tell the visitors. The Reds dominated possession in the first half as they’ve done all year. There was a penalty shout in the sixth minute as Fabricio Colccini appeared to make contact with Suarez in the Magpies’ area. But the referee waved play-on. The squad full of youngsters should have gotten scored from Suso, and teenage sensation Raheem Sterling. Both players saw their efforts on goal saved or wide of target. Gerrard attempted one of his legendary long strikes and did catch keeper Tim Krul out. But the ball was just a bit too high and hit the top of the net. So it was a bit of a shock and a buzz kill when Yohan Cabaye hit a wonderful strike right at half time to give the visitors the lead. After the break, the Reds came storming out for the leveler. Right at the 60th minute, Suarez had a shot saved by Tim Krul and Sahin had his strike bounce off the post shortly afterward. In the 67th minute, Suarez displayed why he is on his way to becoming a Liverpool Legend like Gerrard, Souness, Dalglish, and so many others. He was put on a wonderful run thanks to a 50-yard clearance by defender Luis Enrique. Suarez was able to control the ball on his chest at a full sprint. He then quickly side-stepped keeper Krul and easily rolled the ball into the goal. Liverpool should have won the match when Suarez again made a brilliant run toward the byline and passed back for substitute Jonjo Shelvey. But Shelvey couldn’t put enough on the ball to get it into the net. Liverpool got a break in the 84th minute when Coloccini was sent off for raking his studs down Suarez’s leg. But the home side just couldn’t take advantage and grab any sort of winning goal.

West Bromwich Albion 2 – 0 Southampton
Peter Odemwingie’s brace sends the Saints to the bottom of the BPL table and WBA to fifth place. I think Saints boss Nigel Adkins has just gone ahead of QPR Boss Mark Hughes in the “Who gets fired first” race. Monday’s match was their fifth successive away defeat and they have now conceded 28 goals in 10 BPL matches. That ain’t how you survive in the BPL. Of course the Baggies’ fans couldn’t resist rubbing salt in Adkins’ wounds as they chanted “You’ll be sacked in the morning” all through the match. Although the play on the field wasn’t the best, WBA clearly dominated the woeful Saints. An early chance happened for WBA when Odemwingie picked out the run of Shane Long, but the Baggies leading scorer opted to cut the ball across the danger area rather than shoot on goal. Odemwingie broke the deadlock in the 36th minute when he was released by Youssuf Mulumbu. The Nigerian striker hit a hard left-footed shot that deflected off Maya Yoshida and past keeper Paulo Gazzaniga. But TV replays showed that Odemwingie had gotten away with a hand-ball in the build-up to the goal. Southampton did try to press a bit harder for the equalizing goal after the halftime break. A shot on goal by NAME Lambert struck the bar after keeper Ben Foster had been well beaten. Foster later cut out a dangerous cross from Daniel Fox. That’s how things go when you’re side aren’t doing well and Odemwingie sealed the match in the 60th minute. Left-back Liam Ridgewell made a fine pass to Long who held up the ball, cut inside and floated over an inviting center which Odemwingie headed in from close range. Yoshida had a chance to get a late consolation for the Saints, but his header was wide of the goal.