Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Week 27: Premier League Tops & Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend


Yohan Cabaye scores from the spot for Newcastle against SouthamptonThe relegation battle between Newcastle and Southampton was thrilling to watch, the Magpies coming from behind to win a league game for the first time this season after conceding the opening goal. Morgan Schneiderlin lashed in a shot for the Saints just three minutes into the match before Moussa Sissoko equalised for the hosts with a six-yard tap-in half an hour later. Papiss Cisse's stunning 25-yard strike just before half time was levelled out by Rickie Lambert's sidefoot off a near-post cross five minutes into the second half. Yohan Cabaye then netted from the spot on 67 after Danny Fox's handball before Jos Hooiveld sealed the deal 4-2 with an own goal just over ten minutes from time. The victory moved Alan Pardew's side up to 13th, six points clear of the relegation zone, whilst Mauricio Pochettino sees his side hovering in 16th, only three points seperating them from the drop zone.


Kei Kamara heads Norwich's equaliser against EvertonNorwich's late comeback against Everton came out of nowhere and just shows you can never settle a score before the final whistle has been blown. The Toffees were leading and deservedly so thanks to a Leon Osman header at the end of the first half. David Moyes' men were sure to keep the pressure on fifth-place Arsenal in the race for the top four and Champions League qualification dominating possession and play before the game was turned on its head late on. Canaries substitute Kei Kamara's header levelled the score, making him the first player from Sierra Leone and 88th different nationality to score in the English top flight, before Grant Holt's injury-time strike earned Chris Hughton's side their first Premier League win in 10 games and took them up to 12th whilst Everton remain in sixth, now five points behind the Gunners.


Gareth BaleTottenham went up to third after their incredible win against West Ham. The Hammers did not make things easy for Andre Villas-Boas' side on the 20th anniversary of legend Bobby Moore's death, but were left pointless thanks to hero Gareth Bale. The star man gave his side the lead on 13 with a powerful strike before Andy Carroll equalised after winning and scoring a penalty 12 minutes later. The second half continued intense, Joe Cole putting the home side ahead again with a low shot before Gylfi Sigurdsson poked in the second equaliser. Bale's stunning last-minute winner silenced Upton Park, sending Sam Allerdyce's men down to 14th, six points clear of the relegation zone, whilst Boas' boys climbed up to third, five points behind Manchester City in second and two points clear of Chelsea in fourth.


Carlos Tevez fires City's second goalChelsea were wasteful and in the end well beaten by Manchester City. Roberto Mancini's men were rewarded for their more open and attacking approach after Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez helped their side to a hard-fought 2-0 win with their stunning late goals. Both sides had their fair share of chances, Jack Rodwell and Sergio Aguero both going close for the hosts whilst Frank Lampard missed a glorious opportunity to register his 200th Chelsea goal thanks to a splendid penalty save by Joe Hart after the keeper had conceded the penalty for bringing down Demba Ba, but did not even receive a booking for it (much in contrast to the Bradford keeper in the Capital One Cup final I may note!). Interim manager Rafael Benitez was left ruing missed chances and bemoaning the referee's decision, but with ten points dropped out of the last 18, his side is left in fourth, only two points clear of Arsenal in fifth whilst City stay in second, keeping the title race on the edge but not the end (yet), twelve points behind rivals United.


As mentioned above and nearly every week, Gareth Bale was the hero for Tottenham once again with his late match-winning stunner. The Welshman scored his 14th and 15th Premier League goals of the season against West Ham, drawing level with Miguel Michu in the scoring charts. Only Robin van Persie (19) and Luis Suarez (18) have more. With his 10th and 11th PL away goals of the season, the Spurs number 11 has scored the outright most away goals of any player in the division. And having scored nine goals in eight PL matches since Christmas Day, the star front man has more goals to his name than any other PL player in that time frame. Tremendous indeed.


Wigan AthleticPavel Pogrebnyak's sending off against Wigan drove a nail into Reading's coffin for the game and relegation battle at the Madejski Stadium. The Russian's dreadful tackle on Maynor Figueroa deserved red and added to manager Brian McDermott's problems, who conceded his side had a bad day. Two goals by Arouna Kone and a nutmegger by Figueroa sank The Royals down to 19th after their second consecutive defeat, one point from safety, whilst the Latics climbed up to 17th, level on points with Aston Villa in 18th, leaving manager Roberto Martinez pleased with his side's display and "intensity" and ending their dreadful run of only one win in their previous 13 league outings and conceding 51 goals in their last 26. No other side had conceded more in the Premier League yet it was the home side who crashed and crumbled to defeat.

My Predictions => Actual Results:
Fulham 2-1 Stoke => 1-0
Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa => 2-1
Norwich 0-1 Everton => 2-1
QPR 1-4 Man United => 0-2
Reading 1-2 Wigan => 0-3
West Brom 2-0 Sunderland => 2-1
Man City 2-2 Chelsea => 2-0
Newcastle 3-3 Southampton => 4-2
West Ham 1-2 Tottenham => 2-3

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Spirited Reds lose Europa League fight

Sports - Football - Europa League Last 32 - Liverpool 3:1 Zenit

Liverpool are knocked out of the Europa League on away goals after a spirited second-leg fight back against Zenit St Petersburg.

Luis Suarez

The breathtaking last-32 tie looked all over after 19 minutes when Jamie Carragher's giveaway handed Givaldinho Hulk the ball and the Russian side a vital away goal to make it 3-0 on aggregate.

But the Reds and the roaring Kop had a different idea. On 27, Luis Suarez thumped in a free kick through the Zenit wall which spurred on an already hyped Anfield.

A couple of minutes before the break, Joe Allen's header was saved before the Welshman netted the rebound after a nice one-two with Jose Enrique to make it 2-1 at the break, 2-3 on aggregate and game on for the second half.

Luis Suarez: Celebrates stunning second goal with Jose EnriqueThe atmosphere and tempo remained loud, lively and high throughout and after Suarez scored another smacker of a free kick to make it 3-1 (3-3 on aggregate) with just over half an hour to go, the game and ground went from full to overload with chance after chance, attack after attack by the Reds and the visitors snapping back with some strong counters.

Skipper Steven Gerrard pulled a brilliant double-save from keeper Vyacheslov Malafeev at one end, before Pepe Reina produced a top save of his against Hulk on the other end.

Sub Jonjo Shelvey put one golden chance into the side-netting seconds later.

The fans tried to back and push their side on at the death, but all to no avail as Liverpool crashed out and Zenit progressed to the last 16 thanks to the away goal.

The Russians will meet Swiss side FC Basel whilst Liverpool have the league left as their last and only focus, where they sit in seventh, five points from the Europa League qualification spot and nine points outside the Champions League qualification places.

Liverpool Goals: 1.: 27:01 min Luis Suarez (7), 2.: 42:41 min Joe Allen (24), 3.: 58.06 min Luis Suarez (7.).

Zenit Goals: 1.: 18:14 min Givaldinho Hulk (29).

Liverpool: 25 Reina; 3 Jose Enrique, 5 Agger, 23 Carragher, 2 Johnson; 24 Allen (33 Shelvey - 55., booked 66.), 21 Lucas; 14 Henderson (11 Assaidi - 59.), 8 Gerrard, 19 Downing (31 Sterling - 84.); 7 Suarez. 4-2-3-1
Subs not used: 42 Gulacsi, 16 Coates, 30 Suso, 47 Wisdom.

Zenit: 16 Malafeev; 14 Hubocan, 6 Lombaerts (4 Criscito - HT), 13 Neto, 2 Anyukov; 15 Shirokov, 27 Denisov (booked 27.), 28 Witsel; 25 Semak (21 Rodic - 84.), 29 Hulk, 10 Danny (20 Fayzulin - HT). 4-3-3
Subs not used: 30 Zhemov, 3 Alves, 9 Bukharov, 11 Kerzhakov.

BBC Stats: Liverpool-Zenit
Attempts: 18-10
On target: 12-5
Corners: 11-2
Free kicks: 13-11
Possession: 51%-49% (1st half), 56%-44% (FT)

Referee: Björn Kuipers
Man of the match: Luis Suarez

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Week 26: Premier League Tops & Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend


Pablo Hernandez scores Swansea's third against QPRSwansea wiped QPR away, showing the big gaping gap between the two sides. The Welsh side are having everything else but the second season syndrome, sitting comfortably in the top half of the table, in eighth place, whilst Harry Redknapp has been assigned to a lost cause, sitting at the bottom of the table, seven points from safety. QPR were shambolic and the Swans were able to make the most of it.


Jay Rodriguez fires narrowly wide for SouthamptonManchester City's defeat against Southampton was shocking! No discrediting the Saints and their strong display and stubbornness, but the Champions looked the shadow of the fighting team and players they used to be and they still have! Are Roberto Mancini's men missing Mario Balotelli = some ATTITUDE?! Gareth Barry's header into the back of his own net completed a nightmare afternoon for City, widening the gap to rivals United at the top to twelve points. Southampton meanwhile move into 15th, four points clear of the relegation zone, after their first win under Mauricio Pochettino.


Ryan GiggsAs mentioned above, United are now twelve points ahead of their City rivals after a routine-win against Everton. I feel and think that is a more than comfortable gap/seat/throne at the top of the table, their name and with it their 20th title already engraved on it! Looking at the next five opponents on both sides' (Premier League) fixture list, I feel and think again, that by the time the two rivals meet in April, the title race will already be over and decided. I hope not, for entertainment sake and value, but have to stay realistic.


Gareth McAuley opens the scoringNo discrediting West Brom, but their win at Anfield was nearly comical. Liverpool had so many chances, including a penalty, all off target. Ben Foster was on form and did his job too, that's for sure, same goes for his defence. But the Reds went down to ninth, one point behind West Brom in eighth, even though they could and should have been a couple of goals ahead and settled the game by half time! The result means Liverpool are still to beat a team currently in the top half of the Premier League table this season.

Tottenham's Gareth BaleGareth Bale scored and starred yet again, two goals and three points for Tottenham in a highly competitive game against Newcastle. This brought his total to 13, four goals in three league games, not bad for a midfielder! And he could have had a double-hat-trick if he had netted all chances! But Andre Villas-Boas and the fans at a packed White Hart Lane will have forgiven him after leaving the ground all smiles and three points richer in fourth, one point behind Chelsea in third and four points clear of bitter rivals Arsenal in fifth.


Jason Puncheon celebrates after putting Southampton aheadEngland keeper Joe Hart's blooper which conceded the second goal epitomised City's fall against the Saints, the blue Mancs looked like a sinking ship, a hobbling runner from start to finish. As mentioned above, Barry's headed own goal put a very sour icing on a very bitter cake for City. The first goal came after a Barry giveaway too! It was just a collection of total shambles! Mancini's men have Chelsea next on their (Premier League) fixture list, who have made a fine comeback from their own set of shambles with a 4-1 thrashing of Wigan. I'm curious which side will step up and make a match rather than a mess of it next weekend!

My Predictions => Actual Results:
Tottenham 1-0 Newcastle => 2-1
Chelsea 2-1 Wigan => 4-1
Norwich 0-0 Fulham => 0-0
Stoke 0-0 Reading => 2-1
Sunderland 0-1 Arsenal => 0-1
Swansea 2-2 QPR => 4-1
Southampton 2-3 Man City => 3-1
Aston Villa 1-1 West Ham => 2-1
Man United 2-2 Everton => 2-0
Liverpool 2-0 West Brom => 0-2

Monday, 11 February 2013

West Brom stun Anfield with two late goals

Sports - Football - Premier League - Liverpool 0:2 West Brom

West Brom snatched a remarkable win with two late goals at Anfield ending their sequence of six games without a win and leaving Liverpool and their chances and hopes of Champions League qualification reeling.

Gareth McAuley opens the scoring

The result means Brendan Rodgers' men are still to beat a team currently in the top half of the Premier League table this season.

The visitors, managed by former Reds assistant boss Steve Clarke, kept the Reds at bay thanks to a top-notch performance by their keeper Ben Foster.

Ben Foster: The West Brom goalkeeper had an excellent match at AnfieldThe former England keeper was on form and did his job, not last when he denied Steven Gerrard from the spot after Luis Suarez had gone down typically over-dramatic under Jonas Olsson's challenge.

This save hosts' 19th attempt on goal with Suarez, Gerrard, Stewart Downing and substitute Fabio Borini all denied.

Jonjo Shelvey, in place of injured striker Daniel Sturridge, had the ball in the net but saw his effort correctly disallowed for offside earlier on in the game before Steven Reid almost scored an own goal following Shelvey's cross.

West Bromwich Albion's Irish defender Gareth McAuley (R) celebrates with teammates Argentine midfielder Claudio Yacob (C) and Irish forward Shane Long (L) after scoring the opening goalBut after all the pressure, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock thanks to Gareth McAuley heading in Chris Brunt's corner completely unmarked with just under ten minutes to go.

And substitute Romelu Lukaku heaped more misery onto Liverpool, breaking forward and past Daniel Agger, shooting the second goal and winner past Pepe Reina bang on 90 minutes.

This win takes West Brom up to eighth, one point ahead of the Reds in ninth, who will feel more than frustrated!

No discrediting West Brom, but this game was nearly comical! The home side had so many chances and could and should have been a couple of goals ahead and settled the game by half time!

West Brom Goals: 1.: 80:16 min Gareth Mc Auley (23); 2.: 90:00 min Romelu Lukaku (20).

Liverpool: 25 Reina; 3 Jose Enrique, 5 Agger, 23 Carragher, 2 Johnson; 8 Gerrard, 21 Lucas; 14 Henderson (31 Sterling - 60.), 33 Shelvey (29 Borini - 60.), 19 Downing (10 Coutinho - 78.); 7 Suarez (booked 94.). 4-2-3-1
Subs not used: 1 Jones, 24 Allen, 37 Skrtel, 47 Wisdom.

West Brom: 1 Foster; 6 Ridgewell (bkd 69.), 3 Olsson, 23 McAuley, 2 Reid (bkd 42.)Mulumbu, 5 Yacob; 11 Brunt (bkd 73.), 7 Morrison 7(bkd 2.), 17 Dorrans (20 Lukaku - 74.); 9 Long (32 Fortune - 86.). 4-2-3-1
Subs not used: 13 Myhill, 8 Rosenberg, 28 Jones, 30 Tamas, 14 Thomas.

Sky Stats: Liverpool-West Brom
Attempts: 25-5
On target: 7-3
Offsides: 4-1
Corners: 13-5
Free kicks: 11-10
Possession: 58.5%-41.5%
Tackles/Success: 19-24/63.2%-79.2%
Passes/Success: 529-377/81.7%-75.3%
Crosses/Success: 31-11/16.1%-18.2%

Referee: Jonathan Moss
Man of the match: Ben Foster

Monday, 4 February 2013

Week 25: Premier League Tops & Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend


Reading's Jimmy KebeComeback kings Reading's Premier League run of 13 points out of the last 15 takes them out and two points clear of the relegation zone. It's the first time since the opening month of the season they have been out of the drop zone for consecutive weeks. This win came thanks to Jimmy Kebe's fantastic double, at Sunderland's cost. Eight of Reading's last nine Premier League goals have been scored in the last 20 minutes. Six have been netted in the 82nd minute or later, including Kebe's winner after his seventh minute opener.


Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero (centre) looks on as he scores his side's equaliser against Liverpool What was Pepe Reina thinking leaving his goal unguarded for Sergio Aguero to net a brilliant equaliser from the tightest of tight angles at the Etihad?! Liverpool were on top for most of the game, Daniel Sturridge scoring the opener after City claimed a fowl was comitted on Edin Dzeko in the buildup. Steven Gerrard restored the guests' lead with a smacker later on in the second half after Dzeko had tapped in an easy equaliser earlier in the first half. But Brendan Rodgers ended up ruing the dropped points after Aguero's strike minutes later.


Moussa SissokoMoussa Sissoko's double in Newcastle's entertaining, enthralling win against Chelsea showed and proved his worth. The former Toulouse man signed a six-and-a-half-year deal with the Tyneside club just over a week beforehand. The Frenchman's debut double sank the Blues to eight Premier League points out of the last 18, only one point ahead of Tottenham in fourth, the last Champions League qualification spot, leaving interim boss Rafael Benitez ruing the missed chances, unfair decisions and dropped points, rather than conceding defeat!


Adel TaarabtQPR's goalless draw against Norwich was more two points dropped than one point gained in their battle to avoid the drop. The penalty was the golden chance, missed by Adel Taarabt, keeper Mark Bunn making a fine diving save. Taarabt went close a couple of times with long-range strikes. But home keeper Soares Julio Cesar had to make a couple of top-draw saves too to win his side a point. Harry Redknapp has stretched QPR's unbeaten league run to five games, but the visitors will be much happier with the result as it lifted them seven points away from the relegation zone.

Marouane Fellaini (second left) heads in his side's equaliser against Aston VillaMarouane Fellaini's double and last minute equaliser saved a point for Everton against struggling Aston Villa, producing a perfect comeback for the home side from 3-1 down and denying Villa their first win in 2013. It was a breathless encounter at Goodison Park, Christian Benteke's double and Gabriel Agbonlahor's header looking to have dismissed Victor Anichebe's equaliser and sealed the win for Paul Lambert's side. But Fellaini had a different idea and turned despair into delight, and vice versa, depending which side.


Gareth BaleGoran Popov's sending off handed the advantage and eventually the game and points to Tottenham, stupid, stupid spitter! There was not much between the two sides in the first half, West Brom creating the better chances before the dismissal. England defender Kyle Walker was Popov's target after a mundane challenge. The bizarre and gormless action and reaction cost West Brom dearly, Spurs taking over the game fromt there and Gareth Bale ensuring their win with a stunning strike, taking them within one point of third-placed Chelsea.

My Predictions => Actual Results:
QPR 2-1 Norwich => 0-0
Arsenal 3-0 Stoke => 1-0
Everton 2-2 Aston Villa => 3-3
Newcastle 1-3 Chelsea => 3-2
Reading 3-2 Sunderland => 2-1
West Ham 1-0 Swansea => 1-0
Wigan 0-1 Southampton => 2-2
Fulham 2-4 Man United => 0-1
West Brom 1-1 Tottenham => 0-1
Man City 3-1 Liverpool => 2-2